Friday, November 28, 2008

Crazy Town

I wrote just recently about how the Oilers were approaching random. Now it seems they're approaching rock bottom and Oilerville is in chaos. A core of fans frustrated with their team (ie Staples and OilersNation). Now there appears to be players who think changing the coach might be the kind of change the Oilers need (Sportsnet, MC79hocky and Lowetide*).

Not good no matter how you spin it. Getting out chanced by the LA Kings - a team who played the night before - by a 2 to 1 margin at home is brutal. No one on the Oilers is creating offense unless Ales Hemsky is on the ice. Three lines are having yard sales in their own end of the ice and the team is seemingly getting worse. The goaltending has been good, the defense has been fine but the offense has been almost non-existent. MacT has taken some serious heat of late and lots of it is justified - coming from a MacBooster. The PK and PP need to be better and IMO that is coachable. The PP being a perpetual sore spot for the Oilers under MacT's leadership.

Last year MacT had no problems coaching these skilled players. This year, Nilsson and Gagner in particular, look lost on the ice and completely lack confidence. IMO, however, the lack of confidence is a side-effect of not winning. So then, what changed?

1) The return of the veterans Horcoff, Sourray, Moreau

Without knowing the locker room that well, this one is possibly a big one. When Horcoff and Sourray left the Oilers they were hovering near a lottery pick and it was the kids who carried the load to a near playoff finish. I'm not saying but its possible that the veterans coming back and trying to run the show after the success the Oilers had last season could have rubbed some players the wrong way. For years the Oilers have been a grind it out type team and since 2007 have transitioned (rather quickly) into a smaller skilled team. I follow the Canucks and Flames closely being rivals in the NW and have read/heard that in Vancouver the departure of Linden, Naslund and Morrison has allowed the younger leaders to emerge (those pricks Kesler and Borrows to name a few). A captain should reflect the type of game a team is going to play. Looking at Calgary you see a hard working team led by the best power forward in the game - Jarome Iginla. Getting a grinder (Moreau) to lead a now skilled team might be two ships heading the wrong direction - or a tug-a-war awaiting a victor. I may be being hard on Moreau here because his game has been great and if anything the Oilers need more competitiveness and grit but results speak.

2) The additions of Cole and Visnovsky.

Cole has struggled, Visnovsky has been great. These guys are new guys and I dont see their impact being huge. Cole from what I've read is a character guy but he's obviously frustrated so I don't know how he is dealing with it. I'll reserve judgement.

3) No Curtis Glenncross

Seeing his success in Calgary is the answer to some of our question that GX is not Scott Fraser. The Oilers IMO chose Moreau and Nilsson over Glencross and that still might be a good bet but the elements he brings are sorely missed (not to mention his 14 pts).

4) Adversity and pressure

The kids never faced any of this last season and its a learning experience for them. Last years success was surprising and the fans rode it but it hasnt followed them around so far this year. Bruce wrote and interesting post on the '80-81 Oilers and their struggles as a young team. Obviously Gagner isnt Gretzky but the comparison is a good one. If MacT goes, he is a victim of a similar scenario (or maybe its just time).

Of the factors, I think #4 has the biggest impact followed by #1. The Oilers are finding their identity. I personally think that Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson are going to need to get their games back in a hurry. The alternative to them is scraping the league for grinders and IMO regressing from last years success. But its about winning games right now - the coaches job is dependent on it.

* Seriously Lowetide, 300 comments overnight! That's too much, get a comment rating system or something.


till_horcoff_is_coach said...

Last year MacT had no problems coaching these skilled players. This year, Nilsson and Gagner in particular, look lost on the ice and completely lack confidence. IMO, however, the lack of confidence is a side-effect of not winning. So then, what changed?

I have a completely different view of last year's success. The team was languishing badly in the standings and at that point I though MacT stopped coaching to win and instead let the team run wild. At this point we saw the kids line grow in creativity and confidence. So he let them run wild till the season finished but this year he came back with a mindset to win.

We weren't winning games last year 2-1, we were winning 6-5. The way they are playing this year is not that same style.

The problem as I see it was that the skill was succeeding when MacT didn't coach. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a top-level coach. I just think he relies too strongly on every player being an all-around utility player.

Pisani center, Smid forward, Gagner PK, Penner 3rd line and PK, Pouliot wing. IMO he pushes all these players to be more like he was as a player, instead of using them best for what they have demonstrated so far.

MJT said...

My exact thought while watching the LA game was "this team lacks an identity, and I wonder if the return of all the vets has anything to do with that." It's like you wrote out my own thoughts for me.

Sean said...

THIC - Sorry late response I've been at a wedding all weekend. Most of my opinion on this is based on this article. I think MacT can coach kids but it was alot easier last season. And I agree 100% on playing players in positions where they succeed. Its been a mistake by MacT so far this season IMO. But at the same time, after losing 2 of his most dependable forwards, he needed to know who he could rely on in similar situations.