Kelly Buchberger: The Perfect Fit?

Jonathan Willis
June 23 2009 01:49PM

bucky Photo by Håkan Dahlström. View his Flickr stream. When the Oilers announced major changes to their coaching staff this summer, the only survivor was former captain Kelly Buchberger. Head coach Craig MacTavish, assistants Charlie Huddy and Bill Moores, and video coach Brian Ross all saw their employment terminated. Goaltending coach Pete Peeters was let go a few weeks later, and Springfield Head Coach Jeff Truitt was let go earlier in the year. Assuming that at least of these guys knew their business (a reasonable assumption) why was Buchberger – with his comparatively short resume – preserved? Some would argue that his behind the scenes connections kept him in Edmonton, but I don’t think that’s it. After all, it’s probably a reasonable guess that guys like Huddy and Moores were fairly connected to, given their long tenure with the organization. I think the real reason is both more interesting and more encouraging: merit. This is a bit of an about-face for me; I was highly critical of the decision last summer to bump Rob Daum into limbo so that Buchberger could take his job (Daum took a job as a scout and is the new coach in Springfield). It felt like one more act of nepotism from a club that already placed too much importance on on-ice accomplishments from two decades ago. Two things have helped persuade me that Buchberger may be a valuable asset to the coaching staff.

Springfield: Going From Bad to Worse

Kelly Buchberger’s record in Springfield was not, in my opinion, an asset; at least, not prior to this season. They recorded only 80 points, missed the playoffs, and were outscored 257-214. Jeff Truitt took over this season with a relatively similar roster, and the Falcons recorded 20 fewer points, and scored 26 fewer goals while allowing one more.

Jeff Truitt is no dummy. He has a very good record as a junior coach, a record that includes championship victories, and he was hired quickly in the off-season to boot, despite his record in Springfield.

Individual players responded to Buchberger’s methods in Springfield (despite his reputation as a bit of a taskmaster). Rob Schremp had the finest season of his career, and Liam Reddox went from being an ECHL bit player to getting NHL icetime. From this vantage point, it’s probably fair to say that Kelly Buchberger’s limited time as a head coach was successful.

Experience

It seems a little funny to cite experience as an asset when Buchberger has spent relatively little time doing it (he was first hired as an AHL assistant in 2004-05). But the fact of the matter is that there probably isn’t a single person in the organization with the same feel for every prospect and young player in the system than Kelly Buchberger.

Buchberger not only has that experience by virtue of his work as an assistant and later head coach with Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, but also because of what he did in between. He was in a bit of limbo himself in 2005-06; the Oilers AHL franchise dissolved, and it seemed like he bounced around the organization as sort of a jack-of-all-trades. In 2006-07, he became the team’s development coach, working with every prospect in the system – including those playing for amateur teams. Lastly, this past season he saw every Oilers player from the vantage of the video room and during practices.

Given that Pat Quinn’s been away from the NHL (and freely acknowledges he doesn’t have a read on his players yet) and Tom Renney has been coaching in the East, doesn’t it make sense to leave a guy on staff who knows every player in the system; their strengths weaknesses, and history with the team? Furthermore, doesn’t it make sense to leave a guy who has shown throughout his playing career that he doesn’t mind filling any role that’s expected of him – particularly given that both Quinn and Renney are coming in as former head coaches and will certainly be the two guys making decisions?

At this point, Kelly Buchberger is probably the perfect fit to round out the coaching staff.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 Chris
June 23 2009, 05:11PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

You can criticize Hemmer over alot of things, but criticizing him for not distributing the puck is bordering on delusional.

Where can a guy go to get a breakdown of a fellas point totals? How many of hemsky's assists are on the PP vs on the rush? Based on Hemsky's point totals it is clear he can distribute the puck... In fact, my beef with him is that he should if anything shoot more!

But the Lone Ranger comment still amuses me... Whether it is Hemsky, or his linemates, there has been a persistant chemistry issue on the first line. I do believe Hemsky needs to be more decisive when he hits the line... at the speed he's flying you run out of ice in a hurry!

