Turning The Oilers Into A Playoff Team

Jonathan Willis
July 15 2009 11:15AM

lin

If we were setting an objective for the 2009-10 Edmonton Oilers, what would it be? Obviously, it would be nice to see them contend for the Stanley Cup, but from a practical point of view there are a lot of improvements that need to be made to get there. I think the goal that most fans would be relatively satisfied with for next season is some playoff hockey.

Considering where the Oilers are coming from, I think 8th in the West is a good minimum goal. With that in mind, let’s look at how the team faired in some statistical categories. All of these consider Western Conference teams only (in other words, they’re out of 15), and are ranked in order from best to worst.

  • Goals: 7th
  • 5-on-5 Goals For: 7th
  • ---Playoff Cut---
  • Powerplay: 10th
  • 5-on-5 Goals Against: 11th
  • Shots For: 12th
  • Faceoffs: 12th
  • Penalty-kill: 14th
  • Shots Against: 15th

Now, we could gamble that changing up the coaching staff and continued development by young players are going to help the team – and they very well might. That said, I wouldn’t want to gamble a playoff spot on it; even if both of these changes help, there are certainly roster changes needed.

The most interesting thing about this list is something that gets glossed over or ignored time and time again: the Oilers had playoff-calibre offense last season. In other words, if making the playoffs was dependant on goals scored and nothing else, the Oilers last season were a playoff team.

Could they be better? Absolutely. But goal-scoring did not keep the Oilers out of the playoffs last season. The powerplay was part of the problem, but some simple coaching decisions (like using Dustin Penner in an intelligent manner) make this one of the few areas where the Oilers could see a significant improvement without making wholesale roster changes.

On the other hand, the Oilers didn’t generate a ton of shots; their offense was dependant on making the most of the shots they did get; something they did well last season, probably because of the overall skill level of the team’s forwards. Adding a few players with a greater tendency to shoot – perhaps even from within (late season pickup Patrick O’Sullivan and minor-league prospect Ryan Potulny are both shooters) would help.

Now we get into the things that kept the Oilers out of the playoffs last year: a lousy penalty-kill and poor defensive play. The Oilers PK was second-worst in the Western Conference, and desperately needs to be addressed.

I’ve heard it repeatedly suggested that a change in coaches should fix the penalty-kill, but I don’t buy it because:

  • Craig MacTavish-coached teams have a good track record on the penalty-kill
  • Multiple penalty-killers (Stoll, Reasoner, Greene) were shipped out prior to 2008-09 and were never replaced – and now another one (Brodziak) has been sent out too

Some of the problem may have been coaching, but the likelihood is that this is primarily a personnel issue – something that’s borne out by the Oilers poor defensive play 5-on-5.

Last year, the Oilers ranked 11th in the West in goals against – and they would have ranked worse except for a fantastic performance by Dwayne Roloson; something that’s made obvious by the fact that Oilers’ goaltenders faced more shots than anyone else in the Western Conference.

Something needs to be done to address the fact that the Oilers bled chances defensively. I know this isn’t going to be a popular stance amongst fans (many of whom are still cheering for the vaunted “three offensive lines” concept and looking forward to a new era of offensive creativity under Pat Quinn) but this was and is the Oilers biggest problem. The team is full of young, offensive-minded players with little or no clue defensively and its defensive stalwarts have either been overused (Horcoff) or are questionable due to age and injury (Moreau/Pisani).

The Edmonton Oilers will never be a successful team unless they can find a way to fill their gaping defensive holes.

Unfortunately, filling those holes seems to be a low priority – not just among fans, but also in the G.M.’s office.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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.
Avatar
#51 scorecoff hemmercules
July 15 2009, 01:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Archaeologuy:

Haha, I'm rob that you were replying to, I used the computer at home and forgot to put in scorecoff. Anyway, I get ya, I thought Tambo would have done more by now myself. I'm just saying he hasn't done nothing at all. I'm still under the impression he didn't have full GM control over most of last season but thats just speculation. He must be under crazy pressure from Lowe and Katz to get the superstar, why else would he do this to himself with Heatley? I do find it hard to believe that any GM could flip this team from zero to hero in one year though.

Avatar
#52 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 01:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DanMan wrote:

The surest way to help your team win is getting a 40 + goal scorer.

Between the two teams that competed for the Cup this year there was only 1 player who scored 40 goals during the regular season. He was on the losing team.

Avatar
#53 jeanshorts
July 15 2009, 01:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Archaeologuy wrote:

Wait! You mean Doctor Heatley’s 40 goals wont instantly send the Oilers into the playoffs????????

