Deep thoughts XIII: Brass tacks

Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009 03:14PM

Samurai-quinn

Don't expect a sneak peek at Pat Quinn's season-opening roster when the Edmonton Oilers wrap up the pre-season against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday because he made it clear today that's not what we’re going to get.

Under Craig MacTavish, the last couple of games of pre-season usually provided a look at his 23-man roster, but having endured a stretch of five games in six nights and with injuries to Ethan Moreau and Marc Pouliot, Quinn won't be showing his cards against the Canucks.

"We've played some guys five times," Quinn said after practice at Rexall Place. "Rather than grind them, we'll look again at some others who are in the competition up front."

The way I see it

While I'm late to the guessing game when it comes to my take on what the roster will look like when it's submitted by the 3 p.m. deadline Wednesday, here's how I see things stacking up.

FORWARDS (14)

Shawn Horcoff, J.F. Jacques, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Patrick O'Sullivan, Mike Comrie, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini, Ryan Stone, Gilbert Brule, Marc Pouliot, Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani.

CUTS

Kip Brennan, Liam Reddox, Jordan Eberle, Rob Schremp, Robert Nilsson, Steve MacIntyre.

DEFENCE (7)

Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick.

CUTS

Taylor Chorney.

GOALTENDERS (2)

Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers.

CUTS

Devan Dubnyk

Finding a fit

Pisani returned to the ice today after taking a few days off to rest the cranky back that's had him on the shelf. Moreau and Pouliot didn't take a twirl because they're still resting injuries.

Pisani indicated he'll be ready to play against the Canucks, if needed, but Quinn didn't commit to putting him in the line-up. Here's the most common lines and the defence pairings Quinn used today.

FORWARDS

Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky

Penner-Comrie-O'Sullivan

Stone-Brule-Stortini

Cogliano-Gagner-MacIntyre

Brennan-Schremp-Nilsson

Reddox-Brule-Stortini

DEFENCE

Souray-Staios

Smid-Visnovsky

Grebeshkov-Gilbert

Strudwick-Chorney

"Up front, we still have continuing evaluation," Quinn said. "The hard decisions are going to come either after the game when management sits down or Monday morning."

-- I'm convinced Stone and Brule have made the roster because they bring a physical element and are suited to play in the bottom six. I think them sticking makes Nilsson expendable because he's not suited to play in the bottom six and one good performance isn't going to vault him into the top six at this point.

-- Nilsson could get a reprieve on cut down day if either Moreau or Pouliot are put on the injured reserve list, but we don't have an indication at this point that's going to happen.

-- With the physical presence provided by Jacques, Stortini, Stone and, to a lesser degree, Penner, I don't see a roster spot for MacIntyre. Based on what Quinn has said, I don't think he sees one, either.

-- As for Quinn keeping Pouliot ahead of Nilsson, that's just a gut-feeling on my part. It's one that's based on the same premise as Stone and Brule -- Pouliot is a better fit in the bottom six.

-- The defence is a no-brainer. Chorney is a year away from challenging for a job. Theo Peckham, who has missed all of camp with a sprained ankle, hasn't been a factor.

In the room

-- I've asked stupid questions before, but I've seldom intentionally thrown a player a grenade meant to put him on the spot. I've certainly never done it with somebody I respect like Pisani.

But I did exactly that today when I asked Pisani: "Do you feel behind the pack? Do you feel like you've got to make this team?"

While so-so performances and the bad back have hampered Pisani, he's not in danger of being cut. But that's how it sounded the way I clumsily framed the question.

What I wanted to know is if Pisani was disappointed he hadn't shown the new coaching staff more to this point. To his credit, he shook off the implication, resisted the urge to poke me in the eye with his Easton and answered anyway.

"Everybody, when they step on the ice, wants to prove themselves," Pisani said. "That's the situation I'm in. I want to get out there and play. I want to show that I can play."

-- Quinn gathered the team around him late in the practice and was very animated in letting his players know he wanted intensity and execution during drills.