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#52 The Menace IQWT
June 23 2009, 05:17PM
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@ Chris: You know what would be great for Hemsky's confidence? Knowing you got a 40-goal trigerman on the other end of whatever pass he's making!

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#53 Chris
June 23 2009, 05:21PM
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David S wrote:

^ With Gagner its a lack of confidence. With Hemsky its a lack of linemates.

Ha JINX!

Chris wrote:

I think Gagner distributes the puck nicely when he’s on… but when he’s lacking confidence he has this tendancy to stop moving his feet when he’s thinking pass…

I'm a slow typer. I think we agree on Gagner anyway. You, on the other hand, blame Hemmers linemates... not his hockey sense. I'm waffling. I would love to see Heatley here if only to settle the Hemsky debate for once and for all. Remember, even Penner is capable of scoring thirty with the right linmates; IMO Hemsky is at least somewhat culpable for the Oiler first line woes...

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#54 Chris
June 23 2009, 05:23PM
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@ The Menace IQWT: Ha JINX again! We are all so in sync today.

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#55 Chris
June 23 2009, 05:25PM
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@ The Menace IQWT:

Does IQWT stand for I Quit Work Today?

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#56 The Menace IQWT
June 23 2009, 05:28PM
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@ Chris: Ha! In Quinn We Trust c/o Jean Shorts and Baggedmilk

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#57 Chris IQ&RWT
June 23 2009, 05:34PM
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@ The Menace IQWT:

Self explanitory. One thing IS certain... Quinn is really gonna shake things up. I don't see how that could be a bad thing... First or Worst! This middle of the pack thing has gotten old.

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#58 Travis Dakin
June 23 2009, 05:38PM
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The Menace IQWT wrote:

@ Chris: You know what would be great for Hemsky’s confidence? Knowing you got a 40-goal trigerman on the other end of whatever pass he’s making!

Remember the look Smyth used to get on his face when he'd look over at Hemsky after he had another one of those easy tap in's? He always looked so blown away like... "how the hell did that puck get to me?" It was like he was so happy to score a goal without taking the normal abuse. anyway....

Smyth was just a 30-35 goal guy. Not a sniper. Imagine for a second if you will, all of those 3-5 times a game beauty passes that Hemsky always makes, actually finding their way to a real sniper.... Oh man!!!!!

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#59 Travis Dakin
June 23 2009, 05:42PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Smyth was just a 30-35 goal guy. Not a sniper

That should say he was a 20-25 goal guy pumped up to 30-35 by Hemsky's magic.

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#60 The Menace
June 23 2009, 05:44PM
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I already have all my excitement eggs in the Heatley basket. I'm going to be very dissapointed if the Oilers do not get him. I shouldn't have got that 6th ring Heatley/Oilers tattoo.

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#61 Travis Dakin
June 23 2009, 05:47PM
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@ The Menace: I've already ordered a number 15 Heatley jersey!

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#62 Librarian Mike
June 23 2009, 06:05PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

That should say he was a 20-25 goal guy pumped up to 30-35 by Hemsky’s magic.

...and previously a 20-25 goal guy pumped up to 30-35 by Weight's magic.

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#63 Chris IQ&RWT
June 23 2009, 06:13PM
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@ Travis Dakin:

Like I said earlier in previous threads: Heatley would be a PERFECT fit here... on paper anyway...although sometimes things don't unfold the way you'd expect (Remember how Penner was supposed to replace Smyth?)

As for Hemsky; I like him. I like him a lot... But he does have to shoulder his share of the blame for what has gone on here the last three years. Last season, when it mattered the most: (the last fifteen to twenty games) Hemsky had like ONE goal (other than an empty netter)... Not good enough for a player with his skill-set; no matter who he was playing with.

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#64 David S
June 23 2009, 06:29PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

I’ve already ordered a number 15 Heatley jersey!

That Dakin guy goes all in!

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#65 Librarian Mike
June 23 2009, 06:41PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

@ The Menace: I’ve already ordered a number 15 Heatley jersey!

