Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Caw! Caw!

Its too bad really, all of those points given away in October and November when the Oilers had one PP goal in fifteen games or whatever it was. Completely unbelievable really. It was that bad. Now at the time the misfiring PP was just part of a team that was finding ways to lose. Remember those days? They would spend the majority of the first in a team's zone and come out of it down 1-0. Every mistake seemed to end up in their net. Every opposing team's goalie looked like Georges Vezina.
I was a skeptic about this season and I am usually a diehard optimist. Its my nature. Even last year I saw a playoff team, even a team that could do some damage as long as Lowe picked up a veteran or two for the blueline. We know how that turned out.
So last fall I looked at a D corps with a possible top two man in Joni, a solid second pairing guy in Staios, gigantic pylon Sheldon Souray, retread vet Dick Tarnstrom and a gaggle of rookies and sophomores. I looked at the forwards with Pisani and Moreau out and saw five established NHL players in their primes, two guys who looked to be on their last legs and a bunch more kids. I was unimpressed.
Still I reasoned that ninth or tenth might be a possibility if everything fell right. A lot of teams supposed to be better then the Oilers, like the Kings, did not impress me (I was right on there). I figured if Hemsky made the jump, Penner proved everybody wrong, Torres, Stoll and Horcoff bounced back and a couple of kids up front and on the back end arrived early and everyone stayed healthy and they got standout goaltending then they might end up where they look to end up.
So, um, Hemsky has become what we thought he might be and Horcoff had established himself as an elite centre in this league before he went down and, well, nothing else went right.
Except they won a lot of shootout games. I believe it was around Christmas that someone made the point that in the previous sixty games the Oilers had not even ten wins in regulation. Now shootouts count for points and that's fine but believe me if you're a serious contender you're not going to be relying on Bettman points to stay in 14th place in the conference.
And then Horcoff went down and it looked like spring 2007 redux but something funny happened. This team began to win. Sometimes they were lucky but in the fall they had some bad luck so the luck didn't bother me so much. And sometimes, sometimes they were just damn good. Winning in regulation became normal. Winning by four or five goals became common. The power play began to look like a power play. Puck movement. Players moving their feet. Plays being made. In the fall the PP might score once in a while but it was terrible. Most of the time was spent retrieving it from their own zone. Now, even when its not converting its dangerous.
I'm not a big numbers guy and a debate is raging all over the 'sphere right now about whether this is a long run of luck or if there is something 'there' there. Regardless its been a lot of fun and I think its time to sit back and enjoy it. I think the team has been hot (meaning lucky) in a lot of cases and I think that's ok. I also think there is a lot underlying the success, a lot that even the most diehard optimists would not have predicted. Put your hand up if you thought:
- Sam Gagner, hard pressed to hit 30 points when Horcoff went down, truly a boy among men for nearly the whole season, would run off over a PPG in the last 24 games and will likely end up with over thirty points; I believe Vic noted in a thread last night that Gagner's Corsi numbers over the last two months (approximate) have been terrific whereas previously they were brutal - they may have a special one here.
- Robert Nilsson, whose future looked iffy just two months ago, would find the consistency and jam to establish himself as an NHL player, looking to break 40 points himself
- Cogliano would have eighteen goals after a lot of struggles earlier this season
- Brodziak would have 14 goals, Glencross 12 and with Stortini they would form a terrific line that has outscored and certainly outplayed its opposition consistently
- not one but two young Dmen, Gilbert and Grebeshkov, would become viable options in the top four, especially Grebeshkov who was terrible at the beginning of the year
Its really quite ridiculous.
And I'll tell you who deserves a ton of credit - Craig MacTavish and his staff. Considering what he had to work with at the beginning of the season has any coach done more with less? And will this finally kill the myth that MacT cannot work with young players?
Do I agree with what Lowe has done with this team? No I do not. I think he blew it last year and I think he came into this year without a plan. The Souray signing especially is an abomination.
But yeah he has amassed a lot of nice young talent and he deserves credit for that.
I think they're going to fall a little short - there is pretty well no margin for error but its exciting stuff and its made it fun to be an Oilers's fan again.


docweb said...

At least you're not a 7 year season ticket holder who booked a vacation at the time the Oil will be starting the second round!!! Oh well...crow will go down well with a few MaiTai's. I wonder how many sports bars in Hawaii will carry the Oil? Aye,perchance to dream..

Nooge said...

BD,I agree that however we got here, the important thing is that we're here and when you think about how you might have felt this time last year on Oilers game day we've come an awfully long way. Two caveats though, I guess: 1) it could all come crashing down tonight (oh well) and 2) goddamn Nashville! Also, just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your stuff and that of the various other 'sphere writers - it's all really terrific stuff.

Loxy said...

Enjoy it while it lasts right?

But I totally agree... MacT has got to be doing something right to make up for the errors of Mr. Lowe.

Black Dog said...

nooge - thanks

You and loxy are right - while a little of this is smoke and mirrors we may as well enjoy it. Lots of fun especially considering last season's disaster. Too bad they dug themselves such a big hole.

loxy - best coaching job by MacT ever; this team has no business being where it is really

You don't win with kids everywhere. Just doesn't happen.

Fingers crossed for tonight!

Vic Ferrari said...

Good post, Pat.

I agree on all of it. And even though I'm one of those guys that believes the Oilers record of late has seen a lot more than their share of good breaks at good times ... I'd also agree with your point that they lost some games earlier in the year when they were pretty clearly the better team. Especially in December.

I didn't see the game tonight, but apparently five goalposts, and most of the comments around the blogs seem to be saying that the Oilers had a tonne of chances through the last 50 minutes. A shitty time for the hockey gods to make a statement.

Agree that a lot of the kids look good going forward. A bunch have established themselves as NHLers this year, and all will get better with time and experience.

For me the biggest reason for optimism is new ownership. I'm with YK on this issue, nothing's more important, if you're a fan of a team, IMO.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Vic.

Yeah, didn't see the game last night but five goalposts says it all. So it goes. This team has had so many games against the Wild over the years where they had the life choked out of them the fact that they humbled them on Monday and could have won last night is a very positive sign.

As for Katz, its like I said when he bought the team - in my lifetime I now don't have to worry about the team moving or them not spending the dough.