Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Have You Seen Junior's Grades?

Maybe the hockey gods are being nice to the Oilers simply because they enjoy the misery known as an Edmonton/Dallas playoff series. You know the one. It's that series where the Oilers lose four games-to-two with three of the losses being by one goal. Then the Oilers hit their summer cottages content with the fact they're just one goal a game away from getting to the second round.

Huzzah!!

Something has to be happening somewhere because as many chances as the Oilers give the Canucks to grab onto the final playoff spot Vancouver just keeps on handing it back to them.

I won't say tonight's Canucks OT loss to San Jose transpired in spectacular fashion because the Sharks have been otherworldly since the time O'Connell, Jacobs and Sinden dropped E and traded Thornton to Northern California. But when you consider the Canucks had a lead on home ice with less than five minutes to go and managed to blow it then it's hard not to wonder if faith might not just be on the Oilers side.

Tonight's win for San Jose assured them a playoff spot but for those that think that means they might mail it in on Thurs night against Vancouver consider a couple of things. Well three actually. SJ is 19-5-5 at home since Joe T arrived, the Canucks are 3-8 in the back end of back-to-back games and right now the Sharks have a clear path to 5th place and thus a matchup with the Chris Mason lead Nashville Predators.

So would anyone else be stunned if the Canucks even haul a point out of The Tank come Thursday night in SJ?

But what will the Oilers will do if presented with a chance to salvage this season and who'll be leading them next year if they don't.

If you think that as an Oilers fan you're burnt out by watching this team go up and down then how do you think Craig MacTavish feels? Of course you don't have to think how he feels because you already know it.

He's basically one stick foul away from throttling Ales Hemsky.

Never one to leave any doubt how he's feeling and always being a good quote MacT has gotten to the point where he's downright negative in the press. He's like a pre 2004 Red Sox fan who's just had his third wife leave him. MacT has always been known to use the press to motivate his players but he's never been one to verbally throw his hands in the air and expect the worst.

But in this morning's dailies the guy was John Torterella like.

So what needs to happen for him to come back and just what's lead to his total lack of patience? There's no question there's never been more pressure on Oilers management. For years they promised things would be different on the ice once they were different off the ice and the latter climate has indeed changed but the former hasn't. Just to turn up the heat a little more Lowe went out and picked up some nice baubles at the trade deadline and before that as well and all of a sudden even rational fans thought this Oilers team was formidable. It simply hasn't happened and MacT's demeanour has gone from one of cautious optimism to decidedly defeatist.

I don't think anything less than a second round appearance will satiate a legion of fans that's long been loyal in the face of financially insurmountable odds. And when a "poor" team like the Ducks or Flames made a charge late into spring Lowe would pop out of his hole to assure everyone this was the exception and certainly not the rule. Well here we are in the new NHL and both of the aforementioned teams are good bets to make the second round.

Where are the Oilers again?

As expectations have changed so has the head coach's profile. If Lowe's bringing in all these pieces and the team still isn't rolling then eyes will all of a sudden be cast upon the one manning the melting pot. Is he stirring the mix in the wrong manner?

It's no longer fun and games for MacTavish. When making the playoffs is considered celebration enough then there's nothing to lose. But when you're talking about the second round being the target and the team can't even get it together enough to guarantee entry into the first round then times have changed. And it seems like MacTavish is changing with them.

I'd say we're watching his last game leading this franchise barring a second round appearance or a number of injuries or bad luck that provides the Oilers with a legitimate excuse for not making the second round.

There might even be a little piece of him that thinks he's being tuned out or that he can't quite simply can't wring everything out of this club and I think he's smart enough to head to different pastures before another stink has a chance to permanently attach itself to him.

16 Comments:

Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I don't think MacT has lost this team but they have had a few issues - discipline, consistency of effort, mental breakdowns - which point to coaching, lack thereof, players not listening - call it what you will.

Its easier to coach a team that has less talent, as silly as that sounds - you instill the "us against the world" mentality and palyers know that anything less then 100% every night and they're going to get crushed. Now with the addition of new talent there is the pressure and, on the side of the players, less urgency. Hell, I don't have to score. Sammy will pull my fat out of the fire.

4/13/2006 6:42 am  
Anonymous lowetide said...

Great post Dennis. I'd say that the main factors down the stretch have been inexperience (Hemsky, Bergeron, others) significant backwards steps (Raffi wtf?) and injury (who isn't injured on that blueline).

I'll tell you though there are some inspired performances going on out there, from Smyth and Pronger and dare I say Horcoff.

I agree MacT leaves, but I'm not convinced it's the best thing for the team.

A kid like Hemsky is never going to grow another set of gumption or get 70 on a test, but I believe a coach like MacTavish could reach him long before Orval Tessier.

4/13/2006 7:25 am  
Anonymous namflashback said...

