Monday Musings: Oilers embark on critical trip | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMonday Musings: Oilers embark on critical trip

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 | 06:00 AM

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Sam Gagner, left, Ales Hemsky and the Oilers begin a nine-game, 16-day road trip in Chicago on Monday. (Derek Leung/Getty Images) Sam Gagner, left, Ales Hemsky and the Oilers begin a nine-game, 16-day road trip in Chicago on Monday. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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The Edmonton Oilers' nine-game road trip, the Ottawa Senators' success without their injured stars, the scoring race, Raffi Torres, as well as hot streaks from Jonathan Drouin and Greg Carey are discussed in this week's Monday musings.
Maybe we expected more from the young Edmonton Oilers for their restless fans this season.

But they have been rather mediocre. They're .500 at home. They're .500 on the road. Their special teams have been solid, but their team defence has been poor. Only the Buffalo Sabres have yielded more shots per game.

Like most teams, the Oilers have endured injuries to key players like Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones. Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky have enjoyed nice starts. Ryan Whitney has not.

Rookie Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger has benched Whitney at times and he has not responded. Ryan Smyth also took a seat in the press box for a game. He has come back strong with four points in four games.

So now the Oilers, tied for 12th in the West but only two points out of eighth, arrive at a critical part of the season with no cushion in the standings. They begin a nine-game, 16-day road trip in Chicago on Monday against a team that has a set a record for the best start without a loss in regulation time at 15-0-3.

The Oilers will be away from Edmonton because of the Brier curling tournament. This won't be an easy time with visits to Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago again and finally Colorado.

How many points do the Oilers need to glean from this trip to call it a success? No less than nine will do. That should keep them in the mix when they return home to play 14 of their final 22 games at Rexall Place.

Coach of the year

Sure, it's way too early to be handing out the Jack Adams Trophy. But how can you not be impressed with the job done so far by second-year Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean?

He has kept his club in the hunt despite the fact he currently is missing his top three players -- Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and goalie Craig Anderson. Since Karlsson joined Spezza on the sidelines with his scary lacerated Achilles tendon injury, the Senators have managed an unexpected 4-1-0 record when many felt they would slide down the standings.

MacLean has kept his players calm and focused. But he should share the credit with the Senators scouting staff and Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson. With the likes of recent call-ups Eric Gryba, David Dziurzynski and Derek Grant, there seems to be a never-ending supply of young talent ready, willing and able to contribute.

Art Ross race

The condensed season has produced too many injuries and too many dull games, but it has resulted in one heck of a scoring race.

Five weeks into the season, the cream has risen to the top with the likes of Steven Stamkos (29 points), Sidney Crosby (28), John Tavares (25), Thomas Vanek (25), Henrik Zetterberg (25), Martin St. Louis (24), Matt Moulson (23), Patrick Kane (23) and Pavel Datsyuk (22).

The battle for the Rocket Richard Trophy also has been hotly contested with Stamkos (13 goals), Tavares (13), Vanek (12), James Neal (12), Patrik Marleau (12) and others in the hunt.

Raffi Torres comeback

So far, so good for controversial Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres since he returned from his reduced 21-game suspension for his headshot on Blackhawks veteran Marian Hossa in the first round of the playoffs last April.

Sure, he's one questionable incident from returning to square one. But the 31-year-old Torres looks more like the Torres who scored 27 goals in 2005-06 and helped the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup final than the troubled player who took out the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook and Hossa in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, respectively.

Ten games into his comeback, Torres has scored four times and has six points. He has only five penalty minutes, and that was because Chicago's Jamal Mayers tried to take his pound of flesh from Torres with a fight 2½ minutes into a Blackhawks-Coyotes game in Phoenix three weeks ago.

Yes, so far, so good for Torres. And the Coyotes don't visit Chicago until April 20.

Head coach seniority

With the firing of Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff last week, Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators was left standing as the head coach with the longest current tenure with the same team. Here's the top 10:

  • Barry Trotz, Nashville (August 1997).
  • Mike Babcock, Detroit (July 2005).
  • Alain Vigneault, Vancouver (June 2006).
  • Claude Julien, Boston (June 2007).
  • Todd McLellan, San Jose (June 2008).
  • Joel Quenneville, Chicago (October 2008).
  • Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh (February 2009).
  • John Tortorella, N.Y. Rangers (February 2009).
  • Joe Sacco, Colorado (June 2009).
  • Dave Tippett, Phoenix (September 2009).

By the numbers

11 -- Games in a row St. Lawrence University junior Greg Carey has scored at least one goal. The undrafted 22-year-old forward from Hamilton, Ont., leads the U.S. college scene with 25 goals in 32 games this season and has drawn plenty of interest from NHL scouts.

15 -- Games the Boston Bruins will have played in the first 38 days of the 2013 shortened regular season, the fewest among the 30 NHL clubs. That means it will be no picnic for the Bruins to finish the season. Beginning Tuesday, Boston will play 33 times in 61 days.

23 -- Consecutive games in which 17-year-old Halifax Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin has scored at least a point. During this stretch the QMJHL's leading scorer and contender to go first overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft has 21 goals and 53 points, including this incredible shift in which he set up teammate Stefan Fournier for a goal on Sunday.

25:50 -- Average ice time per game for New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk this season. That's more than four minutes ahead of the two next-busiest forwards, Tavares (21:47) and Stamkos (21:45).

734 -- Games Calgary Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester has now played without suiting up for a Stanley Cup playoff contest. This matches the record set by Guy Charron, who in his 12-year NHL career with Montreal, Detroit, Kansas City and Washington never made it to the post-season.

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