GDB XXII: Preventing another Avalanche

Jason Gregor
November 18 2009 11:49AM

It's quite amusing how after one blow-out loss to Vancouver, many thought the Avalanche bubble had burst, and they were destined for the bottom of the standings. I don’t think they will stay in the top two in the West division, but I don’t see them plummeting to the bottom either. They are 5-4-1 in their last ten, and if they play like that in ten game segments the rest of the year, they will be right in the mix.

Unlike the Oilers right now, the Avalanche understand and play the system their coach wants. They clog up the neutral zone if they get a lead, and while they give up a lot of shots, many come from the outside. And they don't turn the puck over very often in the neutral zone.

The biggest surprise in Colorado has been Ryan O’Reilly. The second-round pick this past summer is in double digits in points (15) and +/- (12). The best way to describe his game is mature. He is just as good away from the puck as he is when he has it.

Pat Quinn, and his predecessor, has tried urging the Oilers younger players to realize that if they make smart plays in their own zone and away from the puck that it will ultimately lead to more offence. So far though, Quinn hasn’t been able to get the kids and some of his veterans to understand this concept.

When you watch the game tonight, take a few shifts and watch what O’Reilly does. Don’t watch the play, focus on O’Reilly. Then pick an Oiler and do the same. You might be surprised in the results.

Up-tempo

The Oilers had an up-tempo morning skate. They had more jump than usual, and the pace was quicker. Speaking with them after practice it is clear they realize they need to be more aggressive and have more energy in their game.

The Oilers are 2-6-2 in the last ten and begin a five-game home stand tonight. After games against the Avs, Hawks, Coyotes, Kings and Sharks they head back on the road for six games. If they don’t get seven points out of ten at home, they could be in serious trouble heading on the road.

New lines

Pat Quinn shuffled his lines again this morning:

Penner — Horcoff — Hemsky
Reddox — O’Sullivan — Brule
Strudwick — Cogliano — Comrie
Moreau — Potulny — Stortini

Gilbert — Souray
Smid — Visnovsky
Staios — Arsene

Deslauriers

Quinn has got to get some secondary scoring going so it is no surprise he has juggled the lines again. At this point I don’t think there is any combination that would give him a better chance, so he is going with completely new combinations.

It looks like he is reverting back to having some sort of grit/physical presence on his bottom three lines. Sam Gagner wasn’t in any of the lines, but I spoke to him after practice and he said he is ready to go. When I asked Quinn he admitted that Gagner is likely to play, so that will change the lineup.

If Gagner goes you have to think that Strudwick will move back to the blue line, unless Quinn wants more size up front. Mike Comrie still isn’t feeling right. His energy level isn’t where he wants it to be, but he said he is feeling a bit better today. That would explain why he has looked a step behind that past few games.

We could see a battle of the back ups tonight. Craig Anderson has played 20 games already for the Avalanche and last week Joe Sacco said he would try to get him some rest. When you consider the Oilers have faced a back up in 8 of their 21 games so far it wouldn’t surprise me if Peter Budaj gets the start tonight.

Injury update

J.F Jacques skated this morning, but won’t return until Saturday at the earliest. Robert Nilsson wasn’t even on the ice this morning, and he is still suffering with concussion-like symptoms. Ryan Stone didn’t practice with the team and his still has soreness in his knee, so unfortunately he is at least another week away.

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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 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 11:53AM
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What is up with Comrie?

I like having the one big guy on each line or at least guys like Brule, seems to make us a better team.

I'd sit Potulny and move Gagner onto line 3, which would push Cogliano back to his regular spot.

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#2 Tayranchula
November 18 2009, 11:56AM
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Hopefully Jacques and Stone come back healthy and make an impact the way they did at the beginning of the year because the Oilers really need there play.

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#3 I'm a Scientist!
November 18 2009, 12:07PM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

I would put Gagner on that third line as well, but I would move Cogliano to the wing and put Strudwick on D. That would make me the most happy.

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#4 Deans
November 18 2009, 12:11PM
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Question, does Ryan O'Reilly have a brother named Cyril? Everytime I hear the name Ryan O'Reilly I instantly think of OZ

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#5 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 12:13PM
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@I'm a Scientist!

