Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jackets/Oilers: Baby if you ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me...

Conkkanen. The very name evokes memories of an experiment rooted in cost-efficency that was eventually scuttled with it's test subjects embroiled in it's annual dogfight for a playoff spot. That was the old days though and once the Oil picked up Roloson it cemented their playoff status and now 50 games into a new season Roli's ready to take on Columbus with the Oilers firmly entrenched in the Western Conference's top eight.

Oh wait...

It something we never wanted to see again, though I don't mind admitting that I thought a Conklin/Markkanen tandem could do the job for the Oilers in '06, but tonight at Rexall the old gruesome two square off in opposite ends of the ice while the Oilers incumbant creaseman, Roloson, sits on the bench wondering why his game's fallen to the wayside. For Jussi it's his second start in a row and that's noteable for a guy who only had four starts in the Oilers first 49 games. In fact, giving Jussi two games in a row would be akin to Juan Bell taking over for Cal Ripken Jr when the '89 Orioles went on their annual West Coast swing.

At the other end of the sheet we get re-acquainted with our old friend Ty Conklin who's been pressed into duty in the Jackets nets thanks to a blizzard of injuries to their netminders. To his credit he has responded with a great relief effort to close out a win against the Wild and just last night he posted a SO win in Vancouver.

As I said I supported Lowe's net-sharing plan back in '06. Conklin had played great down the stretch in '04 and Jussi had give us a couple of good efforts once he was rescued from a then hapless Rangers club. Plus, Jussi had gone to Russian and the RSL for the lockout '05 campaign and had done an excellent job. But Jussi never warmed to an expanded NHL workload and Conklin was shagged right off the bat with an injury incurred during training camp and in hindsight it looks like he didn't take great care of himself over the lockout and in deciding not to play that season seemed to indicate that he had a job waiting for him and he knew it. The initial hope was that both guys would spur each other to that point that one guy would take the ball and run with it but what eventually happened was Oilers forwards, defenseman and fans alike assuming the position of Charlie Brown and running to kick ball while the Oilers netminding Lucy tandem jerked it away every time we all got close.

Lowe eventually acquired Roli and we all rolled though a long playoff run and the days of an obvious need not being addressed for three quarters of a season was shelved just like that old Bobby McFerrin CD.

Until now of course because even though some would read into Jussi playing back-to-back games as a sign that MacT's lost faith in Roli, I look at it as the coach's way of admitting that Roloson's workload has been too heavy and that with a seven game Eastern road swing in near view it makes sense to have both goalies at the ready.

As much as Roli's struggled for the last little while it's still hard to pin a whole lot of the current malaise on his decidedly slight shoulders. There's a new sheriff in town in '07 regarding an obvious hole in the Oilers game and it's their lack of defensemen. It's the first and foremost reason why the Oilers are about to play their first must win game of the year in Colorado on Saturday afternoon, it will take place with the season being at the tender age of game 53.

There's been a lot of praise for a guy like Dan Hejda, shoutout to my man Roget Millions, as per Jim Peplinski, and yeah it looks like he should've been playing all season playing over the Olsen Twins, aka Greene and Smid. And while the older Czech has done a decent to good job after having been suddenly parachuted into the Oilers defensive top four, the truth is he's yet another guy who struggles to make a fine first pass. So when he's paired with Jason Smith you have a guy earning his stripes, with very few of them coming because he has offensive upside, playing alongside a guy, who while still carrying value as a tough as nails defensive defenseman, is probably only two years removed from leading the league in icings.

The Oilers need some offensive blood in their D corps and it doesn't have to be an Orr or Coffey who can rush the puck on a whim. In fact I'd wager you'd see a damn fine increase in GF and decrease in GA just by adding a guy that makes sure the puck doesn't spend as much time in the Oilers end. Over on LT's blog the other day I had a post ready where I talked about how MacT got the Horc line a favourable matchup against the Sharks on Friday night only to see the line's offensive potential hamstrung by the fact that playing behind them was the pairing of Smid/Greene. The kids spent the whole shift trying to clear the puck and by the time that was done the Horc line didn't have the juice to get into the offensive zone. This kind of thing has happened all season and it doesn't take a Buckeye Newshawk award winner, see I brought it back to the WKRP crew;), to know this won't change as long as Lowe continues to employ the current dcorps and even if Shaggy's return was on the near horizon things wouldn't be looking exponentially brighter.

Anticipating;) a Jussi/Conklin faceoff tonight reminds us of the last time Lowe could see a pox upon his team but took his sweet time before acquiring the antidote. I view Jim Matheson reportings as the newsworthy equivalent of a booty call, ie I only consider his musings attractive when it suits me;) and in today's Journal he hits the Brad Stuart to Edm rumors pretty much head on. It looks like the B's want Torres in exchange and if you've read the Boston dailies they're obsessed with the idea of an energy forward. It sorta reminds me of when the edm writers wanted Tyson Nash as a shit disturber except to my knowledge Torres didn't appear in any Boston Pizza commericals with Kevin Lowe while he was a kid. Staying on message, would I support Torres plus for a Stuart rental? Absolutely not but if we can get Stuart signed then I'm dangling Torres and I'm not even thinking twice about it.

As much as I loved Raffi's knockout punch ability last spring, I think there's something to be said for all the guys who wondered if his goal scoring wasn't as much a product of luck as it was anything else. I will say he use to score some weird goals but he's a young kid and I figured he just had the knack. In looking at this season though he's not even getting scoring chances let alone goals so it looks like he's lost his way as much as Lupul has. The difference is that Raffi's remained a plus while playing tough mintues and that certainly counts for something. But he doesn't kill penalties and he's shown no reason to be given PP time so what exactly is his value?

As much as you'd like to acquire roster players for fringe players there's also something to be said for the fact that the Oilers defense corps in '08 stands to be just as green, or green-e as it were, inept and ultimately frustrating as it is this season. Hejda looks like a keeper and hopefully they'll bring him back but his skillset is limited. Staios is good dman and so is Jason Smith, though the latter's abilites don't include moving the puck, and Smid and Greene will still be super young and super inexperienced. This isn't even mentioning Bergeron who's cheap and does a good job in his role but doesn't posess the poise to rise above it.

Kevin Lowe needs a defenseman, or most likely defensemen, so that his team doesn't miss the playoffs for the third time in it's last six seasons. And he also needs these guys so that we're not in the same predicament come '08 as well. For that to happen he'll have to give something to get something and that also means Stuart will need to be signed before the deal with Boston's completed. Hopefully that's what's holding everything up because you can't help but look at today's standings and tonight's netminding matchup and think back to last year's debacle. Now the question is if and when Lowe moves, has he waited too long and is there any chance he'll end up looking as astute as he did last winter.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Defence and The Deadline

If the price of help on D is high it might well be in the Oilers best interest to move a couple guys at the deadline should they fall out of the race, but which ones?

The defence is thin as is, but there are decisions that have to be made to upgrade for next year. It looks to me like a couple players have to go.


That is 9 right there, and in theory I'm sure EDM would like to add at least one new D to play in the top 4 next year, without losing either of Smith or Staios.

I could easily see them re-signing both Hejda and Tjarnqvist. Tjarnqvist hasn't had a great statistical year but I don't think he's played terribly, so if the coaching staff still likes him, and if Lowe can get him relatively cheap, why not bring him back even if it's as a 4-5-6 D? Pretty much the same story for Hejda. But the problem is between those 2, Greene, Smid, Bergeron, Smith and Staios, the D hasn't changed. Is it good enough next year either? Probably not, so who moves to make room? If, as rumoured, Lowe moves Bergeron and Smith to make room for Stuart the D for next season takes shape as:


It's a pretty deep UFA year for D next season, but what does that mean? Sure there's lots available, but it also means everyone's looking. I'd imagine EDM can probably land one of them though. The real "problem" on the blueline might well be having both Smid and Greene at the same time (doesn't look like much relief for those that hate rookie D on the horizon either, with Roy, Gilbert, Syvret knocking on the door), it could be better for the Oilers to only have one of them, move the other for an older more reliable D or a younger F and then sign a more reliable UFA.

Dennis suggested in the comments of LT's post that Lowe go after a guy like Pitkanen, and if available maybe that's an option, but I don't think it would be a bad idea to throw Greene (or SMid, but I prefer keeping Smid of the two personally) into the mix in a trade for a D like Pitkanen, or even any kind of D who'd play in the top 4.

As for the deadline, it is still too early to pull the plug, but if EDM goes 3-7 in their next 10, it's hard to deny that EDM might be best served by landing some nice futures with a big sell-off at the deadline.

All of Markkanen, Tjarnqvist, Hejda, Sykora, and Smyth are pending UFA's*, and must have at least some sort of value. Of course, you'd probably keep the ones you plan on re-signing if you can sign them first, but if not, there isn't much harm in trading a guy for futures but explicitly letting him know that you'll be calling him as soon as the UFA season starts, so don't forget about EDM.

And that's just of the UFA's, I don't think EDM would necessarily want to deal Smith or Bergeron, but if the right offer came (and as valued as D seem to be league wide, it might) you'd at least have to listen.

* - Nedved and Peterson are also UFA's but I'm not sure you'd get much, if anything, for them.

