Monday, October 16, 2006

Very Early Observations

The season is just four games old for the Oilers so it's pretty early to be making any predictions that you'd expect to pan out in the long term. But here's a few things I've put together which you may or may not have already read either here or over at LT's forum. Sometimes I'll just find myself responding to a thread and I'll wind up cutting and pasting it into an email and save it for a rainy day. The Oilers will be playing the next two nights so maybe some of these things will be irrelevant come Wednesday so I thought I'd get them out in the open right now. While I don't plan on being as prolific as say Andy G over at BOA I'm sure that I'll be able to keep the content coming so I'll waste a couple of bullets today before the Oilers start their season series against the new Minnesota Wild, ie the Canucks

- The whole Hejda/MAB/ 6th and 7th D slots is pretty interesting/confusing. Hejda seemed to be generating some good buzz in the preseason and MacT was giving him the tough min and he wasn't doing a bad job with it. But once the season broke he was nowhere to be found. What I'm thinking is that maybe the Oilers had decided that 5 D slots were etched in stone and that the last everyday gig was between Smid and Hejda. Even with MAB wearing the goathorns, and a suit, at the end of the Finals last year the Oil were willing to give him a chance to start out this season and were counting on his ability to make the first pass to be worth his inclusion in the lineup. Well the season's started and he hasn't looked great, Smid hasn't looked awesome either but I think they're more willing to cut him slack, and now it's a question of just what has to happen before he gets scratched. Will MacT make a move as long as the team continues to win? I've never believed in the whole "never change a winning lineup" credo and I'm not sure if MacT subscribes to that or not. I guess we'll see if the Oilers keep winning and MAB keeps making gaffes. If the kid continues to mess up the breakout pass I really don't know why they'd keep him in the top 19.

- To reverse that idea I was scared as hell that Sharnquist was going to be a bust. I know the Oilers have had great luck with castaway dmen and they do as good of a job identifying talent on the backend as the Habs do with netminders or the Twins do with starting pitching. But we weren't hearing a whole lot about this guy as the Ex season progressed and I was wondering if the luck was finally starting to run out. Well it's only four games into the season and the new guy's playing the most min on the team and the only glitch has been when he joined the rush with the Oilers down two men. I have to admit it's gonna take me awhile to get over that one. Overall I think the D hasn't been as sketchy as originally imagined but Smid and Bergeron have had some awful moments and if the old Matt Greene happens to resurface then it could be a real gongshow. But fine netminding and balanced scoring can be the Clearasil to that acne until Lowe's finally gets around to really clearing that face up come the deadline. Ok I'll stop with that analogy now.

- I'd forgotten how good Roli can be and it's been a nice reminder. It's the old Wild version that I remember, ie always square to the shooter and excellent rebound control.

- Anyone else thinking that Moreau and Pisani are making a helluva lot of money for two guys whose combined goal totals most likely won't eclipse 30? I'll give Pisani his due and I'll say his goal scoring ceiling is higher than Moreau's but is there any need to be throwing out big bucks to both of them? I don't know the exact totals but two games into the home sked, which is where we'll see MacT's real plans given he has last change, the 18-16-34 line is as likely to get tough min as will the Horc line. So maybe MacT plans for them to make their money by giving them tough competition but that hasn't worked out that great thus far. So if these guys aren't scoring and they're coming up a collective minus in their matchups then what are we paying them for? Penalty killing?

- I have never seen a guy improve and/or change more than Lupul did from the first two games against Cgy plus the first period vs SJ to how he's played in the last five periods. He's starting to backcheck and he's starting to get physical in the O zone and thus keeping plays going and there's certainly no question he has finish. If 94-10 learn how to compliment him or they start to implement some plays specfically tailored to his skillset then maybe they turn into a line where you can play power vs power. That allows us to give the Stoll line a bit of a break which will once again raise the question: what are we paying Moreau and Pisani for?;)

- Am I nuts or should the Oilers PP be better?? It's clicking once in every four opps but it just seems to me that they don't generate a lot of chances. I think this Oilers PP should be an absolute nightmare on most of the occasions when they hit the ice but there are times when they don't move the puck well. Of course you'll also have occasions where they'll score a beauty like 94's tapper on Sat night but they always leave me wanting more. I just see too much paddy cake between the point men and not enough of Hemsky creating down low.

