Positives and negatives (mostly the latter)

Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008 01:42PM

Last night’s game was ugly. We all know that –- it was a 9-2 loss, and there’s absolutely no way to gloss that over. The penalty-kill was beyond abysmal, even by the standards of this season. With eight goals already, Joel Quenneville mercifully sent out his fourth line when given a powerplay opportunity. Craig Adams scored anyway, and despite the fact that he very rarely scores (4 goals in 75 games last season, 7 in 82 the year before) he didn’t celebrate the goal.

At even-strength, things weren’t much better. The veteran pairing of Gilbert and Souray finished the night -3, but they were actually on for six goals against –- two at even-strength, three on the penalty-kill, and one while on the powerplay. Of course, they weren’t the only ones -– there were so many problems on this team that it’s hard to know where to start. Kyle Brodziak’s 4-for-14 face-off performance sticks out of the stats sheet, and it’s good to remember that a bunch of those were own-zone penalty-kill draws. The team captain, Ethan Moreau, managed no shots, no hits and no blocked shots, which probably has something to do with his -2 performance at even-strength, along with his -2 performance on the penalty-kill (this despite the fact that he played less than a minute short-handed). In fact, virtually every member of this team was badly outplayed –- with the exception of four players.

Lubomir Visnovsky looked good for most of the game, and that’s evidenced on the score sheet as well. He blocked three shots and despite playing 20:15 ended up +1 on the night.

Aside from Lubomir Visnovsky, however, the Oilers fourth line showed up and did exactly the job they needed to do. Marc Pouliot was the Oilers’ best face-off man on the night, winning 10 of 14 draws. MacTavish used him on the penalty-kill, and he was one of the very few Oilers not to be on the ice for a goal against, even short-handed. On top of that, Pouliot managed a goal in the third. In point of fact, the entire fourth line showed up; Stortini fought Ben Eager, managed two shots on net and three recorded hits as well as a blocked shot. Liam Reddox led all Oilers forwards in short-handed ice-time; he was on for only one goal against.

It really isn’t much –- when the best thing to be said about a team is that their fourth line and best defenceman were positive factors it’s a good sign that the game was otherwise a miserable effort.

I think the Oilers win the game against Vancouver tonight. Jersey retirements often seem to have a detrimental effect on the home team (as Oilers’ fans have observed often enough), and I can’t recall ever seeing a team get hammered as badly as the Oilers and not show up for their next game. Of course, I haven’t seen a team get hammered that badly in a long time either, but the Oilers should be plenty mad tonight. Outside of a win, I’m hoping that Marc Pouliot gets elevated to the third line while Brodziak drops back to the fourth; the Moreau-Brodziak-Cole line hasn’t been effective yet, while Pouliot has been playing very well for a half-dozen games now.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Milli
December 17 2008, 01:45PM
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yep.

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#2 Gord
December 17 2008, 02:00PM
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In the few shifts that Pouliot was inserted between Moreau and Cole last Satruday the line looked quite good. I know there are a lot of Pou haters out there, but I have always liked the kid and I sure am happy for about his recent performances!

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#3 Ales in Chains
December 17 2008, 02:01PM
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I hope Strudwick gets the call tonight over Reddox. A little more muscle can't hurt. Stortini was one of the few Oilers who showed up last night, I think he plays better when he engages early. That being said maybe he could grab Brodziak and pummel the living sh*t out of him in warm-up. Then Zack is in the game, and we don't have to watch Brodziak go 29% in the dot and act like a giant pussy all game. hmmm... maybe Gagner could help with the beating.

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#4 OvenChicken8
December 17 2008, 02:08PM
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Kyle Brodziak’s 4-for-14 face-off performance sticks out

From what I remember he started the game 3 for 3, but just humped the puppy for the rest of the night.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008, 02:16PM
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Ales in Chains wrote:

I hope Strudwick gets the call tonight over Reddox.

Except, of course, that Reddox seems to be one of the few forwards with any penalty-killing ability.

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#6 Hoodlum
December 17 2008, 02:17PM
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C'mon guys, I'm sure they trie.......oh my god, I couldn't even finish that sentance. Is there a such thing as a character loss??

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#7 JRocks247
December 17 2008, 02:59PM
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The oiler's frustratingly inconsitent play makes baby jesus cry...

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#8 OvenChicken8
December 17 2008, 03:05PM
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JRocks247 wrote:

The oiler’s frustratingly inconsitent play makes baby jesus cry…

Why would Carey Price be crying? Oops sorry nevermind, I've got 100 years brainwashed into me.

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#9 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 03:10PM
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Mr. Willis can I get off now please?....this roller coaster ride is making me queazy.

They play their best game then Follow it up with their worst game...ever? WTF...WTF Willis

Do you have some sort of stat that can explain this? That our Captain can't even show up? That our team lacks the fundamental element that backs untalented teams better and makes talented teams great. What I refer to is of course "heart". You know the only way Ryan Smyth knew how to play. The awkward skating mulletted left winger that scored as many goals with his face as he did his stick....where is that guy...where is the leader. Where is the guy screaming for blood and making his teammates accountable...

Can Mark Messier still skate??

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#10 Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008, 03:22PM
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@ Fiveandagame:

Nope. No stat whatsoever. Last night was completely inexplicable; Tom Gilbert and Sheldon Souray, who were a big part of the problem, aren't that bad. Ditto for a whole bunch of other players in the lineup.