If after picking up 6-8 points in the next 10 games, EDM decided to dump Markkanen, Sykora, Tjarnqvist, Bergeron, give Deslauriers some starts, and maybe even Smyth if they can't get him re-signed, it's certainly conceivable they could finish with a top 5 pick in addition to the proceeds via deadline trades. In the summer shop the UFA market to plug holes and hope for a solid rebound next season, which in this new CBA I think we'll see happen far more often than in the old one.

If you can sign the right UFA's, combined with the quality remaining players left, this should be a playoff team next season. Of course, I thought they would be this year as well.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kings/Oilers: You win Kevin, you win

I doubt we'll ever know what the plan was heading into the '07 season but someone somewhere had to know the folly of entering the season with a depth chart of these top seven dmen: Smith-Staios-Tarnqvist-Smid-Greene-Bergeron-Hejda. And when you look at that and know that the Oilers considered Smid a #4 dman then you know that not only were the Oilers forwards being counted on to drive the bus, they were also being counted on to build it.

So by the time the season started and this was the group that was to patrol the blueline, all the while with the EIG five friggin' million under the cap, a few things were pretty easy to see:

1. Lowe had made all the wrong moves regarding roster construction, ie you had a ready to win forwards corps that could be propped up by great netminding but there also existed the possibility of it being torn down by a close to terrible group on the backend. But at least his heart was in the right place even though his brain was in his ass if he thought Smid was a number 4 dman in the NHL.
2. Lowe's hands had been tied by a positively parsimonious EIG, at least comparitive to the money they made during the long playoff run, and the season's hopes were dashed the day he essentially brought in Smid for Pronger without resigning Spacek or entering into the UFA pool to pull out a Mckee or Gill.
3. Lowe, maybe in conjunction with the EIG and maybe not, decided to spend just enough money as to not arouse real rebuilding suspicions among the fans, after all they wanted to increase the cost of your tickets, and in the meantime it really didn't bother him if the team missed the playoffs and the real tell would be in his lack of urgency to address the holes on the blueline.

Now did I just make things up to accompany an upcoming point? Yes I did. But don't those possibilities look at least somewhat accurate? I'd like to think so.

Admittedly, it's a hard road to hoe with two of your top four dmen missing, and that's been the case for quite awhile now with both Staios and Tjarnqvist on the IR and it's even harder to withstand when you've got a 20 year old as your No. 4. In the interm though Lowe's let a tonne of grass grow under his feet while the team's floundered and every day that goes by without him picking up a dman is a day that makes it appear as if Lowe's about to embark, or has already embarked, on yet another one of his 27 year plans;)

Well, after last night's effort, not loss mind you but effort or lackthereof, Lowe's passive aggressive approach to addressing or not addressing painfully obvious needs has won me over. I'm sick of the way things are going and while I'm not in the "cheer against your team so they'll get a great draft choice" phase, and that's primarily because there's no obvious superstar in the '07 group, it probably wouldn't hurt for the Oilers to lose their next two games against the visiting Kings and Jackets and in those losses perhaps everyone could be convinced that we need to restock and that's what Lowe's probably wanted to do all along.

Rough night for the Oilers last night

A 5-1 loss on home ice is never a good thing, but there was an interesting combination of events last night that made the night one of the worst for the Oilers this season.

Games involving WC teams last night:

CLB beat BUF 3-2 in reg
STL beat DET 2-1 in OT
MIN beat CAL 2-1 in SO
NSH beat CHI 3-1 in reg
PIT beat DAL 4-3 in SO
PHX beat COL 5-4 in SO
SJ beat EDM 5-1 in reg
LA beat VAN 3-2 in OT

So, of the 13 other teams playing last night from the WC, EDM lost ground to 12 of them and stayed even relative to CHI. Ouch, no wonder I don't like 3 point games.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sharks/Oilers: I do this because it doesn't look like anyone else will;)

Man oh man, it's seems like it's a depressing time around the Oilers online community. Ty's still working on his refresh so the MC79 joint hasn't been updated, there's tumbleweeds blowing though the Oilers section over at BOA and the CiO guys are just hoping against hope that Lowe makes a deal. Note: the exclusion of the Hot Oil ladies isn't a slight by any means, it's that I can't in good faith suggest anyone visit their site until they erase that pictures of Pleasure Motors;)

So I guess we at IOF are holding it down tonight when it comes to a pregame and subsquent gamethread and if you've come here for optimism than A: you're obviously lost and B: you've come to the wrong place.

Over the break I have made peace with the fact that the Oilers most likely won't be participating in the playoffs. There's just too many things going wrong right now for everything to be fixed in the next 34 games. The Nedved experiment gets messier by the day but no one seems to want to acknowledge it, Roloson has gone all Salo on us yet MacT and Co are afraid to give him some rest and play Jussi even once every 25 games and it looks like all the guys who said Raffi's goalscoring might just be luck more than anything else just might be right. I mean the kid's coming up a plus but he's not even getting scoring chances anymore let alone goals.

The truth is, and I said this right from the time the Pronger trade was made and then I guess I made myself forget about it, was that this team was doomed from the time Lowe traded Pronger for Lupul and Smid and then decided not to further augment the defense. Tarnqvist looked like a good acquistion early on but I think it's been November since he was healthy, Smid's an AHLer at this age at best and trying to develop him and Greene the same time was an idea that ranks right up there with Crystal Pepsi and even a guy like Sykora, who looked lights out early on, hasn't put together three good games in a row in ages. Granted, it hasn't helped that Smith looks to have lost a step and Staios lost his GP streak and that Roli now loses his mind everything someone makes a mistake but it was stupid for anyone, Kevin Lowe first and foremost, to believe that a team this thin on defense could make any kind of a charge. Yet he decided to hoard the EIG's money, most likely at their behest, and now he's making excuses about acquiring defenseman saying that teams are asking for an overpay. Well, sometimes you get what you deserve.

Truth is that this team lost me the night they lost a 4-1 Rexall lead to a Dallas team bereft of not only Stars but also talent. At that point I said this team wasn't really worth having faith in again until they hit the .500 mark. Well, they roll into tonight just one game over that line with Staios still a question mark and no one even mentioning a possible return date for Shaggy which means he's probably gone for an even longer haul than originally anticipated.

I spent a few min today wondering what kind of analogy I could come up with to describe how my early season expectations could've been so off the mark and/or how it felt coming out of the break knowing the Oilers were beginning a stretch drive to futility. At first I thought of Alicia Witt who you folks might remember from the old CBS sitcom, "Cybill". Ms. Witt was hot and sexy and I thought bigger things were in store for her but I think the last big role she had was as Chris's GF in the first season of The Sopranos and I don't think she's done anything noteworthy since. But what I decided to settle on was how the break was like the last weekend before a dieter starts to purge, haven't you noticed how all diets start on Monday?;) You're looking ahead and you've got your goal-weight set and you're sure you can throw out the junkfood, switch from whiteflour to whole wheat and this time you'll make it a point to get to the gym four days a week. But in the back of your mind you know your wealk self and that in a week or less you're sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to build a sandwhich that would choke a horse.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the Oilers season;)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Time To Take Old One Eye To The Optometrist

I'm sure at least some of you will remember that joke from "Grumpy Old Men" and considering the picture of Lou Lamiriello and that fact that he's a tool, I could easily drop a dick joke in here. In fact I was gonna call this post "Lou's the biggest vagina this side of Silicon Valley" so maybe I've been watching too much porn or something. I mean you have to find something to do in lieu of watching the NHL, right?

Truth be told I'm not missing hockey at all during this
break and the elongated siesta of the NHL has allowed me to finally finish a
couple of books I was reading, provided me with the time to catch up on eps
of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and it's now also been three nights and
counting since I've had to watch the Oilers lose a game and my bile
production has decreased thusly.

Man, this feels great:)

Of course maybe that's the thing because if the Oilers didn't suck or if
they were at least five games over .500 in their last 30 games played, then
you know I'd probably be jonesing for some hockey but at this point I'm
clearly not. It doesn't mean that I've quit on the team, and I'll have some
saucy Oilers notes to close this rant, because right now watching the Oilers
is like being a devotee of Saturday Night Live: you know going in that most
of the ep is going to suck but if there's just one sketch that makes you
laugh then you remember when it used to good and you keep hoping these days
will return. You know right now I might be able to draw a parallel between
Nedved leaving Edm and Jimmy Fallon leaving SNL and how it was so "great"
for their respective careers but no I don't think I'll bother:)

I'm still keeping an eye on all the respective dailies around the league
though and last night I even managed to watch the Accuracy compeition and the 150 shootout
segments that concluded the last hour of the skills competition. I also
managed to catch part of a gala on the NHL Network on Monday night and if
you didn't see Cuba Gooding Jr interviewing some of the league's most recent
legends, well then you missed out:)

What I was really looking forward to during this break was the apparently
inevitable announcement of the league changing it's sked back to the '04 days
when you only played divisional foes six times a year and there was this
cool wrinkle where, over the course of the season, you managed to play every
team at least once!!! I'd imagined there'd been enough grousing from both
management and players alike, hell even Joe Sakic thought the current sked
was a joke and that guy never says a discouraging word, that we'd go back to
the old way of doing things.

But once again I underestimated the contrarian that is Lou Lamireillo. You
know maybe I'm allowing him too much credit and/or giving him too much of
the blame because we know the eastern teams were the ones who voted against
changing the current format and their reasons are all the same, ie it has
cut down on their travel and they like putting more of an emphasis of the
divisional games. Then again Lou's the same guy who's assuaged the league's
salary cap rules to the point where Mogilny's listed as being long term
disabled yet he's playing exhibition games back in Mother Russia.

