Monday, January 21, 2008

Becoming A Player

I haven't seen the last two games but from a numbers standpoint the kids have come out on top in both. Yesterday Nilsson had a goal and an assist, Gagner a beauty of a goal, Cogliano an assist. All a plus two and both of their goals scored against Kovalchuk, Recchi and their centre, once Holik, once Todd White.
I would guess that was the matchup Waddell wanted and while I did not see the game from what I have read the kids did ok in terms of scoring chances. So, a nice night's work and this follows two point nights for Cogliano and Gagner against the Canes (Nilsson also picked up an assist) and a goal for Nilsson against the Caps.
Interesting to note that Nilsson is second on the team in road assists too. One of those "good news/bad news" stats I would say.
This is certainly not one of those blue skies posts where I wax poetic about the kids and how Moreau will be accepting the Cup from Commissioner Shanahan in 2010. I've had the optimism sucked out of me bit by bit since June 19th, thank you very much. I enjoy watching this club and I do think the future is bright but I'm not in the "Waive everyone over 25 and call up the kids" brigade that seems to remove their collective heads from their collective arses long enough to spout said nonsense.
Having a rookie ridden roster is a surefire way to pile up the losses so its been nice to see the Oil picking up points recently. Even with the Canes' disaster they are 6-3-1 in their last ten and that's a nice stretch no matter how you slice it. The fact that they have been winning some in regulation has been good to see as well.
What has really been heartening recently is the play of the kids, or some of them anyways. Smid and Grebeshkov have been a gong show for the most part and hopefully Pitkanen will return soon and between him and Greene one of these guys will have a seat. Other then the Danger Twins things have been looking up for the kiddie corps. They're taking their lumps and that's to be expected. I did a post back in August where I looked at the numbers some pretty good hockey players put up as rookies. Gagner and Cogliano pretty well fit in with what a lot of these guys did in their first years. Guys like Crosby who come in and tear it up are few and far between.
Sam Gagner is still overmatched in most games but he's the youngest player in the league (nine months younger then Kane) and he hasn't the size or wheels to make up for his youth at this point. Lately he's been getting his chances and now he's getting some points and the fact that he is doing it with his peers (that is, not hitching a ride with Horc and Hemsky with a pile of second assists) makes it a wee bit impressive. He's a point shy of twenty but lets see if he gets over thirty for the year. A tough learning experience for him and I think a lot might say a waste of a year on his entry level deal but time will tell on that. He certainly hasn't been bowed or broken and I think nearly everyone would admit that they like the future for this guy.
Cogliano hit a tough stretch but playing with Moreau and Pisani seems to have gotten him back on track and a nice couple of road games with Gagner and Nilsson seems to indicate that he has his confidence back. Hard to say what his role down the road will be. I think that a few years down the road the Oilers' centre corps will be made up of him, Gagner and Horcoff as the top three men but that's a ways away yet. Fifth on the team in scoring and on pace for around thirty five plus points and its hard to find anyone to say anything bad about the guy other then he's young. Looking good.
Tom Gilbert's season is just ridiculous any way you cut it. Playing on the top pairing against the other team's best players for the most part, as a rookie, he is a plus player and has eight goals and nine assists, mostly at even strength. This while playing for a pretty mediocre team. I would say he has to make the all rookie first team (who has been better on the blueline this year as a rookie?) but there are a lot of kids who are more flashy and more famous and as a result he will likely be overlooked. Best story of the year by far though and that's saying a lot with the emergence of Garon, Hemsky's coming out, Penner's arrival and the year that Horcoff has put together. In all of those cases you may have seen it coming but no way anyone saw Gilbert doing what he has done.
Brodziak is the guy who gets overlooked but he can chip in on offence and he is one of those guys who does the little things that help the team win. He's Pisani, Moreau, Dvorak - he's not sexy (well, Moreau is sexy) but you're glad he's on your side. Underrated and likely a guy who has a spot on this team for years to come.
The one guy who is really interesting is Nilsson. He's older then Gagner and Cogliano and he is the one guy in the bunch (actually Brodziak was in this boat in September) who has something on the line in the next few months. Add in the fact that he was traded for Ryan Smyth and that his father is Kent Nilsson and he becomes even more of a story.
I referred to this recently - Nilsson has the most to lose and the most to gain between now and April. He's officially at that make or break point of his career. Now here is a guy who has been to the minors and has been scratched this year and now he is fourth in the team in scoring and on pace for about a forty point season. Defensively he has made his mistakes but for the most part he has been alright. And he puts points on the board. I'm starting to think he might make it. He's certainly no Lupul. (Which makes me wonder - Lupul supposedly succumbed to the pressure of playing in his hometown. The one thing I never got about this is that usually pressure manifests itself in a guy trying too hard - overcompensating by going for the big hit, squeezing the stick, being too aggressive - I've never seen a guy made completely lazy and indifferent by pressure. Interesting.) Anyways, Nilsson's still a little streaky but I think that everyone would agree that the kid may be a player.
Now in a week's time Nilsson may be back in Springfield and a couple more blowouts will take the sheen off of everyone but for now I'll try my best to look on the sunny side. Its my nature, after all, which tells you how badly Lowe has broken my spirit. For me to be a pessimist just isn't right.


Mr DeBakey said...

You do know that the grass is greener on the other side of that thar fence?
Doesn’t matter if nice, new grass; the kind growing in Springfield
Or, older, seasoned grass – the type playing second line center for the Sharks.
Bring it in! Grow it here!

Everyone loves a Kid Line – Hell, the last time the Oilers had one they won the Cup!
I see this Kid Line as putting all the uncertain eggs in one basket.
The same sort of thinking that gave us the Toby-Joffrey-Petr line last year
Obviously, you want it to work better than that trio.
And it should
Though I imagine there will be nights…

The Gong Show compared to Gilbert Gilbert
How old is Gilbert?
How old are Smid & Grebeshkov?
Do these numbers tell us anything?
Can we take guidance from these numbers when discussing the promising careers of Bisallion, Chorney, Peckham, Petry & Wild?

Black Dog said...

Mr. D - well that is very true regarding Gilbert and I think we will see Matt Greene show progress this season and next as well.

D and goaltenders especially but really all players are better served by having an apprenticeship - Smid is doing what one would expect for a 20 year old (or is he 21 now?) Look at Jason Smith. Chris Pronger didn't become overnight either.

Not a smart play by the Oilers but likely politically motivated.

Stone Hands McOsta said...

Hey, Great blog, just came across it, I'm currently trying to get onto the honorary "Oilogosphere" list and was wondering if you would like to swap links? Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Bisaillon driven by a dream