Friday, March 13, 2009

Off to Sweden

I'm heading off to Sweden and to the Czech Republic to do some traveling and watch some hockey. This will be after a pit stop in Dublin for St Patty's day. My goal for the trip was to get a game or two to watch Linus Omark play in anticipation of him coming to North America next year. Unfortunately Lulea is down 3-1 in the series vs Frolunda and the odds of them still being in the playoffs when I get there aren't looking good. Here is a video montantage of some of Omarks highlights:

I wish I had a video montage.

It will be interesting to see how Omark's size will be effected by the North American game. He does have great speed and skill. On a team full of smurfs, the Oilers may not have room for another undersized forward but if Omark is good enough to play they'll find room for him ... I'd hope. I'll post here some hockey highlights from the trip and if I get to see Lulea play, I'll report my take here.

As for the Oilers, they still owe me for losing the SCF when I went to the world cup in Germany. They have a relatively easy schedule but have only won 3 of their last 11. Last nights game against Atlanta had some promising moments, like Patrick O'Sullivans goal and the play of the 4th line (18-51-27). But that loss cant happen if the Oilers are serious about the playoffs. Atlanta is 10 points back of the Oilers, on the road and missing their star player Kovalchuk. Reasoner getting the winner was too predictable. The Oilers dominated the overtime and I'm fairly sure would have won the shootout emphasizing the error made by Gilbert and Cogs on OT winner. Its interesting that now that the offense seems to be back, they are starting to give up 3-4 goals a game along with several high quality chances. The Oilers are gonna need to wake up, especially Ales Hemsky who has been MIA for about 10 games now. Ales Kotalik had some good chances but is running out of time with Hemsky and needs to produce for the Oilers sake and for his impending UFA status. I'm hoping for a pleasant surprise when I come back. An appearance in the playoffs would be fun and incredibly valuable for the young players. Go Oilers!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Deadline a success

Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe had a solid deadline yesterday. They made 2 trades moving Erik Cole for Patrick O'Sullivan and a 2nd rounder. Then they flipped the 2nd rounder for Ales Kotalik. The O'Sullivan deal was a steal. Picking up a player as skilled as O'Sullivan for a player in Cole who likely wasn't going to resign here is great value. The fact that O'Sullivan is signed for 2 more years at a million less per year can only be seen as a positive. For an interesting read on Patrick O'Sullivans troubled childhood read this article by Gare Joyce. It really makes you respect what O'Sullivan has battled through. The second trade was a move to get someone to play with Ales Hemsky. My guess is the Oilers are hoping the Czech connection will pan out as Hemsky and Kotalik are apparently good friends. We've seen Petr Sykora mesh well with Hemsky and we can only hope Kotalik, who has a good shot, can mesh as well. The 2nd rounder is a lot to give up but the Oilers see Kotalik as a player who can have chemistry with Hemsky. For perspective, the Reasoner for Samsonov trade also included a 2nd round Oilers pick that turned into Milan Lucic. I'd still make that trade because of the run but its worth pointing out that these picks can be valuable. If this works out, Kotalik will resign and otherwise as a UFA the Oilers can let him walk (and the trade will be a bust). My gut feeling is that this trade will work out.

Here us the nitty gritty O'Sullivan/Kotalik (courtesy behind the net):

Some more observations:

- The most promising stat for me is the improvement in O'Sullivans game from last season to this year. This year he is playing with lesser teamates but has managed to swing his corsi into the black. In addition, he is now a player who is on for more GF than GA on a Kings team that has scored 164 goals and let in 184. The Oilers have been outshot most of the season and adding a player like O'Sullivan will help out. O'Sullivan also has 200 shots which would put him 2nd on the Oilers behind Souray.

- Another bonus for O'Sullivan is his PK numbers. On LA he plays 2 minutes a game on the PK and his GAON/60 is 5.21. That would be 2nd best on the Oilers and twice as good as Shawn Horcoffs numbers. Hopefully O'Sullivan can help out Horcoff on the PK.

- Kotalik doesnt kill penalties but has good PP numbers. His PTS/60 of 4.19 would be 4th behind Hemsky, Nilsson and Gilbert.

- Both Kotalik and O'Sullivan are likely to get a shot with Horcoff/Hemsky before Penner does. Even though Penner has decent results statistically he hasnt scored enough goals playing with Hemsky. My guess is that if Kotalik does well with Hemsky the Oilers try to move him. At 4.25 million that will be hard to do though.

- Robert Nilsson and MA Pouliot are gonna have a hard time getting minutes for the rest of the season but the Oilers have some nice depth up front now. More moves will come in the offseason as they cant protect 16 forwards.

