Friday, February 02, 2007

Oilers/Avs: Extra Extra, Oilers Death Rattle Heard Clear Across The Northwest Division!

This is an early edition of the IOF pre-game but hey my public called for it;) Actually it was Young MC who took a not-so-thinly-veiled shot, ok it was a head-on blast, at me over on his blog for not writing about yesterday's game in Van and then last night on MSN he mentioned to me that BOA's Andy G. was also disappointed that I didn't chime in before our latest loss so this tells me one thing: misery does indeed love company.

One last note on yesterday's pre-game and the lackthereof. I had a nice headline which was "The power of Harold Snepets compels you" and I was gonna ask Cam to round up a picture with the burly backender holding a demonic look which shouldn't have been too hard because Harold always looked evil to me. I could've also rolled with "What in the Thomas Gradin is Lowe waiting for" which I think works because Gradin just sounds like a swearword if you think about it.

Back to the present and I'm chiming in early with this joint because a perusing of my CI channels shows a Caps/Pens game at 2:30pm tomorrow so that coupled with the Oilers game at 4:30, this is all in NST and you should know that by now considering we've been part of the country since 1949;) means I'd rather do this now and get it over with. The team in it's current form looks positively unable to streak so everyday before I do the pre-game I check out a bunch of links to see if there's anything promising afoot in the trade market because that's seriously all we have to hold onto right now. Here's what I came up with today:

1. The flyers are talking about re-signing Kapenen and if you were thinking about him as a rental, because I certainly was, Holmgren's now saying that isn't a possibility.

2. Chicago's latest nutty GM has basically listed his entire team as untouchable yet he's looking to trade in order to improve his team. To be fair Khabby looks like he's out there to be dealt but Tallon's on the record as saying that all of Keith-Seabrook-Barker-Ruutuu-Havlat won't be moved. That makes me wonder just who he thinks he can pick up without giving anything in return. I think there's something to be said about the Hawks being the reverse Oilers with the windy city crew holding all kinds of rearguards but very little in terms of forwards. I guess they can try building from the backend up but they'd be wise to remember that if they want to start crying poor in the goals for department.

Sadly, there's nothing new to report from the supposed Boston Flee Party, at least not from the New England dalies, though I'd imagine everyone and their dog, and especially the dogs who are currently dressed in Bruin silks, are waiting for a shoe to drop that doesn't belong to Milan Jurcina. Bob Mckenzie, on the other hand, did address the Stuart/Edm rumors in his latest reporting and we'll get to that before long.

Anyway, the Oilers '07 Death March rolls into Colorado for a rare Saturday afternoon game and things are looking about as rosy as is the less than fetching female talking head that shares that name. Just a thought here but the last time I remember the Oilers playing a Sat afternoon game was in Dec of '99 in Jersey with Ranford pulling out the win. Anyone else remember that and does anyone else remember the Oilers playing on Saturday afternoon since then? And no we won't count the Oilers G2 win in Dallas in the '01 playoffs;)

There isn't exactly every reason to believe that the Avs are the Oilers superior but here's a couple of them just for shits and giggles. First off, this club is +8 in GD while the Oilers are -9 and there's also that bothersome thing called the standings which have the Avs and Oilers tied in wins and points but give the edge to Col because they have a game-in-hand. I think it's also worth nothing that while the Oilers are waiting on addition by addition in terms of trying to finagle a defenseman or two, the Avs have gone through an addition by subtraction with their rearguards considering the news that Patrice Brisebois is out for the season.

That detail only afford's the Oilers so much hope though because this team is fighting itself right now and honest to God it looks like one of those old Disney cartoons where you're on a sinking ship and as soon you plug one of the leaks you'll be damned to find another one springing with the ferocity of Peter North after a visit to a salad bar.

