Musical goalies -- tonight it's Garon

Jason Gregor
December 11 2008 01:04PM

Another game day and another surprise start: Mathieu Garon get's the nod between the pipes tonight. After Dwayne Roloson beat the Sharks by himself, it seemed obvious that he would start tonight, especially since he seems to have the confidence of the coach.

But Craig MacTavish will go back to Garon, with the hopes he can win three straight games for the second time this year. This marks only the second time this season that Garon will start three of four. The last time he did it, he won all three, but then after sitting a game in Chicago, he seemed to lose steam.

Garon was inactive for awhile when he was working on his game, and he’s come back and got a couple wins under his belt. If he didn’t go tonight it would have been a long time between starts again, so this way he can stay in a rhythm and then we can go with Roli on Saturday.

So now it seems that MacTavish wants to keep both guys sharp, which is different from the “we’ll go with the hot guy” mantra that was here earlier. I don’t envy MacTavish in this situation because there is no right answer, unless the team wins. Neither goalie is decidedly better, while neither is a definite choice to be better long-term for the organization. I’m not sold that Garon can be an everyday #1, so signing him to a three-year $10 million deal in the summer wouldn’t be wise. And Roloson is at best a one-year stop gap next season. MacTavish needs some help from this GM to sort out this situation; otherwise it will continue to be distraction.

Smid does it all

Ladislav Smid will skate beside Steve Staios tonight in the third pairing. Smid has looked comfortable since his brief audition up front, and if he continues to play solidly, expect him to get a string of consecutive games.

Outside of playing forward and defence, today he tried his hand as a reporter. He grabbed the Oilers website mic flash, and did an impromptu interview with Tom Gilbert. Gilbert seemed distracted waiting for Smid to drop a “how is the lady situation in your life” question, but it never came. Not sure if you will see it on their site, because Smid needs to learn to hold the mic in front of the Gilberts mouth when he answers a question. He kept pulling the mic away preparing his next question.

Meanwhile on the other side of the room, Dustin Penner continues to fill the void of Marty Reasoner and Matt Greene as the resident funny man. Check out Ryan Rishaug’s piece on TSN later today. Penner has a great comment about blow driers. Supposedly in Winkler, Manitoba it’s not uncommon for 12-year-olds to have mullets.

Gagner back in

Sam Gagner will play with Liam Reddox and Gilbert Brule tonight, and look for him to play a simpler game.

“I know the way I can play. The first part of the year I was there, but then when I started not scoring I got off my game. I’m not a guy who creates on the rush,” said Gagner.

“I have to make the simple plays until I reach the offensive zone, then I need to be creative. Most of my offence, actually all of it, starts in the offensive zone. People say I’m a small skilled forward and that I should create offence on the rush, but I’ve never really done that. Last year when I was successful it came from the top of the circle and in. I need to get back to that.”

Time to man up

I’ve seen all the posts lately suggesting that Erik Cole is more involved in the game than we think.

That’s hogwash. Sure, he’s been better the past few games, but that’s not saying much because he was invisible for the previous ten.

Watching Cole around practice and the room, I sure don’t see a lot of signs of a guy who is ready to break out. His body language reeks of a lack of confidence and frustration, and for a veteran player in a young locker room, that’s unacceptable. The team has won three straight, so he should at least be happy about that.

When Adam Oates was here, and doing less than Cole is now, he at least made an impact in other areas. It’s time Erik Cole became more of a leader. You can’t just lead when you are playing well. That isn’t leadership, especially in a room with so many young and impressionable players.

-- Listen to Gregor live on Just a Game, every weekday drive-time on Team 1260 from 3 to 6pm.

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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 The Towel Boy
December 11 2008, 01:06PM
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Who saw this coming?!?

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#2 Holden
December 11 2008, 01:35PM
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ridiculous

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#3 Shakey
December 11 2008, 01:50PM
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Thanks for beating the best team all on your own Dwayne but I think it's time for me to start messing with your mind. You've been playing really well lately and we just can't have that go on for too long. If we could, I'd go with the guy that is hot...like I've said all year, but that makes sense and I don't want to start doing that.

