Thursday, April 2, 2009

Will resume regular programming shortly...

I hope to start posting for the playoffs (yup always the optimist with this team - how else could you continue as a fan?), or in the (un)likely event of early tee-offs, the draft.

Thanks for keeping me on your feed/blogroll during my absence. Back soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blog Suspended Until New Year...

Sorry avid reader(s?), I'm afraid life and work (particularly work) have recently gotten in the way of my weekly blogging. I'm suspending things until the new year, when efforts will be redoubled.

Best of the holidays to you and yours.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trouble on the Homefront, Method to the Madness


The Oilers are mediocre at home, and were pretty decent on their recent long road trip, leading one to wonder... what the hell is wrong with playing at home? I've seen this type of play before from Oiler teams in the past: trying to be too cute, make the pretty play, one-man deke-fests with the end result being a lack of goals. This is what we saw last night. They are averaging nearly a goal-a-game less this season at home (2.0 GPG) vs. on the road (2.8 GPG). Troubling to say the least. It would be nice to see some crisp passing, simple dump-and-chase and puck support a bit more often. There is something to be said for the simple play. If the effort is there, and the simple play keeps the puck in the o-zone, then I guarantee we will start seeing more red lights. Doesn't hurt to try, does it?
Still on the same topic, if Gagner makes one more cute, soft drop pass on the rush I will revoke my fanboy membership.


Does anyone else get the feeling that Craig MacTavish has method to some of the recent madness we've been seeing in him? Pisani at center, Smid on the wing, Cole on the left side, Gagner on the PK, calling out Penner, constant line shuffling, etc... at a cursory glance it's a bloody madhouse he's running! Some bloggers are calling this the end-of-days for MacT, and that might be the case. Another scenario might be that he is on a very long leash this year, with the focus on developing, training and feeling out his players.
That is the only logical solution that I can see here, as this coach isn't stupid. Playing guys in odd situations may have an end design to it, as he might be trying to develop these guys into the well-rounded players that he covets. Take Smid on the wing as an example. One could argue that playing Smid here gives him some more range to skate freely and hit, and develop some offensive awareness. To be honest, Smid has looked very solid of late on the back end, and maybe it's his offense that the coach wants to develop quicker. Maybe the coach sees promise in him. Maybe he's not in the doghouse at all. Just maybe.


Has anyone else been reading Tom Gilbert's blog at all? If you haven't, it's worth it for a chuckle or two. Essentially he writes like his audience is 12 year old girls, discussing most recently about going to see High School Musical 3 (apparently not as good as the first two)! Didn't this guy go to college?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Notes


Can you believe what the Oil have to put up with schedule-wise this year? Long early road trip aside, it certainly doesn't make much sense to have to play a home-and-home Monday-Thursday with the defending champs and stick us with a game in Columbus on Tues night, all while the Wings are sipping Mai Tais on the beach and towel-snapping cabana boys on a two-day break. (Okay, maybe maybe beers in the pub with a barkeep, but I like to pretend that Pavel Datsuyk is cracking a wet towel at beach walk-bys!) Jeez that was random... okay, anyhow: The Schedule. It makes no sense. Unless you start subscribing to some of the conspiracy talk about Bettman and the head office having it in for the Oil. And that isn't that hard to believe after seeing this purtid stank of a sked. Why did we have to play Columbus Tuesday, with five days off after Thurs?

Believe me, I don't like whine anymore than you do, and this may seem like a bit of a rant, but I think there is a valid point here. And that is: We are getting screwed.


Watching Penner play Tuesday night against Columbus after sitting in the PB for two made me think of this familiar scene (modified for our scenario) from a favorite movie:

Craig Mactavish: "You gotta get angry! You gotta get meeeeeeeeean!"

Dustin Penner
: "I guess I'm not really an angry person."
MacT: (Punches Penner in the groin) "Are you angry now?"

I hope the Dustin Penner we saw Tuesday is the same DP who shows up for the rest of the season, as he was doing what we hoped he would do: forecheck agressively, give and take some hits, take a beatdown in front of the net on the PP, score, etc. If he reverts back to lazy Dustin, and he probably will, then that will spell trouble for the coaching staff. Calling out Dustin on his poor play was the right move from MacTavish - if that is what it takes to get through to him - but it means that MacT has left himself exposed.

Hell, I don't profess to understand the inner workings of the Oiler organization, but with the recent changes to ownership and GM it makes one wonder who is calling what shots now. Three goalies and plucking goons off waivers must have Craig punching pillows at night.


And no, I don't mean he's dreamy. I mean: This guy can play. We all knew he had a shot, but he has stepped up and carried us on his shoulders. A few wins can be directly attributed to his standout play, and he looks steadier in the D-zone than I originally thought. By far the best D-man, and seems to relish the added responsibility of more ice time and the "A" on his sweater. Did you see the way he gave Penner a look and a shot to the arm after the PP goal in the third last game? Penner took a beating in front of the net for the screen, and big Sheldon's man-love seemed to say, "Way to go, big guy!"

I would love to see this guy wear the "C" one day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How the bloody hell does THIS make things better?


