Sunday, October 15, 2006

Some musings re: Colorado

A quick look at the sidebar indicates that of all Oiler centers, Joe Sakic faced Shawn Horcoff the most last night. Against a team like the Avalanche, one can only think MacTavish was content to go power-vs-power and try to win on depth. The interesting part, in my opinion, is how the rest of the game's minutes were doled out.

Using Svatos as a measure of Colorado's next biggest offensive threat, you'll find that Jarret Stoll was the Oiler center who faced the second most difficult minutes last night and got beat up a little bit by it. 16-34-18 was on the ice for the Avs' first and last goals, created very little, and lost several positional battles - one notably resulting in Stoll's hooking penalty. As an aside, Sykora's line saw very little of Colorado's top players at ES last night.

I think MacT's game plan is pretty clear thus far this season. Horcoff gets the toughest minutes, Sykora gets the easiest minutes, Stoll gets the second toughest, and Reasoner gets whatever else is available. I find this interesting on a few levels:

1) MacTavish has had absolutley zero fear keeping Lupul on the top line. Even last night when things weren't going so well, the blender didn't toss #34 up there as a safety valve. Personally I am happy to see this as Lupul has impressed me with some of his defensive plays even if he hasn't been an offensive dynamo thus far. His penalty last night saved a goal IMO and he has been the 1st forward back more frequently than I would have ever expected on that line.

2a) MacTavish is either content to see Sykora get a huge raise (or walk) next year or really doesn't care that much about contracts when he sets out to win games.

2b) I think we should be relatively pleased that Hemsky is locked up long term - with minutes like he's been getting one can only assume his point totals are on the rise. Conversely, Torres has started a bit slow despite playing reasonably well - I'm interested to see what becomes of him as the season progresses.

3) Stoll often looks exposed. Despite having the two most defensively responsible wingers on his line, things just haven't worked out on the plus side of the ledger for the guy. Last night #16 was caught out of position quite a bit and looked to be fighting the puck. I'm a big fan of his and hope that he turns it around, but I'm a bit worried. In fairness, #18 and #34 did do a hell of a job turning the tide against San Jose though Pisani looked exhausted by my eye last night. I hope that the rumours of him playing hurt are false and he's just tired from taking care of his newborn.

4) I have never cheered harder for a 4th line than I do for Edmonton's this year. Something about Norwegian walk-ons and tearful reunions of versatile centers turn me into a big rubbery one. Winchester had his moments against SJ and looks to be earning his spot slowly but surely though I am curious as to what our other bottom-end forwards will look like.

Anyhow, those are my early season thoughts - it's good to post again :)

22 Comments:

Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Welcome back bud.

Some counter musings...if you will:

- Heading into this season I said I was gonna be keeping an eye on 16 because him-Samsonov-Hemsky got all of the cherry min in last year's playoffs, at least at home when we had the last change, and Stoll basically did nothing with them. Points wise he was a PP specialst in the reg season and he didn't do anything beyond the Det series outside of G5 in SJ. So I was gonna keep an eye on him but I sorta got sidetracked watching some of the D..particularily everyone outside of 21-24. But I'm not surpised that 16's lagging...in fact I expected it.

- MacT knows that 71's just passing through and he knows that the 83-71 tandem should be able to feast on the lesser lights so I don't think he really cares if 71 uses the '07 season to springboard into a big contract. We've got young talent coming through the pipe so we won't be stuck. And if we're bringing back 94 and 24 then monies will be allocated in such a way that we won't be able to bring back 71 anyway. It will behoove the Oilers to move 16 up to that position and promote Reasoner and make sure the 4th line pivot is a cheaper option like an MAP or an RS.

- I was pretty pleased with Lupul's play during the last 5 periods. He looked like a mess in the 1st vs SJ on Thurs but he's been pretty good the last 5 frames. I think 94-10 are still trying to figure out the best way to use him but I think that will come and it will most likely have to be 10 leading the way. Lupul gets his chances and goals from the slot so I think that sorta clashes a bit with 94's MO and down low Smyth's wrapping it around and taking it to the net so 15 would have to get in there and fight with him for the garbage:) Of course it works for 94 so I'm not gonna argue. I think we'll eventually see 10 becoming more of a playmarker and looking to find Lupul in the slot and then 94 will get in there and bang away at the refuse. But overall 15 is warming more and more to that task of physical play and backchecking and hey if he's doing that in G4...then that bodes well for April.

