Analyze This

Jason Gregor
November 13 2008 06:47PM

While the Oilers are satisfied with their start, it is way too early to think they are out of the woods and on the road to a division title. Now that they are past the hardest part of their schedule, it will be a mental challenge not to let down over the next eleven games, which include six more on the road.

Their consistency needs to be improved, but right now the most pressing need is to improve their penalty killing. The Oilers are a woeful 77.6% on the kill, which puts them 26th in the league. The past three seasons the Oilers finished 5th, 8th and 8th on the PK.

So what has been the difference this season?

They haven’t changed their system, but they don’t have Reasoner and Stoll. Hands up Oiler fans who thought the Oilers would miss Marty Sakic and soon-to-be-married Stoll. I’m guessing it isn’t many; yours truly included. Those two logged the 2nd and 3rd most PK minutes last season, but they weren’t dominant in the faceoff dot; which many think is the main culprit for the Oilers lack of PK success this season.

Stoll won 133 and lost 128 shorthanded faceoffs, while Reasoner won 100 and lost 125. Surprisingly as a team the Oilers won 314 but lost 347 PK faceoffs last season when they finished 5th on the PK. So clearly draws aren’t the main reason for the Oilers’ woes when down a man this season.

They are a factor though. Kyle Brodziak leads the team with a 51.2% in the draw, but he is awful on PK faceoffs. He has only won 13 out of 43 for just over 30%. Five-on-five he is 70-49 good for 58%. It is hard to fathom that much of a difference, so I asked Brodziak what has been the difference.

It was no coincidence then that Brodziak spent a lot of time working on draws today, but more on his forehand.

It is a small factor when you consider the opposition has an extra man. If a centreman wins the draw to the boards, but the opposing team gets possession then the guy who actually lost the draw gets credit for the win. Any draw that turns into a possession battle will favour the team with the extra skater.

Faceoffs are a factor in the slow start to the PK, but shot blocking from the forwards is also down. Stoll and Reasoner blocked the most shots of any forwards last year, and most of those came on the PK. It is a skill that Brodziak admitted they need to improve on.

“Obviously the guys are willing to do it, but we have let too many get through from the point. It becomes too much of a crap shoot when shots get through, because we are out-manned down low. We have to be better at blocking the shots from the middle of the ice. If we let one by from the side, you deal with it, but blocking the shots from the middle needs to improve.”

Shawn Horcoff, who has been a regular on the PK for years, says tendencies play a huge part for a successful PK unit. “A good PK has a lot to do with knowing who you are out there with and knowing what they will do. Some guys like to be more aggressive, some like to be really aggressive down ice, so you have to be aware. Now I know that I’m out with either Brodziak or Chopper (Ethan Moreau). They are both different, but it makes it easier knowing exactly who I’m out with.”

The chemistry between the forwards and D-men isn’t as important according to Horcoff. “It is different with them, because you work moreso with the other forward. You do get to know who is really good at getting the puck in the corner, or which guy will hard rim it around the boards no matter what. Knowing that allows the forward to meet the puck at the blueline, and then it is up to us to win that battle against their D and get it out.”

The biggest problem with the Oilers PK has been the two games v. Philadelphia and Vancouver . The Oilers surrendered 7 PP goals in those two games. They killed off 45 of 51, or 88%, in their other 13 games, but were a woeful 6 of 13, or 46%, against the Flyers and Canucks.

You can live with giving up a goal here and there, but three or four in a game is devastating for the %. Like most parts of their game, if the Oilers can avoid a huge collapse they should be okay.

In order for the Oilers to get back to a top-ten PK unit, they need to kill off 20 straight penalties, and only then would they be 83%, which is currently where the 10th ranked Flames sit. The bad start means it will take a good three weeks before they find themselves in the upper half of the league once again.

- Listen to Jason Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 David
November 13 2008, 07:31PM
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Wayne Gretz did not write this as it resembles English. A language he has yet to master.

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#2 Jerry MacWire
November 14 2008, 07:17AM
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I think Ethan Moreau captured the essence of what is wrong with the Oilers on a radio clip I heard this morning.

He said something like we need to play like we are playing for our jobs. What does that tell you? One of the hardest working players and the leader of the team is stating the obvious, we have coasters on the team.