He obviously wasn't happy with what he was seeing. He slapped his stick on the ice more than once to get his point across. Today isn't the first time Quinn has done that during this camp.

-- I don't often disagree with Jim Matheson, a friend, a HHOF writer and the guy who broke me in on the Oilers beat when I arrived in 1989, but I think Matty and I have a side-bet going this season. He's picking the Columbus Blue Jackets to miss the playoffs. I'm saying they're a lock to make it.

Just asking

-- Whatever happened to addressing the need for a centre to win face-offs and take the heat of Horcoff, who led the entire NHL in appearances on the dot last season?

I'm guessing Quinn will lean heavily on Brule and Gagner to remedy the situation, but failing to address the need by way of a personnel change makes we wonder what GM Steve Tambellini is doing.

-- For all the so-so performances by veterans (hello, Mr. Hemsky) to this point in pre-season, are you wondering about Khabibulin after his sieve-like performance against Calgary in a 5-3 loss last Wednesday?

Khabibulin allowed four goals, and looked bad on at least two of them, on 24 shots against the Flames before he gave way to dehydration and Deslauriers. After Khabibulin made 18 saves in a 4-0 win over Florida, I'll reserve judgment despite his hummer against the Flames. Still, I'm uneasy.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.>

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#101 Robin Brownlee
September 27 2009, 11:44AM
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@ Fiveandagame: That's a lot of wasted words if you're trying to convince me. Size is not a problem with Pouliot. He has decent size by any definition of an NHL player. You split hairs and crunch the numbers and the percentiles all you want. It changes nothing. Anybody trying to argue a player who is six-foot-one and 195 pounds -- Pouliot's camp weight actually fluctuated between 197-201 on the charts -- is undersized is mistaken. Period. No sale.

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#102 Gunner
September 27 2009, 11:47AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

It’s almost like this obvious and stated need has been ignored since the end of last season. It’s a hole in the line-up that’s going to haunt the Oilers if they don’t address it

Tambellini is regarded throughout the league as being a smart hockey guy right? Then it makes absolutely no sense that he hasn't addressed this need when it's so glaringly obvious that a blind man could see it.@ Fiveandagame: Regardless of Pouliots size, average or not, he doesn't ever use it.

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#103 Gunner
September 27 2009, 11:51AM
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Im sick of talking about Pouliot. When will the season finally start!!!?!?!

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#104 CurtisS
September 27 2009, 11:52AM
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Anyone have the lines tonight?

Is Eberle going to get one last game?

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#105 Jack Bauer
September 27 2009, 12:00PM
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Who were the latest cuts? I didnt see them go from 34 to 31.

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#106 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 12:04PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: using his SIZE as an argument to keep him on this roster is retarded as his size not even note worthy. Two way game, face offs, yes, size no.

Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ Fiveandagame: You split hairs and crunch the numbers and the percentiles all you want. It changes nothing.

You asked for the numbers I gave them to you. He is of below average size in the NHL no matter how you look at it. He doesn't make us a bigger team up front.

Period.

And I agree with you size isn't his problem, finding a consistent two way game is.

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#107 Gunner
September 27 2009, 12:13PM
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@ Jack Bauer: Robin can confirm but I thought the cuts weren't happening until tomorrow.

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#108 Jonathan Willis
September 27 2009, 12:14PM
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@ Fiveandagame:

Given that the average NHL player is 6'1", 204lbs, (source1, source2) it seems fair to say that Pouliot has "decent" size.

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#109 Jonathan Willis
September 27 2009, 12:15PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

He doesn’t make us a bigger team up front.

Putting Pouliot in and swapping Nilsson out does make this a bigger team up front.

I'd argue that it also makes the Oilers a better team, and that's the real reason to do it, but obviously it makes the team bigger.

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#110 BarryS
September 27 2009, 12:16PM
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Couple of things As a season ticket holder from when the season cost $125.00 until I quit when they went to $2400.00 for the same seat, a couple of years after the big upgrade, a couple of things.