- 34 and 14...34's put in some much grunt work and elbow grease that he's gonna gonna hear any boos even if he doesn't crack 20 goals...and he might not. If the team didn't have other scoring then more pressure would be on him but we do and it isn't so he should be fine. He's probably playing injured though...he isn't even getting in scoring position let alone scoring and you can't score goals without scoring chances. 14 is getting his chances but just can't finish.

- I like the 4th line too. 19's back and doing the usual and Thoresen just seems steady and dependable. Fuck..even 26 did his job last night in limited time...had a nice forecheck on the go and drew a penalty.

10/15/2006 4:09 pm  
Blogger godot10 said...

Sykora is capped by Hemsky's and Horcoff's contracts if he wants to stay. Sykora and Rich Winter both know the Oilers are NOT going to pay him more than Horcoff. It doesn't matter if he gets 100 points.

If he has a good year, its 2 years @ $3.5 max. If he wants more, it won't be in Edmonton.

As a forward, only Smyth will get paid more than Hemsky.

10/15/2006 4:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree on Winchester. Had a nice moment there sure, but he failed to make a simple play in his own zone that lead to his line getting hemned in and allowing a dangerous sequence. I would suggest that his lack of appearance out on the ice after this was no accident. Playing under 2 minutes doesn't sound to me like earning a spot (in fairness you did say "slowly").

Also amazed I'm not hearing more about Bergeron's performance last night. The guy was caught watching and directly responsible for two GAs. The other, the first goal, well - guess whose man got loose and had time to shoot from Position A? I haven't seen a more hurtin performance from any one player in a long time. MAB was so beyond awful - watch the highlights, does anyone feel any differently? Hejda should be in Monday, if only to put some pressure on the little guy to pull his head out of his ass. IIRC Hejda was pulling the heaviest responsibilities in the pre-season too, yeah?

Sorry to sound so harsh but for all the shift chartery and system analysis I can't see how people are overlooking obvious examples of flat out poor plays that had great impact on the scoreline.

-BDV

10/15/2006 4:56 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

"Sorry to sound so harsh but for all the shift chartery and system analysis I can't see how people are overlooking obvious examples of flat out poor plays that had great impact on the scoreline."

BDV you make some good points (and I like the ring of "shift chartery"). I realize I didn't mention the defense once, which is odd to say the least when talking about this club, but yes I saw and believe that Bergeron made some costly gaffes. A lot of people seem to be saying that Smid is looking very young and over his head but IMO I'm absolutely thrilled with where he's at in terms of poise and decision making at this stage of his career. Even Greene has surpassed my expectations thus far... I guess what I'm saying is that I really didn't expect MAB to be the biggest disappointment on the back end.

10/15/2006 5:12 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Thanks for the welcome, Dennis.

To respond to your post point-by-point style...

1) I remember aggressively pushing the Stoll-got-sheltered-and-wasn't-that-effective case at HF a couple of months ago, much to the chagrin of that board's faithful. It was just before Spaz/JNT/HockeyAddict started a long and interesting thread regarding "difficult minutes" I believe. So kudos to you for predicting Stoll's situation but I did not mean for my post to read that I am shocked by this. Also, while I don't think he's going to have an excellent year, I think he will get better than he is now - I want to make this clear as well.

2) I suppose in all likelihood 71 is on his way to a fatter paycheque elsewhere, though I'll admit I do buy that he enjoys Edmonton to some degree. I like the idea of being as stacked but more experienced next season but if the dollars get too high I would have no problem going with the centers you mention.

3-5) Pretty much agreed on all counts!

10/15/2006 5:56 pm  
Anonymous BDV said...

