Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Micheal Rode The Boat Aground or Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Don't worry folks, I haven't gone Christian on you guys. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I think it's great when people can ward off vice all their life in the belief they'll be granted enternal life. For myself I'll just repent before the last breath and hopefully I'm genuine enough that God gives me the thumbs up and I'll meet up with everyone at the 5pm buffet:)

I think this Peca story receives perhaps a more detailed treatment and probably a collaboration between me and one of the numbers guys, ie Vic or RQ, where I write the copy of his progression and regression through the Oilers forward crops and the boys step in with the accompanying numbers. That being said as I write this the temptation to extrapolate on this topic and what it has meant and is currently meaning to our playoff chances has become too great to resist.

To get started here I'll pontificate on what is the Oilers endless summer or in this case endless winter as the stretch drive hasn't proven to be exactly enjoyable for the Oilers in the last three years. And afterall who really likes winter besides retards who drive snowmobiles?

As fans we're staring straight in the face the possibility of missing the playoffs for the third time in the last year seasons that there was NHL hockey. Hopefully heads will roll if we miss the dance this time but who goes to the gulliotine? First off I'd say it's Lowe because no matter the roster he assembled he still takes the axe for gambling on Ty/Jussi and ultimately waiting so long to replace them when it became clear to everyone that it wasn't working. I'm not going to be a hypocrite here, at least not a total one;) but it didn't take 62 games to realize we needed a change in net. I originally thought the Ty/Jussi gamble was a decent enough bet but by the time we vaulted into first place on Dec 23 after a home win vs the Kings I remember thinking just how far ahead we'd be of the rest of our NW cohorts had we even received decent tending. And the numbers will show we weren't getting close to getting decent tending relative to league average.

This situation screams of Larry Pleau in Stl. Granted we never had the reg season success of the Blues but Pleau would move heaven and earth and trade a prospect like Nagy to acquire Tkachuk and he'd give up tonnes of money to sign Weight but he never made the right move: to acquire a tender. Their lack of netminding always hampered their lack of ultimate success but you never saw Pleau overpay to try and improve that position.

By the time the deadline came Kevein Lowe had backed himself into a corner netminding wise and he'd tell you he liked this team enough from the defense out that he didn't think he had to give up one of those pieces in order to acquire a goalie that could get us out of the first round. Maybe he was right about that but he put his can on the line by picking up a goalie who hadn't played for most of the season and the early returns on Roloson have not been favourable by any stretch. He's played seven games and I'd say he's been good enough in about three of them. A safer bet would've been to give up a Staios or Bergeron for a goalie that didn't need a re-adjustment period and that especially holds true when you consider Lowe would eventually construct a roster with enough impending UFA's that it looks like it's a one shot chance.

Now we've got a guy shaking the rust off while trying to become familair with a new defensive corps and he's doing both in the heat of a stretch run.

If we miss the playoffs I'll remember this season for a lot of reasons but one of them will be how were were in 8th place or higher in the Conf for the vast majority of the season even though we were in last place in the league in Sv Pct. If Lowe had addressed this earlier our latest funk wouldn't be so alarming. At least not in the sense of here we go again it's April and Ryan Smyth can't wait to get to Vienna or wherever the WHC is being held this year.

The fact that the Oilers fared so well with awful goaltending is a feather in Craig MacTavish's cap to be sure and I think even the most ardent Mactavish basher would admit that if you gave him sodium pentathol.

Does this absolve MacTavish from the majority of the blame or at least give him enough rope for another reason? Somewhere along the line of this season there's been a rift between Peca and the coaching staff and that's apparent in how they're currently using #37. The EIG don't pinch their pennies like they use to but you can't convince me for a second that they picked up a guy making $3.9 million and at any time had Lowe and Co pitching to them that there was a possibility this fellow would play on the 4th line and take the third most faceoffs on the team behind Stoll and Horcoff. This is a team and group that played Salo, and subsequently the whole team, into the bloody ground because they weren't prepared to admit his contract was a mistake or at the very least an albatros. So the way Peca's floated down through the lines is a real tell that something's gone amiss.

