Friday, December 26, 2008

Edmonton Oilers Wishlist

For a couple weeks now, I've been wanting to make a positive post about the Oilers but have been stymied by numerous bad games - most notably the 9-2 loss to Chicago. As the numbers suggest the Oilers are actually a much better team than in the previous 2 years and to my eye have improved since the beginning of this season. The Oilers should be a playoff team. They are getting solid goaltending and have 3 quality players to lean on Ales Hemsky, Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky. At the level these 3 players are at right now the Oilers field a lineup that can compete. Unfortunately thus far they have been plagued by inconsistency and a horrible penalty kill. A contender they are not but this team is an OK team and with a couple steps in the right direction should see the post season. Here's my 2008 Oilers wish list:

1) The real Eric Cole - We haven't seen this guy play well enough this year but the Eric Cole that played against the Ducks last week was a beauty. At this level he is a difference maker and would give the Oilers some secondary scoring that they desperately lack. Being a contract year, we actually might see it.
2) The real Sam Gagner - It wasn't that long ago comparing Sam Gagner to Patrick Kane was reasonable. After a very strong second half of last year he has tailed off this year. His game is improving but it isn't showing up on the stats sheet (yet). If he could somehow finish the year like he did last year this would be another big benefit to the Oilers chances of making the show.
3) A veteran centre who wins faceoffs and can kill penalties - This player would come at the expense of 78, 12 or 51. The return of Pisani and some improved execution on the PK would yield better results. But Fernando is a couple weeks away. I'm not positive that one player is going to make a difference on the PK otherwise this would be #1 on the wish list.
4) An injury to Ethan Moreau - I think after 2 years, his game has declined significantly and he is taking way too many DUMB penalties for a team that is bottom 3 in the league on the PK. He still plays the pre-lockout game and hasn't adjusted properly. He is also leading as a grind it out type player while the Oilers are better suited playing a Chicago type game. An injury is the only way I see a changing of the leadership and its a dickhead way to say I'd like to see a new leader.
5) A veteran with size - This team is still too soft and going forward I believe the Oilers are going to need to deal at least one of 89, 13, 12 and 88. I'm impartial to who we deal because the return should reflect the value of the player leaving. Although I wouldn't be trading 89 unless the return was incredible.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chiming In On The New Lines

As reported by Jason Gregor on OilersNation, the lineups for tonight's game have been MacBlendered again. After the last 2 games, I'd say change is necessary but the combinations don't jive for me. Here are the lines:

Nilsson - Cogliano - Hemsky
Pouliot - Horcoff - Cole
Moreau - Gagner - Penner
Strudwick - Brodziak - Stortini

I am skeptical for splitting up 27-10-83 but the Oilers desperately need offense from more than one line so I'll buy it - at least for a game or 2. I also don't like moving Penner off the LW where he has been much more successful.


Now, halfway through this post, Gregor has just reported a new set of lines that I prefer alot more because Penner is back where he belongs.

Nilsson - Cogliano - Hemsky
Penner - Horcoff - Cole
Moreau - Gagner - Pouliot
Strudwick - Brodziak - Stortini


- With all the home games coming up, I like the idea of putting out a line 12-13-83 that should be able to dominate in the soft minutes. Cogliano and Nilsson (in particular) need to get going and no better way then to put them with the only guy on the team that the offense follows.
- 27-10-27 should be able to dominate. If Cole can't get it going on this line, I dont know how he will because he has already proven he cant play LW with Hemsky.
- I dont see the 3rd line working. 2 skill guys with a guy who doesnt do anything but crash and bang anymore. If anything, playing with Morreau should bring some competitiveness to the line. Gagner thinks the game at a high level and this year hasnt shown the same ability. Perhaps playing with Morreau will simplify his game and yeild some offense. I'd still rather see Moreau on the 4th line and either Schremp or Brule given a shot on LW.
- Lowetide posted about how its good for Pouliot to get a shot with some quality linemates. I still see the revised line combination's as a good chance for Pouliot to show himself. Playing with the captain and the future, a couple good showings would really bode well for his future. After being bullish on Pouliot before he shit the bed playing with Morreau and Cole I'm not expecting as much. However, Pouliot has again been better in the last 5 games.

Playing 9 of their next 11 at home is a good time to take advantage of last change. At the same time, its not the time to be wasting games experimenting. The Oilers have fallen a bit behind here and need to capitalize at home in order to have a chance at the dance. Go Oilers!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Return of the suck

Only the current edition of the Edmonton Oilers could back up their best game of the season with their worst one. In response to last nights performance the Oilers released an apology DVD. Here is the cover.