Showerhead,

Agreed on Greene. He isn't what you'd call a mobile d-man but he's getting the job done in the corners cleanly and effectively as compared to last season. He's already taken some real strides. As for Smid, I agree with Dennis's take awhile back about him leaning heavily on Staios. He tends to fire the puck back around to Steve every time there's a hint of pressure. But as Dennis said, that's the correct method to learn. It's all about not making big mistakes and Smid is largely making the right plays at the right times and avoiding being caught standing still and watching. He's a year or two away from true reliability but I can see him earning more and more ice as the year wears on.

Onto MAB. I wanted to say that I'm a big believer in "shift chartery" and the rest of it. There's a reason Hemsky is +4 and a reason coaches often take great pains to keep their stars away from Horcoff. Usually GAs can be tied to mismatches but the mistakes MAB made just blew my mind last night and they weren't a case of Sakic schooling him or anything. I've come to expect a reasonable level of effort and awareness from this group (exactly why you guys were all over Lupul for his detached floating in G1 2). This game isn't even close if MAB wasn't dressed. That's saying a lot for the talent of this squad and Roloson, too. But let's face it, the team hasn't put forth a 60 minute effort yet and they haven't had to.

The hobbit is driving me crazy this season because I've always been a fan of his (he's a beautiful skater and has a dynamite shot) but he is continually making the same errors he did 4 years ago! On the first goal, if your man slips coverage you better get down and block that shot (MAB stands there). On the second goal if your man cuts through the middle you don't hesitate, you follow him - or better yet you close the gap and challenge him long before the hash marks, regardless of what 28 does (MAB doesn't move his feet and reaches lazily with his stick, leaving 28 to make a last ditch blocking effort). On the third goal you just plain do NOT let your man get a stick down between you and the goal (MAB pivots, looks confused and allows Hejduk to get a stick on a puck he had no business being near). I wasn't a D-man growing up and playing, but I've played a lot of high level hockey and it's not freakin rocket science.

10/15/2006 6:04 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Lupul's improvement warms my heart.

Pisani's got a bad knee, no? Might not be a bad idea to sit for a game or two. Maybe after the home and home?

I didn't see the game last night but I saw the highlights and mark me down as someone a little down on MAB - he had a real tough game for sure. Some pretty basic mistakes. I think we may see Hejda pretty soon. If MAB struggles Monday then maybe the Czech draws in Tuesday - MacT can shelter him a little.

I don't dislike Winny but he's not a good fit for the fourth line, imo. If you can't play a guy for more then 2 minutes then he may as well not dress.

10/15/2006 7:41 pm  
Anonymous momentai said...

bdv:

Granted, that Hejduk score was plain ugly in letting him walk in all the way to the net while staring at Statsny in the corner... but I can't see how you can lay the blame totally on Bergeron for the Arnason one.

Greene made a bad pinch and we were screwed as soon as I saw Bergeron and Thoresen trying to defend the criss-cross on the 2 on 2. Thoresen really didn't know what he was doing on that play and didn't get up on Arnason on the shot. I don't know how much more Bergeron was expected to do on that play. On that kind of play, dmen are taught to hold their position and not to try and follow their man as the opposition crosses. Unfortunately, Thoresen didn't really have the experience necessary to deal with that kind of situation. (Greene probably shouldn't have been that aggressive on the pinch in that instance anyway.)

10/15/2006 8:00 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Just to clarify...I didn't make that point of 5 leaning on 24 but it's a great point nonetheless;) The best scnario for 5 to break in would be on a team where he'd be on the third pairing and would be partnered with a vet but it was a team that didn't have high expectations. Instead he's on a team with Cup aspirations where his pair is playing the second toughest ES min. So while he does have a vet to bring him along he's playing bigger min then he can probably handle and he's playing them in a pressure cooker that basically isn't even turned on yet.

What the Oilers need is for Greene to be able to step up and play in the top four and then they need to find another dependable guy who can make a third pairing with 5 but will be able to jump in and take the PK time that Greene's logging right now, ie 5 is playing the 4th most ES time but we can't underestimate the job Greene's doing as the 4th PK guy either.

