Phoenix roster breakdown

Jonathan Willis
December 21 2008 12:20PM

Tomorrow the Oilers play host to Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coytoes. The Coyotes are currently 7th in the West, with 36 points, five ahead of the 13th place Oilers. A combination of shrewd management (Don Maloney has been a revelation since coming over from the Rangers) and improving coaching (Wayne Gretzky is now in his fourth season with the team) has the Coyotes trending up on the ice for the first time in years.

Unfortunately, the improving on-ice product has been overshadowed by poor attendance and the questionable financial situation of its owner. Take this Globe & Mail story, which is full of doom and gloom -– the only item missing was a suggestion that Jim Balsillie would be happy to move the team to Hamilton.

In any case, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at exactly what the Oilers will be facing on the ice tomorrow night, and how Wayne Gretzky has deployed his lines the past few games. Here are the line combinations from last night against Phoenix, along with the role they played (lines are organized by even-strength ice-time):

Shane Doan – Steven Reinprecht – Peter Mueller: Played against everybody up front, with the exception of Rick Nash’s line. Ken Hitchcock was content to allow Doan to play against his second and fourth lines, although he matched his top defense pairing (Hejda/Commodore) against them all night.

Viktor Tikhonov – Olli Jokinen – Daniel Carcillo: This line played very similar minutes to Doan’s line – lots of time against everybody but Rick Nash. Hitchcock again got Heda and Commodore out against them a lot, but aside from that there wasn’t a hard match-up.

Todd Fedoruk – Martin Hanzal – Mikkel Boedker: I was a little shocked to see an 18-year old rookie (Boedker) and a sophomore player (Hanzal) out against Rick Nash’s line, but that’s what happened. 88% of the time Rick Nash was on the ice, this line was too.

Joakim Lindstrom – Kyle Turris – Enver Lisin: No firm matches here, Gretzky seemed content to play them against anyone.

Kurt Sauer – Zybnek Michalek: This pairing saw the top line of Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger and Fredrik Modin/Jakub Voracek. Seventy-five per cent of their even-strength ice-time came against Rick Nash, and Kurt Sauer played this same role with Colorado last season – shutting down top offensive talents. Did I mention that Sauer signed a four-year, $1.75M/season contract this off-season?

Ed Jovanovski – Derek Morris: Jovanovski and Morris saw the second tier of the Blue Jacket’s offense – Jiri Novotny, Kritian Huselius and Fredrik Modin/Jakub Voracek, with about half their ice-time coming against that line. They also saw some time in offensive situations against the Blue Jacket’s third line, which featured Mike Peca, Mike York, and a rotating winger (mostly Jared Boll).

Keith Yandle - Ken Klee : Played a fairly typical third-pairing game; scraps of ice-time against scraps of the roster.

Now that we’ve looked at Phoenix’s last game, let’s also take a look at their last road game, against Dallas:

Shane Doan – Olli Jokinen – Peter Mueller: Saw a ton of Brad Richard’s line – this line clearly takes the heavy checkers when it’s together. They also saw a lot of the Stars’ two defense pairings. As an aside, they got outplayed badly; Shane Doan was on the ice for both goals against, both of them scored by Richards’ linemate Loui Eriksson.

Todd Fedoruk – Martin Hanzal – Mikkel Boedker: Played fully half of the game against Mike Ribeiro’s line. Just as in the game against Columbus, this line was deployed in a largely checking role, and it still seems a curious choice.

Tikhonov – Reinprecht – Carcillo: Played against everybody. Clearly this line was Gretzky’s second choice in both the offensive and defensive departments.

Lindstrom – Turris – Porter: In a rather odd alignment, Kyle Turris’ line saw Mike Modano all night. In fairness, Modano was lugging around Toby Petersen and Mark Parrish, so it wasn’t a great line. That’s about as sheltered as it gets against Dallas – you can hide form Ribeiro and Richards, but then you have to play Mike Modano.

