Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Correct Answer Was Four

Somewhere in the comments to a post below we pondered how many losses in a row it would take before MacTavish reverted to a more conventional bench coaching strategy, like we would doubtlessly see in a playoff game. Turns out that the correct answer was four. And bonus points to anyone who guessed that the last one would be of the embarrassing variety.

So in the CBJ game, a team with two good lines (Fedorov's and Nash's) and a whole bunch of fringe NHLers after that ... Shaggy and Smith played the staggering majority of their icetime against the quality, Greene played so little against them that not only do you have to give Huddy props for the bench running, you have to question the abilities on the CBJ bench. And in this one, if Bergeron had been healthy, surely he would have played in Smid's spot, the fact that all other decisions were rational tells us so.

On the forwards, Torres, Stoll and Lupul were in the hole. I liekd the way that they got the shifts after the PP a couple of times. Especially the alignment where they get Stoll out for the very tail end of the PK and then have Lupul join him. If they can get Lupul able to PK half decently by the playoffs they could get the pair of them in that gig have have Torres join the party when the puck starts heading north, but I digress.

Smyth/Horcoff/Pisani were as close as you can get to a hard match on the road. Petersen/Sykora/Hemsky played a bunch against Fedorov. The other two lines played the vast majority of their icetime against the tragic depth of CBJ's roster. As it should be.

Here is a comment excerpt from nine days ago, the day after the Nashville game, in a Dennis post below:

At some point MacTavish has to make some decisions here, I think he'll probably end up having the Sykora line dump and check up (trap) when there is nothing there at the blue line, at least against quality opposition. Like that trio did a lot in the Detroit game. Because I don't know if they have the commitment to dump and chase, and I don't know if Hemsky has the size to play that style all year without wearing down. That's what I would do, and I'd play Peterson with them. Seriously.

Stoll is the other player that MacTavish has to come to grips with. It seems like the coaching staff is hell bent on turning him into Horcoff. How many games have they started out running Stoll against the other team's best, only to revert to Horcoff for that gig after a period or so? A bunch methinks. And inevitably they drop Stoll even further back in the pecking order as he gets PP time and Reasoner steps up for more shifts against quality.

I know that Stoll isn't good enough now. And I'm not sure if he ever will have the speed. Good PP shooter though.

My point: Even though Moreau's injury has thinned out the forward ranks, I'd still like to see them load up 94/10/34 and go power vs power. Let Sykora take the next level of burden, playing a more passive style and taking fewer chances at the blue lines when they are out against good players. And give 14/16/15 the primo 5v5 minutes that are now being given to 71/83.

That's precisely what we saw in the CBJ game. High freaking time. This isn't rocket surgery. This isn't about about coaches being fools. This is about the balance of player development and giving yourself the best chance to win in the now, simple as that.

Lots of smart hockey fans wear their player development hats more than me (hell, I don't even own one), Lowetide and speeds being the prime examples. And they may very well be right, I mean I don't like it, but I can see the reasoning. And that's all fair and rational, so long as people aren't clamouring for wins AND more important icetime for the youngsters in the same argument it's all good.

MacTavish's journey through 'Playerdevelopmentland' to 'Rightnow City' came via slow train, and three stops in peculiar, ramshackle towns named 'Loss'. Three towns with the same name ... I told ya 'Playerdevelopmentland' was a strange place. :) After a stop in 'Getyourasskickedville' MacTavish finally arrived at his destination, 'Rightnow City', and Lowe let him get off the train.

Hopefully he let's him rest up there for a few days. But history tells us it was a one night stop-over. Two at the most. :(


Blogger Lowetide said...

Great stuff, Vic. I think MacT will eventually abandon all hope up front this season (JFJ, MAP, Alexei Mikhnov, Schremp) and use Winchester and Petersen at the fringes. The top 12 might be Horcoff, Stoll, Reasoner, Petersen at C, Smyth, Sykora, Moreau, Torres at LW and then Pisani, Hemsky, Lupul and Winchester on RW.

Because if you're giving 650 plate appearances each to Smid and Greene then there's very little room for anything else.