I'd imagine the Oilers envisioned Peca as he always was and that was an outscorer who impressively performed this task whilst matching up against the other team's absolute best lines. The Oilers line of Smyth-Horcoff-Dvorak had done a great job of outscoring the other team's top lines so I think the Oilers thought they'd struck gold with Peca. They'd leave the first line intact and pair Peca with Torres and Hemsky and with Hemsky's scoring and Peca's two way acumen they'd take Torres along for the ride and now all of a sudden you've got two lines who'll come out ahead at even strenght. Considering the team's calling card had always been better than average even strenght play this seems like a plausable theory on why they decided to spend so much money on Peca. Put that top six together with a PK most likely improved by Peca's addition and a PP most likely improved by the addition of Pronger and the '05 Czech League maturation of Hemsky and the outlook was promising.

But something happened on the way to the President's Trophy or at least in terms of our outscoring potential at even strenght.

Mike Peca had lost his hands.

Never a guy that could be classified as skilled Peca had always somehow gotten the job done but now he looked positively terrified and inept with the puck in the offensive end. He was bottlenecking the potential of both Hemsky and Torres and that line was broken up and Hemsky moved up to the first and Dvorak into this slot on the second line, Stoll slid into Peca's spot and Peca formed a shutdown line with Moreau and Pisani. Now MacT began to match that line against the other team's top units and the Oilers became a team that relied on it's PP because the Horcoff and Stoll lines were yielding as much as they gained and while Peca could almost nearly keep his opposing line in check he wasn't contributing much to the plus side because any line that features #37 was pure poison.

But the team was still winning.

Peca had intially welcomed the role of being a second line centre who was expected to contribute offense but he would eventually admit he was more comfortable in a checking role. Later on he would complain about wanting powerplay time and opined it was hard to find his offensive side when he couldn't get the chance to be creative. This was around the time the Oilers went to MSG for the Mess tribute game and lo and behold Peca wound up playing the PP point against the Rangers and later on the Pens. Peca whines and gets what he wants but the team is still winning.

The experiment would eventually be tossed to the wayside, though, and Peca's primary functions would be on the PK and third line.

Later on Peca became injured and a story leaked on Edm talk radio that the Oilers were less than enamoured with how long it took Peca to return to the lineup. This is basically where the wheels came off because since then MacT has decided to match the Horcoff line against the other team's top lines and it hasn't gone swimmingly. It's at this point that Vic postulates MacT's current approach as an effort to turn Horcoff and Hemsky into offensive producers who can outscore the other team's top lines ala Forsberg. But it looks like 10-94 were good at ES because Dvorak was driving the bus and Hemsky hasn't been a suitable replacement.

Peca would go on to rip the coaching staff for being panicky after a loss in Minnesota and it appears now that it was the last straw for macT. By the next game he'd inserted new fangled centre Fernando Pisani on Peca's old shutdown line and now #37 plies his trade with Harvey and Laraque on the 4th line and the only prominent role he plays with this team is on the first PK unit along with Moreau when Ethan isn't busy trying to tie Dave Schultz's single season penalty minutes record.

Peca has groused all along the way and hasn't enamoured himself to most Oilers fans but the head coach should be beyond that and should use Peca in the best possible role. Right now the head coach sees fit to essentially waste $3.9 mill and is thus sending a costly message while a guy like Moreau can run around and hurt his team with stupid penalties but it doesn't even bother MacT enough to sit him down for a period

The questions beckons is Peca so bad as to warrent his latest assignment? Is he the latest in a suddeningly lenghtening line of centres who just can't fit into Edmonton's scheme or just Edmonton, ie Oates and Dopita? Or is it a case of MacT putting his pride ahead of his team? I don't think there's any question this team would be much better served with slotting Moreau-Peca-Dvorak against the other team's top lines and thus letting Smyth-Horc and Hemsky or Pisani work against lesser lines, at least in terms of offensive explosiveness. In fact I'd suggest the Peca line get the tough matchups, they use Pisani with Smyth-Horc to firm up that line's own zone play and then MacT creates a Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky line that gets all the easy minutes. That shouldn't be too hard to pull off on home ice. Where does that leave the fourth line you ask? I don't really care and neither should most people at this point.

Seriously though I think the above plan would be the most suitable even strenght measures MacTavish could employ. And I think any coach or organization with an axe to grind would use said plan or at least something that resembles it more closely than MacT's current approach to roll four lines and only adhere to matchups as it pertains to playing Pronger and Spacek against the other team's top lines.

At the end of the day MacTavish's future is tied to Lowe's and Lowe made the jump and spent the EIG's money on Peca so I'd have a hard time believing Peca could be banished to MacT's doghouse without Lowe first building that structure.

And if he didn't build the structure then he defintely doled out the permit.

I just want this team to make the playoffs and for all the drama to be over. The fact that Peca won't return to Edm is as clear as the fact that MacTavish can't see the overall forest for the prideful trees.