~No but it will automatically win us the cup~

Avatar
#54 scorecoff hemmercules
July 15 2009, 01:56PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

MoJo wrote:

The thing is having a conversation about how patient we all are just isn’t that sexy . . .

You are so right about that, I'm trying to stay patient but I'm barely holding on. It would be nice if we did a small trade or signed a UFA to keep the oilfan minds a little more sane, even just an RFA signing at this point. If we are having this same conversation on August 1st I'll start to worry.

Avatar
#55 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 01:56PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ scorecoff hemmercules: yeah, i dont know what kind of pressure Tambi is under to find the next big thing. Still my impression of Tambi is that it takes him a ridiculous amount of time to react to issues on the team. Everyone who is connected keeps insisting that he was in charge all last season, so i will keep holding that against him too. I dont expect zero to hero, but there has to be some kind of improvement, and outside of natural development (as the club stands today) i dont see any on-ice Tambi additions that will improve the club for next year.

Avatar
#56 TonyT
July 15 2009, 01:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Reastically how tied are Tambo's hands in terms of player contracts? Teams in more difficult spots than the Oilers (i.e. NJD) have dumped contracts before, are all our players that undesirable?

Avatar
#57 DanMan
July 15 2009, 02:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Archaeologuy wrote:

Between the two teams that competed for the Cup this year there was only 1 player who scored 40 goals during the regular season. He was on the losing team.

Well first of all, even with Heatley we won't be competing for any cups other than the Joey Moss for at least a couple years.

The two teams that competed for the cup had 2 bona fide number one centers apeice. Zetterberg and Datsyuk on DET and Crosby and Malkin on PGH. When you have 2 100 point getters on your team, a 40 goal scorer is not needed for a cup run.

Avatar
#58 jeanshorts
July 15 2009, 02:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Archaeologuy wrote:

Between the two teams that competed for the Cup this year there was only 1 player who scored 40 goals during the regular season. He was on the losing team.

Also, there were 3 teams that had less total goals for than the Oilers that still made the playoffs. How odd.......

Avatar
#59 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 02:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ DanMan: I just wanted to see how many 40 goal scorers were on the two teams after you said that the surest way to win is to get a 40+ goal scorer. I was actually surprised.

Obviously the teams are loaded with impact offensive players. I was just testing your hypothesis.

Avatar
#60 Ogden Brother
July 15 2009, 02:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

TonyT wrote:

Reastically how tied are Tambo’s hands in terms of player contracts? Teams in more difficult spots than the Oilers (i.e. NJD) have dumped contracts before, are all our players that undesirable?

The teams that landed the biggest UFA fish were both far tighter against the cap.

Avatar
#61 DanMan
July 15 2009, 02:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

What I meant was the surest way to help the Oilers win was to get the 40 goal man.

I still would like a true #1 center, but with Hemsky as the playmaker, he would ideally be a shooter. There really aren't any available via trade, though, you have to draft those guys.

Thats probably the most unfortunate thing about the way this team was built. To me, your best forward (maybe even player) should be the #1 center. Its hard to get a Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Thornton, or Spezza. But we could've had Getzlaf or Parise.

Avatar
#62 The Menace
July 15 2009, 02:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Colin: I didn't miss that. you talked about drunken monkeys last year - I assumed you didn't think they would have that same scheme this year. I sure hope not! Maybe you don't agree, but with a better offensive scheme than last year I would expect fewer chances against us in our own end.

Avatar
#63 Jonathan Willis
July 15 2009, 02:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Bob Cob wrote:

The PK was only a problem because the Oilers couldn’t avoid taking stupid penalties due in part to not moving there feet in the offensive and defensive end and instead clutching and grabbing or hooking

To some degree, but the Oilers were league-average in minor penalties taken (i.e. they were relatively disciplined). The PK needs to be far better.

Avatar
#64 vern
July 15 2009, 02:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

San Jose signed Nichol. That means Goc should become avalible. he went 58.2% in the faceoff circle. Just one more possible player for 3rd or 4th line center.

Avatar
#65 DanMan
July 15 2009, 02:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Goc is already available. I'm pretty sure the Sharks didn't qualify him.

I heard Prentergast on a radio interview yesterday say that the 3rd line C role will be filled from within.

Avatar
#66 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 02:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DanMan wrote:

I heard Prentergast on a radio interview yesterday say that the 3rd line C role will be filled from within.

yeah, that worked out SO well last year. I guess Pouliot is the answer.

