Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holy Crosby! Crosby Crosbies Crosby. Crosby.....Crosby

Well, another ten games gone and this was the most successful and most eventful ten game segment yet. Six and two and two winnable games ended up in a slightly disappointing six and four but if six and four is disappointing then things are beginning to look up. The Oilers clawed their way back into the pack and while they are still amongst the bottom dwellers this team is showing signs of life and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Penner's name won't be mentioned in the same breath as Tom Kurvers.
Wins in regulation, two good beatings laid on Anaheim, terrific goaltending from Garon and Roloson, some fine play by Rourke and Grebeshkov as the third pair, the arrival of Very Good Joni, some solid play from Laddy Smid and continued strong play from Gilbert Gilbert (who got a lot of love on CSN on Wednesday) were among the highlights. Indeed the future with this blueline is starting to look a little brighter and the question is what happens when Tarnstrom and Souray return. (Hint - Tarnstrom gets moved.)
Up front the storyline is all about Shawn Horcoff who is a point out of being in the top twenty in scoring in the league, all the while being the same old Horcoff - that is, he does everything. And if I am Kevin Lowe then I am talking to him about an extension and soon. Yep, now. With Gagner and Cogliano coming the debate, if there really was one, was who to keep - Horc or Stoll. From this corner the answer was always pretty clear and I can't see how anyone other then Stacey's mom would argue otherwise now.
Having said that there are plenty of other things to consider up front besides Horcoff. Gagner's name has begun to pop up on the scoresheet lately along with Nilsson's and one wonders how much of that is to do with their new winger and babysitter. Besides these kids there have been some goals from the backend and so its become Horcoff from Hemsky and scoring by committee otherwise but it seems to be working out as guys like Reasoner, Brodziak and Cogliano chip in here and there.
Penner continues to tease. Two good games in California and then nothing much back home.
The return of Thoresen, finally, who scores in his first game back and of course the best story of them all, the return of Fernando Pisani. Unfortunately the best story about this terrific tale was found in the Globe, courtesy of CP, rather then in any of the local papers, bedazzled as they were by some kid from Nova Scotia.
And as these ten games ended it was ironic that for all of the joking about CSN's over the top story of the Crosby and how he earned ten Grammy nominations, cured cancer and won the war, all while banging the cast of The L Word, the truth is that when he tore the Oilers apart on Wednesday night he impacted the Oilers in the short term and perhaps the longterm as well. To wit:
He exposed questions about MacT's strategy of playing good try no play Zach Stortini against the best player in the league while trying to protect a one goal league. Why not Fernando Pisani? He sent Pisani out for a defensive zone draw late in the second in Stortini's place when Therrien sent out Crosby and Malkin. The Oilers immediately got possession, moved the puck into the Crosbies' zone and spent the entire shift there. And if not Pisani then what about Kyle Brodziak? Or Andrew Cogliano? Other then Sam Gagner there is likely not another player I would have out there rather then Stortini.
And of course the other two thirds of the line that Crosby victimized were scratched against St. Louis. The arguments why this was dumb are many. Torres and Stoll, despite their failings, are still better players then most of the Oilers' forwards and if you are trying to win then they have to dress. They had actually been doing a decent job up until Wednesday despite having to drag around Stortini. MacT risks losing other veterans on the team because of this move. Stoll is still recovering from his concussion and has been getting there lately. If these guys are tradebait as has been surmised, scratching them brings down their value. Etc. Etc. A lot of good arguments made by a lot of people smarter then me against this move.
And I was still onside with it. There aren't many ways a coach can get a player's attention these days. Fact is Stoll and Torres have underperformed this year. Broken record for Torres who is now making decent coin and is no longer a kid. And remember that prior to last November when Stoll did take off he was brutal in October, by his own admission unprepared to play.
On this team they should be right behind Horcoff and Hemsky, along with Penner (of course he's a story for another day), in terms of production and responsibilities. For the first ten games Torres was terrific. Then he went ten games without a point, iirc. Does he do other stuff well? Absolutely. Does he need to be a better player? Yes. Yes he does. And that goes for Stoll too. Neither guy was happy about being benched but I would suspect that for a couple of weeks at least that we see a little more fire from them.
Oh and send Stortini out already. Or put him on the fourth line. Love his try. I really do. But there's no way he brings more to the table then a guy like Thoresen.


Anonymous said...

"Love his try, I really do" but get rid of him anyways! Classic line from an Oiler fan. I posted earlier this week about how you Oil fans have been wrecked by your past. The 80's and its ridiculously special talented magical teams are gone, and the game has changed drastically from those times. Today you win by having hard workers who buy into a system which translates into wins. You Oil fans seem to think that the 80's Oil are gonna repeat themselves somehow. Its strange and somehow sad, reading you and Grabias comments obviouosly shows that you guys have some serious hockey knowledge and you are true fans of the game. Somehow though you are able to fog your outlook on the Oil through your crazy fandom. I'm not an Oil fan, but i'll say that more players like Stortini are what you need, hes not super talented, but he does what he is asked, and thats a step forward in the league. MacT does not have the talent to win nice, he has to go the way of the Devils, Canucks, Wild, Blues etc... Its not the most exciting hockey, but try havin a few winning seasons and you'll be amazed how fast you learn to love it. If I had to describe the Oil, I would say " they are a field of shit with a few daisys pokin through" Keep Hemsky, Horcoff, Pisani and the rookies. Everyone else is baggage...

