Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Yep, when I google images of Shawn Horcoff I get, (besides a big boner), a picture of the big fella.
In Gary Bettman's NHL a team can be nine, I think its nine, games under .500 and still be in the mix, five points out of the division lead, right in the playoff race. The shootout (if you are good at it) and parity are good for business. Usually for the also rans hope springs eternal in September and then dies by Halloween. For the Oilers, written off for dead by many (including me) months ago, they have six weeks to hang in there - if they are in the mix come February 1 then Lowe is a buyer.
He's likely a buyer anyways. We all know that Lowe has to avoid the lottery and that this team looks like it may have enough to get out of the bottom ten in any case. Add in the fact that they have a plethora of prospects, many who have been passed by (Pouliot, Jacques, Roy), to deal and its likely we will see Lowe picking up a player or two to put them over the top.
The top being out of the top ten picks, in this case.
Having said that and recognizing how success in the shootout has put this team where it is (as an aside its part of the game now, the points count - ask the Leafs what a poor shootout record has meant to them the past two seasons) there are a number of positives to come out of these thirty two games:
- the fact that this team has overcome a pretty serious run of injuries to hang in there
- in the same vein they have had sub par performances from some key guys - Stoll, Torres, Roloson - on a team that has few veterans and they have still survived
- Mathieu Garon's emergence as a guy who at the very least can share the load
- Joni Pitkanen and Tom Gilbert's emergence as a legitimate top four pair who can play tough minutes and thrive - in the last two games the Oilers are plus 6/minus 7 at even strength. Pitkanen is a plus 4, Gilbert a plus 3. Neither has been on for a goal against at ES.
- Penner's arrival. He's still a work in progress and he may be getting a lot of help playing with Horcoff and Hemsky but the past seven games have seen the kid become a force.
- Hemsky is quietly getting there, nearing a PPG pace
- there is nothing quiet about Shawn Horcoff's arrival; other then their roles on the PP how about Brad Richards as a comp? Top twenty in scoring on top of everything else he does. There are few better allround players in the game right now.
- Pisani's return coinciding with a seven game (!) point scoring streak by Nilsson and the return of Sam Gagner to being a bit more of a positive factor
- the play of Brodziak and Cogliano, despite the latter's fade as of late
-decent play by Grebeshkov and Rourke on the third pair
Looking at this team, positives and negatives, a few things are apparent.
Smid or Rourke are going out when Tarnstrom comes back. In my opinion Tarnstrom should join Staios in the second pair with Souray playing on the third along with Grebeshkov or Rourke. Smid back to the minors. Souray may get the call with Staios and Tarnstrom may still get moved but to me that's a reasonable sextet. I like Tarnstrom though.
Tons of holes up front. There is Horcoff's line and Pisani and the kids can handle the soft stuff but then it gets iffy. Moreau's return will help and maybe he joins Reasoner and Brodziak. Maybe Pisani gets moved to play with Stoll and Torres.
Its amazing that they are hanging in there with this lineup up front. Either Stoll and Torres have to wake up or Lowe makes a move or two and brings in help, with Stoll or Torres getting lesser roles or moved themselves.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:51 PM