Kurt Sauer – Zybnek Michalek: Again used for the top defensive assignments, Sauer and Michalek split time against Ribeiro and Richards.

Ed Jovanovski – Ken Klee: Second choice for defensive assignments. Used largely in an offensive role in support of the Doan-Jokinen line.

Keith Yandle – Derek Morris: Yandle played strictly sheltered minutes, although Derek Morris spent some time in place of Ken Klee on the second pairing.

Summary

I would imagine that Wayne Gretzky uses lines similar to the road game against Dallas tomorrow night -– which will mean Martin Hanzal’s line in a checking role and Shane Doan and Olli Jokinen on the same line. I imagine that MacTavish will have the Horcoff – Penner – Hemsky line together again, as he used the min the third period against Anaheim, and if that’s the case he’ll likely try to play power-vs.-power while Gretzky tries to get Hanzal out against the Oilers top line. If, on the other hand, MacTavish puts Hemsky and Horcoff on seperate lines, things are greatly simplified – Doan and Jokinen would play against Horcoff, while Hemsky would draw Hanzal.

It’s also worth noting that the Oilers should be dominant in the faceoff circle – the Coyotes’ best face-off man is Martin Hanzal, and he’s only won 47.4 per cent of his draws this season. Reinprecht is a shade worse at 46.0 per cent, while Olli Jokinen is downright bad, with a 39.2 face-off percentage.

Random Notes

I’m as critical of The Hockey News as anyone, but they have some great online content right now. The staff writers are fairly vanilla (although Ken Campbell occasionally has some good stuff), but a pair of “Insiders” have been well worth reading. Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central scouting, and his blog is a must-read for anyone interested in the 2009 Draft. The other blog I wanted to point out is Sean Pronger’s – he had a terrific entry just under a week ago about being a frequent healthy scratch. For example, aside from the whole not playing thing, there’s some additional downside to being a healthy scratch:

The pre-game skate is where you get the ‘tap’ from the coach at the end of practice. Who me? Really? I thought I was practicing on the sixth line to throw off the other team. For the select few who won't be playing, the morning skate turns into an early-afternoon bag skate. Let me make sure I'm hearing this right. I don't get to play and I have to skate until I nearly puke? Beautiful, where do I sign up?

It’s good writing, and Sean Pronger can’t help it that he has a brother named Chris.

It’s probably also worth noting that Jussi Jokinen went unclaimed after being put on waivers by the Lightning.

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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 Fiveandagame
December 21 2008, 12:52PM
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Finally a team that the Oilers can win a few faceoffs against. I bet out PK and powerplay are better because of it.

I wonder how much that extra face off in the d-zone when you get a penalty is messing with our PK?

Oh and Mr. Willis, Scott Cullen had an interesting article about some odd stats that go unnoticed. Some Oilers make the lists, like Souray is in the top five in the league for missed shots at 55. So there you go some numbers for the numbers guy.

http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=260121

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#2 Jonathan Willis
December 21 2008, 02:42PM
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@ Fiveandagame:

I wish TSN would pay me to go to NHL.com and look at all the RTSS statistical leaders.

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#3 Chris
December 21 2008, 03:05PM
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Keith Yandle was drafted by Phoenix in 2005. Are the Oilers the only team in the NHL who didn't draft even one of their top seven defencemen?

Actually don't answer that. I don't have seven hours to try to explain why I think Oiler drafting and development is another weakness in this organization. I know I'm the only person in Oil Country who feels this way.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
December 21 2008, 03:08PM
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@ Chris:

Well, Theo Peckham should be on the list shortly. It's probably also worth noting that Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov and Ladislav Smid were all acquired as prospects.

Plus, Lubomir Visnovsky was acquired by trading away draft pick Matt Greene.