Black Dog said...

anon - yep, saw your comment earlier this week

actually I became an Oilers' fan in the late 90s - I'm of the age that I watched the dynasty teams - they were definitely terrific - teams for the ages - anyhow I don't pine for those teams; it would be nice, of course, but there won't be a squad like that again

I agree with your point. The Oilers of the past decade actually always had guys who would grind it out - Marchant, Grier, Moreau, Rem Murray, Horcoff, Chimera, Pisani, Staios, Smith - their best player was a grinder - Ryan Smyth. They were really a lunch bucket team that had to work for everything they got. They need more guys like that.

look, I admire Stortini's dedication - he was the captain of my hometown junior club and he's already played more NHL games then anyone figured he would; he works harder then anyone and he is improving

But there is another guy who does what is asked of him - Patrick Thoresen. In fact last season after Smyth was traded he was one of the few guys who showed up night in and night out and played his heart out. He is a better player then Stortini and he deserves to be on this club.

My guess is there are another kid or two on the farm that you might be able to say the same about.

I have nothing against Stortini. I admire what he's made of himself. He's just not that good right now.

David S said...

Well, Ive been wondering if the benching of Stoll and Torres with Stortini seemingly going unscathed has something to do with what you guys are talking about. Yeah, I'll be the first to admit that Stortini's continued place on this team is a bit of an enigma. But he played pretty solidly in the few games previously. Not great, but obviously listening to the coach and really digging every night. More than once I heard a favorable comment from Ferraro, who seems to know what he's talking about. Point - its pretty obvious that he's heeding MacT about staying out of the box by not fighting as much as we think he should be.

Maybe MacT is telling the other guys that if you bust your ass, buy into his game and show up every night, you might go somewhere on this team. And if you don't, well...

I see tons of possibility on this team. Maybe not Stanley Cup level, but certainly competent in the very near future. But after the glory days, this team was founded on gut busting effort and heart. Both of which I don't see a whole lot of these days except (and I hate to say this) in guys like Stortini.

Mr DeBakey said...

“"Love his try, I really do" but get rid of him anyways!”

Anon obviously missed the Sign Johnson Chorus around here last summer.
The Oiler bloggers,and their commenters, don't talk about rebuilding the 80s teams.
We just want guys who are NHL players, guys who outscore the opposition.

How many times did Johnson's name appear in posts,or their threads?
And not only him - I typed something here about signing JP Vigier [“Plays a solid up-and-down game on the wing. Is defensively aware, and does his best work while killing penalties.”].
But no, the Oilers didn't sign him - Instead he's at about .80 PPG playing for Geneva.

Stortini is this season's Petersen
Not good enough to make the team out of camp
Re-called when injuries and deadbeatitis strike the team

Yes, Stortini obeys, so did Petersen
So Mactavish plays them
But, They are not the answer
They are not good enough

I appreciate Mactavish's position
The perpetually injured Moreau
Lupul & Pouliots & Jacques – guys with talent – not stepping forward
Someone has to play

But send Stortini out already.

Anonymous said...

Me again, I did notice the Johnson pining in the summer. I dont know if he would have made much of a difference though. As for Stortini, granted Thoreson would be more attractive I suppose, but Thoreson should not be in the minors anyways. Its difficult to pin what the problem is on the Oil. Lowe has really made some strange signings I,E Souray and the Vanek, Nylander attempts. I think Penner although overpaid and most likely a 25 goal tops player in the league was at least an attempt in the right direction. As for the Oil fans living in hope of the 80's. I meant more specifically that you all see the maxpotential in pretty much every Oiler and refuse to give up til that player has either retired, moved on or become to injured to be any kind of reliable contributor. It seems that every team has this problem, but somehow it seems to be at its greatest in Edmonton. This is what I meant when I say that the past has ruined you. Anyways, I'm a die-hard Canuck fan but I love reading these blogs. I followed the Oil in the 80's until 1988. The year I realized that there were Canucks in Van who needed me :)

Black Dog said...

Hmm, interesting point. I think its true in every city that players and prospects are overvalued. I remember the "best outfield in baseball" in the '80s and the hype surrounding guys like Hill and Campusano as they came up for the Jays.

I think with the Oilers one of the issues is the blogs - there are more Oiler blogs then any other team and Lowetide especially focuses on prospects so Oiler fans who hang out here have a handle on a few dozen youngsters and where they stand, who they compare to and so on. Therefore there is some definite prospect fever.

I'm not sure if I agree with you that the feeling is that all of these guys will be stars. For example Tom Gilbert who is having a terrific rookie season was pegged as no better then a third pairing defenceman by a lot of posters (talking about a career ceiling here). Similarily the goalie prospects, Smid, Greene, Grebeshkov - these guys are other examples of guys who haven't gotten a lot of love.
Everyone has their favourites (like me with Thoresen or Lowetide with Pouliot); everyone has their whipping boys, for example Stortini or Schremp aren't too popular.

One thing I will say about Stortini and I have said this before - if guys like Pouliot, Jacques etc had the heart he and Brodziak did they would be established NHLers now.