Monday, April 17, 2006

Let's Do A Few Lines Shall We?

That may be a thinly veiled reference towards former Wings forward Bob Probert's coke habit but hey why the heck not?

It's playoff season and it seems like Proby did some of his best playoff carousing in the city of Edmonton.

If you're a fan of a MacT coached team and if you're paying attention then you know he's a big fan of matchups. There's no debating matchups could have a lot to do with whether the Oilers give the Wings a push in the first round.

So from today's Edmonton Journal we learn that MacTavish has once again thrown the names into a hat, well not really;) and here's what he's come up with.

Smyth-Horcoff-Dvorak

I would imagine this means MacT will tackle the Wings top offensive line with a power versus power approach and he's inserted Dvorak onto this top line to lend some defensive conscience to the tandem of Horc and Smyth. There's no reason to believe this won't work as those guys posted decent +/- numbers when he used them in the same role in '04 albeit with Pisani in Hemsky's stead. Their numbers have sagged this year but with Hemsky turning pucks over at the other team's blueline and not exactly being hard on the backcheck I don't know if Bob Gainey and Mike Peca The Good could've posted above average +/- numbers while saddled with this guy. So we'll look at Dvorak replacing Pisani as a barometer of how this line should fare and Dvorak's probably a little better defensively than Fernando but he's not as good offensively. So over a long stretch this change would probably mean less goals for but also less goals against. Of course anything could happen in a short series but here's one really good guess: if Dvorak's playing with skilled guys like Horc and Smyth we can expect him to blow at least two golden scoring chances. So just buy some extra furniture right now.

Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky

A few of us, OK it's just been me;), have been openly clamouring for the construction of this unit. BTW, did anyone else notice who Ales's linemates were when he scored the winner against the Ducks?:)

To me this line makes perfect sense especially during home games when MacT has last change. You go power vs power with the newly revamped Horcoff line, you throw out your Peca line to keep things even and then you come with this line against the other team's third best line and you should be pretty confident they can outscore said opposition. 12 and 83 have shown good chemistry during their powerplay time together and I think Stoll's offensively capable enough to at least keep up with these guys. Truth be told we might be pleasently surprised at how well Stoll fares. He's played this season mostly with Torres and Dvorak on his wings so his latest assigment gives him just a little bit of an upgrade;)

Moreau-Peca-Pisani

The old line on IOF is that you can go get a coffee when Peca's on the ice because nothing happens at either end of the ice. I think that might change just a little with Pisani subbing in for Dvorak because one guy has hands and the other doesn't. Plus this may lead to a small increase in scoring chances allowed. Overall I love the new lines from MacT but I will caution about one thing. Normally fans of the Oilers would be thinking these lines would hold the fort and we'd win on special teams but if the Oilers are to beat the Wings it's probably gonna be because their PP turned red hot or they outscored the Wings at a significant margain at even strenght. The Wings will get the benefit of every call and their PP is deadly so it's hard to imagine the Oilers being able to match them in PP goals scored. The old way, say the season of '04 for instance, was the Oilers would win by killing you at 5-on-5 and then trying to minimize the inevitable loss on special teams. This season they've subbed in Pronger for Brewer yet their advantage at even strenght has lessened considerably. I'd argue that has a heckuva lot to do with Hemsky in a power vs power role but that's for another time. But to follow up the skinny on this line I'd say it's not enough for these guys to play even and we'll need some scoring from this line.

Torres-Murray-Laraque

Is this gonna be a series where you could use the headline "Detriot Laraque City"? Or maybe I just concocted that scenario so I could use that line. I haven't felt this dirty since I was perusing LT''s blog and used a MAP thread to break out my "Wasting Away In JaniRita Ville" line. We know BG can make a difference in the playoffs and we know he whips the Rexall crowd into a frenzy not since since George Fox did a 10 minute version of "The Night The Barn Burned Down." In any case I have a hard time believe MacT's gonna replace Harvey with Murray so maybe tonight's just an occasion to shake the rust off Rem. Or maybe MacT believes in dependability and battle tested veterans TM. The biggest news is Torres as essentially the 10th forward. I'm not surprised with this move. If Raffi starts scoring then he'll be moved into the top nine and rightfully so. If he doesn't get any chances then BG will pass him in the depth chart. Torres is all or nothing at this point and these latest lines confirms that. The earlies draft of the sked has these teams playing every other night so unless there are some significant injuries I just can't see this line getting a whole lot of icetime anyway. If we're down by a goal heading into the third I wouldn't be shocked to see BG subbing in for Dvorak and especially on a faceoff in the offensive end. I really don't know how or where Raffi might spell in but maybe for Samsonov. That sounds like a stretch I know but did anyone else notice Sergei wasn't exactly drawing a regular shift in the last game versus the Ducks?

19 Comments:

Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

About freakin' time!

And on moving Hemsky away from Horcoff and Smyth: Good Lord, they couldn't figure this out in November?!