As an Oilers fan I can't deny that one of the biggest reasons I want a
return to the old sked is because of the competitive imbalance it allows
teams that play in divisions in the WC that aren't the Northwest. The
Pacific houses the Kings and Yotes, the Central has the Hawks, Jackets and
Blues and meanwhile the Oilers division is eating itself. That being said I
also love the fact that the old ways allowed us a home and home series with
the Habs, Leafs and Sens and considering we have six of the say 10 or 12
markets that actually gives two f**ks about the game, then you'd think it
would be a good idea to cater to us somewhat. There's a reason why the NFL
still plops teams like the Raiders and Dolphins onto their primetime skeds
no matter what their records were the previous season and it's because of
history, tradition and the fact that fans of those teams actually care. Of
course I don't want to let the Habs and Sens off too lightly either because
they were two of the 11 teams that voted against changing the current
format. I don't know what the attendance is like in Ott these days but it's
never been all that great and maybe it's better for them personally to keep
those four extra games against TO and Mtl combined that the current sked
affords. Of course it's better for the league if everyone sees everyone
because only through familiarity can the NHL ever hope to truly harvest the
furits of the golden goose, ie the big american TV contract.

And this is where the players come in or where maybe they should've come in
and perhaps Brendan Shanahan could've stopped flapping his gums about
goaltending equipment long enough to see just beyond the trees to a forest
that might even produce even more greenbacks.

Unless you're digging deep, the NHL appears to be healthy. The cap numbers
are rumored to be going up again so everything must be in good order, right?
Well no that's wrong because the cap's going up while attendance is going
down which means the hardcore fan's being charged more for his ticket and
god love him he's paying the increase but this guy's been a far for awhile
now and his money and interest hasn't been enough and won't be enough to
propel the NHL back into the collective conscience of the North American
television populace.

What the league needs is more fans and specfically more fans who'll tune in
on television and if that ever happens then then revenues will really
explode. If the NHL can ever sign a deal that even somewhat resembles the
pacts currently enjoyed by the big two sports leagues, ie NFL and NHL, then
revenues will soar, the cap will rise and once again the Bobby Holik's of
the world can make five million dollars while doing virtually nothing. So,
how does this happen for the NHL? Well I don't think it ever will but I can
guarentee you that a good way to ensure this never even becomes a remote
possibility is to keep certain fans in the dark about certain players. You
see a lot of GM's grousing that teams are only complaining about the current
format because Crosby and Ovechekin are in the East and this is a special
case that may not repeat itself and to that I saw so what? Isn't it better
to use it when it comes around and with the NHL never being lower on the
causual fan's totem pole how can the respective brass sleep at night knowing
they're turning fans into certain cites into virtual isolationists when it
comes to the appreciation of the league's talents?

And this is where a more sensible schedule format is needed. Fans in all
cities must be made aware of all the league's treasures in hopes that there
eventually comes a time where say a fan in Anaheim decides to watch a hockey
game on a night even when Anaheim isn't playing because he's so impressed
with the talent spread throughout the league that he's looking forward to a
Pens/Thrashers matchup. No one's talking about a fully balanced sked so
there's no chance that every team will visit every rink every season but
under the current format every team isn't even playing other team so how is
the causual fan to learn about the star players in the other conference? The
truth is that they most likely won't and until you find a way to educate all
of the league's fans on all of the league's players, you'll never have the
interest to facilitate the big money TV contract that the NHL craves. And
until that happens any increase in the league's salary cap should be
considered at best tedious and perhaps even temporary.

I can understand why teams on the eastern seaboard would want to to keep the
current format. There's no question it cuts down on their travel and over
the course of a year probably provides them with some kind of tangible
comepetitive advantage as simple as less man games lost to injury. That's
just me stretching there but it seems to make sense off the hop. At the end
of the day though you have to think about the future and how the present
impacts it. This league can only go so far with it's current TV contract and
it's current television potential is hamstrung by the current schedule

Those with older parents know how time can reverse the role of
caretaker/dependant and how where once petulance was the domain of the
child, it's now passed over to the elder. And sometimes the folks get a bit
stubborn when it comes to going to the doctor and ultimately you have to get
firm with them and if it means taking a day off work to assure they keep
their appointment, than that's what you do. Lou probably knows he's just
doing what's best for his own team but I doubt he understands just how
shortsighted he is. Some of the players should've known this though and it
was their place to step in and they didn't. The end result is that once again
the NHL's lacking the longview.

Finally, there were some Oilers related items so let's take a shot at them, shall

1. To no one's surprise, Mihknov has decided to go back to Russia. He wasn't setting
the A on fire and the Oilers weren't overly impressed with him and then to setmatters
in stone his old club team offered the Oilers a signficant amount for him to return home. And we all know how the EIG loves to have extra money around so that they can get as tight to the cap as possible;) Oh wait...that's right..

2. If they were so inclined to spend money though maybe they could waste it on former King and current Senator Joe Corvo and the word from the Ottawa Sun today is that the Oilers might be interested. He's making 2.5 mil a year and he's signed until 2010 but he's a guy that really seems built for the PP and nothing else. Or at least that's how it's going for him this year in Ottawa. Last year in LA he played 19.59 a night TOI with just over five of those coming on the PP. He finished at 16-40-81 and a +16 with 21 of his 40 points coming on the PP. This year though he's 6-21-48 and is -8 on a team that's +33. And right now he's playing on the third pairing. If the Oilers needed a PP guy and they had money to burn and they didn't have to give up much, then I'd be all for this trade. But they don't like spending a whole lot of money and they need dmen that can do more than just play on the PP. Yes Corvo would be great at making the first pass but he'd also need to be sheltered and do we need yet another one of those guys? That's even mentioning what we might have to give up for him though with the Sens being so tight to the cap and with their belief in current swingman Schubert, I have a feeling the Sens might be just looking to dump salary.

3.Speaking of dmen that need to be sheltered, my old friend Laddy Smid was at the YoungStars game on Tues night and he was just as ineffective as he is playing against old stars:) Here's a quote from him regarding his participation, "Not my type of game, lots of skilled player," said Smid. Sooooo, we know the guy isn't physical and that's not his game but now he's not a skilled guy either? What is it this
guy is good at again?;)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Flames/Oilers: Testicular Fortitude

There I go again using another old timey wrestling phrase but I think it fits. Pictured here, or it will be as soon as I catch Cam online:) is Michael K. Williams or as fans of smart television will know him, "Omar", the most notorious stick-up boy in all of the fictional Baltimore as portrayed on television's best show since The Sporanos still had it's fastball, The Wire.

This guy has got a set on him, let me tell you. Are they as big as the nuts that the EIG are holding while they start crying about public money for a new stadium in a year when they're cheaping out on the Oilers payroll? Probably not but the EIG's brazeness most likely stems as much from knowing their audience as it does anything else. Meanwhile, Omar faces down drug lord after drug lord, constantly stealing from their coffers and daring them to stop him. And in his leisure time he makes no bones about strolling around the projects in nothing but silk pajamas. Plus, did I mention he's gay and makes no bones about it? Are the last two things related? Well maybe:) but at the end of the day this guy just doesn't give a f**k.

Recently the contents of the Oilers collective nutsac was called into question when Hemsky was knocked of Tuesday's game in Minny by Derek Boogaard. Actually, the folks who follow this team as closely as Donald Trump follows high school cheerleading, hey the guy's always on the hunt for his next wife, have had their doubts about this team and organization for years. Yeah, we had the league's heavyweight champ in Laraque but on the occasions when the big guy went all mean and destroyed oh say Chris Simon, his overt physicality and his hand wiping domiance were chastised by Craig MacTavish. As much as I'm in the camp of MacTavish, I've always felt he didn't use the big guy properly. If you consider fighters as weaponry, MacT always had the biggest gun but he was pretty much afraid to use it. We saw this way back when the night in San Jose when Marchment went after Weight's knees and we've seen it pretty much every time in the last two years in the BOA when Robyn Regehr's matched up against Hemsky and makes it a point to punish him as much as possible: the Oilers rarely retaliate.

Heading into last night's game against the Ducks the references to the Oilers being soft were about as veiled as Lindsay Lohan's happywarmfunzone. Sometimes it's helpful for guys not to read the papers or listen to the radio but on other occasions a kick in the ass is needed and it looks like, early on at least, the Oilers took the message. Right off the bat, less than eight mintues in, Raffi Torres drilled Travis Moen and was ready to dance before Matt Greene stepped in, maybe because it was his favorite song. Truth be told, the Oilers played nasty right from the beginning, did anyone else notice Nedved running at people, and it seemed like for some reason the primary targets were Penner and Getzlaf.

The latter has escaped the organization's clutches twice, ie they looked over him at the draft and then they didn't insist on his inclusion in the Pronger trade, and I must say that I look the likes of the kid on the ice but he came across as a bit of a pussy last night. There was one incident where the Webster-esque Bergeron moved him from in front of the net and Ray Ferraro started feeling just like he did when he climbed the rope in gym class but there was yet another occasion where the bigger Geztlaf was also bossed around by #47. And Bergeron wasn't finished either as he took the trouble to upend Penner on an open ice hit. Did anyone else see Marc struggling trying to left this guy into the air? I'm thinking Penner is tipping the toledos, another nod to Gorilla Monsoon:), at close to 250 and in that hit it looked like Bergeron felt the weight of every pound. The very same shift, young hopeful Mathieu Roy took the oppurtunity to bury former Oiler Todd Marchant and didn't flinch in the accompanying aftermath of old school pugilist Shawn Thornton engaging him in a set-to.