The Oilers announced yesterday that they have claimed goon Jesse Boulerice off waivers from the Avalanche. The same guy who wasn't allowed back in the OHL for this, and who was suspended for 25 games last year for this. Boulerice is a brutal hockey player (see stats), and not even a very good fighter. This is terrible news if the Oilers plan to keep him, and I don't stand alone on this opinion (viewing comments made on other blogs here, here, etc). I would really prefer if this guy doesn't put on an Oiler jersey.
I really hope that this is more of a stratigic play than a hockey move - as the Oil play the Avs Saturday night, and perhaps they weren't looking forward to playing AGAINST stick-weilding Jesse. One can hope he stays in the PB and is waived on Sunday.

Jeff Droulin-Deslauriers (of the Oilers Three-headed goalie monster) has played the previous 2.5 games for the Oil, and he has looked good. Scary good. Confident with a big calm presence, he has most fans excited about his future. He is outplaying his past numbers (AHL, ECHL) by a long shot, so don't expect this to continue for much longer. But I'll revel in it while it lasts.
His play also muddies the goalie picture, with the two vets on the last year of their respective contracts, and Garon likely looking to resign. What should the Oil do? Trade a vet goalie? Send down JDD and risk waivers? I say stand pat. The goalie situation will "play" itself out in time, and we can trade months from now when the playoff picture is closer and the value is (hopefully) higher.

Thank god the Fernando experiment is over. Pisani at center was not the best idea MacT has ever tried (I seem to remember Smyth was involved in a similar failed experiment). I'm also glad to see the kid line split, and the distribution of talent over four lines. With Stortini in and the enforcer-of-the-day out, we can roll 4 solid lines and gain momentum.
Also, I am a big fan of the Horcoff-Pisani-Cole line. Beauty "second" line who can play against anyone. Love it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

G9 Nashville Recap: Gilbert Struggles Continue, Grebeshkov Deserved Better?

As was pointed out to me, I may have been a bit harsh on Grebeshkov with the 4/10 grade on the night (see below). I do agree with Mr. Staples that he was not at fault for at least 2 of the 3 goals, even though he was on the ice for all three goals against. He is paired with a struggling partner in Tom Gilbert, who IMHO should sit for a couple once Strudwick is back. (I would rather have Smid out there any day over Gilbert if he doesn't shape up.) Grebs is for the most part playing well positionally, and some of his bad play may be attributed to 77. However, he is a skilled puck mover and we have all seen him wheel and deal in the past, so when his outlet passes are mostly ineffective, leading to turnovers, and he is unable to move the play forward I feel obligated to grade accordingly. It may just be a confidence thing. Last year he improved vastly with decision-making - ie. knowing when to pinch, sneak down from the point, puck distribution in transition - he looked like a stud by the end of the year to me. As I say below for Hemsky, there is something to be said for the struggling player who realizes that what he is doing isn't working, and adjusts/simplifies his game accordingly. Hell, if we had 3 pairs of Smid/Souray I would be one happy guy.

That said, the grading is obviously a very objective exercise. We all see things from different perspectives, and we pick up on the various aspects of the game differently. Here's my grades:

Mark Sheet for Game 9 - Nashville:

Sheldon Souray, 7. This guy stepped up and was by far the best Oiler on the ice tonight. Solid presence in front of the Oilers net, blocked 3 shots, had more than a few nice pinches along the boards to keep the play alive, got 5 shots through to the net and scored the only goal for the good guys. This guy was a force at both ends and really settled things down and took over.

Shawn Horcoff, 7.
Had at least four nice scoring chances in the the game - finding the open ice and getting shots on net. Was solid in the faceoff circle, and in particular on defensive zone faceoffs. Had a couple good sticks/takeaways. Would've been an 8 if he had scored.

Ladislav Smid, 6.
Played a really solid defensive game. Good physical play, 5 hits, and smart, simple plays out of the d-zone.

Garon, 6.
Deserved better tonight. Let in three goals, but really only had a chance on one of them. Made some big saves to keep them in it down 2-1, and an excellent cross-crease save on a Preds powerplay to keep it close.

Visnovsky, 6.
Good defensive game. Was steady in own end, and made more than a few good outlet passes. A good percentage of offensive rushes started off of his stick tonight. However, he took at least seven shots and could not find the net. Had what seemed like an eon to skate in wide open and blast an easy save for Rinne in the first.

Fernando Pisani, 6.
This guy plays such a complete game night in and night out. He played well defensively on the backcheck, had a few good rushes with Moreau and Cole and played well on the penalty kill. Was awful in the faceoff circle though.

Ethan Moreau, 6.
Good speed on rush, good physical play to generate chances, good on the penalty kill. Almost batted the puck into his own net with an ugly baseball swing though.

Marc Pouliot, 6.
Limited ice time, but made things happen on the rush. Created a couple good cycles down low with scoring chances, had a nice rush with Stortini, and created his own chance out of nothing by taking a shot and bulling his way to the net for his own rebound.

Sam Gagner, 6.
Cycled down low well, a few nice moves with the puck to open up the ice. At times seemed lost on the breakout, as he had about 7 different linemates on the night.

