Monday, March 17, 2008


Hard to believe these two are members of the same species, no? Joni is not a handsome man.

The Oilers are fun to watch these days and after last night's miracle in San Jose some normally sane folks, including your truly, were actually thinking, if only momentarily ... um, playoffs.

Not going to happen - they have to win tomorrow and Thursday and, well, pretty well every other night they have left on their schedule but its fun that they are, in what looked to be an awful awful year, actually winning their share of games.

This despite some injuries and a number of guys who are off the charts underperforming. Its a good sign of things to come hopefully.

So as John Ferguson Jr. used to say "going forward" what can we expect? I am going to start with a few pretty reasonable assumptions before getting started.

1/ This team is being built for 09/10, 10/11, 11/12. Those are the last three years of Hemsky, Penner and Souray's contracts. When all is said and done they will blow it up, keep Hemsky and dump Penner, keep Penner and dump Hemsky, use the profits from multiple cups to sign all three :) - anyways that's what we're looking at, I think. Playoffs are the goal for next year. Then things really get serious.

2/ Money is not an issue. With Katz in charge this will be a cap team. Hell, they nearly are now.

3/ After seeing a trickle of kids (Greene, Pouliot, Winchester) in 05/06 increase steadily until it became a flood this season we may see one or two (Liam Reddox?) get a shot as a role player next year but for the most part its going to be a year to give the present kids a year to establish themselves. Looking at what's coming up there are a lot of nice pieces in the next wave- Petry, Chorney, Peckham, Trukhno, Nash, Reddox - I just don't think we will see any of them next year.

Reasonable? Can we agree on these points? Maybe a kid comes out of nowhere but I don't see it.

OK, so we have a team that has gotten its share of bonus points but has also been without a lot of key parts through the season. Lowe has said, to a lot of mockery from many quarters, including this one, that he likes this team. Of course, he's not going to say otherwise but one wonders if they had picked up another win here or there, if Horc was healthy, if Pitkanen had not missed a month earlier in the season, if they might not be ahead of the Canucks. Lets not kid ourselves here. This is not the team of two seasons ago, veteran, deep, playoff ready. This club would get clobbered in the first round but I think we can also say that compared to last year's mess the team has taken a positive step forward. Now, going into next season, what are Lowe's expectations and what should ours be?

The Top Six Scorer - this club was thin up front going into this season and early this year when they were outplaying teams but losing 3-2 and 2-1 every game (or so it seemed), the general consensus was that this team needed a guy who could play in the top six and score some damn goals. Well, don't look now but this team is middle of the pack in offence and the PP has been going at about a 20% clip over sixty games. Penner has been poor since Horcoff went down but one more goal gives he, Horc and Hemsky twenty plus apiece. Penner is not very popular right now but I would hazard a guess that with Horcoff instead of Stoll or Reasoner he would likely be good for another four or five goals in the last twenty games. These three make up a decent line with Horcoff and Hemsky both scoring at just under a PPG rate.

Now, throw in the kids since Horcoff went down and there you have Gagner at over a PPG, I believe, Cogliano close to that and Nilsson having established himself as a bona fide NHLer. It was just six weeks ago or so that the feeling was that Nilsson was the big question mark and the guy who had the most to gain or lose down the stretch. Well, he has become a player. I'm not a huge stats guy but I trust uber commenter Dennis who has Nilsson producing at a pretty good rate at ES, considering his minutes.

Gagner and Cogliano are over forty points. Nilsson will probably hit that level with nine games left. Gagner, at 18, has an outside shot to hit fifty and Cogliano could hit twenty goals.

Now, considering the fact that these guys all struggled to various degrees this season and saw their icetime doled out accordingly, why would this not be your second line next season? You never know what might happen but if they are each in the 55 -60 point range (reasonable, no?) is this not acceptable production for your second line? Why go out and spend 4 million a year on Michael Ryder? Why spend 2.5 million a year on him? Three youngsters, on the cheap - this is the way to go, imo.