11/12/2006 10:11 am  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

...Greene played so little against them that not only do you have to give Huddy props for the bench running, you have to question the abilities on the CBJ bench.

I noticed this as well and had the exact same thoughts about the CBJ bench. Bizarre. I'm inclined to pin it more on the CBJ bench though. Both Greene and Smid are still at the point where lower end NHL forwards are a challenge. Smid started out strong and then declined so it's a move that I think you can argue makes sense from a win now perpsective, as was playing him lots with Staios early on against tougher competition when he was going better.

I guess I agree about the forwards, I'm just not so sure with the D. Columbus' coaching is probably pretty fucking atrocious, just like everything else in their organization.

11/12/2006 11:22 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Yeah, you know me, I'm usually loathe to piss on coaches. In fairness they focussed on the forward matchups, which is the odds on bet. They ran Fedorov at the Sykora line (fair enough) and let Nash's line go against Horcoff, with Foote behind him. It's a poor hand of cards, and there is a lot of ways to play them, but that's about as good as Gallant and his staff can do there I think.

The thing that has me wondering though, the whole 'shots down the middle thing' that I wrote about the other day (I brought up the subject at exactly the wrong time BTW, both the DET and EDM teams love that play offensively, and take it away defensively, the Oilers had ZERO shots down the middle from the point (which I've since learned are very nearly three times more likely to go than a shot from nearer the dot along the blueline, BTW). And the Oilers limited DET to only two, neither from Lidstrom, they took that away well, opened up the bottom on the PK though).

But in CBJ it was like they hadn't watched any tape at all. The Staios shot that resulted in Smyth's PP goal is the one that sticks in the mind, but they had a bunch. Jesus, don't they realize that the Oilers move the puck in deep on the PP purely to drag the PKers low to then to get the puck back up high? It's like a football team that fakes a handoff constantly but rarely runs the ball. If you're coaching the team whose defense keeps biting on the fake handoff in the next game ... there is room for criticism I think.

11/12/2006 11:45 am  
Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I thought MAB was a healthy scratch? They didnt mention him being hurt in the Journal article I read. The thrust was that MacT was unappy with his offensive contributions, and wanted him to watch from upstairs so as to get a better sense of how much open ice he was passing up.

11/12/2006 11:49 am  
Blogger namflashback said...


Superb obvservations. I think the Oilers management must mark the first 15 games on the schedule and say, it's welcome to "playerdevelopmentland".

There was a whole single game -- the home game versus Vancouver where Moreau-Stoll-Pisani held their own versus Sedin(2)-Naslund. Sadly, Smyth-Horc-Lupul had zero chemistry and couldn't get away from Matt Cooke. And, damn if that Kesler isn't a player.

Anyway, Moreau's slaplocation prevented any more experimentation. I don't think Stoll got the #1 assignment anytime after that. I believe he was -1 versus Comrie in the win against Phoenix. Bleh.

Yesterday in St. Loo they deserved a better fate. I didn't do a formal count, but definitely had Edmonton higher on chances. Bad luck and spotty goaltending deepsixed them. They never seem to have 4 things going right for them at the same time. Yesterday, the power line and the energy line were awesome. Smyth-Horc-Pisani were very very good. They deserved more for their effort. The energy line was awesome, and I sure hope they can keep it up. The talentsky line, and the "young and the restless" lines did nada. All the D pairs were decent but still once in awhile were either too soft in their passes up the boards or too hard.

I believe in 4 positive factors, as in, get 4 elements of the game personnel going and you
ve got better than evens chances of winning.

If they could ever have 3 F lines + D going, they could live with an off-game of bad goaltending.

Or 2F lines, + D + good goaltending.

11/13/2006 9:22 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, namflashback, I wasn't counting them either (was anyone?), but my guess would be that the Oilers had 3 scoring chances for every 2 that STL had. That should be enough to win the game most of the time, say 2/3rds of the time or so. Not to be on this day though.

Like MacTavish said after game 6 of the SCF, to be guaranteed a win in a hockey game you have to be completely dominant.