Why would anyone be afraid of losing their job and sitting on the bench when the only option is to replace them with Boulerice?

Craig MacT: C'mon guys pick it up!

Oilers: Zzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzzzzz

-30-

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#3 Cole
November 14 2008, 09:05AM
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The Oilers have 5 main Problems: 1)They dont hit and are not aggressive enough on forecheck or backcheck. The first period against the leafs, is an example of how they have to play to be successfull. Dump the puck, go hit someone and get the puck back. 2)They dont compete, they are a lazy hockey team that expects to be able to turn it on when they want. Need to play a full 60 min. 3)Powerplay sucks and is too predictable, all you have to do is take away the Souray or Visnovsky point shot and the pp is stalled. Need more down low movement from side to side. 4)Pk..wow are they bad, which is not normal for the Oilers. 5)Craig Mactavish, I fail to believe he can motivate the players anymore, its been long enough and a change is needed, or it will be more of the same, lots of promise with a lack of results. One the bright side... at least Hemmer is on track, man he's looked good, especially after laying out Jason Blake.

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#4 milli
November 14 2008, 09:06AM
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Lastnight's loss was also because of this. Who ever thought that a Mact team would struggle on the PK???? The PP, I expect them to struggle and take the top 10 pk for granted. I know that I thought Stolly was gonna be a great player one day (5 goals so far) but didn't really give too much thought when he was traded as it seemed to be coming for a while, but NEVER did I think losing those 2 would impact our pk and face offs so much. The good thing, I still pretty sure they will finish in the top 10, and the PP seems to be way better.

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#5 Mike
November 14 2008, 09:36AM
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Agreed, I can't believe how bad the PK is right now, and that maybe all of us underestimated the importance of Reasoner...who knew.

But my big question today is for Gregor. Who was the hottie with you on the SMOOCH cam last night. If that is your woman...kudos...if not, why not? I'm pretty sure that was you last night!!!

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#6 alphah
November 14 2008, 09:45AM
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lots of people knew we would take a hit losing both stoll and reasoner. I recall a lot of posters on HF including myself predicting we would only be moving/letting go of one of them, because losing both would be too dangerous; and upon us losing both there were plenty of people lamenting it. its always been pretty obvious that we would be lacking in the areas they specialized... we could have made up for the loss of one much easier than the two of them. we will be playing catch up for a little while but it will come. probably cost us a couple points along the way though.

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#7 outKast
November 14 2008, 10:05AM
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This site needs hotter women. Why is it that: Calgarian women > Edmontonian women?

Have you gone to the stampede? Edmontonians are haggard compared to Calgarians

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#8 Rick
November 14 2008, 10:49AM
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After what happened last night I probably shouldn't point this out. The timing can't be worse, but....

Going into last night the Oilers had two games where they really shit the bed on the PK. Outside of those two games they have been pretty damn good, right. Top 5 good, top 3 good actually.

So how is that any different than a goalie like Luongo getting lit up for 6 every so often. It skews the stats but doesn't make him any less effective in the other 85% of games he plays.

I would rather the Oilers get lit up on the PK every 7 or 8 games but be top 5 in PKing the other 6 or 7 than have them truly running at a legit 77% every game. The same way I can live with a goalie getting let up every 7 or 8 games if it means he plays lights out for the rest of them.

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#9 SquidRx
November 14 2008, 11:59AM
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I see they called up Liam Reddox. I guess we can assume by this he is the best prospect they have in Springfield? This should definitely right the ship. All hail Sir Liam, our knight in shining RBK. I am mystified, nay, dumbfounded!

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#10 KPM
November 14 2008, 12:27PM
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Liam Reddox recalled from Springfield - why don't they just trade Shremp - the leading scorer on the farm, and end all the BS

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#11 Bob
November 14 2008, 12:34PM
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Wonder if they could trade Schremp, Brule, JDD & Smid for Stamkos

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#12 David S
November 14 2008, 01:01PM
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"Calgarian women > Edmontonian women?"

You obviously weren't at the game last night. It was freaking spectacular in the stands. And having been in both Calgary and Edmonton, I can say that with confidence.

As far as last night goes, we pretty much schooled TO in the first. Then as far as I can tell, some idiot in the dressing room ordered a triple order of Panago, because the boys came out in the second with the pizza legs.