Last night was one of those games where you wonder how a guy like Marc-Andre Bergeron holds down an NHL job and while I've long trumpted his attributes, being a dollars and cents and sense guy I always mention that he's basically signed forever and basically signed for nothing, last night could try even the most patient hand and it's no word of a lie to say that outside of Craig Simpson, MAB was the Canucks best penalty killer in Thursday night's game. He attempted stupid pass after stupid pass and his attempts at defending were so bad that if you were to call them pathetic, pathetic would track you down and kick you in the nuts. But he wasn't alone in this regard because Jason Smith made a play, or didn't make a play, that made you wonder which Oilers defenseman was 20 years old. It came on the on the 3-1 goal with the Oilers harrassing the Canucks like a sex addict with a drunk girl at a sparsely populated tavern at 2:55am and just like that girl it looked like a lock for the Canucks to wind up on their back. Perviously, Bergeron had made a chancey rush into the Canucks zone but was tripped or fell and the puck rimmed back along the left wing boards. Smith had some pressure as he attempted to throw it back down behind the opposing blueline but he had well enough time to make the play. But somehow the simple measure eluded his wisened grasp and Marc "Jose" Chouinard galloped away on a breakaway and "sniped" his second goal of the season. Yes, the Oilers were also in the midst or a terrible line-change which gave him tonnes of open ice and yes his finishing move resembled the speed of an egg-timer and Roloson's in a stage where he's gonna allow three goals a game no matter what happens, but the former Wild should't have had that chance in the first place. So while we all hope and pray that Shaggy can de-ice his balls long enough to bring back some additional skill to this blueline and while we reflect on what was perhaps young Smid's best game of his young career, it was the grizzled vet that once again shot an Oilers foot that has been pretty well bereft of toes since mid-November.

As John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band once moaned, "things are tough all over."

Not to look past this Avs team, far are we and am I from the early days of this season when it looked like all games didn't require our rapt attention and accompanying worry, but with the Oilers nestled into 10th place you look ahead to eighth place and if we were to consider this team lost in the wilderness, and I assume we certainly can, then eighth place repersents the first cabin where we could find shelter. The Wild, I love it when an analogy comes together, currently hold down 8th place. The lead over the Oilers sits at just six points and with the Oilers also holding a game-in hand and the supposed advantage of having five games remaining against the Wild, it doesn't appear to be the numerical time to write off a season. All these facts though bring me nowhere else but to points of a most salient and searing nature.

1: Games-in-hand: You know something folks, these GIH are wonderful machines when you're say 10 games over .500 and your winning pct gives you a great chance at earning at least a point in such conditions and even affords you a better than average chance at actually bringing home two points. But when you're 9-13-2 in your last 24 games, that's taking the Oilers record since they reached their thus far seasonal high-water mark of 16-10-2 with a win in Dallas on Dec 8th, then what can you really expect from a GIH?

2: Head-to-head matchups: There's a reason why I can't get behind this as a reason why we'd be able to reel in the Wild. Minnesota plays in the Northwest division and the Oilers are just 3-9-1 in their last 13 divisional games so counting on taking a playoff spot because of success in head-to-head games when it's against a team from a division that owns your collective ass holds as much promise as asking an atheist to pray for you.

I hate to be the pied piper of pessimism here but the amount of information suggesting the Oilers are unable to blow hot long enough to secure a playoff spot is as dense as a potential Ken Dryden dissertation on blowhards. You don't become a porn star whilst possessing a three-inch dick and a beerbelly and you don't go from winning nine games of a possible 24 to all of sudden rolling off an eight game winning streak. I knew this roster emitted a hint of implosion back in the dark early days of the Pronger trade and I once again said as much on the night the Oilers blew the 4-1 home lead to the Stars. Everyone else remembers that night for the Hemsky miracle goal but I remember it as the night that a playoff-less reality struck me as succiently as a Dave Brown uppercut. The team in it's current form looked done and I've since spent ample time refreshing TSN.ca like a madman hoping to see Lowe finally evacuate his trade bowels.

