Gregor at practice

Jason Gregor
December 18 2008 02:19PM

Jason Gregor is sitting in the stands at RX1 today and has sent us the following report. -- WG

The MacBlender was in set on high gear again at the afternoon skate today. Coming off a pair of losses -– every single line has a new look.

Nilsson - Cogliano - Hemsky Pouliot - Horcoff - Cole Moreau - Gagner - Penner Strudwick - Brodziak - Stortini Odd man out: Reddox

This team doesn't have a set second or third line, and the only reason you can designate a first line is because of Hemsky.  And yes, that is Edmonton native Jason Strudwick suiting up on the wing with Brodziak and Stortini. Who knows how long that will last.

The only players that have been scoring consistently of late are Hemsky and Penner so clearly they need to be split up. Apparently the science of Willis’ article analyzing the dynamic duo of Horcoff and Hemsky has also been lost on the coaching staff. Everything has been MacBlended to shreds yet again. It can't get any worse... Unless Hartford comes back to the league, but that isn't likely, which sucks!

Oh and it also makes perfect sense to switch wings for Penner. The guy has 11 points in his last 12 games. Why wouldn't you change things up??

Watching this practice I have no idea who will start in goal tomorrow night against the Ducks. But in my mind the Oilers should be starting Deslauriers. He still makes the most sense long term so the organization might as well find out if the kid has it in him going into the Christmas break.

I feel like a 13-year-old girl right now, which is fitting based on how the Oilers have played recently, because I had to write this article on my phone and I think my hands are starting to cramp up. How the kids can sit on the bus and listen to their iPods and text the day away boggles my mind.

No real man should ever have to text more than three sentences in a row.

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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 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 02:27PM
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AGGHHHH MacBLender.....Thanks for the update Gregor.

What this points out is the Oilers need to make a trade, as soon as one that makes sense is available.

I have a Question for you Gregor. What to you think are the chances that the Oilers could make a trade with NYR if Sundin in fact does land him noncommital swedish rear end in the apple?

Rangers are solid in goal and have good forward ranks but would need to clear space. They could use help on D and that is one place we have a good section of NHL calibre guys.

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#2 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 02:31PM
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Everybody hoping for three scoring lines - that's what it looks like.

The good: - Pouliot getting an opportunity on a decent line - Cole getting another opportunity on a decent line

The bad: - Admittedly, Horpensky wasn't great against Vancouver, but why break up the best line on the team? (hint: depseration) - Penner on the third line again - Moreau on his off-wing

The undecided: - Deslauriers should start. Hopefully MacT will agree.

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#3 The Towel Boy
December 18 2008, 02:37PM
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I have only one thing to say...

Who saw this coming?!?

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#4 Rick
December 18 2008, 02:44PM
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Well that's disappointing news.

I think the Oilers are still deserving of a good old fashioned bag skate till you puke after the Chicago no show, i was really hoping it would happen today.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 02:46PM
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@ Rick:

I agreed, although John Tortorella made a good point on the TSN panel - he said something to the effect of everyone will be ripping on the team after a 9-2 loss, so it's time for the coach to be on their side, rather than piling on.

I expected the bag skate after losing to Vancouver the next day, though.

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#6 RobinB
December 18 2008, 02:54PM
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These newest lines are the epitome of "shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic."

This mix of players doesn't work, no matter how many times you move them around from line to line and position to position.

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#7 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 02:54PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

How hard can you kick a horse when it's down, eventually they just wont get up.

I think the Oilers are beyond the usefulness of a bag skate. The truth be told they haven't found their game all year. A bag skate and MacT would have signed his own pink slip as the team most likely would have tuned him out and phoned it in on friday.

The players are angry too, nobody likes losing and it's only a matter of time before fresh legs are brought into the locker room and some stale ones are shipped out.