And I wouldn't look to flip a prospect to get his dman either...I'd just try and deal MAB straight up. I like Bergy and I especially like those odd games where he joins the rush. I remember a huge home win vs the Preds on a Fri night down the futile '04 stretch where he was just jumping into the play all night and it was fun to watch. But as I've seen many other posts say today...he keeps making the same mistakes over and over. I feel good about our top 3 D and I can roll with Greene and Smid making mistakes but we need one more solid guy./

10/15/2006 9:56 pm  
Anonymous bdv said...

Momentai - fair enough re: the Arnason one. I think of the 3 that was the one that was least MAB's fault. Thoresen looked kind of stupid on that play but MAB needs to realize he's got a 4th line F back with him. A 2-on-2 should never result in that type of scoring chance, I don't care if I'm on D. You're right that D-men are taught to hold their position and not be drawn into the crossover move (puck fixation) but MAB failed to challenge the puck carrier's body early after the move across (feet not moving) and when it became apparent he'd lost body position Thoresen made a last ditch effort to get in the way of the shot. Ugly looking play that wasn't so much stupid as unfortunate. The other two goals were stupid, not to mention the 4-5 times MAB was caught watching a pass from behind the net result in Roloson having to make a point-blank save.

Sorry for the persistant MAB rant here. I was just shocked at how many idiotic plays he made in one night (juxtaposed against the other guys not really doing so, for once -- I'm used to Greene being the goat). I want to see what Hejda can do- maybe he will suck and if so I'll shut up ;)

10/15/2006 10:00 pm  
Anonymous bdv said...

Dennis - I'm with you 100% on personnel requirements. I pray Hejda can be "that guy" on the bottom pairing. I was going to respond further but I just realized there's no point in using up D-man rants after only Game 4... there will be plenty of heart attacks to come with this group :)

As for the point about 5 leaning on 24 - where did I read that then? It's funny because I hadn't really noticed then I read that after G2. Then, watching closely, it was almost comical how much 5 would fire the puck back to 24 when under pressure, even if 24 was in a far worse position! Oh well, baby steps.

10/15/2006 10:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bdv - About the arnason goal, you mention that Bergeron 'failed to challenge the puck carrier's body early after the move across'. As soon as the crossover happens, Bergeron gets clipped by Richardson's skate as he moves by and MAB loses his footing. I don't think it was a case of Bergy not moving his feet as you said, rather he just gets clipped and loses his footing. IMO, I don't fault MAB whatsoever on that goal, it was really just unfortunate.

The first Wolski goal had some 'unfortunate' in it too. The puck took a bounce straight to Wolski off of Greene. The way Bergeron was turned around (which was inevitable because of the funny bounce) he would have had to dive face first or rotate and block it with his backside to have any chance. If he had decided to go for the block, I don't think there's anyway he could have gone down in time anyhow. Again, he was in an unfortunate situation and all he really could do was try to knock the stick and unfortunately that didn't work.

10/16/2006 1:15 am  
Blogger sacamano said...

Man, I can't remember whether or not I've already told you this; but I love your sidebar icetime calculator. I spend hours jimmy-ing around with that baby.

Even better is that you crazy kids give some fantastic analysis of all that mathemagic.

10/16/2006 7:55 am  
Blogger sacamano said...

Hey, speaking of which -- since I'm sure none of you have anything better to do -- how difficult would it be for the sidebar to provide a breakdown of that head-to-head icetime between 5on5, powerplay, and penalty kill? Are the data even available?

10/16/2006 8:08 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

sacamano: Yeah, Vic would be able to do that pretty easily I would think. He's got all the EV time up there right now, but usually he uses just 5on5. I'm not sure why he has switched it up - I guess there's a fair amount of 4on4 time right now though isn't there?

Do you think that's particularly useful sacamano? I'm not sure the matchups mean much after even strength. The ST matchups say more about the team's overall special teams personnel philosophy (ie. using bottom sixers on the PK to save top sixers for ES play or defying logic and rolling the lines on the PP, etc) than anything else.

10/16/2006 9:11 am  
Blogger sacamano said...

Yeah, you are probably right, it really wouldn't be that useful -- the 4on4 vs 5on5 time might be interesting though.

10/16/2006 9:55 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Agreed on the 4on4 stuff. A couple of years ago, it was probably near worthless, but it wouldn't surprise me if guys like Sakic and Horcoff are playing 3-4 min/game at 4on4 and that's starting to be significant.

