Monday, November 13, 2006

The Shorn Identity


It's a little over an hour from the puck dropping in Colorado so maybe by the time everyone reads this post Raffi Torres will have scored a goal or two or thrown a check or two and we all won't be worrying about him so much.

In his first 162 games with the Oilers the kid's potted 47 goals and he just turned 25 so it's not like he's on the downswing.

Or at least he shouldn't be.

I always thought of this guy as being arrogant and super confident but the early '07 season returns tell me that I'm wrong. He may still be arrogant but if you watch every Oilers game then you'd have a hard job believing that the former Isles property possesses anything resembling confidence.

Torres is a guy who's always had a pretty smooth ride with the Oilers. It's true that he's never seen that much PP time but he's really never had to carry much of the mail either. He's pretty much ridden shotgun for Stoll since he's donned the Oilers silks and if those two guys are on the same line then chances are they aren't seeing tough competition. Give him credit, though, he's always managed to make hay with his situation and after last year's playoffs I think everyone had a new appeciation of him.

No one here needs a refresher course but #14 did play on a tough mintues line with Peca-Pisani and he also doled out some momentum changing hits throughout the second season.

But that was then and this is now and currently Torres looks lost. He's being shifted from line to line and he's looked pretty much shiftless while doing so.

He started out on the soft mintues line with Sykora/Hemsky and that's an assignment that anyone would lust after. You basically throw some hits, wait for some lovely passes and when you don't get them you go to the net and try and collect the garbage. Torres saw a lot of scoring chances early on but he couldn't finish them and MacT lost his patience with that unit. Torres then wound up playing tough mintues with 10-34 and this wasn't helping out Horcoff so that unit was scuttled.

Right now Torres finhs himself back with his old cherry picking buddy Jarrett Stoll and they've been joined by Lupul who looks as comfortable in an Oilers uniform as Mike Piazza did in the garb of the Florida Marlins. And right now Torres isn't hitting anyone and he isn't getting any scoring chances and it looks really odd when a one time bully is playing timid.

Seriously, I saw Torres go into the corner in the first period of Sunday's game in St. Louis and he wouldn't have cracked one egg let alone a dozen and when's the last time he created or tried to finish a scoring chance? The last time he was noticeable was when he took that terrible penalty late in the third period in Montreal. You might rememeber the following scene where Torres looked like he wanted to take a bath with a toaster.

It might seem like overreacting but about the only thing Torres isn't doing right now is scoring on his own net. Never one to excel at chipping the puck out on his wing or making a pass to start a rush he's now taken that ineptitude to new levels. He can no longer even consistently make a five foot pass.

The kid has lost his mojo and up to this point MacTavish has stuck with him and he's done enough in the early days of his career that he enjoys the benefit of a doubt. But there are troubles on the Oilers backend and they're unlikely to fully disappear and as it stands right now this guy could be traded this guy and no one would really notice.

11 Comments:

Blogger Black Dog said...

Vic, have you been to Raffi's website?

He's a big kid. More then anything, that's what he is. And his confidence is gone.

He's A1 tradebait and has been for a while imo - I like him but I also think his value is such that he could bring a sweet return.

Problem is that if Smytty takes a walk next summer then who's the first line LW?

If they sign Smyth then I can see them dealing Raffi - if not then he stays.

11/13/2006 7:40 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

That wasn't me, Pat. That was Dennis. I agree completely though, Raffi's just blindly passing into air now, he's off the rails. Hell even when he was going well the play did die with him a lot though. I still like the guy, even though he's not making it easy to support him. There's something to be said for having a big hitter with an unpredictable streak in him in your lineup. Hopefully he tries to be a little more like Ryan Smyth every day.

On the game tonight ... terrific start under any circumstance, but especially considering it's the 3rd game in four days and second of a B2B. The Reasoner line just keeps motoring along, reminds me of the old RPM line the way they just control the puck down low. Hell, I bet the next line to come onto the ice after them tonight has started with possession as well. What a dream road trip for that trio, esp Winchester.

The Sykora line looks like they are trapping. Horc's line is starting to roll, not easy to look good against Joe's unit though.

11/13/2006 9:05 pm  
Blogger Kyle said...

I think Torres just needs to simplify his game. Hard puck pursuit and drive to the net. As everyone has already said, he's not playing with any confidence.

Still, I think he's an asset worth keeping. The Oilers need some grit up front, and I'm gonna tell you right now, its not gonna be provided by Sykora or Hemsky.

11/13/2006 10:24 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Torres leads the league in blind backpasses...seriously. He throws those things out there like candy and they never click. At least he had three SOG tonight and two SC and he threw a hit so it was better than what he'd done before.

I'd say the 10 and 19 lines allowed a combined 5 or 6 SC's..whenever they were on the ice you could pretty much rest easy. The Col goal happened when QVille got Sakic out against Sykora...no big surprise there.

Funny how I mentioned the 28/19 slot play from the PP yesterday in Stl and tonight MacT puts them out on the 4 on 4 and they try the same play and it almost works. Those two guys work great together and 18/19 have always clicked so I'm thinking that if Moreau was around we'd have a new shutdown line and we could just let 34 stay with 94-10. Then you've got six guys left over to make up one line to lean on and then use two other guys. It would leave some established guys in the cold but I'd bet it would make for the best strategy in terms of outchancing the other teams at ES.

Roli didn't have to do fuckall until the last period but at least he was there when it mattered most. Looking back we probably should've given it up to Det and went with Roli in the last three games.

71 looked like a real puss tonight but I'm impressed by how he still manages to get SC's even when he's kept off the scoresheet. 16 seemed to be throwing the weight around tonight and 15 had the worst luck. First Milan Fucking Hejduk decides to backcheck for the first time this season, maybe his career?, and thwarts an open net shovelling and then later on 15 finds the puck in the slot 10 feet from Theo and it bounces over his stick.

