The Edmonton Oilers know the feeling. Unlike many NHL teams, the Oilers have, if that’s possible, a surfeit of skill, but a paucity of what we’ll call reliable support personnel, all over their unfinished lineup. That’s a better problem to have than the reverse. But it’s still a problem. The Oilers’ disappointing 3-1 loss to Phoenix — on fan appreciation night — brings them one stride closer to the off-season roster renovation they clearly need to lift them to the next level. The organizational goal was to play meaningful games in April and, by dint of the five-game winning streak that preceded the current four-game losing skid, that target was met. But only just. Still, this truncated but fascinating season has demonstrated a number of things. The Oilers young stars are growing up, particularly Taylor Hall, who has become the kind of dominant impact player in the NHL that he was in junior. His linemates, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who plays far too smart a defensive game for someone his tender age (19), and Jordan Eberle are maturing, also, at their own rate. Case in point, with a minute to go in the first period of a 0-0 game Wednesday night, there was Nugent-Hopkins winning the defensive-zone faceoff. Seconds later, Eberle created a turnover and sped away with Hall on a two-on-one. The scoring opportunity fizzled, but that the line was out there at all in such a situation is a measure of their increased reliability. In the last two seasons, the Oilers did their best to protect their talented youngsters. This season, particularly recently, as the games have become more crucial, the trend is to give them more ice time, more responsibility, not less. The same goes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk, given a chance to claim a starting job, has elevated his game. The knock on him is his penchant for giving up the bad goal, as he did Wednesday night on the first two Phoenix goals, by Boyd Gordon and Antoine Vermette.
Oilers have plenty of stars, lack supporting cast
Edmonton Journal | Apr 11