It took until mid-December, but once again the Oilers are looking ahead to next year. With veteran forwards Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky on the shelf, it’s now officially all about the kids this season.
True, the introduction of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi to the Edmonton lineup for 2010-11 made it pretty clear right off the bat that youth was the order of the day, but now a second wave of hopefuls are making their presence felt and fortunately for them, expectations can’t get much lower.
Take the weekend’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver, widely panned due to the pop-gun nature of the Oilers’ 12-shot attack (or 11, according to some reports). Newcomers Linus Omark and Ryan O’Marra played on a line with Ryan Jones and the two rookies looked to have some decent speed and gumption in the early going. It may not have gone anywhere, but these are players still finding their way.
Omark, of course, is the hot new European, stratifying the hockey world with his game-winning shootout goal against Tampa in his first NHL game. Was his spin-o-rama move a hot dog play that disrespected Lightning goalie Dan Ellis? My thought on the matter is simple: Omark did his job, Ellis didn’t. Omark’s only motivation in the shootout is to score. However he accomplishes that is up to him.
I like Omark. He was upset to be cut by the Oilers coming out of training camp and said so publicly. Then, much like he did in the shootout, he proved his worth by lighting up the American League as a member of the Oklahoma City Barons. In one game, the sublime Swede rang up five goals plus a shootout tally in a win over the Toronto Marlies. Confidence is not a problem with him.
O’Marra, on the other hand, is battling for his career and appears to be winning that struggle. A first round draft pick of the Islanders in 2005, the 6-foot-2 center has fallen as low as the ECHL in his career and played limited minutes for the Oilers in three games last season. But he’s back and is getting a chance to prove himself. On a good team, he couldn’t do that. But the Oilers have all the time in the world to give second chances this year and at least there’s a silver lining.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.