- The Oilers decided to stick with Cogliano as the hard minutes centre (although its debatable that Brodziak is that guy). But with Cogliano playing with Pisani, that's the way I see it. The Oilers have needed a veteran centre all year but the choice of Cogliano is gonna yield long term results. I think its best for Coglianos development and good on the Oilers for sticking with Gagner and Cogliano. This decision I'm ok with even though there could be some frustration in the short term.

Overall the Oilers added some valuable pieces without sacrificing in the short term and I'm happy with the trades. The youth core of Gagner, Cogliano, Gilbert and Grebeshkov would benefit nicely from some post season experience. These moves are a step in the right direction.

PS For an excellent read on applied statistics in sports, read this article from the New York Times about the Houston Rockets and Shane Battier. I'm not a basketball fan at all and the article was one of the most interesting things I've read in years. It will require you to sign up for a NY Times account but its free.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadline day

Today's deadline will hopefully be exciting for Oilers fans. If they can make a couple good moves without sacrificing the future, a date with Calgary in the first round is a possibility - how fun would that be!* I'd like to see the Oilers add a veteran centre who kills penalties and wins faceoffs. That will move Cogliano to the wing or to the 4th line but ultimately once the playoffs are on, I'd expect MacT to move a couple kids to the 4th line and rely on veterans. This would be ok as the playoff experience would be valuable regardless. The Oilers could use a top 6 scoring forward and a backup goalie as well. I am OK with Peckham as the 7th defender but Lowe has a solid history of finding reliable 4-6 defenders and if a defender is acquired I'm for it.

With the cap likely to go down and the Oilers at 49 (max 50) contracts, they would be well advised to ditch some salary and deal some fringe players. Players who I would be ok if they moved are Schremp, Pouliot and Nilsson. I don't like Moreau or Staois' contracts going forward but I see no reason to trade these guys before the playoffs unless the offers are outstanding. Moving these guys in the offseason should be considered however.

As for likely trading partners I'll throw out there:

Islanders and Flyers - the usual trading partners
Rangers - they seem to have a lot of reliable defensive forwards but dont score many goals. The Sather connection plus the Oilers surplus skill guys might make a trade a possibility
Bruins/Hurricanes - Rumors for Cole have been around for weeks
Kings - They talked alot last season when the Oilers were after Camalleri and obviously in the Visnovsky trade. I'd love to get a guy like Frolov.
Maple Leafs - While the Burke/KLo feud probably hasn't simmered enough, Tambellini has good relations with Burke and TO looks to be selling.

I'll post after the deadline with my thoughts about the Oilers moves (or lack there of).

The most encouraging loss of the season?

The Oilers lost 5-4 in OT last night to a Nashville Predators team that has owned them for the last couple years. Nashville is a good team, physical, solid leadership in Arnott and Weber and have an under rated coach. In the last couple seasons they have lost Forsberg, Kariya, Radulov and Sullivan. With Sullivan coming back after almost 2 years on the IR, the teams biggest need has been addressed without any cost. Nashville has a tough division and a tough schedule which makes me think that they can still be beat in a standings race.

If not for the egg laid by the first line last night the Oilers win the game. Gagner, Cole, Cogliano, Pouliot and Smid had excellent games. JFJ looked like a real NHL player last night as well and that was by far his best game as an Oiler. Grebeshkov, Stortini and Brodziak have also came on of late. The Oilers problem all season has been secondary scoring and its been a lot of pressure put on the kids to succeed and for the most part they haven't. But if last nights game can spark some confidence in the 2nd line that bodes well for the Oilers chances at the post season.

On Dustin ... again

There is so much discussion around Dustin Penner in the Oilogosphere. He must wish he signed for cheap in Anaheim to stay out of the spotlight but last night proves he is an important part of the first line. As per Trakor/Bruce on Lowetides site

Penner leads this team with 5 game winning goals.
Penner has just as many goals as Horcoff and more points than Cole, Gagner, and Nilsson.
Penner is a is +3.
Penner has the 2nd best PTS/60 on the team.
Penner has the 2nd best GFON/60 on the team.
Only Shawn Horcoff has a better GFON/GAON/60 ratio.
Only Shawn Horcoff has faced harder QualComp.
Horpensky now sits at EV +21/-5.
Penner leads all Oiler forwards by a fair margin in SC differential.

The conclusions (not included) made after these stats by Traktor were wrong about MacTavish but the stats are still solid. MacTavish isn't the reason Penner takes nights off. He takes way too many nights off and if Hemsky is as good as we think he is, our top line LW has to have more than 14 goals. But Penner is our best available option and while there is room for an upgrade, he belongs on the #1 line.

Once again, big day today. Hopefully a couple good moves are available.

*I just remembered I won a Molson prize pack from ched for knowing Esa Tikannen scored the last series winner between Edmonton and Calgary a couple weeks ago and forgot to claim my prize!