It took Gretz etc al five years to win the first cup. As fast as they could be, often it was the slower players who made the plays which won the games.

speed is as overated as toughness, both have their place but to much of either causes problems. Most of the time the pay is played at speeds considerably slower than top speed so a "slower" player has lots of opportunity to contribute.

The major problem with the Oilers these last years has always been self discipline on the ice. To many lazy penalties, to much careless use of the stick, to many hurried plays, to many attempts at impossible passes, players staying on the ice to long, to many passes instead of shots, (see impossible passes) the list goes on and on.

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#111 Mark
September 27 2009, 12:18PM
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I love reading the articles you provide for this site Robin, you add alot of inside knowledge which is great for all of us diehards. It seems that in the comments about the article, you make alot of backhanded/snide remarks towards the readers, and I find it to be a very negative experience when reading through your comments. It would awesome if we could talk some Oilers hockey without nad egos invloved. Keep up the great work Robin, you are doing a great job.

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#112 Gunner
September 27 2009, 12:25PM
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Cogliano and Gagner are playing with MacIntyre. You've got to be kidding me. If you thought MacIntyre looked slow and out of place, just wait until tonite.

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#113 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 12:33PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: if you want to call 6'1" 195 the same as 6'1" 204 the same, sure.

I don't have a problem with Pouliot's size, I have a problem using it as an argument as a positive for the player. He is bigger than Brule, Nilsson, and Reddox yes, but he is a completely different kind of player than Nilsson. (and arguably suits the teams needs more than Nilsson)

If he can be solid positionally, above average (read Decent) in the face off circle and a plus player while on our 4th line. Keep him. But you're not keeping Pouliot for his size. If we were using size an argument he would be on the side that we need to improve upon, grouped with the other smaller players on the team.

If we we're going to get bigger as a team, 4th line center is a great place to start.

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#114 Ogden Brother
September 27 2009, 12:34PM
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Gunner wrote:

Cogliano and Gagner are playing with MacIntyre. You’ve got to be kidding me. If you thought MacIntyre looked slow and out of place, just wait until tonite.

~Quinns an idiot!~

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#115 Sandra
September 27 2009, 12:36PM
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The Habs are going to a TEEN camp again.

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#116 Ogden Brother
September 27 2009, 12:36PM
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SO what's everyones opinion on MAP's size?

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#117 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 12:37PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

SO what’s everyones opinion on MAP’s size?

HA HA HA!

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#118 Jonathan Willis
September 27 2009, 12:47PM
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@ Fiveandagame

One of the factors in Pouliot vs. Nilsson is Pouliot's size. It's just one factor, but it is a factor in Pouliot's favour.

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#119 whitey
September 27 2009, 12:54PM
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@ the last 117 Comments It seems obvious that pros/cons for the Pouliot/Nilsson argument is at best a push. In then end I look at GF stat of this team - and where we finished last year - Grade = C-/D. Edge then should go to Nilsson. It also seems to fit better with the philosophy of fast skating team and puck retrieval.

Q. - Have they tried putting Cogs/Gagner/Nil back as a line in pre-season? Haven't seen it, but maybe it's because too much of a defensive liability.

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#120 Chris.
September 27 2009, 01:05PM
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@ whitey:

They did reunite the kid line for one game this preseason... only Gagner was the center. Cogs centered the origional line that died last season when it was descided that Gagner needed to also play center.

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#121 Smokin' Ray
September 27 2009, 01:05PM
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@ whitey: Quinn did it last game. They were the only reason the Oilers were even in that game despite losing in OT. I did figure he would try it again tonight though.

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#122 whitey
September 27 2009, 01:13PM
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@ Smokin' Ray/Chris:

Hmmmm - I like that for Cogs as I think he needs to more seasoning to be a better face-off guy and the way Brule has been on the dot he can take the pressure off of Horcs.

