Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Optimism Abounds In Oilerville

Before the season started, then moreso after the acquisitions of Tarnstrom and Spacek, and especially after the trade deadline deals ... Oiler fans everywhere were optimistic I think. Certainly myself. Hell, even Dennis.

When the results didn't roll in as expected there was much consternation from long suffering Oiler fans. The boys at BofA, CinO and Cosh expressed the anxiety pretty well I think, you don't have to go back very far on those sites to find gnashing of teeth. They captured the recent feeling of the Oiler faithful pretty well. Hell, the normally unflappable Lowetide was on the brink of actually stepping in to interview coaches on behalf of the Oilers.

The fan boards were in a state of utter hysteria. Yet when the Oilers won a game or two the optimism was madass.

Mudcrutch remained a slave to reason, but I suspect that his heart and head were on different sides of the argument. Dennis predicted doom, but I think that's at least partly a defense mechanism, a "make yourself believe the worst will happen, then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't" kind of thing. He was an Expos fan, this way of thinking was a survival mechanism for those cats. :-)

So we talk about how hard it is to be an Oiler fan in this era, and I can't disagree. The emotional rollercoaster and all that. And now the Oilers finish in eighth and are poised to play a team that has been on a season long tear ... with an Oiler roster featuring some young players whose impressive points totals would be league best if the NHL also counted assists for goals-against.

I remind everyone of this because clearly people have forgotten. Check out this poll on HFboards. At the time I write this 80% of Oiler fans are predicting victory for our beloved home team ... and the madass optimism is back, baby!
Unbiased third party sez: Good Lord, pass the ether!

Personally I think that MacTavish's restructuring of the lineup offers some hope, and the hockey gods are yet to have their say, and what they say matters a lot in a best of seven series. Still, let's plan ahead. What should we do if it goes for a shit? I mean Detroit is a damn good hockey team, they just are. It really could happen, the Oil really could lose, hell it's even likely.

So this time, let's not get caught unaware and unprepared, do like me and plan ahead. You can go one of three routes:

1. Prepare your list of players and other people in the Oilers organization that you demand are fired. Do it now, be ready.

2. Convince yourself that the Oilers are a giant back of suck with less than a one in billion chance of beating Detroit. (N.B. Be sure to say "I told you so, dumbasses!" if you're right, and say "I've never been more glad to be wrong!" if the Oilers win.)

3. Kick reason to the curb and find a way to blame it all on Bettman! (Unrelated tidbit: Schadenfreude is my favourite kind of strudel, great with coffee!)

BTW: Preseason over/under for the Oilers was 94.5 points.

As for my own gut feel on the playoffs this year, I cannot find the words so I'll use a picture. Of course here, as always, the Oilers are being represented by angry ice cream sandwiches and the Wings are being depicted by a kitten.

Reason be damned. Ya gotta believe!

Go Oilers!!!


Anonymous lowetide said...

I bet those two Tikkanen's catch that cat soon.

Yeah it's kind of hard not to walk around with a big smile today vic. Being an Oiler fan was a helluva lot easier in the 80s but if they ever win again in my lifetime I promise to enjoy it to the fullest. :-)

4/18/2006 9:03 pm  
Anonymous pdo said...

BTW: Preseason over/under for the Oilers was 94.5 points.

Is it fair to say they grossly underachieved then, given the additions of Spacek, Tarnstrom, Roloson and Samsonov?

Or, do we simply point to the goaltending issue and furthermore discount the addition of Roloson because he's essentially what we expected Conkanenn to be?

4/18/2006 9:38 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

I've learned to never fully invest in your sports team...just too much agony if they lose;) Who am I kidding here? I can't fool you guys:) Truth be told everything will pretty much stop once 4:30 NL time hits on Sat afternoon and in or lose I'll throw myself into the series and live and die with every goal scored/allowed and every scoring chance missed.

Note: once it's over though I will have some ideas to throw around. I don't think the Oilers should be in 8th place. I think they should be in 6th at the very least and 5th isn't a stretch either. But we'll get to that once we have to.