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#8 Milli
December 18 2008, 03:03PM
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Ya,no bag skate? this team should have had to walk home from Vancouver. I can understand breaking all the line apart as only the first has been going. But, in the end, I hope we don't end up with no lines going. And, I don't understand why JDD hasn't played more, wasn't that the idea of having him up, so we knew if he was NHL capable.

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#9 Blaine
December 18 2008, 03:10PM
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The thing I don't get, the first line was working so why break it up? That line was playing good. Penner is playing great and now move him to RW? Because that worked so well with Cole.

The team needs a re-tooling. But what assets the team does have have been consistently mismanaged.

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#10 Travis Dakin
December 18 2008, 03:29PM
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Someone please tell me how hard it is to get it right!

Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky Nilsson-Gagner-Cole Pouliot-Cogliano-Brule/Schremp Moreau-Brodziak-Stortini/MacIntre

Dammit all to hell.

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#11 Travis Dakin
December 18 2008, 03:32PM
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or Moreau-Brodziak-Reddox...

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#12 oilerdago
December 18 2008, 03:34PM
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Everyone is sweating these lines way too much. The only question is the over/under on how long into the game tomorrow this experiment lasts?

Personally, I say they're down 3-0 in the 3rd, the lines get changed, they score 1 or 2 to make it look good on paper and management says again that they're not worried and are not going to panic.

Of course, the holiday roster freeze is in place and that's it til after Boxing Day.

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#13 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 03:37PM
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@ Travis Dakin: I'll buy those line combos for a dollar....And Pisani can slot in on that fourth line when he's back.. that would be one of the best fourth lines in hockey.

I think Peckham should be called up to add the heavy weight on the D. Sit Staios in the press box and tell him if he wants to stay with the team add twenty lbs of muscle so he doesn't get pushed around.

People complain out our small forwards what about Steve (I am the same size as Shremp) Staios. How has he not got more meat on him? Look at Souray...dudes a specimen of what an NHL d-man should look like.

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#14 MattL
December 18 2008, 03:43PM
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I don't mind these lines THAT much. Switch Pouliot with Penner though. Doesn't it seem like a no-brainer? Imagine the two big men with Hook-off in the middle... Cole had good chemistry with Horc in the pre-season, the first line is as fast as any scoring line in the league (except for maybe every line in San Jose).

The 4th line should be able to handle themselves, and maybe Moreau's offensive prowess will rub off on the grinder of all grinders, Sam Gagner: "Watch here, son, just keep firing slow wristers as the guy in the big pads, and some of them just find their way in."

I kind of agree with Brownlee on going to 3 scoring lines, at least until Pisani comes back, instead of dragging 3 of your 4 lines down with a player who can't make plays.

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#15 swany
December 18 2008, 03:57PM
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Why put MAP on that line I like the first line 2 guys that can skate with Hemmer, butI would have Penner with Horc and Cole, Gagner should centre the third line with MAP and Moreau and leave the fourth line alone

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#16 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 03:58PM
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For everybody who's on Steve Staios' case - and he's been bad this year - I strongly suggest reading the latest post at Oil Droppings. Bruce compares Smid, Staios and Strudwick. Here's an excerpt:

GF/GA per 20 ------------ Staios w . Smid: +0.000 / -0.000 = EVEN Staios w/o Smid: +0.723 / -1.012 = -0.289 Smid w/o Staios: +0.526 / -0.263 = +0.263 Strudwick w . Smid: +0.000 / -0.000 = EVEN Strudwick w/o Smid: +0.402 / -0.964 = -0.562 Smid w/o Strudwick: +0.349 / -0.175 = +0.174 Staios w. Strudwick: +0.374 / -1.028 = -0.654 Staios w/o Struds: +0.939 / -0.469 = +0.470 Struds w/o Staios: +0.325 / -0.325 = EVEN

The bolded section is one line I think is very relevant - I was pretty upset with Staios until I saw this (and a bunch of other) numbers he's posted playing without Strudwick. Think back to the games where Strudwick sat out - Staios hasn't been that bad. Not worth 2.7 million (in other words, if you get a chance, trade him) but serviceable.

