Two years ago, the Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers appeared to be the next generation of Western Conference powerhouses. Fast forward to the present and only the Hawks have kept up their part of the bargain. The Oilers, unfortunately, have been undone by horrendous contracts to lousy veteran players and their young nucleus not progressing as expected.
Call Dany Heatley whatever you like, but you can’t say he’s a bad judge of hockey talent. Heatley refused to waive his no-trade clause to the Oilers this summer and it’s hard to imagine the Oilers would be any better off with Heatley on their roster.
The key piece of the nixed Heatley trade, Andrew Cogliano, is having a horrific third season. After scoring 18 goals in each of his first two seasons, Cogliano has just 5 goals in 50 games. Perhaps some of it can be attributed to bad luck as his shooting percentage now sits at 6.1%, well below his career average of 13.9%.
You know things are going bad for Edmonton when their perpetual whipping boy, Dustin Penner, is their only true threat. With already 21 goals and 22 assists, Penner is going to set a new personal best in points. He’s also one of the few plus players on his team.
Patrick Kane’s linemate with the London Knights, Sam Gagner, is rebounding nicely from his disappointing sophomore campaign. While he’s not necessarily setting the world on fire, Gagner should break the 20 goal barrier this season.
Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about.
The big news for the Oilers on Monday was defenseman Sheldon Souray gave GM Steve Tambellini a list of teams he and his $5.4 cap hit would accept a trade to. After scoring 23 goals last year, Souray has played in just 34 games this year with 4 goals and 9 assists. He’s also signed through 2012. As Dennis Miller used to say when he was funny, ouch babe.
With five players set to enter restricted free agency this summer, it would behoove the Oilers to find any kind of cap relief they can. Former first round picks Cogliano(’05), Sam Gagner(’07), Gilbert Brule (’05, acquired for Rafi Torres), Denis Grebeshkov(’02, and was once traded for Brent Sopel!), and Marc Pouliot(’03) are all due new paper.
For the Hawks, a win would be lovely as it guarantees them of at least a .500 road trip. With a cross-country set against the Sharks and Carolina Hurricanes on the horizon, this is the most winnable game left on the trip. Two points against the Western Conference’s worst team will go a long way in talking some people off the ledge.