Line Match-ups: Edmonton vs Phoenix

Jonathan Willis
December 23 2008 06:35PM

I haven’t been keeping up with the line match-ups; I have a finite amount of time, and this hobby eats up way too much of it as it is. Still, I thought the game last night was really interesting from a coaching viewpoint, and there were a few things that I could highlight that might otherwise be missed. For starters, let’s look at Edmonton’s even-strength line-up. The number on the right is the average even-strength ice-time of the line.

Edmonton’s Lineup

Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky = 12.2 minutes

Moreau – Pouliot – Cogliano = 11.4 minutes

Strudwick – Brodziak – Stortini = 7 minutes

Reddox – Gagner – Cole = 6.6 minutes

Grebeshkov – Visnovsky = 14.6 minutes

Smid – Staios = 11.5 minutes

Souray – Gilbert = 11.4 minutes

The Match-ups

Horcoff Line: Wayne Gretzky matches lines, just like every other coach in the National Hockey League. The extremely effective and underrated tandem of Sauer and Michalek saw two-thirds of the even-strength ice-time against the Horcoff line; both defencemen have done this sort of work for a number of years. Up front, Hanzal, Winnik and Fedoruk were the go-to guys, with Shane Doan’s line being the second choice.

Pouliot Line: The Coyotes coaching staff was much less concerned about these three; all the defensive pairings played against them, with Morris and Jovanovski leading the way. Up front, they saw a fair bit of Shane Doan’s line, with Olli Jokinen being the second choice.

Brodziak Line: Unsurprisingly, nearly half of this line’s playing time came against Phoenix’s bottom pairing. Beyond that, they saw players like Carcillo, Fedoruk and Lisin up front.

Gagner Line: Gretzky showed a surprising amount of respect for this line – although they had some shifts against the Turris line, they also played a fair bit against Michalek/Sauer and the Hanzal line.

Grebeshkov – Visnovsky: Used in offensive situations; I don’t know if Charlie Huddy has always done things this way, but this year he seems extremely interested in playing these guys as five-man units. Visnovsky, for example, saw the most ice-time against the Michalek-Sauer pairing, while his distribution against forwards was surprisingly even. This tandem is clearly supposed to get the offense going from their own end.

Smid – Staios: Used in defensive situations; lots of time against Morris and Jovanovski, so Huddy was tossing these guys over the boards in the defensive zone a lot. Again, their ice-time against the forwards is distributed fairly evenly.

Souray – Gilbert: The all-purpose pairing, with the caveat that Huddy refused to waste them against the Coyotes’ 4th line. Despite the lack of even-strength ice-time, these guys were used in all situations against Phoenix’s top-nine.

Notes

  • There were a lot of complaints about Craig MacTavish putting his love-child Reddox on the second line, but that is not what happened here. Sam Gagner and Erik Cole saw their even-strength minutes slashed; and given their performance thus far it’s been richly deserved. This was the fourth line last night.
  • Pouliot, Moreau and Cogliano were getting the sugar minutes last night; it’s been Cogliano’s gig all season, but Moreau and Pouliot are recent additions. Pouliot’s got a track record of scoring going back to his junior days and may be a good fit on this line; the use of Moreau there seems counter-intuitive and I doubt it continues.
  • Charlie Huddy seems more interested in situation when he sends out his defencemen than he is in opponent; this makes a good deal of sense given that some defenders will generate offense while others won’t. At the same time, it makes the guys deployed defensively look awfully bad and the guys used offensively look awfully good. I’m really not convinced that Staios can handle the role he was used in last night.
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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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 Tyler Fisher
December 23 2008, 08:20PM
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I would agree with the Staios observation. All i've seen him do all year is bleed goals, blow coverage, make rushed and ill advised decisions with the puck while being beaten up pushed out of the ring in the majority of the puck battles he's in. His time is up, the best is behind him and it began showing last year. I was a firmly believed that he was in the same situation as Jason Smith was and the only difference is he is now playing Jason's Phili-hockey in Edmonton instead of being dealt which is what i was hoping for last season. On paper a safe warrior type D-man with playoff experience could have caught a decent price from a contender and now we're stuck with an aged, over priced faucet. Sorry, Steve; i use to love you but your time as an integral part of our Defense Corp is no more.

