Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

Oilers claim they’re making “progress”


If you look at some of the Edmonton Oilers front office’s moves, there’s a strange sense of “keeping the band together” even though they’ve mostly hit foul notes. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the team told Robin Brownlee of The Canadian Press that they’re making progress (and not just toward another lottery pick, one would assume).

“I think we’ve already made progress to tell you the truth, regardless of what happens,” Shawn Horcoff said. “We’ve had great leaps and strides forward with our young guys and we’re going to get another good (draft) pick. We’re going to be older and a little more experienced next year. I think experience goes a long way.”

After finishing 30th overall in back-to-back seasons with 62 points, the Oilers face the Ducks in their final home game with a record of 32-39-9 for 73 points. At worst, the Oilers will be 11 points better when they’re done with the Ducks and the Canucks.

While it’s reasonable that the Oilers continue to build around an improving nucleus of young offensive players, re-upping with flawed veterans such as Andy Sutton and Ales Hemsky* seems a bit perplexing.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are cemented in last place in the NHL – the Oilers’ former cozy home – so technically some progress has been made. Still, in a salary cap age full of rapid turnarounds (particularly with teams who stock up on high-end draft picks), Edmonton seems relegated to the New York Islanders category of baby step improvements.

Much like the Islanders, the Oilers’ front office has its strange quirks, as GM Steve Tambellini has made his fair share of strange decisions.

Still, when games open up to allow Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall to take over, it can be a beautiful sight. Let us know in the comments if those brief moments of glory – not to mention Sam Gagner’s historic run – are just a mirage or are instead a sign of better things to come.

(And be specific about how much better, if you don’t mind.)

* – I like Hemsky and I know he isn’t that old, but he’s basically a poor man’s Marian Gaborik because of his near-constant presence on injury reports. It’s a bit surprising that Edmonton’s brass wants to deal with more of that IR drama.

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist argues McDavid’s already NHL’s most important player

Connor McDavid
AP Photo

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Although Connor McDavid‘s NHL career has only just gotten started, is he already the league’s most important player? (Sportsnet)

While we’re on the subject of McDavid, what should we expect from him for the remainder of his rookie campaign? (NHL Numbers)

Jack Jablonski was paralyzed on Dec. 30, 2011 at the age of 16 while playing high school hockey, but that hasn’t ended his pursuit of a career in hockey. He’s spent the last two years hosting a weekly hockey-talk radio program and has now joined the Los Angeles Kings as a communications intern. (Orange County Register)

Arizona State has earned its first NCAA victory. (Arizona Republic)

The 2015 Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs got their rings. (LA Kings Insider)

The Anaheim Ducks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave 13-year-old Kai Quinonez, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia four years ago, a tremendous experience. (Orange County Register)