Oilers vs. Leafs Postgame: Slump Busted

Jonathan Willis
December 30 2009 11:10PM

Edmonton Oilers: 3

Toronto Maple Leafs: 1

After a slump so bad that even incurable optimist Robin Brownlee found relief in the dive for five, the Oilers have won a game. Over a bad team, yes, but at least it was an earned win.

Oilers Three Stars, According To Me

1. Patrick O'Sullivan. Perhaps the unlikeliest hero on the roster, O'Sullivan scored two goals: one a flukey bounce off a defenceman's skate, the other a beautiful play in tight on a partial breakaway. He'd been having a poor night up until he drew a slash from Jeff Finger, which gave the Oilers the first power play (and O'Sullivan his first goal); after that he got increasingly good.

2. Gilbert Brule. A fine game for Brule, who along with Shawn Horcoff was on the ice for every Oilers goal. Brule's goal started the scoring and snapped a drought of his own (he's been cold offensively for as long as the team's been losing), and even though it was deflected it was a good shot to take.

3. Shawn Horcoff. Played a very nice game along with Brule and both he and O'Sullivan have looked better since they were split up. Moved the puck well on the power play.

Random Thoughts

Watching Pat Quinn roll lines has a certain rhythm to it, like waves gently rolling in on shore.  I decided to keep track of how he sent out his forward lines, and record it for the benefit of all.  The latter two periods were interrupted by penalties, but the first period had a soothing flow: 3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1.

I also noted down whether each shift was won or lost territory-wise, and it gave a surprisingly accurate feel for the game's momentum.  I've mentioned previously that I think 'momentum' is an overused word, but there's a reason it's become such a cliche: because there is some value to it.  In this case, every time a line does well, the next line goes out in the offensive zone, giving them a better crack at doing well, or when a line does poorly the next line starts in their own end, making it less likely that they'll have a successful shift.  The third period is a fine example: the Oilers carried the play early, and Nilsson drew a penalty; the Oilers scored on the ensuing power play.  After that they seemed to sit back, drawing even or losing shift after shift until first Grabovski hit a post and then finally Kessel scored on a Leafs power play.

Production values on the pay-per-view could be a little higher.  On the Leafs' lineup card, Kassel was listed as a first line forward and Kaberie was on the top defence pairing.  Than Dan Tencer came on to say something about being patient because the big picture was about eventually being a Stanley Cup contender (aside: no playoffs in three years and looking at a fourth is plenty of patience, Dan) but two-thirds of his segment was drowned out because the audio feed from the arena was blaring over top of it.

I'd be curious to know if Tencer was a little miffed by Rob Brown; right after his discussion on patience, Brown pointed to Toronto's record with and without Kessel as evidence that a single dramatic move can vastly improve a hockey team.

Gene Principe's absolutely brilliant.  I should really hate him, given his job, but he's just way too fun to listen to.  He had some good news in his little interview segments tonight, too - Pisani's been feeling good for two to three weeks and just needs to get his strength back, and both he and Comrie are skating regularly.

One small negative note: I'm not at all sure what the fourth line (Moreau, Cogliano, Stortini) was doing on the ice with around two minutes left.  They got badly hemmed in their own zone and it was only good luck that kept Toronto from drawing within one goal with a minute and a half left.  Compounding matters was Moreau cross-checking a Leafs' forward after the whistle; I probably would have blacked out with rage had the referee called it (and it was blatant enough that he easily could have).

One other note, which I suppose is both positive and negative - Toronto managed 66 shots on net at even-strength, although only 23 of those got through to Jeff Deslauriers.  Here are the shots on net totals for the Oilers' defencemen tonight:

  • Smid: 14
  • Gilbert: 15
  • Souray: 16
  • Visnovsky: 17
  • Staios: 33
  • Grebeshkov: 37

The first four names on that list were all on for between two and six more shots by the Oilers than the Leafs.  Grebeshkov and Staios were a combined minus-60 in terms of shots on net for and against.  The first two pairings were quite good, but they weren't quite as good as Grebeshkov/Staios were bad.  I was a little hard on Strudwick the other night, but Grebeshkov hasn't had a very good season and he ought to be just fine as a third-pairing guy.  Perhaps he's still suffering from injury.

