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PRINCIPE: Give me a break

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin

Jordan Eberle said he was going to Disneyland. Taylor Hall was headed to Nashville. I'm sure Todd McLellan would have taken off to San Jose to see his family. Different people going in different directions once the All-Star break had arrived for the Edmonton Oilers.

For the players, it’s a chance to clear your mind, heal your body and prepare for the final push after the break. It will be a busy post All-Star break schedule for Edmonton. The Oilers will play 14 games in February, 15 more in March and finish with 3 in April. The last two full months of the season will carry with it a game every two days. Of the 32 that are left 17 at home and 15 on the road.

The one game that will stick out in everyone's mind is the first after the break. It's not about who will be the visiting team (even though I hope John Tortorella is sufficiently recovered from broken ribs) but it's about Connor McDavid. You almost forget how much hype and attention this young man had generated in his first 12 games until his luck went horribly wrong in unlucky-game 13. McDavid was everything he was made out to be and more before a broken clavicle left a lot of Oiler fans with a broken heart.

It was a memorable moment for all the wrong reasons. Now he has a chance to make things right again. What is to expect of Connor is hard to predict, but as long as the now 19-year-old has his health then his point totals should follow right along.

Along with the excitement surrounding the return of Connor, the entire team wants to make the final 10 weeks of the season exciting. The playoffs may or may not be attainable. Yes, as McDavid said Sunday, it would take a run like Ottawa's last season. Unlikely maybe, but impossible? Not at all.

Plus, it's about building momentum throughout the rest of the year and carrying it over into a new year and new building next season. The Oilers are close, really close, to making themselves a playoff challenger in the Pacific division. I don't think it would take much for them to turn all of those one-goal losses into victories.

I took a look at the schedule and the final 32 games. Call me unrealistic, but I truly believe the Oilers should be able to get at least a point-per-game, which would give them, along with the 43 points they already have, a total of 75 points. That would be 13 more than last year, which is quite a jump.

Let's say they get 40 points, which isn't unreasonable, and push themselves into the low 80's for point total. Now, it's almost a 20-point move upwards. Progress is what I'm's there, but sometimes it's hard to see. 97 (ironic twist of fate regarding numbers) was the playoff cut-line last season. The Oilers would be halfway to their post-season goal.

There is a lot to look forward to through February, March and April. It will be nice to see Edmonton play 10 games against Canadian teams. #1 vs. #2 will be interesting when the Oilers travel to Buffalo. Who knows what the lineup will look like a day after the deadline? Don't forget April 6, which just happens to be my daughter’s birthday, and the final Oilers game at Rexall Place.

What a night that will be as we say goodbye to the season and era in the sport of hockey and the city of Edmonton. Enjoy the next few days of rest, have fun watching the skills and 3-on-3 at the All-Star weekend and we'll see you February 2.
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