Even though the Oilers are losing the team and management must have goals to meet through the end of this season. Some will have to be team goals and more will have to be goals for players to achieve. There shouldn't be too many players that are safe on this roster.
The most important goal for the team should be to remain committed to the system and the required work ethic from here to the last game. The Oilers need to maintain the good habits moving forward, doing the little things, working hard, and being hard to play against. It is reasonable to think the Oilers should be around .500 for the remaining 32 games.
Defining the role for Devan Dubnyk is another priority. He has played well through his recent run of games, but the rebound control is really hurting him at times. So far the bad bounces aren't catching up to him, either his luck will catch up or he will control the rebounds better. Another problem has been the number of goals leaking through him, a 'bad goal a game" won't do it. The Oilers need to find out what they have either before the deadline or by season’s end.
Offensive production of some of the players has been worrisome. There hasn't been a second line or second line scoring for some time. The line is vacant and being filled with lesser talented players to fill the holes.
Ryan Smyth had a hot start and then went ice cold; his finish to the season will go a long way to determine his contract for the next season. The last 25 games have seen him produce 4 goals and 10 points.
Shawn Horcoff had a good start as well, but has been ice cold. His production to date would indicate he can't play in the top 6; the Oilers will need to address the second line and probably move him to the 3rd line. His last 23 games he has produced 2 goals and 5 points.
Ryan Jones has been a victim of the decline in production as well. Since scoring a hat trick on December 3rd he has tallied 3 goals and 8 points in the last 24 games. Despite being a 3rd liner, is Jones replaceable?
Anton Lander might need some time or a season next year in OKC if his production remains as low as it is with 2 goals and 5 points in 46 games.
Cam Barker will need to play well when he returns to earn his next contract. The Oilers need puck moving defensemen, is he one?
Sam Gagner hasn't had a great season and should he remain after the deadline he will have to earn his job for next season. After last night's 4 goal and 8 point performance it shouldn't overshadow his last 21 games that have seen him contribute 2 goals and 10 points. 5 goals and 22 points in 43 games don’t scream 2nd line center or secondary scoring. Now he stands at 4 goals and 30 points in 44 games. The Oilers need to be certain what they have in Gagner.
These are just some things to think about going toward the trade deadline February 27th and into the offseason.
A forum poster since 2000, Jay is the Moderator of the Edmonton Oilers forum the Motley Crude. He also contributes to his blog Oilers Republic and to the Oilogosphere. You can follow him on twitter (http://twitter.com/OR_TMC). Also, an Oilers blogger at Sportsnet Fan Fuel.
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