Yesterday, Edmonton Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini announced that dynamic Oilers forward Taylor Hall
will be shut down for the remainder of the regular season to have surgery on his left shoulder.
I can tell you covering the team for the final six games this season will not be the same.
There is no real way to quantify the impact Hall has had on the organization since the Oilers took him #1 overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
Suffice to say the electrifying left winger who plays with relentless enthusiasm has helped transform the Oilers.
At the lowest points of the 2009-10 season as an injury-riddled Oilers squad played out the string, most Western-based pro scouts would tell me that the Oilers were the least interesting team to watch in the NHL.
The arrival of Hall along with 2008 first-round pick Jordan Eberle
, and to a lesser extent 2009 first-round pick Magnus Paajarvi
all at the start of the 2010-11 season, significantly changed that perception around the NHL.
Add the #1 overall pick from the 2011 NHL Draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
into the mix and now the Oilers are generally considered as the most exciting up-and-coming team in the League.
But even as the Oilers pushed their unbeaten stretch to seven games (5-0-2) with a 6-3 victory in Columbus Sunday afternoon things haven’t seemed the same since Hall was levelled and suffered a concussion courtesy a hit by the Calgary Flames Cory Sarich back on March 16th, knocking him out of the line-up for the last five games.
The fact is there is a certain cachet the comes with having a recent #1 overall pick, and even in non-traditional hockey markets like Nashville, Tampa and Miami fans want to see the young guns.
And, Hall with his breathtaking speed and drive is a pretty hard player not to notice on the ice, so his absence is quite obvious.
Factor in his passion and his expectation of winning that he developed while transforming a moribund Windsor Spitfires club into a two-time Memorial Cup Champion, it goes without saying that the Oilers will certainly miss him as the team closes out the season.DUBNYK AND PETRY STEP UP
You don’t have to be a hockey expert to see that Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins are special players and the key to the Oilers fortunes carrying forward.
The kids are locks to be first line NHL forwards and part of the Oilers core for years to come.
For a couple of other Oilers players the last three months have gone a long way to show that they very well could be part of the Oilers core as well.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk
watched Nikolai Khabibulin
have a strong start to the season but Dubnyk, 25, has wrestled the starter’s job away from the veteran and is showing signs of becoming a #1 goaltender.
The 14th overall pick in 2004, has gone 15-8-2 since the New Year and is 5-0-1 in his last six starts with a 1.62 goals-against average and a stellar .946 save percentage.
In the Oilers shootout victory over Southeast Division leading Florida on Friday Dubnyk appeared as though he had arrived as a #1 goaltender, giving his out-played team a chance to win in regulation and then locking the door in the shootout.
Dubnyk is now using his size, and of late his long-time nemesis, the back-breaking bad goal, has disappeared from his game.
He has seen his save percentage rise from .902 on January 1st to .914 meaning that Dubnyk has been above .920 in the New Year.
A .920 save percentage over a full season from a 55-60 game a year starter almost always gets a team in the NHL playoffs.
Back in January we were wondering if Jeff Petry
was ever going to become a legitimate top four NHL defenceman, fast forward three months later and the question needs to be asked is Petry a top two NHL D...right now!
In his last 33 games Petry has 1-15-16 with a +5 rating, while playing over 20 minutes in every game and over 22 minutes in 23 of those games.
The 6’3”, 196 pound right-hand shooting defenceman has started to effectively use his body and engage physically, forming the Oilers top defensive tandem along with 26 year-old Ladislav Smid
The incredible improvement in both Dubnyk’s and Petry’s game has to be the biggest story of the Oilers second half of the season and bodes well carrying forward for the organization. Bob Stauffer is Colour Analyst for the Oilers Radio Network and hosts Oilers Now on 630 CHED, Noon to 2:00 PM, Monday thru Friday