Yours Truly, Coach Mac

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#4 Moony
December 11 2008, 02:04PM
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Hey Gregor,

Is Penner healthy and ready to go? I heard that he had to go for an MRI earlier this week.

Also, what type of ice time do you think Brule, Gagner and Reddox's line will get? Will Mac-T role 4 lines or will it be a situation where they are looking at 5 minutes or less?

thx

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#5 Dennis
December 11 2008, 02:14PM
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I don't think we'll see shag all offense from 26 until he gets paired on a line with 89. That's not likely to happen unless young Gagner proves he can play against actual players and/or MacT feels comfortable with three other forwards to the point where he'd slot 26 in for the soft min time usually earmarked for the 12-13-88 line with 10-83-27 and some of 18-34-26 playing the other team's two top lines.

The other solution would be if Rick Rypien showed up and energized the whole bloody lot of them by being on the ice for three goals for and 13 goals against!!!

!!!!!!

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#6 Zamboni Driver
December 11 2008, 02:14PM
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Great piece Jason.....though I think uttering the "O" name should get you at least a toonie in my kids' swear jar!

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#7 Jonathan Willis
December 11 2008, 02:51PM
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I’ve seen all the posts lately suggesting that Erik Cole is more involved in the game than we think. That’s hogwash. Sure, he’s been better the past few games, but that’s not saying much because he was invisible for the previous ten.

Cole hasn't been as advertised, but it isn't all bad. He is hitting, and he is drawing penalties like nobodies business, both of which help the team.

That said, he hasn't moved the puck territorially the way he can, and his offense has been close to non-existent, despite getting some rspectable linemates and favourable matchups from time to time. He needs to be better, for sure, but it's more a case of he isn't doing as much as he should be than that he isn't doing anything.

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#8 Cole
December 11 2008, 03:15PM
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Jason, Being that you are close to the team on a day to day basis, could you tell me: Do the Oilers have intense practices or does it look like some of them are out there just going to through the motions? The reason I ask is concerning the the slow starts and the inconsistency in there play from period to period. If you push yourself to the wall in practice than you should be able to do it in a game and maintain it for 60 minutes. Another question: How demanding of a coach is MacT away from the microphones and cameras? Thanks

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#9 Jason Gregor
December 11 2008, 03:51PM
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Moony,

Penner won't be 100% healthy the rest of the season, and he actually hasn't been since the Jasper trip. He tweaked his knee there -- on the ice, not while scaring the feces out of his teammates with a SAW mask.

The 4th line's ice will probably be around 10-12. But not directly as a line. Reddox of course will get PK, and I think Gagner might get some PP time if he is playing well. MacTavish was also impressed with Brule's came in different situations, so expect all of them to get time. IF there isn't lots of special teams play, the 4th line will definitely get their minutes.

Dennis,

Your smart ass comment wasn't missed. Is Pouliot playing a 4th line role right now? OF course not. I will still take Rick Rypien in that 4th line role anyday. Of course Pouliot is more skilled, but the point was as a 4th liner who is better?

And your stats aren't correct. You would think a guy that prides himself on stats wouldn't put forth false stats.

Rypien has been for 2 goals for(one SH one EV). Three goals against EV strength Four goals against on the PP.

He has two goals and was -1 in five games.

Yes really horrible numbers. He is a solid energy guy, and one of the best, if not the best middleweight in the league. A ROLE this team is lacking. The point was about a specific role. YOu notice that Pouliot has played better since he was REMOVED from the 4th line!!!

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#10 Cal71
December 11 2008, 03:57PM
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Moony wrote:

Hey Gregor, Is Penner healthy and ready to go? I heard that he had to go for an MRI earlier this week. Also, what type of ice time do you think Brule, Gagner and Reddox’s line will get? Will Mac-T role 4 lines or will it be a situation where they are looking at 5 minutes or less? thx

Moony Maybe one of the Oilers will get a Gordie Howe hat trick tonight.

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#11 Dennis
December 11 2008, 04:28PM
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Gregor: 3/13 were his Career stats as dug by Ty when you bandied about Rypien's name a couple of weeks ago. So, my stats were not misleading:)

As for 78 playing better when playing with actual players, well, my Stars, who wouldn't thunk it;)

I think the 4th line should be for guys who kill penalties and win faceoffs.