I just like the big body on every line as it seemed to work last game. Who knows though Quinn is worse then MacT when it comes to letting us know about the lines.

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#6 Librarian Mike
November 18 2009, 12:17PM
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Deans wrote:

Question, does Ryan O'Reilly have a brother named Cyril? Everytime I hear the name Ryan O'Reilly I instantly think of OZ

It would certainly make the post-game showers interesting.

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#7 Giggsunited
November 18 2009, 12:19PM
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"When you watch the game tonight, take a few shifts and watch what O’Reilly does. Don’t watch the play, focus on O’Reilly. Then pick an Oiler and do the same. You might be surprised in the results."

As you watch the games on TV it's hard to watch the behind the scenes on what the players are doing right/wrong. In thinking of that I started to chuckle when I remember now that, videotron? had the controller and ability to change different camera angles and focus on certain players during a Oilers broadcast on A Channel? I think it worked just as good as the Oilers PPV today! haha

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#8 Giggsunited
November 18 2009, 12:20PM
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or was it videoway? lol what a bad deal that was!

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#9 I'm a Scientist!
November 18 2009, 12:21PM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Yeah that is true, i am just tired of Cogs being 1) a center and 2) stuck with a couple of anchors.

Hey, why is Brule on the wing? Hasn't he been doing pretty well on the dot?

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#10 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 12:26PM
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@I'm a Scientist!

I lost faith in Cogliano getting off that 4th line.

Not sure about Brule either, he is probably our 2nd best faceoff man.

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#11 I'm a Scientist!
November 18 2009, 12:27PM
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Game Day Prediction: Oilers win a close one. 2-1 in regular time. Goals from Brule and Horcoff. The Brule goal will be the direct result of crashing the net, the Horcoff goal will be a nice shot from the slot.

Obvious Game Day Prediction: Mike Comrie will be slow.

Not So Obvious Game Day Prediction: Hillary Duff will be at the game, getting wasted on 8 dollar beers. When the kiss cam comes on, she will grab Tommy Salo's wife and plant a big juicy one on her...

Goilers.

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#12 MattL
November 18 2009, 12:28PM
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Ah, nothing like the ol' Strudwick — Cogliano — Comrie line. Like the Triple Crown line, the French Connection, all time great line. Makes me feel like it's 1994 all over again!

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#13 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 12:29PM
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Reddox 2nd line LWer? TWO coaches can't be wrong can they? Or is this a case of the best of the worst? I gotta hand it to him though, he makes the best of his opportunties when he gets called up. Too bad he didn't have an NHL caliber offensive upside.

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#14 Ross C
November 18 2009, 12:30PM
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EDIT: Do not read this comment if you have a phobia of the word "game"

Has anyone ever thought that maybe a reason this team has struggled the last few seasons is because the line-ups are juggled every single game?

Part of being a great team is finding your game, learning your linemates game, and then perfecting your unit. It's way easier to learn 2 people's game than it is to learn 11 others' game, and it gives zero opportunity to even start thinking about perfecting a unit's game.

To be fair, there have been alot of illnesses and injuries this season. That wasn't a large issue last year though, and MacT still managed to change the lines every single game, and then once more half way through the game.

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#15 MattL
November 18 2009, 12:32PM
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Ross C wrote:

EDIT: Do not read this comment if you have a phobia of the word "game"

Has anyone ever thought that maybe a reason this team has struggled the last few seasons is because the line-ups are juggled every single game?

Part of being a great team is finding your game, learning your linemates game, and then perfecting your unit. It's way easier to learn 2 people's game than it is to learn 11 others' game, and it gives zero opportunity to even start thinking about perfecting a unit's game.

To be fair, there have been alot of illnesses and injuries this season. That wasn't a large issue last year though, and MacT still managed to change the lines every single game, and then once more half way through the game.

Yes, lots of people have thought this. Lots of people have also realized that lines stay together because they are reliable and consistent, not the other way around.

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#16 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 12:33PM
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@Ross C

Kinda hard to do with all the injuries. Really the first line and the fourth line have been the same for most of the year, so it is just line 2 and 3 being messed around.

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#17 Ross C
November 18 2009, 12:35PM
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@MattL

It's hard to find any type of consistency if you don't get consistent practice time with a single line.