I listened to MacT's postgame comments and he said that if Roy keeps that up he'll find a spot in the lineup and that's more of a possibility now than ever given the news that Staios's knee isn't improving and we're now looking at him missing weeks as opposed to mere days. Of course there's only so far guts, courage and heart will take you, for instance it isn't all that great when it comes to making a first pass;) but in the interm it looks like it's all the Oilers pretty have on the backend so why not use it?

Which leads us to the next installment of the Battle Of Alberta and the aforementioned Regehr. Maybe he won't get the chance this time around to try and belittle Hemsky but that's just my point. But if Ales does play or even if he doesn't, it might be a good time for a Jason Smith or someone of that ilk to try and intimidate say a Turtleneck Tanguay or Kristie Huselius. When it comes to bringing the physicality, most of the Flames usually come correct but the Oilers not so much. Round 6 of the BOA seems like an appropriate stage to exhibit some new found love for the rough stuff.

Heading into tonight's game against a suddenly hapless Ducks squad, the Flames lead the Oilers by two points and one win and they have two games in hand. It may seem like folly to be so dimissive of the current kings of the NW, ie the Canucks, but my money's still on Calgary as the likely cock of the walk. To that end the Oilers must hold serve in their both their remaining BOA matchups and they must find a way to take at least a point in their last game in Calgary.

Of course first things are always first though and tomorrow night I'm looking for the Oilers to sound off like they've got a pair and hopefully shrink the respective jewels of the Flames in the process.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

At What Price Development?

I'm going to flavour this post with an analogy from my personal life.

Below is a picture of New Charles.

He's had a rough couple of weeks. At some point last week he either escaped from his owners or they unceremoniously ditched the poor dog. On Tuesday he lost a street battle with a cement mixer and was definitely lucky to escape with just a limp and minor injuries. We took him into our home on a temporary basis after a quick visit to the vet. On Wednesday, he was attacked by my neighbour's pit bull in a freak encounter. Again, he was lucky to escape with minor injuries because that SOB is a homicidal (canicidal?) maniac.

Anyway, I'm going to explain why New Charles reminds me a little of Joffrey Lupul's situation and why I'm going to stop ragging on the guy for a little while.

Now, it was certainly New Charles' fault that he got hit by a cement truck. I'm sure we can agree he wasn't thinking properly, when he stepped out on the road Tuesday morning in front of several tons of fun. However, I think we can also agree that if New Charles' owner wasn't a total jerk, he'd never have been out there in the first place. This assessment is slightly similar to my dilemma with Joffrey Lupul. Sure he's at fault for the shockingly poor results at even strength and on the PP, but how come MacT keeps throwing him over the boards? And furthermore, why does he insist on playing Lupul on the #1 line playing against cement truck opposition?

The answer has to be development, which is a disturbing theme for any Oiler fan hoping for a competitive team this season. Dennis and I discussed this yesterday and I think we basically agreed that MacT is tearing Lupul's game down and trying to build him back up again. The thought process is likely that the Oilers are giving up a fair amount in the short term, but it's hard to argue that Lupul isn't going to be a better player as a result of this experience. Sure, MacT could have put him on a line with Sykora and Reasoner and asked them to play bottom sixers all year. Lupul would probably get his 30+ goals and get the Edmonton media off his back, but the Oilers would be no closer to having a skilled RWer capable of tough sledding.

This same thing probably applies for Greene and Smid. Any sane individual running an NHL team with an interest in winning games in 2006-2007 would have pegged these two guys for 6/7 duty at best. Instead they're playing crazy minutes and, along with Lupul's prominent role, the three of them have punched a pretty big hole in the Oilers' goal differential this season. (We can argue about this if you want, but the numbers are overwhelming in my opinion) So what's this development worth to the Oilers? On the job NHL training is not a cheap thing. It's hard to put a number on it, but I'd say the price tag has got to be on the order of $6-10 million this year. That's a round or two of playoff money plus their salaries.

I don't know about you but I think that's a whopper of an investment cost. So what's the payback? That's the thing about player development. We really don't know and in all likelihood the Oilers can't say for certain either. Oiler fans can only hope it means that Lupul, Greene and Smid become elite contributors sooner rather than later.

The other major implication of this strategy is that it makes trading any of these three guys that much harder. Lupul's situation is already complicated by the optics of the Pronger deal and if you consider the non-trivial investment the Oilers have made in this kid, there's no doubt in my mind that they basically can't afford to trade him. Same goes for Greene and Smid - the Oilers have already suffered through 40+ games of growing pains, so why trade that investment away?

Anyway, that's my piece on Lupul. I'm going to lay off him for awhile. He's learning and the Oilers want him to learn. He's going to suck in the meantime but hopefully he becomes a real player in the long run.

As for my own predicament... New Charles is getting better by the hour it seems and he gets along well with our dog, but we're going to have to get rid of him in a week or two. (Our "little" guy is an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix with two different coloured eyes we've had since he was a puppy. Basically, we ain't trading Horcoff.) If you're reading this blog in the Greater Atlanta area and would like a nice dog who's been damn lucky to escape with a little club foot, send me a line. I'm not asking for much...

Just Coburn and a 3rd rounder.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Missing Links

If Cam's done his job then there should be a corresponding picture of the old timey wrestler The Missing Link. I don't know why I've posted so many old wrestling pics these days, it's not like I've gone back to watching that stuff. I can't find the quote but I'm a somewhat of a big Stephen King fan and he once said that while he was a huge fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft he always thought the best time to get into his stuff was when you were a teenager. That's how I feel about the whole wrestling business right now. There was a stretch of about five years when me and my friends never missed a PPV event of either the WWF or WCW and I can still watch those old matches now and get a kick out of them but I just can't get down with the new stuff. Which is odd because I don't mind the ladies being clad in a scantily fashion and in my day all you had to oogle were Miss Elizabeth and maybe you rubbed one out to Sherri Martel but you'd never tell anyone that.

BTW TNT made eight hour long specials out of select King short stories and The Movie Network here in Canada is finally showing them on Monday nights so perhaps you should check that out. I've already seen two and the first one was great, "Battleground" and the second one was terrible which was personally disappointing given it was an adaptation of one of my favorite King shorts of all time, "Crouch End". There's not a lot of star power in these specials and "End" featured Claire Forlani with a Botox face as bloated as was Brett Hull's entire body as featured on last Sat's NBC NHL coverage. I know the last installment will be a version of "You Know They've Got A Helluva Band" which is a must see for any King fan who's also a music devotee.

Anyway, on to the links:

That's pretty much all you need right there and it gives you the link to all of the daily papers in the US and Canada and you can go from there. Sure you'll need to sign up for papers like the LA Times, NY Times and Wsh Post but you should already have that done anyway.

I've been watching more and more Pens games lately and that's a given considering all the talent they have. So that leads to checking out their dailies and Dave Molinari is a pretty sharp guy who writes for the above paper. His weekly column that's worth your time and in this piece he talks about how much the Pens are missing off season addition Mark Eaton. The Oilers online community doesn't miss a whole lot and I believe it was Speeds who was pimping this guy this past summer and talking about how he was playing tough minutes for the '06 Preds.. It's really been a bad year for Lowe when it comes to identifying and procuring help on the backend and that's always been one of his steady points given the free agent signing of MAB and the UFA signing of Staios and such. This summer it looked like he landed another sizeable fish in Tarnqvist but Shaggy's been banged up literally all season and Smid looks like magic beans at this point. Eaton's a guy who signed for basically the same amount though and he's even been more injury prone than Shaggy though this season. It still makes me wonder why Lowe wouldn't have moved heaven and earth to bring in this guy instead of gift wrapping top four minutes to a greenhorn like Smid. It's not like they didn't have the cap room. Molinari's raving about him here though so maybe Lowe can ask Speeds who this summer's bargain's gonna be.

I hate anyone who watches reality TV or who's obsessed with the personal lives of celebrites so I feel a bit odd posting this link but what the hell. I'd imagine most of you remember David Amber as a TSN personality and just last week I stumbled upon this archive of his interviews with NHL'ers. There's some pretty cool stuff in there I must say and I particularily enjoyed reading stuff like how Iginla sulked after Mar Savard decided to head to Boston and the Chelios/Eddie Vedder is pretty funny.

The above is a way to check out old boxscores and answer questions like, "Did Tommy Salo ever record any shutouts"?

The coverage isn't exactly all encompassing but I agree with Whitney when she says the children are out future and right now most of our future is toiling with the Baby Pens.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Oilers/Wild? This is how we do it

I could've also titled this post "Somethin' 4 Da Honeyz " but that would've just seemed wrong for some reason.