It looked to me that Horcoff is NOT in game shape. He was leaving every shift absolutely bagged. And Penner? Don't even get me started. One thing though, TO works as hard as we used to. That really pissed me off.

MacT's pre-game interview pretty much foreshadowed the night. I suspect that this ridiculous early schedule is beating the crap out of the team more than we know.

Lastly, where in the hell did all those Toronto fans come from? It must have beeb 50/50 in the stands. I half expected a HUGE brawl outside the LRT station after the game.

They'll be WAY better on Saturday.

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#13 Reggie
November 14 2008, 01:38PM
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The only comment you missed Gregor was about the PK this year is that every single time the face-off on the PK is in your own end.

So, if the Oilers aren't winning that many PK faceoffs in their own end, that means the opposition is able to quickly set up their PP without having to gain the zone.

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#14 Jason Gregor
November 14 2008, 02:02PM
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Reggie,

Not every draws is automatically in the defensive zone. Yes, the first one is but not every one after that. Sure it helps out, but other teams face the same challenges.

Mike,

As for the cam...yes It was I, but I'm sure no one really cares about my dating life so I'll leave it at that.

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#15 OILERSORDEATH
November 14 2008, 04:17PM
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No heart, no passion, no desire. I cant hold it in anymore they fucking suck ass!! Its hurts just watching them. Cole you nailed it right on the head!!!

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#16 Travis Dakin
November 14 2008, 05:04PM
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I care...

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#17 Dennis
November 14 2008, 07:44PM
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If Gregor can figure out how to land a hot woman, then solving the Oilers PK woes should be a snap by comparison!!

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#18 R-DAWG
November 14 2008, 08:56PM
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Who ever said that the Oiler players don't care because the only players that can replace them are Boulerice, Schremp(who apparently has no goals in the ahl, Brule who seems the most promising but lets get real. Who needs another Marc the floater Pouliot?? This will be guaranteed, another dash for the playoffs that will likely be over by Feb 1. I think we were all lead like sheep when they signed Cole, and Daryl Katz took over this team. Visnovsky is the only new player pulling his weight and guess what, once the temp hits-30 he'll be gunning to get out of town when the team is no better than the one that let him go. I've been a diehard Oiler fan for 25 years loved the good years and like all of you suffered through the crappy years. This just hurts to keep watching the same old same old all the time. Some call it a dumb move to get Boulerice but I think the management is trying to inject some new blood. Lets face it if we can have a line that includes Stortini, Boulerice and say Brodziak, with the way the powerplay is this year, maybe we can get some extra powerplays if those two can stay out of the box and do their job

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#19 Joey Moss
November 15 2008, 04:12AM
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i forget who it was before the season started, but one of the writers here at ON wrote a piece about how Brian Smolinski might be a good fit for the oil on the third line. apparently this team needs a faceoff specialist.

does anyone actually know what kelly buchberger does besides take a spot away from Daum? i mean the guy isn't on the bench and he certainly isn't a technical expert, is he just there to help co-ordinate drills at practice or what? this team has enough problems that don't need to be further exposed by blatant nepotism. i think rather than throw the coach out they should mix it up on the back end of management and bring Daum back for another go; i've heard it said from those that would know, that he was the catalyst behind many of the oilers changes last season and part of the reason the kid line worked so well together. if only management could keep their heads straight and not worry about finding jobs for their otherwise unemployable friend.

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#20 Vic Ferrari
November 15 2008, 12:43PM
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Jason, re this bit from your article:

It is a small factor when you consider the opposition has an extra man. If a centreman wins the draw to the boards, but the opposing team gets possession then the guy who actually lost the draw gets credit for the win. Any draw that turns into a possession battle will favour the team with the extra skater.

There aren't quotation marks around this, did that come from Brodziak or someone else? I mean it's true of course, PK faceoff%'s are usually around 45% or so for that reason. T

he bit about allowing long shots from the middle is really relevant as well (most of Lidstrom's PP shots come from there, despite the fact that everyone on both benches knows that is what he'll try and do)

As much as I personally appreciate the candour of a lot of the young Oilers, these kids need to start blowing smoky cliches up our asses; convey a sense of panic or at least grave concern, talk about giving 110%, grit, urgency, etc. Or, as we both know, 99% of the callers to your show are going to start disliking them and their coach.

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