Edmonton's 'enormously painful' season

The last place Edmonton Oilers are suffering through a brutal 2009-10 season. The franchise continues to struggle to find an identity ever since the notorious Chris Pronger trade, but this season cannot be blamed on that or any single event. Instead, the team has faced injuries, double-digit losing streaks and more than their fair share of personal humiliation. You know things are bad when even their owner Daryl Katz admitted it has been “an enormously tough year.”

Tonight’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks shined a light on the Oilers’ injury and trade ravaged roster. The Copper and Blue captured just how dilapidated their defensive core is right now: 
“Of the 6-man defensive unit that all agreed was the Oilers’ strength heading into this season, three have been traded and two shelved with bad medical news since Monday. The early result will be that tonight the Oilers will likely ice the worse defensive unit that has hit the ice for an NHL team since late in the 2006-07 season, when the Oilers (natch) had to use the likes of Dan Syvret, Bryan Young, Sebastien Bisaillon, and Toby Petersen on the blue. Assuming neither Whitney nor Johnson makes it to Chicago on time, the Oilers will ice four guys who were in the AHL last Sunday. The Hawks, meanwhile, will ice four guys who played in the Olympic Gold Medal Game on Sunday.”

Much like tonight’s game, a lot of the Oilers’ problems came from horrible luck. Their most dynamic forward (Ales Hemsky) suffered a season-ending injury in November while Nikolai Khabibulin upped the stakes by not only suffering a season (and possibly career) ending injury but also getting in legal trouble to boot. To put a cherry on top of a sadness sundae, the  Oilers received news of potential season-ending injuries to defensemen Ladislav Smid and Sheldon Souray during this trade deadline week. Souray, in particular, could have been able to fetch some great value on the trade market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any self-inflicted problems, though. The signing of Nikolai Khabibulin generated quite a bit of criticism, particularly because the aging Russian goaltender’s cap hit would count against the Oilers’ cap even if he retired before the contract ends. Let’s not even linger on that painful Dany Heatley non-trade.
As far as the future of the Oilers goes, there’s still much in the air. With only Toronto (49 points) anywhere near Edmonton’s last-placed 42 points, it looks likely that the Oilers will have a great chance in the draft lottery. With the possibility of a new arena, a (hopefully) healthier roster and a probable top-5 draft pick (Taylor Hall anyone?) things could pick up for the downtrodden franchise.
That’s great, because the rest of the year has the potential to be very grim.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.