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.
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


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.