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Oilers claim they’re making “progress”

Apr 5, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings Getty Images

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.

  1. davebabychreturns - Apr 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    They are years away from contending for anything, even a playoff spot.

    And while the skill infusion will continue, having to re-up these kids after giving them first line minutes when they are too young to carry the team but old enough to put up the numbers that require big money contracts is just going to make it harder to complement them with the types of players every team needs to win.

    Furthermore Edmonton has historically had tons of trouble signing impact players in free agency (or even getting Oilers to re-sign at reasonable cap hits) so it’s not like they can rely on going out and signing a Brian Campbell or a Zdeno Chara or what have you.

    It’s a long road ahead for the Oilers organization, and the guys they have at the helm have a considerable track record indicating that they probably won’t be able to navigate it.

  2. iamanidiotfan - Apr 5, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    “Ales Hemsky is an elite NHL star. If he can get 1) some talent around him and 2) stay healthy, he’s a point a game player (or more!!) in this league. He’s far better than anyone the Oilers could get on the open market. He’s going to take the leap to be a superstar in the NHL.” That is the narrative Oiler fans have been fed for years.

    Judging by the season that Hall, Eberle, RNH and Gagner have had, he does have elite offensive talent on the team. Smyth and Jones played extremely well and been productive. And with that offensive talent on the team, he gets slightly over 0.5 points per game, and he ranks 187th in points. As a playmaker, he currently ranks 141st in assists.

    At what point do the Oilers see Hemsky for who he is, and not who they want him to be?

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