As Oilers fans we can't exactly indentiy with Gob, not that Gob could say indentify with Leaves or Blackhawk fans;) but we've suffered enough that we shouldn't be missing out on the excitement of the playoffs because of the possibility that MacT and Lowe are trying to teach Peca some kind of lesson.

That's the only way to explain how the Oilers currently use #37 and how they match lines in general.

12 Comments:

Blogger RiversQ said...

Well, just a couple of things to add...

If you normalize for icetime, the ChuPecabra is taking more faceoffs than those two guys. I'd say the major reason for the difference is that Peca isn't out on the PP and that means big things to your minutes in My NHL.

Peca may have been relegated to the "4th line" but he's still heavily in the mix when the blender starts-a-whirring. It's been this way all year and Peca's still the #2 centre on this team according to ES icetime.

I like your ideas for the lines. Moreau-Peca-Dvorak should be effective. Smyth-Horcoff-Pisani is what I want to see for the first line. Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky sounds good to me as well. Sure MacT would have to do some dodging, but Samsonov's ES ability hasn't been shown yet methinks and the line could hold its own. The best part of this for me is that Torres and Laraque get together on the 4th line.

One wrinkle: Dvorak's out and Moreau's still hurt - that can't be ignored.

3/22/2006 11:39 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Everytime I see that new Peca nickname I think of the old X-Files episode. I really miss that show...at it's peak it was can't miss TV and I even liked it when Gish and Patrick were running the show towards the end of things.

Back to hockey:) all of a sudden this thread becomes very topical with Peca giving an interview to the Van Province which says he's unhappy with the role he's playing in and that he basically can't wait to explore his options at season's end. That blurb appears on Sportsnet's site but of course the full link takes you to the Province's website which is a sub deal so hopefully someone here or over on OF or maybe LT's blog can chime in with the rest of the story.

In any case it's no surprise but the interesting thing was Peca vows to play the rest of the season for all the guys in the room and the fans in Edm and omits the coaching staff in this declaration:D

With Dvorak being out tonight I think MacT has to go back to 18-37-20 as the 3rd line and has to try and get them the tough min which at this point is clearly the Sedin line. He's stuck with SS on the second unit and finally last game 12-14 put together a couple of nice cycles so I think they're ready to break out. The first line stays intact and let's just hope Crawford doesn't get the Sedins out against them too often.

As for the 4th line I guess it's Rem or MAP centring Harvey-BG but I hope those guys don't play a whole lot.

3/23/2006 12:04 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

re the Peca comments on sportsnet.ca, a couple of thoughts:

1. You should post this link on HF. Many of the posters there are already neck deep in Peca apologia, this would be a great anchor for them to hold. :-)

2. Convenient how nothing is Peca's fault. Ever. Peca is an asshole.

3/23/2006 1:03 pm  
Anonymous Julian said...

"Peca Apologia"? There's a three page thread there just ripping on him, in light of these recent comments.


Seeing how he's used over these last dozen+ games is gonna be interesting...

3/23/2006 1:25 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Holy crap. Could this plot get any thicker? I don't think x-rays are getting through the sucker at this point.
Vic Ferrari said...
re the Peca comments on sportsnet.ca, a couple of thoughts:

1. You should post this link on HF. Many of the posters there are already neck deep in Peca apologia, this would be a great anchor for them to hold. :-)

Yeah and I guess I didn't note that my point was that MacT keeps giving the guy rope. He's stopped making it totally fricking obvious, but he still gets plenty of ES icetime on this club.

2. Convenient how nothing is Peca's fault. Ever. Peca is an asshole.
That pretty much sums it up. The season has no doubt been a disappointment to Peca, but no matter how you slice it, he's played so poorly (overall) that he can't possibly pass the buck anywhere in good conscience.


One last thing...

Does Peca know what city he's playing in? It's not Philadelphia, but fans in Edmonton can be cold-blooded killers. Seriously.

See Exhibit A: Arnott, Jason and Exhibit B: Poti, Tom. At least Comrie had the good sense to get the hell out of Dodge before opening his mouth. I'm scared to see what happens if this team comes home without a signifcant improvement in the playoff race.

3/23/2006 1:36 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

He's smart not to go after the fans or the org and just fight with the coaches. Everyone in Edmonton is a bit suspicious of MacT these days (albeit in my case, it's because he refuses to stop playing Peca late in games they're trailing or in OT). That said, I'm sick of this fucking guy. I've never heard an 8 goal 12 assist $4MM man with more ideas on how things should be done in my life.

