February 03 2009 03:12PM
Most of the blogs that cover the Oilers have definite opinions on the various mainstream journalists who cover the team. Terry Jones is invariably disliked, while someone like Robin Brownlee, despite the amount of flack he’s taken since signing up to write at OilersNation is regarded with respect. Dan Barnes is over at the Brownlee end of the spectrum.
Liam Reddox doesn't have to please you or me, the leather- lungs in the nosebleeds, the corporate suits in the golds, the talking heads on TV and radio, faceless, pajama-clad bloggers or know-it-all message board posters.
Liam Reddox: Not a pleaser. Not worth the risk. Anyways, if you were wondering how Dan Barnes viewed the Oilers fanbase, he’s conveniently divided it up for us:
- Loud people who sit up high in the arena
- Rich people who sit low in the arena (note on the last two: we here at OilersNation don’t’ judge you by your seat location)
- Bloggers – strange creatures without faces who invariably wear their pajamas day and night, and likely live in their mothers’ respective basements. They’re pictured above (and no, that isn’t me – it’s from Wikipedia).
- Smug, self-important types who chime in here or at HFBoards
And the 23-year-old sure as heck doesn't have to apologize to anyone for living his unlikely National Hockey League dream, be that as a first-line left winger, fourth-line centre or any point in-between.
So all of you demanding an apology retract your demand forthwith! He’s just living his dream, guys, leave him in peace.
So while his very presence in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room seems to offend the loud, predictable and tireless backers of Rob Schremp, and those are people who really need a new idea, Reddox's solid though unspectacular play on the ice continues to impress the only critic whose opinion matters in this case, Craig MacTavish.
Strawman (noun): a weak or sham argument set up to be easily refuted.
Also, since I’m indulging myself in petty criticism, I’m fairly sure that the GM’s opinion is somewhat important as well. Moving on.
"He executes. He's a foot soldier and he executes. He makes the right play," said the head coach. "He's bought himself a lot of rope in the way he plays. He's reliable. I can play him in the last minute of games. I'm completely comfortable."
That has been obvious, even painfully so at times. Reddox has played 25 games and contributed five points on three goals and two assists. They are numbers that rightly suggest he's at best a third-liner at this point in his development. So, too, does his 10:30 average ice time.
In point of fact, among NHL forwards with more than 20 games played, Reddox’s offensive numbers (1.22 PTS/60 minutes EV icetime) rank 328th overall, and his point total (5) ranks 12th among Oilers forwards. That would suggest he’s actually a fourth liner. Ditto for his average ice-time, which ranks 13th among Oilers forwards and 393rd overall among league forwards. Fourth liner.
But that apparent synergy doesn't appease the anti-Reddox movement, whose members erupt with venomous references to Marty Reasoner or Toby Peterson (sic) every time MacTavish does the unthinkable and elevates their whipping boy to the first or second line.
Synergy (noun): the working together of two things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. What synergy is Barnes referring to here? Is it the synergy between Reddox being a foot soldier and Reddox executing? Feel free to chime in below with your suggestions.
As for references to Reasoner and Petersen, maybe and yes. Some folks out there remain convinced that Reasoner was a problem, but I think blogs and pundits on the whole have been fairly consistent in evaluating Reasoner as a useful veteran player. Still, at least he’s right in suggesting Toby Petersen as a comparable.
It happened again Friday when Dustin Penner was benched against Minnesota and Reddox jumped into his left wing slot on the top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. He is, in fact, MacTavish's default position player.
I can’t argue with that – MacTavish does play him at any position. Still, maybe I’m off track here but does it seem odd that the guy Barnes listed as “ at best a third-liner” (actually a 4th-liner) is MacTavish’s default fill-in?
Though Reddox claims he hasn't heard any of the vitriol, it wouldn't bother him if he did.
"It's understandable," he said after Saturday's practice.