I didn't watch the game (well I watched from 3-1 to 5-1 and tuned out) so I wont comment. But I don't see why MacT would proclaim the game against Vancouver the best of the season and then change the lineup. I'm also waiting for a momentum building shift from Ethan Morreau who hasn't been a factor enough of late for my liking. Fortunately the Oilers play tonight and have a chance at redemption. Two pissed off teams so it should be a gooder.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oilers beat Canucks

I went to the game last night, only my 3rd of the season and it was definitely a good one to go to. 3 for 3 on wins BTW and I wore my tacky xmas sweater, hopefully that doesn’t become a good luck charm.

Last night was possibly the Oilers most complete game of the year! This is also one of the first times I'm posting before reading over all the insightful comments at Lowetide. Here is how I saw it:

- First and foremost I noticed Penner favouring his knee between shifts. I don’t know if this was apparent on TV but it’s concerning given how well the first line is playing. Penner played great and won battles all night which IMO is the most important factor for Dustin being effective.
- It was a good call putting Strudwick and Stortini on the 4th line. Vancouver wanted to play nasty and when they spend the penalty minutes on those 2 guys it’s a bonus for the rest of the team. Stortini also makes the Canucks defenders be more aware of who is on the ice.
- The entire defence played well. Gilbert is starting to get it done against opponents #1 line. That is very encouraging for the Oilers prospect this season. Visnovsky played well again. He is fun to watch, the way he cheats to where the puck is going without getting caught is awesome. Smid also was effective, made good pinches and was physical all night.
- The guy who gave Hemsky the #1 star was watching a different game. He fought the puck all night especially on the PP early. However, he scored the most important goal of the game. His is improving each game this year and is still a beauty to watch even on an off night.
- Robert Nilsson looked like Pavel Bure cheating that far up on the 3rd goal. He was lucky to get the puck cause if the Canuck defender keeps the puck in, Nilsson goes in MacT`s doghouse. Good instincts when you make the right play, lazy hockey when it goes bad. So... good instincts!
- Roli made several saves on quality chances in the 3rd. He would have been my #1 star.
- Cole is actually a bit of a prick. I hadn’t noticed that much but it’s an element the Oilers lack in - especially playing a team like the Canucks.
- Sam Gagner is struggling badly right now. He is fighting the puck and not making any plays. The Oilers as a team are playing their best hockey right now and I don’t think you should change it. But if he doesn’t bounce-back soon the Oilers are going to have to quit giving him minutes. He is the future and forcing him to play like a 4th liner seems counter-productive to his development. Patience is the key but being patient is only easy if the team is winning.

The only real difference between Thursday night vs Florida and last night is execution on offense. Their game is at a high level and I`m hoping they can convert that into a good run at home. With Chicago and a pissed off Canucks team coming up, it’s not gonna be easy. Go Oilers!

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 ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Analyze your blog

I found this site which analyzes your blog and makes guesses about the bloggers personality. I figured others out there might find it interesting. Here is my results:

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Measuring unappreciated offensive contributions

I've been reading alot of David Staples work of late. He got some good stuff that is out of the box type thinking which I like. He had a post today about how Dustin Penner and Erik Cole contribute to alot of goals but dont get as much credit (points). On top of Davids analysis it got me wondering how to measure this. After some thought, I came to the idea that measuring GFON/60 - PTS/60 would be a good indicator. Thanks again to Gabe Desjardins for his excellent work. Here are the Oilers results:


My first observation (which came after looking at the data but should have been obvious beforehad) is that, by this metric, defenders score better than forwards. The second was that Staples was right about Dustin Penner whereas Erik Cole didnt rank as well. Cole seems to directly contribute offense and thats about it. Then I looked at the top 20 forwards in the NHL. I eliminated defenders (about 90% of the top 200 players by this metric were defenders) and players who either

a) Hadnt played more than 10 games
b) Dont play more than 10 minutes/game

Not surprisingly was Dustin Penner at 13th overall.


This metric obviously isnt a strong indicator of player performance. The only thing better than contributing to offense is by directly contributing (scoring then first assist then second assist ect) to the goal. But Dustin does contribute to offense that he doesn't get credit for. Another thing to consider is the Oilers lack of offense so if you scaled this metric by goal scoring per team Penner would probably rank higher.

If anyone wants current Behind the Net 5 on 5 data. I shared the spreadsheet I pulled the data into here.