Third line centre - its likely going to be Jarret Stoll. He has been pretty awful. Two ES goals and one of those into an empty net at that leave him eighteenth on the team. That production for 2.2 million isn't going to cut it but Stoll had 68 points two seasons ago and was putting it together last season before he got dinged. He's an easy target for sure but he has no trade value right now. A year from now he may also have no trade value but does it make good sense to give up on a young centre that easily? In 2009 paying him 2.4 million coming off another awful season when you might be able to slide Ryan O'Marra or Riley Nash or a cheap vet in there will make no sense. Hell even if he has a decent season next it might not make that much sense. But this team is not cap strapped right now and dumping a guy for nothing when he could rebound doesn't make a lot of sense. His season has been one to forget but you don't trash a guy who was coming on for one bad year. You might not like him when you become a contender again but if he has come back at least you can get value for him. Play him with Pisani and your LW for a season and see what happens. As for that LW ...

Third line LW - probably the most interesting issue for next season. Presuming they can sign Glencross who has been a nice find for the fourth line then you are left with deciding between Torres and Moreau for that third line LW spot. Moreau has barely played in two seasons now and I think Raffi on that third line is the better option. He was the better option in '06 and he hasn't gotten worse defensively in the past two years that's for sure. He's durable, this season notwithstanding. He can chip in more offence. He can hurt people. But unless Lowe tries to have his cake and eat it too by keeping all three then Raffi is going to get dealt and Glencross will be on the third line by Halloween when Ethan goes down. Hard to trade your captain and harder to trade a guy who has barely played the last two seasons. Shame.

Joni and Rachel McAdams - Rachel has nothing to do with this except I like thinking about her because she's so pretty! Naw, the million dollar question this summer is what do they do with Joni. Before he was injured in 05/06 he was averaging over a point per game. A Dman, playing for Ken Hitchcock, so you know he wasn't a fucking tool, averaging over a point a game. Hitchcock told Brownlee that since his two injuries that year (knee and ankle) Pitkanen was never the same again. Now, here is a guy who is a minus two (eliminating the EN goals) this season, playing tough opposition, generally ~ 25 minutes a night, with some real jokers in front of him. The Oilers have some nice D and then they have Joni.

Now, Joni gets hurt a lot, to the tune of around twenty games this year and he's no Jason Smith in terms of his intensity. He is also the most impressive raw talent on this club.

So, can you give him a longterm deal at ~4 per, especially when you have big cash already tied up in Souray, Penner, Hemsky and soon to be (hopefully) Horcoff? That is a big gamble.

Or do you trade him and watch him become Larry Robinson?

Either way Lowe could look like a genius or a total fucking dummy. And you know what, I would say sign him and if you were to say to me 'NO WAY' I would be hard pressed to argue. Its a real bitch and it could make or break this franchise for years.


Anonymous said...

The thing i find hilarious these days is stuff like "soon to be (hopefully) horcoff?". Now i know that the smart guys in the oilogsphere all liked horcoff (im as big as a fan as they come and am still defending him to my buddies), i just find it funny where the attitude toward him has gone. The general attitude has been to sign him for 4 or 5 million per when a year ago the entire city was livid that the Oilers were "wasting" $3.6million a year on him.


Black Dog said...

Yeah doug - its funny how things have turned. I have always been a Horcoff fan (you can look it up :)!) but until this year I think those who believed in him were in the minority.

PDO said...

But but but he's not a true first line center!

Gord said...

I do not know why people find it so difficult to slot players into positions. There is a very simple formula...

1st line = tough scoring
2nd line = soft scoring
3rd line = shut down
4th line = crash & bash

Working backwards (positions are irrelevant),

4th line = Glencross / Stortini / Brodziak...
3rd line = Moreau / Pisani / ???
2nd line = Nilsson / Gagner / ???
1st line = Hemsky / Horcoff / ???

