Saturday, December 30, 2006

Oilers/Canucks - Bloggin'


Oilers/Canucks tonight. Oilers in ninth tonight, a point out of eighth, a couple of wins out of third.
It looks like the usual madcap dash for the playoffs may be starting early this season.
I picked the Flames to win the division before the season started with the Oilers challenging them if they could hang around long enough and then get some help on the back end. They've hung around but they've been sliding of late. They need help but the problem is the guys other teams will want are either the guys this team can ill afford to lose right now - Torres/Stoll or prospects like Schremp who, lets face it, is not going to be moved as this team builds towards '09.
Weird year. Other then Anaheim and San Jose, nobody really stands out in the West and, as we know, anything can happen once spring rolls around. The Oilers have been mediocre since a nice start - Roloson, Smyth and Sykora carrying the load - and lately Roloson has looked tired and the points have been harder to come by. Tonight Smid finally takes a seat and Markannen gets the start. Tomorrow the Flames. Could be a good weekend or the lads could out in the cold.
25 years since Gretzky hit 50 in his 39th game.
Not a bad player.
Smith and Staios and the Stoll line facing the Matress line. Smyth starts with Reasoner and Lupul.
Lupul gets two chances to clear the puck and fails both times. Pretty sad.
But a good backcheck his next shift.
Bergeron with a terrible giveaway. Goal. Its those types of mistakes that make people hate Marc Andre Bergeron.
Jan Hejda looks solid. Again. He always looks pretty solid.
One of the Sedins left alone and rings it off the post. The Oilers look all sort of disjointed tonight. Weird seeing the Canucks playing this close to the vest style (it may still be weird ten years from now) but they have some decent defencemen. Bieksa playing 20 minutes a game? Not a lot of offence getting generated. Everytime Hemsky gets the puck the crowd starts to buzz.
Now they start to come on. Chances for Peterson, Sykora, Pisani. Pisani, Torres and Stoll look damn good. Pisani especially is noticeable out there.
Not much on the PP. Big surprise. They have one or two decent games a month and everyone says look at the numbers - they're alright. Bleah.
Hemsky a little shaken up.
Smyth almost pots one. And Kesler chats it up with him - what a guy - talking tough to the guy with the bad hand. What a pussy.
Oilers had a good second half there. Need to keep it going in the second. Cassie interviews Stoll.
Cassie - call me!
Hrudey figured the Oilers would be at the top of the division and feels that Lowe's plan was and is a good one but he also figures they need two D. Also talks about last season's team's mental toughness and heart, even when things were terrible between the pipes, and how this year's team is missing that edge. Ethan Moreau?
Lupul saves Greene's ass. Penalty - too many men - how does that happen when you're hemmed in your own zone?
Down two now. Another great shift for the Stoll line. Pisani is flying. He looks confident. Torres too. Greene with a big hit on Naslund. Nice. Greene better watch his back - Bertuzzi might jump him next time they play the Panthers.
Another chance for Stoll coming into the play as Torres forces a turnover and sets him up in the slot. Interesting how you have the headcase, the tradebait and the 11th round pick looking like the Production Line out there. Flying.
Another whole lot of nothing on the PP. I find it hard to believe they scored three goals the other night on the PP. I really do. They look more organized and create more chances on their PK.
3-0 followed by another gong show by MAB and Greene. And another penalty. Cue the booing. I think the natives are officially about to become restless.
4-0 as Peterson fans on the clearing attempt. Looks like Markannen is going to have to suck it up and take one for the team. No chance on any of them for him. Poor Jussi.
Looks like a third straight loss at home for the Oilers and what's getting scary is that they're not even close in this one. Where's Laddy Smid? ;)
Wow, what a period. The Oilers were carrying the play and now they're done - just like that. Two PP goals against and a third one second after another expired. Phoenix beat San Jose 8-0 and Roenick had the hattrick? What the hell was in that last beer? Fiddler's Elbow. Hmmm. This must be just a strange dream. Wait, Andy Grabia is here in my living room. It is a dream.
Naw, it just seems like the world is upside down.
The Oilers look nothing like the team we fell in love with last year. Hell they don't even look like the team that charged out of the gate this fall. Lowe is on After Hours tonight. Should be interesting. I'll be in bed - have to get up with the kids early - but it will be interesting to hear what he has to say. This team is struggling right now. And we're talking badly.
Heh. Showcase is showing Blazing Saddles and its the farting scene. That's good shit. "How about some more beans, Mr. Taggart?" "I'd say you've had enough!"
Pouliot pots one. San Fernando. Goddamn!
Millen has an orgasm as Jacques gets a goalie interference penalty.
Again Stoll's line creates a chance and draws a penalty.
Nice PP. Craig Simpson screams at the ref. Thanks for coming out Simpson. Seriously.
Pouliot getting more icetime. Playing with Hemsky and Smyth. Playing four on four.
Hemsky on the PK - can't say I have seen that before.
Another PP and another doughnut.
See this is where I have an issue with those who say that statistically the PP is ok etc etc. The Canucks have three PPs in the 2nd and score on two and may as well be credited with the third. The Oilers do nothing, absolutely nothing - 0 for 5 right now - and not really generating anything to be honest. Pisani draws another penalty. How many has he drawn tonight now?
And that's that. Oh well, at least Stoll ended the agony early.
MacT tries to fix the PP by sending out everyone - Reasoner, Hejda, Staios etc. Nothing. Another goal against. That's 19 in their last three games.
Horcoff scores. Torres forces Mitchell to ring it and Hejda puts it on net.
That's 20.
Well, as time winds down - this one turns into another disaster. An Oiler goal early in the 2nd might have turned the tide but instead things fell apart pretty quickly. The PP was an absolute disgrace again, beyond terrible. The 5 on 3 mess at the end of the game indicative of the whole disaster.
Pisani was excellent and he and his linemates were dominant although they lacked finish. Smyth had a lot of try as always. Hejda was solid but he seems to be every time he plays. Um, nice to see Pouliot get his second. And, yeah, that's all. I stayed up for this?
Irk.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cogliano and Longweiner


Winding down 2006 here at work watching Canada and Germany playing at the WJC. I'm sure Lowetide will have a review of Andrew Cogliano's play later today but from what I have seen the kid looks like a keeper. Great speed, as we all have heard. Good playmaker.
Around the net he's looking a lot like Todd Marchant or maybe Shawn Horcoff? Two straight shifts at ES he and his linemates dominated.On each shift he had a chance right in front of the net. First he fired it into the goalie (in fairness the German goalie is pretty damn good-its 1-1 at this point); then he rang one off of the post.
I'd take Horcoff Jr. or Marchant with those playmaking skills though.
Just picked up his second assist.
Sounds like Maguire is getting aroused. If the kid ever rooms with Stoll they had better make sure their doors and windows are locked at all time or they might get a "Pierre Surprise".
Interesting as the Oilers slide a little (and of course they are still very much in it) - the big club needs two veteran defencemen likely. Lowetide has a list of potential chips that Lowe might use, one of these being Schremp.
As Cogliano gets stoned once again by the German keeper I'm thinking this kid is likely going nowhere, despite having Horcoff hands, at least for today. ;)
Longweiner is a German player by the way - nothing to do with Maguire.
Enjoy the last weekend of 2006, everybody!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Obligatory Cliched Oilers' Christmas Wish List Post



Reports of my demise have been exaggerated.

Its not Oilers' fatigue but just general fatigue which has made posts a little less frequent. No slowdown at work this December and with two little ones at home there is never any slowdown there either.

But off now for a few days at least. And my best friend who gets tickets every year for a game or two through his company got a pair for February 17th here in T.O. And having turned 39 yesterday plans for this 40th year include a pilgrimage to Rexall to see the Oilers in their home rink for the first time. Things are looking up.

Anyhow, that old cliche - the sports wish list, Oilers and Oilogosphere style.

For Ryan Smyth, a contract that makes him a lifetime Oiler.

For Shawn Horcoff, some luck around the net.

For Joffrey Lupul, the same. And failing that, a clue on how to contribute when the puck is not finding the back of the net.

For Ales Hemsky, more of the same, only better.

For Petr Sykora, the brains to realize that he's got a good thing going here.

For Jason Smith, some help.

For Ethan Moreau, a speedy recovery.

For Matt Greene, steady improvement.

For Laddy Smid, some more seasoning, maybe even in the minors.

For Raffi Torres, confidence.

For Fernando Pisani, a return of that playoff magic.

For MacT, a couple of reliable Dmen.

For Gary Bettman and Craig Simpson, new careers.

For the Oilers, first place in the Northwest and one more playoff win then last year so the vets who came so close can hoist that Cup!

For Earl Sleek, hopes that this season's playoff highlight will once again be "forcing a game five". Sorry Earl, nothing personal.

For God's team, another year without a Cup, to make it an even 40.