If it falls through, you can just change the 1 to a 3 and get rid of the 't'....and you've got yourself a Glenn Healey jersey! You're welcome.;)

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#66 ryan
June 23 2009, 06:48PM
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Good article alot better then Brownlees BS

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#67 Westcoastoil
June 23 2009, 06:57PM
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As great as it would be to see the triple H line, supposedly Heatley's list of TEN teams didn't include Edmonton. How hard is going to play if he gets pushed into an Oiler jersey. Do we need another superstar who doesn't want to be here? He making his money no matter where he plays. Is he going to get 40 goals moping all year and bad mouthing Edm. to all his pals in the league. If I'm Tambo, I don't make that trade unless I know he wants to come.

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#68 Westcoastoil
June 23 2009, 07:00PM
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From the Sun:

"Among Burke’s other thoughts: He said that while in Anaheim last year he was miffed at the Leafs decision not to send rookie defenceman Luke Schenn back to junior. “I would have sent him back,” Burke said. “In retrospect, (then general manager Cliff Fletcher) was genius.”"

So he's miffed about Schenn while he's the GM of the Ducks, and Heatley's a A-hole for demanding a trade. What a pud.

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#69 Ogden Brother
June 23 2009, 07:22PM
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Chris wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: You can criticize Hemmer over alot of things, but criticizing him for not distributing the puck is bordering on delusional. Where can a guy go to get a breakdown of a fellas point totals? How many of hemsky’s assists are on the PP vs on the rush? Based on Hemsky’s point totals it is clear he can distribute the puck… In fact, my beef with him is that he should if anything shoot more! But the Lone Ranger comment still amuses me… Whether it is Hemsky, or his linemates, there has been a persistant chemistry issue on the first line. I do believe Hemsky needs to be more decisive when he hits the line… at the speed he’s flying you run out of ice in a hurry!

NHL.com has just about everything you could look for.

I agree, he needs to tighten up the turnovers (and I put that on him, not his linemates) and he also needs to be more agressive going to the net/shooting... we seen glimpses of what he can do when he takes the puck to the net with purpose.

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#70 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 08:27PM
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Chris wrote:

Quinn’s comments about the “lone ranger” who doesn’t distribute the puck kind of amuse me… because it’s kind of how I evaluate Hemsky myself

As i recall, Quinn was speaking rhetorically about "the lone ranger" and never even mentioned Hemsky. I could be totally wrong about that, but that's what i remember.

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#71 The Menace
June 23 2009, 08:33PM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

As great as it would be to see the triple H line, supposedly Heatley’s list of TEN teams didn’t include Edmonton. How hard is going to play if he gets pushed into an Oiler jersey. Do we need another superstar who doesn’t want to be here? He making his money no matter where he plays. Is he going to get 40 goals moping all year and bad mouthing Edm. to all his pals in the league. If I’m Tambo, I don’t make that trade unless I know he wants to come.

I wouldn't worry about that. he's already saud that he would accept a trade here, and he's not the one making the final decision.

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#72 BruceM
June 23 2009, 09:11PM
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Chris wrote:

Where can a guy go to get a breakdown of a fellas point totals? How many of hemsky’s assists are on the PP vs on the rush?

NHL.com breaks down points by special teams. Here for example is a sort for even-strength assists, showing our man Ales in a 27-way tie for 164th in the NHL, tied with such dazzling playmakers as Joel Ward, Kyle Okposo, James Sheppard Ryan Callahan and Joffrey Lupul.

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#73 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 09:23PM
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BruceM wrote:

Here for example is a sort for even-strength assists, showing our man Ales in a 27-way tie for 164th in the NHL, tied with such dazzling playmakers as Joel Ward, Kyle Okposo, James Sheppard Ryan Callahan and Joffrey Lupul.

And Arnott, and Langkow, and Brad Richards...

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#74 Chris IQ&RWT
June 23 2009, 09:24PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

Whether or not he was speaking of Hemsky is a point of debate... David Staples wrote an article in the cult of hockey regarding this matter.

Quinn said, "You've got a great talented center here that never distributes the puck. Is he a great talent? Yeah. But he's like playing with the Lone Ranger."

