Well, the another hockey season is almost upon us and once again everybody in Edmonton is wondering how the National Hockey League team the Edmonton Oilers will do this year. Each year as this time, there is lots of speculation and hope that this will be year the team breaks out of their losing rut and at least make the playoffs. Maybe even go deep into the second or third rounds.
Each year the pundits point out that it looks as if the Oilers now have the horse power to put themselves in a winning mode. They point the benefits of ending up almost dead last in the league for a few years and list the top draft choices they have picked. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakopov. They say the trio along with Jordan Eberley and some other talented youngsters are going lead the team back to the glory days of the 80s.
And the pundits are right up to point. Some years the team does begin the season with enough wins to at least hold their own for a few months but then disaster seems to strike. In some years the Oilers are plagued with an unbelievable amount of injuries. Well, at least they led the league in something that year. That was man games lost to the host of injuries.
As a result team management began firing training and fitness personnel. They have also gone through several coaches but the results are always the same. Another losing season and the fans are getting impatient.
It poses a couple of interesting questions. Granted the Oilers have been trying to rebuild the team with several top draft picks but are they picking the right ones? Their picks definitely have talent, skill and speed to burn but is it enough? One negative thing you can say about the picks is that they are all on the smallish side, especially in comparison to some of giants that play in the league.
So this is my second question. Can a group of highly skilled and speedy but smaller size players compete in today’s NHL?
The answer is apparently not. As an avid Oiler fan I watch almost every game the team plays and as the losses begin to pile up and the hopes of a playoff spot begin to slip away, one thing becomes very clear to me.
It seems apparent to me that the team is far too easily to play against. They seem to lack the grit to compete in the NHL game after game. After opposing teams have played a few games against the Oilers, they quickly learn how to play against them, how to neutralize the awesome skills and speed. Opposing teams start matching much bigger players against Yakopov, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. They start hitting and bumping them every chance they get and after a while the tough physical game begins to take its toll on the Oilers.
Some of these top, talented players end up injured, mainly because they are tired and worn out from the constant hits. In some games last year it looked so bad that the Oilers looked like a bunch of kids playing against men.
If the Oilers had some bigger, tough and talented players to counter this, the problem would be solved. However, the team appears to have a lack of these kinds of players and the team continues to be far too easy to play against. My suggestion, when they end up near the bottom of the league again this year, put a lot more emphasis on size when they get another top draft pick.
Written By: Milton Cust