*sigh*

Avatar
#67 vern
July 15 2009, 02:40PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

my guess is that if nobody is brought in they will give Brule a good long look

Avatar
#68 smiliegirl15
July 15 2009, 02:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

~ Peca's still available ~

Avatar
#69 DanMan
July 15 2009, 02:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm thinkin it ends up being Cogliano or Brule. The Pou is a lock for the 4th line between Stortini and Macintyre/Jacques.

Avatar
#70 DanMan
July 15 2009, 02:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Mike Peca scored 4 goals last year. And he doesn't want to play here.

Why do these names come up?

Everyone wants to build from within, but you want Brule to toil in the minors for antother year to sign Peca, or Betts, Goc, Malhotra, or any other castoff that has been mentioned?

These players are still out there for a reason: They're not very good.

Avatar
#71 Harlie
July 15 2009, 02:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

smiliegirl15 wrote:

~ Peca’s still available ~

while we're at it.. hxxp://www.castefootball.us/images/temp/e2ec89fd29781079a9632381c6f9f58e.jpg

Avatar
#72 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 02:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DanMan wrote:

These players are still out there for a reason: They’re not very good.

Malhotra had 35 points last season. Thats how many Brule has in his career. He's a better NHLer than Brule. Those guys are still out there because last year they would have been given 2 million easy, but now teams are offering much less.

Avatar
#73 Librarian Mike
July 15 2009, 02:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Harlie:

Anson "The Pitcher" Carter. Like a pitcher, he only played every 5 games.

Avatar
#74 smiliegirl15
July 15 2009, 02:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

You must be new here. This symbol ~ indicates sarcasm. I certainly don't want Peca here either however he certainly improved the quality of our faceoffs. If Peca was good at anything it was at faceoffs - and when he finally showed up to play during the playoffs. A cheap third line centre who's good at faceoffs - Peca is certainly one of those.

Avatar
#75 Ender the Dragon
July 15 2009, 02:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ DanMan: @ Harlie:

You guys missed Smilie's ~~

She was being sarcastic. I think she understands all that; probably better than many of the trolls who post here.

All that said, even though I agree that Peca isn't the answer, another Selke winner might be nice on this team.

Avatar
#76 Ogden Brother
July 15 2009, 02:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DanMan wrote:

Mike Peca scored 4 goals last year. And he doesn’t want to play here. Why do these names come up? Everyone wants to build from within, but you want Brule to toil in the minors for antother year to sign Peca, or Betts, Goc, Malhotra, or any other castoff that has been mentioned? These players are still out there for a reason: They’re not very good.

I think the main issue is that you can only have so much youth, especially in key positions. I'd be more comfortable with Brule on the 3rd line wing with a vetran center vs Brule on the 3rd line C with 2 vetran wingers. Same as the top 6, it's great to have lot of youth, but replacing Cogs with say Horton would likely be benificial.

Avatar
#77 DanMan
July 15 2009, 03:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Archaeologuy:

Pahlsson got almost $3 mil a year and had less points than Malhotra.

Why did Columbus not just keep Malhotra for less money?

Because he is not very good. There are many guys who could get 35 playing half the year with Rick Nash.

How many points did Brodziak get last year? I think he's had 30 + two years in a row.

I think, like some other teams have realized, you need to have young and cheap players fill out the bottom 6 to be successful. There's simply not enough cap space to sign a $2.5 million per defensive specialist to play 3rd line C.

Avatar
#78 hatecrime
July 15 2009, 03:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ DanMan: calgary has a crap load on the back end

Avatar
#79 Archaeologuy
July 15 2009, 03:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ DanMan:

Moen 1.5, B-Mo 1.5, Marchant 1.125, Fiddler 1.1

guys are getting less money per year on the whole. Pahlsson's deal looks insane.

Avatar
#80 DanMan
July 15 2009, 03:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Moen scored 9 points last year. Marchant and Morrison are on their last legs. I know Fiddler is from Edmonton, but he's an AHLer on a decent team.

I like Brule more than all those guys, and at half the price.

Pahlsson is overrated, no doubt, but thats what happens when media and the fans obsess over 3rd line centers. Pisani's 2.8 on the 3rd line is bad enough, we don't need a $6 million 3rd line (which is what it would be for a 1.5 guy at C).

We cant really play Brule on the wing in the top 9, there is a logjam of 2nd/3rd line wingers on this team.

Avatar
#81 vern
July 15 2009, 03:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

at least Pisanis contract is up after next season and moreau the year after

Avatar
#82 ronaldo
July 15 2009, 03:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

My two cents, which by the way I have special on right now and they can be had for one.

