GDB 50: Can Robert Nilsson be the guy?

Jason Gregor
February 03 2009 03:53PM

bobbynilsson

Yesterday Craig MacTavish stated, “We haven’t an answer on that left side for awhile. We’ve tried a lot of players there, virtually everybody has had an opportunity there, and we need to find someone. Dustin is the best fit there when he is playing, and playing well.”

Tonight it will be Nilsson, and he is excited.

“Hemsky’s a great player, especially this year, and I know I will get more chances playing with him... I just have to bury them.”

Considering Horcoff has one goal in his last 15 games, if Nilsson can bury one chance that will be an improvement. As dominant as Hemsky has been since returning from a concussion, if one of his linemates starts to heat up he could be a two-point-a-game guy for a stretch.

Speaking of Horcoff, I asked him if he feels he needs to bear down more offensively.

“I probably need to relax a bit more and I think that’s been my problem lately. I’m squeezing the stick a little tight... I’ve had chances, with the crossbar last game, and if I relax that shot probably goes in.”

Pressing too hard never results in more goals, but with the coach calling out Penner, Pouliot and Brodziak to play with more jam, Horcoff needs to bear down and bury a few more chances. I know scoring is that hardest thing to do, and Horcoff never gets questioned for his work ethic, but his job is to produce and he needs to start producing more.

This team has no other options right now as far as #1 centre, so unless a trade happens Horcoff needs to find the scoring touch he had last year until his season was cut short.

Here are tonight’s lines:

  • 12 – 10 – 83
  • 21 – 89 – 26
  • 18 – 13 – 78
  • 27 – 51 – 46

Penner and Brodziak should play inspired considering what happened after practice yesterday. Brodziak explained what MacTavish said to him and his fellow doghouse dwellers yesterday.

“I have to play with more jam and more intensity in my game. Making sure I play physical every chance I get and never pass up an opportunity. I think it is a simple thing to get back in my game. Over my career it hasn’t been a real focal point of my game, but I know at this level it needs to be and it’s an element of my game I need to add. It’s something I definitely feel I can do and I don’t think I will have a problem with it.”

He also shouldn’t have a problem being ready to play tonight. With Penner on his left side, both players will have something to prove tonight, so you would HOPE they would play an inspired game. Reading between the lines with some of the conversations I had today in the locker room, it sounds like MacTavish didn’t want to just single out Penner again, so he went with two guys who haven’t been awful, but clearly can bring more intensity to their game.

Brodziak also added, “Coach said he was happy with my decisions and positional play, but just wants me to play more intensely. And maybe I’m guilty of not seeing that. It’s a little bit frustrating being called out, but realistically I know it was deserved, so I’m more frustrated in myself than anything else.”

Tidbits

Dwayne Roloson didn’t skate this morning, but he will play tonight. He faced lots of shots in practice yesterday so he got the morning off.

When asked about hearing cat calls walking off the ice after the Buffalo game, MacTavish laughed about the unique situation at Rexall.

“No one likes to walk through that when you lose a game, but like I’ve said before our fans have great perspective in terms of that. But not every team walks through the BAR on the way in and out... but we do, so those situations might occur.”

The uniqueness of Rexall Place: no other building in the league that I’ve been to has that set up, and I've been to 22 out of the other 29. It is great for young kids, and chicks trying to wheel, and outside of the odd profanity-laced tirade from some I’m-tough-when-I’m-drunk idiot it allows fans a close up look at the players. You take the good with the bad, and 90 per cent of the time the fans are supportive, but when you lose 10-2 you’d expect an odd “YOU SUCK”, or worse.

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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 The Towel Boy
February 03 2009, 01:19PM
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I like Nilsson on the top line. Honestly, he can't do any worse than Penner.

The most expensive 4th line in hockey! I love it! (that was sarcasm)

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#2 RBK
February 03 2009, 01:21PM
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Robert Nilsson cannot be the guy.

There I saved you all a bunch of thinking

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#3 Smokin' Ray
February 03 2009, 01:26PM
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GAME DAY!!!

