Let me begin this by wishing everyone a very happy holiday season. I hope that you all have an amazing time with family and friends, making many new memories to cherish. If this time of year is difficult for you, I hope that it passes with as little disturbance as possible and causes you the least amount of trouble.
But back to hockey. As it is the holiday season, there are several things it is appropriate to hope that Santa has put under the Oil Kings tree this year.
First, Santa I hope you brought some health and speedy recovery from injury for the Oil Kings defensemen. With three Oil Kings defensemen on the WHL injury report (which is all of their reported injuries), the Oil Kings could use a little bit of health and recovery for their defensemen. Jascon Alexander is reported as having a season ending upper body injury, but the Oil Kings would benefit from the return of veteran defensemen Will Warm. Hopefully, the holiday break and the magic of Christmas can help out there a little. Alternately, time… Warm’s injury was projected at 2-4 weeks in the middle of December so the best case for the Oil Kings has him returning the line up in early January. Cap, listed as day-to-day on December 11th, returned for the Oil Kings last set of games before the holiday break.
Second, the Oil Kings need to make some goaltending decisions. They have obviously chosen Dylan Myskiw to be their starting goaltender, but with Boston Bilous and Todd Scott both healthy again and still appearing on the roster… some clarity as to who exactly is the backup goaltender would be great. If the Oil Kings choose Scott, time will be another crucial element as Scott has yet to regain his form after being injured and was pulled in the Oil Kings last game against Kootenay. Bilous, despite an impressive start, has also struggled some throughout the season leaving the Oil Kings with no clear choice and three goaltenders on their roster. For a team who will need to shorten their roster by at least two to meet WHL roster size requirements, a decision as to which two goalies they want to go with would be timely.
Finally, if the Oil Kings get (or maybe give) just one more gift this season, it would be to capitalize on the large number of games they have against divisional opponents right after the holiday break. Nine of their next eleven games are against teams in the Central Division. A strong stretch of play against their divisional rivals, especially the Red Deer Rebels and Lethbridge Hurricanes who account for five of those eleven games, would do a lot to help the Oil Kings position themselves for the playoffs. The Oil Kings will also need to make the best of two games against both Calgary and Medicine Hat (currently below them in the Central Division Standings) to maximize their points against divisional rivals, but doing so would also provide an excellent buffer against the strong teams from the BC Division and the Eastern Division. Not taking advantage of this opportunity to pull away from their Central Division rivals would make the rest of the Oil Kings season and their quest for the best play off positioning much harder.
The Oil Kings return to action on December 28th against the Calgary Hitmen and then play a home and home series against the Red Deer Rebels before starting 2019 against the Vancouver Giants. The Rebels lead the Central Division and the Giants lead the BC Division providing an excellent test for the Oil Kings throughout the end of the season. The second half of the season should also see the return of the Oil Kings third—or maybe fourth jersey – a white and neon green look they debuted last season.