10/16/2006 10:24 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Hey showerhead! Good to see you back around here.

Probably not a good game to look to closely at if you're an Oiler fan, everything was ugly except the result. I think that if Roloson wasn't terrific in this game it would have been over long before the comeback started. Funny thing though, even when they had been owned all night and were trailing late in the 2nd, I just had a feeling that they would come back. It's been a long time since I've had that kind of optimism. This must be waht is has been like to be an Avs fan for the past decade or so. COL seemed like the Oiler teams of old, tonnes of try and speed, and close but no cigar. I mean Laaksonen could where a McAmmond jersey and nobody would notice for weeks. :)

A good assessment on the forward matchups. Stoll is looking a little out of place when he is playing against the top guns, which isn't a whole shitload or anything ... still. Fernando hasn't helped either, I love the guy but he's not creating much yet this year, and I'd lay most of the blame on him for the scoring chance that resulted in the Stoll penalty in COL, he was the F1, and at least part of the blame for Cheechoo's 5v5 goal in the game previous (granted Stoll shouldn't have drifted high on Cheechoo until he was sure that Pisani had control ... that might not be a bad choice if you're out there against Barnaby, but against Thornton's line that's a piss poor decision). And like Dennis said the other day Reasoner is taking the shift after the Oilers PP a bunch, and the RPM line reunited is looking pretty good in spite of Fernando not being himself right now. Horcoff and Smyth are starting to roll. Hemsky has been just terrific in these first few, he's always been nifty but now he's driving it through along the wall and taking the hit, carrying the play into traffic, driving the net, etc ... and he's not giving up the puck in bad places very often so far. Can't say enough about the guy, he could turn into a very special player.

In this one I think the pegging of blame on Bergeron is a bit harsh, is he the new whipping boy on the boards or something? I like the type of defensemen that move the puck north-south though, so I'm probably a softer critic when those kinds of guys have rough patches. Besides that, COL had so many scoring chances that it doesn't seem sensible to just focus on the three that happened to go in. The Oilers just weren't winning puck battles for most of the night, just didn't have their legs. It was a good night for a guy like Thoresen to get some icetime and have a chance to bring some energy, and he showed pretty well for himself I thought. Pretty damning that Winchester couldn't earn more ice on a night like this.

What did Hejduk say or do to Hrudey at the morning skate to piss him off so much?! Damn.

Lupul is starting to win me over. It's such a short track record with the guy in Oiler colours that we're all bound to appear bipolar in our opinions of him. But that was a solid game from Lupul in that one. He still needs to learn to be stronger on the puck IMO, but he's playing a pretty solid game, and he has the finish to be able to rack up his fair share of goals even without being Selivanovesque. Hopefully he keeps it up.

And man, is Sakic ageless or what? Terrific player, seems to just keep getting better and hasn't lost a step in footspeed to my eyes. As well he'll be playing against the other team's best most nights this season. On the whole I'd say him and his low rent linemates outplayed Smyth-Horcoff-Smith on this night, and that's not easy to do. That COL team is a Sakic injury away from sucking Caps-style methinks.

10/16/2006 11:56 am  
Blogger Doogie said...

It's been in the papers all season that Pisani has a bum knee. What's with all the speculating?

10/16/2006 6:49 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I think the whole slagging of MAB has to do with "facts" like this:

- He was HSed in the Finals so people were gonna watch out to see how he fares early on.

- He's been a regular for awhile now so the sophmoric mistakes won't be as tolerated.

- Oilers fans know that Smid isn't gonna take a bullet, more on that later from me perhaps...I'm just wondering if the Oilers are falling into the old "we can't not play a guy that was acquired for someone like Pronger"..it might be worth looking into.