Contemplate this . . .

Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Greene, Bergeron, and Dvorak -- have they been in the playoffs since they have been NHL regulars?

Tarnstrom, and Spacek came from perpetually non-playoff teams.

Horcoff, and Pisani were in much smaller roles when the Oilers last reached the post-season.

Pronger, Peca, and Samsonov have fairly playoff resumes -- but were amongst some pretty fine teams during their runs, and IIRC only Peca has been to a conference or cup final.

That leaves Smyth, Moreau, Smith, Staios who carry the old underdog torch.

I think Todd Harvey is the only one who has hoisted the cup.

I speculate that there is a conflict/or deference of leadership going on in the room.

4/13/2006 9:04 am  
Anonymous namflashback said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/13/2006 9:04 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

Orval Tessier? Good lord Lain;)

I don't think it's for the best if MacT leaves either...I'd much rather he stick around. Though it will be interesting to see how the next coach handles these guys. I'd say the days of playing Hemsky against the other team's top lines will end the day the new guy takes over.

I think the baseball analogy always works the best with Raffi: his 0/4's are as soft as baby crap. When he's going bad he looks as awful as that time Chris Widger went 0/36;)

Regarding injuries...we got off pretty lucky and you can see that just from looking at the division with Col missing Hedjuk and Svatos for an extended period of time. And the Canucks with Salo and Jovo. Does anyone think the Dys wouldn't be out of our reach if they'd had the health we did?

Part of me believes that MacT thinks the same thing some of us do: this team will never be as good as it is on paper. And he's been here long enough that another struggle for 8th place is enough to push him over the edge.

For my money there's no reason to think that guys like Horc, Hemsky and Stoll won't get better and I think it's shortsighted for MacT or anyone to think that a forward corps that young would be able to produce under the gun. Sometimes the kids wobble a little.

That being said there's a team in SJ where three of their offensive six are Cheechoo, Michalak and a guy in Bernier from MAP's draft class and they seem to be scoring just fine don't they?;) And over on MC's blog he's posted some stats that show the Oilers scoring has dropped off in a significant way in the last little while.

So dammit maybe MacT is on to something.

In the here and now..and by that I mean three of the four games on the roadtrip...the problem has been scoring. For the vast majority of the season...and I'll go so far as to include the first 10 games of the Rolo era...the problem had been netminding.

But MacT throwing his hands up seems to indicate he thinks the offense should've been able to overcome that.

4/13/2006 9:06 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Good point about the youngsters in SJ but they also have one of the premier offensive players in the league in Big Joe. He's a slump buster - that game last night - holy smokes!
That's my greatest fear about Torres - even with his 0 fers he has 26 goals, an increase of 5 from last season - play him with Forsberg or Thornton - he's going to plug in at least 40 methinks.
They just have to stop squeezing those sticks - maybe MacT is on to something - by throwing up his hands - saying "WTF" - he'll get them to relax.

4/13/2006 9:49 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Dennis said:That being said there's a team in SJ where three of their offensive six are Cheechoo, Michalak and a guy in Bernier from MAP's draft class and they seem to be scoring just fine don't they?;) And over on MC's blog he's posted some stats that show the Oilers scoring has dropped off in a significant way in the last little while.

So dammit maybe MacT is on to something.


Come on Dennis. Cheechoo is playing with Thornton and the other two are probably along for the ride as much as anything else. Bernier's only played 36 games and Michalek's scoring rates are uninspiring - 1.6ESP/hr and 2.7PPP/hr. That's like your man Dvorak.

As for MC's stuff, I think it's just broken down too much for anybody to make any long-term projections about the Oilers' ability to score. What are we talking about here? Roughly 15 games?

4/13/2006 12:27 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

As for MC's stuff, I think it's just broken down too much for anybody to make any long-term projections about the Oilers' ability to score. What are we talking about here? Roughly 15 games?

20 games but I agree with you. Nevertheless, the point I was making which is that the goals against has dropped to a sane level and it's the offence that has disappeared still stands, I think. Lots of guys are going to escape the attack of the media if this doesn't work out (basically all of the forwards save Smyth have stopped scoring it seems) and some other guys are going to take some unfair blame (Lowe, MacT and Rolo). Jones column today in the Sun was like a preview of what he'll be writing for the next four months.

4/13/2006 12:32 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

mudcrutch79 said:

20 games but I agree with you. Nevertheless, the point I was making which is that the goals against has dropped to a sane level and it's the offence that has disappeared still stands, I think. Lots of guys are going to escape the attack of the media if this doesn't work out (basically all of the forwards save Smyth have stopped scoring it seems) and some other guys are going to take some unfair blame (Lowe, MacT and Rolo). Jones column today in the Sun was like a preview of what he'll be writing for the next four months.


Ya, it's really compelling stuff.