It's like asking a player to be consistent when they only play him once every two weeks. The only thing he will be is consistently crappy.

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#18 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 12:38PM
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@Ross C

"It's like asking a player to be consistent when they only play him once every two weeks. The only thing he will be is consistently crappy."

JDD may argue that....

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#19 MattL
November 18 2009, 12:41PM
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Wow, I'm sure you guys have already seen the goal celebration of the year by now, but in case you haven't: hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4_MKH1ldHI

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#20 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 12:49PM
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The other thing on consistency you always here the coach saying talking about the pressbox players and how they have to be ready at any given time. The players themselves talk about too, so why is it that the 13th forwards needs to be ready to play in any scenario that he is thrown into, but the twelve guys ahead of him don't?

I just find it funny that these guys are pros they practice together everyday, sometimes together sometimes apart but they can't figure each other out come gametime. Why is it that mens league teams that don't practice find ways to gel, but NHL players need to be walked through every step of the game?

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#21 roughneck
November 18 2009, 12:52PM
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Ryan O"reillys points are a bit surprising, his overall game not so much. He shut down Tavares and the rest of the OHL prima donnas with regularity last year. He seemed to relish the challenge. His weakness was handling his frustrations, late in games when the fat lady was warming up he took some dumb penalties because he was mad about losing. It probably raised maturity concerns.

I would be curious to see what the Oilers scouts book on him was.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 12:56PM
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Side point:

In terms of minutes played, Cogliano (along with Moreau and Stortini) have been the third line the last few days.

Comrie's line has been the fourth line.

In other words, moving Cogliano to Comrie's line is more likely to be a demotion than promotion.

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#23 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 12:57PM
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As for Colorado, only two teams in the Western Conference have slowed down more since their first ten games.

Edmonton and St. Louis.

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#24 Librarian Mike
November 18 2009, 12:57PM
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@I'm a Scientist!

I'd like to see Linday Lohan with Hilary puking into the Avs bench.

ahem:

Game Day Prediction: Oilers win (they have to at some point) 5-3 in which Sully explodes with 2, and the others from Souray, Penner, and Gilbert.

Obvious Prediction: Hejduk will score at least one goal on the Oilers.

Not so Obvious Prediction: Ryan O'Reilly will reveal himself to actually be the guy from the 'OZ' TV show, and Pat Quinn will tear off his mask to reveal himself as Ernie Hudson.

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#25 Ogden Brother
November 18 2009, 12:57PM
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Ross C wrote:

EDIT: Do not read this comment if you have a phobia of the word "game"

Has anyone ever thought that maybe a reason this team has struggled the last few seasons is because the line-ups are juggled every single game?

Part of being a great team is finding your game, learning your linemates game, and then perfecting your unit. It's way easier to learn 2 people's game than it is to learn 11 others' game, and it gives zero opportunity to even start thinking about perfecting a unit's game.

To be fair, there have been alot of illnesses and injuries this season. That wasn't a large issue last year though, and MacT still managed to change the lines every single game, and then once more half way through the game.

I've seen fans from almost every team in the league complain about it.

So no, I don't think juggling has been a factor.

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#26 The Towel Boy
November 18 2009, 01:01PM
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Hmmm...the Oilers have faced 8 backups so far this season. The Oilers have 8 wins. Coincidence?

...I'd say yes, cuz that's what a coincidence is. *runs off to eat 3349th bag of left over fuzzy peach Halloween candy.

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#27 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 01:01PM
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And as for Ryan O'Reilly (who I like a lot) I don't think he's as good as he's looking right now just yet. Don't get me wrong, he's a very good player with a strong NHL future (IMO), but his 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage is second-best in the league.

Here are the top five:

-Knuble: 17.12% -O'Reilly: 16.10% -Ovechkin: 15.97% -Kovalchuk: 15.49% -Reinprecht: 15.38%

Just for perspective, the best number of any player with more than 40GP last year was Evgeni Malkin's 13.23%.

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#28 I'm a Scientist!
November 18 2009, 01:05PM
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@Librarian Mike

I am glad that you follow my lead with these. Who knew a librarian could be so funny!

