Department of Obvious Statements: Ales Kotalik Edition

Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009 11:44AM

Kotalik

I had a positive post all ready to go, about love for the game.Lowetide had a great post on Sunday, and it reminded me that as much as I enjoy the nuts and bolts of the game, it’s good to remember why I love the game. Sure, Fernando Pisani will probably never catch fire again like he did in the 2006 playoffs, but those memories are gold. Yeah, the late-90’s Oilers teams never really did anything, but Curtis Joseph was incredible and it was impossible not to cheer for guys like Todd Marchant, Mike Grier, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith and Ethan Moreau. Tough and willing, despite not having the greatest set of hands in the world – I loved that group.

That isn’t the post I’m going to write this morning, though. There are some ideas that are floating around out there about Ales Kotalik that bother me, so I’m just going to get into them.

I Don’t Care How Buddy-Buddy Ales Kotalik and Ales Hemsky Are – Kotalik Isn’t a First-Line Left Wing

Anybody have any idea how many points Ales Kotalik has this year at even-strength? 14. Let’s take a good look at the number 14 and see how it fits into the Edmonton lineup.

14 is less than half as many points as the Oilers leading even-strength scorer, Ales Hemsky (29). It’s exactly half as many points as the Oilers other new acquisition at left wing, Patrick O’Sullivan (28). It’s almost exactly half as many points as the Oilers best centre, Shawn Horcoff (27). In other words, it’s well back of the pack.

14 ranks fourth among the Oilers left wings. We’ve already discussed O’Sullivan, but Dustin Penner (22) and Ethan Moreau (22) are also well ahead of Ales Kotalik in even-strength scoring. Even Robert Nilsson, with seven fewer games and “inconsistent” as the first word in every scouting report this season, has 11.

But, you say, perhaps Kotalik’s having an off year? Last season, Kotalik had 19 even-strength points – 11th best among Sabres forwards. In fact, among regulars only Adam Mair, who played seven fewer games had less even-strength points (17).

There are plenty of advanced stats I could trot out to support my statement here (and yes, I’ve trotted them out before), but when you’re sandwiched between Marc Pouliot and Robert Nilsson in even-strength scoring, I shouldn’t have to.

Ales Kotalik is not a first line LW. End of story.

On The Other Hand, KotaliK’s Great On The Powerplay – As A Pointman

I’m frequently accused of not watching the games, or being hopelessly ignorant of anything other than math, so I’m going to engage in a little exercise – I’m going to review each of Ales Kotalik’s goals this year, from video available at NHL.com. If you want to follow along, go to this link, type in “Ales Kotalik” in the search bar, and flip over to highlights. You can watch every goal of his dating back for years, although I’ll only review this season.

February 24 vs. Anaheim: With Kotalik at the left point, Craig Rivet (#52) takes the puck at the right point. He hangs on to it for a minute, sees Kotalik sneaking in for a one-timer, and passes the puck over. Kotalik hammers it home.

February 13 vs. San Jose: Buffalo wins the draw in the offensive zone, with the puck going back to Rivet at the right point. He quickly flips it back to Kotalik, who fire a one-timer into the net.

February 11 vs. Ottawa: It’s difficult to make out who is playing the right point, but he takes the puck, sees Kotalik sneaking in, and flips it over to him. Kotalik, once again, fires a one-timer that beats the goaltender.

January 21 vs. Tampa Bay: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the puck goes back to Rivet at the right point, who sees Kotalik sneaking in, sends it over to him, and he scores on the one-timer.

January 14 vs. Chicago: Rivet sneaks into the high slot as three defenders collapse toward the puck carrier, who passes it to Kotalik. Kotalik waits a split second, than puts a wrist shot home.

December 22 vs. Pittsburgh: Kotalik is sent in on a partial break, makes two quick moves, and then fires a wrist shot past the keeper. It looks just like his shootout goal against the Rangers.

December 8 vs. Pittsburgh: Kotalik is sitting in front of the net, and bangs home a rebound.

December 4 vs. Florida: Spacek and Kotalik sneak in from the point, and work the puck down to a forward sitting just off the side of the Panthers’ net. The forward sends the puck out to Spacek, who quickly passes to Kotalik. Kotalik one-times it home.