I noticed that J-F Jacques is wearing a set of those new Farrell shoulder pads.  Apparently Dustin Penner wears them too.  I'm sold on the idea that those compression blocks are highly effective, but I have friends who figure they'll just be blocky and won't be any easier to move in than a standard set of shoulder pads.  If anyone here has used them I'd love to hear a review; they're fairly pricey and I don't really need new shoulder pads so I've been hesitant to spend the money.

It was nice to watch a win, although now that I've seen one I feel just the tiniest bit of regret that the Oilers are now within one of the Maple Leafs for 28th in the NHL.  I hate feeling conflicted about whether the team should win or lose; I suppose the best course of action is to just be happy for whatever comes, for whichever reason.

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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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#101 Original Ogden Brother
December 31 2009, 01:14PM
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@RC

"Just wondering where your Nystrom love comes from. I don't recall seeing it before. As a Flames fan, I love him and am just wondering if you watch many Flames games and like him or just simply pulled his name out of the hat as an example of a guy who fits."

I'm in Red Deer, probably watch 15-20 Flames games/year.

I see Nystrom as your prototypical third liner and he's the perfect age. Young enough to be a long term fit but old enough to be highly effective in multiple situations today..

In a sense he's just a name out of a hat, as theirs probably 6-8 guys that will be FA's that would fit the bill, but he would be one of my top 2-3 out of that group.

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#102 Ogden Brother
December 31 2009, 01:17PM
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@ Swany

"You are right Sharp can be had for your package but you forgot our cap WE can't afford him, unless we send out salary someplace else did you see at HF boards that with everyone healthy the Oil are at 59.6 mil in cap that's 3 mil over we are lucky guys got hurt, believe me I like your plan I don't want to suck for another year, but we also NEED cap space and it won't happen unless we just start moving some guys other than Cogs Nilsson, Souray has to go Moreau Pies that's 10 mil in those guys alone and they won't be here when this team is ready to compete anyways."

My plan included moving out Souray/O'sully/Nilsson/Grebs/Staios/Moreau

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#103 swany
December 31 2009, 01:17PM
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crash wrote:

Again, just IMO...but I think you can add the players and yes it's not easy and also play the 3 teenagers next year.

In my example in post 53 I have added Sharp (28), Tootoo (27), Armstrong (27) and Barker (24) to go along with Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff, Strudwick or Staios, Stortini, Brule, Gagner, Smid, Vishnovsky, Gilbert, MPS, Eberle and maybe Hall...that's a big maybe as we are well ahead of Carolina.

Gone are Nilsson, Pouliot, Moreau, Pisani, Cogliano, Potulny, Souray, Grebs.

To get Tootoo and Armstrong would require outbidding other teams as they are UFA's

Word is Chicago needs to dump salary without taking salary on and finishing low in the standings would give the Oil some good picks to trade. You might be able to package a Cogs and a pick or 2 to take a run at Barker and/or Sharp or maybe even Seabrook as Chicago may not be able to afford his salary soon.

So again, I think we can add what Ogden wants plus play the 3 new youngsters...well 2 anyway (Eberle and MPS)

All of this hinges also on being able to trade one of Souray or Vishnovsky as well as Cogliano and Moreau. Nilsson would have to be traded or waived as well.

So Ogden, what don't we get?

That could work nice idea I've been proven wrong even the cap hit would be less than it is now by about 6 mil. As for Chris your refrence is right you do put a bunch of apprentices together to build the condo you just have 3 or 4 vets watching a teaching them on how to do it.

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#104 crash
December 31 2009, 01:17PM
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Original Ogden Brother wrote:

@RC

"Just wondering where your Nystrom love comes from. I don't recall seeing it before. As a Flames fan, I love him and am just wondering if you watch many Flames games and like him or just simply pulled his name out of the hat as an example of a guy who fits."