As for the Oilers chance in this series...I think the safe money says the Oilers win at least two games and after that anything can happen. The OIlers have played Det tough all season so I don't expect them to roll over now. Especially considering that Rolo's numbers are starting to get better. The only time I'd expect an uneven game is if say the Oilers win G1 in Detriot and then the Wings really put the hammer down in G2 and jump out early and the Oilers start a parade to the box. Otherwise I think this series is gonna be nip and tuck.

We do have a few guys still cutting thier playoff teeth but I wouldn't be surprised if we win it and I don't think that's hyperbole. Our PP can be downright dominating and if it gets hot then we've got a great chance. We've got some dynamic players in 12 and 83 and some battle tested vets TM in 37-94-21-44. Yes netminding is gonna be iffy but I don't think we need Rolo to be out of his head like CuJo was in '97 and to a lesser extent in '98. I think we just need him to control his rebounds and not turn nothing into something.

Line matching is gonna be key and if Datsyuk doesn't come back or isn't 100% healthy, ie Babcock says he's gonna play but Pavel says he's just hopeful so we know who'll make that decision, then it's gonna be easier to get matchups we like and especially at home.

4/18/2006 9:56 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Dennis said:
Line matching is gonna be key and if Datsyuk doesn't come back or isn't 100% healthy, ie Babcock says he's gonna play but Pavel says he's just hopeful so we know who'll make that decision, then it's gonna be easier to get matchups we like and especially at home.

What is the Red Wings' usual lineup anyway? Does Datsyuk play with Zetterberg or Shanahan? Anyway I kind of doubt that the Oilers pay that much attention to Datsyuk and if they do it'll be because he's playing with one of those guys.

4/18/2006 10:20 pm  
Anonymous snafu said...

Draper - Datsyuk - Shanahan
Holmstrom - Zetterberg - Samuelsson
Williams - Lang - Yzerman
Franzen - Cleary - Maltby

Draper can get moved to the checking line for home games if Babcock needs more pressure, but he likes playing him on Datsyuk's line to counter the fact that he does not get the last rights on the line match on the road.

Once in a while, you'll see them load up and put Dats with Shanny and Zetterberg, but only if they have to super-load. Each of the top 3 lines has 2 or more 20+ goal scorers, so the team is pretty balanced.

4/18/2006 10:46 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I think Dennis has nailed it - the Oil are good for two and after that its a roll of the dice. You can go back year after year and find upsets and bigger upsets then this would be. I know the argument has been raging for a while but I don't think Detroit are 122 point good. Playing 3 AHL calibre teams helps those stats - 44 out of a possible 48 points they gained. They are better then the Oil, sure, but when it comes down to it, man for man, I think these teams are closer then most people think. And if Datsyuk is out, they become a little bit closer.
If the Oil play well and if Roloson plays well, not out of this world but well, I think they win in 6 or 7, I honestly do.
Even if they lose, its all part of a process. They are already ahead of where they were in 2003/2004. So we'll see how far ahead and what the next steps are.

4/19/2006 6:32 am  
Anonymous iwocpo said...

In my opinion the Anaheim and LA upsets of Detroit would be considered much bigger surprises than an Edmonton defeat of the Wings. Anyone who looks at this series as the typica 1/8 is nuts.

4/19/2006 12:12 pm  
Anonymous Julian said...

my take has been that if Edmonton plays the way they're capable of, say, the second 20 games of the season when they were the third best team in the conference, plus the addition of Roloson and Sammy/Spacek, then I'm thinking this series goes 7 games and the winner is whoever gets the bounces.

If Edmonton plays the way they did down the stretch, it'll be Detroit in 5.
Edmonton is totally capable of hanging with the Wings if need be, i'll just need to see some proof that they can play that way.

I really hope there's something to the "now that the pressure of making the playoffs is gone" and "the wings have the pressure of being the favourites, the oilers can relax" lines of thinking.

4/19/2006 12:38 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

Yeah I'm sort doubting that whole line of thinking. I guess yes it would've been catastrophic, at least in hockey terms;) if the Oilers hadn't made the playoffs given whom they picked up and the great first 41 games they had. And maybe there is something to the theory that the pressure of the playoffs is secondary to making them.