November 7 vs. Atlanta: Kotalik holds the puck in at the left point, and both he and his fellow point man sneak in. the puck is moved down to the low forward, who threads a pass through the Panthers box and on to Kotalik’s stick. Kotalik one-times the puck home.

October 17 vs. Vancouver (2): Kotalik takes the puck just in from the left point, and fires a screened wrist shot that beats Luongo.

October 17 vs. Vancouver (1): A Sabres forward carries the puck in with speed and is hooked going to the net. He blindly passes the puck behind him from one knee, finding Kotalik just in from the left point. Kotalik one-times it past Luongo.

Let’s review. Eleven of the thirteen goals that Ales Kotalik has scored are available at NHL.com. Six of those goals were scored on the powerplay, every single one of them from the left point. Three of his even-strength goals are scored on similar plays, with Kotalik alone in the high slot. One came on a breakaway, and one was a garbage goal in front of the net.

In other words: Ales Kotalik scores the vast majority of his goals on the powerplay, and from the left point/high slot. Why – and please, anybody, answer this – would Craig MacTavish deploy him as a forward on the powerplay, leaving Steve Staios on the point?

In conclusion, I have three simple points:

1. Ales Kotalik is not the solution at first line left wing. 2. Ales Kotalik scores the vast majority of his points on the powerplay, not even strength. 3. Ales Kotalik has had success as a point man on the powerplay, not a forward, so Craig MacTavish would likely be better off using him as such.

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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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#1 Darcy
March 09 2009, 11:47AM
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Wait! Did you say MacTavish wasn't using a player where he has had past success, and is most likely to succeed again!!??!?!?

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!

Hold on.......naw, sorry, that's standard.

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#2 David Staples
March 09 2009, 11:53AM
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Excellent work, Jonathan. Your suggestions are bang on.

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#3 topshelf FMNF
March 09 2009, 11:57AM
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Pretty hard to disagree with anything in this article.

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#4 David S
March 09 2009, 11:58AM
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4. Ales Kotalik has 0 points since joining the Oilers. Erik Cole has 5 since joining the 'Canes.

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#5 Darcy
March 09 2009, 12:12PM
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Since Hemsky was the first to inform Kotalik that he had been traded (even before Darcy R), its obvious that Hemsky's wishes were included in the thinking for this trade.

Perhaps its a short term fix to the LW problem as Hemsky sees it. (many would argue that despite his apparent lethargy, Penner is working)

Keeping your underpaid star happy is a good thing.

Putting players in a place where they aren't the fit is not.

If I were Tambo I'd err on the side of keeping Hemsky happy and put in Kotalik as a 20 game solution.

Even if the Oilers had Ovechkin as their 1LW they are going nowhere in the playoffs this year, should they make it to the post season. So you really aren't banking on anything by bringing Kotalik in, excpet losing a 2 round pick (which has real value)

Keep Hemsky happy with Kotalik for this season, and make real substantive changes in the off season.

This trade was more about Hemsky than anything else.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 12:12PM
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@ David S:

Actually, if I'd done a 4th point, it would have been something like this:

4. The Oilers probably could have better invested a 2nd round pick in a player other than Ales Kotalik.

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#7 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 12:14PM
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@ Darcy:

I figured this trade was about addressing the left point on the powerplay - Kotalik has proven success there, and could adequately replace Visnovsky over the short term.

I'm not sure if Mactavish is on the same page as Tambellini or not.

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#8 Matt N
March 09 2009, 12:18PM
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David S wrote:

4. Ales Kotalik has 0 points since joining the Oilers. Erik Cole has 5 since joining the ‘Canes.

People keep bringing this up as if it is some kind of indictment of the Oilers management. I wish Cole all the success in the world. Classy guy, good hockey player.

Point 1- Cole was not traded for Kotalik, he was traded for POS and a 2nd. Now, POS doesn't have a point either but I'm just saying.

Point 2- I don't care if Cole scores a thousand points before the end of the season. He was not going to sign here at the end of the season. The Oil got a good return on the trade. If they let him walk for free, that would be horrible asset management.