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#4 Cam
February 03 2009, 01:26PM
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5-3 Oil tonight. Hemsky two points. Cam

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#5 Smokin' Ray
February 03 2009, 01:32PM
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On a side note: if I was Katz, I would suck it up and let Penner go to the minors for the rest of the year. Would any other team claim him on waivers on the way down? What is the compensation (picks) if he is taken? If he clears, does his entire salary count against the cap?

But most importantly. Would that send a clear enough message to the team that there is no messing around? Or am I talking crazy talk? Beacause that is possible.

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#6 Ssseth
February 03 2009, 01:36PM
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I've never been sold on Nilsson. Even during last years semi-miracle run. When he got sent to the minors at the start of last year and then put in the press box even there, that showed me a lot about his character and desire to succeed. To me he's a fringe 2nd line player, but so is Penner lately.

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#7 smytty777
February 03 2009, 01:37PM
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I like Nilsson on the first line at evens, but Penner needs to have his uninspired behind in front of the net on the first unit PP.

The PP looked absolutely horrific with Gilbert on forward and Penner provides a dimension in front of the net no one else does.

I don't care if Mac T doesn't like his work ethic, he is our most effective forward in front of the net on the PP and a key to PP success.

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#8 cambosmash
February 03 2009, 01:39PM
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"1/3 a tonne of fun" 4th line? As in they weigh a third of a tonne, they play at 33% effort, and the other two guys on the line combined make 1/3 the cash of Penner? Or is it that Stortini only has 1/3 of his original teeth?

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#9 Jonathan Willis
February 03 2009, 01:41PM
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@ Smokin' Ray:

To your first question - maybe To your second question - nothing

My personal opinion, you're getting a little crazy. Penner hasn't exactly been raking in the icetime - he's fifth on the team in average ice-time (16:20, between Moreau and Gagner) and seventh in even strength ice-time (between Nilsson and Pisani).

Despite that, he's at last year's scoring pace - in other words, he's actually producing at a far better rate at even strength than he did last year (2.00 PTS/60 as opposed to 1.34 PTS/60).

It's hard to watch him when his intensity flags and he's losing battles to guys 4" shorter, but the simple fact of the matter is that he still brings a lot to the table in terms of offense, and has been the best LW on the team offensively.

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#10 rindog
February 03 2009, 01:51PM
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At what point does Cogliano get a look at the playing with Hemsky?

I don't know if he is the answer, but three goals in his last 25 games leads me to believe that Horcoff isn't the answer either. I will give Horcoff a little break in that Hemsky was out for 10 of those 25 games, but given the amount of icetime (and PP time) that Horcoff gets, he should be scoring a tad bit more, wouldn't you think?

Gregs,

Do you know if Horcoff is coming under any heat from MacT? Or does he get a free ride because he adds this so called JAM that the coach has almost copyrighted?

I am just curious as to what constitutes JAM? Is it 16 hits in 49 games (1 hit every 3 games)? It seems to be that Horcoff is trying to play the role of a skilled perimeter player (without the skill). If you are not scoring, shouldn't you be doing something else? Afterall, isn't that the premise of the DP bashing? I am not saying the "hits" stat is a great reflection of a player's game - but Penner does have the 3rd most hits on the team for forwards. There are 12 other forwards that have more hits than Horcoff does. Is it because Horcoff has been so dominant killing penalties and winning faceoffs that he gets a free pass???

I just don't know why there is so much inconsistancy?

The media can say whatever they want in terms of yesterday's post practice activities not being a bag skate - but c'mon Gregor -> please try to tell me that it was anything but a punishment??

For the most part most of our players have been very inconsistant this year yet only a select few have been held accountable???

I am not defending Brodziak, Penner or Pouliot, but how can anyone think that MacT did anything less than divide the players even more than they may or may not have been?

I did't hear about JDD or Roli having to stay late to face shots from the coaching staff after the Buffalo game? I don't think Moreau took any heat for taking a bad penalty against Minnesota (maybe he did - but the public never heard of it)?

I know that life isn't fair - but in a team game don't you try to work on things as a team?