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#17 Cam
December 18 2008, 04:03PM
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MattL wrote:

Watch here, son, just keep firing slow wristers as the guy in the big pads, and some of them just find their way in.”

This cracks me up. That will be after he has already left a trail of enamel from Sammy's teeth on the glass, saying "this is how you make him pay for trying to touch the puck on your watch" Screeeeeeeee

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#18 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 04:09PM
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@ Cam, MattL:

"And this is how to take a stupid hooking penalty that will let the opposition get back into it - watch this one son, you don't skate any better than me so you're gonna need it."

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#19 Jason Gregor
December 18 2008, 04:21PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: JW,

It is Penner who is on the off wing again, not Moreau. That is why it would make much more sense to have Pouliot on the RW with Moreau and Gagner and Penner on the LW with Horcoff and Cole.

FIVEANDAGAME,

Sundin just signed with Vancouver, so no trade with the NYR. And if they Rangers did sign him they would have had to trade away salary, the Oilers don't have enough cap space to take on any more. So they couldn't have traded away some of their dead weight anyways. No word yet on the length of Sundin's deal, but the Canucks can afford to pay him a pro-rated 10million this year if they want.

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#20 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 04:25PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Thats what I mean. He is a very serviceable d-man but not nearly worth 2.7 mil. I think Strudwick and Smid could be our bottom pairing. If we could get anything for Staios right now I think the boys up stairs whould have to look hard at it. Souray has taken over the leadership on the back end and with him around and the Oilers having a surplus of NHL ready D, Staios at 33 is the best option to have leave.

If we could package him for something worthwhile you got to take it.

In My opinion Staios' best days are behind him by a large margin, but thats not to say he won't be invigorated by a look with a new team (StLouis maybe? Their top three paid D-men are out of their line up....New York ...either one)

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#21 Fiveandagame
December 18 2008, 04:25PM
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@ Jason Gregor: Oh snap, that just happened.....wow

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#22 FS
December 18 2008, 04:32PM
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Hey the Cancuks just picked up a center, some guy named Sundin.

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#23 Gord
December 18 2008, 04:40PM
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jason Gregor wrote:

Nilsson - Cogliano - Hemsky Pouliot - Horcoff - Cole Moreau - Gagner - Penner Strudwick - Brodziak - Stortini Odd man out: Reddox

I have been saying all year to split the kids into 3 lines so they have some vets to play with. I can't help but to repeat myself yet again: Penner - Cogliano - Hemsky Nilsson - Horcoff - Cole Moreau - Gagner - Pouliot Strudwick - Brodziak - Stortini Odd man out: Reddox

Horcoff isn't a #1 C and will never be a #1 C, so let's try grooming one of the kids, or at least give them a shot to see if any chemistry exists.

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#24 Jonathan Willis
December 18 2008, 04:49PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

It is Penner who is on the off wing again, not Moreau. That is why it would make much more sense to have Pouliot on the RW with Moreau and Gagner and Penner on the LW with Horcoff and Cole.

Gotcha - thanks for clarification.

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#25 cole
December 18 2008, 05:08PM
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Typical MacT split up the only line that has been contributing regularly in Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky and than to take Penner off his natural left wing makes no sense, this is a coach who just does not get it. "Rome was not built in a day" and niether is chemistry between line mates.

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#26 Dennis
December 18 2008, 06:08PM
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Here's the way things WERE:

- first line was kicking a** both in terms of outchancing and outscoring.

- 51 line was getting nothing done.

- Kids line were doing about the same.

So, I really don't see what the big deal is about breaking that up. Isn't it Better to see if some guys can drive their own lines? What's the risk? We end up a .500 team? Oh wait, that's already the case.

I think Brownlee has the best point here: no matter what you do the current collection isn't good enough. So I think that's what this latest mix-up is indicitive of. If this doesn't work, then all options have been exhausted.