So, my question is, if your going to keep bringing it up about how much better Cole is than Kotalik (or POS).......What do you think they should have done?

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#9 Bob Cob
March 09 2009, 12:21PM
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Good article Jonathon.

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#10 humantorch
March 09 2009, 12:23PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Why – and please, anybody, answer this – would Craig MacTavish deploy him as a forward on the powerplay, leaving Steve Staios on the point?

A better question is this: when has Craig MacTavish used a player in their PROPER role at ALL this season?

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#11 Ender the Dragon
March 09 2009, 12:25PM
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Say goodbye to the "Hi; I’m Shawn, this is m’ bruther Ales, ‘n this is m' other bruther Ales." line.

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#12 CurtisS
March 09 2009, 12:26PM
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I cant for the life of me figure out why Sully isnt on his natural wing on the first line. Sully played the whole season in a top 6 role for the Kings.

Meanwhile Kotalik plays the off wing just to play with Hemsky. He played in the bottom 6 role the whole season for Buffalo.

What you think of the new lines today

Kotalik Horc Hemmer Nilsson Gags Pouliot Sully Cogs Pisani Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

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#13 airbag
March 09 2009, 12:33PM
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Wow I cant believe Kotalik plays forward on the powerplay, no way mact hasnt seen Kotaliks goals this season. My lineup for the pp would be 27-89-83-44-21. Kotalik on the first line I dont mind as much, at least not yet, they havent looked worse than when Penner was there, OSullivan deserves a tryout though

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#14 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 12:36PM
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CurtisS wrote:

What you think of the new lines today Kotalik Horc Hemmer Nilsson Gags Pouliot Sully Cogs Pisani Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

I'm willing to bet that the second and third lines are flipped in terms of total ice-time. I'd be tempted to run things like this:

Penner - Gagner - Hemsky Pouliot - Horcoff - Pisani Nilsson - Cogliano - O'Sullivan Kotalik - Brodziak - Stortini

The first line runs some power vs. power; Gagner's really not the ideal fit here, but with Hemsky and Penner on his wings they should do at least OK. They get some shelter from the Horcoff line below.

Pouliot, Horcoff and Pisani are run out as a checking line; there are two guys there who can handle it for sure and Pouliot has some ability in this area. Horcoff's counting numbers will drop off, but I don't particularly care.

Nilsson, Cogliano and O'Sullivan have one job: put up points. O'Sullivan and Cogliano can do it, and it's probably time to give Nilsson another shot.

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#15 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 12:40PM
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CurtisS wrote:

What you think of the new lines today Kotalik Horc Hemmer Nilsson Gags Pouliot Sully Cogs Pisani Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

Let's see.

1. Kotalik shouldn't be 1st line LW. 2. Does anyone really believe that a) healthy-scratching Penner has worked to motivate him or b) that he's the 13th-best forward in the lineup? Because if the answer to both of those is no, he should be playing.

Other than that, it's fine.

Fire the coach.

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#16 Rival
March 09 2009, 12:41PM
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How does Guerin only fetch a 3rd rounder but the Oilers give up a 2nd for Kotalik?

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#17 CurtisS
March 09 2009, 12:44PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I have the same feeling JW. Anyways got them from the Oilers website.

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#18 CurtisS
March 09 2009, 12:46PM
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Fire Mact!

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#19 Librarian Mike
March 09 2009, 12:50PM
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I have this image in my head of MacT dressed like Tony Montana proclaiming that he may be going down by the end of the year, but he's bringing Penner with him.

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#20 slurve
March 09 2009, 01:10PM
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Why are ex Oilers who have offensive prowess who are then traded for their lack of scoring seemed to thrive in another coaching system? Eric Cole 5-6 points in 2 games, Satan, Arnott, Stoll, maybe Torres ...? I have to say MacT's coaching style will probably screw up O Sullivan and Kotalik scoring...

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#21 Phil
March 09 2009, 01:16PM
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CurtisS wrote:

What you think of the new lines today Kotalik Horc Hemmer Nilsson Gags Pouliot Sully Cogs Pisani Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

Oh God, MacTavish is a f*cking idiot.