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#5 Chris
December 21 2008, 03:19PM
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Visnovsky was drafted by L.A. in the fourth round. Became a top pair defencemen and commanded two quality roster players in a trade. That is a home run by a scouting dept. L.A also drafted Grebeshkov.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
December 21 2008, 04:08PM
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Chris wrote:

Visnovsky was drafted by L.A. in the fourth round. Became a top pair defencemen and commanded two quality roster players in a trade. That is a home run by a scouting dept. L.A also drafted Grebeshkov.

Absolutely. Also shows the value of drafting overage European hockey players - Visnovsky was a 24-year old when he was finally drafted, and it's probably a black mark against hockey people in general that a guy averaging nearly a point/game in Europe lasted until the 4th round.

Seriously - how come this guy can go as a midround pick and immediately be a dominant offensive defenseman? Did he change much over the summer, or did the hockey establishment in general just not give him his due?

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#7 Chris
December 21 2008, 04:37PM
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The Oilers dynasty was built on the draft. Fuhr, Coffee, and Lowe were all first round draft picks... But Messier was a third round pick. Kurri and Anderson were both fourth round picks...(all in the hall of fame) I don't think the Oilers have hit a late round home run pick since the early 80s.

Since Lowe became GM I will give full credit for picking Hemskey. Hemmer was the best possible pick in 2001. Props to Prendergast. Unfortunately, I don't think we have made the best possible pick given our draft position since. (Jury is still out on Gagner)

Let's look at Visnovsky's draft year. In 2000 we selected Miknov ahead of LA's pick Frolov. Then Winchester ahead of LA's pick Andreas Lilja. We both wasted the third round and LA picked Visnovsky in the fourth. (We took Lou Dickenson).The following year Edmonton wasted our first pick on Ninimaki...but had it's best second round ever picking both Stoll and Green... the exact price we paid to land Visnovski. Most teams land good prospects in the first round. It is the late picks that give your organization an edge. Hell, LA picked Huet in the seventh round that year 50 or 60 players after we took Markkanaen. And despite all this LA still sucks! Go Figure.

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#8 Chris
December 21 2008, 04:58PM
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Chris wrote:

The following year Edmonton wasted our first pick on Ninimaki

Sorry I ment to say the year after picking Hemskey we wasted our pick on Ninimaki. 2002. My Bad. We need an edit key.

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#9 Joey Moss
December 21 2008, 09:26PM
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on paper this team almost looks better than the oilers... at the very least they are an even match.

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#10 Fiveandagame
December 21 2008, 11:06PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Thats funny:)

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#11 Deep Oil
December 22 2008, 09:35AM
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Note - Coyotes can't be moved - they have a sweetheart land deal lease tied to the city of Glendale - penalty is more than their combined losses - payout penatly would be around $190 million and decreases over time. I am hoping that the oil tank over Christmas - this goodship lollipop of acceptance of management and coaching that have painted themselves into more than one corner....with more than two days off - this again brings some concern about the oil showing up on time - so failure means reward - but the oil will reach 9th place and miss out on a franchise player.. any one thinking Lowe will come down to coach is narrow minded... ask Doug MacLean - Lowe only coached on year and has no track record before falling into EIG's arms fof a lifetime contract - it is now 18 years since the last cup - which leads to on the job training is taking the long way...... are we the Toronto Maple Leafs of the West - and by the way can the Oil Kings telemarketers stop calling my business, cell phone, and home - the OIL KINGS organization has taken the Xentel approach to marketing OLD TIMERS hockey games - seen it - been there done that - bought the T SHIRT - they finally fell on their sword and gave up the $12 parking that Northlands was extorting - kiling the goodwill of a family outing when the tickets were in the smilar price range...... remember the OILERS can do no wrong - the seats are full so why worry..... if someone dumps their season tickets - their are 3600 more suckers waiting in line...... I dumped my seats this year and am taking my $9k on vacation to the Dominican and Phoenix where I can golf, swim and enjoy my leisure time rather than support MACT with his monotone syllabic rhetoric of underachievement.