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#2 ramped up
December 23 2008, 08:35PM
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If/when we make it to the playoffs I would rather see Steve Staios than say Grebs. Staios's value is greater for a team down the stretch. Staios looks like player that is bored/tired of losing and maybe looking for a way out so he can join a true contender. I also would not like to see him go personally but like tyler said he's costing the team with poor decisions.

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#3 Jonathan Willis
December 23 2008, 09:01PM
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Staios was one of my favorite players during the cup run; I recall one shift where he took a puck to the face but was trapped on the ice for nearly a full minute. A warrior through and through, but at this point I'm not confident he can handle anything other than third-pairing minutes.

And that's a problem, because he's getting paid as a top-4 defenseman.

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#4 Fiveandagame
December 23 2008, 09:44PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Pay check aside, Staios is just not capable of being the 'Shut Down' guy. Oilers need a solid physical force other than Souray on our back end. Staios is too small, too slow and is lacking the intensity he showed in his game when we had Jason Smith here.

If he wants to be accountable and be a leader on the ice his intensity has to improve, but you could say that about 80% of the team right now.

You know what I want to see? I want to see MacT get mad. Really mad. No slick witty comments or eloquent post game prose. Even he seems apathetic. Get mad. Get angry, get this team playing. Get the intensity up.

Fire up the troops MacT.

Sorry to turn this comment into yet another thing about MacT Willis. It just irks me something terrible.

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#5 topshelf
December 23 2008, 10:37PM
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Staois just looks too slow for the speed of the new game.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
December 23 2008, 10:58PM
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A lot of the problem is that Staios has played way too much with Strudwick (43). Here are some even-strength fun numbers:

Staios w/ 43: 5 goals for, 9 goals against Staios w/o 43: 8 goals for, 5 goals against

Staios w/ 43: Corsi -68 Staios w/o 43: Corsi -9

I like Staios as a third-pairing defender; he's physical enough and smart enough to get by, if he isn't saddled with Strudwick. Still, I think his days as a top-four option are probably over.

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#7 Jonathan Willis
December 23 2008, 11:00PM
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And the credit for getting me thinking about that belongs here. The numbers aren't quite the same because the ones I posted are up to date.

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#8 Adam Dyck
December 23 2008, 11:07PM
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I can't imagine a good reason for Cpt. Glass to be taking on the soft parade. HE doesn't have the scoring touch, and his one plus side seems to be his "hard work". Isn't that usually something you look for in a checking or energy line forward?

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#9 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 12:12AM
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@ Adam Dyck:

What's that line from Armaggedon? "That wasn't a choice, it was a lack of options." That's about the only reason I can come up with for putting Moreau there.

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#10 alphah
December 24 2008, 05:02AM
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Staios has made a lot of errors right around our net. He still has a reputation around the league, and he is still useful to some extent... his salary is reasonable for a team to absorb, especially if they have a lot of UFA's next year, they might see it as a positive. Guaranteed steady d-man for the next 2 years for a reasonable price... I could be wrong but I really believe there will be GM's that will see things that way.

I think our GM will also see it that way and will elect not to move him. It will be a mistake, as his performance continues to decline and the price remains the same... preventing younger and better options from taking his place.

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#11 Evaluating the defence pairings - OilersNation
December 24 2008, 08:23AM
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[...] the post below I examine the match-ups that each set of forwards and defence met against Phoenix. We’ve seen [...]

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#12 Clayton
December 24 2008, 10:36AM
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If you had your choice of defencemen from the league, who would you replace Staios with???

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#13 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:29AM
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@ Clayton:

Too many choices in that question, I'm afraid. I really think Staios isn't a bad fit with the team; he's just getting paid a little too much for what his role is.

Basically, I'd like to see a slightly cheaper, perhaps more physical, defenseman in his place.

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#14 topshelf
December 25 2008, 12:30AM
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b>alphah wrote:

Guaranteed steady d-man

The problem is he isn't that player anymore.

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