Monday, November 03, 2008

The Sunny Side Of The Street

Four games left on the road trip and one win will mean the Oilers are out of this first stretch at .500.
Considering that other then Souray, Strudwick, Visnovsky, Staios, Roloson and Moreau (note the age of the guys who have had good starts) you could probably say that everybody struggled for a good part of this early part of the schedule I think the Oilers have done a pretty nice job this fall. A lot of folks, myself included, figured this to be an improved club but also figured that this early stretch might put them in a big early hole.
If you were to have told me that nine games in Gagner and Gilbert would have a point each and Brodziak none, that Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff and Cole had all struggled to varying degrees, especially at ES and that the goaltending would have been iffy, I would have guessed at four or five points instead of nine.
And here they are after a weekend sweep looking like things are beginning to come together. Its been a funny start. A four and oh beginning, possibly undeserved (although I thought that after the first four periods of the year that they were full value, excluding one period against the Flames), followed by a six game winless skid, likely also not reflective of a team that began to play better after the Chicago debacle.
Hemsky and Horcoff and Cole and even Penner are all guys who have been productive players long enough that we knew they were going to turn it around. In the same vein its funny to see how guys like Brodziak and Gagner have produced very little offensively and yet, by my eye, are both much better players then they were last year. Gagner and the other kids are moving things in the right direction, they just haven't got the results yet, and Brodziak misses Glencross and Stortini something awful yet also looks like an NHL player rather then a rookie.
As an aside, the Steve MacIntyre Experiment has been a weird one. Guy can't play a lick but he has made Stortini a forgotten man and reduced Brodziak, a fifteen goal man last year, to an offensive zero so far. And is it just me or have opposing teams taken far fewer liberties with the Oilers this season? I think so - of course Souray, Moreau and Strudwick being in the lineup has a lot to do with this as well, I think. Anyways he's been told to get a permanent place so apparently the Oilers believe in him. Its a nice story but an odd one.
Things that interest me going forward:
Pouliot or Brodziak remain the best options for that third line centre spot, imo, but who gets bumped to the fourth line? Moreau is the obvious choice but considering what he has brought to the table so far can you demote him? Cole and Pisani would be wasted down there and for that matter Penner as well. Perhaps Gagner back to the middle and move Cole or Pisani to that line and then play Cogliano with Moreau and the other veteran RW? Part of this year is about development and part is about winning, sure, but Pisani at centre still doesn't make sense to me. The first injury to a top nine forward will necessitate the change but until then things are a little out of whack up front.
Does Gilbert get a partner other then Grebeshkov for a while? The kid looks a little tentative out there - personally I think he's feeling a little pressure due to the contract - but he also needs a confidence boost. Would playing him with Souray or Smid make more sense? Grebeshkov, after a nice start, looks like he did a year ago. Gilbert is not without fault, by my eye he's trying to be too fine with the puck, but he's been better lately. Guy has a subtle game, he's not knocking guys around out there, and because he can handle the puck he's going to make noticeable mistakes moreso then the bank it off the glass and out guys. I think he'll be fine and I also think he hasn't been as bad as many have made him out to be. Anyways the pair has been iffy - I think splitting them up isn't a bad idea.
Smid looks like he's getting it together - lets see if he can cement a permanent spot in the lineup over the next dozen games.
Roloson has been great. Guy has a lot of pride. Its probably, after Moreau, the best story of the season so far. Why they are allowing JDD to rot in the PB, meanwhile, is beyond me. Run with the two veterans. With Garon and Roli as the tandem they have decent goaltending. JDD should not be taking starts from these guys if the Oilers are serious about making the playoffs. No slight to the kid - it makes absolutely no sense to carry three goalies is all.
The PK remains a sore spot as MacT tries to develop and win games at the same time. The weird thing to me is that Pouliot and Cogliano make more sense to me on the PK then Penner and Gagner. Oh well.
So here we are. Not an easy remainder to the road trip but then again the weekend games were against a couple of decent clubs as well. Good signs from the weekend although its interesting how things go. If Moreau doesn't beat Ward and they lose in a SO then maybe they squeeze the sticks a little tighter yesterday and they lose 4-1. Instead the goalie makes a mistake Saturday afternoon (where were those gaffes in June 2006 - fucker!) and they get a win and then the team relaxes a little and all of a sudden for a lot of guys things are looking up.
Funny thing, that.


Swabbubba said...

The Oilers played complete games this weekend they kept going. Did they get bounce well I think they did. Thought would bring this up Carolina's GM was on about headshots what would he classify what occurred in the game on Saturday?
Would JDD clear waivers I don't think so? So he sits I give it another month and that situation will be cleared up..
hmm any predictions/pools on George vs Mac

period and winner
2nd Mac in Takedown

aberesf said...

Why does Souray's helmet have a habs logo on it? It's been a while after all...

Black Dog said...

aberesf - pic is from training camp last year

Scott said...

I don't see how the JDD thing gets resolved. If they think he gets claimed through waivers now, nothing will change in a month. If they trade Roloson or Garon, the team is probably worse off for it. Just send the kid down. Honestly, if he gets taken, good for him, but he's no great shakes anyway.

The Special Teams, The Three-Headed Goalie, and Pisani at Center are, for me, the three things that are crying out for the coach to resolve. If Pisani is wasted on the fourth line, I don't know how to describe asking him to contribute this way. Put him on the fourth line and at least he'll be effective in his time. If Mac is in the line-up Pisani will provide a safety net, and then of course X-Pouliot-Pisani or X-Brodziak-Pisani should be able to get some great things done. Plus he'll get all his PK minutes. Most importantly, the team will be better.