At this point I'm just wondering when the fuck the offense is gonna show up? Horc's working his ass off and nothing's popping for him and Torres had to get the puck two feet in the air tonight and couldn't do it. Plus there's the troubles of Lupul.

One of two things will happen regarding this offense:

- things will really crack open and the twine will start bending
- you'll see more young talented players struggle on the same team than ever before.

11/13/2006 11:03 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, Dennis. I think they'll start to go in. BTW: the combined vs-Sakic and vs-Skrastins iectimes tonight, as a %:

132 PISANI
125 HORCOFF
117 SMYTH
77 PETERSEN
77 HEMSKY
76 SYKORA
40 LUPUL
37 TORRES
24 STOLL
21 REASONER
14 THORESEN
13 WINCHESTER

That's just completely rational. :)

The fourth line is going great guns but stepping up from playing against 4th liners and 3rd pairing D to playing against Sakic's line and the top D pair, that's a helluva jump in weight class. Right now they are rolling and I'd like to see them gradually take more icetime against better opposition to see how they handle it. As you say though, if/when Moreau comes back the Oilers have some good options.

That's three games in a row now that they have clearly outchanced the opposition. Granted not tough teams, but all three on the road. I had them at 11/6 in the first, and wasn't counting in the second but my sense was they were getting 2 of every 3 scoring chances in that frame with the exception of the one COL burst on the PP.

Man am I glad that Lowe didn't make a move for Theodore last winter. I wouldn't have minded at the time, but I'd be hating it now.

A real Ron Low style forechecking game from most of the lines tonight. Chasing the D out from behind the net all night. I'm not sure that's smart hockey, in fact I'm sure that it isn't in a lot of cases, but it does keep everybody going and into the flow fo the game. A fun game to watch, there was a terrific hockey game in there trying to show itself, but the refs kept blowing the whistle (not bitching about the way the calls went ... there were just too many in both directions I thought).

11/13/2006 11:18 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Pat:

Forgot to comment on Raffi's website, that's just nuts. I haven't been there in a long while but I'll have to go back and see if he has finally got something up in the "shop Raffi" area. Last time I checked it said that coming soon ... "Raffi Torres memorabilia and collectables coming soon!" I shudder to think.

The comments on the guest book were priceless. There was a woman from Leduc who Torres should consider taking a restraining order out against. A couple of his aunties logged on to tell him they thought he was doing just great. Strange, strange stuff all around.

And I'm just going by memory here, but my favourite from the "Just Ask Raffi" area:

Fan Question: What is your favourite colour?
Raffi: Blue

:D

As you would say, it's not regular good, it's Ed Wood good.

11/13/2006 11:26 pm  
Blogger Scarlett said...

MacT needs to create a new position on his team: someone to piss Torres off before each game. I think he needs to be pissed off to play well. Get his edge back. You're right, he's best when he's banging around.

11/14/2006 10:04 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Ed Wood good. Heh.

Sorry Dennis, I could have sworn I read Vic's name at the bottom of the post - age will get me every time.

Did not see the game but the next step and I guess we may be starting to see it (Vic, did you allude to it?) is seeing how the fourth line guys fare against a little tougher opposition. Jeez they had a terrific trip.

If figured they would pick up 7 points with a win/single point in the Habs/Avs games but got the Blues' game wrong. Seems like Horcoff may beginning to get going and at least Lupul and Torres are getting chances again; they may be starting to break out of it.

11/14/2006 10:12 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Just a great pic you added there Dennis. Perfect.

Personally, I think that MacTavish made a mistake when he held Raffi on the bench after the Williams hit in Detroit. He should have double shifted him then, I mean it's not "throwing him to the wolves" if you're looking at the other guys like they're fucking lambs. And I think that Ron Low would have gone that way there, that guy had a good feel for this sort of thing.

Personally, I grew up in a home that would have been better with less violence. I'm not bitching, I had a great childhood, just saying I think that I might have a feel for the guy, probably wrongly, I dunno, but there's a pattern of behavior there. The alleged bar fighting, the alleged womanizing and the alleged drug abuse ... everyone does everything for a reason, understood or not. Whatever, he's still just a kid. A skilled kid with an edge, he'll lose that as he grows up, and he'll miss it. So will the Oilers.

Competing theory: He's just an ass.

I dunno, I still can't help but like the guy.

11/15/2006 12:02 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

RQ added that pic...so all the props to him on that one.

Raffi's one of the most interesting guys that's been on the Oilers in a long time. When he's on he can find seams in the ice and get his goals and he's a threat to knock down anyone. But when he's off you don't know he's on the ice unless he's making some awful decisions with the puck. You can say that's young players in a nutshell but his play almost boders on bi-polarism.

11/15/2006 1:13 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

The thing is that Raffi is beyond beyond awful when he's off.

As you said, he cannot even make a five foot pass.

My buddy broke a rib at the end of our summer season, just a freak accident. So there was a month between our seasons and then he was out another month until he was healed up. First game back he looked terrific. He's lost some weight and once he found his legs he realy got going. He's a gritty up and down winger type. Decent hands (until he gets to the net :))

Anyhow, it must have been the adrenaline because in his second game he was literally falling down and fumbling the puck every time he got it, so much so that when he had the puck near the end of the game I just stayed behind him as I knew he was going to lose it and I'd have to cover for him.

That's Raffi when he's struggling. So beyond poor it mind boggling. I mean you look at Horc's struggles and at least you knew what sport he was playing.

And that he'd played it before.

11/15/2006 7:24 pm  

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