Friday, November 03, 2006

Dal/Edm: Alexei Semenov, Mike Comrie and own zone draws and at what cost development?

The reasoning for the above title started off awhile back over on LT's blog when he blurbed on the latest Semenov news coming out of the Florida camp. It looks like the big guy's NHL days are over and Lain was just wondering how and why it all went wrong. Vic chimed in with his story about how MacTavish tried to give Semi some of the tough min in the '03 but quickly disregarded that plan once the playoffs rolled around. And that story reminded me of similar MacTatics in a home game against Dallas early in that same season with the Oilers having a draw in their own zone with less than 20 seconds left in a period and MacT allowing Comrie to face off versus Modano. Comrie lost the draw, then lost Modano and Modano scored and the Oilers would eventually lose the game.

Of course Comrie would go on to get hurt in a game at SJ and miss 13 games but did recover in time enough to trigger his points bonus with an EN goal in Chicago and his Oilers career was over a short time later. Looking back we can see that MacTavish was trying to figure out just what kind of a player he had in Comrie and exactly what his worth and value would wind up being. I think it's fair to say the Oilers concluded that he would always be a guy who'd need the sheltered mintues, like say a Hemsky right now, but unlike Hemsky he wouldn't be able to really exploit them. So they just cut bait and moved on but not before they felt they had a true handle on his potential.

I wonder if we're not seeing the same thing right now with Jarrett Stoll and Raffi Torres and I wonder how much of an impact it's having on the Oilers ES production. It seems like MacT's trying to drag Stoll kicking and screaming into being an accountable ES player and that's a stretch given he's a guy who's put up the bulk of his points on the PP and has always been sheltered from the tough matchups. But MacT's been asking more from him from the very start of this season and maybe the Oilers are getting ready to make a decision on his future value and that will determine who they trade for the affordable and effective dman they so desperately need.

Torres could also be the bait as he's really a man without a country right now. He blew an early cherry mintues assignment with Sykora/Hemsky and now he's back to playing tough mintues with Horcoff and Pisani. Those are two guys who have proven track records in that field and Torres is a kid who's known as a goal scorer first. But now he's trying to find a way to score goals and look after his own end and the early results aren't exactly promising.

MacTavish isn't above using his blender and as long as the Oilers aren't winning he'll keep making changes and I'll be interested to see what he comes up with. The current fly in the matchup ointment is that he's trying to shelter the Sykora/Hemsky tandem and that means everyone else has to carry the tough minute load. It also doesn't help that Moreau's missing either. MacT will ultimately have to decide just how much he can try to both develop and win and when he makes up his mind he'll either start asking more from 71/83 or asking less from guys like Stoll and Torres.

Meanwhile Kevin Lowe will have to decide just how long he thinks this team can stay afloat with this current D corps.

On to tonight and the Dallas Stars make their first visit to Rexall sporting a 10-2 record overall, plus 17 in goal differential and identical 5-1 marks both on the road and at home. Without looking at strenght of sked it's easy to argue that Dallas is the second best team in the league right now and trailing only Buffalo. Let's take a look at their sked before I list their line combos and d pairings as observed from their last versus the Blues.

3-2 OTW at Col
3-1 W vs NJ
4-1 W at LA
4-1 W at LA
4-3 SO W at Ana
2-0 L at SJ
5-4 W vs Chi
4-0 W at Phx
2-1 W vs Van
4-3 L vs Det
3-2 W vs LA
4-1 W vs Stl

OK so here's the deal. Seven of the Stars ten wins have come against WC teams that wouldn't be in the playoffs if they started today and another one of their wins have come against a Devils team that wouldn't make the playoffs if the EC's second season started today. I'm not taking anything away from someone being able able to snuff out the lesser lights but it's not like this team's been world beaters either.

Now on to the lines and d pairings:

Jokinen-Modano-Lehtinen
Morrow-Lindros-Ribero
Stefan-Halpern-Miettinen
Hagman-Barnes-Barnaby

Sydor/Zubov
Modry/Robidas
Daley/Boucher

You've still got some Finns sprinkled in though they've lost a bit of the Lion with Niinimaa in Mtl and Kapanen in Atl. But where there's four Finns there's bound to be a great work ethic and this is still a Dallas team that feeds on your turnovers and probably more than ever early on this season with their PP nestled in the middle of the pack. Modano still has some jam left, Morrow's a mini Ryan Smyth and Lethinen and Lindros are still dangerous but their forward corps is pockmarked with a lot more elbow grease than it is illuminated by flash.

