The news broke early today that RNH is going to go under the knife and will be out the rest of the season (read: One Week)
So yes, lets talk about that for just a few moments. The Oilers best young Centerman, who has clearly been struggling with a Shoulder problem all year, is only NOW going under the knife. Nugent-Hopkins is going to have exactly the same kind of surgery that was performed on both his Captain (Horcoff) and possibly his Future Captain (Taylor Hall). This is a pretty common surgery for Edmonton Oilers and there is a 100% chance he makes a full recovery, but it will be at least 6 months at the earliest he comes back. The timetable will be roughly mid-late October if he gets the surgery right away.
This begs the question, though, of why the hell wasnt this done a month ago or more? This season was a shit show with its ups and downs but even at their peak this team was only ever in 8th place. Even giving some kind of grey area for the playoff push, the Oilers have been out of the hunt for almost 2 WEEKS. The Oilers now put next year in question as they will most likely start the year with RNH on the IR.
This is what happens when the man in charge felt the heat from above and was trying to save his own ass instead of looking to make the best decisions for the Oilers. Steve Tambellini chose to keep Nuge in games instead of doing what was right and Kevin Lowe signed off on it all. Shameful.
The Rest of the Team
The Oilers broke that terrible losing streak with a stomping of the Avalanche. It was really the Oilers best young players that looked absolutely dangerous all game. Eberle was showing off that sick backhand of his, Nuge scored one last time before he packed in his season, and Hall was a beast. Watch the highlights to see the game’s 1st goal again. He just willed it to happen.
The Oilers really needed that win because the final week is going to be a nightmare. The Ducks are cracking a little, but they are no easy task for the Oilers. And yet, at this stage of the game losing probably helps the Oil more than it hurts them. They dont have to like it, but better draft position is not a bad thing.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Scrabble Without Vowels
The team has to find a way to play without RNH in the middle. He was having a tough year offensively, but defensively he was just fine. Now there will be bigger opportunities for players like Lander and Smithson. This is basically an extended tryout for next year. This time last year it was Hartikainen doing it and it got him a longer look with the big club when the lockout ended.
2) Dubnyk Plays Big
Devan Dubnyk has been a polarizing figure this season. By number he has been a solid stopper, by eye he has been plagued all year with a case of Badgoalitis. The real truth is that the Oilers are consistently outshot by their opponents and Dubnyk is getting peppered every single game. Still he needs to cut the early goals he lets in because he can make all the big stops he wants but those softies are backbreakers.
3) A Transition of Leadership
This has been happening for a while now, but it should be apparent to everyone now that on the ice the Oilers are led by the kids. The old stalwarts like Hemsky, Horc, and Smyth arent the difference makers on the ice. They arent driving this thing anymore. Hall, Yak, Eberle, RNH (when healthy), and Schultz are in charge out there. Its only a matter of time before Horc is no longer the Captain and that C is on the Chest of one of those kids. That can happen on its own time, no need to hurry it, but this is their team now already.
Puck drops at 6:38 PM Mountain Time on Sportsnet Oilers. Game On!