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Stauffer Stuff: All We Need is Just a Little Patience

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
You've got to love Edmonton!

Taylor Hall lines up against Flames captain Jarome Iginla in last week's Battle of Alberta (Photo by Dylan Lynch / Getty Images)
Nothing illustrates the passion more in Oil Country than frustrated fans calling into talk shows and posting on fan sites after all of four games into a new NHL season.

Make no mistake Oilers fans this season is not about the result, it is about the process, as the organization goes through a full blown “Oil Change”.

The young Oilers came out like gang-busters in their convincing 4-0 home ice victory back on October 7th against the Calgary Flames; but they haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders since.

The Oil stole a home ice victory against Florida and then blew back-to-back leads on the road in losses at Minnesota and Calgary.

When you think about it losses at Minnesota and Calgary shouldn’t be that big of a surprise as the Oil have dropped 14 straight in St. Paul and were swept last season in the Saddledome.

The Oilers three young guns: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle all had some tough moments on the road, which should be expected as they were playing veteran-laden Wild and Flames squads.

Minnesota iced a roster with seven players 30 or older and the Flames went even more “Old School” with 10 players 30 or older. The Oil had three 30-somethings: netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, Captain Shawn Horcoff and depth defenceman Jim Vandermeer in the line-up for both games.

Despite last week's losses, Magnus Paajarvi recorded his first career NHL points (one goal and one assist) vs. Calgary.
In the final minute of the game in Calgary with the Oilers net pulled looking for a game-tying goal Head Coach Tom Renney had Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle on the ice, something which obviously reinforces the Oilers desire to do things giving the kids on the job training.

As for the small segment of Oilers fans who think that Hall could be helped by spending another season in the OHL with Windsor to perhaps learn how to play centre; or that Hall should be returned to junior to assist the Oilers in managing the cap down the road...forget about it.

Taylor Hall has proven all he can at the Major Junior level, and based on his play through training camp and pre-season clearly has illustrated that he belongs in the NHL.

If Renney was having to hide Hall on the fourth line and playing him only five minutes a game because Hall was clearly being over-matched on the ice than a legitimate argument could be made to return the two-time Memorial Cup MVP to Junior.

But through four games Hall has shown electrifying moments courtesy of his dynamic speed. He clearly is not in over his head. There will be growing pains along the way, but a goalless drought through four games hardly warrants a return to Windsor!

To Whom the Belle Tolls

After being one of the final cuts of main camp, Shawn Belle has been performing well with the Oklahoma City Barons.
If you heard “Oilers Lunch” on the Team 1260 over the summer you would know that I was pleased that the organization signed former St. Louis first round draft choice Shawn Belle.

Belle, a 6’ 1”, 235 pound defenceman may still turn out to be a late bloomer along the lines of another Edmonton product, Johnny Boychuk, who is now in the Boston Bruins top four.

Like Boychuk, Belle has always been seen as having tremendous physical tools, but it has yet to translate to becoming an NHL regular.

A minor injury slowed Belle up during the Oilers pre-season but Belle is rolling down in Oklahoma City in the American Hockey League.
Through the Barons first six games Belle is tied for the team scoring race with AHL sniper Alex Giroux and Brad Moran. Belle picked up six of those points in the Barons last two games, with five of the points coming on the power-play after he replaced Richard Petiot on the first unit.

Belle had a very good season last year for current Tamp Bay Head Coach Guy Boucher in Hamilton helping jump start a career that had stagnated when Belle played for Kevin Constantine with Minnesota’s farm team in Houston during the 2007-08 season.

Is McNeill the Real Deal?

There is a 6’2”, 210 right-handed centre from Edmonton who is making some noise for the upcoming 2011 NHL Entry Draft after a strong start to the season.

Mark McNeill is a South Side Athletic Club product who put up pedestrian numbers his first full season with Prince Albert (9-15-24, with 27 pims). But McNeill, the 5th overall player taken in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft has registered 5-8-13 in the Raiders first 12 games.

If McNeill continues to put up a point-per-game pace he may work himself into the back half of the first round of the upcoming NHL Draft.

David Musil, the son of Oilers scout Frank Musil, a 6’3”, 210 defenceman for the Vancouver Giants and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a silky-smooth centre with Red Deer Rebels are seen as the top two draft eligible players coming out of the WHL this season.

Musil had a stellar rookie season last year for Don Hay registering seven goals and 32 points with a +33 rating. He has one goal and eight points in 13 games this season.

Nugent-Hopkins, who went first overall in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft to the Rebels, scored 24 goals and had 65 points in 67 games last season, and has already had three three-point games en route to picking up 17 points in 12 games this season for Head Coach Jesse Wallin in Red Deer.

Edmonton Oil Kings centre Michael St. Croix is another potential first round pick. St. Croix, who went third overall in the 2008 WHL Draft, scored 18 goals and had 46 points last season for the Oil Kings. He has 10 points in the Oil Kings first 11 games this season.
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