Unfortunately the New Year started with a bang in a negative way in a thrilling 4-3 Edmonton Oilers victory in Chicago Monday Night.
The Oilers tour de force Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
caught an edge and careened into the United Center boards injuring his left shoulder and knocking him out of the line-up for the next few games as he has returned to Edmonton for further evaluation.
In the same game, agitator Daniel Carcillo of the Blackhawks showed a total lack of respect and buried Tom Gilbert from behind into the end boards injuring the right knee of the Oilers best defenceman.
The end result is that the Oilers will need to soldier on without RNH for probably at least a couple of weeks and Gilbert has already missed a game.
Fifth-year forward Sam Gagner
and sophomore defenceman Jeff Petry
are two players who will unquestionably see an increased workload over the short term.
Gagner, the 6th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, had an impressive rookie season but has kind of stalled since then.
After registering 49 points in 2007-08, Gagner has consistently been able to get to the 40-point plateau but unable to take his game to the next level.
The Oilers will need Gagner to do that right now.
After suffering the dreaded high-ankle sprain in the pre-season and getting bounced around the line-up upon his return, Gagner now will get every opportunity to place the position he likes the most, centre, and in a top offensive role.
Gagner has 18 points in 32 games this season which is decent offensive production for a guy who has spent a number of games languishing on the Oilers third line on both left and right wing.
With the talented Nugent-Hopkins out though, Gagner moves into a prime-time slot centering Taylor Hall
and Ales Hemsky
Against Buffalo on Tuesday night, Gagner scored on a bomb from the point on a 5-on-3, and added an assist with 19:45 of ice time, his second highest total of the season.
Given that the Oilers have won just two of their last 10 games, and RNH is out, the time is now for the 22-year-old Gagner to make a statement that he too factors into the equation of the Oilers burgeoning corps of young forwards along with Nugent-Hopkins, the dynamic Hall, and team scoring leader Jordan Eberle
The 24-year-old Petry, likewise has seen an increased workload due to injury with Gilbert out.
The 45th-overall pick from the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has had some star-crossed moments over the last five games.
He ended a 16-game pointless streak picking up an assist against the ‘Hawks and adding another in Buffalo.
But Petry has also seen his plus/minus take a beating going -10 over the last five games.
The former Michigan State Spartan, and second-year pro, has made some brilliant offensive and defensive plays, including some excellent work on the Oilers penalty kill against Chicago.
With over 22 minutes played against the Blackhawks and the Sabres it is clear Petry is going to logging a lot of minutes with Gilbert and, for that matter, veterans Ryan Whitney
and Cam Barker
How Petry is able to handle that workload will likely reveal how quickly he might be able to develop into becoming a legitimate top-four NHL defenceman.WOE CANADA
Back on December 15th in Stauffer Stuff I wrote that I was concerned that Team Canada was guilty of not taking the best players they could have, and questioned why Oilers goaltending prospect Tyler Bunz
had not made the team.
In Canada’s heart-breaking 6-5 loss to the Russians Tuesday night, the team did not get the necessary stops and lacked a little finish, losing the game despite out-shooting Russia 54-24.
I applaud Canadian Head Coach Don Hay for rallying the troops when they were down 6-1 but questions must be asked as to why Canada got in that position to begin with.
As a believer in the “body of work” to judge a player; it cannot be disputed that player Bunz has far superior numbers to both of Canada’s goaltender’s Mark Visentin and Scott Wedgewood over the last two seasons.
Bunz, who was selected in the 5th round, 121st overall in the 2010 draft, had a stellar season last year going 35-13-8, with a 2.47 goals-against average, and a .919 save percentage for the Medicine Hat Tigers. He has been even better this year (22-9-4, 2.48 GAA, .924 save percentage).
Visentin, taken in the first round of the 2010 draft by Phoenix had comparable numbers to Bunz last year (30-9-6, 2.52, .917) but has struggled this season with Niagara in the OHL (11-7-2, 2.82, .899). The fact is that Visentin has posted far worse numbers then his back-up Christoph Festarini who is 8-3 with a 2.01 Goals Against Average, and a .931 save percentage.
The back-up on Wedgewood’s junior team in Plymouth, Matt Mahalak has also posted better numbers than he has.
Wedgewood, a New Jersey 3rd round pick in 2010, is 13-5-3, with a 3.08 Goals Against Average and a .908 save percentage this season, Mahalak is 12-4 with a 2.22 GAA, and a .932 SVP.
Based upon how Oilers draft Olivier Roy
struggled at last year’s World Junior tournament ultimately losing the starter’s job to Visentin ( who proceeded to yield five goals in the third period to the Russians in the Gold Medal game) you have to wonder if Team Canada Head Scout Kevin Prendergast was conflicted campaigning too hard for another Oilers prospect in goal.
Prendergast, as you probably know was the Oilers long-time Head Amateur scout, before leaving the organization a couple of summers ago.
Whatever the case Canada did not get a save when it mattered against the talented Russians.
Canada also lacked an intimidating shutdown presence on defence.
Somehow Sherwood Park’s Duncan Siemens, who fits that bill to a tee, did not even get invited to Team Canada’s Selection Camp.
Siemens, the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft (Colorado) was the highest Canadian selected last June to not get an invite.
Bob Stauffer is the colour analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and host of “Oilers Now” weekdays noon to 2:00 PM on the Oilers Radio Rights Holder 630 CHED.