For Lowetide, a long and successful Oilers' career for Marc Antoine Pouliot.

For the lads at CinO, some more time in their days - I think I speak for almost everyone when I say that their days of regular posting are missed.

For Vic Ferrari, a poster of Marc Andre Bergeron for his bedroom ;).

For Mudcrutch, a championship for Merv.

For Andy Grabia a box with Craig Simpson's head in it, followed by a relatively painless labour when he gives birth to Fernando Pisani's lovechild.

For Loxy, Marty Reasoner, wearing a mic. And nothing else.

For the Prez, tickets to Yaroslavl.

For Alana, Dwayne Roloson, wearing just his helmet. As we know, this will pop off when things get hot and bothered.

And for anyone I forgot and for anyone who is reading this, best wishes for a great Christmas and for a healthy and happy 2007!

Cheers.

And Goilers!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Everybody Hates Joffrey


Lowetide and Vic and Tyler have all weighed in on Joffrey Lupul in the last few days and today Dan Barnes piles on. He basically points out a lot of what has been pointed out at those aforementioned sites.

Lupul is young.

He is struggling.

Big time.

Lowetide has been his most ardent defender in the Oilogosphere. Check out the thread on Tyler's post where words like "pussy", "no balls", "no courage" etc are being thrown around. Lowetide stands up for the kid with some salient points. Its way early in his career. This is the first time he's faced these expectations. Goalscorers, in many cases, take a while to get their shit together (my own examples Guy Lafleur and Cam Neely). Its politics and optics colouring everyone's view of the kid.

Barnes points out something that is in question - Lupul's ability to handle the pressure of playing in Edmonton. Joffrey says so himself - as he has before - playing in Edmonton is nothing like playing in Anaheim.

And the pressure is there. Because he was traded for Chris Pronger. Becuase the three other youngsters on Anaheim, Penner, Perry and Getzlaf, are tearing it up. Because he was given a spot with Smyth and Horcoff to start the season and failed to produce. (He's now on the fourth line). Because he is making good coin. Because he is paid to score goals and he is not.

Now players have been in and out of the doghouse already this year. First it was the peripheral players like Winchester and Bergeron. Then Torres who was busted down to the fourth line himself. Struggling veterans like Smith and Horcoff. Guys who could do a little more, like Stoll.

The differences between Lupul and these guys. A couple. First of all, these guys were on last season's magical squad. Fernando Pisani makes 200K more then Lupul and has fewer goals but without Fernando we don't even get to Carolina. We might not even get to San Jose. Pisani, Smith, Horcoff - these guys are going to get cut a lot of slack. A lot.

Secondly, nobody can question the intangibles for these guys (Well, Winchester is figuring it out still). Horc may not be scoring but he's busting his ass and doing everything he can. You might question Bergeron's brains but you can't question his heart or toughness. And so on.

Pisani may score 18 goals again, no more, no less. But the guy kills penalties, plays the tough minutes, does whatever it takes to win. Work work work work work.

And that's Lupul's problem. He doesn't kill penalties. He doesn't know what to do in his own end. But worst of all, he looks like he doesn't care.

He does, I'm sure of that. But he hasn't figured out that if you're a goalscorer who isn't scoring and you don't do much of anything else, well you'd better be out there busting your hump and getting your nose dirty. Because if you're not even doing that, what's the use of you?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Soap Me Up Pierre, I'm Going In


Not to beat a dead horse ... actually, who am I kidding? I have a buddy who made the mistake of admitting to trying Grecian Formula a couple years back and I still email him pictures of Maurice Richard weekly.

I'll beat this Pierre Maguire thing until its nothing but a bloody smear in the grass.

Anyhow, Dennis at IOF has been on fire lately. He's always good but lately he has been the Oilogosphere's equivalent of Jarret Stoll. Hopefully Pierre Maguire isn't trying to break into Dennis' bedroom window at night to give him a "hug".

A lot of interesting stuff in the media lately. Not so much in the facts that are being reported but in the spin. Such as today's Journal article that claimed that Bergeron's play of late has made the need for a Dman a little less pronounced. Bergeron has played well, no doubt, and he is a good bottom pair Dman. Of course, the Oilers need help in their top four. Anyhow.

And Dennis, in a post about Lupul yesterday makes it clear that apparently Robin Brownlee at the Sun has joined Maguire in lurking around the Oilers' showers, each in his Edmonton Oilers' towel, Brownlee having a # 15 and Maguire #16 of course, just waiting for the boys to come in so they can wash their backs if need be. Apparently its not Joffrey's fault that he has been a big bag of suck for the most part. Its, uh, Horcoff's. Maybe we could send Joffrey to the desert to play with another noted suckass, your man Mike Comrie. Good thing you escaped the gulag, Mike. Are you enjoying Phoenix? Weather's nice, I guess. Anyhow, the spin has started and while Torres and Stoll have been carrying the mail since Smytty and Hemsky went down (not to mention Bergeron's improvement), Lupul stands out as the one guy who has done the least. Horcoff has not been great at times but at least he's doing stuff without the puck. But apparently its not his fault. But so it goes. The media cues on something (sometimes with some direction) and away they go.

After Maguire's description of Stoll (who has been terrific mind you) last week, I keep expecting to turn on my TV and see TSN bringing Maguire, buck naked and fully erect, announcing breathlessly that Jarret has been inducted into the HHOF immediately.

Monstrous!

But Maguire, Brownlee and the Journal's foibles are symptomatic of the sports media these days. Nary a word was said back in the day when Punch and Judy hitters starting cranking out 35 home runs a year and guys like Bonds and Sosa, suddenly had their hat sizes grow five times this big, sort of like the Grinch. Only the head, get it? Seriously, I'm of the same age bracket as these clowns and believe me, when you're pushing 40, you don't start getting a gigantic sized melon. You might get larger everywhere else but the noggin's not going anywhere.

As a Cubs' fan, I follow them pretty closely and the Chicago Tribune, owners of said ball team, is always an interesting read. Never ever was Sosa's suddenly burgeoning coconut mentioned. And while there is criticism of the team, its interesting to note that certain players/management are untouchable, until contracts start coming due or its time for someone to take the fall for what is now 98 years without a World Series. Then suddenly, columns begin to appear about a player's selfishness etc etc. Next thing, said player is on his way out of town.

But that's an old game and one that is played everywhere that a newpaper has ties to the local team or where columnists are chummy with said team as well.

Interesting here in Toronto where for the most part the print media is openly contemptuous of the Leafs' ownership and the higher echelons of management. Ferguson and Maurice and most of the players get a pretty even handed treatment from the print guys but ownership ... of course nearly 40 years without a Cup (although about 400 years worth of excuses) might make your inkstained wretches a little jaded.

Here its the radio and TV guys who are out and out shills. Witness Bill Watters' shameless lobbying for career underachiever and defensive liability (as well as playoff choke artist) Bryan McCabe to be included on the Canadian Olympic team last season or the elevation of the supremely untalented goonish self promoter Tahir Domi to Maple Leaf Saint and TSN panellist.

Ken Campbell noted in the Globe and Mail blog (where the Hat slyly referred to the Leafs as God's team today - heh) the other day how only in Leafland would a lowkey reunion of the 93 Leafs organized by Wendel Clark be turned into an event akin to the lads returning from Europe in 1945. Of course Richard Peddie took every possible opportunity to display the goings on in the luxury box where they were drinking and eating, setting off roars from the Leaf faithful. (Or were those screams of terror as they tried to figure out what was blocking out all of the light - oh its just Peter Zezel, all 750 pounds of him.) A sad comment on the Leafs' franchise, as Campbell noted, that a team that went all the way to the Stanley Cup semifinals!!!, is so deified.

But so goes the spin in Leafland, where winning long ago took a back seat to selling condos and merchandise. The Leafs are now a brand, like the Chicago Cubs.

And like any good brand, they know how to spin a story.

This Oilers' stuff. Small potatoes.

But don't drop that soap!

