It’s been another difficult week for the Oilers as they continue to search for the consistency needed to compete for a playoff spot. A 6-3 win over Columbus to start the week was followed by back-to-back 5-3 losses to Carolina and Calgary. The Oilers with a 13-12-3 record are now slipping further back in the Northwest division as Minnesota and Vancouver have created some separation.
It’s during times like this that it is important to look at some of the positives in the locker room and on the ice. One such positive is the progress of Ryan Jones
’ career. Jones has quietly become an important cog in wheel of this Oilers team.
|Ryan Jones recorded his first career hat-trick the other night against Columbus. |
The first thing that jumps out about Jones is the increasing production he continues to provide. With the Oilers struggling to get consistent secondary scoring for much of the year, Jones has been one of the few bright spots in that department.
It’s been a steady progression for Ryan Jones
since breaking his way into the league with the Nashville Predators in 2008-2009. Jones has improved vastly in that time, becoming a more complete overall hockey player.
With nine goals already, Jones is one pace to score 26 this year. His 14 points also have him on pace to put up 40 points on the season. Both of these totals would far surpass the career highs he set last year when he had 25 points (18G, 7A) in 81 games.
These are great numbers for a guy who was never really expected to provide much in the way of offence. Jones’ energy and determination have allowed him to become a valuable asset to this team and has him scoring some goals along the way.
“I’m just trying to contribute and play with emotion every time I step on that ice,” said Jones.
It is not just scoring that tells the full story of Jones’ improvement this season however. He has become a more complete player overall, someone the coach feels comfortable putting out on the ice in key situations.
“He works hard and hard work usually pays off, explained Tom Renney. He is a versatile player who does a lot of good things out there for us.”
It is this versatility that may in fact be Jones’ greatest attribute. Earlier in the season when players such as Sam Gagner
and Ales Hemsky
were on the shelf with injuries, Jones was able to step into a top-six role for the Oilers and performed very well.
|The man with "the hair" has become a fan favorite both in and out of the locker room. |
Jones has also sharpened up his play in his own end sporting a plus- 6 rating so far this year, an improvement on the minus-5 he had last season. This speaks to the rounding out of Jones’ overall game.
It is not just on the ice that Jones has continued to grow either, it’s in the locker room as well. Jones has started to become a real leader on this team, someone with a great attitude and who is well liked all around. Whether it is his humour in the dressing room and with the media or his trademark long hair, Jones has really won over his teammates and the fans.
“Jones is a real character. He’s a great guy to have in the room, he makes it fun to come to the rink,“ said oilers captain Shawn Horcoff
Jones has demonstrated his ability to play anywhere inside the lineup and not look out of place. He has been able to contribute both offensively and defensively, making him the type of player any team would love to have.
Jones brings a unique blend of physical play, energy, scoring touch and positive attitude that really is starting to get people’s attention. Despite the Oilers recent struggles, the growth of Jones can be seen as a real step forward for the organization. If the Oilers can continue to surround their talented young core with players like Ryan Jones
, the team is headed in the right direction.