When Quinn said this I immediately thought of Hemsky (Who else on the roster would be described as being a great talent?)...But on the other hand, Hemsky generally distributes the puck well, and doesn't play center.

But here is the kicker. Later in the interview Tencer asks Quinn point blank if Horcoff will still be the number one center or if it will be Gagner. Quinn gives a rambling answer about how he doesn't like to label lines as being one, two, or three; talks about balance and how everyone on the team needs to play a solid two way game...etc, etc. Then says, "I don't know if Hemsky is the guy yet... I haven't really assessed this group well enough to know if we even have a number one... maybe we have three fours... *meanwhile Tencer is nervously laughing and refusing to dispute the fact that Hemsky is NOT a center... and in fact Horcoff and Hemsky are two distinct and differnt players*

So that's it. I'm in the camp that thinks Quinn called Hemsky the Lone Ranger. And yes, I'm kind of amused by that assessment... Though, clearly Quinn doesn't know jack about the Oilers... but hey, I guess we wanted a fresh perspective...

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#75 Victoria
June 23 2009, 09:43PM
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Ender wrote:

@Victoria I know that; I’m just wondering how he’s dealt with these things in the past. From what the numbers say Quinn tends to go with a 55/30 ish split, but I don’t know the way that was arranged. Long story short, They’ll never know if they have anything in JDD unless they give him a reasonable chance, and MacT seemed to be terrified of making any goalie decisions.

Ah, gotcha. In his interview with Tencer, Quinn did say he wanted to see how 'the boy' plays, so I'm guessing he'll get a lot more playing time then he got under MacT's regime. I still think the layout will depend on which goalie they end up signing.

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#76 Chris IQ&RWT
June 23 2009, 09:52PM
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@ Victoria:

You just listened to the interview... Is Hemsky the Lone Ranger? Gagner? Horcoff?

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#77 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 10:00PM
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@ Chris IQ&RWT: It was kind of odd that he seemed to be mish mashing guys together. Based on the interviews I would agree with you about him not knowing anything about the Oilers, but i am stoked that he will be evaluating the guys on their play and not some pre-conceived notion of where they fit. And its not like he has had a chance to be with the guys at all.

It's pretty hard for me to think of Hemsky as the lone ranger considering he would consistently pass the puck off to Horcoff no matter how often he whiffed on a sure tap-in goal.

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#78 Sean
June 23 2009, 10:11PM
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I dont know if this has been mentioned yet but the other intangible Bucky brings is having played the game recently. I think its valuable from both a coaching and management standpoint.

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#79 Ogden Brother
June 23 2009, 10:12PM
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Chris IQ&RWT wrote:

@ Archaeologuy: Whether or not he was speaking of Hemsky is a point of debate… David Staples wrote an article in the cult of hockey regarding this matter. Quinn said, “You’ve got a great talented center here that never distributes the puck. Is he a great talent? Yeah. But he’s like playing with the Lone Ranger.” When Quinn said this I immediately thought of Hemsky (Who else on the roster would be described as being a great talent?)…But on the other hand, Hemsky generally distributes the puck well, and doesn’t play center. But here is the kicker. Later in the interview Tencer asks Quinn point blank if Horcoff will still be the number one center or if it will be Gagner. Quinn gives a rambling answer about how he doesn’t like to label lines as being one, two, or three; talks about balance and how everyone on the team needs to play a solid two way game…etc, etc. Then says, “I don’t know if Hemsky is the guy yet… I haven’t really assessed this group well enough to know if we even have a number one… maybe we have three fours… *meanwhile Tencer is nervously laughing and refusing to dispute the fact that Hemsky is NOT a center… and in fact Horcoff and Hemsky are two distinct and differnt players* So that’s it. I’m in the camp that thinks Quinn called Hemsky the Lone Ranger. And yes, I’m kind of amused by that assessment… Though, clearly Quinn doesn’t know jack about the Oilers… but hey, I guess we wanted a fresh perspective…

Man I'd laugh if he doesn't know Hemmer/Horc are two different players.