4/17/2006 4:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that MacT all of the sudden comes up with lineups that make sense come playoff time confuses me all the more about his decisions to this point.

My theory on Ales' spot in the lineup this season: KLo and MacT decide before the year Ales is the future of Oiler hockey and that he will never learn to play a two-way game with another season of butter-soft minutes. They run him out with their top 2 even strength players all year, consequences be damned. Except we almost end up missing the playoffs.

That doesn't even make a ton of sense, but I can't think of another reason for it.

Ian

4/17/2006 5:14 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Actually I think that makes a tonne of sense...I think that's the Oilers way of saying if you're gonna be a big scorer and earn the big bucks then we're gonna throw you out against the other team's top lines and make sure we get full value from you. And if you can't hang against the other team's top lines then all of a sudden you're off the top line and your ES icetime decreases and so shall your numbers.

I think the first guy we saw this from was Comrie. Vic has a wicked memory for this stuff...you can illustrate the journey of Comrie being matched against Modano and Co and of that eventually being discarded.

I think it was the right thing to do to see if Hemsky could hang against the other team's top lines but now that we're in the second season I applaud MacT for getting away from that matchup.

We can go back to the Hemsky experiment next season.

4/17/2006 5:24 pm  
Blogger speeds said...

Ian, here's a far-fetched possibility for ya. Maybe they were playing his value up, and plan on trading him for more than they think he's worth in the summer. I don't think this is likely, I think your scenario is infinitely more likely, but maybe they have the old "pump and dump" in mind.

Dennis, take that quotation wherever you will...

4/17/2006 5:31 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Just reread this post, and this homecoming for common sense warms my heart. This past season has so much in common with the bizarre 02/03 season that it's frightening. Starting with the regular season madass use of young'ins in roles that surely would lead to bad results, and right down to MacTavish aging a decade, to a rebirth of reason at game 81. It's spooky.

I was thinking just yesterday: The Oilers won't likely beat the Wings on special teams, and the chances of either Torres or Hemsky being + players at 5 on 5 are poor ... we need the help of the hockey gods, and badly. :-(

Now I have renewed faith. Hemsky, Stoll and Samsonov on a 'liability line' (tm). Torres out of harm's way. Horcoff and Smyth taking the big role (will MacTavish gun for Shanahan or Zetterburg, or will Babcock put them together and try to win with his best players?). The Peca line smacks of unspectacular reliability that can earn you offensive zone draws more often than not.

Sanity is restored in Oilerville. :-)

4/17/2006 6:33 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Yeah...I'm pretty jazzed about it too. It seems like MacT's switching to "playing for the future" to "playing for keeps."

And it looks like the smart move.

We should be able to trust the Horc and Peca lines and at home we should get very favourable matchups for the Stoll line.

Torres and Laraque will play when someone else falters or if they're limited time produces really good vibes and/or results.

And the new lines gives me a reason to be interested in tonight's game as well

4/17/2006 6:49 pm  
Anonymous lowetide said...

I don't know guys. 1 @ 3 are terrific, even ideal based on the team we're about to play. However, that 2line should be called the "heading to the whorehouse with no protection" line and the 4line with Rem Murray and Big Georges on it lacks first step quickness and I'm being kind.

I'd rather the 1 and 3 lines become 1 and 2, and they send Stoll out with Samsanov and Torres.

Hemsky on the PP and Rem to sharpen skates.

4/17/2006 8:42 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

LT: You'd take Torres over Hemsky at this point? My honest opinion is that the only reason Hemsky's GA numbers are worse than Torres' is because Hemsky was thrown to the wolves minutes-wise.

Give Torres the minutes that Hemsky got this year and he would have created less offense with the same or possibly even more goals against. It would have been a complete shit show.

As for the playoffs, if you've got Stoll winning the draws and Samsonov out there, then puck possession must be the order of the day. Personally, I'd rather see Hemsky there if that is the aim. Actually, Dvorak's probably the best RW choice from that angle. Speaking of Dvorak...

Dennis: Dvorak is due. He's never been a shooter. The old SH% bubble gives him away on his 30 goal year - every other year he's been under 10%. This year he has alternated between abysmal, unlucky and injured. If he's healthy he'll get them soon playing with Smyth and Horcoff.

He has also still put up a better ESP/hr rate than Pisani this year and he blew him out last year. Personally, I'd rather hang my hat on points, so I'm not sure the "Pisani's better offensively" thing carries much water. Sure Pisani's the better shooter, but Dvorak still creates more offense IMO.

4/17/2006 9:22 pm  
Anonymous lowetide said...

Hemsky is in a really bad spot right now imo. He's delivered offense all year but (from what I know) has no idea about what the NHL playoffs are going to be like.

I suspect one trip into the corner with Chris 'can opener' Chelios will help Hemsky shy away for the series and if that's the case he isn't going to be much good.