First off, thanks for this, hamburgler42 wrote:

“It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight”

Can't get this masterpiece out of my head.

Second, it seems to me that teams with good 1st and second lines often have the best 3/4 line players. Now is this because they are better managed organizations, perhaps. One could also argue that if 3/4 line players can count on their scorers to score, they can concentrate on their specific roles. We seem to have three lines that can be on any given night be the scoring line or the shutdown line. Some of this can be chalked up to coaching. But also if we had the right personnel on the top two lines taking care of business, the need to find bottom six forwards would seem allot less urgent.

Avatar
#83 Curious
July 15 2009, 03:40PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Is it true Reddox rejected the qualiying offer and is headed to Europe? The guys in the office are chattign but I cant find it anywhere...

Avatar
#84 ronaldo
July 15 2009, 03:48PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Curious: That's what TSN is reporting. Guess he'll be relocating his construction company. :)

Avatar
#85 Curious
July 15 2009, 03:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ ronaldo:

Oh its on TSN, Ill have to look there. Thanks!

Avatar
#86 vern
July 15 2009, 03:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

oh no we lost a 3rd line AHLer that gave felacio to MacT for NHL ice time

Avatar
#87 Asciutto
July 15 2009, 03:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

"The surest way to help your team win is getting a 40 + goal scorer."

Having Heatley in the Line-up sure worked for the Senators.

Avatar
#88 DanMan
July 15 2009, 03:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ vern:

LOL hahahaha, thats gold Vern! Gold!

Avatar
#89 DanMan
July 15 2009, 03:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Asciutto wrote:

“The surest way to help your team win is getting a 40 + goal scorer.” Having Heatley in the Line-up sure worked for the Senators.

Do you mean in 07 when they went to the Stanley Cup final?

Heatley scored 50 that year :)

Avatar
#90 Curious
July 15 2009, 04:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ vern: funny!

No big loss - if anything it frees up another contract which is what we need to do. I just hadnt heard about it and everyone in the office was blabbing about it.

Avatar
#91 Ender the Dragon
July 15 2009, 04:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Curious wrote:

Is it true Reddox rejected the qualiying offer and is headed to Europe?

ronaldo wrote:

That’s what TSN is reporting.

Before I made any smart remarks about how we won't miss Reddox, I'd love to know what the Oilers offer was. Whether he was miscast on the top-line or not, the fact remains he was a reliable utility player who brought his best effort every night. If the Oilers brass thought that was worth, for example, a 1-year contract at the league minimum, I'd suggest the move to Europe wasn't a mistake on Reddox's part.

Avatar
#92 ScubaSteve
July 15 2009, 04:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Ender the Dragon wrote:

the fact remains he was a reliable utility player who brought his best effort every night.

We have tons of those, and when your best effort is being an average AHL'er, it's not worth the paper the contract is written on. I'm glad to see him go, we can use that contract to sign someone with some upside.

Avatar
#93 Curious
July 15 2009, 04:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Ender the Dragon:

He is not in my top 12 forwards and is a depth player at best who fills in if injuries set in. This really is not a loss - he is easily replaced. The Oil have too many contracts anyway. Its ok.

Avatar
#94 vern
July 15 2009, 04:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

the oil just signed three depth players in the last few days. They are probably glad he turned down the offer.

Avatar
#95 Dallas
July 15 2009, 04:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Archaeologuy: What's wrong with osully we absolutely robbed l.a of him

Avatar
#96 The Menace
July 15 2009, 04:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Curious wrote:

Oh its on TSN, Ill have to look there. Thanks!

That's hilarious - TSN becoming the last place people look for breaking sports news?

Avatar
#97 vern
July 15 2009, 04:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Dallas: agreed great pick up

Avatar
#98 Jonathan Willis
July 15 2009, 04:27PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

DanMan wrote:

There are many guys who could get 35 playing half the year with Rick Nash.

Malhotra didn't play half the year with Nash. He saw spot duty on the first line for a few road games.

Avatar
#99 Jonathan Willis
July 15 2009, 04:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

vern wrote:

oh no we lost a 3rd line AHLer that gave felacio to MacT for NHL ice time

Vern: He's not a stupid person, he just plays one on the internet.

Avatar
#100 Harlie
July 15 2009, 04:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

smiliegirl15 wrote:

I certainly don’t want Peca here either however he certainly improved the quality of our faceoffs. If Peca was good at anything it was SHAVING

FIXED

Comments are closed for this article.