Four Words You Will Never Hear Again


Beautiful Goal Matt Greene.
Seriously, I will be 95 years old in some home pretending that I have no bladder control in an attempt to get the nurse to wipe me down and my grandson will come in and say "grampie, what is the most memorable first goal you ever saw a player score in the NHL?" and I will say "Matt Greene".
The incongruous inconguity of seeing him dart down the boards, swerve towards the net and finesse that puck into the net. What a laugh.
Another big game from Stoll and everyone is lining up behind Pierre Maguire to soap up Jarret and the man himself says "Yeah earlier in the year I was playing a little soft". Uh, buddy, keep it to yourself. Thanks for coming out and you are playing some pretty damn good hockey now but that's coming pretty close to the outskirts of Arnottville there. At least you recognize it and are doing something about it.
Reports say that Smytty may get in a game or two before Christmas and Hemsky is likely in the same boat - so can Stoll and Torres and Pisani for that matter keep their shit together when those two return - lets hope so.
And one last thing, one dandy goal is one thing. But add Horcoff's in there and the fact that the Oilers beat Wild on Jack Lemaire to move into sole possession of first and it was a fun night.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Loving Raffi (Not the Way Maguire loves Stoll though)


The "Heart of the Oilers", Joanne Ireland calls him today in the Journal.
Its stretches like these that make you so very happy while also trying your patience.
2G 4A +8 in the last five games.
11 points in the last 11 games.
Pumped big Shea Weber's melon last night.
This from a guy who was beyond invisible for, what, the first two months of the season almost.
Its funny because whenever trade talk is going on and someone mentions Torres' name someone else always pops up and says that he has no value and he's worthless etc etc. And then he goes on a tear like this and he's one of the Oilers' best players and you know rival GMs are salivating but there's no damn way you can trade him because he's producing and he's playing tough minutes and he's a physical force out there. With Smyth and Hemsky out he and Stoll and Pisani have responded and done their jobs.
And in February we'll be wondering where he's disappeared to again.
Sigh.
Anyhow, I've ranted and raved about the guy, called him a weirdo, etc etc but in the end its times like these that make me terrified to move the guy. Because when he is bad he's rotten but when he's good he's awesome. Too bad we can't bottle those good times.
If he only had a brain.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Is the Future Now?


Lowetide has his December list of the top twenty prospects for the Oilers. Its terrific stuff.
There are three graduates from the June top 20 - Matt Greene, Brad Winchester and Patrick Thoresen. Add to these players Laddy Smid, a regular since the season's beginning, and JF Jacques and Marc Antoine Pouliot, two more youngsters called into service with the injury bug biting, and you can draw a few conclusions:
- After a long dry spell it appears that the Oilers' scouts are getting it right. Now, every team's fans overrates its prospects and players (I remember "the best outfield in baseball" that the Jays had in the 80s and also the guys who were supposed to replace them - Glenallen Hill, Sil Campusano, etc - superstars and future stars each one) but the Oilers do look like they have some promising youngsters at almost every position and for every role. Will they all make it? Of course. :) Well, maybe not. But its still a step forward.
- They have some tradebait
- They have the makings of a terrific team in two or three years
- Despite a tough division, obvious shortcomings on the blueline, some lacklustre play from their "vaunted" offence and a few key injuries they are in first place with less then two weeks until Christmas
So here, with all of that in mind, is the question.
Parity is here. Other then the Ducks and les Sabres, who really scares anyone right now? The Sens have come back but still they are lacking. The Canes will be a factor but they are feeling the loss of a few pretty good players. The Sharks? Bell has been a bust. The Preds? Maybe but I say no.
Anyhow, point is that while this looked to be a rebuild year for the Oilers (though not officially) they are at this point in the secondary tier of contenders. Add a Dman to play with Smith in the top pair (heck I'd likely add two Dmen if I could) and all of a sudden they are in the first tier likely. And who would you rather have in a seven game series, Roloson or Giguere?
Hey, anything can happen. The Oilers might not even make the playoffs, although I think they're going to win the division to be honest. (Some division, huh - pretty solid) And once you are in, there are no guarantees. But in a year where after the two top teams there isn't a lot to choose from, do you give up some of that promising future for a lot of right now? I'm not talking about Brodziak or Winchester. I'm talking about a guy who might be a big part of what Lowe is building towards in two or three years - say Tom Gilbert or Schremp or Pouliot.
Keep in mind that bringing in Eric Brewer maybe increases the Oilers' chances from 10% to 15%. What if the cost drops their chances from 25% to 20% in two years?
So. Do you go after Brewer if the cost is Pouliot rather then Almtorp? Schremp rather then Stortini? Gilbert rather then Roy? And I haven't the foggiest what Brewer would cost - likely it might be one of those three plus ... or maybe it would be Mikhnov and a second.
Do you go for it or do you play it safe? Further to that do you take a step back now and build for '09 and move Jarret Stoll if you can fill in that one glaring hole and pick up a Seabrook or a Z. Michalek or another D prospect like Marc Staal? Once again, I have no idea what Stoll would bring but do you move him if you can?
Maybe if we can engineer a coup in Chicago and have Pierre Maguire replace Tallon. Christ, he'd probably ship Seabrook and Keith over just for the opportunity to have Stoll on his squad.
"Uh, Pierre, why are you in my room?"
"Bedcheck, you monster, I mean, Stoll!"
"Uh, Pierre, why are you naked?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hey Pierre, I'm a Monster!


A fun game last night.
The Canes had a little going on in the first but not too much. Their PP sure looks nothing like I remember it but with Kaberle and Stillman out, there's a lot of skill missing. Makes a big difference.
Anyhow, MacT went with similar lines as the Canucks game - Horcoff between Sykora and Lupul, Stoll between Torres and Pisani. And Reasoner is back between Thoresen and Winchester while Peterson babysits two more kids.
Horcoff against Brindamour. Stoll against Staal. Reasoner and Peterson doing some extra duty
And both the top two lines carrying the play. Surprising a little bit based on Horc's wingers and Stoll and Torres' own play for most of the season. But the Oilers are playing playoff hockey essentially. Basic simple stuff. Chip it out of the zone. Get it over the red line, dump it in and get after the D hard. Puck support. Clogging the lanes. Back hard.
Its nice to see and its about time. It was a full sixty minute effort and even when the Canes tied it I never felt the game was in doubt - it was like one of those Ducks' games last spring. Close game but you knew that barring a completely goofy bunch of bounces the Oilers were coming out on top.
Smith, Shaggy and Staios all looked solid and for that matter MAB as well. Greene did his job. Smid was Smid. He looks fine and then he's all alone deep in his zone, no pressure and he dumps it into his own corner, nice and soft like. Near disaster results. He's 20. What can you do?
Nice game for Jussi, rebounding from his last two starts. Roli has to get his rest after all, right Terry Jones?
Up front, well there was good and bad. Torres is playing like he can and Lupul looks pretty good as well although as Mudcrutch noted, the guy never goes hard on the forecheck. Must have been all of those years of "You get the puck and pass it to me so I can get the glory". Still the kid showed a little bit of heart and its not like they hid him. That line carried the play when they were on the ice . Of course it comes back to Horcoff.
As for Justin Williams, I know there's mixed feelings on what he did. Look, the kid is a damn good player but he just seems to be involved in too many of these "borderline" plays. He's not out and out dirty for sure but just too many of these sticks and knees out where they should be not. Happens too often for my liking and I know the Oilers have employed some thugs over the years, including the guy they're going to honour in February. I'd rather a guy who snarls as he breaks some Russian's face with a blatant elbow then some guy who clips someone and then says "who me?" with feigned innocence, like Darcy Tucker. Williams is nowhere near Tucker in that department either, don't get me wrong. Maybe he's just careless but I don't like it and good on Horcoff for going after him.
Oh and Pisani tipped that Smith shot for sure. Anyhow I shouldn't say it (jinx) but man, I'd love to see Fernando get on a roll. Maybe he needs to grow that big red beard again. Hopefully he gets on a streak where everything he touches goes in. Good for the Oil and good for him.
As for the kids and scrubs, it looks like Winchester might be ready to get going again. Streaky. Thoresen is just a damn good player although like Dennis at IOF I wish we'd see more of him on the PK. JFJ is still finding his way but he ran over at least one Cane. My, he is a big boy. And Peterson is just a fine and useful player. The more I see of him the more I wonder why he didn't see more icetime in the spring.
Pouliot is struggling a little bit but he also shows flashes. On the PP at least he showed some sense and handled the puck well. 5 on 5 he looked like a rookie.
They should mic Reasoner every game. He's a funny dude and I'm sure glad he's back.
As for Stoll, well he sure showed some guts blocking those shots. And now apparently #16 will be raised to the rafters along with #11, at least if Pierre Maguire has his way.
Now I didn't find Maguire as annoying as I did when I saw him on the Wings game a few weeks back but that might have been because I was blissed out over the Oilers' play and the three Gritstones I fired back watching the game. The thing that pisses me off about Maguire is he's such a bandwagon jumper. In that Wings game he hadn't a good thing to say about the Oilers (of course they had a poor game too), not one. It was Wings Wings Wings. I figured after the game he was going into the shower to soap Chelios up.
Well last night it was shoe on the other foot. The Canes didn't look great but they played alright. But other then campaigning for Brindamour's entry into the Hall of Fame (I mean it is the HHOF but come on!) he hadn't anything to say about Carolina at all. It was all Oilers all the time. And when Stoll collapsed at his feet, well that was it. Next thing you know Maguire is giving him a reacharound.
I like Stoll. I think he's done very little this year but I like him and wish him well. I wish he played the SCF like he did last night. A goal or two might have been nice. Anyhow he is a nice young player who hopefully will turn into a good allround player. Or maybe they can trade him for a good young Dman like Brent Seabrook.
After all he is the second coming of Gordie Howe, according to Pierre Maguire.
Of course next time Pierre does an Oilers game and things don't look good we won't hear a thing about Stoll or the rest of them.
And at the end of the game the camera guy shot Pierre from a low angle - the most unfortunate angle ever for Maguire, I would say. He looked like a penis with a red tie and glasses. My God. If only I could draw.
Its a lovely night. Oilers in first and playing well. Leafs coughing up another third period lead.
Joy to the World indeed!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Grit