Because as we all know, the weaker team on the night still wins a lot of games. As we all know from the playoffs last season, the Oilers had the gods on their sides on quite a few nights last spring. And that's when it really mattered, so we can't complain too much.

11/13/2006 9:54 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I hadn't noticed that Bergeron was AWOL for the last half of that game until "she" mentioned it in a comment here after the game.

I still had it recorded (I usually PVR the game thinking that I'll do some youtube stuff, then never do and delete it the next day) so I went back to where he had his last shift and he took a cracking hit from Draper in the corner. Draper took a madass run at him into the corner, Bergeron could see him coming but couldn't really do much other that ship the puck and take the hit. If it wasn't such a physical game it might have been more noticeable.

He went off of the ice and never came back. At that point he none of the Oilers were having good games, just different levels of badness, but there was nothing especially bad about MAB's performance to suggest he'd be benched. Not at all.

I mean Tjarnqvist was a "healthy scratch" in theory as well. But in his first games back he shouldered a boatload of minutes against good opp and looked to have reduced mobility. Not something I would've noticed except I was looking for it, seemed that way to me with Shaggy anyways, even moreso in this STL game by my eye.

I suppose that if they have no intention of calling up a minor leaguer than there is no sense in putting them on the IR anyways. And if you're Tom Gilbert (he would be the callup, no?) and you see that the Oilers are playing with just 6 D on the roster and your phone isn't ringing ... you're probably going to be a bit pissed.

So I don't know for sure. But smart money says that Shaggy was hurt and still isn't fully fit, and that Bergy is hurt right now.

11/13/2006 10:30 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

taking the whole organizational secrecy thing another level, eh Vic?

Even during the Wings' game Miller announced Shaggy was a healthy scratch although by that time it was in one of the papers that he had a hip pointer, I believe - of course that solves that mystery too

thing with MAB is that they asked him about sitting and he was not pleased so unless the Oilers are really getting ultrasecretive (has Pat Quinn been spotted about?) and MAB is a good actor, I think he was actually a healthy scratch

11/13/2006 12:37 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Black Dog:

I take it all with a grain of salt from every team.

I mean everyone in the Oilers organization denied that Conklin had broken his hand in the Nurminnen fight, there he was out against Minny in the next one, and he gloves a sifter from the half wall and can't hold it. The puck drops to his feet and a Wild player is johnny-on-the-spot to bang it in. The Oilers always claimed he broke his hand on that play. Lowe, MacT, the training staff, Conklin himself, everybody. Hand broken on a sifter from the side wall, ya suuuurrrre. ;)

Then in a radio interview during the lockout Lowe is rambling on about something and he utters the phrase "... and then when Conklin broke his hand in the fight with Pasi Nurminen ..." Mark Spector cut him off straight away and jokingly reminded him that he had categorically denied that a year previous. Lowe just laughed it off, a "meh, the hockey season was on" or some such.

Everyone told us that Grier was fully recovered from shoulder surgery one year. Even went so far as to say that his shoulders may be stronger than they have ever been because of advances in surgical technique.

Then in FEB or MAR they told us that Grier was having his mechanical brace removed, and that they expected him to really benefit from the lost of the weight of it and the full range of motion he would have now. Hmmm.

Have you seen a clip of the Draper hit Pat? It was a madass charge. Was Bergeron even on the bench after that or did he go straight to the locker room?

One little ditty from The Journal saying that Shaggy had a hip pointer apparently (I didn't read it). But everything else I heard and read said that he was a healthy scratch. I tend to believe that he was injured, just doesn't mesh with his play or MacTavish's prior and subsequent actions that Shaggy would be sat, but who knows.

Bergeron may have been a healthy scratch, who knows. Doesn't seem likely either.

11/13/2006 3:42 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

I watched the game but can't remember the hit.

After the Shaggy thing I wouldn't put anything by the Oil but the fact that they had reaction from Bergeron and that he sounded pissed makes me think this one is legit.

Is he playing tonight? I would think if he was a healthy scratch that four goals against v. the Blues would mean he'd draw in again.

11/13/2006 7:14 pm  

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