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#123 David S
September 27 2009, 01:20PM
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whitey wrote:

Q. – Have they tried putting Cogs/Gagner/Nil back as a line in pre-season?

They did and the line rocked. Sounded like Quinn was somewhat surprised how good they were. Oddly enough, they were digging pucks out of the corners and stripping pucks from opponents - you know - "gritty play" sorta stuff. Gagner almost sprung Cogliano a couple of times with stretch passes. Those two are going to have a good season together. And Nilsson with that beauty goal.

~But unfortunately, we need guys like Pouliot more.~

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#124 esa tikkanen
September 27 2009, 01:40PM
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Can anyone tell me how to look up career faceoff stats including minor leagues and college/junior? thanks

this Jim Slater looks interesting

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#125 Sandra
September 27 2009, 01:42PM
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Where is the NHL waiver wire link?

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#126 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 01:52PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

What I am saying beyond the Nilsson vs. Pouliot argument. Is the Oilers lack size up front and Pouliot is part of the problem not the remedy. He needs to be classified with the other smaller players, because statistically that is what he is. That is also the way he plays. He is not a fix to that problem.

He's a fine depth forward.

I have a question for you. If 60% of the league is better at faceoffs than Pouliot, would you consider him a 'decent' face off guy? What if your team was already struggling with face offs, would you consider Pouliot to be a decent solution to that problem?

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#127 Rob
September 27 2009, 01:52PM
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Robin - Maybe your regular contact with the players makes hard questions difficult. Even you are human I presume. The question to Pisani was right on the money in my view. That's exactly the kind of query that is in perfect order under the circumstances. He has sucked in pre-season with no fire in his belly and no real presence on the ice and that is exactly what he could be fairly asked...'no prejudice' is a legal phrase that comes to mind. It was a fair question in my view.

If the Oil are going to play Pouliot, Moreau and Pisani on the fourth line then I think they will be 3-line team.

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#128 SkinnyD
September 27 2009, 02:09PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: What I am saying beyond the Nilsson vs. Pouliot argument. Is the Oilers lack size up front and Pouliot is part of the problem not the remedy. He needs to be classified with the other smaller players, because statistically that is what he is. That is also the way he plays. He is not a fix to that problem. He’s a fine depth forward. I have a question for you. If 60% of the league is better at faceoffs than Pouliot, would you consider him a ‘decent’ face off guy? What if your team was already struggling with face offs, would you consider Pouliot to be a decent solution to that problem?

Statistically (and factually) Pouliot's a few inches taller than Nilsson. At this point, both are depth forwards. So then, if it's strictly a hockey decision I'd say it's a toss-up. Nilsson's shown jack sh&t in the pre-season other than one nice goal. Pouliot addresses more needs than Nilsson, compared to others on the roster.

Nilsson's contract is probably the only reason he's still here - tough to bury that in the minors - he'd never make it back up here, then we're on the hook for half. Not good business, even if perhaps a good hockey decision.

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#129 Rogue
September 27 2009, 02:21PM
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I totally agree with Robin. Tambo dumped Brodziak, claiming the guy was too soft. Yet he was one of our better face-off guys. Why not dump Pouliot, same player but less value in my opinion. Tambo has had this problem for the last 10,yes 10 months and done nothing to address it.The bloom is coming off of the rose, in my opinion.Something stinks. And you dont have to be small to play soft. Look at Penner, Gilbert and Grebs. If they would step up their physical play, other teams would not be so brave, especially in the Oiler end.

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#130 Gunner
September 27 2009, 03:33PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Gunner wrote: Cogliano and Gagner are playing with MacIntyre. You’ve got to be kidding me. If you thought MacIntyre looked slow and out of place, just wait until tonite. ~Quinns an idiot!~

You seriously like that line?

Oh ya, coaches don't make mistakes in your eyes. I forgot.

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#131 Gunner
September 27 2009, 03:40PM
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No game day thread Gregor?