Speaking of that site, McKenize gave us all some hope last night when he reported the names of Lupul or Torres plus JFJ as the possible bounty for Stuart. You know things are in the final stages, or that they've at least developed substantially, when McKenzie's throwing out a name like Jacques. Bob went on to suggest that's too rich for a rental and the Oilers might be better served going after Pitkanen who's under contract beyond this year. I most certainly agree with that sentiment and it's worth nothing that Matheson said scouts from both the Flyers and Rangers took in last night's game in Vancouver. If you were that Flyers scout and you had an eye for Torres before that game then I'd wager that upon it's completion you flew home and asked Pitkanen if he'd like help packing. Torres had a great game with at least two prime scoring chances, a Forsberg-ian counterpunch check that levelled Krajceck and an absolute demolition of Ohlund. Combine that with the fact he made just the one pass that painted him as a guy with limited formal hockey instruction and there was a lot to like about the Menacing Mexican. I'm on the record that I'd deal him for a signed Stuart or Pitkenen or whomever can fix the defense of this ship both short and longterm but there's a huge piece of me that agrees with MC's assessment that if it's Lupul or Torres to go for a dman, the Oilers will send Raffi packing. I think that's a mistake and if I'm Lowe I'd try and do everything to ensure that it's the local who's shown the door. Of course if I was Lowe I also wouldn't have started this season with such a defense but I'll try and stay on message for now.

As much as we've all bemoaned the lack of mobility on our defense and as much as we're waiting for some new guys to have a kick at making a first pass, I think Cam made a fair point to me last night when he said that players and fans alike might be using it as a bit of a crutch. For instance, the warning bells on Roli for both here and the future are now blaring at nearly intolerable levels. I was a baseball first guy and I never believed in clutch hitting so I'd like to think I don't believe in it's application to netminding as well but there's something about Roloson's game that leads you to believe he's going to crack at the wrong moment and that's something I haven't felt about him since he was shaking the rust off last March. How did he go from an early season stalwart to a mid season question mark? And what does his mean for '08 and beyond? That's territory, that while harbouring a teeming fertility I'd usually relish, that's even too dark and depressing for me to tread at this point. I think the forwards complicity in the whole mess is the hardest to gauge but the way Craig Simpson keeps his job amidst the PP's spectacular failure, which is an area where we can be sure the forwards drive the result, paints him as a patronage hire that would make even ancient monarchies blush.

It may well be that even a trade or two can't save this season but at the very least a change in the mix might provide the impetus for some kind of improvement. Not to overlook the next four games, the next two of them are those inter-divisional games where we fare so well, but once that's over the Oilers start an eastern swing that features visits to all of Buf, Ott, Det and Minny. Look at the home records of those four teams and you know that has the potential to be an unpleasent experience even with a slightly altered, if not totally revamped roster. But if we head into that stretch with the current crew then the season will be lost by the time we get to Minnesota for the trip's last game.

Every day and every game that Lowe lets the current group go to battle is a time ripe for ground to be lost. These Oilers have been treading water for so long that prunes would scoff at their toes. I've given up hope but I'd like to think he hasn't but one more week of inactivity will show us the real answer.

18 Comments:

Blogger speeds said...

I'm of the mind that this season is pretty much over and it's time to dump all the pending UFA's you aren't gonna re-sign, but I can also see the argument for acquiring a vet D and seeing what happens if the cost isn't ridiculous.

If the team continues to fall off in the standings, just re-trade the guy.

I'm coming to the mindset that there is not much reason to hold back in terms of moving prospects for the now, but that doesn't mean it makes sense for a team like EDM. It's more that it does for teams like CAL or VAN or SJ or ANA.

2/02/2007 8:33 pm  
Blogger Julian said...

Yeah, it's gotta be a Spacek for Salmalienen type deal for Edmonton, get something for nothing, or almost nothing. If Lowe can pull off a trade like that, it'd be nice to see what sorta results we can get. But it's certainly not worth trading Raffi for Stuart, unless Stuart can be persuaded to sign on longer.

Otherwise it's time to play out the string and look forward to draft and the UFA season.

2/03/2007 1:36 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Apparently the Bruins are looking for a roster player plus a pick or prospect for Stuart.

Pass.

If Lowe trades Torres or, yes, even Lupul, for 30 games of Brad Stuart, then he deserves the axe. I'd prefer moving Lupul but if they move either it had better be for a comparable player type - young, signed etc.