Hey, hope i'm wrong on this one. But Torres doesn't back down and the Red Wings are going to bring it and we're all going to be talking about whether at least one play from Chelios is a deliberate attempt to injure.

And I think that will affect Hemsky more than anyone on the roster.

So the idea of sticking him with Samsanov has no appeal to me at all, because he's not built to impact the game in that way.

If the Oilers take Hemsky off the top line they need to have Ethan with him.

Now watch that line score 10 goals. :-)

4/17/2006 9:37 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Fair enough LT. I'd say that's good reason to switch things up if it happens. If it doesn't, there's no sense starting Torres up there over Hemsky.

I'll give Hemsky the benefit of the doubt. He's not the most courageous player, but I've seen him step up a few times. (Coming back from that knee-on-knee job in Chicago was one this year) Basically, I'm not worried about the first time Chelios gets to him, it's if he comes after him a second or third time. I think that's when Hemsky starts to shrink away - when they just keep pounding on him.

4/17/2006 9:47 pm  
Anonymous lowetide said...

RQ:
Good point, although I think Torres may surprise in the playoffs. He's an ass-clown right now, but he can't possibly be as stupid as he's playing.

4/17/2006 9:53 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

OK RQ...I've ammend it to Pisani's a better shooter and Dvorak couldn't put the puck in the ocean:)

Good game for Torres tonight and Stoll too. Three goals was pretty good given that the top three O guys were out.

It was also nice to see that JFJ had the balls to try and put that move on Theo.

4/17/2006 10:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I think that makes a tonne of sense...I think that's the Oilers way of saying if you're gonna be a big scorer and earn the big bucks then we're gonna throw you out against the other team's top lines and make sure we get full value from you.

Unfortunately, this way we'll end up giving Ales the big bucks while getting less than full value from him in the short-term.

Where is Ales more valuable in the short run?

1. On the 1st line, playing big minutes and putting up lots of points, but being a negative EV strength player, while playing with two guys who have a history of being our best two 5 on 5 players.

2. Safely sheltered on the 2nd line, playing less and eating up soft minutes, while being a positive EV strength player and playing a ton on the PP.

Not only does scenario #2 make us a better team short-term IMO, we'd undoubtedly pay Ales less this summer too.

However, KLo and MacT must have big plans for the kid, because they are sacrificing short-term to try and get him to be a better two-way player.

Ian

4/17/2006 11:15 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

What I really don't like about these lines is the Torres isn't penciled into them really. Torres seems to be a streaky player, but he is our second highest goal scorer and he has scored in the last couple games. And personally, if we're heading to into Detriot and Raffi suddenly feels like scoring again power to him, ride the streak while its there. I tend to agree with Lowetide in that he has an agressive edge that could be helpful.

I'd be tempted to play Symth-Horcoff-Samsanov, and have the floater line be Torres-Stoll-Hemskey, which would leave Dvo drawing in on the 4th line.

4/17/2006 11:59 pm  
Anonymous namflashback said...

All of your detailed analyses aside, there is at least one even simpler reason for this change -- it has each player playing in their natural positions.

Torres-Stoll-Dvorak was a natural setup, and it didn't really net results. The addition of LW Samsonov clogged it up. Down the stretch Torres-Stoll-Samsonov had one of these guys playing off-wing.

Several of the kids played with much enthusiasm last night. Get that effort out of the main lineup and we gots to like our chances.

4/18/2006 8:38 am  
Anonymous iwocpo said...

Of all the Oiler offensive players, Torres worries me the most. He's looked great against the Wings.

4/18/2006 8:55 am  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Torres worries me the most as well.

4/18/2006 9:22 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Lowetide:

I wouldn't worry too much about Torres not seeing enough icetime. If Hemsky and Samsonov play a bunch of PP time, and if the play isn't dying with Raffi too much, then I'm sure we'll see him shifted up to play more 5on5 minutes in #83's or #12's space.

I'm sure that the forwards on lines 1 and 3 (as numbered above) will be the top six forwards in 5on5 icetime if these lines hold up. With the Stoll line getting the softer matchups ... shifted out on the fly against the DET 4th line and playing the shift after a DET PP, etc. As long as they can avoid Shanahan and Zetterburg with that trio I think they'll be fine.

Agreed on Murray, everybody likes the guy, but damn is he ever slow now. Still, the 4th line won't see a bunch of icetime anyways, and probably next to no defensive end draws, so long as they don't lose them games that's fine.

4/18/2006 4:37 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

I'd say that after the other night it's almost a given that Murray will start off centring the 4th line with Torres on his left side.

As for their RW....well BG usually makes a good impression in the playoffs but I don't think his inclusion in '06 is a slam dunk by any stretch. And despite what macT says I don't think we'll see Winchester or JFJ on the 4th line either.

I'd guess it's Torres-Murray-Harvey.

I'd love to see MAP get a shot though. I loved how he played vs Col. I must say I'm looking forward to seeing him and JFJ in next year's lineup.

4/18/2006 9:33 pm  

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