And the whole "best middleweight" deal doesn't carry a lot of weight with me. The Ducks had some goonery in '07 but did it make a lot of difference to Car in '06 or TB in '04 or any of the years the Wings, Avs or Devils have won Cups?

My idea at at slot is to have guys who can outplay and I still think 78 can do that on either the secondary tough min line or on the 4th but failing having guys in the top nine who Can kill penalties, block shots and win draws; then, I'll fill that line with guys who can.

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#12 Jason Gregor
December 11 2008, 04:51PM
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I don't know who Ty is, but then his Stats are clearly wrong.

Rypien does kill penalties. And yes, the Ducks did have too many goons, but wouldn't you like it if the Oilers at least had a few who could do it?

They miss a Rypien type was my point, and until they get anyone even close to that I would take him as a 4th liner. They don't need three of him...but one would be nice.

Just like they don't need six smallish forward on lines two and four.

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#13 mc79hockey
December 11 2008, 05:17PM
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Here's what I said:

Rypien better make everyone else feel a hell of a lot more energetic, because in his 27 game career, the Canucks have been outscored 11-3 while he’s on the ice. He’s had the better goalie behind him too. The Canucks have been outshot by a pile. Hopefully the Sedins et al. are energized by trying to come back from a goal against.

8-2 last year at evens according to BTN (not to mention that the Canucks were getting out by about 10 shots/60 which is atrocious; maybe it's own zone faceoffs that are inspiring). 3-1 this year at evens according to Gregor which adds up to...11-3. It's well deserved too - according to BTN and timeonice, he gets butchered out there in terms of SF/SA. About the best you can say is that the sample has been small, although that might be because he's junk.

To the extent that I was wrong, I didn't factor in the seven games he played in 2005-07, which might make it 11-4 at evens. In four years of hockey in which the guy can barely find a spot in the NHL. Maybe he inspires from the press box and from Winnipeg, in addition to getting the boys all fired up to get one back.

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#14 mc79hockey
December 11 2008, 05:19PM
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Oh, and I can't let this go either:

Rypien does kill penalties.

Not very well this year. In 12:12, the Canucks have given up 4 PK goals? Small sample to be certain but then I'm not the one going on about two goals in five games as if it means something.

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#15 rindog
December 11 2008, 05:21PM
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Gregs,

It shouldn't surprise you that the coach is making another weird decision?? The entire way he has handled the goalies this season is baffling.

Alot of media guys have proclaimed that Roli has been the better goalie??? We have NO way to determine that? Garon has not been given an opportunity to show if he can playor not. Roli has had just as many bad games as Garon has - he has just been afforded anopportunity to bounce back.

Has anyone ever thought about this....

Roli has seemed to be the least affected by the goalie juggling act - could it be that maybe Roli is used to time off in between starts? Afterall, Roli is nothing more than a career back-up goalie and should be very used to this. Considering that the goaltending position always seems to be a little more mental than other postions, this theory might carry some weight???

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#16 Jason Gregor
December 11 2008, 05:56PM
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@ Cole:

Cole,

Their practices are fairly up tempo with speed and pucks, and sometimes they will have one-on-one battles. Their slow starts are more about game day preparation. The players had a meeting a few weeks back and decided that they would change their individual routines a bit. Normally they would leave each alone to prepare on their own, but the vets wanted guys to be more involved in certain convos and meetings. I've seen a little difference, like LA, but then in San Jose they were crushed at the start so the jury is still out on whether this will new strategy will improve their starts.

As for MacTavish, relatively speaking I think he is. He is not a screamer, at least not within the earshot of the media, and I haven't heard many stories from players that he tears the paint off the walls often.

He isn't a coach that has lots of one-on-one meetings though. I think if there is element of his coaching that he needs to improve it is that. He is old school in that thinking, and nowadays many players like to be talked to a bit more. Even if the talk isn't positive it seems today's players like to know where they stand.

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#17 Jeremy
December 11 2008, 06:11PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Thanks Jason. I can't tell you how much I love hearing this kind of stuff. It's nice to hear things about the team straight from the horse's mouth (Gregor), than from the horse's ass (Eklund).

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