If I were the captain of the Oilers, I would have marched all the other players right back on the ice to get the same "extra practice" as the 3 whipping boys.

One for all (and 1 goal for Horcoff in his last 15) and all for one.....

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#11 treblecharger
February 03 2009, 01:54PM
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smytty777 wrote:

I like Nilsson on the first line at evens, but Penner needs to have his uninspired behind in front of the net on the first unit PP. The PP looked absolutely horrific with Gilbert on forward and Penner provides a dimension in front of the net no one else does. I don’t care if Mac T doesn’t like his work ethic, he is our most effective forward in front of the net on the PP and a key to PP success.

Hear, Hear! This is the way I see it, too. Give Mini Magic a shot....but it seems that the minute he doesn't like what he sees the MacBlender will come out. Give 12 four games up there at ES and 27 on PP #1 & 4th line.

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#12 Wanye Gretz
February 03 2009, 01:59PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

On a side note: if I was Katz, I would suck it up and let Penner go to the minors for the rest of the year. Would any other team claim him on waivers on the way down? What is the compensation (picks) if he is taken? If he clears, does his entire salary count against the cap?

You know that you are my main smokin man Ray, so know that I say this with nothing but smoking respect:

You want to send Dustin Penner - (2.00 PTS/60, behind only to Ales Hemsky) and one of the best +/- numbers on the club, on pace for 18 goals - to the minors?

You may take fault with him Ray but the minors? Really?

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#13 Q
February 03 2009, 02:00PM
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@ Towel Boy and Smokin' Ray

Getting rid of Penner only tells the fans that MacT is right all the time. Penner's numbers are great (as Willis points out and is on Staples' site) but he doesn't 'look' like Reddox when he plays. Numbers prove that Penner plays a great game, even if his skating seems slow and he doesn't hit as often as fans want him to. You'll excuse me if I take Penner's points and intangibles over MacT's perceptual problems.

Losing Penner on the top line hurts the ability of the top line and the team as a whole. So, the answer to the question of the article is "NO!"

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#14 Mike Krushelnyski
February 03 2009, 02:10PM
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I think Nilsson is the obvious choice to try in the top line LW slot if Penner's not working as he's probably the next most skilled winger. But if the issue with Penner is his lack of "jam" (TM) then are you really going to get that from Nilsson? Am I the only one that thinks Nilsson is one of the few players who manages to play with less intensity than 27?

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#15 oilerbear
February 03 2009, 02:16PM
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MacT says he wants to play Hemsky whenever he is not breathing hard.

Play hemsky 9 EV minutes with Horc-Nilsson and 7 EV minutes with Penner Brodziak.

Storitini 3 EV minutes With Horc-Nilsson and 2 EV minutes with Penner-Brodziak.

Penner-Brodziak combination will out chance and outscore the other pair.

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#16 OvenChicken8
February 03 2009, 02:16PM
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Earlier in the year Nilsson seemed to show some chemistry with Hemsky, hopefully that comes back tonight. But even if that does happen it is only a band-aid solution to the Oiler's #1 LW problem.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
February 03 2009, 02:23PM
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The Oilers depth at LW:

1. Dustin Penner - Speed's an issue, as is motivation/intensity. Plays a fairly soft game for a big guy.

2. Robert Nilsson - Size is an issue, as is motivation/intensity. Plays a fairly soft game.

3. Ethan Moreau - Offense is an issue, as is discipline (i.e. bad penalties). Fairly consistently outchanced at even strength.

Outside of those guys, there's Cogliano (who isn't comfortable on the wing), Pouliot (with his own issues) and the venerable Liam Reddox.

Port side depth's been an issue this season. This isn't exactly Smyth-Samsonov-Torres-Moreau, is it?

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#18 Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer
February 03 2009, 02:29PM
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Isnt depth at all the offensive positions this teams biggest weakness? 1 player goes down (Hemsky) and our powerplay cant function, we cant get out of our zone, and were counting the days until he comes back. The best teams can live without one of their top players, for at least a while. Our top AHL player isnt good enough to be up here, and thats not good.