Kevin Lowe spoke today and it wasn't as if J.D Salinger announced he was writing a gossip column for Teen People but it was something for the Oilers faithful to chew on. Lowe was at his oblivious best today with nuggets like Smid has overacheived for the Oilers and the flat out lie, some will call it an omission but I'll call it a lie;), that Lupul is in just his second full season. Of course that's wrong on two accounts as Joff is currently playing in his third full NHL season and he also played in the A in the lockout year of '05 so he's playing his fourth year of pro hockey. Lowe also threw out the fact that Lupul's been playing better on the road then he has at home and the numbers do everything but back that up. Look at JL's road splits and he's a guy who's a super minus on the road and is actually a plus at home. But I mean what do I know and what do the stats know? If Lowe says something then it must be true, right?

LT had a post the other day speculating on just how many points the Oilers need to be out of the race before Lowe cuts and runs and basically becomes a buyer at the deadline. The thing is that I just don't think it's that easy to pin down. I'm sure there are people who will disagree with me, like Canucks fans for instance, but I think the Flames are close to running away and hiding when it comes to the division, ie 21-9-2 in their last 33 games is a great run in a significant sample size. By comparison the Oilers opened the season at 6-2 and have gone 15-18-4 since and in the process has inspired confidence in no one. So even though the Oilers trail the Flames by just six points and three wins, though do they lead them by one GP, I think the days of hoping the Oilers can win the division are pretty much done. Yes there are 37 games left in the sked but in no way can I imagine a Sharks after Thornton was acquired resurgence and there's no reason to believe that the Flames will totally far apart.

But this doesn't leave the Oilers totally out in the cold either.

It's probably gonna be a long time before anyone admits this but within the Oilers room there has to be some kind of sentiment that their own personal race is for third place in the division and thusly eighth place in the Conf. That means beating out two of Van, Minny and Col and there are still enough HTH games left to accomplish this. The Oilers have three apiece vs Van and Col and have six left against Minny. The Oilers have now lost their last 27 divisional games and this, much like their recent suction at home, should pass and when things turn around in that regard the Oilers just may stay afloat long enough for Lowe to throw them some kind of life perserver and sit down anchors like Greene and Smid. That's the easiest scnario in which to imagine the Oilers in this year's playoffs. Of course for that to happen the Oilers likely need to pick up one impact defenseman and hope for consistent health for Smith and renewed health for both Staios and Tarnqvist.

The killer for Lowe and any plan he may formulate is that six of the 12 aformentioned divisional games won't transpire until the last 11 games of the season when the Oilers face the Wild three times, the Avs twice and finish up their season series with the Canucks. So lots of things for Lowe to consider indeed. A good start would be making a trade in the near future so that we don't roll into a divisional barn boasting a defense of Staios-Hjeda-Greene-Smid-Bergeron-Gilbert because that's the likely sextet that will compete tonight at the Xcel Energy Centre.

That doesn't appear to be on the horizon though because Lowe admitted today that the problems of Jan 16th are the same problems that existed back in training camp. It's hard to tell what Lowe's thinking or what his directive is from the EIG. Does he believe this team can stay afloat until he can swing a trade that's totally on his terms or is he just being passive aggressive and waiting for this team to fall out the race so that he can deal off Smyth and Skyora?

You can forgive Oilers fans for thinking back to Lowe's '06 deals and for hoping that he'll Flip the track and bring the old school back but if you were from where I'm from then you see the EIG starting the year spending just 39 Million on salary and you'd think the worst.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


It's probably not fair to Micheal Buffer to use his image for tonight's game because when you see the guy with the booming voice it usually means that something worth watching is sure to follow. Then again I'm pretty sure he once warmed us all up for Tyson/McNeely so it's not like his reputation has been totally bereft of besmirchment.

It is really hard to get up for tonight's game in Calgary though because I have a feeling the Flames are about to put the "D" in debacle.

Harley's Crotchkisses are really banging on all eight right now and while Oilers fans get a little excited when young Pouliot drops a pass between his legs to Smyth, or maybe that was just me, Calgary fans can actually hold onto something tangible with their prospects given that kids like Moss and Boyd are actually finding the scoresheet. It's bad enough that Calgary has a world class netminder, a hart trophy candidate up front and a very steady defense, but now all of a sudden the Alien Huselieis, just look at the shape of his head, is scoring and Langkow is finally Langkow and they've got kids scoring game winning goals in the dying minutes against the Dallas Stars.

At the other end of the ring is a team that once "boasted" a streak of three wins and eight points in their last five games but that was quickly quashed by an upstart Wild team and an Oilers defense corps that might not even make serious waves at the AHL All Star game. Couple that with the fact that Roli had another average night last night and that his frustration is beginning to show like Nichole Ritchie in his first trimester and things really couldn't be going any smoother for Edmonton's hockey team.

If you note just a hint of frustration in my rants as well;) then sir you are correct. And it isn't just me who's feeling it as well. The situation has long passed critical with the Oilers defense corps and players from the forward position on our are beginning to express it in both body language and voice. Roli had a near meltdown last night after the 3-2 goal and I believe it was after the win over Florida when Pisani noted how nice it was that the rearguards had finally had a game where they were making the first pass and he went on to stress just how crucial that was to success. Then just this morning I listened to Smyth saying the D had to get better at this particular element of the game only to quickly realize what he'd said and backtrack with the comment, "I know it isn't easy to make that play". Well you know what Ryan? It isn't that fucking hard either if you happen to play in the NHL. Just for a laugh, someone should take a look at a five game segment and log the icings for and against and I'd wager that you'd wind up gobsmacked. When a skilled guy like Bergeron is ripping the puck down the ice like a bomb you can only imagine what kids like Greene and Smid are doing with it.

And the problem is that looking ahead to '08, we're still gonna be breaking in lunkheads like Smid and Greene. It's not gonna happen where the guys are gonna show up this Sept with a computer chip embedded that gives them the wisdom of 200 GP or has aged them to the years beyond their mid to early 20's.

Outside of Poti, I think we all forgot just how frustrating it is to watch young guys grow up on D. A guy like Niinimaa was coined Spaz for a reason, ie we all remember him going up the middle to Audette in G4 in '98 in 2OT, and he didn't have a tonne of experience when he showed up, 143 GP to be exact plus three years in the FEL
BUT, but this guy had some upside too and his good games were really good games. I think a lot of Oilers fans love Finns and it goes back to the days of Jari and then Esa so Janne was coming to the right place. I think these guys are the most physical of all the Euros and Janne had heart,guts and toughness for miles and when he was making that first pass he was pretty close to gold. So even though Laddy and Matt are young and such I just don't watch a lot of their games and say to myself, "these guys are really gonna be good."

So it's gonna be the same shitpile again next year and unless this team enters in a total rebuild I never ever want to watch another season with the Oilers breaking in two kids as bloody green as Smid and well, Greene;)

This is gonna be a painful lesson if the Oilers miss the playoffs and it isn't gonna look good if they bow out in the first round either, and especially with Laforge starting to thump his chest about a new building.

I think things are gonna get messy.

But that's the long haul and the short haul has the Oilers heading to Calgary on the second half of a BTB to play in a building that hasn't been kind to the Oilers for a long time now. I think Edm knows it has no chance to win a playoff series unless it wins it's division and the Flames are undeniably the biggets roadblock to that end. The Oilers are two wins and four points back of the Flames right now and Calgary has two games in hand as well. If Edmonton loses tonight's game in regulation I think they're pretty much done.

Last week I was at a christening party for twins sired by one of my many Habs buddies, ie the twins were a boy and a girl and the boy was named Ryder and then you wonder why I hate the Habs and anyone associated with them, and all the talk was the Habs flu bug. Montreal had lost hours earlier to the Rangers and had a game the next afternoon against the Devils with Brodeur's Habs dominance looming large. I told the boys that if I had an extra house I'd put it on Jersey and I wouldn't lose one wink of sleep about it.

Flash forward to tonight and if anyone out there has a gambling addiction and an extra house to bet with I'd suggest you'd do well to put it on the guys in red.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Wild/Oilers: The all too resistable force meets the as of late very moveable object

As you can see, Cam has provided me with with a picture of Gorilla Monsoon and I'd wager that if you're between the ages of 27-32, seeing the big man brings back a lot of old wrestling memories. The first time I ever heard the phrase "the irrestible force meats the immovable object" I'm pretty sure it came from the lips of the former Mr. Marella. Come to think of it that could also apply to a few other things. For instance, I knew the words Pearl Harbour in reference to sneak attacking someone long before I knew it's historical significance.

In an any case I think this old Gorilla chestnut rings true on an evening where a terrible road team is visiting a side that's all of a sudden forgotten how to win at home.

The Wild were in Vancouver last night and thankfully ended the Canucks streak of luck and winning, ie of the Dys seven consecutive wins, you had two in OT, two more in SO plus another one goal victory to boot. Teams never keep winning like that. But before last night it's important to remember that it had been 12 games since Minnesota last enjoyed a way away from their home rink. Yes they were missing Gaborik and he's no doubt a big piece of their puzzle but that's a long time to suck on the road.

Note: In watching the Wild/Canucks game last night I came to this conclusion. The Wild with Gaborik is like watching The Munsters when Marilyn's in the scene. Yes there's a whole lot of ugly around but it's worth checking out because you might see something nice. Take Marian out of the Minny equation though and it's like a whole episode of scenes between Herman and Grandpa. Yeah no one stopped watching The Munsters because the actors makeup was too ugly but on the other hand I did get you to thinking about Marilyn and now you're looking for pics of her when she was young and super hot. And just know that I was there before you were;) BTW, RIP to Lily

So, back to the real story and even though Minny broke their slump last night, normally you wouldn't be too worried about facing them in your own barn. That is of course unless you were the Oilers and you were 3-5-2 in your last 10 games at Rexall and were giving up goals like Janet Jones gave up great movie roles in the '80's, 90's and I guess the '00's. Wait, that analogy doesn't really work now does it?;)

Of course it hasn't always been like this for the '07 Oilers because they started out 8-2 and with a +16 GD, 39 GF and 23 GA. The offense was in full effect and Roloson was about as impenatrable as the liquor cabinet of your local RCMP officer when his son threw parties while his folks were away for the weekend.