Here's Horcoff explaining how he cured polio.
Some wag on the game thread over at Tyler's site said last night that after the game Horcoff was going to fly the plane back to Alberta. Of course someone else replied that it wasn't necessary as Roloson had the gig.
A slow start with some bad luck in a lot of cases this season but the Canucks saw a lot of Horcoff last night and they came out the worse for wear. Over eight minutes in the first period and over twenty for the game, dragging Lupul around with him on top of everything. Draws. PK. PP.
MacT is going to ride this horse until he drops, I think.
Good start to a two or three week period where this team has to stay afloat. And they will if they come out like they did last night. What peeves me off though? Lupul with a little edge, scoring a beauty goal. Torres looking mean. Stoll hitting guys. And all of them talking how they have to step it up. Uh, yeah, no shit. Maybe if you had started the season by "stepping it up" the Oilers wouldn't have half the conference nipping at their heels.
Still a little bitter. But Horc makes me smile. Look at the mug on that guy.
Wow!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Opportunities



Its funny how soon we forget why the Oilers offence was expected to be so full of "vaunt".

Six guys who scored 20 plus goals last season. Two more who had 19 and 18.

Its not like we were projecting that this team would score a lot of goals because of a couple of guys who had nice numbers in junior (Schremp and Pouliot) and a guy who had some highlight reel goals in the Russian league.

But as it was pointed out today out of all of the vaunt only three guys are on pace to score twenty plus - Smyth, Sykora and Lupul.

And Lupul has to be the quietest twenty plus scorer in history. Except for his insurance goal against the Wings way back when, has he scored a goal that means a thing this season?

And now Smyth is out. And Hemsky. And Moreau. And the D is showing the cracks we figured it would. And there will be between six to eight rookies in the lineup tonight and every night going into the foreseeable future.

You can't hide them all. Especially with Peterson, a nice player but a role player, and the trio of suck - Stoll, Torres and Lupul.

A little cranky tonight. There's 5.4 million wrapped up in these three guys and not a lot going on. Horcoff and Pisani aren't doing a whole lot either but at least they look like they've played in the NHL before. They at least can take care of their own end.

So, for Thoresen and Winchester, Pouliot and Mikhnov and big Jacques, opportunity knocks. I don't think anybody honestly thinks that any of these guys is going to carry this team anywhere. (Of course there was a guy on the TSN message board whose response to Smyth's injury was that Schremp was finally going to get his shot - a guy who can't even cut it in the AHL yet - and he would be the saviour.) But for Patrick Thoresen a chance to maybe play some tough minutes with Reasoner, or maybe with Horcoff and Pisani, or maybe just a shot to provide some offence with Sykora. For Pouliot and Winchester the same - these guys are going to get the chance to strut their stuff because there's nobody else. We're an injury or two away from Stortini and Reddox getting a regular shift. For Jacques a chance to bang some bodies and get some icetime. For Mikhnov, perhaps a chance to get out there and show that he can has some skill. This team needs it.

For Stoll, Torres, Lupul, maybe time to grow up. MacT put it pretty straight when he said that there was one guy on the team who had been willing to get dirty to get goals - now that guy is on the shelf. And for all of the worries about Moreau and Staios' contracts and the chance that Smyth might get 5 plus and for that matter that Sykora has been awol snce he lost his right hand man, let me put it this way.

I'd rather pay Moreau and Staios 4.7M then Stoll and Lupul 4.5 if this is what we get from them. At least the first two bring it every night. And Sykora may not be doing much since Hemsky went down but at least he put up some big numbers while he was healthy.

And Smyth? Well without Smyth this team is in Coyote territory. I'd say waive Stoll and give Smyth 1.7M and Sykora the rest if I had my druthers right now.

Because honestly, when Marty Reasoner is getting more done at both ends of the rink at a third of the price of Stoll and a couple of raw rookies in Thoresen and Pouliot strike me as better options to play the tough minutes then something is seriously wrong.

If this stretch kills this team it won't be on the D, as thin as it is, or the rooks, or Roloson, if he should falter. It will be on the guys who are young, who are making good dough and who should be earning it. If this December turns into a freefall then they should take the fall.

Enough is enough.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Uh oh





Funny how things go. A win last night would have given the Oilers 11 points out of 14 from this homestand, one in which a number of players finally seemed to get it going a little after slow starts.

Instead, a loss to the Blue Jackets (a different team now that Hitchcock is in charge) and, most importantly, the loss of Ryan Smyth "indefinitely", suddenly has a few people wondering if the Oilers are going to slide right out of this thing. Terry Jones at the Sun is questioning everybody, including Roloson, who apparently is no longer allowed to even have one bad game without Jones questioning his bona fides as a starter.
Remember the first time around Anaheim. Roloson had two bad games - Anaheim, Phoenix, then a good one, then another so-so, then he was ok.

Roloson is the least of this team's problems except it has become pretty clear that he has to be at the top of his game every night for them to do well.

With the cracks showing in the D nightly now (Toby Peterson?), Smyth joining Hemsky and Moreau on the sidelines and the hits these losses mean to the PP and PK, as well as the apparent fact that Sykora has joined Hemsky on the sideline, well, things don't look good. These are the things I would worry about.

Lowetide very recently opined that this team was heading for a slump and it appears that he was right on. The problem is that with the way things are this season a few bad weeks can put you in a pretty bad spot. I don't think the Oilers could slide right out of it because remember the Flames' awful start - they're back in it now. But I sure would like a March and April where every single game wasn't do or die.

We're going to see some more of the kids (Mikhnov next?) and that's the only silver lining - its not going to help them win now but it will be good to see what some of these guys can do with real minutes.
But its up to Torres, Lupul, Stoll, Sykora, Horcoff and Pisani to keep this team afloat up front.
And based on what has gone on so far, colour me skeptical.
Overstating the impact of Ryan Smyth on this team? Maybe.
But I think we may be in for a bad two weeks or so, unless this team guts it out. And I'm not sure if I see it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pouliot's Chance and Homestand Breakouts

And so Marc Antoine Pouliot gets the call. And with Hemsky likely out for at least a couple of weeks by the sounds of it he has a chance to stake his claim to a permanent job with the big club.

MacT was mulling starting him with Sykora tonight but who knows if he will and if he does, if it will last but this is the kid's shot and I think he's ready. If you check out the baby Pens' games his name was showing up on the scoresheet constantly. Multiple point games. Big goals. He has been on a tear and good for the Oil for not bringing him up and having him sit and waste away in the PB. He played some minutes on the fourth line last year and did alright. He needs to play either the same role or a greater one with the Oil now. Sitting in the pressbox will do him no good.

There are a few guys whose lives are going to be impacted here. If Pouliot can't do anything with Sykora then Stoll gets his shot with him. As a guy who has been passed by Sykora and Reasoner on the depth chart for centres right now, Stoll is becoming more and more the odd man out to me. If he continues to be a special teams guy first and foremost then he'll be on his way out of town (for Tom Preissing?) for a new start somewhere else and the centre alignment will be Horc, Sykora, Reasoner, MAP. If Stoll does get going then he may end up centring Hemsky and Sykora which means Toby moves down to the fourth line or to the PB.

Worse case Pouliot sticks as the fourth line centre which means five fulltime rookies on this club. I think he does it.

Before this homestand I remarked that this was a chance for some guys to break out of some lengthy slumps.

Horcoff has a goal and three assists.
Pisani has a goal and four helpers.
Lupul has two and two.
Reasoner has three and one (although he wasn't so much slumping as not getting opportunity)
Bergeron has two and two
Torres also has two and two

The one guy who has done little, the aforementioned Stoll who is at one and one.

And of course the Oilers have nine out of a possible ten points so far. Dennis at IOF figured 5-1-1 was what the expectation for this homestand should be. So a win tonight (four pointer as they say) and against the Jackets keeps them in first heading on the road.

