And so it ends, mercifully, painfully, briefly joyful, but finally. The 2009-2010 season is at a close.
No matter what people say about bottoming out, getting a top pick and rebuilding, it is far from guaranteed and very little solace to those who dished out the dough to see a chance at 41 regular season wins and hopefully a bunch more beyond that. This was not the year. This was the exact opposite of that year.
I'm not sure I could think of how this would be more anti-2005-2006. Everything went wrong. It wasn't even that the team was just bad on a lot of nights, it was also boring. Our best player sat with an injured shoulder. Our breakout star lost his motivation after trying to drag the deadweight behind him and you couldn't even blame him. Though 30+ ain't bad for Mr. Penner, we're talking about a guy who was hanging around people named Ovechkin and Crosby earlier this year. He showed no signs of slowing until the whole things went off the rails; there's only so much you can do after that.
- Far from his best game tonight. For whatever reason he looked tentative. When Deslauriers is tentative, he doesn't make his saves aggressively, looking like he's trying to make the next save before he's done making the first, and gives out nasty rebounds. Tonight he was a nasty rebound machine, but his D held him in for a couple periods, which was long enough to result in a 'W'. Good for him. I cannot think of a decent prospect whose development has been more irregular and unfortunate than Jeff (even Mr. Schremp), yet he made the big-time this year. If this is a good squad, we're talking about how well he did this year. The quality of chances he had to stop on a nightly basis was just stupid.
- I'm not exactly sure what he was doing on the fourth (it was the fourth wasn't it?) Avs goal, other than possibly making a snow angel, he really blew his coverage. I liked his offensive game as he spent a lot of the time pushing the play, both into the slot and into the corners to create offense. He didn't have the shooting hand tonight or he would've scored multiple goals. He certainly had the chances to do so. Overall I thought his game was mixed. I differ from many, in that I thought Gilbert had an excellent year of growth. He found new life playing with Ryan Whitney, and our twin towers can be a dominant NHL pairing for several years if they are kept intact. Those who underestimate Gilbert do so at their own peril.
- Loved that he got the winning goal; and even more that he scored it, skated to the boards with a giant smile on his face, and basked in the love of the crowd. The man gets it, he really does. He plays to win every single night and he gives a damn, period. You see it in everything that he does. He had a few odd adventures in the defensive zone tonight, more than usual, but still, he was good. I can't wait to watch this guy over a full season. I sure hope he's healthy next year. He changes this team, and I was a guy who was prepared to hate him because he came at the expense of #71 (watching Lubomir was one of the most singular pleasures I've had as an Oilers fan, the man is a master) and the foot injury thing. But if this last part of the season is any indication, we've got a winner.
- Of the few feel-good stories of the year, his stood out. The man toiled in the minors for years, is still mistakenly listed at 295 pounds on the Oilers scoreboard, but he got to live his NHL dream and certainly did not bring any shame to himself whatsoever. Tonight he was a little more penalty-prone than we all would've liked, but he played pretty steady and did his job. If this really is a "lunchbucket town" (I don't think it is, but that's just me), then Edmonton should doff its work hat to Mr. Ar-seen-eee for a job well done. I don't think we'll see him again, but maybe OKC could use him.
- He probably took 3 of the weakest shots I've seen live at an NHL game tonight. They were putrid and had no chance of going in or even on the net. I didn't see much else from him to be honest and cannot access the game log to jog my memory at the moment due to internet issues. I hope, despite his reputation as a solid "team guy" and everything else, that Mr. Strudwick is put out to pasture next year. He's just not good enough to be taking time from either the young guys pushing up, or the next Aaron Johnson who just needs a shot.
- Speaking of Johnson, he had a couple nasty giveaways tonight and I really didn't think this was his best effort. He must've been okay because there was nothing really ugly that I recall from the game, but usually he makes some positive plays and I didn't see those either. I really hope Johnson gets his due next season. He's a great story in that we got him in a lopsided trade, came out winners and gave a deserving guy a shot. He's making the most of it and has shown me no reason to believe he'd quit doing what he's doing. We can work with that. We can win with that.