I'm in Red Deer, probably watch 15-20 Flames games/year.

I see Nystrom as your prototypical third liner and he's the perfect age. Young enough to be a long term fit but old enough to be highly effective in multiple situations today..

In a sense he's just a name out of a hat, as theirs probably 6-8 guys that will be FA's that would fit the bill, but he would be one of my top 2-3 out of that group.

How ironic...I'm in Red Deer as well and am a season ticket holder...wanna go to a game? lol

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#105 Original Ogden Brother
December 31 2009, 01:20PM
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@ Chris

"Archeologuy, the various Ogden's, Jon Willis, Ross Creek, several dozens of others, and myself spent all summer building, and rebuilding this team a thousand times over. Eventually, however, all that really happened in the real world was a lateral goalie swap, and the signing of yet another smallish skilled forward."

Ha-ha

Sad isn't it.

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#106 swany
December 31 2009, 01:21PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

@ Swany

"You are right Sharp can be had for your package but you forgot our cap WE can't afford him, unless we send out salary someplace else did you see at HF boards that with everyone healthy the Oil are at 59.6 mil in cap that's 3 mil over we are lucky guys got hurt, believe me I like your plan I don't want to suck for another year, but we also NEED cap space and it won't happen unless we just start moving some guys other than Cogs Nilsson, Souray has to go Moreau Pies that's 10 mil in those guys alone and they won't be here when this team is ready to compete anyways."

My plan included moving out Souray/O'sully/Nilsson/Grebs/Staios/Moreau

OB we are both trying to do the same things in a diffrent way your idea's are great same as crash we all want the youth to play I was just taking it way down to a 43-44 mil cap the way you two guys have it set up is very good it would put us aroung 50-52 mil in cap but the team you guys have suggested to compete next year while still giving Eberle, MPS and Hall? a chance to play.

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#107 jeanshorts
December 31 2009, 01:33PM
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@RossCreekNation

Yeah I've sat in row 53 a couple times myself. Dakin had a pretty awesome story the other day. Him and his girlfriend were in town and he was taking her to the game. He got pretty decent seats in the second level there, but he decided to mess with her, so he took her all the way up to the very top and told her those were her seats. And then he sat down and saw the view and was like "dammit. I should have saved my money. These seats are just as good!"

We sat right in front of one of the standing room only sections last night and I think I'm going to spring for those tickets next time. Don't have to be squished in the seat and there's a ledge for your beer!

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#108 RossCreekNation
December 31 2009, 01:41PM
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@jeanshorts

Ya I sat there with my girlfriend too, and she thought we were going to need binoculars. I just told her that given her expectations, she'll think these are pretty damn good seats. I was right. I mean sure its nice to be a bit lower, but there's nothing wrong with the view up there.

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#109 Chris.
December 31 2009, 01:50PM
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@swany

Does anyone really expect that Eberle will be able to create more than he gives up at the NHL level next season? Gagner is still hovering on that very fringe after nearly three NHL seasons... Why not ice a team of players who are ready to play right now? Peckham may be ready to make the jump onto the backend next season... But I don't see a single Oiler forward prospect who is ready to contribute better, for much less money, than a lot of the established lesser name UFA players that will be available this summer. Guys like Eberle are the future... It wouldn't be wise to cash them in prematurely just because we've gotten into a bit of a bind in the present.

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#110 Chris.
December 31 2009, 02:21PM
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Gameday.

The Oilers are on the road the second night of a back to back. The Saddledome is a tough building to play in. After four tries the Oilers are still winless this season against Calgary... Oilers win tonight. Book It.

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#111 David S
December 31 2009, 03:00PM
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Chris. wrote:

Gameday.

The Oilers are on the road the second night of a back to back. The Saddledome is a tough building to play in. After four tries the Oilers are still winless this season against Calgary... Oilers win tonight. Book It.

Dude. "Book it" is the universal Oilers kiss of death. You ruined it for all of us non-DFF guys.