2/03/2007 7:32 am  
Blogger SweatyO said...

1) If that's the price for Stuart, I hope the hell Lowe is back on the Pitkanen chase. Whether or not they've given up on the season and whether or not they deal for blueline hellp are mutually exclusive things, as long as one knows that this defense needs help for the long term. And that means a guy like Joni.

2) Raffi vs. Joffrey: I keep Raffi. No question. I could live with a top-six next year of Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky, Torres-Stoll-Pisani, especially if they can deal Lupul plus for Pitkanen and keep Hejda around to play on the 2nd set with Staios.

3) The next two games are must win. That is for certain.

4) As of 10am or so this morning (1:30pm in Newfoundland), it will be seven months to the day since the Pronger trade. SEVEN FUCKING MONTHS, and Lowe has yet to address the obvious blueline issues. Apparently Matheson's finally figured it out:

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/sports/story.html?id=c916fa66-76c2-4564-8f36-956851959dc9

One of his better articles in recent memory. Just one question though: how the fuck is Andrew Hutchinson going to be of any help to this team? I'd rather have Richard Matvichuk.....

5) On Ladislav Smid, his birthday was this past Thursday, which means I now share a birthday with both Smid and Tommy Salo. Dennis, please don't hate me.

2/03/2007 7:56 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Wow Sweaty, that is terrible company for sure;) But you're still in my good books seeing as how you worked in a reference to NST:) That was a very savvy move;)

That's a deep D in Carolina so maybe that Hutchinson would be a find but at best he's a replacement for Bergeron if someone wants MAB as part of a package for a Stuart or Pitkanen.

And seven months to the day, eh? Man oh man. We all remember laughing at Strachan for mentioning in Feb that Pronger wanted out of Edm and then it was all kept quiet until the rumours broke on a Friday night. I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw that on a ticker and I somehow don't remember where I was when the trade was finally made.

When you read it like that with the dearth of collective GP laid out for all to see it's hard not to hate Kevin Lowe and maybe even the EIG. What in the hell were they thinking of starting the season with that D and at the same time heading into the season a full five mill under the cap? All the while raising ticket prices. Why isn't the paying public more upset about that? I just don't get that.

2/03/2007 10:17 am  
Blogger SweatyO said...

They had some guy on TEAM 1260 earlier this week, Overland or something like that (sports editor for the Edmonton Journal back in the 60's and 70's), and he mentioned Pronger and how "everyone in the NHL knew about his situation in mid-February, and how impressive it was that he played at such a high level with such personal hardship." Really, I took whatever stuff that popped up on the OF rumor board about it as being bunk...there was even one that said Pronger was going to be gone after the Olympic break. And the whole "Oilers are interested in Redden if he goes UFA" stuff that Garrioch mentioned every few weeks should have been another clue.

Really, if everyone knew...then why the hell did it stay so well under wraps?

Whatever, it doesn't change the fact that the return was a total fuckup. If Lowe can turn Lupul and one of the picks received (along with another asset) into Pitkanen, he may just still redeem himself somewhat.

This season though? Lose the next game, and I'm going to be in Lowetide's camp and consider it "lost".

2/03/2007 11:51 am  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Ok, first period thoughts:

- Are they trying to make the playoffs or get Karl Alsner? Toby Petersen on the PP point would tend to indicate it's the latter.

- I had my scoring chance count at somewhere around 9-2 Edmonton. Seriously. The Oilers grossly outchanced the Avs that period. However, terrible out-of-position by both Staios AND Smid plus a screwy bounce off Sykora's stick leads to an Avs goal, and the Oilers were fighting the bounces on a lot of their chances.

On one hand you say "if they keep that up, they'll get their goals", but the Avs are bound to put up a stretch of the game where they get the bulk of the chances, and if they capitalize just once, it's suddenly 2-0, which is a huge hole for this Oiler team these days.