Their reaguards are both decidely unphysical and decidedly skilled. Zubov's aging just as well as Diane Lane and Sydor hasn't yet regressed to the point of being less than useful. Modry's put up at least 38 points in three of his last four seasons and Boucher's coming off a 43 point season and has seven in his first twelve games thus far. It mirrors the Preds D in it's lack of physicality with the only difference being that the Dallas D features guys who's offensive upside has been realized.

If the Oilers commit to getting pucks in deep and going hard on the forecheck then this is a D corps that should be taking less than hasty routes to the corners by the time the third period arrives. As long as Roloson The Good shows up then the Oilers should be fine.

17 Comments:

Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Sagarin has them 2nd best in the league.

11/03/2006 4:38 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Just wanted to chime in and say that's another great post by you Dennis.

I think the Oilers can take it, though I'm really not understanding what they're doing with Smyth right now... was probably our best forward (quality of opposition considered) the last game..

And now he plays with 16 and 28? Ouch.

- PDO

11/03/2006 5:05 pm  
Anonymous SweatyO said...

So, last game, the 2nd and 3rd lines were (and we're calling the Lupul-Sykora-Hemsky combo the 1st line here, just for simplicity's sake):

Smyth Stoll Pisani
Torres Horcoff Thoresen

So, instead of getting Horcoff with Smyth and Pisani to create a bitchin' power vs. power line that we know (from past history) would probably perform very well, he flips Thoresen and Pisani?

Strange...

11/03/2006 5:33 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Diane Lane.

Uh huh.

Andy alluded to it in a comment on one of my posts too - I wish MacT would just settle on something already. I think Smyth Horcoff Pisani is an excellent fit myself and that Thoresen with the Czechs was alright as well.

And Torres and Stoll played together last year quite a bit so ... wtf?

I guess he's hoping something just clicks but I see Smytty ending up with the Czechs, he and Sykora both scoring 50 and then both of them walking.

Irk.

11/03/2006 7:01 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Check out the sidebar Dennis.

A hard match with Horcoff on Modano. And with Staios/Smid on Modano for the first period at least.

We're going to see more and more of that I expect. The kids are going to play, and I suspect that almost every game MacTavish will shove at least one of them into the deep end of the pool.

And if previous seasons are our gauge ... he won't stop until game 81 or game 82.

Brace yourself. :0

11/04/2006 1:01 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Yeah I noticed that...and the 10 line didn't do a bad job either. The rest of the lines? MacT's just throwing stuff out there to see what works. How do you feel about this team right now Vic? That's three shitty starts out of the last four for Roli and four shitty performances out of his last five appearences. Oilers won't win without him being good. After a horrible 1st period the Oilers still outchanced the Stars and I have the feeling that while 94 and 71 won't keep scoring like this you'd also believe that 10, 34 and 14 will soon being to start popping some of their chances as well.

The PP should be at least top 10 though and I was ready to give it to MacT for not going with 5 forwards but that's his first plan these days so I commend him for that. Everyone knows we like to go for the slappers with 16/71 though so it's time to start running some plays down low for 94 or 15 or for 83 to just throw pucks on and hope that 04 shoves them home.

Besides the netminding and some of the guys struggling...here's one thing that everyone should be able to see: there's more to playing defense than being physical and you'll keep yourself out of a helluva lot of trouble just by being able to make a good first pass. In the last two losses we've come up against d corps that won't knock the snot out of you but they can make great outlet passes and matt greene can't and bergeron always can, smith not so much and last night smid was back to screwing himself into the ice. when we have the puck in the other team's zone we certainly create enough to get by but in our own end it takes awhile to get going.

one of the Chi dailies is saying that either of Seabrooke or Keith could be for the taking so I'd like to get that done. the oilers are gonna have a tough job all seaosn on the outlets with the current d corps

11/04/2006 9:31 pm  
Blogger Kyle said...

Honestly, I think you guys are way overanalyzing things. The Oilers, despite their average goal output, have a good group of forwards. It doesn't really matter where most of them slot in, because most of them at best are 2nd line guys but at worst 3rd line guys. Who cares if Pisani is centred with Stoll or Horcoff, or is winged with Smyth or Torres? Sure no one will argue that Torres is better than Smyth, but do you really think Smyth's ability/production will go down because he's playing with Pisani rather than Lupul?

I think MacT has it right - base the combinations off of chemistry rather than pure skill, and just keep tinkering till you find something that clicks.

11/05/2006 12:54 am  
Blogger Lowetide said...

I somewhat agree with Kyle except for the Sykora line. It sounds good in theory to have another shooter on that line but imo they need some more sandpaper and a dog that can hunt.