Those players "on those lines" could compete against (if not beat) equivalent lines across the league.

So it is a matter of filling in the missing pieces....

Penner is not a 1st line player in anyone's wildest dreams - since the investment has been made. he goes to the 2nd line...

Which means Cogliano is either 1st or 3rd line. My preference would be to have him play 3rd line but I suspect he will easily move to 1st line with a bit of experience...

You may have noticed Stoll & Reasoner are not slotted in - they are the worst +/- players on the team; they contribute nothing offensively; their defensive talents are easily replaceable...

Torres? I'm still not sure but his toughness is a figment of someone's imagination; his goal scoring is adequate; so if he stays, he plays 1st line while Cogliano gets experience on the 3rd line...

But what do I know....

Black Dog said...

Doug - I don't think Stoll is going anywhere. Having a bad year for sure but I would bet he stays.

And if he does then your thesis falls apart. Because then Cogliano stays on the second unless he bumps up to the first. One of the other kids may also switch with Penner but I think he stays on the first - they were happy with that line before Horc went down.

I would say Torres is a goner. I would prefer him to Moreau but I think that's the way it falls out.

grease trap said...

You dink.

You write so good I keep coming back for more.

Where's the more!?

What, you have to "earn money" or "spend time with the family"?

David S said...

"2nd line = Nilsson / Gagner / ???"

Huh? Its not often you see a line gel almost out of the box. But that kid line is frikkin' dynamite. Not to mention that the Crosstiniaks are working like buttah too. It might be a bit premature to slot the kids in at second bats, but I cannot see MacT breaking up something that so obviously works.

Penner doesn't (seem to) belong on the first line right now, but that's because Scorcoff isn't in the lineup. Like BD says, I seem to remember he was rounding into form just before Scorc went down.

So that leaves Moreau/Pisani/??? Man, training camp is gonna be a bitch next fall.

Bruce said...

Hitchcock told Brownlee that since his two injuries that year (knee and ankle) Pitkanen was never the same again.

Joni's major injury in '05-06 was a sports hernia that caused him to miss 22 games. Here's the before and after:

25 GP, 8-15-23, +18
33 GP, 5-18-23, +4

In fact, here's his career breakdown before and after:

96 GP, 16-34-50 +33
166 GP, 17-72-89, -26

His PPG look about the same, just over 0.5, but they were rising before the injury (.38 in '03-04, .92 in the first part of '05-06) and falling since (.70, .56, .41). And the +/- just fell off a cliff at a time in his career when most players are showing major improvements.

Before the hernia Joni looked like a can't-miss stud defenceman. I wish I could say the same thing today.

Black Dog said...

"He says Pitkanen hasn’t been the same player since he suffered knee and ankle injuries in 2005-06, a campaign in which the big Finn was tearing it up before he got injured and was limited to 58 games.

“Look at 2005-06,” Hitchcock said. “You’re going to see 46 points. What people don’t realize is he had 41 points in 40 games before he got hurt.

“He was over a point a game before he got hurt. He got injured, then he came back and got injured again. He went knee and then ankle… he has not been the same player since.

“He was a reckless, go-to-the-net guy. He was getting game-winners. He’s become a very careful player now."

Now that's a quote from Hitchcock so I guess Brownlee took what he said at face value just as I took what Brownlee said as well. But you are right Bruce - sports hernia. Followed by a groin pull that season which cost him a couple of games.

With his +/- I am not as worried in some ways. Last season he played for a truly terrible team and I was reading (and I may be corrected here) that they bumped up the level of competition he was facing last season. So tougher minutes plus a bad team plus he had an off year would add up.

This season I know he has had his moments but I think if you filter out the EN goals that he is just below even. Considering his minutes on this team I would take it.

Its his offensive production that is disappointing. He had terrific PP numbers a couple of years back but one wonders how much of that was Forsberg.

Just a kid though.

Can he bounce back to his earlier form?