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#29 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 01:07PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

And as for Ryan O'Reilly (who I like a lot) I don't think he's as good as he's looking right now just yet. Don't get me wrong, he's a very good player with a strong NHL future (IMO), but his 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage is second-best in the league.

Here are the top five:

-Knuble: 17.12% -O'Reilly: 16.10% -Ovechkin: 15.97% -Kovalchuk: 15.49% -Reinprecht: 15.38%

Just for perspective, the best number of any player with more than 40GP last year was Evgeni Malkin's 13.23%.

JW,

So what you're saying is, like the Oilers inflated shooting percentage early on in the season, O'Reilly's will eventually come back down to earth?

Nice stat, even so, being in the same company as a couple of those guys is pretty impressive 20 gamesish in. But you're right, it can't last.

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#30 Librarian Mike
November 18 2009, 01:09PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

I am glad that you follow my lead with these. Who knew a librarian could be so funny!

Librarians, scientists...we geeks need to stick together.

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#31 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 01:13PM
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Not so obvious predicition #3 -

~Librarian and Scientist hug it out in mutual admiration, while at the same time watching H.Duff & Mrs. Salo lock lips. They consider doing same, but then think better of it.~

JK fellas! Next to Wanye, your comical interludes are the bestest!

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#32 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 01:13PM
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@Jonathan Willis

So does that mean he doesn't do to well on the PP or 4 on 4 hockey? What is the fascination with 5 on 5, don't you won't overall shooting percentage?

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#33 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 01:17PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

So does that mean he doesn't do to well on the PP or 4 on 4 hockey? What is the fascination with 5 on 5, don't you won't overall shooting percentage?

This stuff's only available from behindthenet.ca, which tracks 5v5, 5v4 and 4v5 (other game states being too small to talk about).

O'Reilly has 15 points, and none of them have come on the power play (which is actually very impressive; I believe 15 ES points would put him in the top ten in the league at ES scoring). That's why his plus/minus (+12) corresponds so closely to his goal scoring. So power play percentages would be totally useless, since that's a negligible part of his game. Meanwhile, the penalty kill has a minimal effect on either.

His offence is coming at 5v5, and the shooting percentage is the biggest reason for it. His on-ice save percentage is somewhere in the .950 range, which doesn't hurt either.

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#34 I'm a Scientist!
November 18 2009, 01:24PM
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Dyckster wrote:

Not so obvious predicition #3 -

~Librarian and Scientist hug it out in mutual admiration, while at the same time watching H.Duff & Mrs. Salo lock lips. They consider doing same, but then think better of it.~

JK fellas! Next to Wanye, your comical interludes are the bestest!

That isn't obvious? Weird, i thought for sure that prediction was a LOCK!

*peeks at Librairian over a rack of beakers*

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#35 Ender
November 18 2009, 01:36PM
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MattL wrote:

Wow, I'm sure you guys have already seen the goal celebration of the year by now, but in case you haven't: hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4_MKH1ldHI

I don't know about 'Celebration of the Year', but it's pretty funny.

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#38 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 01:49PM
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@Jason Gregor

"Why would you even suggest that cherry picking this stat means he isn't that good.

He has an 11.4 SH%. Why does five on five matter? All of his goals have come five-on-five. He doesn't have a PP goal, so he actually isn't getting easier points.

How does EV strength shooting % show he isn't very good?

He doesn't have ONE point on the PP? Not one, yet you somehow suggest he isn't good because he basically doesn't have a goal on the PP?

Please."

Like I posted earlier (#29), I think what JW is saying (JW feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), is that O'Reilly won't be able to keep up the 16.10% pace based on Malkin's percentage of last year. He was using 5 versus 5 numbers cuz there WAS NO PP numbers to compare with. Apples to Apples Gregor..

And sorry, I haven't figured out how to highlight a quote yet.

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#40 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 01:55PM
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@ Jason Gregor

The Avalanche have gone from a goal differential of +1.10 per game over their first 10 to -0.28 over their last 11. That first number is incredibly dominant. The second number is missing the playoffs.