And hopefully with Hemsky out some of these guys keep producing because if they don't ...

its a short trip from first to worst at this point.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Over It


Chris Pronger was estranged from his family for most of last season.
Despite this he was an absolute and complete professional all season and led the Oilers within a bounce or two of taking the Cup.
Could he have handled his departure better? Sure. A press conference would have done it. Even a simple "I loved it here but for personal reasons I have to move on." would have made a big difference.
I was disappointed that he chose to leave but family comes first and I cannot blame him for choosing his wife and children over playing for the Oilers.
What would you have had him do?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hot Stove


If you've ever seen the older 22 Minutes with Colin Mochrie on it you will have seen his takeoff of the old CBC footage - black and white, interviewer smoking (and of course if you have seen any old CBC footage everyone's smoking) - its some pretty funny shit.
Canadians are pretty fucking funny but the weirdest thing - the funniest people in this country may be from ... Saskatchewan?
Anyhow, watching HNIC tonight and of course they had the Hot Stove with The Hat, Scott Morrison and Pierre LeBrun. Not a bad panel. I miss Strachan a bit - the guy was just such a complete asshole. And of course he had his little feuds with everyone but especially Brian Burke. I would give a lot of money if CBC could have sent those two back in a time machine to the 50s. Strachan having a smoke, needling Burke about never winning anything, Burke putting his big cigar down and beating Strachan to death with a chair.
Anyhow, so they discussed the Oilers tonight and the Hat, who regular passers by know I love, says that the Oilers will likely offer Smyth 4 to 5 years but they're going to try and bring him in under 5M per. He feels this may be a problem as Smyth will likely be looking for 5 and a bit. And everyone felt the Oil would be shortchanging Smyth - ie, he better get 5 per and the Oil had better sign him. Anyhow, the Hat described the situation as one that would likely get done but that it would be more problematic then getting Sykora signed!!
Ok, so colour me "what the fuck?" because I have always thought that Sykora was just passing through and I think that is the general consensus but Duhatschek figures there is a desire on both sides to make it happen come 2007. So we'll see.
Now by my count if Smyth signs for 5 per and Torres re-ups for 2 per (and who knows really) and Tjarnqvist walks (likely) then this team is looking at @ 41+ in Cap space. And if Sykora commands 3 or 4 then that means Torres and Stoll are going going gone I would say. Or maybe our boy Joffrey?
I guess that's how they would rebuild the D. Also noted by the Hat - the kids in Chicago that are coveted by the Oilogosphere - Keith and Seabrook. He called them guys who could be linchpins for that team for years to come and figures they would never be moved. Of course we know the Hawks are beyond stupid so likely we'll get both for Winchester or something.
Just thinking about it - I have to go take a cold shower.
OK, I'm back. LT is doing is usual terrific work as he analyzes the top Oilers' prospects. From his top twenty from this summer Greene, Winchester and Thoresen have all graduated and I think we're about to see some more of the lads. Lowetide got me thinking, which is what he does and why he is, imo, one of the best in the blogosphere, period and so, surfing tonight after I got the kids to bed (wife is working nights this weekend), Gritstone in hand, I went prospecting.
I'm sure if you're a diehard you know this site but check it out if you want to keep up to date on what the top Oilers' minor league prospects are doing. There are the usual links including tonight's game action.
Now we don't know what type of minutes these guys are getting and, sure its the minors, but you know what, hats off to Kevin Lowe and his scouts because here's what we have going on:
Pouliot - 17GP 7-9-16 minus 3
Schremp - 17GP 4-11-15 plus 2
Gilbert - 16GP 2-10-12 plus 4
Brodziak - 18GP 4-7-11 minus 2
Mikhnov - 9GP 3-5-8 minus 2
Jacques - 3GP 2-2-4 minus 1
DesLauriers - 9GP 7 wins 2 losses 2.31 GAA .907 S%
This is up to the minute apparently as it includes tonight's stats of a game in progress. In the second of a back to back the baby Pens were up 5-1; its now 5-5. DesLauriers is not playing but Mikhnov has 2 goals and an assist, Gilbert and Pouliot have two assists each and Jacques has scored as well.
Schremp sat last night but is playing tonight - he is a minus 1.
Anyhow as we all know not all of these guys are going to make it but its encouraging to see.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First Place?

Yep, there they are. Hard to believe but of course they can thank Roli first and foremost.

And they are three points out of last in the division so ...

Still, considering the turnover of the roster, the patchwork D and the failure of nearly everyone to put the puck in the net consistently, I think the Oilers will take it.

Things to mull over:

1/ Lowe's gamble on the D is paying off so far. If they can make it to the halfway point and be where they are now he'll look like a genius. Then he can pick up reinforcements for the spring at cheaper cost and Smid and Greene will have played pretty big NHL minutes for half a season, accelerating their development. Now ideally Brad Stuart would be back there now - if so they might have a bit of a cushion - but I'll take first place with this bunch.

2/ Smid and Greene have done pretty well, considering. While they both make mistakes they do so because they are young. That is acceptable. Its the vets who you worry about when they screw up.

3/ Having said that I think MAB's days are numbered with this club. While he does ok with the minutes he is given I have to think that his lack of development will lead him to be traded. Maybe not this year, maybe not even next but I think he's going no further with the Oilers. Mental errors when you are 20 are acceptable. Getting outmuscled - there's always someone bigger so it goes. But mental errors when you are 26 - can't happen.

4/ PK is awesome. PP less so. My biggest beef is lack of consistency. I can handle a slump but this PP disappears for far too long. A goal a game is all I ask when they have 4 or 5 PP, with the odd game with 2. When they have even more they should pot at least 2. There are going to be games when it doesn't happen and thats ok but these long dry spells kill this team. A goal against Calgary in a one goal game - win. Remember all those 5 on3s in the cup final last year? G7 - o fer on the PP? Just a little consistency.

5/ Jarret Stoll scored 7 points in 4 games one week, the week they played the Capitals, the Coyotes twice and the Ducks. Why do I get the feeling that he only picks up points against weaker opposition (obviously exclude the Ducks there)? Remember the playoff disappearance last season? I think Stoll has to get on his horse or he may be prime tradebait.

6/ There's a bunch of kids pushing - it will be interesting to see if any of them get traded or if its a guy like Stoll, Lupul or Torres who gets shipped out for a young veteran Dman.

7/ I'd still bet on Smytty getting signed despite the grumbling. Its posturing on his part and he has to do it - its all part of negotiations. He also has the Oilers over a barrel. He is one of the few guys who scores regularly and can do all the "little" things (play D, kill penalties, be consistent) that guys like Lupul do not. With this team they need Smyth. Thank goodness there is a cap though - if there wasn't - hello Red Wings for 8M per.

8/Who plays with Sykora/Hemsky? Everyone has had a shot at it.

9/ Will Reasoner and the kids continue to eat the icetime of Torres, Stoll and Lupul?

10/ Will guys like Horcoff, Pisani, Lupul and Torres, who have all played better of late, really really get going anytime soon? Sure would be nice.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Even If Its an Overpay, So What? Staios Part II


I'll admit that I have no idea where the market is going in the NHL. If you had asked me what Ethan Moreau was going to get if he got extended I would not have guessed a cap hit of 2 per year. And I would not have figured on Staios getting 2.7 per.
But I'm alright with it.
Why?
1/ The Oil are a young team and these guys are two of the few vets remaining. Sure they could go out and get other guys of this ilk but why do that when you already have two guys who know the organization, the players, the coaches and who both want to be there. You might save some cash but not a pile of it for these type of players.
2/ Considering the Oilers lack experienced defenceman and guys who can play a physical two way game they would likely have to replace these guys with UFAs (overpay) or through trade (give up an asset for a guy who you don't know and who is again, likely not much cheaper)
3/ Stability. In a league where turnover of players was already high before the new CBA the Oilers are locking up their core guys and, with MacT also locked up, showing that some things should stay the same. It also sends the right message to their teammates.
4/ The fans. This franchise has watched player after player leave over the years. Few Oilers spent the majority of their careers here. Call me sentimental but its nice to see guys like Moreau and Staios who established themselves as players here look to stay here. I'm tired of cheering for laundry - these guys are Oilers through and through. They're good players and they are popular with their teammates and the fans.
5/ The Oilers aren't getting handcuffed by these contracts. With so many youngsters who will not get paid for a while and with the fact that these are lower - medium deals this isn't the Lightening paying 20M for three guys. My math may be wrong but presuming that Sykora and Tjarnqvist are gone the Oilers can still pay Smyth @ 5M and be around the 40M mark. Only Raffi and Greene's contracts are up, I think, and while Raffi might get bumped up I think he's still affordable as well (or tradebait). Finally, and this might sound hypocritical after all my lovey dovey talk earlier, these contracts are eminently tradeable. Say its 2010 and they have to give big bucks to Pouliot. He's got the Oilers by the short and curlies, especially as he is the three time defending Conn Smythe trophy award winner. They can give him the money he has earned (especially with four runs to the Cup finals, with three consecutive victories, might I add, they will be flush with cash) and stay under the cap by trading guys like Staios or Moreau.
Who would want them, you ask? There are always going to be teams looking to reach that salary floor and those teams are probably going to be young teams. Having a gritty veteran around to teach the young fellows what it means to be a pro is of value to a club like this and paying 2.7M for a year to meet their cap obligation (plus likely trading him to a contender at deadline time for another asset) is eminently sensible shit.
Know what I'm saying?
Now, when Smytty gets his 5M that's a different kettle of fish unless he pulls a Shanny and keeps going and going .... But we all know where I stand on Smytty.