I think Dennis' point is that they are still hitting the ball hard. And that MacTavish is in "throw his hands in the air mode", Larry Robinson style. Just like he was in the losing streak earlier in the year. Remember after the CGY game, the Oilers outplayed and outchanced them in Cowtown, but didn't get the result. MacT should have thought and said "we're creating chances, sooner or later they'll start going in" in a stop worrying you nancy boy! kinda way, like a young Scotty Bowman. Instead he was exasperated, proclaiming that the Oilers were 'back in the habit of making the other team's goalie look good' or some such. Baseless, and worrying stuff.

Still, the Oilers, as well as a few other WC teams, they left too much of their fate in the hands of the hockey gods by not taking care of business earlier in the year. And the Oilers will probably get away with it this time, but the first round playoff matchup, if they make it ... it's gonna be a fugly one.

4/13/2006 1:03 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

mudcrutch79: Yes, that still stands and if you look at the season-long 5-on-5 scoring it is a little disconcerting. Basically only Hemsky, Stoll and Horcoff are up from 03/04 if you consider that everybody should have a slight bump up this year at ES. Every other Oiler is either the same or slightly down in terms of ES scoring. The success of the PP has driven the Oilers' scoring this year, but even that seems a little off track right now.

4/13/2006 1:07 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Just to add to that though, it still means little to the long term projection. If MacT quits, I highly doubt it's because he doesn't think this squad can produce enough offense.

4/13/2006 1:09 pm  
Blogger speeds said...

Dennis, Michalek is also from the 2003 draft class, he's a player that has had serious serious injury problems.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php3?pid%5B%5D=57038

Blew out his knee 2 games into his 18 year old rookie season, came back and wrecked it again.

No stats from last year, I honestly don't remember if he was recovering from his 2nd knee surgery (If I'm remembering it correctly and he did indeed have 2 surgeries) all year and didn't play, or if hockeydb just doesn't have his stats for some reason.

4/13/2006 4:25 pm  
Blogger speeds said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/13/2006 4:25 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Mike...yeah I didn't realize they were both from the same draft classes but I remember Mickalek that year because he scored his first NHL goal in Edmonton. And I know Carney's lost a step but I wouldn't say he's lost much strenght but the other night in Van you wouldn't believe how Bernier was staving him off. In regards to strenght and stickhandling Bernier's like a young Bertuzzi...not the dominant Bertuzzi before he started trying to kill people mind you...the 50 point Bertuzzi just before that.

Anyway RQ...you should know me better than that. I was just throwing out two sides of the argument but my opinion was nailed by Vic. I think MacT's overreacting here and I was just wondering why.

The Oilers generated a lot of scoring chances in the 3rd periods in Det and Stl. And man oh man did JSG ever play great last night...even though that Hemsky goal was questionable. For some reason right now this team lacks finish...the chances are still there.

Sooner or later it's gonna have to break.

4/14/2006 2:49 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Q1.
Hartford Whalers -- 2 points
Link to any form of forged proof for any team -- 5 points
For any answer that demeans any non-Oiler team -- 3 points

Q2.
Rem Murray -- 5 points
Noting that Bill Guerin's former mistress is the other WlydBerri on the Buffy board --- 9 points

Q3.
Hemsky -- 1 point
If you apologized for this behavior -- 7 points

Q4.
True, but he doesn't post them on his blog -- 3 points
For clicking the link -- 5 points
For each time you returned to his blog or hit the refresh button --- 1 point

Q5/a.
sacamano - Dvorak
riversq - MacTavish
loxy - Reasoner
mudcrutch - Gretzky
cosh - Pronger
lowetide - Horcoff

scoring:
1 point each.
6 bonus points for noting than none of these are merely "man crushes" and that it's a bit more intense than that.

Q5/b.
Jarret Stoll - 2 points.
Any other answer with solid reasoning -- 3 points
For any link provided in your answer -- 7 points

Q6.
Raffi Torres -- 4 points
For noting that, in fairness to Mr and Mrs Torres, this was done at Raffi's request -- 8 points

Q7.
6 points for not mentioning any Russians. Otherwise 0.

Q8.
Fernando Pisani -- 3 points
For noting that he has no regrets -- 7 points

Q9.
mudcrutch -- 3 points
for recognizing, as I do, that if "schmoobs" isn't a word, it oughta be! -- 14 points

Q10.
Stan Weir -- 23 points
For any other smartass answers that DON'T involve Ryan Smyth -- 5 points

5/17/2006 1:11 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Additional scoring notes:

2 points for noticing that there are two Q5s, but not mentioning it.
11 points for remarking that having two Q5s was a really good idea.

NB: There is a maximum limit of 20 extra points for hitting the refresh button at BDHS in the hopes of seeing college breasts being flashed.

5/17/2006 1:15 pm  

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