But to me that's a pile of shit...at least from the prespective of a somewhat savvy Oilers fan;)

This team made enough changes that making the playoffs is no longer good enough. I don't care where they finished or who they're playing to me this team is good enough on paper, outside of the netminding which did improve the last 10 games, to beat any team in the league in a seven game series if the Oilers play hard and smart.

Those are the expectations I have for this team. I want to see them going out on their sword and that means playing their best hockey.

But it almost sees as if the brass is throwing out the old "well we made it so whatever happens is fine." And when I look at the guys who are impending UFA's and I see how costly 94's becoming and the raises in the futures of 16-83-10...then I'm not saying the future is right now but it's pretty damn close.

And close enough that just getting here isn't good enough whether you're playing the Presiden't Trophy winners or not.

4/19/2006 3:01 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I agree with all of that. And I think we were all swept up in "just make the playoffs!" mode. But the Oilers DIDN'T crank it up down the stretch, and they were outchanced in a lot of games since Christmas.

Had they made the playoffs in 5th spot, I think there would be a lot of room for optimism, but making them in 8th ... they've left themselves a tough road.

I still think that the Oilers have a lot of good players right now. And hopefully Samsonov is rounding into form and plays well in the playoffs, because aside from the PP minutes he did more harm than good when he first became an Oiler. And I really like Samsonov, always have.

Time for Hemsky to step up his 5on5 game and start paying the price going forward to get the puck in deep. He'll get talented linemates and won't get hard minutes ... his line HAS to create more than it surrenders IMO, and draw more penalties than it takes.

I think that Roloson=Legace and that the Oilers D is better than the DET D at this point. But look at DET's forward lines as listed out by snafu ... damn! That's an impressive top 9. And a lot of guys that can play either centre or the wing as well.

But hey, TOR beat OTT in '04 in a series in which they only outchanced them in one or two periods the whole series. If Roloson is better than Legace and one or two bounces or calls/non-calls go the Oilers way ... totally capable of winning this series methinks.

4/20/2006 8:05 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I'm one of the guys who may be driving Dennis nuts because I think that the Oil are not there yet but you know what ... I'm picking the Oil over the Wings and that's a solid straight up victory in 6. No hocus pocus - no Jon Casey heroics. I think the Oil match up with the Wings well. If it were Dallas or Calgary I would not feel the same way but I think the Oil take it.

If they play hard and smart they take it.

4/20/2006 8:54 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I love your optimism. Every day you seem to come up with a new reason for the Oilers to win. I'm not sure if anything the in particular really compels me personally (I mean just because 4 to 1 underdogs win about 1 times in 4 historically ... I dunno, man).

Still, I read you blog every day and you're grinding me down. :D The world needs more optimism.

4/20/2006 9:18 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Thanks Vic - well I'll be the first to admit that I'm a glass half full type guy. Until I finish it. Then I order another pint.

But when it comes to sports and the Oil in particular I am actually generally a pessimist. Too much relies on that elusive bounce. I usually expect the worst.

Could the Oil be going down in flames? Could it get ugly? Of course.

I just think there are too many reasons that point to an Oil series victory - I'll be the first to say that I may be trying to make 2 and 2 equal 5 but however way I look at it I think the Wings are ripe for the picking.

4/20/2006 10:19 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

Just to expand on a couple of things Vic said...overall colour me unimpressed with 12. Is he good? Yeah. Could he be better? Certainly. But it seems like his chances to score decreased in those last few games and as I mentioned he didn't look overly happy when Hemsky scored the playoff clincher. I don't think anyone's gonna be happy when the team's not winning or when they're not having a lot of personal success and both of these things occurred during differnt times in 12's tenure as an Oiler.

But he gets to play with 83 now so what a chance to put up some points. And in looking at the wings top nine I guess we can guess:) that at home MacT will have the 12-16-83 line going against the Williams-Yzerman-Lang troika.

Anyway Vic,,,you're right...this team hasn't been outchancing like it was earlier but I think the potential is still there and to use an old baseball term we're due.

4/20/2006 11:27 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Datsyuk is definitely out tomorrow night as well - just announced.

4/20/2006 12:17 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Unless the Wings are pulling some playoff wool over our eyes.

4/20/2006 12:56 pm  
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