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#19 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 02:32PM
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.Wanye Gretz wrote:

You want to send Dustin Penner - (2.00 PTS/60, behind only to Ales Hemsky) and one of the best +/- numbers on the club, on pace for 18 goals - to the minors?

Penner's numbers are a direct result of who he is playing with. He may not be scoring much, but Horcoff is still the best defensive forwad on the team and when playing with Hemsky they are definately going to be getting way more chances in the offensive zone. The point is not that Penner isn't contributing, he is. But the fact is, he is paid to be a fist line player. on pace for 18 goals, I don't care where that stands on the team, is crap. He doesn't hit, he doesn't skate hard and he doesn't back check. He has Zero heart and that is the beef most have. He should be TOPS a second line guy. I'm tired of "Oh he will get better" Bullsh*t! If he can't score or pass because he has "the blinders" on then he should be hitting or causing havoc. But as so many close to the team always say "That's not him and it never will be."

It's total garbage. Players like him and Nilsson that can't gett up every day and bring at least their B+ game, are what is wrong with this team right now.

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#20 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 02:35PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Port side depth’s been an issue this season. This isn’t exactly Smyth-Samsonov-Torres-Moreau, is it?

What is really brutal is that they got rid of Torres because coming in to the season, LW was supposed to be a strength with Cole(the original plan I mean), Nilsson, Penner and Moreau plus Schremp and such.

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#21 OvenChicken8
February 03 2009, 02:39PM
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@ Travis Dakin: But really, Torres would have played what 20 games tops this year before being on the LTIR for the rest of the season. Either way the Oil would have been stuck in this position.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
February 03 2009, 02:40PM
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Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer wrote:

Isnt depth at all the offensive positions this teams biggest weakness?

Only one veteran centre on the team.

On the plus side, RW looks really good (Hemsky-Cole-Pisani-Stortini/Call-ups)

Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer wrote:

Our top AHL player isnt good enough to be up here, and thats not good.

Whaddya mean? Liam Reddox is here ;)

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#23 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 02:45PM
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@ OvenChicken8: Injuries are unpredictable. I just meant that he was let go because we were supposed to be so deep on the left side and now... not so much.

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#24 OvenChicken8
February 03 2009, 02:53PM
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@ Travis Dakin: I think it was more so that we were deep offensively, not specifically on the LW. That or they had more confidence in Nilsson and Penner.

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#25 swany
February 03 2009, 02:58PM
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Will Nilsson grab the bull by the horns this time or will he shat the bed again, this is his chance to show what he can do to help out Hemmer and grab that #1 LW spot. The last time he had this chance he stunk, I hope the second times the charm

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#26 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 03:04PM
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@ OvenChicken8:

In the summer MacTavish was talking about them going to have a tough time finding a spot for Torres when he came back. Nilsson had turned it on and when they got Cole they figured he was sure fire with 10-83. Penner was the big money and Moreau was the Captain. All signs equal depth and no room for Ticco.

Ha remember how excited we all were in the summer? Wasn't is awesome? We were going to outscore everybody cus we had one hell of a solid roster. What happened?

Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner Penner-Brodziak-Pisani Moreau-Pouliot-Stortini

That still looks good on paper. I've learned so much.

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#27 Rick
February 03 2009, 03:10PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

You want to send Dustin Penner - (2.00 PTS/60, behind only to Ales Hemsky) ....

What exactly is his pts/60 supposed to prove? I know what it stands for, but I have seen it thrown out there on a number of occassions as if it is some kind of tell all but I don't understand why so much stock is put into it.

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#28 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 03:11PM
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Speakin of good on paper, just for fun, look at the roster if the Stoll/Greene and Torres(pretend he didn't get injured-just for fun) trade hadn't been made... Shut up about the cap. I like pretending.

Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner Torres-Stoll-Pisani Moreau-Brodziak-Stortini

Souray-Gilbert Grebeshkov-Greene Staios-Smid

Ok I'm going back to troll around on HFboards now. haha

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#29 BUCK75
February 03 2009, 03:12PM
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Going to the game tonight - I went to the 9-2 loss to Chicago as well. Hopefully payback is a b!tch.