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#132 Smokin' Ray
September 27 2009, 03:46PM
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Gunner wrote:

No game day thread Gregor?

Just wondering the same.

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#133 Gunner
September 27 2009, 03:49PM
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@ Smokin' Ray: Musta been a good night last night.

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#134 B-Rad
September 27 2009, 03:54PM
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LETS DO IT OILERS.........ALMOST GAME TIME!

Anyone know the lines for both teams?

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#135 cableguy
September 27 2009, 04:08PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

if you want to call 6′1″ 195 the same as 6′1″ 204 the same, sure

9 lbs? all this crap over 9lbs?

i have taken taco bell and draft beer related "poops" that have dropped my weight 9lbs.

as far as a professional athlete goes, 195 is hardly a huge difference from 204.

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#136 Robin Brownlee
September 27 2009, 04:21PM
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@ cableguy: With all the comments a fringe player like Pouliot draws, like the assinine hair-splitting about "decent size," I'll have to make a point of avoiding writing about the guys who really count. Trivial matters, it's clear, fire up discussion.

At times, this site begins to resemble "another fan board" (no names mentioned because they always sulk when I take a poke at them) in that people, obviously bored as hell and waiting for some real news, argue about stupid sh*t until they're blue in the face.

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#137 Robin Brownlee
September 27 2009, 04:25PM
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Rob wrote:

Robin – Maybe your regular contact with the players makes hard questions difficult. Even you are human I presume. The question to Pisani was right on the money in my view. That’s exactly the kind of query that is in perfect order under the circumstances. He has sucked in pre-season with no fire in his belly and no real presence on the ice and that is exactly what he could be fairly asked…’no prejudice’ is a legal phrase that comes to mind. It was a fair question in my view. If the Oil are going to play Pouliot, Moreau and Pisani on the fourth line then I think they will be 3-line team.

It was fair, but it turns out I lobbed it in there just as one of the TV crews turned the camera on. It kind of went from a discussion between Fernando and a couple of reporters to a mini-scrum just as I asked him. We joked about it later -- more timing than anything. "So Fernando, do you feel you have to make the team?" just as the camera zooms in.

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#138 Jaime
September 27 2009, 04:50PM
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@ Racki:

Thank you very much!

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#139 Ogden Brother
September 27 2009, 04:57PM
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Gunner wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Gunner wrote: Cogliano and Gagner are playing with MacIntyre. You’ve got to be kidding me. If you thought MacIntyre looked slow and out of place, just wait until tonite. ~Quinns an idiot!~ You seriously like that line? Oh ya, coaches don’t make mistakes in your eyes. I forgot.

I think it's a rediculous line, but NHL coahches do stuff like that all the time... their must be something behind it.

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#140 Jay
September 27 2009, 05:02PM
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cableguy wrote:

Fiveandagame wrote: if you want to call 6′1″ 195 the same as 6′1″ 204 the same, sure 9 lbs? all this crap over 9lbs? i have taken taco bell and draft beer related “poops” that have dropped my weight 9lbs. as far as a professional athlete goes, 195 is hardly a huge difference from 204.

Maybe Pouliot should siphon the sweat out of Khabibulin's skates (since it was mentioned that the West Edmonton Wall loses up to 10lbs a game in sweat), then soak his equipment in it. ~that ought to give him the extra weight he needs to stay above average weight~

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#141 Gunner
September 27 2009, 05:03PM
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Who's fighting Hordichuk tonite? Is he even playing?

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#142 David S
September 27 2009, 05:16PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I’ll have to make a point of avoiding writing about the guys who really count.

Dear god no. We're not all 2 years out of high school.

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#143 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 05:19PM
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We could also make assinine comments like how to leave the speculation until the preseason is over or in Jordan Eberle's case "and maybe as many as nine games during the regular season" to show up five days later with our own prognostications before the final cuts.

hxxp://www.oilersnation.com/2009/09/the-guessing-game-whats-the-big-hurry/

Also these assinine discussions are part of the traffic that keep this website growing.