After all, he's been stung with variations of the criticism forever, and the constant assault contributed to lowered expectations on his draft weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
Liam Reddox: Immune to your disdain.
"I'd had a pretty good year in junior, led my team in scoring. But I was told I was too small and wouldn't be able to play that way at the next level. Edmonton took a chance. They took me in the fourth round."
That was five years ago and he is just now making good on their modest investment. He is doing it wisely too, playing safe, sound hockey that will get him another game, adopting a defence-first approach and attention to detail that doesn't change even when his line assignment does. He won't win the Oilers many games, but he won't lose any.
Since Reddox won’t win games, and won’t lose games, is he playing for the tie? Because, if that’s the case, someone should let him know that the NHL no longer allows games to end in a tie. Again, perhaps I’m on the wrong track here, but does it sound like Reddox is a non-factor, albeit a wise non-factor?
He has also scored three times, against Minnesota, Colorado and Ottawa. Despite the fact he's only five foot 11, 180 pounds, he wins enough physical battles down low to whack home a loose puck now and then. He's had chances for several more, but there are obvious limitations to his game.
Given that Reddox has been on the ice for seven goals for and eleven goals against, it’s probably a fair argument that he loses enough physical battles to have a goal scored against now and then. The fact that he’s one of the worst Oilers on the team by shots for/shots against would seem to indicate that his opposition has had chances for several more goals as well.
He will kill penalties, see the truly odd shift on the power play, and survive because of his versatility and reliability. While Schremp has to digest harsh and unnecessary comments from MacTavish about his lack of foot speed and Gilbert Brule seems victimized by the fact he's a few games away from needing to clear waivers the next time he comes up, Reddox sits in the catbird seat. If that means he's a target for fans who don't like his game or abhor MacTavish's fondness for grinders, fire away.
It’s actually quite sad how rarely the phrase “catbird seat” is used in modern writing. The National Association of Words Not Commonly Used (NAWNCU) commends you for your efforts, Dan. By the way, the best point in this whole article is that Reddox comes out ahead of Brule by virtue of waiver eligibility. It’s just a shame that the strongest argument in Barnes’ article is an off-hand reference 15 or so paragraphs in.
He knows what and who he is and how hard he had to work in Peterborough, Stockton and Springfield to get here. He's a 23-year-old rookie who has played 26 games, including one last season, and he doesn't think it's fair to suggest he'll never get any better.
I’m sure that Reddox knowing who and what he is will come in handy down the line. I mean, it has for me – just watch:
Who: Liam Reddox
What: 4th line forward
Out of curiosity, has anyone suggested that Reddox has peaked as a player, or does this fall into the category of strawmen again?
Oh yes, he'll get more time. Because MacTavish doesn't have to please you or me, the leather-lungs, the suits, the bloggers, the posters or the critics. He has to make the playoffs. And he thinks Reddox will help him do exactly that.
- The now openly recognized goal of the team is a playoff spot.
- Liam Reddox, who rather improbably neither wins nor loses games, will help MacTavish get this team to the playoffs.
The ironic thing here is that if the premise is that Liam Reddox is a decent call-up, I’d agree. I might argue the following points:
- Gilbert Brule is running out of waiver eligibility.
- Liam Reddox is averaging just over ten minutes a game, so despite some of the odd situational use, on average he really isn’t being run out there more than a garden variety fourth-line hockey player.
- Because the first line of Penner, Hemsky and Horcoff faces tough opponents, when Hemsky was injured they needed a defensively reliable forward at RW. It didn’t make sense to put Cole there, because of his chemistry with Gagner, and Pisani was hurt which limited the coach’s options.
- Liam Reddox was a goal-scorer in junior and has been close to a point per game pace in the minors, despite being used against the opposing team’s best players. Based on his play in Springfield, he’s clearly ahead of everyone other than Ryan Potulny and Gilbert Brule, and is likely better suited to a defensive role than either of those two. Then again, I am a pajama-clad faceless monster, so what do I know?