- Mr. Chorney started the year strong, and finished in the "not so much" bin. That's really too bad. It is upsetting that his development was interrupted and he needed to be called into service so early, but that's the nature of the beast. I noticed him a couple times in the offensive zone trying to make plays, but he doesn't look convinced of his own ability to perform there right now. I'm not sure where we go from here. I don't want to yet say that I was right on when I said "trade him now while he has value" earlier in the season, but we'll see I suppose. There are a lot of guys who will come calling for that job. Some Theo Peckham's, some Aaron Johnson's. I suspect that he'll be displaced in that manner.
- I was certainly interested to see this guy after all the stats lines from Springfield this year. To say I was less than impressed would be a bit of an understatement. He seems to be a decently sized player, but one that cannot skate and does not play physically. I'd be prepared to accept either, but it appears he has neither. I don't expect him to be around next year and while I appreciate the rewarding of a job well done for the year, Mr. Eberle should have played these games instead of Mr. Linglet. Period.
- I haven't felt a lot either way watching Jones the few times I've been able to. Tonight, playing on a lacklustre line that had a BAD game, full of giveaways, Jones also had the dubious distinction of falling all over the damn place. He didn't look like a hockey player at all this evening. I suspect he'll be given a shot next year, but likely (and hopefully) beat out by a younger more talented player with some physical ability.
- This was probably the worst game I've seen him play in a while. He usually skates well and holds onto the puck effectively at the minimum. Tonight he gave it away a bunch and wasn't winning any races. I don't know if this was a function of his line or not, but he looked just terrible out there. I'm not sure just what the future holds for Pouliot; I don't see how he holds his spot. Then again, I haven't seen that for multiple years now. Rob Schremp and several others would've made my squad over Pouliot multiple times over now, yet he keeps coming back. For me, he symbolizes the type of player we need to learn to give up on in order to move forward. He's a low-end-tweener with the upside of decent defensive forward. You don't win with that. There's a difference between bit-part-Pouliot and bit-part-Johnson.
- He was in the play tonight. It seems like he just has that gift. It would have been tremendous poetry and some small degree of happiness for me if Mike had managed to twist himself enough to bury the behind-the-back pass from Penner with a second left. For him to score two goals (I called him scoring at least 1 tonight) would have at least brought a little magic to the final home night of the season. He had many other chances including a flurry in the first, a ricochet that went past his waving stick but could have easily been a goal, and a weird angle shot that almost snuck by, but none of those were to be. His one goal was a well placed PP wrister with big help from Mr. Horcoff on the screen, past a weak goaltender. It was nothing to write home about but was a good, solid choice. It is no secret that I love the way Comrie plays hockey, and it would make me very happy to see him in the uniform again next season. He helps you win, and it'd be another chance at the great story that was not to be this season.
- I think he broke up a few chances that O'Sullivan and Comrie generated together tonight. Not one of his better efforts and there was no physicality to his game. He wasn't annoying Colorado either, not that I think they would have engaged. They didn't look interested in that game I suppose, which limits how effective Stortini can be. The future for him? I honestly don't know. I really thought he'd get a rougher ride from Quinn than he did, but he stuck in the lineup so they must see something. I hope he comes to camp fired up, because he can be very effective. I want to see him score some goals. I want to see him piss people off every second or third game.
- He was alright tonight. He took a great shot around a defender that could have gone in but didn't, and generally generated some solid offence. Of all the guys who had the air let out of their tires this year, he probably suffered the most. I don't see how his story will end positively here which is sad. There's a maniac of a hockey player in there, with skill in all ends and a major-league shot. I can only think that he's really still fighting the battle inside. I hope he wins it one day, because we'll all get to see something pretty impressive. Good luck Patrick.