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#12 Chris
December 22 2008, 10:16AM
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@ Deep Oil: You're gonna regret dropping those tickets when the Oil start to win again...around 2027.

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#13 r59
December 22 2008, 10:36AM
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Deep Oil wrote:

It is now 18 years since the last cup - (we) are we the Toronto Maple Leafs of the West

Canucks - Haven't won a cup ever Flames - Last won in 1988

Explain that again to me deepoil?

You would think that a person like yourself who has apparently EVERY single answer would simply apply that gigantic brain to generating enough cash for Oiler tickets AND a vacation. But where's the preachy-ness in that I guess?

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#14 Jonathan Willis
December 22 2008, 10:37AM
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Deep Oil: Under normal circumstances, the Coyotes couldn't be moved, but Chapter 11 in the United States gives the bankrupt party the ability to shred their contracts.

The Coyotes have been losing money for years, and if the current ownership is in as much financial trouble as the Toronto Star and Globe & Mail believe/hope, it's certainly within the realm of possibility that the franchise could file for Chapter 11. Whether the league would permit that or not is something else entirely.

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#15 Cam
December 22 2008, 10:38AM
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@ Chris: You are correct: most great teams are built on the draft, just ask Detroit and Pittsburg.

Pointing out players who played better than expectation and so they were the steal of the draft will always make us say "oh, they shoulda" but if they get two players out of each draft that play in the NHL then they are above average. That would make thirty players in a fifteen year span which is bigger than an NHL team.

If the Oilers accomplish this and get a gem or two every few years (Hemsky, maybe Gagner), then I have no complaints.

I just remember the days of Fraser and am quite happy with where we are today. Fraser was a dolt.

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#16 Deep Oil
December 22 2008, 10:41AM
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When you are the only game in town - you can run the funny farm with no accountability - this neoptism of old oil needs a change - the odometer has been rapped - bottom line is alleged billionaire Katz has a loan on this team for $100mm - when does the interest crunch come into play with no playoff revenue and a weak loonie - also - if he was going to borrow $100 million for the arena - who is going to lend him the coin in this market - banks are not lending today - no brainer.

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#17 Wanye Gretz
December 22 2008, 10:43AM
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Deep Oil wrote:

Note - Coyotes can’t be moved - they have a sweetheart land deal lease tied to the city of Glendale - penalty is more than their combined losses - payout penatly would be around $190 million and decreases over time.

Placing the team in bankruptcy would void that contract deepoil.

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#18 Cam
December 22 2008, 10:44AM
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r59 wrote:

Deep Oil wrote: It is now 18 years since the last cup - (we) are we the Toronto Maple Leafs of the West Canucks - Haven’t won a cup ever Flames - Last won in 1988 Explain that again to me deepoil? You would think that a person like yourself who has apparently EVERY single answer would simply apply that gigantic brain to generating enough cash for Oiler tickets AND a vacation. But where’s the preachy-ness in that I guess?

League average is one cup every 30 years and one SCF every fifteen years. The Leafs have been forty one years without so they are below average. The Oilers have been 18 years without a cup and 2 years since a SCF, so the Oilers are above average.

Deep Oil - don't get too worked up.

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#19 Jonathan Willis
December 22 2008, 11:10AM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

Placing the team in bankruptcy would void that contract deepoil.

Haha, beat you to it.

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#20 Wanye Gretz
December 22 2008, 12:57PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Wanye Gretz wrote: Placing the team in bankruptcy would void that contract deepoil. Haha, beat you to it.

