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Talking Oilers With The Fellas From Committed Indian

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The men behind Second City Hockey have a little side business - game programs for the real fan.  They call it "Committed Indian" and you can check out some old back issues here.  There's even an interview with an extremely optimistic Dennis King who talks about playoffs and such. 

The editors publish one for each home game, and looking through the back issues, it's got to be an enormous amount of work, and sell them for $3 each.  They asked me to answer a few questions for today's issue and that conversation is below.

Committed Indian:  Hot start for the Oil. Just a mirage based out of unsustainable goaltending from an overpaid drunk and a hot streak from some kids, or something more?

Derek Zona:  You forgot a career AHL defenseman in Corey Potter putting up Lidstrom-like numbers. Tom Renney has done amazing work to protect those kids with offensive zone time and favorable matchups, but the current road trip has exposed the cracks in the facade. Khabibulin is going to slowly (hopefully) fall back to his career levels and the defense can't hold up all year. Edmonton fans need to enjoy this run right now.

Committed Indian:  What the hell happened to Magnus Paajarvi? We saw flashes last year of a player that can be special at times. Now he's a healthy scratch?

DZ:  He's still a special player, but he's not getting the best situations, like Hall, Hopkins and Eberle are. He's played with Eric Belanger more than any other player, and while Belanger is a nice defensive player with the ability to score now and then, he's not driving the offense. I've got no doubts that Paajarvi would have similar numbers to Hall if he'd been given the same opportunities.

Committed Indian:  Obviously, the Oilers have a lot of promise among their forwards, but the defense has dragged behind. Are Jeff Petry and Colten Teubert (though currently in the AHL) building blocks in the back?

DZ:  Teubert is progressing very slowly at the AHL level. He's playing on the second pairing in Oklahoma City and is still a couple of years away from getting to the NHL. Petry is already in the NHL and performing really well. He's outstanding with the puck and has excellent fundamentals in his own zone. He's still learning and because of that has a penchant for making one significant mistake each game. He's been paired with Theo Peckham and Cam Barker, both of whom are well below-average at moving the puck which puts even more pressure on Petry. He's handling the puck on something like 80% of the Oilers' breakouts when he's on the ice. As for whether he's a building block, no, he's not. For better or worse, he's already the 4th-best defender on the team.

Committed Indian:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is obviously the talk of the town, but his 25% shooting-percentage probably isn't sustainable for a whole year. Other than his scoring though, what's the most impressive part of his game and what does he need to work on?

DZ:  The most impressive part of his game is his foresight. He moves the puck, moves into open space, and makes passes to set up his next move or two and is generally way ahead of the play mentally. When you're sitting up a level or so in the arena, you know how you see a play develop and realize what's going to happen on the ice well before it does? Hopkins plays offense like he's always looking down on the ice. I imagine he sees offense like Neo sees the Matrix. Like all rookies, he needs to work on his own-zone play. He's got a knack for stealing the puck, both on the forecheck and in open ice, but when he's in his own zone, he's lost right now. He'll get better. Much better and probably very quickly.

Committed Indian:  Are Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner going to finish the year as Oilers?

DZ:  One of them will be gone by the draft in June. I have no idea which one.

Committed Indian:  There was a time here when we thought Cam Barker could really be good one day. That day is not now. Clearly you guys probably never even got that far with him....

DZ:  Oilers fans were warned about Barker by both Blackhawks fans and Wild fans. Most knew what they were getting, but some thought sure that a #3 overall defenseman just needed a new home and Edmonton would be the place to set the true Cam Barker free. Yeah, we've seen the true Cam Barker, alright. Do you want him back?