Monday, December 14, 2009

See the blazing Yule before us

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Five ... Straight ... Road ...Wins ........ Four Pints of Beer, Three Frenchmen, Two Sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Five straight wins on the road for the Oilers. A franchise record. Huh?

Hard to believe either of those statements.

In some circles this little streak is being looked at with suspicion but here is what we have so far since San Jose. Forget about the Vancouver game.

The Oilers outchanced the Sharks and the Wings by a wide margin, the Stars slightly.

Outchanced by Florida, although even at evens. Chances even with Tampa, although outchanced at evens.

And then badly outplayed by St.Louis for half of the game before they turned it around.

So the results have been great, obviously, and while they have not been full value for their wins, much like their early season run, they're also not getting run out of the rink and winning games due to sixty save performances. So its the same sort of deal, I think. I saw nearly every game at the beginning of the year and by my eye they may have been getting outshot but I really didn't see them as getting outplayed. Just my opinion. And in this little run its been more of the same, other than St. Lou the chances have pretty well been even or in the Oilers' favour.

In any case its been enjoyable especially when it looked for a while like we might be in for an extended death march to the lottery. As usual its good news bad news, despite this run they are still only tenth in the conference, three points from fifteenth in the conference, five points from twenty ninth in the league. The truth about this team lies in between this hot run and the great start and the disaster in between the two but with Horcoff apparently on the mend rather than facing surgery, Deslauriers providing decent goaltending and the Penner line still carrying the load offensively it seems that doom and gloom may not be right around the corner.

Of course it would still be nice if this club had a little more depth up front. Interesting to see if Stone gets a turn on Horcoff's wing and if O'Sullivan were to show up one of these days that might be a help too. The forwards still look a little bit too much like they are being held together with twine and chewing gum for my taste. A LW for Horcoff would be nice and one thinks that if the Penner line can keep its pace then we are looking at that line as a soft minutes killer next year and Horcoff and Hemsky with a solid LW handling the toughs. We know the Oilers have enough solid players to fill out a nice fourth line to murder the other team's dregs and all that leaves is another line to handle some tough sledding. Easy enough, right? Well maybe not.

A couple of things to close. Its still a small sample size but I think its apparent that Stone is an actual NHLer, as we say, and Brule, at the very least, is a guy who can do some damage to the soft minutes. The kid can shoot the puck. Gagner continues to progress, despite the hiccups, and this is another positive. Finally with Grebs returning soon one has to like the look of the blue, especially now that Gilbert looks much better since he has been paired with Souray. And Deslauriers at least looks like a guy who is a viable NHL backup.

And Nilsson seems to be on a roll, again. We will see if its another one of his teases. And of course Stortini needs to be mentioned when we are talking about the positives.

Finally Shawn Horcoff with three game winners in this stretch, two in the shootout of course, and as a big fan of a guy who has played most of the year hurt I have to say it warms the cockles to see him get some success. Horcoff is a guy who has earned his position on this club through plain old hard work but fans have never taken to him really and its too bad. Here's hoping that he gets on a roll although with those linemates its surely going to be a difficult task.

Unfortunately it seems that Cogliano has become the forgotten man and, as mentioned, O'Sullivan is a bit of a disaster right now. And Moreau still looks like he is pretty much done. So its not all rosy.

It sure would be nice to see a little more quality up front but we've been beating that horse until its not only dead but nothing more than a rusty hint of a smear on the road. What the hell can you do?

I'm enjoying this latest run, I must say, but I do want to say one more thing as folks are suddenly coming out of the woodwork pointing fingers at the people who have doubted this club and still doubt it. I've been a part of the Oilogosphere pretty much since the beginning and guys like Ty Dellow and Vic and Dennis and RiversQ predate me. These guys are often criticized for being too negative but what a lot of newer arrivals to the sphere fail to realize is that these guys call them as they see them. In 05/06 these guys proclaimed quite loudly that the Oilers were actually far better than their results (check the posts, its true) and while many of us were gnashing our teeth at the club's situation that spring these guys were quick to point out that given good goaltending this team would be a contender. They were right and they have been right since then when they have pointed out that management's failures have made for a flawed team year after year.

Now these guys don't need me to defend them, that's for sure, but I've read comments lately which have basically mocked them for their pronouncements about this club based on this latest run. First and foremost these guys are fans and if the Oilers do go against the grain then I think they'd be pretty damn happy about it. Having said that they've been right about this team four seasons out of four since I've been part of this scene; their observations are far more astute than any I have read from any other sources regarding the Oilers.

Anyhow we will see how things work out over the next little while, it appears that some of the kids are coming along up front, which is terrific stuff, and certainly the club plays an entertaining brand of hockey and seems to have very little quit in it, all positives to be sure. Can't really cheer for the team to lose but I still have very little faith in management so in this case its a bit of a catch 22. Dennis remarked the other day how much better this club would look with a couple more veterans up front and he's right of course. My biggest fear is that come February Tambellini will sacrifice Cogliano and some other kids for a quick fix to try and eke out eighth place.


hunter1909 said...

Those 14 pints took 12 hours...starting at noon in all day then out at closing time around midnight...

I basically left the same way I'd come in...having drunk myself sober.

Oilers look decent to excellent says this idiot who predicted a 6th place finish...Quinn motivates like Santa Claus with 4 year olds, while Renney burns the lamp actually doing the work.

The players are starting to look like they actually get assignments, instead of those idiotic MacT "systems".

Dennis said...

14 pints in 12 hours, Hunter? I wouldn't even talk about a rate that slow;)

Pat: I believe that had we a real third line pivot and a healthy 34 that 32 would be an absolute revelation as a LW on the secondary tough min line.

Also, I've pretty much thrown up my hands with 19. I've got a pretty big anecdotal sample size to draw from now and I don't like what I see in the least.

The kid has zero touch and a paltry shooting pct that's been earned over hundreds of games backs that up.

macaotim said...

If "The Wall" is out, what then? Do we ride the two young'uns in net? Make a trade? Play with 3 forwards and 3 defense all game? This is a huge question in my mind. Even if he gets healthy, the goalie "thing", for lack of a better descriptor still needs to be looked at. If we make a trade, that could put on hold that move for a winger with Horc???

I am worried...

Black Dog said...

Tim - the good news is that there are plenty of goalies out there, the Isles have three for example

So the Oilers could likely get one for pretty cheap, of course they could have done the same last summer so ...

They are in a bit of trouble though. Is it a development year? If so then ride the two kids. Both will have to clear waivers next year so may as well find out what you've got.

Or do you try and eke out a playoff spot by giving up a pick or prospect for someone more proven? JDD has done well lately but is he the guy to pin your playoff hopes on?

Its a mess.

Black Dog said...

Dennis - apparently 32 and 12 are going to get a shot with Horcoff now, if the lines in practice mean anything.

We'll see if Stone can handle tougher minutes and if Nilsson has any sustain (again).

Not a bad idea to drop JFJ, I like him in the lineup but Stone is an obvious upgrade offensively.

As for O'Sullivan, he looked fine early on but hasn't done a damn thing in so long except for the Detroit game. Hard to say what is going on with that kid.