3/23/2006 1:51 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

julian:

Thanks for the heads up, I just checked the HF thread. :-) Gold. And FINALLY the worm has turned.

Peca has been consistently bad all year, but the pendulum of fan opinion has been held back for some invisible reason. She's gonna swing now, baby! Look out! It's called oilerfangravity (one word) and it's a bitch. :D

Hopefully the fans at Rexall have the good sense to NOT boo Peca live though. The real mean spirited shit usually starts, then rolls down from the high seats opposite the players benches (is that the Colonade?) ... we'll see what happens on Tuesday in this regard. Hopefully nothing.

3/23/2006 1:52 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

To add:

Terrific quote from Digger12 at HF, a guy who usually cuts to the heart of things well:
This is all about Mike Peca protecting Mike Peca's financial value on the UFA market, where with the lower UFA age he's not going to be as hot a commodity anymore.

Yup, it's All About Mike.

Personally, I loved the Peca deal when it happened. Loved it less after I found out he was being paid $4M per ... still. But his attitude right from the losing streak irked the hell out of me. And the fact that his stick has become the place that scoring chances go to die ... makes it 10x worse.

3/23/2006 1:58 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

This is all about Mike Peca protecting Mike Peca's financial value on the UFA market, where with the lower UFA age he's not going to be as hot a commodity anymore.

I don't see how he protects his financial value with stunts like this though. He bitched and moaned about getting an offensive role (I remember being at that PIT game, enraged that I'd driven that far to watch Mike Peca on the PP). He didn't do enough with it. At this point, all he can do is make good use of the minutes he does get.

I don't know what MacT's reputation is within the NHL, but at the very least, I'm inclined to believe that he's not seen as a hard man to get along with. If you're a coach this summer and you're aware of this nonsense, what are you going to say when your GM comes to you and says "We're thinking about getting Peca." I wouldn't want him.

3/23/2006 2:09 pm  
Anonymous Robert Cleave said...

Peca can only hope other teams see MacT as incompetent. "He didn't have a clue how to use me, blah,blah,etc,etc." His lousy season has been his doing almost exclusively. MacT has given Peca chances to play in situations he probably didn't merit on a regular basis. Peca had his chance to maximize his value with a good year. He didn't, and he'll be gone. Next.

3/23/2006 2:52 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

I think Vic has a point and Robert has a point and they end up intersecting. Peca is trying for some damage control prior to his next contract offer and I think some GM's will buy the theory that MacT wasn't using him properly.

I can sorta see Peca's point that his current role isn't much of a help to this club because I'd still rather see him than Pisani on the 3rd line and I'd rather see that line being used to check the other team's top fowards. The whole Power vs Power approach that MacT's using with Horc's line just isn't working.

And as much as I was one of the first people to call Peca offensive poison we're paying the guy so it's just as well to get the most of him. This team has a damned good PP so MacT should be content with matching lines to stay just above water and then try and win the game on the special teams.

Finally...Peca complained the whole bloody time and I wonder what he really wanted or expected. We started him off with offensve guys and he couldn't handle that role. He wanted PP time but this PP has been in the Top 10 for a long part of the season so did he really think he could improve upon that?

Looking back I think the only way Peca in Edm could've worked, given the erosion of his offensive skills, were if MacT would've played him with Smyth and Hemsky. Peca has always been an outscorer and Smyth's been good as well so maybe the two of them could've carried Hemsky along to the point where we could've matched that line up against the other team's better units. Then again we've been doing that for a long time with Horc there instead of Peca and that hasn't turned out great.

Other than doing that I don't know how they could've keep him happy.

In any case 37 decided to break this to the press corps of another city so now the Edm guys are gonna hound him and I can't wait to see if Lowe and macT comment on this...

3/23/2006 3:38 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

dennis said:

and I can't wait to see if Lowe and macT comment on this...


I'd be really surprised and disappointed if Lowe and mactavish did anything other than minimize the situation.

Even after the season ends I don't think that they have anything to gain by commenting. Peca's remarks have NOT been well received by Oiler fandom, at least going by the boards. Talk radio should be interesting this evening. :-)

If either Lowe or MacTavish were still playing ... and vs Peca. I'd be expecting an old school beatdown on the first shift they faced each other. With Peca refusing to drop his gloves. But the real world is different. A shame.

3/23/2006 3:57 pm  

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