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#112 Original Ogden Brother
December 31 2009, 03:03PM
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@ Swany

"OB we are both trying to do the same things in a diffrent way your idea's are great same as crash we all want the youth to play I was just taking it way down to a 43-44 mil cap the way you two guys have it set up is very good it would put us aroung 50-52 mil in cap but the team you guys have suggested to compete next year while still giving Eberle, MPS and Hall? a chance to play."

Ya, I don't think we're as far off as we orginally thought, I just don't see the need to get prospects into the line-up as soon as possible

If they blow the doors off and prove without a doubt they can be highly effective then sure, but that's very unlikely to happen.

We'd be much better off having Eberle/MSP as plan B in case of injuries or someone else not working out (and still having them for the future), then we'd be with them as plan A with a plan B of Reddox/O'marra

After all, the prospects wont be going anywhere, they are Oiler property for 7 years minimum.

Theirs nothing to lose by bringing role players today, but lots to lose by not.

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#113 David S
December 31 2009, 03:08PM
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Not all of us want youth to play next year. Some of us want to win some games. Youth is good for a spot or two, but the way the Oilers run things, they slot in whoever is the next c-level prospect, which is why we're in the shape we're in.

Truth is, the majority of young guys we're playing with right now wouldn't make the practice squad of most good NHL teams.

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#114 crash
December 31 2009, 05:04PM
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Chris. wrote:

Raw recuruits right of junior? No I mean players who have limited pro experience. For example, guys who have just come out of college. Or CHLers who play less than two seasons in the AHL... Basically, guys who still need a lot of polishing. Sure an NHL roster can integrate a few prospects to learn on the fly... but it's hard for a coach to find soft minutes for more than a couple of guys.

In 2000 The Oilers iced a linup of rookie guys under 21 that included: Brewer, Cleary, Comrie, and Horcoff.

By the time we got Brewer he had already played in 89 NHL games as well as 25 games in the AHL over 2 seasons, Cleary had played 101 minor league games and another 50 NHL games before arriving in Edmonton, Horcoff played 4 yrs of NCAA hockey before playing 24 games in the AHL before actually arriving in Edmonton at age 22. You are right about Comrie, he did arrive in Edmonton right out of Junior and coincidentally he had better numbers than all 3 of the others that you mentioned.

So Brewer, Cleary and Horcoff all waited the long periods of time that you are suggesting that all prospects wait so I'm not sure how they support your arguement.

The one guy that year who didn't wait actually had some pretty good seasons to start his career.

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#115 Chris.
December 31 2009, 07:28PM
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crash wrote:

By the time we got Brewer he had already played in 89 NHL games as well as 25 games in the AHL over 2 seasons, Cleary had played 101 minor league games and another 50 NHL games before arriving in Edmonton, Horcoff played 4 yrs of NCAA hockey before playing 24 games in the AHL before actually arriving in Edmonton at age 22. You are right about Comrie, he did arrive in Edmonton right out of Junior and coincidentally he had better numbers than all 3 of the others that you mentioned.

So Brewer, Cleary and Horcoff all waited the long periods of time that you are suggesting that all prospects wait so I'm not sure how they support your arguement.

The one guy that year who didn't wait actually had some pretty good seasons to start his career.

So all four players had less than 160 games of pro experience when they made the club full time out of camp. (like I said) I bet If I looked at every team since 2000 the vast majority would feature around 3-5 guys with less than 160 games of pro experience on the opening night roster. This is a problem. The Oilers should never integrate a player into the linup with less than 160 games played as a pro (approx 2 full AHL seasons) except in the role of injury replacement. (Crosby's aside) It's time to start pretending the Oilers are an NHL franchise.

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#116 crash
December 31 2009, 10:56PM
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Chris. wrote:

So all four players had less than 160 games of pro experience when they made the club full time out of camp. (like I said) I bet If I looked at every team since 2000 the vast majority would feature around 3-5 guys with less than 160 games of pro experience on the opening night roster. This is a problem. The Oilers should never integrate a player into the linup with less than 160 games played as a pro (approx 2 full AHL seasons) except in the role of injury replacement. (Crosby's aside) It's time to start pretending the Oilers are an NHL franchise.

