Monday, November 03, 2008
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.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:57 PM