Jay over at Low on Oil asked me to put together some answers to his great questions and now I'm going to return the favor. Especially because the Los Angeles Kings continue their holiday trip to Canada tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. Jay has been blogging about the Oilers for a few months now and his site, Low on Oil, is quickly becoming a go-to place for Oilers news and views. (Plus, he has the coolest Ralph Steadman inspired banner I've ever seen on a hockey blog) To see what an Edmonton Oilers fan really thinks of Patrick O'Sullivan vs Lubomir Visnovsky or whether or not their centers are old enough to grow mustaches... check it out after the jump!
1) There are quite a few former LA Kings on the Oilers current roster... how do Oilers fans rank these 3 and who has the most potential for the future? Lubo Visnovsky, Patrick O'Sullivan or Denis Gresbeshkov?
Really, for Oilers fans with myself included there’s little question on how they rank these former LA Kings. In short, Lubomir Visnovsky is just plain awesome. This season, he’s second on our entire team including forwards in terms of points. Lately, some Oilers bloggers have started tracking game-by-game scoring chances. When Lubo’s on the ice, the Oilers out-chance their opponents at quite a phenomenal differential. A quote from the Black Dog Hates Skunks blog seems to reflect the fan-love here in Edmonton for Visnovsky the best, “On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.”
After Lubo, Dennis Grebeshkov would be ranked next followed by Patrick O’Sullivan. Though Grebeshkov’s picked up a few nicknames while playing in Edmonton, Garbagekov and acid eater (for his on-ice lapses/errors), he still has tons of potential. He should be returning to play in this upcoming game from a recent knee injury. This season, Visnovsky’s playing like he did back in LA, but with his age, he’s already hit his ceiling in terms of potential.
Patrick O’Sullivan has not worked out well as an Oiler. People have been talking about him being snake-bitten since he arrived mostly because of his innate ability to hit the post or miss the net. Once known as Patty O’Lanterns, lately fans regard him more as a POS. He’s probably not as bad as he’s played lately, but without Kopitar or a player like that, he’s just not good enough to carry a line on his own. To be fair, he’s had great results in the shoot-outs this season.
2) Since Michal Handzus put Ales Hemsky out for possibly the rest of the season, it seems that this Oilers team has responded with a 5-1-1 record. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s entirely because of the fact that Ryan Stone returned to the lineup. Well, Just kidding… Did you know that the Oilers are 10-2-1 with Ryan Stone playing (No joke)? In reality, Hemsky’s loss has really hurt the team especially in terms of the power play. Overall, there have been a number of things contributing to this recent stretch. Jeff Deslauriers has played pretty well and the team’s won quite a few close games including two shoot-outs. Dustin Penner would be a huge reason for this teams’ recent success especially the most recent win vs. St. Louis. Robert Nilsson and Stone both returned which has helped the bottom of the roster dramatically. Pat Quinn likes to roll four lines and when you have two AHL players on the 4rth line, it just doesn’t work so well.
3) I'm going to throw your trade question back at you... what do Oilers fans think now about the Lubo Visnovsky for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene deal?
It’s a trade that as an Oilers fan, you would make every day of the week and twice on Sunday. However, it left a huge hole in the roster that was never filled. Other than Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers don’t have a center who’s old enough to grow a mustache. It only takes a quick glance to see that the Oilers are one of the worst teams in the NHL at winning faceoffs which is nothing new this season. Many Oilers bloggers have been banging on the we need a 3rd line center who can kill penalties and win a faceoff drum since the Lubo trade.
4) 30 games into the season, how do you feel about the Oilers choice to give a 4 year, 3.75 million dollar contract to Nikolai Khabibulin?
That’s a sore spot. I do like Nikolai Khabibulin as a goaltender, but I’ve hated the contract from day 1. The Oilers were bidding against absolutely no one and gave him too much money for too long of a term. When you sign a player who’s over the age of 35, their contract is basically like a case of herpes—it never goes away. As you likely already know, If the player retires or suffers a career ending injury, the contract stays on the salary cap. You can’t buy them out or save cap space by sending them to the AHL either. (TRH NOTE: Check out Jay's latest musings on a 35 year old goaltender with a sore back here.)
5) To reverse your question...How do you think trading Wayne Gretzky to the Kings changed hockey in Edmonton and the rest of Canada?
I remember the day I heard the Gretzky was traded to the Kings. I was pretty young, but it was devastating news. Looking back at it now, I think that it’s helped to grow the sport and raise the popularity of hockey in the States which has been good and bad in some regards. Clearly, some of the expansion franchises have been utter disasters. I don’t agree with how the NHL expanded, but that aside I do like that it elevated the popularity of the sport in the US.
As for Canada, Gretzky is a legend, but the sport of hockey is bigger in Canada then even him. I mean, Gretzky was to hockey somewhat like what Tiger Woods was for golf even in Canada, but not to the same degree in terms of his ability to elevate the sport. Hockey was already that popular in Canada before The Great One.