With the Edmonton Oilers in the thick of their annual push for one of the final two or three playoff berths in the Western Conference, the situation dictates GM Steve Tambellini will be a buyer at the NHL trade deadline.
The problem is, Tambellini needs to find a seller, but that’s easier said than done when you consider 13 of 15 teams in the conference, as of today, have at least an outside shot of making the playoffs.
Instead of just a stretch drive tweak, the Oilers most obvious needs are to fill the void created by the loss of Lubomir Visnovsky, out for the season after shoulder surgery, and Denis Grebeshkov, who could be out as long as six weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
But it’s a tight market, especially in the west.
“Teams are looking for energy players. Teams are looking for defencemen. They’re looking for top-six forwards,” said Tambellini, whose job has been complicated by the injuries.
“It’s difficult to move players.”
Before Visnovsky and Grebeshkov went down, the feeling was Tambellini would try to deal for a forward who could help the penalty killing or maybe somebody who could add scoring from the left wing.
Now, unless Tambellini addresses the back end, coach Craig MacTavish will have to lean very heavily on Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Steve Staios and hope Ladislav Smid, Jason Strudwick and rookie Theo Peckham can handle minutes they wouldn’t normally play.
THE BEST INTENTIONS
It’s a laughable example of skewed priorities when people are calling for fighting bans at all levels of hockey, including the NHL, while paying lip service to penalizing more dangerous plays.
Yes, mounting the soap box in opposition to fisticuffs is a hot-button topic, but until those who make the rules do away with hits from behind and head shots, arguing that cause is putting style ahead of substance.
Instead of looking at concussions caused in fights, where punches are poorly leveraged and seldom cause damage beyond the cosmetic, the NHL has to do away with head shots delivered by way of body checks. Likewise, hits from behind.
The fact is, a 210-pound player skating full speed and planting an elbow on the point of the chin of an opponent skating as fast as he can the other direction is more likely to cause a concussion, or worse, than a punch during a fight.
And, please, spare me the “Keep your head up” argument.
There’s a big difference between putting somebody on their backside with a big hit between shoulder and hip level and burying an opponent because he had his head down.
That doesn’t mean it’s open season … at least it shouldn’t.
WHILE I’M AT IT
Memo to sluggin’ Sam Gagner, who got pummelled by Jack Johnson in the first period but came back to score in a 3-2 shootout win in Los Angeles Saturday: keep the gloves on, please.
– In a decade covering the Edmonton sports scene, Robin Brownlee has been the news-breaker and insightful voice for sports fans in Oil Country.