Edmonton - Dallas Post-Game: Yin and Yang

DALLAS - APRIL 02: Goaltender Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Edmonton Oilers skates the puck against Brandon Segal #24 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

As I write this post-game thread, I am listening to the post-game on 630 CHED. Two words occur more than any other: "hockey gods". Two others run a close second: "injury bug". Listening to the angst. Gilbert Brule is the source of this latest burst of soul-searching, as a seeming nothing play led to an unknown injury to his right ankle that will take the pending restricted free agent out for who the hell knows how long?

And who cares? What's one more? I found myself hoping that it would drive Brule's contract down, a hard-nosed Steve Tambellini staring at his agent across the bargaining table, shaking his head glumly, "how can we give that kind of bank to a guy with such huge question marks?" Then I remember I'm dreaming about Steve Tambellini and snap out of it. But apart from that, what matter? We're last. Mathematically certain. We cannot be 29th, and we cannot be 31st. These are the games where everything is screwed up and the points don't matter. It's a strange combination of being completely miserable and being completely at-ease. Brule's hurt? What, are we going to miss the playoffs? Oh nooooo.

The action was right on one end of the rink, which would have made half the paying customers very exciting indeed. The Oilers came out crippled, with a more-flagrant-than-usual turnover from Andrew Cogliano gifting the Stars a 2-0 lead that jumped to a 3-0 lead before Rod Phillips and Bob Stauffer had even finished announcing the second goal. It was miserable, like the rest of this season.

Second period, and Dustin Penner decided he wanted to try. Three goals for the Oilers and Penner had a decisive hand in two. The third coming courtesy Ethan Moreau, maybe the worst captain in Edmonton Oilers history, shoveling in a neat little lunchpail effort and almost lending a thin veneer of a silver lining to this gigantic, brooding dark cloud.

Then the third period, and Devan Dubnyk decided that he wanted to make damned sure he didn't start our next game by getting lit for another three. And that was that. There was a fight but only in the most cursory George-Chuvalo-vs.-a-drunk-guy-outside-the-Shoppers-Drug-Mart sense. We did what we had to do to retain a slice of honour, and then we lost, because we're the Oilers and that's what we're for.

Andrew Cogliano is the best-kept secret in the NHL these days. But I mean that in the reverse of the sense it is usually meant. When someone usually refers to the best-kept secret in the NHL they usually mean someone like Ryan Potulny, who makes minimum wage and scores goals in bunches and doesn't get outscored by a lot. Cogliano is a common target in fan-created trade scenarios. "Hey, let's try to get Cogliano from Edmonton!" says an Eastern Conference fan, "maybe give them one of our decent players in exchange." And his fellow, smarter fan scoffs. "Edmonton's rebuilding, they won't part with a blue-chip asset like Cogliano."

"Cogliano or Gagner" was practically the catch-phrase of the Oilers' trade deadline fan rumour mill.

So perhaps I'm slaughtering the golden goose when I say this, but Andrew Cogliano is one of the three worst Oilers, overall, battling with Ethan Moreau and Patrick O'Sullivan for the title in blinding uselessness. Cogliano's first two seasons were padded by unreasonable shooting percentages and puck luck. By Oiler standards, Cogliano's puck luck is still pretty good, except his counting numbers are crummy and his HUA quotient must rival the league leaders. What a hysterical turnover in the first period! What uselessness in the other two! "Cogliano" is French for "lost faceoff". He has no physical play and no value in the defensive zone. What is Andrew Cogliano for? Eye candy? I risk lynching by saying this but he's not even that hot!

Ten points in ten games? Irrelevant. Look at those points. The poor man's Blair MacDonald effect. Look at the rest of the season. One little hot spurt aside, he has the offense of Ethan Moreau!

Compare Cogliano, who plays weak opposition with good teammates and fails, to Sam Gagner, who is younger, plays against better players, doesn't do as badly, and is less of a screaming piece of trash on the faceoff dot. Even the classic Gagner HUA play, the drop pass to nobody, is almost a thing of the past. He's getting better, but Andrew Cogliano is not one iota a better hockey player today than he was on his first day in the National Hockey League. It's laughable to question what Cogliano might develop into when he hasn't developed in the least three seasons in.

It gets harder and harder to write these every game. Just frustration rather than analysis.

The second period, so triumphant, was simply Dustin Penner caring and the Stars leaning back a little too far. The first and third where the Oilers playing as hard as they can convince themselves to anymore against a team that actually wanted the game. That is as close as we can get to triumph these days. And what evidence is there that 2011 will be any better?

I need a drink. Thank god for the long weekend.

Note: no Reverse Three Stars tonight as I had to listen to the game rather than watching it.

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