It's once again time to hand out the Scalies - the De Koboldorum Rebus awards given to our beloved Edmonton Oilers for services rendered during the hockey season just past! I tell ya, one of these years they're going to make the playoffs, and then it's going to be really hard to pick these. In the meantime, not so much.
Team MVP: I have, over the course of the last couple of months, heard and read a number of people performing variations on the theme of "if you had told me in September that the Oilers would finish dead last by a mile but nobody would be mad at Dustin Penner (pictured above), I would have laughed." The man's eerie similarities to Frank Mahovlich have been noted elsewhere, and this year we got to see the "thunderous power-forward" side of that equation, as opposed to the "guy in the coach's doghouse" side of previous years. Despite a mid-season slump, Penner became the second Oiler, after Wayne Gretzky, to lead the team in goals, assists, points, and +/- over a season, and although it must be said that he didn't have much competition, that's still pretty impressive. So yeah, this one's Penner's.
Best Rookie: , I think. While Dubnyk, in the way that rookie goaltenders do, probably contributed more than his share to the graying of his coach, there were nonetheless very promising signs towards the end of the season. He even managed to get himself an admittedly odd call-up to Team Canada for the World Championships, although he didn't see any action. The Oilers will probably have to decide between him and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers this summer at some point, and the general consensus that I'm seeing is that they'll go with Dubnyk. The fact that he's 6'6" doesn't hurt him at all.
Most Under-Rated Player: It was Shawn Horcoff, my goodness. Yes, he had a terrible year. Yes, his +/- was one of the worst in the entire league. Yes, he's overpaid. But he was likely playing hurt, he's one of the few guys on the Oil who can reliably take a faceoff, he's by all accounts a classy guy, and his work ethic is legendary (this last is an important consideration given the large number of young guys likely to be kicking around training camp this fall). In a just world, Horcoff would be a shoo-in as the next Oilers' Captain. However, this is not a just world; this is a world where Shawn Horcoff was booed this past season by his own fans after picking up assists.
Most Improved Player: After some pondering, I think this one has to go to Gilbert Brule. The Blue-Jackets made him the poster boy for guys brought into the league too young, and this was past year was his first chance to really turn things around. He took advantage of it, with goal and point totals that were by far career bests. There's some question, of course, as to the role of luck in this renaissance (Brule's shooting percentage was suspiciously high), and thus as to whether he can keep it up, but in the meantime it was a nice job by the young man.
And thus another year of Scalies comes to a close. And now, we wish to take you back to a brighter time, the time of "a few games into the 2009-2010 NHL season," when the Oilers were more-or-less healthy, and did not despair even when down 4-1 in the second period. Watch, and enjoy (you can especially enjoy Penner's drive to the net at the 2:00 mark of the video. Remind yourself that that's an NHL defenceman trying to stop him. Even though Penner didn't score on the play, it's still impressive - truly Mahovlichian, in fact).