Thursday, January 13, 2011
Well the Oilers have passed the halfway point and for the fifth straight year they are going to miss the playoffs and for the second straight year they are heading to the lottery.
Not yet Isle Country but really at this point, as I've said before, this franchise is like Carthage or Austria or some faded high school football player pumping gas at the Piggly Wiggly. Oooh, remember when we were great? Oooh remember before we got fat? Before we were all hauled off into slavery and our city burned to the ground.
The one positive about this year is that there are many positives. The kids have been very good. So have some of the veterans. The problem is that the good players on this team are far and few beteeen and are for the most part, very young. And the bad players are very very bad. Not much in between.
Grades. Take them for what they are worth.
A Ryan Whitney - The trade for Lubo was debated at the time but Whitney was the MVP of this club the first half of the season. Leading scorer, a +13 on this shitshow, eating up major minutes and, like Penner, a guy who makes pretty well anyone look good. A lot of this had to do with good health and we can only hope that this latest injury is more of a freak thing than part of a trend. Best player this season, the team has gone south (even more so) with him out of the lineup.
A Taylor Hall - Hall looked the least ready of the kids when the season started and struggled for a bit and now he's one of the Oilers' best forwards. Outchances the other club regularly as a rookie which is absolutely ridiculous, even more so when he and Eberle were playing the toughs on many nights with Horcoff. A dynamic and enthusiastic player who is a joy to watch. Absolutely the real deal.
A Jordan Eberle - the one kid who has surprised more than any other, there were questions about Eberle due to his size and skating but he has delivered. The biggest and best surprise has been his awareness in the defensive zone and his ability to win puck battles, two skills sorely lacking on this club for years.
A Shawn Horcoff - yes yes the contract but Horcoff has delivered exactly what this club needed, shepherding the two kids, acting as the defensive safety for them, acting the teacher. And a terrific captain, articulate and responsible. As usual injuries a concern even though this one was freakish
A Theo Peckham - I know, a lot of high marks but what the hell can I say? Seriously though Ted Peckman has far exceeded expectations. He has given the Oilers some seriously needed attitude but more important is the fact that he can play. As he gains confidence I expect that we will see a little more offence as well.
A- Dustin Penner - the big man just keeps on chugging along. He is the rising tide that floats all boats, not just Zona's anymore, and when Hemsky went down he played with a little more purpose than usual. Has played angry a little more this year, wish he would do so even more. The Oilers really need to sign him and if they cannot sign him then they need a great return because he brings a lot to the table.
B+ Ales Hemsky - Nearly a point a game again for Hemsky who has shown his usual flash and dash and has won a few games for the Oilers with his offensive outbursts. The odd offnight but he is a complete player and thus I (and you) should live with the flaws, the turnovers particularly. He competes hard, goes to the shitty areas and is good defensively. Rumour says he wants to stay at a reasonable rate. Even with the injury concern they cannot let him go, imo. A gamebreaker on top of everything.
B+ Devan Dubnyk - the youngster has established himself at the very least as a quality backup, what they really need to do is give him more work, its ridiculous that he sits much this season. He has cut down on the soft goals by a ton. A homegrown goaltender, who would have guessed?
B Ryan Jones - going for the Cy Young with 10 and 3. Riding the percentages a lot but ten goals is still pretty damn good for a guy they got for nobody who quite often plays with nobody. Problem for Jones is he doesn't drive the play the right way like Glencross did, he doesn't hit, he's not great in his own zone. He's Ryan Potulny with some luck. Just my opinion and I know I know buddy has scored a bunch, its hard to ignore it. The fear of course is that they sign him to a deal and he ends up like Brule, Nilsson, O'Sullivan. If they can get him for reasonable coin I think they keep him, if not I think they can get a nice return. Good for the kid either way. Looks like he has a career.
B Sam Gagner - Gagner remains a work in progress, slow but steadily improving. He's no superstar but he's on pace for over fifty points and his play away from the puck continues to improve. Only 21 and I know folks say well what about Kane and Stamkos and so on but those guys aren't human. Sam is a player and he's going to be a good one.
B- Tom Gilbert - he'll never be a favourite because he's not a thumper but Gilbert remains a decent top four defenceman. He started well and then went absolutely south when paired with Jason Strudwick's evil alter ego The Defenceman. Everything fell apart, most of all his confidence, but since being paired with an actual NHL defenceman he has returned to being himself. Quietly solid, moves the puck, using smart positioning to play quality D.