The biggest problem on this team is the penalty-kill, which I would strongly suspect is tied to: a) a sharp decline in blocked shots b) personnel losses c) face-off losses

If Gregor or Brownlee are reading this, do you guys know who's coaching the penalty-kill? I've been getting the impression that Buchberger got that job, and that would make sense given how good the PK's been for years under MacT, but I don't know it for a fact.

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#11 David Staples
December 17 2008, 03:22PM
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I thought that Brodziak or Pouliot would step up this year, give the Oil a real third line center. . .

I'm beginning to think I thought wrong, very wrong. . And now I see Brodziak's biggest booster on the Oilogosphere, J-Will, down on the guy.

Bad news for Brodziak. I still like him better than Pouliot, though.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008, 03:31PM
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@ David Staples:

I still like them both just fine. Brodziak's a real player - but he isn't ready to handle tough-opposition duties with Ethan Moreau (who has been cold following a hot start) and Erik Cole.

Pouliot's good too - a hell of a lot better than the fellows doing the game grades on your site have been claiming. The game where Pouliot corsed the game-winner (from Schremp) I believe he was graded a "5"; I watched that game, and he was great all night.

Both are, IMO, good players with decent upside, but I think Pouliot would look much better in a scoring role (he has done well when given the opportunity), and that Brodziak could use a reduction in responsibility (and no, that doesn't mean sending him out with Stortini/MacIntyre for defensive zone draws).

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#13 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 03:37PM
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Does anyone think that a few games in the Minors would help Brodziak? Or would that be a crushing defeat and that would be the end of Brody.

He's so tight out there, afraid of making a mistake. If he's able to go down and make some plays gain some confidence he would come back with some fire.

It would allow Brule an audition for our fourth line. That guys energy is infectious.

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#14 David S
December 17 2008, 03:40PM
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Well, they're still blocking shots. Except that now the flamingo is the new fad. I swear, it was the direct cause of at least two last night. Get back to layin' it down on the ice and stop that f****** flamingo.

Jeezuz.

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#15 freeze
December 17 2008, 03:42PM
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I better see Moreau block a shot tonight! He was SO horrible on D last night my jaw was on the floor in shock.

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#16 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 03:50PM
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@ freeze: when your captain doesn't show up..there is a problem..

There have been a few times this year that I haven't liked Moreau's take on the game. He's had a lot of excuses for his teammates. His indifference with the preseason and then excuses about the scheduling and being content with their record in the first 25 games when many nights they didn't show up and we're down 2 zip after one period.

He played well and really led by example early this year, but giving excuses in the media.

I recognize it is a long season and part of that is managing your self and your body so you have something left in the tank for march...but come on.

Did Captain Moreau have a christmas party the night before or something?

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#17 Ender the Dragon
December 17 2008, 04:26PM
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So what are the Canucks thinking about before tonights game? Are the confident that they can roll over these Oiler pansies? Are they pissed off that these embarrassing losers shut them out last week? Are they nervous that the fury of hell is about to descend upon them as every Oiler on the team fights for his job tonight? How does the average Canuck approach tonight's game?

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#18 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 04:29PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

How does the average Canuck approach tonight’s game?

Same way they do every night and have for the last thirty years, in panties and high heels.

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#19 topshelf
December 17 2008, 04:51PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

Ender the Dragon wrote: Same way they do every night and have for the last thirty years, in panties and high heels.

Pwned!!

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#20 David S
December 17 2008, 04:55PM
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"Did Captain Moreau have a Christmas party the night before or something?"

It looked like the whole team had a Christmas party the night before - at Hudson's.

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#21 Clarkenstein
December 17 2008, 05:27PM
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A caller on a radio show nailed it this morning... After Sat.'s game with Van. McClueless says this game was a "template" for the team. Then last night he makes (5) roster changes according to this caller (which sounds about right)... can you believe this? Watching the expressions on both coaches last night.... and I realize it was a 9-2 game... I got the impression that Chicago has a professional head coach. We don't. A few weeks ago Quenneville was available... very discouraging. That is a prime example of why an organization shouldn't be incestual!!

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#22 Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008, 05:54PM
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@ Clarkenstein:

You'll note that Quenneville actually joined the Blackhawks organization at the start of the season - the writing was on the wall for Savard at that point, and at the first opportunity the Hawks made the switch.

I think Coach Q's one of the better options out there, but do you really think that the best way to judge a coach is via this sort of scouting:

Watching the expressions on both coaches last night…. and I realize it was a 9-2 game… I got the impression that Chicago has a professional head coach.

Personally, I think there's more to being a coach than looking telegenic during a 9-2 win. Could be just me, though.

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#23 Ender the Dragon
December 17 2008, 06:05PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Personally, I think there’s more to being a coach than looking telegenic during a 9-2 win. Could be just me, though.

It seems last night's drubbing has left everyone with a raw nerve or two tonight. Meeeeoow. Fffffft.

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#24 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 06:22PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote: It seems last night’s drubbing has left everyone with a raw nerve or two tonight. Meeeeoow. Fffffft.

Yeah so what, big whoop, wanna fight about it?

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#25 Fiveandagame
December 17 2008, 06:25PM
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Oh yeah and we're an hour and a half from game time where the hell is the GAME DAY THREAD!

COME ON NATION! Play like you're being coached by Scotty Bowman not MacT. We ned a SOLID EFFORT HERE and that includes the way you prepare for a game day thread....

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#26 David S
December 17 2008, 06:37PM
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Awww...cut 'em some slack. After all, we've seen that every team hits a wiffer once in a while. Right?

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#27 Jonathan Willis
December 17 2008, 06:44PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

Nah, I'm just a jerk.

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