July 25 2008 09:18AM
Dan Tencer had a nice interview with Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy (the man in charge of the defense) the other day, one that I actually missed and only went back and listened to after David Staples pointed it out on his blog. There were a couple of comments that stood out to me. On further trades/signings: “That’s in Kevin’s court, but I guess you’re always looking when you’re going through the summer, if there’s improvements you can make.” While it may seem like a no-brainer that Lowe is always looking for ways to improve the team, I found it interesting that Huddy didn’t preface his comment with some kind of “oh, we’re really happy with what we have right now” statement. Could there be something in the works? On Joni Pitkanen: “Joni did a lot of good things for us… sometimes guys have their own reads on how they should play and things like that, and at some point you have to be able to follow a game plan…” That’s pretty harsh criticism, although it was mixed in with “well, you have to give Joni credit…” and statements of that ilk. That comment tells me that Pitkanen was, in all likelihood, unresponsive to coaching, a player who did what he felt was best at the time, regardless of what the staff wanted him to do in certain situations. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was dealt. It also doesn’t surprise me that his teammates wouldn’t embrace that sort of attitude. On Ladislav Smid’s tendency to turn into a wild dog after the whistle: “It can’t be after every whistle.” He also chuckled and said something to the effect of how it was difficult not to like his exuberance. I imagine this season that they’ll work and controlling Smid’s aggression, and getting more of it out during the play rather than after. On defense pairings: “It’s MacT’s choice” I hadn’t realized that MacTavish made the decision on who was paired with who; I’d always assumed that was Huddy’s department. As for the actual pairings, Huddy indicated that the thinking was to start the year with these pairings: Souray - Staios Visnovsky - Gilbert Grebeshkov - Smid Strudwick Looking at those groups, I can’t help but think that the Oilers plan to use Souray/Staios as a shutdown pairing. Despite David Staples error rankings, I really don’t think that it’s a role Souray can fill over an entire season. For that matter, I’m fairly confident that Staios won’t be able to handle that duty over the entire season. 20 games in, if these pairings stay together, I expect that Gilbert and Visnovsky will be taking over that duty. I suppose it was somewhat obvious as a choice, but I really like the third pairing. Grebeshkov should have no difficulty at all excelling in that role and I rather think Ladislav Smid should also be able to outmatch his opposition.. I’m expecting something of a breakthrough season from Smid. As a final note, for those of us who hadn’t already given up on Mathieu Roy, in a 16-minute interview about the defense, Huddy didn’t mention him once. —Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.com.