A couple of final notes: I've seen 78-10 play a few shifts together before and the latter doesn't trust the former. So that line isn't gonna work if that continues to happen. Finally, things are about to get a whole lot harder for 12-13 because whatever line 83's on is going to be the line the other team focuses on. We have the hammer for the vast majority of the near future given we only have three road games in the next while but if you saw what Quinville did the other night some coaches are willing to go through hoops to make sure their Kanes and Sharps don't have to take on Hemsky even when their on the road.

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#27 baggedmilk
December 18 2008, 06:12PM
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I like watching the team lose. It sure is fun.

8 more years of MacTavish should take care of everything!

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#28 Tyler Fisher
December 18 2008, 07:10PM
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If those are the lines tomorrow someone's getting a pipe bomb for Christmas. I hear they're on for a good price at Home Depot. This is brutal to watch. Like a God dam three legged dog with downs syndrome chasing his tail, pissed off his ass is getting bitten while he hopes things get better. The real question is who is dumber - Mac T for pulling that garbage out of his hat or K Lowe for watching go on. Stop pulling the shades down in the office and watching it happen. Step in a do something about this for the love of God.

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#29 Chris
December 19 2008, 08:01AM
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Didn't you guys conclude just a few posts ago that Hemsky plays better with Horcoff? MacT... you risk making yourself look stupid. How can the Oilers say, on one hand, that things are okay and it's just two losses since we were on a roll, then with the other hand blow up the lines?

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#30 Rick
December 19 2008, 09:32AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: JW, It is Penner who is on the off wing again, not Moreau. That is why it would make much more sense to have Pouliot on the RW with Moreau and Gagner and Penner on the LW with Horcoff and Cole.

I agree that it's again trying to fit a square peg into a round hole but there is a part of me that can make some sense from this.

The first two line pretty much speak for themselves so there is no point commenting.

I would suggest that sliding pouliot down to play with Gagner and Moreau pretty much gives you nothing. They won't score because the only offensive guy is struggling beyond belief and they can't be put out to check because Gagner in a checking role is suicide.

Now putting Gagner with Penner on the thrid line could be just the trick to help Gagner out. He flat out said that he has never been a guy that scores off the rush and finds it much more comfortable to play off the cycle so Penner and Moreau fit right into Gagner's wheel house in that regard. Penner has good enough hands to be an offensive spark and Moreau is tenacious enough to generate a decent cycle in the zone. The perpelexing part is playing Penner on the off wing, obviously.

But consider this, Penner's struggles early on seemed to be because he simply wasn't giving a full effort. How much of that was because he was on the off wing is debateable, I guess we will find out.

The larger example for this argument is how shitty Cole was on the wrong side. The trick here is that Cole seems to only show signs of life coming in off the rush, much much tougher for a guy to adjust to an off wing when you play that style. Driving the net from one side or the other really is about how comfortable you feel in cutting towards the net.

When you play off the cycle, the wing you line up on pretty much disappears. It just doesn't matter what side you started the play on.

Of course for that to work they need to stay out of your own end and get into the offensive zone....which is where the big test will be.

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#31 topshelf
December 19 2008, 10:19AM
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MAP sucks.

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#32 Malc
December 19 2008, 11:12AM
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How do you split up the only line producing? Penner - on a point-per-game pace since being called out - gets put on his off wing on the 3rd line? Pouliot gets moved to a scoring line? Is this a joke? The only good I see is that Cole is finally getting a shot on a scoring line (but with Pou?). Horcoff is where he belongs on the 2nd line, but shouldn't be since we don't have a 1st line center... And how does Gags playing with Moreau on the 3rd line make any sense? Cogliano - Horcoff - Cole seems like it would make an effective line. But Brownlee is right - this is not a group of players that can be fitted together to make an effective team.

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#33 Jonathan Willis
December 19 2008, 11:57AM
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@ topshelf:

No, he doesn't.

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