Steve Staios, 5.
Solid D-man plays a low risk, steady game. Nothing too noticeable tonight.

Erik Cole, 5.
Carried good speed and tough play into offensive zone. Created a nice play and almost scored on a breakaway early in the first. Played like a horse with the blinders on. Seemed to slow as the game went on, and had a couple bad passes and a terrible giveaway in the third.

Dustin Penner, 5.
Played well in front of the net on the PP with good screening on the Souray goal. Appeared slow at times and didn't seem to play well with Cogliano and Gagner. A few good cycles and work along the boards died with his inability to keep the play alive.

Ales Hemsky, 5.
Made a few beauty skill plays, and a couple nice passes on the PP, but was for the most part ineffective tonight. I know that he can generate something out of nothing by dancing through everyone on the ice now and again, but 9 times out of 10 tonight Nashville shut him down in transition or along the boards. There is something to be said for recognising when to make the simple effective play (ie. dump into the corners and go get it!). Hemsky seemed unwilling to adjust tonight. Without the assist he would have been a 4.

Kyle Brodziak, 5.
Had a few good rushes with Pouliot and Stortini. Played well on the penalty kill and was decent in the faceoff circle going 4 for 6.

Zack Stortini, 5.
See Brodziak above - a few good crash and bang rushes and created a good scoring opportunity for Pouliot in the first. Nothing special though, and no big hits or rough stuff.

Andrew Cogliano, 5.
Good board work down low behind the net with Gagner, but was mostly invisible. Had a couple turnovers at the Preds blueline.

Robert Nilsson, 5.
Played with speed in the first, generated a couple nice plays with Hemsky. Was invisible in the 2nd and was dropped back down to the 2nd line in the third.

Denis Grebeshkov, 4.
Made a couple nice passes/plays in the offensive zone to create scoring chances in the first. Was ineffective with Gilbert on the powerplay, and struggled in transition. Was on the ice for all three goals against.

Tom Gilbert, 3.
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh here, but he seems to be getting worse as the season progresses. He looks lost and was completely ineffective on the powerplay, and was -3 on the night. Made poor choices with outlet passes, and besides a couple decent panic plays was pretty much awful. Flubbed passes, ineffective on the rush, ahhhh! How many times is too many to yell at the TV, "C'mon Gilbert, get it together!"

Well that's how I saw it anyways. If you saw it differently or would like to discuss further, leave a comment and we can discuss.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Okay, back to basics people!

Allright, I'm back! Well ok, I was never really gone... but it sure felt like it. Too busy at work and home to post, and that is just inexcusable. Time must be made! This is important stuff!

Well here are my recent thoughts on the Oil...

Back to Basics:
The game Monday night against the Bruins was certainly an improvement over the previous... oh say 4-5 games, as the Oilers didn't tank the first 30mins (only the first 8 or so), played decent defensively (Souray, Grebs, and Smid in particular), and had a stellar game from Roly. The negatives were that they were much too "cute" with the puck, caused more turnovers than created, and frequently seemed out of synch with each other in transition. All cause for concern.

MacT spared no one Tuesday, by casting out a blanket "Get your shit together" to the entire team, stressing that hard-nosed play and simplification is the answer. I certainly hope that he lit a fire under these guys. They need something to get them going.

The Enforcer Experiment:
I personally am fed up with the two-headed, pine-riding/PB-watching Stortini-MacIntyre trial. This, in my opinion, is killing the 4th line option for MacT - as he can't "roll four" and gain some momentum to the game. Brodziak looks lost out there with a different guy beside him on almost every shift. I for one would love to see a solid winger night-in and night-out playing with Brodziak and Pouliot. A speedy crash-bang line to compliment the Moreau-Pisani-Cole line is just what the doctor ordered. IF that is Stortini, then so be it. I think Brule or Potulny could also fill this roll, GlenX style. Why not try it?

SMac is a great guy and a good story. I just don't see a need for him. He had one good game against Calgary (sorry, one good SHIFT) where he crunched a Flame and beat down another. But any Oiler could have thrown a big hit that night to get the team going. It doesn't have to be a 2min/game monster who does it! Where is Ethan, the CAPITAN for Christ sake, for this stuff? Last year it was our crash-bang 4th line that got the team going most nights. IMHO, this is what is missing up front. Oh yeah, and a little something called SCORING.

Goofy Gilbert?:
What the hell happened to Tom Gilbert? His play has been mediocre to downright awful this year. Hell, he's making the Jeff Finger signing look good! Did he play too much Guitar Hero over the summer and forget how to play hockey? And settle down and make a pass? Or how about just "boards-and-out" Tom? Friggen hell.

Making the Grade:
David Staples has come up with an excellent idea to track and rate the team (each individual) per game. It is a basic system of grading each player on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their performance. See the grading system here. Oilers fans, along with David, are grading each game this season, with the results posted on his blog, "Cult of Hockey".

I am helping out Mr. Staples a bit on this, and have already graded Game 4 (vs Flames). Tonight I will also grade the Nashville game. I'll post my grades/thoughts here as well from now on. GOILERS!