Black Dog said...

scott - I think two of the three are pretty easy to fix

Send JDD down. I can't see anyone claiming him. Of course maybe they want Dubnyk to get the majority of starts in Springfield and don't care that JDD's wasting away in the PB. Pointless though I think.

The PP is the PP although MacT did talk today about Gilbert getting time on the first PP, noting that Lubo and Souray tend to get pretty stationary out there. Of course last year I thought in the the second half that was the difference in the PP - lots of player and puck movement. Certainly can't hurt and the reality is that the PP has been better then in the past, just not great.

As for the PK I think its a question of personnel. They have had a couple of games where they have gotten pounded there - I think sooner or later the Penner/Gagner experiments there will end.

Finally Pisani at centre - this is the toughest one mostly because you have to drop someone to the 4th line unless Cogliano gets the call to centre Moreau and Pisani and Gagner plays between Cole and Nilsson.

Thats reasonable but if Pouliot or Brodziak gets moved in there then you have to drop one of the top 9.

Pisani is too good a player to play fourth line minutes and Moreau, the logical choice you would think (I did) has also been adding to much to cut back his minutes.

So ... wait for an injury?? Its not working but MacT likes it better then the alternative I guess.

Scott said...

But is the team better with Pisani centering a terrible third line and getting his minutes or playing right wing on a fourth line that's driving possession and getting a few less minutes? To me, Pisani is not "too good" for the fourth line if the team will have the best results with him playing there. Heck, it can be used interchangeably with the third line. Play Moreau with Pisani-Pouliot and with Brodziak-Cole and whichever unit is looking better will get the bulk of the minutes.

Black Dog said...

scott - I think the best solution is to have him playing the wing and getting him the most minutes as possible

I defintitely see your point and lets face it, based on the last two years the fact that the Oilers have nine guys who can play in the top nine slots plus Brodziak and Pouliot is quite nice.

Two many RWs is the issue. And any lineup where Cole and Pisani are competing for bottom six minutes is not maximizing what this team can do.

Really I think they should bite the bullet and move Gagner to centre. I presume that is the longterm plan so may as well accelerate it.

Then move Cole to play with Gagner and Nilsson and have Cogliano centre Moreau and Pisani.

I think that spot is best made for Pouliot but Cogliano trumps him, I think.

The nice thing is that we are having this argument. Compared to the disaster that was last season's lineup, its a treat.

Doogie2K said...

Speaking of that photo, what the heck is Moreau wearing? That looks like part of a Kings logo.

Black Dog said...

I think that's part of his Hot Off victory package.

Or I have no idea.

its a great pic though.

Anonymous said...

Brodeur out - Roloson to NJ

raventalon40 said...

Making the playoffs simply means coming out of the regular season with more points than everyone else. Everyone knows that. But .500 isn't good enough on a 7 game road trip that is at the beginning of the year and it is following a 5 game road trip. We're 2-1 right now and if we lose in Pittsburgh we're 2-2. In order to keep up with other NW division opponents, we'll have to end up 5-2. All wins from now on in.

That means a gutsy game against Pittsburgh and fingers crossed.

Black Dog said...

raventalon40 - yeah this team isn't going five and two on this roadtrip

they are two points out of first and finishing up twelve of fifteen on the road - by the end of November they will have played nearly half of their road schedule

they are right where they need to be; I agree that every point is important but 5 and 2 isn't necessary for them to make the playoffs, they're in pretty good shape

Bruce said...

And is it just me or have opposing teams taken far fewer liberties with the Oilers this season?

BDHS: It's just you. Or maybe, you and MacT. Oilers have had no fewer than four defencemen get hurt this year, three of them on head shots of varying types (Bertuzzi on Souray, Tumour Ruutu on Grebeshkov, Torres on Smid). SMac was dressed in every one of those games, but nailed to the bench. The only guy who did anything about it was Moreau who challenged Ruutu, and for that we got a 17-minute penalty in addition to losing one of our players for the rest of the game and ever since. Seems like we finish every second game with five defencemen and struggle to get any continuity going on the back end. That's "far fewer liberties"? I don't think so.

Meanwhile our whole fourth line is doing sweet bugger all. Brodziak can't get going and Pouliot responds well to elevated ice time but disappears on the fourth line. Those guys aren't good enough to carry a boat anchor around and be effective. And between occaiosnal shifts with SMac, occasional shifts with doubleshifting various other guys, and many shifts where they just sit and wait, they can't get any continuity going either.

Too bad, last year our fourth line was one of the team's strengths, and spent a lot of its time softening up the other team's defencemen. That's been something of a lost art in 2008-09.

Black Dog said...

Zach, is that you? ;)

I don't know Bruce I thought that shot on Smid was more of an accident then a deliberate headshot and Souray I think is the last guy who needs help taking care of himself.

The games I've seen there seems to be less crap going on with Hemsky and the kids but like you said maybe that's me. I've been wrong before.

I did like MacIntyre working over Nash last night, that gave me a boner I must say.

You'll get no argument from me on Stortini's abilities compared to MacIntyre. Other then the Calgary hit I have not seen much from MacIntyre of any value.

I would say that not only the coach but the players would disagree with you though, my friend.

Not saying that makes it right but hockey players are a weird tribe.

Plus I take it back, I'm never wrong.


Bruce said...

BDHS: A couple times recently I wrote how Stortini >>> Godard,whereas MacIntyre = Godard.

On the new evidence, let me rephrase that: MacIntyre < Godard.