I Hate You For Making Nilsson Our Best Winger
There once was a prolific commenter on the Oilogosphere who used the Internet pseudonym 'slipper'. I don't know what has happened to him, presumably he has drifted away from Oiler fandom while he waits for the organization to become a bit less demoralizing (on and off the ice).
Slipper once shared a terrific quote from a book he was reading on Roger Neilson. Roger was the coach of the Sabres at the time, and Scotty Bowman was the GM. Apparently they had a public argument in a hotel lobby, and Bowman was overheard saying "I hate you for making X our best player". I don't remember who "X" was, but he was surely a player from the Robert Nilsson tree. For that matter, my memory shouldn't be trusted, I may well be off on the details here. I welcome correction.
In any case, I hate MacTavish for making Nilsson the Oilers best winger not named Hemsky. This for a long stretch in 07/08 and well into 08/09. This is especially unforgivable because, as it turned out, Lowe and/or Tambellini weren't as clever as Bowman. They seem to have thought Nilsson WAS that good. The same applies to Gagner and especially Cogliano, and to similar extents, but I'm in the mood to pick on Robert.
Since Roger liked to match lines based on tired legs of opponents, I picked a game where MacTavish did the same. The first game in Anaheim last season, mid October. A game on the road against a deep Ducks squad with an aggressive bench coach.
Here is the shift chart strip for the first period of that game, you'll have to click and enlarge it.
The vertical green line is an ANA goal (Marchant line vs Pisani line) and the vertical blue line is an EDM goal (Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky line vs Pahlsson line and Neidermayer/Beauchemin ... they would play against each other all night, of course).
The horizontal pale green strips, the ones between the ANA and EDM players, those are ANA power plays.
Going in, you know that Carlyle is going to be jonesing to get good offensive players out against the Kid Line. They were loved in E-Town, but opposing coaches have never shown that trio a shred of respect.
1st SHIFT: After a Pahlsson v Horcoff shift, Carlyle runs out the Getzlaf line. MacTavish waits until they have played close to a full shift and the puck is heading north (courtesy of the Moreau/Pisani/Penner line), he subs the kid line onto the ice. Carlyle keeps the Getzlaf line out there.
2nd SHIFT: After a Horcoff goal, Pisani's line wins the draw at centre ice and get the puck in deep, then they sub off for the kid line. The puck ends up back in the Oiler end, Pronger's shot at net gets deflected into the crowd. The kids come off, Pisani's line comes on to take the defensive zone draw and finish the shift against Getzlaf.
3rd SHIFT: The fourth line gets bumped so the kids can go again. This after ANA scored on Pisani's line. They played a much shorter shift than Getzlaf's bunch a couple of minutes ago, so this is a safe zone. It ends 17 seconds later with Gagner taking an interference penalty in the Oilers end of the rink against the Morrison line.
4th SHIFT: Getzlaf, Perry and Kunitz have all played on the Ducks' power play, so another safe zone.
5th SHIFT: The Pisani line plays the first 40 seconds against the Getzlaf line and eventually get the puck headed north. They sub off for the kid line. Carlyle chooses to leave the Getzlaf line out there again. The kids don't manage any pucks at net, but these long shifts are going to start taking their toll on the Getzlaffers.
6th SHIFT: The Pisani line plays the first 30 seconds against the Getzlaf line and eventually get the puck into ANA territory where the puck goes into the netting. MacTavish sends out the kid line for the offensive zone draw. Carlyle chooses to keep the Getzlaf line out there. The shift ends when Nilsson takes a hooking penalty in the Oiler zone (vs Morrison line).
7th SHIFT: After the ANA power play is cut short by a Getzlaf hooking penalty, Cogliano and Gagner come on to play some 4v4 hockey vs Morrison and Marchant. Obviously the face off is in the ANA end of the rink.
And on and on it goes. And the kid line ends up with the best underlying numbers and the best counting numbers on the night. Nilsson had the best shots+/- and corsi+/- of any Oiler forward. He also finished +1 at even strength, and he and Cogliano scored assists on Souray's goal late in the second period.
The kid line would also appear to have played the toughest opposition of any Oiler group of forwards, they ended up with more ice time against Getzlaf's line than anyone else. If I remember right, Desjardins QualCOMP was showing the kids as playing the tough ice time well into November. Of course, in fact, that wasn't the case.
Penner on the night: He was -1 in EV plus/minus, -6 in shots +/-, and -10 in corsi +/-. That fat bastard! He's just not trying! I blame MacTavish, he's not motivating him. Lucky for MacT the kid line is saving his stupid ass!