Can the Edmonton Oilers Return To Early Season Form?
One of the advantages enjoyed by the Oilers early on in the season was that they could roll any of their four lines and expect some level of offensive spark and defensive competence.
With the development of complications due to swine flu and injuries, the Oilers slowly saw their early season success fade away. The Oilers also lost a few games that they should have won.
But that's all in the past now.
The Oilers are at a critical part of the season where they are in close proximity both with playoff contenders and with lottery contenders. Only a few points separates both extremes and the Oilers, now with players starting to return from injuries, have to capitalize on this time period.
Though now without individuals who played important parts in the Oilers early success, namely Ryan Stone, J.F. Jacques, and Denis Grebeshkov who are now injured, the Oilers have to find more offense from the troops that are left behind.
With veteran presence Fernando Pisani's ulcerative colitis flaring up again, and utility men such as Taylor Chorney, Marc Pouliot, and robert Nilsson on the shelf, the Oilers have to find it in themselves to elevate their game.
Some of the players I will be expecting to start carrying more of the workload would include Gilbert Brule—a player who got out to a hot start playing with the rejuvenated Dustin Penner while Jacques manned the top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.
Brule will be looked upon to play more of a leadership role than a complimentary role, in the upcoming weeks.
Another important player is Andrew Cogliano. With Sam Gagner showing the versatility to play on any line for Edmonton, Cogliano is now two years removed from the "kid-line" success that he and fellow line-mates Gagner and Nilsson used to enjoy.
If Cogliano fails to live up to the expectations of Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini, and he can't adapt in the same fashion as a Gagner or Penner or even Chorney (by playing on any line against any level of opposition) he may find himself slip down the depth chart in Edmonton, much like Kenta's kid has experienced.
Though normally injuries couldn't considered the sole root of all the Oiler's poor performances, the great play of recent call-ups to Edmonton, such as Chorney, Liam Reddox, and Ryan Potulny has exacerbated the leadership void in the Edmonton locker room.
It is time for Brule, Cogliano and the Horcoff to start carrying the torch.
It is time for Comrie, Moreau and Staios to lead by example.
Sheldon Souray has returned, Visnovsky and Smid are almost completely healthy and Horcoff and Hemsky are around the corner as well now that they are back in the lineup.
The Oilers have nobody left to blame now, if they continue to lose.
To reverse that trend, the Oilers will have to beat former teammate Mathieu Garon one more time on Monday night.
In recent history, the Oilers have had much success at that.
Let's hope that trend continues.
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