- I really can't wait to see how good this team is at home. The Oilers were an excellent road team last year so I'll also be expecting that trend to continue but maybe they fall off just a little away from Rexall but really turn it up at home. The crowd's been rowdy in their first two chances alebit it's easy to get up for games against the Sharks and Flames. I think we'll see a big jump in the Oilers home win totals.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the MAB and Winchester roster spots aren't designed to allow them to play their way out of town.

I don't get it either. I am certain that Hejda is ultimately supposed to slot in beside Staois and the last pair is Greene/Smid. The press box is quite a ways from #4. For now, it sure would be great if Hejda was reliable enough to be a safety valve for Smid and Greene could move up with Staois. Would Hejda have to clear waivers to be sent down (not for conditioning)?


10/16/2006 1:09 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

The Hejda thing is definitely an odd one for me too - I don't think he'd have to clear waivers but what do I know?

The thing with MAB is has he plateaued or is he just struggling with his confidence right now? If he continues to struggle do they keep throwing him out there or do they sit him? Confidence is everything - look at our man Greene.

Funny how the guys who get the gears are the fringe guys - like Cory Cross last year - having said that they either should replace Winny with a guy who they will actually give some minutes to - MAP, JFJ ??? Or play him. Not going to get a lot for a guy who you only trust for a minute and a half a night.

How did Moreau and Pisani look Saturday? I didn't see the game but they had plenty of shots - did they have any decent opportunities? Were they doing any good work in the Avs' zone? Or are they just a big bag of suck right now? I still think Fernando is playing hurt right now.

10/16/2006 1:32 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I'm thinking you can send anyone down for a conditioning stint, no? Ideally Hejda can mentor Smid and Greene can step in with Staios and Hejda takes Greene's PK time. We MIGHT be able to get way with a Greene/Smid tandem at home with last change but it would prove disasterous on the road

10/16/2006 1:36 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

Pretty sure you can send anyone down for a conditioning stint as long as they agree to it.

10/16/2006 1:40 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

"Funny how the guys who get the gears are the fringe guys - like Cory Cross last year - having said that they either should replace Winny with a guy who they will actually give some minutes to - MAP, JFJ ??? Or play him. Not going to get a lot for a guy who you only trust for a minute and a half a night."

Good observation! It's especially funny to see the message board folks' take on fringe players - it seems like HF randomly designates extremism days for these topics.

I suppose that there are those who believe that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. An awfully good top 4 last season was devastated out of the gate in part because of other teams' ability to capitalize on Crossanov gaffes. As a matter of fact, in a league where the playing level is so tight overall, I'd wager that a large enough portion of goals are scored when a coach is able to get the matchup he wants...

My line of thinking here is a bit off topic and likely going to culminate in a post soon enough, but what I'm saying is that the NHL is a league where 91.0% is excellent, 90.0% is standard, and 89.0% is quite poor. I'm beginning to think that these tiny discrepancies are responsible for a large portion of game outcomes.

10/16/2006 1:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

steven - Hejda is on a two way so he might not agree. With some of the injury problems on top of the unbalanced rosters, I think he's unlikely to clear waivers (he's gotta be better than Belak for instance).


10/16/2006 1:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dennis - Greene/Smid may not be that bad in 40 games or so.


10/16/2006 1:55 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Showerhead - a good point on Cross and Ulanov of course - they were overmatched for the most part and cost the Oilers many times

The problem with Winchester is that his skill set doesn't lend itself to the type of duty they are asking him to pull - his greatest success as a pro player is his PP production in the AHL - he's not going to see any PP time on this team unless the first three lines go down as well as at least one guy in the press box and a few guys in the minors so what do you do? He's no more then a throwin right now although if Salmanainen can help net a guy like Spacek then maybe he has some worth after all - young and cheap is an attractive combo on the trade market, I guess

10/16/2006 2:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bdhs - the Hawks were going to lose Spacek for nothing and iirc Salmelainen had some kind of chemistry with T. Ruutu when they played together over there. Very special case.