Anyway and overall the smart fans knew going in that we needed big stuff from 21-24, we needed Shaggy to be the real deal, and early returns are certainly promising in this regard, and that we needed Greene and MAB to step up because Smid would likely struggle. Jump ahead 5 games and 21-29 are handling the tough min, 5-24 are taking on the second toughest, though 5 isn't seeing any SH time and thusly 2-47 are getting the soft min. So if we see either of those guys are jaking it against admittedly lesser comp then the knives are gonna come out. And deserverdly so IMO

One of the interesting sidebars right now is that Moreau's -4 and he's sinking fast. The 18-16-34 line hasn't been etched in stone as we've seen 19 slip in for 16 and especially when there's a lot of ST play and 16's pulling up the min in those roles, but it seems like whomever plays on that line gets a minus. I know 15 was with 18-19 last night and sure enough there was a GA. I didn't like the new Moreau contract right out of the gates because no one would wager on him scoring more than 15 goals a year so what are we paying him for? Probably to kill penalties and we really don't know the true value of PKing besides knowing who the most important PKer is, ie the goalie. Early on it looked like MacT would use Moreau's line to take some tough min but they're off to a bad start in that role.

Same goes for Pisani if he's not scoring and he isn't even getting in scoring position let along scoring. At least he has that knee excuse going for him. Hopefully he'll go on IR soon and get that taken care of instead of letting it linger.

10/17/2006 6:13 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I just don't think that Stoll is up to the task, at least not at this stage of his career. I mean we've seen a lot of the Stoll line vs tough opp in the first period and eventually MacTavish has to shift to the Horcoff line for that gig. I think it's because he realizes that he has to, not because he really wants to.

Granted they've had two CGY games and two VAN games, and Horcoff/Smyth don't have a very good track record vs Iggy or Naslund, so maybe that plays into the MacTactics a bit, I dunno.

I think the Oilers will be okay, they should make the playoffs if they stay reasonably healthy. They'll have to start working for their chances a bit more, and dump and chase if that's all that is there. They need the puck to spend more time in the offensive zone or they're going to start paying the price when the goalie has a bad game or the opposing shooters start making some shots.

10/18/2006 10:50 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

sacamano/riversq:

Glad to hear that a few people are using it. From an 'internet argument' POV, it's powerful stuff, is this. Not so much on here where the guys who post and most of the guys who comment are pretty sharp, but generally speaking. It's stunning how many Oiler fans on OilFans and HF thought that Stoll was playing a lot of critical icetime last season (I'd say 90%, the mind boggles). And these are, by and large, good Oiler fans and not walkin' 'round dumbasses or anything, just somehow they never noticed. And I've read lengthy threads on the boards in the past giving credit to a player who is 'Shutdown Famous Baby!' for slamming the door on an opponent that he barely even saw the ice against. That sort of shit just pains me.

The idea isn't to get people looking-at-the-shift-charts per se. But hopefully bringing up the awareness on the subject so that people start noticing that kind of thing without even trying, because it's hugely important. If you pay attention to this ... then most NHL coaches are going to start seeming a lot smarter and most talk radio callers are going to start seeming the opposite. It's inevitable.

And also that when, for example, Dennis watches some Kings games and comments that Avery is playing tough minutes ... as unlikely as that seems, you can prove him right (100:1 odds that the vast majority of Kings fans would vote Conroy over Avery for those minutes btw). Or riversq noticing that Pronger was having his PP time cut back on the back half of the man adv so Huddy could get him out there for the first shift afterwards ... that stuff is gold, and I hadn't noticed. But it would just be an opinion that would be drowned out by the naysayers and the watcha-talkin'-bout-willis internet kids if not for the shiftcharts. And nobody is going to look at those unless they are easy to use.

Back to point: I could separate out the 5v5 and 4v4 easy enough, and even the time when the goalie was pulled. All of the info is from the shift charts here, it's a simple metric ... if the the shift chart shows 6 players on the ice for both teams ... then that column counts as a 5v5 one. Could add in icetime together for linemates too I suppose. There is a danger of making it too complicated though.

I had it as just 5v5 at first, but one of the first games I tested it on had a shitload of 4v4 time and then the goalie was pulled for about 2 minutes ... so I decided to just leave it as even strength. And the linemates thing is pretty obvious to everyone I think, though I don't notice D as much so have to look in to see just how much Shaggy subbed in for Smid and when, and usually just shortly after the game or I've forgotten the context.

10/18/2006 11:18 am  

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