Two Down, One to Go


The Hamilton Spectator has the scoop on Staios signing, as was previously rumoured, for four years. The number - less then the 3M per that was being kicked around - 2.7M per in cap space, although like Ethan Moreau, Staios will be getting some sort of bonus up front apparently.
Former Sudbury Wolves' captain Staios has gotten better with age and is one of that leadership core, along with Smith, Smyth and Moreau, that has been together for a while. He has done a a fine job bringing along Laddy Smid and will likely get a chance to tutor some other youngsters in the years to come.
A good signing, imo. He was likely going to get the same or more elsewhere and its not like this team is loaded with experienced D. Considering how many guys have gone elsewhere over the years its nice to keep the veteran stalwarts like him and Moreau.
Continues the trend that we saw last year where many impending UFA resign with their current squads before summer comes. Hopefully one Ryan Smyth is next on Lowe's list.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Slump Busting


So at the quarter pole the Oilers are in the mix despite a thin D that had many picking them to finish way down the line, a PP that licks more bag then, well, I don't think anything licks more bag then the PP that helped cost the Oilers the SC (ofer in G4 and G7) and an offence that has not yet reached "vaunt" status.
But Roli has been terrific and Smyth and Sykora have done the job offensively and as a team they seem to be turning the corner a little. Took five points out of ten on their last road trip. Horcoff is coming around. Lupul might be snapping out of it and Torres, Torres!, had himself a big game last night. The weirdest thing I've ever seen, that shootout "move". And in his abbreviated post game interview he just looked, well, crazy. Lupul looked uncomfortable. Torres looked beyond uncomfortable. He looked like he was about to jump out of his skin.
Sign Smytty. Play Torres 30 minutes a game if you have to so he begins to put up some numbers. And trade him. Before he murders his roomie on the next roadtrip.
So two games into a seven game homestand and the Oilers are making hay. Four points. MAB had a big game against the Blues. Hemsky too. Pisani scored. And then last night Lupul, Torres and Horcoff. These next five games could give the Oilers a nice cushion over some of the also rans but more importantly long term it could get some guys going. With a couple more patsies amongst the visitors as well as a chance to give some guys who have been struggling some easier minutes we might see some guys get rolling.
Jacques finally sent down tonight after wasting a quarter season of his development. Nobody announced as his replacement yet but it will be interesting to see who gets the call. Peterson has been ok but I could see him coming out and someone else getting a shot with the Czechs. Maybe Thoresen or Winchester or maybe whoever the lucky youngster coming up gets a crack at it.
My money is on Pouliot. As long as they plan on playing him, bring him up. If he's sitting in the pressbox, then call up Stortini.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What To Do With Raffi



It has become more and more apparent that our friend Raffi Torres is a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

This season looked to be the one where our man broke out. He had a 27 goal campaign last season, accomplished despite playing very little on the PP. In the playoff run he scored a couple of big goals, played some tough minutes alongside Peca and Pisani and hurt some guys badly, including a series changing (Ron Wilson's words) hit on Milan Michalek. Coming into a contract year he opened training camp with a flourish and found himself with the plum assignment of riding shotgun for Sykora and Hemsky.

But he couldn't cash in on the chances he got playing with the Czechs and when MacT took out the blender, Torres, along with everyone else but Winchester and Reasoner and the Czechs, began to get bounced around. Unlike Smytty who has played everywhere and has continued to score at a ridiculous rate, Torres has not adjusted well, even being relegated to the fourth line until Moreau's injury.

If it weren't for the fact that the fourth line has become very effective, so effective that it has begun to eat Torres' Stoll and Lupul's icetime, one thinks he would have been demoted again. But MacT might be loathe to break up what he has going with Reasoner and his kids.

Other options? Well, Bergeron spent a couple of games as a healthy scratch, despite playing decently. In MacT's eyes decent is not what they need from the little Frenchman, they need more. So MAB sat, unhappily, and has been flying ever since.

How would Torres respond to a benching? Well, he looks to be ready to throw himself in front of the Zamboni next intermission, so it might just push him over the edge. Or it might give him a few days to gather his thoughts, see his shrink and come back revitalized.

Or do they leave him in there - its a seven game homestand and included in the visitors are some patsies. A game or two like the Blues' game might see a few others get on the board like MAB did , get some confidence and get rolling.

My feeling? If Raffi doesn't do something, anything, in the next game or two, he's going to have a seat and we might see Pouliot come up for a shot. Of course, I am presuming that Jacques gets sent down. The kid is stagnating in the pressbox and has not looked ready when he has played.

Anyhow, that's how I see it. Raffi is thisclose to having a seat. Might be good for him. Or it might kill what's left of his confidence. But if he doesn't do something, anything, in the next week, he's going to be helping Heyda with his Spanglish.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How Far Do You Go?


In the Edmonton Journal today, a column from Dan Barnes entitled The Face of The Franchise looks at Ryan Smyth and his impending free agency. Smyth, whose attendance at practice today allows Oiler fans (and brass) to exhale, is described as "the heart and soul of the Oilers -- and the most influential player in the community".
He is also called the player, along with Dwayne Roloson, who the Oilers could least afford to lose.
Presently he is making 3.5M and Barnes figures he is going to get 4.5 to 5 per year, maybe for 5 years. Smyth wants to stay in Edmonton and will likely give a slight hometown discount.
So, would you make that deal?
Smyth is my favourite Oiler. By far. But its a lot of coin. However, pre salary cap, in a league where Bobby Holik was getting 9M a year, Smyth would have been long long gone, probably at 7M plus.
Lets look at the facts, pro and con.
Smyth will be 31 after this season, 36 at the end of a five year deal. What sort of shape will be in at the end of that after what will 16 years of going hard to the net?
Counterargument - Brendan Shanahan plays a similar style and is still productive. With the crackdown on fouls its easier to make a living the way Smyth does. And despite his style of play in his ten seasons in the league he has not missed a game in five of them (granted one of them was the short season), has played over 70 in two more and never less then 61 (2001/2002). So he is actually pretty durable, considering.
Smyth has never scored 40 goals; 5M per is way too much for his type of player.
Counterargument - Smyth scored 36 last season, his highest total since 96/97 and is on pace for 40 this season. He seems to be one player who has really benefitted from the obstruction crackdown (and the year off). On top of that Smyth has become an all round player, the type who plays pretty well at both ends of the rink, and also seems to be the guy who always comes up with the big goal when needed. Add to that the intangibles of leadership and experience on a team needing both and its easy to argue that he has more value then some of the more talented players who will be UFAs next summer (ie/ Datsyuk)
5M per year will put the Oilers in a cap bind that they will regret.
Counterargument - considering the fact that their depth on left wing runs like this after Smyth - Torres, Moreau, Peterson, Jacques, Mikhnov - I would say that they will have plenty of space to fit him in. Or they should find it. Because without Smyth we're looking at a big void on the port side. You have to pay for production. If Smyth scores 40 goals this season is that worth 5M?
What it comes down to is whether or not the Oilers are willing to gamble if Smyth can produce as he did last season and is this season for the next four to five years. If they believe that he can score 35 to 40 goals when he is 35 then he's worth it. If they think that he is going to start to decline and that decline is coming soon then he's not.
Add to that the fact that this team has watched, well, every star player it ever had leave and, that as Barnes said, Smyth is the face of the team and the question is, can they afford not to resign him in PR terms? Of course they could say goodbye but the goodwill they would generate by signing him would be immeasureable. I think I speak for everyone when I say it gets pretty tiresome cheering for laundry, as Seinfeld once said.
What would you do?
I would cross my fingers and sign him. The thing is, if he doesn't get the money here, he will elsewhere. And if you're not going to sign him, then who are you going to sign? You can talk about having a budget etc etc but if you're not going to keep your best player then ... what the ...?
A gamble? Sure. But every signing is. And if he produces for four of those five years its a good signing.
I say do it. You?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Good (relatively short once again)