BLAST

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#21 Deep Oil
December 22 2008, 03:38PM
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@ Wanye Gretz: The creditors would have first dibs on this team - just like Nashville, Buffalo and so on - you may think you start a newco....but you can't run from your mistakes or liabilities - PHX is losing $30 mm per year and MOYES trucking company is in trouble located in the death zone called PHX - Bettman has proven that moving a team to Canada is not in the best interest of his objectives - noting Pitt and Nash - in the same motion Bettman has devalued the amount that Jim B was willing to pay prior to his $8Billion writedown in stock value of RIM - JIM B is a client of mine - with 3B in present day stock holdings he is still working the same as when he had $14Billion - same approach. Minnesota sold for $160 million - Katz paid less than $200 million if you do the share count.... team values are going down and no one is buying.... the pyramid scheme is over and Bettmans neck will be on the chopping block - greedy little bastard stopping one season with a FIXED salary cap of $45mm .... I would request that Gregor or Robin address the $100million question where alleged billionaire Daryl is going to get his cake - is McKesson (Rexall Partner) going to bail him out again - Edmonton is not ready for $200 tickets, $12 beers and $15 Parking - note no matter how much it is made possible - Riverbend and Terwillegar folk will not take the Southgate LRT - beneath them.... not having oil tickets this year means more time for family, and watching the games on tv is more consoling when the score in the third period is 9 - 1...... I do not have billions but a few million in assets - Oilers are not worth my time to commit and I have joined the DARK SIDE - THE ANTI OILER - plain and simple - I will be on the beach in Puerto Plata in January, PHX in February and Maui in March - economical holidays with Westjet and conservative villa rentals.... I am just waiting for the shoe to drop when Katz has to borrow the money for the arena and the government finally adds a car rental tax, hotel tax, restaurant tax and increases the user fee tax on ALL tickets - while the province giving MILLIONS for the Museum and Art Gallery to which very few Edmontonians will visit. Bottom line I see a PERSONAL SEAT LICENSE to which the common folk will wake up in 2011 and say what the FLIP - we have a new owner with old overpaid contracts instituted by the boys on the bus and have to overpay to keep or attract RFA and FA's (not successful) - failure, and the old boys club seems to get paid every two weeks - if Chicago can fire Savard and Tallon is on the hot seat - why is dumb and dumber still standing - with a puppet called Tambellini waiting to mop the floor and be the bad guy....... I am hoping for two losses over the Christmas (NOT FLIPPING HAPPY HOLIDAY - political correctness sucks) season - and watch the fans become savages on the TEAM 1260 because you are not allowed to voice negative comments on CHED. Then when the team has lowered the performance and season tickets drop off for next year - the thinking that a 19 000 buliding will come into play - Death to the Oil - a 4 year cancer based on the contracts of Horcoff, Pisani, and Penner - Katz cant afford to buy these passengers out.....Cole sit as an RFA - look in the mirror as another GM - would you really want anyone except for Souray or Hemsky (who is scared to shoot the puck and teases us for no end).... cheering for the oil is like torture as OILER NATION could manage this by internet vote committee in better fashion - not joking. The END IS NEAR - let's hope.

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#22 Gord
December 22 2008, 04:18PM
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@ Deep Oil: Rant much?

BTW, Hemsky is leading all Oilers in shots.

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#23 Gord
December 22 2008, 04:20PM
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^all Oiler FORWARDS in shots^

Wanye, where is that damn edit button??? ;)

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#24 Chris
December 22 2008, 04:51PM
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Cam wrote:

I just remember the days of Fraser and am quite happy with where we are today. Fraser was a dolt

I still have nightmares of Kelly ahead of Doan, Iginla, Sykora etc. But I still say the new regime is mediocre to the core. The GM is mediocre (Lowe). The Coach is mediocre. Draft performance is mediocre.(No Big Time Homerun Since Hemskey. Yet Colorado, for example, has had at least two in that time frame)

I don't expect the team to win the cup every year... but in the "Heartland of Hockey" I expect a competative team. We are behind TORONTO in the standings. TORONTO!

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#25 The English Language
December 22 2008, 05:00PM
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Deep Oil:

I take it your millions were not acquired in a career where you needed to write or express yourself coherently. Kudos.

Maybe you're a fashion model? A pirate?

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