What is that 3rd line even supposed to do? Just an absolute abomination. 2nd and 3rd lines are awful, was a horrible mismatch of talent. No defined roles.

Has Nilsson ever played RW? He should get a spot on that 2nd line RW (even though I know he's played on the left side for quite some time now.) He's a left handed shot and it would probably help him open up the ice a bit more, pass more accurately off his forehand and give him more shot opportunities in the slot, both one timers and wristers.

I know MacTavish is trying to mix size with skill to balance the lines, but you have to play combos that make sense. Sullivan should not be on the 3rd line, he's a top 6 player. Either play in at center or play him at LW. He should get a shot with Hemsky eventually.

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#22 Jasmine
March 09 2009, 01:19PM
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Rival wrote:

How does Guerin only fetch a 3rd rounder but the Oilers give up a 2nd for Kotalik?

Because it wasn't the Oilers 2nd rounder. The 2nd rounder in this trade actually originally belonged to the Flames and was was traded to the Kings as part of the Cammy trade in June. The pick the Leafs get depends where the Flames end up in.

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#23 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 01:20PM
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@ Phil:

There's no way in hell that second line gets more minutes than that third line. You can blame EA Sports for it, but in this particular scenario, all of Cogliano, Pisani and O'Sullivan would be top-six forwards.

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#24 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 01:22PM
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Phil wrote:

What is that 3rd line even supposed to do? Just an absolute abomination. 2nd and 3rd lines are awful, was a horrible mismatch of talent. No defined roles.

The third line is clearly being used for secondary tough minutes, right behind Horcoff and Hemsky. Cogliano's been in that role for a while, and of course Pisani's great value is in his ability to shut down opponents.

The fact that O'Sullivan is getting put there is a vote of confidence by MacT, not the reverse.

The second line is supposed to score with soft minutes, and that's been Gagner's/Nilsson's NHL calling card so far.

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#25 Mike Krushelnyski
March 09 2009, 01:40PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

2. Does anyone really believe that a) healthy-scratching Penner has worked to motivate him or b) that he’s the 13th-best forward in the lineup? Because if the answer to both of those is no, he should be playing. Other than that, it’s fine. Fire the coach.

This must seems like a slap in the face to Kevin Lowe every time it happens. When Lowe made such a huge push to go out and get Penner, and MacT obviously wants the guy off the team, doesn't Lowe realize that maybe he doesn't/never did see eye-to-eye with his coach?

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#26 Ender the Dragon
March 09 2009, 02:21PM
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Jasmine wrote:

Rival wrote: How does Guerin only fetch a 3rd rounder but the Oilers give up a 2nd for Kotalik? Because it wasn’t the Oilers 2nd rounder. The 2nd rounder in this trade actually originally belonged to the Flames and was was traded to the Kings as part of the Cammy trade in June. The pick the Leafs get depends where the Flames end up in.

More important than that, Guerin has a no-movement clause in his contract so he got to say where he went. That limited the GM's trading options severely. Had the GM had a free hand, Guerin would have cost a lot more.

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#27 Travis Bouchard
March 09 2009, 02:55PM
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Does top line minutes mean nothing here?

how about the fact that dustin penner has played

1286 shifts on the first line this year

while vanek has played 312 with vanek and roy.

Thats significant.

You can't tell me that if ales kotalik played that many shifts on the top line of the oilers he wouldn't have 8 more points than he does now.

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#28 Travis Bouchard
March 09 2009, 03:07PM
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of course i meant kotalik has played 312 shifts with vanek and roy

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#29 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 03:08PM
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@ Travis Bouchard:

What about top line opponents? You can't tell me that if Ales Kotalik had been playing the best players on the other team all year instead of their 4th line, he wouldn't have 8 less points, can you?

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#30 Travis Bouchard
March 09 2009, 03:16PM
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Welcome to the genesis of contention.

but, to your point, show me the info of who he was playing against and i'll take that as a counter point.

I still feel though, that if he were playing top line minutes regardless of what line he was playing against he would have made up the 8 points that is the difference between him and Penner.