Times have changed though and while the Oilers are still scoring goals at home, hell even a guy like Lupul who's an absolute plus/minus sinkhole on the road, ie -15 in 23 games, is a somewhat respectable +1 in the friendly confines, overall things have gone downhill. Note: it's probably not fair to sinkholes to compare them to Lupul's road production. So just remember that if you happen to meet up with a sinkhole and you guys start talking hockey.

On the overall tip, Dwayne Roloson has played well in his last three starts and in four out of five by my eye and we all know how important that is. A big part of the Oilers recent home woes was the Simcoe, Ontario native looking a little bit sieveish and particularily in the two losses to the Avs. If his play is all of a sudden raceing back to speed then there's a lot of reasons to like the Oilers chances tonight.

In the meantime and in between time, yes I know that's an Ed Whalen thing but sometimes you want to make Flames fans feel comfortable, ie always keep your friends around you close, but your enemies..;), it would be easy to focus on the Oilers modest two game winning streak and the fact they've put up eight points in their last five games and thus we couldd consider tonight's matchup as a chance to regain the home mojo. But then I think back to the Wild's '06 reign of terror against the Oil and all I can remember are things like the prematurely bald Pierre Marc Bouchard, ie it's so bad that it even makes Alex Auld chuckle, and how he scored 12 points in those eight divisional matchups.

I want to believe in the Oilers but right now they're just making it super hard to do so. I said I'd regain some faith if they hit the 5 games over .500 mark and a win tonight would move them four games over with tomorrow night's BOA showdown finishing up HNIC's HDIC.

I have a feeling the Oilers are DOA come tomorrow night but for now we'll focus on the Wild.

Though tomorrow night's game should be a ring a ding dong dandy!!

Ok, I'll stop now.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Still Pining For Pronger OR Why Are The EIG Still Being So Goddamn Cheap?

You know how it is when someone breaks up with you: you have your good days and you have your bad ones. And sometimes just when you think you're over the whole thing you head out to a club and there's your former GF and she's smokin' like John Daly at an after hours club. All of a sudden you think back to just how horny she was when she was drinking and you wish you were the guy who was taking her home that night because this new guy's in for a treat.

That's sorta how I feel today about Chris Pronger leaving the Oilers and yes I know that whole metaphor was creepy:D

It seems like a weird day for an Oilers fan to bring out their dead considering the club won two road games in a row for the first since Glenn Anderson wasn't traumatized by swimming pools and they might have finally caught some luck, well there's no debating it they did catch some luck, by winning in a tough Sharks barn while boasting a less than impressive defense.

Things may well be finally on the upswing but today I only feel like looking back.

Pronger's currently on the shelf for the Ducks and the team's gone in the toilet, yes I know they're also missing Marchant and Beauchemin, and that's no big surprise. I think the Neidermayer/Beauchemin duo was playing the really tough min but Sleek had a post the other day on his BOC site listing the goal differential Pronger's wrought in various situations and it was mind blowing. Before he was hurt the guy was on his way to a top 3 Hart trophy finish at the absolute worst.

So while he's out of sight right now he's never out of mind and if anyone else saw the Oilers trying to make a breakout pass last night they'd be made of stone not to imagine just for a second the difference that Pronger could make.

Yes I know it would mean our forward corps would lose some of it's perceived depth in the likes of Lupul and Sykora but the truth is, get ready for it Flames fans, I don't know how much depth we really have anyway and I'd be willing to give up some of it for a guy who was awesome on the PP and really steadied things on the back end.

I know their combined salaries still don't equal Pronger's stipend but it's pretty damn close and just to make you break out that mixtipe Chris made for you so you wouldn't miss him that weekend he spent with his grandparents, OK I'll stop now:) let's take a look at what this team might look like if Pronger had a set of balls:

94-10-83: These guys are back together and playing tough min. 83 hasn't seen much time in that role this year and I still don't think he's ready for it but I'd imagine that's where he'd be.
14-16-34: Stoll supplants Peca and we've seen how these guys can roll. They've been lagging a little lately, or at least by my eye, but still effective.
18-19-28: Thoresen finds a home with an old combo that's been together for a long time. Note: this might have also been the place where they broke in MAP similar to how Hemsky first cut his teeth back in Oct of '02.
26-78-???: Schremp clearly wasn't ready this past fall and there would no need to keep him around for the PP given we already had bonafide man advantaged weapons in 44 and 83. This would've been a nice place to throw in a grinding winger, say a Todd Harvey but someone in better shape and with more gas left in the tank. Or maybe it would've been a place for Dvorak who loved Edm but didn't figure into their plans and eventually signed in Stl for the paltry sum, unless you're Dr. Evil of course;), 1 MILLION DOLLARS!!

On the defense you could've left together the '06 spring tandem of 21/44 and then still signed Shaggy and paired him with Staios. 2-47 would get the job of the soft min and Jan Hejda would be the 7th dman and if he got a chance then maybe he could become a super utility guy.

Nothing changes in net of course.

In any case that looks like a team that would be responsible at ES, above average in goal and have the potential to be special teams monster.

Of course we know what happened and this was not to be and there's no way I can fault the EIG for this.

One thing I can fault them for though is how they're spending their money or specifically how they're not spending their money while on the other hand they've started to more than gently remind the fans that they'll be asking the Govt for some of their money to build a new rink.

There's a lot of talk about optics among Oilers fans when it comes to the possibility of Lupul being dealt or at the very least, healthy-scratched. Well I wonder how it would look if the Oilers miss the playoffs the very same year that theif owners are asking for help in building a new arena? And it's not like they're in danger of missing the playoffs in a season where their payroll is tight to the cap, they're in danger of missing the playoffs in a season where they're a full five million dollars away from the limit.

You know earlier when I slammed Pronger for his lack of seeds? Well let me tell you, this EIG has got a pair of stones that would make King Kong blush. While it is true that those guys built up a lot of capital by stepping up to the plate to keep the team in Edm, you have to wonder if missing the playoffs the year after a long Cup run while spending under the cap might not just rub some fans the wrong way.

It's unlikely that the Pronger trade will be reversed and that's true for a lot of reasons, ie reasons like Lauren Pronger probably still doesn't like Edm and Brian Burke knows magic beans when he seems them unless it's the early part of this century and he's evaluating the netminding position in Vancouver;) The Pronger trade request , and the craptacular return engineered by Kevin Lowe, is something that could damn this franchise for a lot of years and is currently a big reason why we've re-entered the morass of mediocrity. The EIG can't change that but they could've helped and still can help soften the blow somewhat by furthering opening their coffers.

Their days of crying poor and everyone believing them are way past due, IMO. They're on the record as saying they're staring to put a serous dent in some of their old outstanding debts and the memory of 12 additional ' 06 playoff home games and the furious sale of merchandise that ensued is fresh in the minds of everyone. Oh yeah and they raised ticket prices too. Yet they're still in charge of a floundering team that has the money to spend but hasn't once exihibited the desire to do so.

It would be interesting to know if Lowe has gone toe to toe with these guys and explained to them the urgency of the matter given the ages and contract situations of guys like Roli and Smyth. Hell, even a guy like Stoll might eventually price himself out of this market if the last quarter Stoll is the real deal.

There will never be another Pronger but I'm sure we can all learn to love again;) The EIG can help that a little by renting someone for our affections for the duration of the '07 season. And then come this summer they can help us out with some longterm relationships.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oilers/Sharks: C'mon Everybody, Let's Go Streaking!!!

I don't know if San Jose is aware of this but the Oilers enter tonight's game white hot! I'm talking Marissa's underage sister on "The OC" hot here people. The Oilers have two wins and six points in their last four games so I'm sure they'll smoke Thornton and Co. tonight;)

You may think I'm being a little harsh but this club pretty much lost me after last Thursday's debacle against the Stars. It seemed like just about everyone else was marvelling at 83's desperation trying marker while I was chewing nails over the fact the Oilers blew a 4-1 lead on home ice with a team that wouldn't win a skills competition against some AHL clubs. It was at that time that I said the Oilers really wouldn't be worth investing any faith in until they at least reached the less than lofty five games over .500 heights. Monday's win in LA puts them at two games over this mark but their last six games read at SJ, vs Min, at Cgy, at Min, vs Ana and then Cgy, so it's daunting to say the least. The chances of this team earning any real capital with me in the near future don't exactly look promising.

You know sometimes I wonder if last spring really happened;) I know that, yes, it did because people other than me talk about the Oilers long playoff run:) But that team was laden with vets and hardly ever plagued with poor decision making and we all hoped that '07 could finally be the year when the Oilers didn't have to blow their brains out down the stretch just to qualify for the second season. Last year the needs were easily indentifiable and this team struggled at home but they were bastards to play against on the road so at least we had that going for us. But here we are 42 games into the NHL's newest year and the Oilers haven't been able to seperate themselves from anyone and they've lost home games to the Jackets and Kings and they've lost home games where they've scored five and six goals. I'm looking for something to cling to or in believe in but I haven't found it yet.

