Monday, April 07, 2008

Go Deep! Scrubicide!

Having a great fourth line and a solid batch of scrubs isn't going to win you the Stanley Cup if you don't have topnotch frontline players but it can help you win a lot of games in a lot of ways. Let me count the ways:

- outscoring the opposition's scrubs

- holding their own against top opposition when they get stuck out there in that situation

- setting the tone for the rest of the squad

- having players who can kill penalties

- having players who can step in and do a decent job if they have to move up the depth chart

Now a lot of this is pretty general shit but the value of a quality set of players at the bottom end of your roster became pretty clear in the past couple of months, right down to the second last game when Curtis Glencross scored two goals as the Oilers tried to eke out that last playoff spot.

Glencross scored fifteen on the year, Brodziak had fourteen. Along with Stortini it seemed that when they were on the ice it was tilted in the Oilers' favour. This wasn't the Great Winchester Trip of last season when Brad scored three in four games or whatever it was and then disappeared for the rest of the season. These guys did a great job once Glencross came over from Ohio.

The one thing the Oilers have had going for them over the last decade is a nice bottom six. Marchant, Moreau, Grier, Pisani, Rem Murray, LeGG, Cleary, Horcoff ...

Going into the next few years the Oilers look like they may be heading back to that model - having a bottom six which makes the opposition's life miserable while chipping in on offence.

Think it doesn't matter? Ask Matt at Battle of Alberta. Ask any Canucks' fan, if there are any left after that disgraceful performance last week (talk about a team with no heart). When you have very little coming out of half of your forwards you're going to have a tough time.

It loos like the top six for next year is set up front. The fact that two former second liners may be battling for icetime in the bottom six speaks to an improved roster and improved prospects for this club. It looks like Torres may be gone and maybe Stoll as well but for now those two, Pisani, Moreau, Glencross, Brodziak, Stortini, Pouliot and Reasoner are all in the mix. The math says one of these guys is gone for sure, maybe two.

Put it this way. If Marty and Stortini are the guys coming out of the bullpen that's a nice bottom six, presuming Moreau stays healthy. If Stoll stays and bounces back, things are looking damn good.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come on, if you fools can watch and support the losing Oilers for 15 years, why would us mighty Canuck fans walk away. Hiccups happen, and Vancouver will contend for the Div again next year. We are 2 top 6 forwards away from being a heavy favorite for Stanley again.

Black Dog said...

Only two, anon? ;)

Your team has Luongo, an enviable D corps and a Tin Man forwards corps, for the most part.

That is what would be galling to me, not the fact that they lost, but how they lost.

Vic Ferrari said...

Nice post Pat.

And that hot streak by the fourth line last season was built on a Marioesque shooting percentage. Surely even Winchester & Co.'s family didn't think that had sustain.

Good underlying numbers just seem to follow this Glencross guy around. By memory he trailed only Fedorov, Nash and Zherdev at the shots-directed-at-net measure when he was in CBJ, and I make him playing much tougher minutes there than BTN does. The puck just ends up in the right end of the rink a lot when he's out there, at some point it stops just being luck.

Now a lot of pucks were going in for them too, and sensible people everywhere are reticent about wagering that this trio will continue to kick the ever living shit out of Joe Sakic's career high shooting percentage. Still, a lot of good signs going forward.

You picked a good example in the Nucks as well. It did look like the puck went the right way for the Oilers whenever their bottom six were out there. And the underlying numbers for that group must be awful ...

At a quick glance the Sedins and Naslund all have Corsi's way in the black, triple digits. And finish in the offensive end of the rink a lot.

Luongo has brutal numbers in this regard, pushing -200 corsi and way more shifts starting close to him.

So most of that badness must be coming from the bottom six. And that's a LOT of badness. Nonis has a lot of changes to make, methinks.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Vic. The Glencross addition was a nice one; I guess the fact that he is UFA made him such a cheap acquisition - hopefully Lowe can get him signed. Speaking of the BJ connection Mirtle has a nice post on defensive Dmen that gives a lot of love to you know who.

Maybe Howson felt he owed Lowe?

I know in a lot of cases having a good fourth line doesn't mean so much - both Anaheim and Carolina pretty well rode nine forwards. Of course both of those teams were pretty lucky when it came to injuries up front and Carolina's fourth liners did do a lot of PK iirc.

What I remember from the Oilers' run is a lot of times where the fourth line was either on the bench or pinned in their end. A lot of icings. A lot of scoring chances for the bad guys. Penalties against.

The offence is a nice bonus but the fact that these guys tilted the ice for the most part is terrific. Drew a lot of penalties too.

A guy who was a nice addition here in Toronto was Domenic Moore. Smart player, very fast. Could not tell you the numbers but when he joined the Leafs he added something to that bottom six that made them far more effective imo. He's the type of guy who would look good on Vancouver's fourth line. Or anyone's for that matter.

doritogrande said...

"We are 2 top 6 forwards away from being a heavy favorite for Stanley again."

Well let's see, unless you count the Sedins as 4 players, you're still two top-6ers short. Kesler's got a shot at being 2-line material if he pulls off another 20-goal season, but at this point I'm skeptical of putting he, Pyatt and Raymond into top-6 calibre players. Sure they can play the top-6 minutes, but that doesn't mean that they should be considered 2nd liners in terms of talent.

And just so you don't think I'm raping the Canucks forwards with words, I only count 2 top 6ers on the Oilers. Penner and the kids aren't there yet in my books even though they're playing in the top-6.

Loxy said...

Hot pic.

Anonymous said...

Doritogrande

Fair enough, I was countin Naslund and Morrison along with the Sedins. We will probably lose Naslund, but i'm hopin (fingers crossed) that Nonis adds a Hossa or someone along those lines. Morrison is stayin I think, as his value is waydown due to this season. He is still though a good reliable 55-56 point guy, and definetely top 6 material.
As for the Oilers, nice to see that not everyone is automatically pencilling Gagner and Cogs as top 6 players cause of this season. Gagner should be it, and Cogliano will always hover around the line, but time will only tell.
My reason for sayin the bottom 6 is not that bad, is cause Burrows, Kesler, Pyatt are probably 3rd liners next year, and to me, thats a deep 3rd.
4th is crap, but thats why they barely play :)