B- Magnus Paajarvi - I figured the Swede for the best of the rookie bunch. He's struggled somewhat and could use a boost with some real linemates. Playing with Cogliano and Brule was a disaster with Paajarvi being the only guy of the three who can play hockey at the professional level. He's going to be fine but playing opposite of Penner or Hemsky would be a nice boost for the confidence of the kid who sometimes just seems to be hanging in there. No disgrace in that though and he's another who is going to be a player. Love his enthusiasm.
C+ Linus Omark - I have the callups as a collective but I have separated Omark as he is the most interesting and the best of the bunch. Still needs to learn the finer parts of the defensive game but this kid has flair and, unlike Nilsson, brings it on a regular basis. Also not afraid to get his nose dirty and wins puck battles like crazy. I think he can be a top nine forward in this league and that he can be a fairly good one at that.
C Zack Stortini - its not Stortini's fault that Renney wants him to cut those sideburns. There's no answer really. Renney says Stortini is not all that quick but he's by far the best of the scrubs. He does his job night in and night out. He's ten times the player that either Jacques or MacIntyre are. Yet he sits. Stortini may not be a guy who could even play for a contender but we're soon going to find out and all the best to a guy who has busted his ass to become a player.
C Ladislav Smid - he is STILL developing although he may never be better than a decent third pairing guy, loathe to give up on young defenceman but he has been passed by Peckham and possibly Petry is next to go by him. As long as he is cheap and young then he'll stick around but it appears that what we see is what we get.
D Jim Vandermeer - we knew we weren't getting much but we expected some toughness at least, a guy who would make other teams pay the price, a poor man's Jason Smith. Its not happening. Had a nice run playing with Whitney but who doesn't. Seems to think he is Bobby Orr at times, unfortunately skates like Frank Orr
D Andrew Cogliano - he tries, God knows he tries, but he has four goals and has no clue in his own zone still after all of this time.
D Nikolai Khabibulin - I thought about an F but he has kept them in a few games and helped them win a few more. Overall though he has been a massive disappointment, at least Souray generally played well when he was not hurt.
F Kurtis Foster - He has overcome a lot of difficulty in his personal life, including unthinkable tragedy, but he's been awfully poor.
F Gilbert Brule - an absolute nothing out there
F Colin Fraser - the gamble was worthwhile, I still believe that, but he brings nothing to the table at all
F JF Jacques - one of the worst hockey players in Oilers history - does nothing well at all except being big and fast
F Steve MacIntyre - good for him for getting time in the NHL but he cannot play a whit and the fact that other teams still do as they please with the Oilers show that his deterrence factor is zero
F Jason Strudwick - his good alter ego, The Chaperone, is far outweighed by hie evil one, The Defenceman - great guy, I guess, but the fact that they are now calling up kids and Strudwick remains in the PB says all you need to know. Our long nightmare is almost over.
B the callups - I have these guys as a collective because many of them have only had a cup of coffee, there is a depth at the pro level now and it should be recognized, besides Omark, Gerber and Petry have come up and made positive contributions and you could throw Reddox in there too. O'Marra and Belle were up and down but neither was fodder (O'Marra actually ended up even after nine games)
B Tom Renney - its easy to criticize the coach but Tom Renney has been dealt a shitty hand and yet he still is doing alright with it. He should be commended for the good work the kids are doing, some of that is talent of course but he's the guy who is teaching them. He also has gotten a lot out of many veterans. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit but overall he's gotten decent results. Of course the PK is a sore spot and it seems they have gone back to a more conventional setup which has helped. I'd prefer he played Dubnyk more although that could be from above. And he's cost the club by having the fourth line out at key times. Overall though I like him and would like to see how he does with a better club under him.
A/F - Management - who knows who is running the show. They get an A for amateur scouting and for improving the minor pro system and for tanking really well - I presume that is the goal here and they have done a bangup job of putting a terrible team on the ice. An F for putting a terrible team on the ice for five straight years, for still sending mixed signals (trying to sign Malholtra but doing nothing else with the bottom six when that fell through), for still employing Patrick LaForge
BTW, just came upon this on Twitter, the genius that is Mike Winters (and it is mildly NSFW because of some wang action).
Posted by Black Dog at 1:00 PM