Just as the list of Oilers off to great starts is a short one so too is the list of those players who are playing well, if not great.
Staios has been solid, better then solid actually, all the while taking care of a 20 year old kid. Actually the presence of Smid has made Staios a better player, imo; he's reined in his cowboy instincts to a great degree, knowing if he screws up he's hanging Laddy out to dry. I wouldn't quibble with anyone who wanted to bump him up a category.
Winchester was A1 tradebait after a lousy camp and in the fine Oiler fan tradition, bitching about the team's problems began with a guy who saw LeGG minutes the first few games. Thing is, the kid was below a throwin on the trade value scale. No longer. Here and there he began to get some minutes and not sure if minutes begat confidence or the egg came before the chicken but the kid was one of the best Oilers on the road trip. He fought. He hit. He provided energy. And he has three goals, four assists, is a solid plus six and is second on the team in PIM. In other words he's having an impact. He'd be in the "Very Good" group except his first eight games or so he was nailed to the bench. Next thing to find out - can he continue producing and, if so, can he do it against tougher opposition, say, as part of the third line?
Shaggy was a nobody when Lowe picked him up this summer - at least outside of the Tjarnqvist household. That's a bit of an exaggeration but not much. Anyhow, he has done his part, munching minutes and providing a veteran presence on a blueline in sore need of one, playing with Smith against the opposition's best when MacT can get the matchups.
It was nice to see Marty Reasoner return and he has been Marty Reasoner. Reliable. Does good work on the PK. Playing between a couple of kids on what has been a nice line for the Oilers lately. Six points. Marty is Marty and that's fine.
Toby Peterson would have been a better pick to start the season in Edmonton then JFJ or Mikhnov, I think, but better late then never. Presently getting his shot with the Czechs Peterson also stepped in for Reasoner when he missed the Detroit game and has provided energy. A nice utility guy to have.
The Record - I know, I know - 9 wins, 8 losses and a SOL is exactly mediocre but considering that this team is giving significant icetime to two and, at times, three rookie defencemen, and that their offence has been in a teamwide slump since almost Day One, I will take it. At some point Lowe is going to pick up a veteran Dman or two and sooner, rather then later, someone other then Smyth, Sykora and Winchester will begin to score. Until that point I'll take a playoff spot, thanks very much, which is where they are now, despite their issues.
Next up - the meat of the team - the ok. The mediocre. The alright. The bleah.
Whatever you want to call it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Very Good (A short post)


With the quarter pole almost upon us I wanted to take a look at the Oilers start as well as have a look around the league. So, without further adieu, here's what has been great for the Oilers so far.
The Start - The Oilers roared out of the gate and while some of the points they picked up were from games where Roli kept them in there until they found their legs the points still count in the standings. The flip side of this is that they apparently picked up some bad habits - when the bounces began to go against them and the slow starters didn't pick it up - well, things started to slide.
Smytty - With ten goals so far and fifteen points overall, Smyth has been, well Smyth. One of the few players who has had his motor running in almost every game and who has also produced, despite being moved from line to line in MacT's search for the answer, Smytty has been the man. And as a UFA next summer, he's picked a fine time to get off to a 40+ pace.
Can they sign him? Lets hope so (I'm a big Smyth fan and would love to see him be a career Oiler) but I also know that if they do it will be an overpay in years and by the end of it we'll be looking at a guy with a lot of heart, a lot of money but not a lot of legs left.
Petr Scorer - an afterthought in this summer's UFA feeding frenzy, Sykora is the Oilers' leading scorer. Good for him and good for the Oil this season but he'll be gone next summer. Oh well, at least one season of watching this guy - pure skill. Has been hovering around the top ten in scoring in the league all season.
Roli - you might quibble with the Anaheim game but for the most part Roli has been better then expected. A lot of those early points were directly due to his work and not a lot else. Not really much to say - he has been terrific and has given the Oilers a chance to win almost every night, including the Wings' game.
Your man Thoresen - a short dip after a great start but he still belongs in this grouping as he has had a strong return after being a healthy scratch against Montreal. Of course expectations are driving these reviews as well - the kid has been juggled into different roles and has done better then alright, especially considering his pedigree or lack thereof. Tied for fifth on the team in scoring, a well deserved plus five and a guy who has provided spark on most nights. Also took on noted Columbus dickhead Svitov after said underachieving former junior loudmouth tried to paralyze Laddy Smid. Can he keep it up? Lets hope so - one of few good news' stories this season.
The PK - Third in the league in basic % @ 91.5 or so - I'll leave it to the numbers guys to determine the rate per hour or whatever the most accurate measure is but its been great.
Next up - another short post - the good.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Remember.



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, That Could Have Gone Better



Reaction to last night's whitewash ranges from "We've seen this movie before so just cool it" to "What a big bag of suck - send down Pisani, bring back Nedved and fire Simpson" to well, "Fire Craig Simpson!"

Actually to be fair to Grabia he does come up with a pretty accurate list of woes. Not too much panic there either. Yet. And PM at Covered in Oil is not advocating sending Fernando down yet. Just musing on future salary cap relief.

Just leading with some semi truths and inflammatory statements - isn't that what they teach in journalism school these days? Well at least those schools that supply people who work for the National Post, Toronto Sun and Toronto Star anyhow.

I watched the game last night (Shut Up Pierre Maguire!), the first I have seen in a while, and it was, well, painful. As part of Vic's experiment I counted scoring chances in the first period. Pretty easy gig as the Oilers counted nary a shot.

Hey Maguire, shut your mouth. For just ten frigging seconds!

1/ Goaltending remains the least of this team's problems.

2/ Greene is doing alright. I have heard mucho complaints but I think the kid is alright. Still learning but he is a strong strong man. And he did alright on the PK.

3/ The two other rooks on D (!!) did ok as well. Hejda should be a regular I think. And Smid holds his own. He's certainly not afraid to get into it either.

4/ Smith, on the other hand, looks gassed already.

5/ Fourth line was terrific. And it may have been against their fourth but who cares? They had a shift in the 2nd period which momentarily turned the tide for the Oil. Winchester was especially impressive.

6/ Didn't notice Jacques except when he got picked on the first goal. Word is that MAP is first in line for a promotion. How long until JFJ is sent down, MAP comes up to centre the fourth line and Winchester or Thoresen gets promoted to try it with the big boys again?

7/ One thing though about the success of the fourth line and for that matter Smyth - has anyone noticed that these guys play basic hockey? When there's no flow, like last night, the best thing to do is to get to basics, dump it in and get after it. The scrubs did it last night, Smyth is more then happy to do it and for a while in the second all of the Oilers were doing it and getting sustained pressure - Lupul, Pisani, Horcoff and Stoll all come to mind as having successful shifts. Here's hoping that against Columbus they keep it simple, get some pucks in deep and play a little bit of the grinding road game they need to. Best way to get out of a slump.

8/ Torres looks lost out there. Lupul had a couple of shifts but otherwise the same.

9/ Horc showed his most jump playing with Hemsky - how long before he centres the Czechs?

10/ As for the PP - the scrubs got out for some PP time in the 3rd. And three times by my count they started in their own end, got the puck in deep and retrieved it by using the fact that they outnumbered the Wings. Got in, outmanned the Wings, got the puck. Simple stuff really. And they generated scoring chances. This was when the game was 2-0 and still in doubt.

So, the question is - are the regular PP guys told not to dump it in and chase after it? Do they refuse to do it even though they are told to? Or do they lack the personnel to do it on the first PP?

Because surely to Dog if Peterson, Auntie Brad and Thoresen can get out on the PP and gain the zone and nearly score a couple of times then the big boys should be able to do it. No?

And Maguire? For the love of Christ.

Shut the fuck up.

Where's the mute on this thing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wait A Second!






Ended up in a conversation about Bergeron with Vic from IOF in a thread the other day. Vic had made the point that Bergeron was actually having a great year and that an examination of the numbers showed that he actually had the best EV numbers of any Dman on the Oil.

My reply was that he should as he was facing the softest opposition by far and that with three decent lines he should be getting a few + beside his name. If you're facing the Petr Nedveds of the world you had better be coming out on the plus side of the ledger.

Vic's comment was that that may be so but if you compare him, for example, to our third pair of last year he was way ahead of the game. Which he is.

The problem with Bergeron is that his errors are so obvious. Whereas you might pick out a guy like Smith now and then, usually when he makes a mistake its a subtle one or his error is part of a set of errors by a bunch of guys.

With Bergeron you see the highlight at 11 and its 2 on 1 and he's at the edge of the frame scrambling to get into the play.

But he was a +2 last night against a good Habs team on the road and he played 14 + minutes, almost entirely at ES. And he is a plus five for the year.

Had he better be? Yep. And he is.

But its the nature of fans to get on the fringe guys, I think. Look at the beginning of this year and the calls for Brad Winchester's head. What was the point of having him out there? (And I was one of those saying it - why dress a guy if he's going to play 90 seconds a game?)

Last night he played nearly nine minutes. Scored a nice goal. Had a good game by all accounts. Made a difference.

He's 1-3-4 for the year. Horcoff is 1-4-5.

I love Horcoff. The guy is terrific. Pisani too. And Torres.

But Horc has taken 16 shots this year. Period.

I'd say its time for these guys to step it up. There's a lot of try. But as Barry Trotz remarked last week - your best players have to be your best players. They're paid to be.

Ryan Smyth has been. Sykora too. And for the most part Roli has been great.