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#80 Victoria
June 23 2009, 10:26PM
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Chris IQ&RWT wrote:

@ Victoria: You just listened to the interview… Is Hemsky the Lone Ranger? Gagner? Horcoff?

Ask MacT. He knew this team so well he thought Reasoner was comparable to Sakic.

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#81 Chris
June 23 2009, 10:32PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

It’s pretty hard for me to think of Hemsky as the lone ranger considering he would consistently pass the puck off to Horcoff no matter how often he whiffed on a sure tap-in goal.

It's funny how everyone can watch the same game and come away with differnt interpetations. Scouts talk about this phenomenia all the time.

When you and many others watch an Oiler game you remember all the times Horcoff wiffed on a golden Hemsky cross seam pass. We've all seen it... Every playmaker watches teamates fail to convert. How many times did Guerin miss Crosby "tap-in's" this playoff?

I can watch the exact same game and remember all the times Hemsky leads the rush over the line with speed; button hooks just inside the line, and coughs up the puck for an odd man rush the other way. Or I tend to remember all the times Hemsky plays like the "Lone Ranger" and just plain hangs on to the puck too long; until all his options disappear.

I don't know if you can get to many games live or not...But I find that on T.V. Hemsky looks impressive when he's wheeling, and turning at speed with the puck in the face of all those defenders... Live, on the other hand, during the same sequence, when you can see the entire play develop; and can watch all the players away from the puck: I'm positively pulling out my hair with frustraiton at Hemsky's unwillingness to dish off the puck decisively. Maybe it's like some say... "he thinks the game on a whole differnt level"... or maybe he just can't think as fast as he can fly.

Heatley, or a player of his ilk, will convert a higher percentage of good Hemsky set-ups... but only Hemsky can improve on what percentage of his set-ups that are good.

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#82 Chris
June 23 2009, 10:36PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

but i am stoked that he will be evaluating the guys on their play and not some pre-conceived notion of where they fit.

I COMPLETELY agree! It's time the locker room pecking order was reset based purley on merit.

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#83 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 10:43PM
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@ Chris: We do indeed see the game differently.

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#84 Robin Brownlee
June 23 2009, 10:53PM
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ryan wrote:

Good article alot better then Brownlees BS

Do mommy and daddy know you're still up and it's almost 7 p.m.?

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#85 Chris
June 23 2009, 10:59PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

Who among current Oiler roster players do you think will benifit the most with the coaching change, and who will suffer?

I expect improvements from Smid, and Penner. I suspect Peckham will win a regular job out of camp. The kids may have a tough time for awhile... particularly Nilsson, and maybe even O'Sullivan.

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#86 Chris
June 23 2009, 11:02PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Oh, Hi Robin. Thanks to you I've spent all day dreaming about Evander Kane.

It's premature, I know... Same question i asked Arch: Who do you think will benifit the most from the coaching change?

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#87 B.C.B.
June 23 2009, 11:03PM
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smytty777 wrote:

My problem with Buchberger is that I don’t know what he does. . . Bucky being kept over Huddy still does not sit well with me.

Agree. Our defense was the strength (and not because we had the best players) but because they were damn well coached. If you doubt me, please go back and watch Grebs evolution in pitching in, or any d-pairings coverage between the corners and the front of the net!

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#88 Jonathan Willis
June 23 2009, 11:13PM
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ryan wrote:

Good article alot better then Brownlees BS

Not to put too fine a point on it, since I think this is a fine article, but Robin's bit about who the Oilers should draft is one of the better pieces you'll see here.

The news about who they're looking at and who they're pursuing is more important than analysis.

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#89 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 11:19PM
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@ Chris: Penner is at the top of my list of players to benefit from Quinn. I like Smid, he probably benefits because he will probably be given more of the duties that Staios was given before. I think Cogliano will probably finally be given the PP time that was inexplicably kept from him, which will increase his totals.

I dont know who will suffer. The team as a whole needed a new energy in the room, so i expect that they will do better with that change. Horcoff can go either way. He will probably have a more defined role than last year, which could kill his offensive role or his shut down one. I hope he can bounce back but i have my doubts about his effectiveness regaining it's pre-shoulder injury levels.