10/16/2006 2:28 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

mo - I think Winchester doesn't get somebody in return on his lonesome - I would put him in the category of a Yan Stastny or, well, for that matter, Salmelainen, or Jani Rita - a marginal prospect - if he goes anywhere by himself it would be for a low low pick - I'm thinking a throw in with a pick for an upcoming UFA - for the most part that seems to be the going rate

I don't think the Oilers have to part with a prospect of Schremp's status (and I don't consider the guy a Hockey Jesus, believe me but I think he is a pretty good prospect) unless they're getting some real value - ie/ a guy signed at a reasonable rate through next year like the guy in LA - Vishnesky

Most of the moves last year were marginal guys getting moved - a lot of picks iirc.

10/16/2006 3:00 pm  
Anonymous Julian said...

Am I the last one to notice that the shift chart for the two players you enter is displayed across the top of the page underneath the Blogger topbar? How long has it been like that, always? Jeez...

And which one is which, green is home and red away?

This stuff is simply awesome.

10/16/2006 3:46 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Let's also not forget that the Oilers got the jump on everyone last year by picking up Jaro pretty early and in addition to that they had a deal done early for Tarnstrom but he became injured shortly thereafter.

I'd hope that the Oilers try for the same this year. It would mean eating more of the newly acquired contract but the earlier we get a guy the more impact he could make but it might make the difference between us finishing say 2nd or 3rd in the Conf.

10/16/2006 3:47 pm  
Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Great analysis, Dennis. And I agree about the PP. RiversQ has been giving me a hard time (shocker!), saying the PP is great, but I don't buy it. We've been getting fortunate, is my opinion. There are not enough chances being generated, and too much reliance on the one-timer from the point. It's like it's the only thing they know how to do. A quality PP team should be getting at least 4 or 5 shots on net during each PP, and should be wearing out an opposing team by making lots of passes. They don't make the opposing team work enough, and are usually lucky to get 2 shots on net. The PP should be scary, like Sakic-Forsberg scary, and yet it isn't.

10/16/2006 3:57 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Well Andy...the numbers say the PP is great and I have to agree with that. I don't know if it's complacency or what but they take their time and here comes one perfectly executed played and bam it's in the net. I think it should be better though and I think they're messing around two much with two units.

10/16/2006 4:50 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

A quality PP team should be getting at least 4 or 5 shots on net during each PP

Nah, this is BS. Detroit had the best PP in the league last year and they racked up 56.5 PPS/60.

10/16/2006 5:01 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

dennis - agreed - I think Lowe will make the move sooner rather then later

now, what would a guy like Brewer, Stuart or Chris Phillips cost? not to say that any of these guys will be available but a guy who can play in the top four but who is a UFA after this season


10/16/2006 7:00 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Probably depends a lot on where their teams are and what teams heading towards the playoffs are looking for. I've got no idea myself.

10/16/2006 8:43 pm  
Anonymous gary b said...

i'm curious to see how much longer the Sykora-at-centre experiement continues. it seems to me our faceoff stats have taken a bit of a hit (understandably), and i'm a bit concerned about that line's ability to defend. if i was MacT, i might be tempted to move 71 back to the wing, put Stoll at centre on the 2nd line, move Reasoner up to centre the 3rd line (Torres to 3rd line as well), and heck i'd even risk Thoreson at centre on the 4th. or maybe Pisani moves to centre the 3rd, if memory serves he did play a few games at that position last year.

I think what it comes down to is, the coaching staff meeds to put players into positions they can thrive - and i'm not sure the current config is quite it.

10/17/2006 2:45 pm  
Blogger Loxy said...

Re: Lupul

I had him in my fantasy pool. After game 2, I dropped him. My reasoning was that he might score goals, but he wasn't doing much to get in MacT's good books. Knowing "the blender", guys who aren't in the good books get thrown into the blender first. Where they end up? Anywhere from the 2nd to the 4th line.

I figured his minutes would drop (except some PP time) and his numbers wouldn't be up to snuff to keep him over a Kozlov-type who gets points by just looking at Hossa.

Needless to say, I picked Lupul back up when I realized that he was more than a one-trick pony and that he was going to do whatever was needed for this team.

