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Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
4:57 PM ET, 5/02/06

Oilers deserve some credit

Posted by Tom Layberger
I was not the least bit surprised by the reaction, but I was disappointed all the same. The reaction to the President's Trophy-winning Red Wings being upset by the Oilers, a team that scrapped to make the playoffs while compiling 29 fewer points, was all too predictable - even in a northern New Jersey establishment.

Between neutral fans and a few relocated Michiganders sporting more red than Santa Claus, the popular commentary discredited the Red Wings for being too old, too slow. Every player over 35 should be handed discount prescription cards and on and on. At least for the Detroit fans, some of it was heat-of-the-moment frustration resulting in an early spring exodus and what is now a 1-3 series ledger since their team won it all in 2002. Some of what was said was true and the Red Wings certainly face a critical offseason, including the possible end to the phenomenal Yzerman era.

What disappointed me was that nobody, Wings fan or not, gave credit to the Oilers. And it was not just a handful of people gathered in front of a couple of plasma sets, but far and wide the focus has been largely on what went wrong with the big boys. That is unfortunate because the Oilers dug deep against tough Northwest Division foes to make the playoffs and they put on their hard hats once again in the opening round and should be saluted for their efforts.

You certainly have to feel good for Ryan Smyth, a 10-year Oiler who has endured first-round defeat after first-round defeat before experiencing his first pleasant post-series handshake since 1998. Let's appreciate the fact the Sergei Samsonov, enjoying a nice change of scenery, and the exciting Ales Hemsky may be a dynamic pairing for seasons to come and that Jarret Stoll is a fine young player who is only going to get better.

Indeed, these Oilers deserve some credit. And wouldn-t a long-awaited Battle Of Alberta be nice? It has only been 15 years.

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