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#90 Chris
June 23 2009, 11:25PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

I suspect any player who refuses to finish checks, and aggressively pursue the puck will suffer under Quinn. I love how Quinn talked about hockey as a game of transition and how quickly recovering the puck was just as important as what you did with the puck... Work ethic being the key. That said, I still think Penner will have a rebound season... go figure.

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#91 ChiliChunk
June 23 2009, 11:35PM
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Chris IQ&RWT wrote:

@ Archaeologuy: So that’s it. I’m in the camp that thinks Quinn called Hemsky the Lone Ranger. And yes, I’m kind of amused by that assessment… Though, clearly Quinn doesn’t know jack about the Oilers… but hey, I guess we wanted a fresh perspective…

Well maybe he started paying more attention to the Oiler players during the world championships in case he ended up here and since Hemsky played centre during that tourny he thinks he is a centre? Or maybe he just thinks he should be? Or maybe he really doesn't know jack about the team yet. I dunno. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

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#92 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 11:37PM
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@ Chris: For all the complaints about Penner there is the simple fact that he generally outscores his opponents in 5 on 5 play. For whatever reason, he is not a defensive liability. Quinn or Renney might value this more than MacT did.

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#93 Chris
June 23 2009, 11:41PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

I'm still hoping Penner can live up to his contract and be a legit first liner... especially if we get stuck with the SISTERS.

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#94 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 11:45PM
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@ Chris: I like the Sedins. They outscore their opponents like crazy and they're both point per game players. They dont get the credit they deserve as a duo. The Oilers would be lucky to have 2 point a gamers on the top line + Hemsky. Those guys will be instant offense on whatever team lands them.

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#95 David S
June 23 2009, 11:46PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

For whatever reason, he is not a defensive liability. Quinn or Renney might value this more than MacT did.

I don't think MacT undervalued Penner as much as disliked the fact he didn't play to what MacT thought was his potential. Every coach is stymied by the guy who he knows has alot more to give than he does. At some point, you give up because you've tried everything you can think of. Penner simply wasn't playing to the level MacT thought he should have been capable of more often than not.

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#96 Archaeologuy
June 23 2009, 11:49PM
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@ David S: Oh i agree, he has more to give. But the whole team had more to give last season, not just Penner. MacT just wasnt the guy to be able to get it from the guys. His time passed a while ago but no one felt like admiting the milk went bad until Tambi took over.

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#97 David S
June 23 2009, 11:50PM
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Chris wrote:

@ Archaeologuy: I suspect any player who refuses to finish checks, and aggressively pursue the puck will suffer under Quinn.

They won't suffer because they'll be gone. It seems to me both Quinn and Tambellini have been laying the foundation for what they expect every time they've spoken this summer. My guess is guys like Penner and Nilsson are working their butts off this summer. Nilsson especially because this is literally his last chance to be an NHL player.

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#98 David S
June 23 2009, 11:58PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

MacT just wasnt the guy to be able to get it from the guys. His time passed a while ago but no one felt like admiting the milk went bad until Tambi took over.

You know, I'm not sure we could say that with any conviction being that we weren't in the dressing room and often what a fan sees on the ice isn't always what's going on. If the team remains basically intact this fall, then I imagine that was the case. If we have alot of roster changes, that might indicate the team wasn't as capable as we thought. Either way, there were alot of holes this last year. On top of which, after watching this last playoffs it was painfully apparent our team as a whole just wasn't very good compared to those guys.

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#99 charlieangels
June 24 2009, 06:10AM
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Very disappointing the Oilers are not on the list of Heatly. What's the deal there? Come on Katz, fly him over and let me see the real Oilers these days.

Tencer plucks his eyebrows? Sure looks that way from the T.V. pictures of him last night.

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#100 Archaeologuy
June 24 2009, 08:33AM
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@ David S: 8 years is too long for a coach that consistently misses the playoffs. Big changes almost every year but the same result all the time. If he was an effective coach for the first 3 years, he was inept the last 5.

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