As for O'Reilly, you clearly missed my point. I even explicitly stated that O'Reilly's "a very good player with a strong NHL future". On-ice even-strength shooting percentage shows that his line has been getting more (actually, way more) goals than they really deserve given their shot rates. Shot rates are highly repeatable, shooting percentage is highly random. Therefore, the odds are that his scoring will drop back to a level suggested by his shot rate, because frankly his line doesn't have the skill to cash in on chances 20% more often than Malkin's line last season.

As for this:

He doesn't have ONE point on the PP? Not one, yet you somehow suggest he isn't good because he basically doesn't have a goal on the PP?

sometimes I wonder if you deliberately misunderstand me. I said precisely the opposite of that, if you'll recall:

O'Reilly has 15 points, and none of them have come on the power play (which is actually very impressive; I believe 15 ES points would put him in the top ten in the league at ES scoring).

(bolding added)

My suggestion was simple. O'Reilly's line is 20% more likely to score on any shot they take than Evgeni Malkin's line last year. O'Reilly and his linemates are not 20% more talented than Malkin and his linemates (the best in the league last year) are. Therefore, his shooting percentage is likely to drop, particularly since shooting percentage is not highly repeatable. Since shot rates are highly repeatable, they aren't likely to go up. Therefore, O'Reilly's offence will suffer, and his point totals will go down.

We had this same argument about Eric Staal last year.

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#41 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 01:56PM
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@Dyckster

But all that 5 on 5 stat tells me is that the time he is given on the PP is worthless.

Seriously there is probably a stat that is out there that makes Schremp look great at something.

I went to that behindthenet, there is so many stats there I don't know what to think. What ever happened to the simply stats and then just watching the game to determine how good a player is?

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#42 HansBaurMesserschmittWatson
November 18 2009, 01:59PM
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oilers will come with a lot of energy, zack may even fight. they will come out strong and get two goals to take that lead into the first intermission.

in the second period when the oilers come out and try to play more responsible, staios and moreau will both take penalties that will allow avalanche back in the game.

the kids will be pissed off at their veteran leadership and check out the game for the rest of the second and third. allowing hejduk to finish them off in the third.

horcoff will hurt his shoulder again sometime during the game. this will force quinn to put strudwick as a centre between penner and hemsky. strudwick will play so good he will be named pierre's monster even in a losing cause.

im sorry for my poor humour and the poopy attitude, but looking at those lines i wanted to sh it in my hand and throw it at the computer screen.

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#43 Dyckster
November 18 2009, 02:00PM
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Jason,

Just to clarify,

Jonathan's quoted as saying: "And as for Ryan O'Reilly (who I like a lot) I don't think he's as good as he's looking right now just yet. Don't get me wrong, he's a very good player with a strong NHL future"

That to me says he's good just not as good as his early season numbers suggest. I guess he (O'Reilly) could be compared to the whole Avalanche team in that regard?

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#45 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 02:02PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

But all that 5 on 5 stat tells me is that the time he is given on the PP is worthless.

Seriously there is probably a stat that is out there that makes Schremp look great at something.

I went to that behindthenet, there is so many stats there I don't know what to think. What ever happened to the simply stats and then just watching the game to determine how good a player is?

Ideally, stats and watching the game tell us the same thing. We can't watch all the games played by all the teams though, so to compare players across team we need statistics, and the simple ones just don't tell us enough.

It's not that watching the game doesn't give you enough. It's just that two people don't always agree on what they see watching the game, and nobody can watch everything.

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#46 Jonathan Willis
November 18 2009, 02:05PM
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@ Jason Gregor

I see where we're getting wires crossed.

The number I quoted isn't O'Reilly's shooting percentage, it's his on-ice percentage (i.e. the combined shooting percentages of all players when he's on the ice).

That number dropping will impact his assist rate and plus/minus.

I think his goal-scoring rate is probably sustainable, as you do.

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#49 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 18 2009, 02:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Ideally, stats and watching the game tell us the same thing. We can't watch all the games played by all the teams though, so to compare players across team we need statistics, and the simple ones just don't tell us enough.

It's not that watching the game doesn't give you enough. It's just that two people don't always agree on what they see watching the game, and nobody can watch everything.

But if you base your opinion off of stats, you don't have the true facts of the game.

Players can have the exact same ice time, exact same production and be playing against the exact same quality of competition, but that doesn't mean that the two players play the game the same way.

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