- More proof-positive this team needs a puckmoving blueliner. Steve Staios is arguably their best blueliner when it comes to this. On a good team, he'd be about the fourth-best guy in this regard (see game 7 of the Cup final last year....all of Pronger/Spacek/Tarnstrom had him beat in this regard).

- That might have been Joffrey Lupul's best period of the season.

- Raffi is definitely "on" this week. I wish he played like he has the last three games every game. And if Lowe has a choice of dealing Lupul or Torres for a d-man (i.e. the other team wants one of the other to make a deal go), he better bite the bullet and give up Lupul, optics be damned.

- Nice shift at the end of the period by Stortini. Threw a pretty nice hit on that puke Laperriere (just like Avery or Tucker, if the guy was on my team, I'd have no issues with him whatsoever, but as long as they're playing for someone else, you want to see them get pasted every shift).

- Tyler Arnason still sucks.

2/03/2007 1:59 pm  
Blogger Doogie said...

The NHL brass are fucking liars. They say they're not trying to kill fighting or impassioned play. Then, they issue this asinine instruction to grab some dude out of a scrum and give him two in order to discourage scrums.

Fucking hell.

2/03/2007 2:15 pm  
Blogger Doogie said...

Holy hell. Smid wins the decision over Rycroft. Not much of a fight, but hey, it's something.

2/03/2007 2:21 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Vic, if the season hasn't killed you yet..

Could we get some post #'s?

I'm convinced the Oilers lead the league.

2/03/2007 2:30 pm  
Blogger Doogie said...

And Hemmer with the wrister. Safe to say Budaj didn't see it coming.

2/03/2007 2:34 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Well, I had the scoring chances at 11-9 Oilers in the second, and CBC said 11-8. Guess I must be doing something right here.

That being said, it was 9-2 Oilers when Hemsky scored his goal. Colorado then generated the next four quality chances.

Colorado's got the first four chances of the third too, and generated 9 shots on their last two PP's (they're on their fifth man-advantage right now).

Nice goal by Hemsky, and an unexpected but spirited scrap from Smid. But the Avs started to turn the tide late in the 2nd.

Matt Greene having a hell of a PK right now....levelled Wolski and a nice blocked pass.

2/03/2007 3:12 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Roloson: HOLD ON TO YOUR FUCKING STICK.

2/03/2007 3:24 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Bang bang! Smyth and Horcoff!

Grossly outchanced in the first half of the period, Roloson holds the fort, and all of a sudden it's a 3-1 Oiler lead.

Freakin' sweet! Oiler PP coming up.

2/03/2007 3:30 pm  
Blogger Scarlett said...

Damn the Oilers are up 3-1. 2 goals on 5 shots in the third period.....nice.

2/03/2007 3:32 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Rack it! 3-2 Oiler win.

Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky each with 1G/1A, Roloson stops 37 of 39.

Now if they can get a RT win against Vancouver on Tuesday, which is SORELY needed, I'll consider them "back in business".

2/03/2007 3:47 pm  
Blogger speeds said...

That Hemsky assist shouldn't have been awarded. He dumped the puck into the corner, Smyth was battling for it, an Avalanche player clearly controlled the puck for a bit of time, Smyth won it back and got it to Horcoff in front for the goal. Doesn't much matter I suppose, just thought that shouldn't have counted as an assist.

2/03/2007 3:51 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Is it just me, or does the out of town scoreboard absolutely suck to watch?

Basically, the only teams where it's positive for the Oilers that they win no matter what are Nashville, Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim, LA, Philly, Buffalo, Jersey, Atlanta, Montreal and Ottawa.

Every other team has implications for the Oilers in regards to the standings or the buying/selling aspect.

Huge win for the Oilers today. I thought we held the edge for most of the game, and we didn't really give Colorado many Grade A chances after the first either. Hopefully more of the same to come.

And less Laco suicide poke checks that result in the puck finding the back of the net. Christ.

Tonight I think a Canuck regulation win is slightly more helpful to the Oilers than anything else.. but as long as it's in regulation it's not a big deal either way... I just think the Canucks are more likely to implode and they're a half game up on the Flames headed into tonight anyway.

2/03/2007 8:21 pm  

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