@ cableguy:

I agree, so why is Pouliot's monstrous 195 so different from Sam Gagne's diminutive 191? Answer is, it isn't.

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#144 David S
September 27 2009, 05:20PM
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From the Oilers site...

"This evening, the Canucks will dress more of their starters including the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Steve Bernier, Kyle Wellwood and most of their starting defence core."

*sigh*

Good thing I work tomorrow morning because otherwise this game could have me deep in the booze by the end of the second.

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#145 Jay
September 27 2009, 05:22PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

these assinine discussions are part of the traffic that keep this website growing.

here here

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#146 Robin Brownlee
September 27 2009, 06:55PM
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@ Fiveandagame: Speculation? Gosh, do you think I might have a little more information at my disposal than you do? Oh wait, how arrogant of me to think that. And laying out a line-up with one pre-season game to play instead of doing it one game into an eight game schedule isn't hypocritical. Ten days, six games and actually talking to coaches and the GM over that period of time makes a big difference. But why am I explaining myself to you?

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#147 Fiveandagame
September 27 2009, 07:51PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: I didn't speculate a line up or say your line up was off base, I just quoted you against yourself. You're arguing with Brownlee from September 21st. :)

I have no problem with what you have laid out. And I never once questioned your level of access to coaches, players, the GM or the information you get.

I just think Pouliot is on the small side. Thats it.

Robin Brownlee wrote:

But why am I explaining myself to you?

I dunno, probably cause it's between periods and there are no ice girls at RX1.

Enjoy the third period.

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#148 trying to be a fan
September 27 2009, 10:57PM
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Robin, I appreciate your experience/ expertise and even though this comment is not about you - maybe you can help one of your colleagues.

Fans tend to think of sportscasters as experts and feed off their comments. Even though some are (you included) how can we get guys like tencer to stop showing his ignorance / lack of appreciation for how tough it is to play this game by not appreciating Comrie's goals tonight. I think his quote in front of the entire building after period #1 was - "right pace at the right time" like it was something Mike should be embarrassed of because it was so simple. It may be somewhat true that putting the puck in the net was fairly easy but if it was that easy to be in the right place lots more players would do it. It is obvious to look at tencer he never played the game seriously and if he wants to be treated as a big time sports caster he should get some guidance into the nuances of the game. That is where you could help him.

Maybe if he stood in front of the net for a minute he would appreciate what players have to do to be successful in tight and why a lot of players won't go there even though the odd tip in comes as a result.

Since I have always been on an anti "negative media" kick I took his statements as demeaning when he should have been congratulating Mike on doing what it takes to be in the right place to make the play. There is lots of other places on the ice he could have been.

I just hope there aren't people out there thinking that Mike or any other player didn't do a good job tonight because a reporter doesn't realize that the player needs to read the play properly at 100 miles an hour and a player has to be willing to get crushed to get to the position on the ice where they might get a tip in.... if their team mate sees them!

My thoughts on tonight were good effort, good game and a win is great (even in preseason).

By the way who scored the winning goal? Oh ya - the guy who only gets a lot of second assists. Speaking of that I was pretty impressed with what should have been a second assist for Brule on the play! Proof that some second assists should not be discounted.

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#149 esa tikkanen
September 27 2009, 11:20PM
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so does anyone know Stone's career faceoff stats in the AHL? is he more of a center or winger?

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#150 Pouzar
September 28 2009, 01:32AM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

Hemmertime wrote: Pisani is the home town boy who made good The hometown boy who made good…for three weeks once. Four years ago. Good on him for overcoming this-that-and-the-other, but he brings, what, exactly? Twelve goals at +$2 mill….I actually hope he goes. Will be a good sign for this admin “We don’t care how good you were once…” (and for me, Pisani was okay once.)

Agreed, for a team that has missed the playoffs for 3 years straight I do not understand the love affair some people have for our deadweight players like Pisani and Moreau. People (management) need to seperate sentimentalism from realism.

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