As I posted on another thread after doing a bit of research...of the top 30 scoreres in the NHL this year 22 of them skipped AHL experience and jumped directly to the NHL and most of them were age 20 or less when they entered the league. So it seems your theory doesn't really hold all that much water. Most teams in the NHL integrate younger players right out of Junior and/or the Euro leagues without going to the minors.

This is fact, not opinion

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#117 Original Ogden Brother
January 01 2010, 11:36AM
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"As I posted on another thread after doing a bit of research...of the top 30 scoreres in the NHL this year 22 of them skipped AHL experience and jumped directly to the NHL and most of them were age 20 or less when they entered the league. So it seems your theory doesn't really hold all that much water. Most teams in the NHL integrate younger players right out of Junior and/or the Euro leagues without going to the minors.

This is fact, not opinion"

Theirs a serious diconect here. Those are the elite players in the NHL, their is no guarantee Eberle/MSP will be elite players in the NHL next (top 30 scorer by the above standard) in fact it's HIGHLY unlikely either one will be (potentially ever)

The point is the best of the best can make the jump under 20. Anyone under that should be developed further.

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#118 crash
January 01 2010, 03:48PM
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Original Ogden Brother wrote:

"As I posted on another thread after doing a bit of research...of the top 30 scoreres in the NHL this year 22 of them skipped AHL experience and jumped directly to the NHL and most of them were age 20 or less when they entered the league. So it seems your theory doesn't really hold all that much water. Most teams in the NHL integrate younger players right out of Junior and/or the Euro leagues without going to the minors.

This is fact, not opinion"

Theirs a serious diconect here. Those are the elite players in the NHL, their is no guarantee Eberle/MSP will be elite players in the NHL next (top 30 scorer by the above standard) in fact it's HIGHLY unlikely either one will be (potentially ever)

The point is the best of the best can make the jump under 20. Anyone under that should be developed further.

None of those top 30 were the best of the best when they started they became elite players, they weren't elite out of junior...the point is that a majority of the best players in the league do not spend very much time in the minors and it is not a given to send players to the minors just because. There are many more players after the top 30 that have also never spent even close to a full season in the minors.

I never said there was a guarantee Eberle and MPS would be elite what I'm trying to say is they don't necessarily have to play in the AHL to become good NHLers. You make it sound as though a young player will never develop into a good NHLer unless they spend time in the AHL. This simply is NOT true...most teams in the NHL have players...good ones, that have never spent a full season in the minors

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#119 crash
January 01 2010, 04:16PM
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Original Ogden Brother wrote:

"As I posted on another thread after doing a bit of research...of the top 30 scoreres in the NHL this year 22 of them skipped AHL experience and jumped directly to the NHL and most of them were age 20 or less when they entered the league. So it seems your theory doesn't really hold all that much water. Most teams in the NHL integrate younger players right out of Junior and/or the Euro leagues without going to the minors.

This is fact, not opinion"

Theirs a serious diconect here. Those are the elite players in the NHL, their is no guarantee Eberle/MSP will be elite players in the NHL next (top 30 scorer by the above standard) in fact it's HIGHLY unlikely either one will be (potentially ever)

The point is the best of the best can make the jump under 20. Anyone under that should be developed further.

Correction, shouldn't say none, some of the top 30 started out as elite players but most of them weren't elite to begin with yet their NHL teams never sent them to the AHL. For instance Patrick Marleau's numbers at the start of his career look very similar to Sam Gagners. Joe Thornton didn't tear it up out of junior, same with Henrik Sedin, Jarome Iginla, etc. There are many after the top 30 as well that have not played in AHL (ie: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter) Their numbers also look similar to Gagner's.

They don't start out elite, they become elite.

Again, if Eberle and Svensson need the minors then by all means but I'm not all for sending them there just for the sake of sending them there.

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