Watching opponents continually take runs at the Edmonton Oilers skilled forwards has become par for the course. Hockey is physical game and unfortunately, teams are going to try and slow down the likes of a Sam Gagner or Taylor Hall by whatever means necessary.
Saturday night's exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks was yet again, one of those nights. Zack Kassian busted Gagner's jaw with a "inadvertent" high-stick, while Dale Weise tried taking Hall's head off with a shot to the Oilers best player's noggin. Not surprisingly, the cries for general manager Craig MacTavish to go out and find a goon to take care of business, have already started to make the rounds.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Oilers are actually entertaining the idea of making such a move prior to the start of the 2013-14 season. Let us hope that is not the case, as Edmonton already have the necessary pieces in place to deal with this exact sort of situation. From a personnel standpoint, the likes of Mike Brown and Ben Eager or more than capable of going out and playing a physical/dirty brand of hockey, should the need arise.
What the Oilers need from them, is quite simple. They need to take care of business on the ice or the organization needs to go out and find a similar type player who will. Do you think it was a coincidence management took a serious run at trying to acquire Cal Clutterbuck prior to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft? They obviously know it's an issue but with the contract situations being what they were, the in-house guys will get first crack at being the answer.
That said, if Saturday's response was any indication of what we can expect, this experiment won't last long.
The moment Weise came out of the penalty box for his cheap shot on Hall, Brown decided to drop the mitts and engage him in a tilt. When in reality, what Mr. Brown should have done was taken a run at Alex Edler, who was the lone star player in Vancouver's lineup. That is not to say someone needed to send Edler face first into the boards but throwing an elbow and/or a well placed hack on the talented blueliner, would go a long way in sending a message to the Canucks bench.
Instead, what we got to watch was Darnell Nurse being run into the boards from behind, Jordan Eberle getting smoked behind the Nucks net and Gagner taking a stick to the chops. It certainly is frustrating to watch but having a "nuclear deterrent" on the bench won't change that, as much as some Oiler fans would love to see a Steve MacIntyre type come to town.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the group that feel that even the likes of a Brown or Eager are necessary. Unfortunately, as long as this team employs a bunch of smallish skilled players, that generally shy away from contact, they are most certainly necessary and the new Oilers bench boss is of the same mindset.
From the moment he came to town, Dallas Eakins has repeatedly said this team needs to become far tougher to play against. That hasn't changed. In my mind, there was always a very good chance of both Brown and Eager making this team out of camp and Saturday's antics only solidified that. They won't play every night but on occasion, Eakins will most certainly have both in the lineup.
If you don't have players on the roster who can fill that sort of role inside your top nine, which the Oilers do not, then you need guys on the fourth line that can skate, get in on the forecheck and are willing to engage physically. In short, they need a Dale Weise. Both Mike Brown and Ben Eager can fill that role. Now it's up to them to go out and do it. If they are unwilling, then it will be up to Craig MacTavish to go out and find someone who will.