Monday, December 8, 2008

And we're happy again

Ok the title is a bit sarcastic but its amazing how things change so fast. I haven't heard anyone campaigning to fire MacT in about 3 days now. In fact, after proving everyone wrong putting Kyle Brodziak on in the OT powerplay, MacT has (IMO deservedly) muzzled the critics. About 10 days ago, I posted on how the Oilers were to shambles. I would be remise not to acknowledge that the Oilers have noticeably turned it around. Whats interesting is the factor I mentioned as the number one contributor to the struggles (the extra pressure on the team - particularly Nilsson and Gagner) hasnt actually been fixed. Due to injuries, its the play of the callups and the improved play of the #1 line that has calmed the storm. So kudos to MacT, Penner and Horcoff for recent strong performances as well as Hemsky (as always) and the callups Schremp and Brule. Reddox I'm still not convinced of yet but our PK has been better of late.

Looking back to some of my opinions at the beginning of the year, I believed that if the Oilers were to make the playoffs they would need to have a strong home record and a top 10 powerplay. With a healthy Souray and Visnovsky I was actually hoping top 5. The PP is looking much better with Penner on the #1 unit. Penners PP numbers are outstanding and if he is kept there I'd assume the Oilers PP numbers get better. As for the home record, its not strong but its a small sample set - the Oilers schedule has been horrendous so far. But the Oilers survived reasonably well and are in position to take advantage of an easier schedule. Looking forward, my guess is that the Oilers are going to be at least 8 games over 500 to make the playoffs (assuming 500 road hockey from here on in).

Games thus far: 26 games, 28 points
Games remaining:
Road 10-10-3 = 23 points
Home 19-11-3 = 41 points

92 points is about the minimum number to get in. As long as I can remember being an Oiler fan, they haven't been a team that has been able to capitalize on a stretch of games where you expect them to succeed. Right when you think the Oilers have turned a corner they have stumbled. Is this the year things change? One can only hope...

Would ya? TSN is reporting that Chris Gratton has been placed on waivers. At the beginning of the season, I thought he'd be the perfect fit for our 4th line adding an element of toughness sorely needed. This year his numbers are struggling. His GFON/60 (1.24) is about half his GAON/60 (2.47) which is a concern (source behindthenet). But as Jonathan Willis points out he is been given hard minutes and often starts in his own zone (beat me to it again!). Gratton also performs well on the PK - an area of need for the Oilers. Worth a risk? At 1.25 million I dont see a huge risk. We've all seen how Sergei Samsonov can play on a contract year ;)


Hands McDangles said...

If we need to finish 19-11 at home just to have a shot at making the playoffs then I don't like our chances. The only positive is that we can't play much worse than we are right now so if a few of the guys (gagne, Nilson, Penner) can turn things around we might be able to pull it off. I don't know who is to blame for our lack of anything so far this year but I have never seen the Oilers play this kind of unispired hockey in a long time.

As for Gratton...PASS. He is just another 4th line player on a team full of 4th line players.

Sean said...

If Roloson keeps it up and the #1 line continues its roll, the playoffs should be within reach. 19-11 is a stretch given how bad we've been at home though.

Your bang on about Gagner and Nilsson. With all the home games coming up MacT should be able to utilize last change, get them some soft minutes and hopefully they can respond. If anything the play of Brule and Schremp should light a spark under them.