He didn't do much tonight, but neither did the lions share of the team.

10/18/2006 12:00 am  
Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Nah, this is BS. Detroit had the best PP in the league last year and they racked up 56.5 PPS/60.

You've proven they had the best PP, not a good one.

10/18/2006 1:02 am  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

Yes I'm sure Lowe would like to deal Winny for a dman like Spacek but that is NOT happening. Lowe has already tipped his hand regarding Winchester's value when he tried to deal him last March for 7 weeks of Dean McAmmond - why would he be worth any more now? The potential gain involved in playing Winchester also doesnt seem worth putting Pouliot into a situation as bad as WB when he was clearly much better in TC. As for MAB and Hedja - damn if I know what's going on but it looks like they want to be sure about MAB hitting the development wall - therefore he plays until he confirms things one way or the other.

10/18/2006 1:03 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

The only problem the PP has now is completely unrealistic expectations.

And that's not really their problem now, is it?

Personally, I think the only thing that matters are the results and if your PP is clicking at 25%, then it's bound to be fricking good. That's certainly going to put a team near 8.0 PPGF/hr, which will put you in the top 5 teams in the league. Does anyone really think this PP personnel should be better than top 5?

I really don't care how bad they might look for a handful of PPs in a couple of playoff games, or in a 3-4 game stretch in the regular season. Actually, I don't care if it looks like Keystone Kops all year because all that really matters is that they fill the net at a rate that gives them a chance to win hockey games. This PP definitely does that. Style counts for fuck all.

10/18/2006 10:04 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

One other thing...

Dennis: After the Colorado game, I was a little worried about the two units thing as well. They definitely rolled them there and they pretty much did it again in the first VAN game. The CAL games and the SJ game had the top heavy PP icetime distribution that we like to see. Fortunately, last night's game was a return to that strategy. So while it's a little disconcerting that they play the odd game with two units, at least it has been mostly focused on a top unit - or at least a top four.

The only problem being that MAB led the team with 10:27 of PP time last night. I can't emphasize how much of a waste of time this is beyond saying it's really just a shade better than using Staios back there. We should all know what that means.

MAB gets more PP ice than Hemsky, Sykora or Smyth in any single game this year?!?! Indefensible. How much PP time does the coaching staff have to give the guy before they figure out that he doesn't produce back there? They're going to need more 5 forward units because they just don't have the personnel to have a dman out there.

How did they manage to use Tjarnqvist and MAB more than Stoll on the PP last night too?

For the record, I don't mind MAB one bit. I think Oiler fans underrate what he brings to the team at ES, especially when it comes to generating offense. I just think he has to be sixth at most in PP ATOI on this team and that's only because the Oilers have no other remotely competent PP dmen available.

10/18/2006 10:27 am  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

You've proven they had the best PP, not a good one.

Welcome to Lake Wobegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the power plays are below average.

10/18/2006 10:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best guess is that MAB is getting time because a) MacT still likes to have a D back there, and there is not a lot to choose from b) MAB is struggling, and one way to get out of the confidence hole is to pot a couple pp goals.

I think LT is right that MAB is the kind of player who can fall out of this league, and thus (b) is not so absurd a thing to do--whether it is to pump and dump, or to hope MAB can still be a contributor for this team for the remainder of the season.

10/18/2006 11:38 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

They're using MAB back there because MacT's having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century when it comes to using five forwards. I don't mind using a D or two when we're up by a goal with 10 min or less left in the 3rd period. I'm as offense oriented as the next guy but sometimes conserative is the best method.

10/18/2006 12:21 pm  
Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I like that I'm actually making RiversQ angry now. It's sweet revenge. He still hasn't taken the time to prove how our PP is any good, I should note. He just drops in and yells at me. Give me a post with the numbers...

10/18/2006 2:59 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

There's nothing to prove Andy.

For this year, it's just 6 games. An attempt to convince people that the PP is outstanding is just as misguided as trying to prove that it's horrible.

For last year, it has all been said before.

10/18/2006 3:35 pm  
Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Where has it all been said before? I haven't seen it.

10/18/2006 4:06 pm  

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