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#31 Wanye Gretz
March 09 2009, 03:19PM
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@ Travis Bouchard:

Whoa. Did you just come in here with an accurate count of Kotalik shifts and throw them in the mix?

Game on Sir. Well played...

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#32 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 03:26PM
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@ Travis Bouchard:

Dustin Penner: 1.80 PTS/60 Ales Kotalik: 1.11 PTS/60

Dustin Penner and Ales Kotalik have both averaged 12:22 per game on the ice at even-strength this season. Since their ice-time is identical, your argument boils down to saying that the benefit of playing with first line teammates outweighs the deficit of playing against first line opposition enough for Kotalik to add 50% to his points total.

I just don't see it.

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#33 Dennis
March 09 2009, 03:59PM
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JW: I really like the look of your lines.

They make a lot of sense.

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#34 MikeP
March 09 2009, 05:36PM
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humantorch wrote:

A better question is this: when has Craig MacTavish used a player in their PROPER role at ALL this season?

Horcoff has yet to play D or G. One could argue that he's not a top line centre (I wouldn't make that argument, but many have), and that's therefore not his rightful position, but Brodziak, Cogliano, and Gagner don't really belong there either, so he's who MacT has.

I'm not sure that it's possible to play Strudwick out of position; maybe he's the backup goalie on a GOING FORWARD BASIS. Staios didn't look so good on the wing in Vancouver though, so MacT's sensibly left him on the blueline.

Come to think of it, Roloson should move back to RW! JDD would probably like to do something other than play his natural position opening the bench door though.

I think you mean "when has MacT played a winger in his proper position all year," and the answer is quite frequently of late.

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#35 Chris
March 09 2009, 07:18PM
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Since the instant I heard the Oilers had acquired O'Sullivan, I assumed that he was to play with Hemsky... Never in my wildest dreams would I have considered playing Kotalik on the first line. Hemsky looks distracted; and when this ill advised MacT experiment runs it's course, I'm sure Hemsky will be disappointed. Distracted and Disappointed: That's how MacT must like Hemsky.

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#36 Harlie Chuddy
March 10 2009, 11:08AM
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i watched the same videos on the day we acquired Kotalik. And the I was surprised to see him play up front on the PP when we played him the first game. The wonders of MacT never cease to amaze. I mean...didn't he or anyone else in the org watch any of Kot's goals this season? If you knew nothing on Kot's and watched the videos you would almost think that he is a defenseman. I don't think he is our answer to the 1st line LW spot either. We'll see if he signs here in the offseason. I hope not.

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#37 TonyT
March 10 2009, 11:43AM
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I've said it all year, and I'll say it again: the prolem with the Oilers is their unwillingness to permanently move Horcoff off that first line. The "intagibles" (strong defensive positioning) Horcoff has is the job description of any third line centre. As many of you have already pointed out, the Oilers roles are so undefined, so to simplify put caution to the wind and place Gagner on the first line with the job to score, and put Horcoff on the third to shut down the opposition. I won't write out my lines because they'd be similiar to Willis' but Horcoff on the second or third defines roles more clearly.

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#38 Traktor
March 10 2009, 12:13PM
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Awesome work Jonathan.

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#39 G-dawg
March 10 2009, 03:33PM
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O'Sullivan - Gagner - Hemsky Penner - Horcoff - Pisani Kotalik - Cogliano - Nilsson Moreau - Brodziak - Reddox

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#40 Antony Ta
March 11 2009, 01:11AM
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FMNF.

1. Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky 2. O'Sullivan - Gagner - Kotalik 3. Jacques - Cogliano - Pisani 4. Reddox - Brodziak - Pouliot Stortini Nilsson MacIntyre Moreau*

*injury

1. Jonathan Willis has shown the Oilers produce better with Penner on the 1st line than anywhere else. 2. Put the new guys together since O'Sullivan is a natural LW/C and Kotalik is a natural RW. Anything else wouldn't make a lot of sense. 3. Jacques is filling in for Moreau. Pisani will be the veteran presence until Moreau returns. 4. Pouliot will go out and bang bodies. Should he fail, insert Stortini. My vote of confidence goes to Reddox, not to Nilsson.

FMNF.

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