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#30 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 03:12PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Speakin of good on paper, just for fun, look at the roster if the Stoll/Greene and Torres(pretend he didn’t get injured-just for fun) trade hadn’t been made… Shut up about the cap. I like pretending. Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner Torres-Stoll-Cole Moreau-Brodziak-Pisani Souray-Gilbert Grebeshkov-Greene Staios-Smid Ok I’m going back to troll around on HFboards now. haha

I meant it like this forgot about Cole.

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#31 cambosmash
February 03 2009, 03:19PM
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Sidenote: Is anyone else glad Potulny didn't lose his spot to Gagner? He hasn't scored, but in the games I've watched, he has been surprisingly good defensively and seems to have a decent amount of Smuckers (I'm sick of hearing the word jam).

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#32 Ender the Dragon
February 03 2009, 03:23PM
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Ender the Coach: This peg is going in that frigging hole, shape be damnned! Cole, you're it. Get your ass over to the left side, and don't you dare dissapoint me again! You miss converting a Hemsky pass one more time, I'll beat you to death with your equipment bag myself, I swear.

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#33 Q
February 03 2009, 04:04PM
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@Travis Dakin

You're not writing for MacT now are you? 'Cause your criticisms of Penner sound just like him.

The reality is Penner is a smart player who makes up for lack of footspeed with smart play and a lack of hitting game (though still good for third highest hitter on the Oil!) with good puck protection. You can't say that his numbers are good b/c of 10-83 is wrong, since his numbers are also good for the time he was/is without them. Look up Staples's site and you will see what I mean.

I would take one Penner over two of almost any other guy on this team (Hemsky, Horcoff, Souray and Vish excluded)

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#34 Jason Gregor
February 03 2009, 04:21PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

What is the compensation (picks) if he is taken? If he clears, does his entire salary count against the cap? But most importantly. Would that send a clear enough message to the team that there is no messing around? Or am I talking crazy talk? Beacause that is possible.

There is zero compensation...if you waive him and a team picks him up the Oilers get nothing...unless he is picked up on the way up from the AHL, then the Oilers are on the hook for half of his salary for the remainder of the term. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. That would be a completely asinine move.

rindog wrote:

The media can say whatever they want in terms of yesterday’s post practice activities not being a bag skate - but c’mon Gregor -> please try to tell me that it was anything but a punishment??

A wakeup call...Nothing that bad..It was a ten minute meeting and then a ten minute segment of drills. The black Aces, guys who don't play on game nights, get skated much harder many times on game days.

rindog wrote:

If I were the captain of the Oilers, I would have marched all the other players right back on the ice to get the same “extra practice” as the 3 whipping boys.

When practice ended, the veterans who leave early normally took their skates off and walked to their vehicles in their gear, because they were practicing at Millenium Place.

So when the skating of 51,27 and 78 started they were gone and had no idea they were getting an extra conditioning stint, so that idea would not have worked. Secondly, I don't know any captain on any team that tries to show up his coach and say YOU are wrong skate all of us. That is in a fairy tale world, not in pro sports.

It isn't fair sure, butit never is. And if you ever played hockey, you would realize that taking a bad penalty, when you are working hard is overlooked a lot easier than a guy not giving it his all.

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#35 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 04:25PM
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@ Q:

I read Staple everyday and like I said, Penner does contribute. Just not 4.25 M a year worthy. He has all of the tools to be great, he just lacks drive and motivation to bring it every day. That is the only problem I have with him. Being an Oiler used to mean leaving everything out on the ice. Not so much with guys like him and Nilsson. And yes I can say his numbers are good because of 10-83. Like Dave Lumley scoring 32 goals and 74 points in 66 games playing with Gretzky, Pretty much anybody could produce playing with Hemmer and Horcoff.

But I do say this, I'd take Penner when he brings his A+ game over ALMOST every other LW in the league. (almost every other one)

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#36 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 04:30PM
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And don't give me any garbage about Cole not being able to, He was finding his way into a new system and was given 10 games AND he is a one move player. (going from right boards to the middle while holding puck at bay and protecting from defender with his shoulder. It works but it is his only move.)