Yes, there was some good news on the "we're trying to kick conventional wisdom in the nuts and win while playing two rookie dmen" front with the injury to Smid and the benching of Greene but even that's sullied today in the wake of the news that one of Shaggy's many maladies are acting up again and therefore rookie Tom Gilbert is about to make his big league debut in a game where if Ron Wilson has his way he'll either face Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau.

So even when the Oilers try and do the right thing it gets snookered a little by injury.

Which leads me to this: Smith-Staios-Hedja-Bergeron-Roy-Gilbert. Realizing that's the six guys the Oilers will employ on their blueline tonight makes me wish I could trade my entire fantasy team for just Thornton and Marleau alone.

Maybe I've lost the ability to even recognize the overall positives when there are some actual overall positives but I didn't even get a charge out of the Oilers win on Monday night. They started the game well but the Kings came back with a flourish to end the first period and after a second period that saw the Oilers dominate, the Kings came back with a fury in the third and it was only for Roloson that they didn't lose yet another game on the road.

Speaking of Roloson, him and the Oilers PP carry the best hopes for a point tonight. After an elongated period of mediocre play, Roloson has now played well in three of his last four starts and hey that's a start. And the PP of late has looked to be a threat on about 75% of their chances and that's even with Bergeron on the unit.

I usually don't make score predictions for games but I'll call this one 4-2 for the Sharks but with Roli making at least five outstanding saves. You look at that Oilers defense and there's just too many guys to hide and you look at the Sharks forwards and there's many to try and avoid. I know that SJ's offensive success is predicated on it's PP but my prediction goes that if the Sharks can't score on the Oilers at ES then the absolute worse they'll do is just make some of the kids take penalties and then they'll earn their paper on the PP.

Then again the Oilers are hot;) so maybe they lose 4-3 in OT and manage to keep the streak alive!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Edmonton/Los Angeles: Oilers visit Kings, set of Extreme Makeover?

We are still 51 days away from the NHL's trade deadline but the Oilers simply cannot afford to wait that long. Kevin Lowe hasn't admitted as much publicly and the Oilers are still within striking distance of the division lead but the team in it's current 23 man form, or 22 as of the moves today and more on that later, just don't look to have the ability to get it done and I'd bet a lot of money that the Oilers won't win a playoff round in '07 unless they have home-ice advantage for at least their first battle. So it is to that end that I expect Lowe to begin dealing sooner then later.

And by exerting some demotional muscle this morning I believe the wheels are finally in motion.

Of course we all thought that last Tuesday as well when they signed Nedved and Patrick Thoresen being the first casuality when he was sent down to the farm but it is Thoresen's callup today along with the outrighting of two Oilers rookies that appears to indicate bigger changes being afoot.

Jacques and Pouliot have been sent down to clear room for the young winger and in executing a two for one move the Oilers have not only made roster space, ie they're now carrying just 13 forwards instead of 14, they're also saving money as well. Is it in anticipation to taking on salary perhaps? We're all hoping so but it could also mean that the brass are ready to deal the likes of Jacques and Pouliot and if that's the case then the rental season should be kicking off at any time now.

The EIG hasn't exactly gone on the total cheap this year but they did raise ticket prices and before the Nedved move they were operating on a 39 mill budget which is 5 mill away from hitting the cap. No one in the media has called them out for it but I think it's a pretty shitty way of thanking the fans for years and years of supporting a somewhat second rate team. Not to mention that with more money in the coffers after a long run in the spring of '06 they no longer need to pinch their pennies. The fact of the matter is I don't know if they really needed to be miserly before last year's playoffs but guys more well versed in the NHL business side of things have long stood on the premise that the EIG's teams were more crocidile than anything else.

In any case the Oilers are allowed to spend 45 mill over an entire year and salaries pro-rate as the season expires so today the Oilers have just under 10 million to use on salaries and five million to spend when it comes to actual dollars. So if say the Leaves for some reason wanted to give away Sundin for Rob Schremp;) then we could take that on and still have room to rent an impact defenseman like the B's Brad Stuart. I'm not saying any of that is likely to happen but I am saying that if the spirit moves them the Oilers have a tonne of money left to play with.

And now with the arrival of one guy and the departures of two others they also have the room to accomodate some new players as well.

Eric Brewer is a name that keeps popping up and it's for obvious reasons like A: he played here before B: he's an impending UFA C: he plays a team that has no reason to keep him and D: he's afforable and E: he looks like a guy who can still be really effective.

The Blues are putting together a nice stretch right now and Brewer's play has risen right along with them. Over the last 10 games Brew's playing over 23 min per night and he's +3 and he shapes up as just the type of guy who could leap into our top four and make a real difference.

The Oilers are also said to be targetting Flyers dman Joni Pitkanen and that officially made hard copy yesterday as seen here.

And to follow up on that, the Ott Sun is saying the Oilers were once again scouting the Flyers yesterday afternoon when they visited the Sens:

So that's what's happening or might be happening OFF the ice and on the ice the Oilers are visting the Kings in a matchup that looks quite close on paper. Or at least it does if you look at their overall records in the past 30 games for instance. I know MC won't approve or anything;) but looking at straight up records and without considering strenght of sked or goal differential, the Oilers are 12-14-4 and the Kings are 13-14-3.

The moral of this story is that if we're talking about the lesser teams in the WC then we're looking in the mirror and usually a game in the Staples Centre could be considered a layup at worst. Right now, though, the Oilers just aren't getting any open looks and the basket looks to be about the size of a beer glass.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

David Moraga vs Carlos Delgado

I just finished reading LT's excellent report card and in the ensuing comments I saw SweatyO, ie that guy has to get a better nickname if he keeps wanting to get referenced;) muse that Mattieu's Roy's presence in OT was MacT's trying to force Lowe's hand when it comes to addressing the blueline.

It's not the first time we've seen fans wonder aloud about such a matter and it brought me back once again to my beloved Expos, RIP, and to an occasion where a manager basically called out the front office with a tap of his left arm.

The year was 2000 and the Expos thought they finally had a real owner in Jeffrey Loria. The budget was still pretty barebones but they were some good cheap young bats in the order, Vladdy-Rondell-Vidro-, and some good young arms in the rotation, ie Vazquez-Pavano and Hermanson as well even though we didn't know Dustin was offically on the downswing.

There was a little bit of hope going into the season though that the team might start to get a little closer to the .500 mark and that now that Loria was in town some of the kids might be able to stick around to their productive maturation and that if any pieces could be added, well we finally had the money to do so. And while it didn't create huge waves Loria thought he was improving the team when he authorized taking on the salaries of Lee Stevens and Hideki Irabu.

One guy who was less than convinced though was one Mr. Felipe Alou.

Alou was a guy who I grew up loving and wound up hating and looking back I think I was right about some of the hate and wrong about a lot of it. I think he'd pretty much thrown in the towel by the end of his Expos managerial career and in hindsight who could really blame him. His decisions became more curious by the year and you could never question him because under the kindly smile was a personality easily slighted and ultimately shaped by all the racism he'd faced as a young man and then further hardened by how many years he spent as merely a coach in the Expos minor league organization. I should've been able to understand that but at the time I was more fixated on some of his on the field decisions

In any case back to 2000 and after a 9-4 loss in Milwaukee on May 7th the Expos stood at a very surpriseing and pleasing 16-13 and that's where I'll begin my story.

The Expos came home for a 12 game stand and somewhere in the middle of that run and somewhere in the middle of a media-scrum Alou announced that no one should too excited about this start and that it could collapse at any time.

Not deep enough in the pen he said.

He really only had three options to use, ie Kline-Strickland-Telford, and the first guy was a lefty and the team's closer to boot so that really tied his hands when it came to the late innings and the old lefty vs lefty matchup. Somewhere Jesse Orosco was and is bobbing his head and still counting his money from said role. Rick Honeycutt and Tony Fossas didn't do too badly either. Felipe would finish by saying at the very least the Expos should try and find a situational lefty for him.

Well, GM Jim Beattie was listening, or at least somewhat, because on May 19th he signed Jim Poole. Poole seemed like a nice enough guy but it had been four years since anyone would argue his merit and at the age of 34 Jim Poole was washed up.

Alou knew this and apparently privately seethed and to tell you the truth he didn't do a great job concealing it publicly either.

Jim Poole would be released on June 7th and that was just four days before we really saw just how pissed off Alou was with the bullpen situation.

The Expos were in Toronto for the first half of the Snowbirds Series and on a Sunday afternoon they were playing the rubber match when Alou made his stand.

David Moraga was a 24 year old who'd been drafted seven years earlier yet he was still toiling in AA. His ERA was a respectable 3.41 but he was giving up nearly a hit per inning and his K/BB ratio was nothing to write home about. Yet the Expos had called him up and he was the latest southpaw option out of Alou's pen. The Expos had been off the previous Thursday and Kline had pitched on Saturday but not on Friday and here we go to the bottom of the 8th inning with the Expos trailing the Jays 3-2 and Guillermo Mota starting that particular inning.