Ryan Smyth (as always) is the best man for the job description but I'd also be tempted to put Pisani out there. Get him rolling.

Horcoff-Smyth-Lupul
Sykora-Pisani-Hemsky
Stoll-Torres-Thoresen
Reasoner-Petersen-Winchester

It's also probably time to callup MAP and send down JFJ since he isn't playing. At the very least get him more famous before the deadline.

Get the Sykora line mini-Esa, get Lupul on a line where he's the first shooting option.

11/05/2006 5:40 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

If they make the playoffs they should be fine Dennis. But if they keep playing kids in roles they can't handle (and history tells us that they will) then it could be tough sledding to get there.

I mean I'm sure that a lot of casual fans think that MacTavish is just "rolling the lines" and "looking for chemistry". And I'm sure that you know better.

So last night they decide that they want Hejda to play. He's a left side player right now, and will be for a long time at the NHL level. Oiler fans who are blessed with common sense and hoping to win the game ... they're expecting Smid to sit. I mean Bergeron and Tjarnqvist have been very good thus far, and Greene has been terrible but plays the right side. Plus he's young and needs games too (painful as that may be right now).

But no. They sub him in for Daniel "just here for the year" Tjarnqvist, and line Smid up against Modano to start. Sweet fuck.

And we both know that Horcoff has played most of his icetime this season against forward lines that are anchored by a sure fire HHOFer. He's also stepped in on other lines for own zone draws (whether he takes the draw or just comes in on the wing) a couple of times a game on average by my eye. For every goal against he's been on the ice for ... he's had either Lupul or Torres on the ice with him. On what planet does that make sense? Will you see that alignment in the playoffs if the Oilers make it in? Hell no!

94/10/34 just makes too much sense. Or if they want one of those wingers to help a line with lesser responsibility, then for Crissakes sub in a reliable vet for them and let them know their role (stay high on the cycle, don't cheat coming out of the zone, just conservative positional hockey. Safe hockey) Granted the Oilers aren't exactly swimming in reliable vets down the lineup the way that DET, ANA or CGY is, still, I think we could all live with Winchester or Petersen playing that gig. Or Reasoner on the wing and Petersen taking the 4th line centre gig, something of that sort.

Of course the one thing a lot scarier than the "Lupul or Torres leading all wingers in icetime vs Koivu" phenomenon ... MacTavish's weekly decision to play Stoll in that gig until his MacUlcer starts bleeding (usually lasts about 20 minutes).

History tells us that NONE of this crazy stuff will carry over into the playoffs. And it also tells us that MacTavish won't change gears on this until April. So, it's the "year of player development" Dennis, even moreso than usual. My advice is to just accept it and hope for the best, you'll live longer that way. This is going to be a helluva team in a couple of years though.

And a "for the helluvit mini quiz", even though it really is far too early to be looking at results:
Q1. The Oilers are MOST likely to score a goal at evens when this D is on the ice.
Q2. The Oilers are LEAST likely get scored against at evens when this D is on the ice.
Q3. I've played the toughest minutes in the league thus far.

And your encoded answers:

A1. ergeronbay
A2. ergeronbay
A3. akicsay

11/05/2006 6:40 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I like the idea of Pisani with Sykora/Hemsky.

Or him with Stoll and Smyth.

I think if they can get him rolling it would be a very good thing. (duh.)

Thoughts on Hejda from this corner? Over at BoA the consensus was didn't notice him, good or bad. Same as the preseason.

11/05/2006 8:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Hejda) will be for a long time at the NHL level.

What did you see watching Hejda vic?

mo

11/05/2006 9:49 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Vic, that may be true about ergeronbay but:

1/ At home I would think MacT has him facing the opposition mutts. And on the road likely as much as possible too. Meaning few goals against.

2/ At the road when he is getting tough minutes I would bet that Horcoff is on the ice when possible.

3/ With three decent lines (in theory) when MAB gets that soft opposition he can't help but get some EV +

You say he has been excellent - I haven't heard that from many people but I also respect your opinion more then most others I hear - but those numbers don't exist in a vacuum, no?