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#37 APE
February 03 2009, 04:55PM
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@ cambosmash: I'm with you I was also worried that Potulny was going to be taken out. I like his game and I think he will be a good fit with Gagner and Cole.

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#38 David S
February 03 2009, 05:04PM
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The "doghouse line".

Sounds pretty bad-ass to me. That might be the kind of line nobody would want to deal with. Not to mention the ladies would dig it next time at Oil City. *thumbsup*

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#39 DK0
February 03 2009, 05:10PM
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I don't know why we even get worked up about these line formations. When I looked at the lines I was excited to see what 12 and 21 can do in these positions, but then I just remembered its MacT coaching. I give it 3 shifts before the MacBlender gets turned all the way to frappé and the lines are french blended until Stortini is centering Hemsky while Horcoff fills the LW gap.

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#40 rindog
February 03 2009, 05:15PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Of course I don't know the logistics of how they leave the rink,etc.

My point was simple - if it wasn't a punishment/bag skate - why wouldn't the entire team be welcome for the extra practice? We are only 3 games removed from a horrible performance by most and we just came off an equally brutal game versus Nashvile.

Why did the coach only offer a wake-up call to those three?

The same old thing keeps being said: A desperate move by a desperate coach.....

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#41 rindog
February 03 2009, 05:17PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

I forgot to mention that bad/lazy penalties should not be excused and especially not from your captain.

Did you see the penalty Moreau took agaisnt the Wild???

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#42 Oilersordeath
February 03 2009, 05:39PM
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This team just has no intensity and I dont see that changing for rest of the season. I predict a 7-1 loss tonight, I hope I'm wrong.

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#43 RLH
February 03 2009, 05:42PM
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There's something I don't understand here, and maybe it's just that I haven't been involved with a professional sports team.

I'm a player. The coach finishes the practice, but holds back three of my teammates. He tells the rest of the team to hit the showers. I respond with "No way!" If three guys are skating, I'm skating. It's called a team.

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#44 `RLH
February 03 2009, 05:45PM
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rindog wrote:

At what point does Cogliano get a look at the playing If I were the captain of the Oilers, I would have marched all the other players right back on the ice to get the same “extra practice” as the 3 whipping boys. One for all (and 1 goal for Horcoff in his last 15) and all for one…..

And this is why I should read other comments before I post. Rindog's thinking the same as me.

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#45 RobinB
February 03 2009, 05:46PM
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@ RLH: Naive. Enjoy your trip to the minors, where, if you're on a two-way deal, you'll make $85,000 instead of $795,000. If the coach tells you to hit the showers, then get to stepping . . .

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#46 Ender the Dragon
February 03 2009, 05:49PM
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@ RLH:

You don't know why Coach wants to talk to those guys. It's none of your business, and Coach didn't ask your permission. Are you going to go up to the coach and quiz him about why he wants to talk to these three guys and not you? No, you're not. You've been excused. By the time you realize (if at all) that those three guys are still skating, any chance you might want to take to second-guess your coach's decision is long past.

And if you were silly enough to question your coach's intentions in front of those three guys, you'd be in the press box or on the first bus to Springfield until the GM could trade you, and rightly so.

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#47 Ender the Dragon
February 03 2009, 05:50PM
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@ RobinB:

You're a step ahead of me hitting the send button . . .

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#48 R-DAWG
February 03 2009, 06:01PM
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I got the Oil 4-3 in a shootout. Hemsky,Souray,Cole and Gagner gets the shootout winner...you may all go out and get your sport select

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#49 Jonathan Willis
February 03 2009, 06:06PM
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I'm heading out for dinner with friends, so I'll probably miss this one...

3-1 Oilers. Horcoff, Grebeshkov, Penner, Sharp. Roloson with 30+ saves.

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#50 David S
February 03 2009, 06:12PM
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Jonathan - for a guy who writes so much about the team, I'm always surprised how many games you miss. I mean, isn't the game the point? Heh heh.

Anyways, any of you out there looking for a feed, try this:

atdhe.net Feed is decent if you have hi-speed.

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