I'll let this copy and paste from take it from here:

BLUE JAYS 8TH: Stewart grounded out (shortstop to first); Bush
walked; Mondesi singled to right [Bush to second]; MORAGA
REPLACED MOTA (PITCHING); Delgado singled to right [Bush scored,
Mondesi to second]; Debut game for David Moraga; Moraga
threw a wild pitch [Mondesi to third, Delgado to second];
Fullmer walked; LIRA REPLACED MORAGA (PITCHING); Batista homered
[Mondesi scored, Delgado scored, Fullmer scored]; Cruz grounded
out (first unassisted); Gonzalez singled to left; A. Castillo
walked [Gonzalez to second]; SKRMETTA REPLACED LIRA (PITCHING);
Stewart flied to left; 5 R, 4 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Expos 3, Blue Jays

The appearences had been piling up for Kline but he'd had two days off in a row on Thurs-Fri and this was the the deciding game of a series and Delgado striding to the plate screamed for Kline's presnece. But this series was drawing more then the usual attention and Alou clearly and adriotly seized the stage.

Loria through Beattie never did address the lefty shortage in the pen and he'd clearly made his mind up pretty early regarding how much money he'd spend in Montreal. In hindsight it was the right baseball move not to give away anything significant in return for a lefty reliever because there were more holes on the '00 Expos than just the pen. But was that the reason why Beattie never budged?

And to bring it back to MacTavish, was playing Roy in OT his Moraga Moment? I don't think so because MacT's made a lot of curious moves this season but then again he always does when it comes to playing the kids and I'm sure Lowe has a hand in how some of the playing time is doled out.

You could assume that Loria didn't move in '00 for all the right reasons because he knew he couldn't make anywhere close to the ultimate difference in winning or losing. And maybe Lowe isn't jumping this year because he doesn't think this team has what to takes to win at least two rounds come springtime.

I will admit though that it is fun to speculate on MacT's motives and whether this was a tiny measure of mutinty.

As for the '07 Oilers? I'm guessing their season's dreams will be dashed after the last whistle blows on Jan 20th vs the Flames. There's no way this team wins a playoff series on the road and they need home-ice advantage like Felipe thought he needed another lefty.

vs Vancouver

Some information from the game last night. First off, an arbitrary Saturday measurement of hard minutes vs the Canucks, which is just the sum of 5v5 icetime against Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Markus Naslund. Only as accurate as the shift charts.

No surprises on the forward side of the ledger, though surely if it was a home game MacTavish would have been able to avoid those two long, frightening shifts with Nedved vs Sedins, and he would have been able to keep them away from Naslund better as well.

On the defensive side it's a strange split. Granted Bergeron-Roy didn't seem to be on the ice for a bunch of own zone draws, still that's a lot more icetime than you'd expect them to see against quality. And the second pairing struggled, in fairness to Staios he was playing his first game on the left side all season, and Matt Greene isn't going to help anyone look good out there.

By the Goals+Shots+MissedShots metric, for the rookie Oiler Dmen in this game:

Hejda: +11, -13
Greene: +9, -16
Roy: +14, -7

I know that Roy was guilty of making a bad pinch in OT and Bergeron was guilty of poaching there, but still, an impressive season debut for Roy I thought. In the comments section at mudcrutch's site Dennis points out that Roy's modus operandi was to wait for pressure and dish it to Bergeron. Thing is, though, Bergeron always seemed to be getting puck from Roy with plenty of space.

Hejda looked really good out there in this one. It's easy to look like an ass when you play that much against the Sedins, and of course whoever gets the gig with Smith automatically ends up playing those kinds of minutes. He was the brightest spot on the night I thought.

I suspect that MacTavish has a mandate to play Smid and Greene 80 games each this year, that's the only reasonable explanation for the things we have seen this year. And Greene especially has really made strides this year, the step up from abysmal to merelybad is a big one methinks. Granted in a two steps forward, one step back kinda way. And last night was the latter.

I'm usually reluctant to peg all of the Oiler problems this season on the defense. But damn, if Smid stays out for a couple more weeks and Greene goes out with something minor that keeps him on the shelf for a while ... it's hard to imagine this would be a bad thing for the Oilers in the short term.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stars/Oilers: Some Assembly Required, Batteries Included

The above seems like a Christmas reference because it is a Christmas reference. I don't know how the rest of you guys roll but here in this house we obey the laws of Thermodynamics!, ie that's a Simpsons reference from the old ep where the teachers went on strike, or in this case we honour the tradition of O Christmas Day and that means it's the holiday season until this coming Sunday when the GF will be take down the decorations while I try and watch some playoff football.

Of course it's also a reference to the guys the Stars currently employ and can you name the guy in the picture above? Of course you can't yet the Stars are still firmly in a playoff position and that's my point. I checked out the last two periods of the Stars/Dys game last night because I wanted to see how Tippett was arranging the deckchairs of a ship that was missing all of Modano, Morrow and Lindros. What I'd forgotten was that vessel might have a few new faces but the deckhands are working in a familiar fashion.

There's two things you can count on when you play Dallas and this is true no matter what names are emblazoned above their numbers: 1: you won't outwork them and 2: You'll make more mistakes than they do. The Devils get a lot of credit for bringing up their AHL kids in the exact same system that the big club employs and lately I've been reading that the Leaves are doing the same. Of course this doesn't happen with the Oilers because Edmonton seemingingly has affiliations with nearly 80% of all AHL clubs;) and I'm not saying the Dallas/NJ approach is tantamount to success but I do believe there's something to be said for a team that can move guys in and out of the lineup without distrupting the gameplan or work ethic.

Just to finish up on this point, there's a lot of similarities between the Stars and Devils. They can make a few alterations here or there and the song remains the same and in terms of league wide scope both are teams you hate to face in the regular season but it looks like they've lost their playoff fastball. They're doing a better job of holding back the years than say the Avs but no one expects either of those team to hoist the Cup in the near future. I give the Devils the edge though because in guys like Parise and now Zajac they're bringing in kids that can add some offense.

So to bring it back to Dallas it's nice to have guys that can fill in but the bad news is that there's no one coming from Iowa that's any real threat to dent the twine and of course that includes our very own Toby Petersen but as always, that's a topic for another time;). So while the Stars can outskate and outsmart you all night, which they did for the last 45 min in Vancouver last eve, they need some breaks to score more than two goals a night. Or at least they do in their current form.

This shouldn't make Oilers fans overconfident though because the Oilers defense can be downright terrible and you put enough of a forecheck on guys like Greene, Smid and Bergeron and eventually the puck will find it's way onto a Stars stick.

One last note about Dallas. If there's a reason I glossed over why this team can keep outchancing it's opp even while missing some big parts, it's probably because of their defense and their ability to make an excellent first pass. They've suffered no big injuries on their backend and that corps is loaded with guys that can move the puck. My GF's cousin was over the other night to watch the first period of the game against the Panthers and he's a big Oilers fan but he hasn't seen many games this year because he's working offshore. In any case him and I were laughing at a couple of times where Bergeron had open lanes and still threw it into his teammate's skates and let me remind you this is a guy who lists among his attributes the ability to make a first pass. BTW, I don't know if anyone else caught this but in one of yesterday's dailies Pisani talked about how the Oilers D was finally did a good job of getting them the puck without the forwards having to deaccelerate. We've all touched on this but I think it's the closest any of the forwards have to saying that the D in it's current form simply isn't good enough. Just thought I'd mention that.

The Oilers "should" be able to win this game but then again I've been saying that all year and especially when the Oilers are at home. Right now the Stars PP consists of "Give it to Boucher and get out of the way" and that's only been a little more successful than the Oilers approach of "It doesn't make any "Sens"ky unless you give it to Hemsky" so there's nothing superlative to see here on either side.

Of course the big sidebar for tonight's game is the return of Nedved. The last time he plied his trade in Edmonton he did a good job capitalizing on the soft minutes and helping the PP hum and as much as one can see Lowe's latest move as the grasping of straws I think it's important to acknowledge that the explotation of soft minutes is something we can all get behind. Today's scrum produced the news that Lowe is indeed putting all the Czech's together but he didn't mention what will happen to the other three lines. 34 has meshed well with 94-10 in the past and that's a troika that can go head to head with any line in the league. But if you removed 34 from the 14-16 combo then I guess it means Lupul gets another chance on a scoring line and it would mean that the Nedved line would be playing the second toughest min behind the 10 line. That really shouldn't matter against the Stars because they don't have a lot of firepower in the first place but I don't know if I like them playing any kind of tough minutes whatsoever. Call me crazy but this is a time I'd leave the Stoll line intact and move Thoresen onto the first line and put Lupul on the 4th with Pouliot and whomever else.

Of course that can't happen because Thoresen is in the A and I doubt the Oilers are ready to effectively wash their hands of Lupul which would pretty much be the case if he landed on the 4th line.

To say the least this should be an interesting night and it will be an interesting few games as we find out whether Nedved still has any jam. The extent of his remaining abilities, if he has any left at all, will determine who gets moved and just how quickly that happens.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Uh... WHAT?!?!

Am I nuts or did I just hear that the Oilers picked up Petr Nedved off re-entry waivers?

Petr Nedved? WHAT?!?!

Does anybody wonder if management has been watching this team for the last five games?

Does anybody else wonder if management even watched Nedved during the 2003-2004 stretch drive?

Nedved is probably exactly what this team does not need right now. If they manage to turn it around without another move it'll be due to the fact that several Oiler forwards get back to doing what they do well. I'm not sure Nedved's apathy will inspire them to do that.