- He was good tonight. Really solidly good. He screened on the Comrie goal as noted, took an excellent shot from a good spot for a goal of his own, and was smooth the rest of the game. There are always going to be what I would call errors with Horcoff, missed passes, whiffed shots, overskating defenders, but at least on nights like tonight he covers them up. I think everyone knows what I think of Horcoff by now, but because he will in all likelihood be playing for this team next year, I hope he goes off this summer, works like crazy on his shooting and pass-taking ability, and learns an aggressive style of play that is calm with the puck. With those things he could be the guy we need. I just don't know if he sees that. He's got the right attitude, and he'll probably be the first guy (either him or Whitney) to say "it's about the Cup" if things go well, but he needs to be more than that.
- A pedestrian game from Ethan in my view. I think enough has already been said about him this year. It is time that this time in an Oilers uniform end (somewhat) gracefully, and we get to remember the man who was legitly our MVP one year, had a monster slapper, and scored 20 goals.
- I thought Fernando would score tonight, but he was rather invisible. I want him back next year if he's able. I could completely understand retiring if I were him. The man is clearly ravaged by a horrible affliction that struck down a blossoming talent when combined with injuries. Nothing can ever take that spring away from him, where we saw a hard-working longish-term minor leaguer from Edmonton go on a tear for the ages that was one goal from defeating guys named Pronger and Roloson for a Conn Smythe trophy. That was just a glimpse...and then it was gone. There are tragedies in sport. Not of the life and death variety on all but the darkest of days, but I'll always feel for Fernando, because he finally found it after a lot of effort, only to have it ripped away.
- Very solid outing for Dustin tonight. He earned that first star and the applause he received for a season well-played. He also made 2 no look passes to totally open teammates which was bloody impressive. I don't think there's any question that you bring him back next year. I don't think he could turn back now if he wanted to. This man is a player and has a 3-point-night like it's nothing. He's legit. Let's watch him grow further.
- A good solid goal tonight for Cogliano, and yes I thought his effort was generally good. It was interesting that he took so much time on his goal and still managed to finish. He'd missed a very similar chance earlier in the game and I wasn't sure he had it in him. That's been the story with Andrew this year, absolutely no finish. Is it bad luck or has he really headed down an alternate career path? I don't think anyone's screaming goal scorer anymore. I don't think we see him next year. I hope he does well with his new start, but that he's in the other conference doing it. Great play to help set up the winner. He was my second star over Gilbert.
- Ryan did alright for himself tonight even if he blew a good scoring chance and got beat up a bit. He made a year out of nothing. No one called what he did in terms of making the most of chances, scoring goals and contributing even on a bad team. The guy was excellent and should be very very proud of what he accomplished. You absolutely must give him a solid look next year. I think this is the kind of guy that never would have made it under MacTavish, but did under Quinn. Potulny is much more a difference maker than a Reddox or a Petersen. It's important to remember that when thinking about our coaching.
Random funny moment: the ice crew skated around with a bin after the game, raising it like the Stanley Cup.
Ryan Whitney loved the cheer he got at the end of the game, and waved for the crowd a couple more times than he was obligated to. I said it above, but keep this guy. Hell, give him a letter.
I guess, that's that.
No matter what happened this year, going to the games is still better than a lot of other things you could do on a given night. It still feels like an important event and a spectacle to be taken in. But when you can't hope anymore, and it is counterproductive for your team to show up, it gets hard. The hardest thing for me this entire season was watching and learning not to care for one season. I don't care what happens in the offseason, I will be back and my bumper sticker will read 'Stanley or Bust' as it always should. Hope will spring for our new stars and at least in theory, we should be entertained. I'm very much looking forward to a training camp that could see guys with namebars reading Hall, Eberle, Svensson, Lander, Hartikanen, Kabanov, and maybe others. It will hopefully see the names Hemsky and Penner reunited on the ice, ready to take on the world once more. Even our troubled #1 netminder could return to form. It is all possible once more. I look forward to watching a full season of Ryan Whitney, who proved himself more an Oiler in a quarter season than most did over a whole. I hope very much that Mr. Comrie will once again play for his hometown team, and get the chance to be the playoff hero that he didn't get this year. The sun will shine again...it was just rainy as hell this year.