Wednesday, November 29, 2006
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
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
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
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
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
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
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
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
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
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
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).
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.