11/05/2006 11:16 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Black dog:

Ya Hejda was not noticable to me either. Granted I lack the love of the D position that some of you cats have. If defensemen were dart players LT and Dennis would go on and on about their arm motion, release point, ability to hit doubles under pressure, reminisce about great bullseyes they threw last game, etc .... me, I'd appreciate the bullseyes but mostly I'd be a fan of the guys that never damaged the drywall. :)

And on Bergeron ... of course you're right, I'm sure it has everything to do with the forwards he's played against and with. Then again, we all remember the bizarre struggles of the Oilers third pairing last season (all of Cross, Ulanov and Greene were on the ice for a ridiculous number of goals against, just crazy). If people are looking for someone to blame for the Oilers problems, and some fans always are, it just doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to be ragging on the guy who's getting the best results and has played well. I think his nightmarish SCF is being projected onto this season by some people, I dunno. Granted he is a poor PKer imo.

11/05/2006 10:19 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Vic - agreed on the D - I understand the importance, for example, of making the first pass, but on this team at this time I like a guy who you don't notice because that means he's doing his job

As for MAB that is part of his problem, so to speak - he's so damn noticeable - when Smith gets beat he's generally in a situation where there is a total breakdown - when MAB makes the highlight reel its either a big shot for a goal or he's just on the edge of the frame trying to get back after a bad pinch or decision - its obvious stuff and thats what people see.

I don't mind MAB and he's not a bad third pair guy but in an ideal world he'd be paired w/Staios there - that was how I saw the Oil D this season before CP and Spacek left.

Playing with Greene makes his life a lot harder and I think he has some confidence issues as well. I think he's not long for the team but we'll see I guess.

As you say though, funny how the guys who the fans tear into are the MABS, Winchesters and Cory Crosses of the world.

Replacing Winchester woth Pouliot probably makes the Oilers a better team but not a team that is 10 and 3 instead of 7 and 6.

11/06/2006 9:04 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Oiler fans say a lot of things. Over the past few weeks I haven't had the time or inclination to read the hockey boards at all (except an occasional scan through the OilFans OT, always a good read) or any of the blogs except here, yours, MCs and LTs .. At least regularly. And have only caught the occasional snippet of talk radio. So I'm a bit lost as to why Bergeron is taking heat.

At the risk of seeming rude, I suspect that people are talking each other into stupid shit.

At least Moreau, Horcoff and Pisani are in the clear now. I don't think that's really a win for common sense though, it's just the way that the dice tumbled.

I mean thinking fans everywhere would surely like to see Smith-Shaggy. Staios-Bergeron as the top four ... but could you imagine the trainwreck that Greene and Smid would be together [[shudder]] Cross/Ulanov would be a walk in the park by comparison.

But these kids are the future. Or at least hopefully they are. What the fuck, I'm just going to enjoy the games Pat, and watch them grow up on TV. That's all we can do anyways.

11/06/2006 2:09 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Agreed. For all the bitching the fact is that even if the Oilers had Leafs' money, with the cap they'd still have kids somewhere. Has anyone seen the Leafs' blueline lately - two kids (White and Bell) who look terrific one night and stink out the joint the next.

Everyone has the same issues. Its nice to see the Oilers not being the only team breaking in kids for a change.

I don't bother with the messageboards either Vic - too old for that sniping shit, I guess. And the crazy highs and lows.

I'm a fan of Smid for sure though and I think they've put him in a nice position - I also think that babysitting him has really made Staios a better player - he's forced to use his head and rein in those instincts he sometimes has.

In an ideal world MAB would have the same type of partner but Greene has to get his at bats as LT would say.

11/06/2006 2:51 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Just sitting back and "taking it" as it were is a lot easier said than done Vic. Granted what can I really do about it:) and yeah I've mellowed an absolute tonne over the years but it still gets under my skin when I see things being done in a manner that's just not sensible. And don't even mention missing the playoffs because I'll go back to being Matts again;)

Well not really but I'll be pretty disappointed. I'm not stupid and I knew this was a rebuild right from the time we got Smid to replace Pronger on the blueline and then and at this point haven't decided to further augment our blueline. So that means lots of kids getting their AB's and lots of guys who can't hit breaking balls.

So that's the D and we know that's the plan and I don't like it and I'm sick of "waiting until next year"...I guess last spring was finally "next year" but we didn't finish it off.

Anyway up front the plan was 18-16-34 and 94-10-15 taking the tough min with 14-71-83 taking the soft min but since 18's went down everything's gone into freefall with the lines. The first thing that should be done is 19 being moved into the top six as far as tough min. Or else they're gonna have to ask from more from the 71/83 duo.

Part of me knows that as soon as Roli smartens the fuck up then this team will start winning again. But the other part of me's on edge because the Oil are in Mtl and are one loss away from being just .500 14 games into the season and if we're back to teetering on the edge of the playoffs than that's really gonna chafe me

11/07/2006 3:34 pm  

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