It’s almost over for the Edmonton Oilers and mercifully so.
With just two games left on their regular season schedule, the Oilers have yet another long summer ahead of them to find some answers that have so far been just out of their reach.
This team has been playing out their days into the off-season with a record that would be embarrassing at any point of the year. They’ve won just one game in their last 10 and have been outshot and outscored to the point where numbers don’t even matter anymore.
It goes without saying that Craig MacTavish has a large undertaking in front of him this summer and the scary thing is that a remedy isn’t even guaranteed. It never is in the sport of hockey but considering how long the question marks have been floating around this organization, his first moves as general manager will be heavily analyzed.
The players have been saying all the right things days in and day out in terms of working hard and wanting to shed some light in the pitch black tunnel for their fans but there’s some kind of disconnect when it comes to actually pulling it off.
More often than not, the Oilers have been booed off Rexall Place ice following disappointing game after even more disappointing game. The fans that still come out in droves of 16,000-plus strong to each game have no problem voicing their frustration and displeasure after the final buzzer of a loss. Perhaps the fact that their end-of-season schedule having a home-ice advantage was more a curse than a blessing.
As for the inevitable changes that will be made to the roster, the possibilities are almost endless. Every player has been talked about at least once, whether seriously or not, and you get the feeling that MacT will pull the trigger on a deal sooner rather than later.
One of the most talked about players as of late has been Ryan Smyth. When he was traded to the New York Islanders in 2007, it was a shock felt throughout the entire league that resulted in a lot of tears. Now, with the youth movement and the need to get bigger and faster, Smyth is on the outside looking in of the team’s plans going forward.
With one year left on his contract, the options they have are trading him, buying him out, or simply keeping him around, which would likely mean a lot of nights on press box duty. The 37-year-old has been adamant about still feeling like he can contribute and keep up with the speed of the game, but his feet may be betraying him when he steps out onto the ice.
Considering they’ll be playing in a division with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks next season, there’s no question that adding toughness and grit to their line-up is a necessity. They have to stop being pushed around in both ends of the ice for any hope of progress and the only way to do that is by beefing up.
A few players in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Devan Dubnyk have extended their hockey seasons after accepting invitations to play for Team Canada at the World Championships that begin next week. Jeff Petry has also confirmed playing for Team USA while rumblings have the likes of Justin Schultz and Sam Gagner in the mix as well and they have all been encouraged to say yes if the opportunity presents itself.
For now, their games at Minnesota and at home against Vancouver are two more chances to inject some positivity back into Oil Country. It may be as temporary as a band-aid on a gunshot wound but at this point, the fans will take anything and everything if it means being able to say the Oilers finally won another game.