But maybe its time for fans to look at the aforementioned three fellows as well as young Lupul when they want to pin some blame on someone for this team's present mediocrity. This team has issues on the blueline but as frequent Flames poster Peter commented last night on the BOA where is the vaunted Oiler offence? There apparently is no vaunt.

And a Dman or two who could make the first pass would be nice but when you have 16 shots in a period one goal is, well, disappointing. And we won't even get into the power play.

Anyhow, I'm not your fickle fan who would boo or curse out these guys. They're in a slump and that is all. But for people to call out guys like Bergeron, Winchester and Greene as the main problems this team has ... well, if we could only be so lucky.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Future for Captain America?


James Mirtle has one of the best blogs out there, as far as I am concerned and I am sure that everyone who comes to this site has been to his. James is also now a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail hockey blog, where today my favourite writer, Eric Duhatschek, talks about Andy Grabia's fundraiser to defray MacT's expenses for his fine for his remarks Friday night. Get ready for a pile of new visitors, Andy.

Anyhow, James had a post on the Globe blog the other day that slipped under the radar in the Oilogosphere. The gist of it is that with the phasing out of the enforcer a new type of specialist was appearing in the NHL, a guy who would sit on the bench for the majority of the game and make his appearances, not to fight, but to play on the power play.

A tailor made role for Mr. Schremp if he can't figure out his own end of the rink?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Road Trip!



Five games. Montreal. Detroit. Columbus. St. Louis. Colorado.

This could turn the slump the Oilers are in now into one of last autumn's stature.

Or it could get this team back to basics and prove a turning point (the drama!) in their season.

The Oilers are slumping, its true. And with Roloson off his game a bit they are not stealing any games.

The quick start to the season banked them a lot of points but it got this team away from what made them successful last spring. And now they're getting hurt by the bad habits. Poor first periods. Sloppy play. A lack of urgency.

We'll see after 20 games but its interesting to see that those who have started well are the veterans - Smyth, Sykora, Staios and the kids - Smid and Thoresen.

The guys who have seen it all and the guys who have seen little. And Smith and Roloson have both been good, if not great, as well.

MacT has taken out the blender and I wish he'd just settle on something and let it develop already. At this point it seems there are a lot of square pegs. Torres and Lupul being 1A and 1B. Smyth has produced everywhere. Hemsky and Sykora do well together. Thoresen does his job everywhere.

And as for the D, sitting Shaggy makes no sense to me. I understand giving Hejda a safety valve in Smith but taking the 22 minute a game guy out instead of MAB or Greene?? Are you trying to win the game? Or does MacT feel that without Smith Shaggy is nothing?

Does anyone know?

Anyway, here's the deal. The Oilers were a good road team last season and I think this trip could be good. Back to basics and all that. Plus after a herky jerky schedule they are actually going to be playing some hockey. Hard to get in a groove when you're getting three days off here and there.

Put Thoresen back with Hemsky and Sykora. Play Smyth and Pisani together. I thought the idea was to get Fernando some quality time to show some of that flair he demonstrated last spring. Play them with either Horc or Stoll. Have Torres and Lupul play with the other.

Put MAB or Greene in the pressbox. Seriously. Keep Laddy and Staios together and let Smith babysit Hejda if that's the plan. Then let Shaggy take care of Greene. Or let Hejda and Greene do what they can.

Twenty games is usually a good benchmark to see where a team is at. It won't be long now. I think the Oilers do their best work when they're in a corner - even one they've painted themselves into - this seems to be the mark of the team from the past number of years.

I'm thinking they pick up seven points from this trip and they begin to figure out that they're not the '84 Oilers. They're the '06 Oilers. They have some work to do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Figuring It Out



In a thread yesterday I commented on how I was having a hard time getting excited about most games this season. I think part of that is a hangover from a run to get into the playoffs plus the actual playoffs - three months of living and dying with the Oil every second night. It was wonderful and it was exhausting.

Hard to get hyped about game number twelve in an eighty two game schedule. I was happy with the start and am less happy with seven and five but this team is such a work in progress that it is more intangible shit that is interesting me now then the actual results.

As I put it in a thread here last week - take a team that has been an underdog for years from a city which remembers not so long ago when the franchise had one of the great runs in hockey history. Have them barely squeak into the playoffs but then come as close as you can to winning it all without doing so. Remove a number of players from this team, including their best player and first superstar they have had in years. Have nearly every media outlet write them off before the season begins. Replace the grit and veteran savvy lost with a good dollop of skill and youth, lots and lots of youth.

Mix in a fast start, boosted by a few wins due to either great goaltending or pure skill, not necessarily due to a great allround effort. Then remove one of the last veteran "grit" guys you have, lost for the season to injury. Sprinkle in some adoring press.

And you have a mess.

That is where the Oilers are. They are a team trying to figure out who they are. Unable to win at home last season, they have been dominant there this year. An excellent road team last season, they are 1 and 4 with a five game road trip upcoming.

Their #1 centre is in a season long slump. Torres hasn't a clue what he is doing. Bergeron struggles still. Where does Lupul fit? Pisani? Even early season surprise Thoresen?

All we know is that Hemsky and Sykora have been dynamite and that Smyth looks like he is going to produce pretty well wherever he is. Also Laddy Smid has been better then expected and as an added bonus his babysitter has been terrific too. Having to take care of a kid means less benders out on the town, so to speak. (Man, do I know it!)

We also know that these guys turn over the puck way too much, that Roloson has been iffy the past week and that they need at least one defenceman (which we knew anyhow).

Etc etc.

We'll see at the quarter pole what begins ot shake out, not just with the Oil but around the league. Remember the beginning of the last season? San Jose, Anaheim, Calgary - all stank. The Canucks - a roaring start. And the Sens - the greatest team ever?

We all know how that worked out.

So we'll see - ideas are flying around as to what should be done. We'll see.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Confidence



Confidence is everything.

Chuck Knoblauch lost his and went from being a top notch second baseman to baseball's scrap heap.

I played hockey twice this weekend. If I were to put it generously, prior to the last two seasons I would probably be best described as a poor man's Ethan Moreau, maybe, if Moreau wasn't very aggressive. And if he was small. And slow.

Hard worker. Good in my own end. Decent playmaker. The type of guy who is going to finish ten out of ten breakways by stuffing it right into the goalie's belly. The type of guy with a lot of try but who scores most of his goals by getting them bounced off of his ass.

Anyhow yesterday I had a nice chance and the goalie came over and made a nice pad save. A year ago I would have shoved it back into him. This time, I drew the puck back and roofed it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was surely a first.

Confidence. Despite my age I've been getting better, basically getting by on positioning and smarts now that the legs are going. (And are they ever going.) I'm putting a lot of pucks in the net and also taking a lot more penalties because I have been harder on the puck and harder to it - whereas before I would hesitate or get outmuscled, now I'm getting after it. I'm not a big guy but I've been knocking guys over because I want the puck.

The reason for all of this blather? Confidence matters. It isn't everything but its pretty damn close. Two years ago I got the puck in the slot and scored. It deflected off a teammate. if it hadn't it would have gone directly into the corner. Of the rink. Fifteen feet wide.

Now, as my linemate said, roof daddy!

And it matters just as much at the pro level.

Unless you're a guy who has done and seen it all, like Sakic or Shanahan, or you have supreme confidence in your abilities, say, like Kovalchuk, Ovechkin or Crosby (just based on their demeanours), you're going to run into crises of confidence. And when you do, you're going to struggle.

I think on the Oilers you could put Smyth and Sykora into your first group. Not that they are slump proof but I think they're the types who just keep at it, knowing that sooner or later the puck is going to go in, as it usually has. You can probably toss Lupul into group II. For that matter Laddy Smid may belong there too.

As for the rest, they belong with us mere mortals.

Stoll started slowly and suddenly he has three goals and his linemates have suddenly gotten going.

Pisani (talk about a perfect example) was hampered by a bad knee early on. Now he suddenly has two in two games (and was flying against the Ducks). If I wasn't a cheap bastard I'd put money on Fernando getting on a big time roll now.

Confidence.

At the other end of the scale, Horcoff, who has struggled out of the gate. But more then any player on this team, he knows where hard work will get you. He'll be ok.

But the biggest worry?

Raffi.

Frequent poster Kyle Kosior ran into some Oiler brass recently and managed to get some conversation in with them - apparently Torres has huge confidence issues - he is the least confident guy on the team.

This doesn't surprise me. Raffi strikes me as being a big kid - there is no doubting his talent - but his problem is between his ears. He's the type of guy who can dominate for ten games and then be brutal for twenty.

Many figured this would be Torres' breakout season but after a good camp, he has struggled, replaced by Thoresen on the second line, demoted to the fourth for a game until Moreau was hurt.

Can he get it together? If not, he might be tradebait, which would be a shame, because the kid has the skill set to be a dominant player.

But apparently he needs Melfi more then he needs MacT right now.