It’s Coming From Quinn, But…

Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009 09:04PM

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A lot of the things being said around training camp the last few weeks could easily have come from former coach Craig MacTavish. Let’s look at what Quinn has stressed in his press conferences over that time span.

On playing defence…

“From Day 1, I said to them, ‘You ensure against defeat first, and that is by playing good defence.’ You cannot win a Stanley Cup without attack, but we have to make sure we’re defending properly first and then we’ll attack. We have some attack weapons, but we don’t want to get into a game where we’re giving up more chances to the opposition.”

“Some of the guys who think they’re offensive players are a little frustrated because they don’t think they’re getting their offence.”

“It’s hard to carry a guy who plays a one-way game in the NHL.”

“I don’t want three risky guys that do play run-and-gun and don’t always care what’s going the other way. They care about it, but not enough to be in the right spots.”

"We've got great skill, but we don't know how to win. They don't know how to play yet."

“I don't see a lot of checkers here. I don't see a lot of shutdown centres.”

On young players…

“18-year olds often don’t know squat except about themselves and the puck and trying to do lots on their own. If they’re open and they have good brains, then they start to learn how to use their skills better in a team environment.”

“But, interestingly enough, two years ago we all remember the kids being real good, but there were 19 overtime games where this team picked up a point. And 15 of those were shootouts. That might have disguised how good they played a little bit. What they need to do is get back to the basics of the game and continue to grow and be more responsible on the defensive side of the game.”

On jam, crust and other bread-based grit metaphors…

“We're going to have some bigger guys, or some crustier guys.”

“We still don't win those loose pucks.”

On blending the lines…

“One thing it looks like we might have is some flexibility on who plays with who at any given moment.”

None of this is to say that Quinn isn’t implementing a new (and different) system, or that he’s approaching the players differently, or even that it wasn’t to the Oilers’ advantage to fire MacTavish.

No, the point is the same point that I made back in April:

The point though, isn’t that defense is what wins; it’s that defense is what virtually every NHL coach preaches. And the simple fact of the matter is that when Craig MacTavish eventually leaves (be it this year or further down the line) his successor isn’t likely to turn back to the days of Glen Sather (and Gretzky, and Messier, and Kurri, and Coffey…). Instead, his successor is likely to say the same things that MacTavish does. He won’t be a clone, but one thing is all but certain: he’ll still emphasize that at the end of the day it’s all about what a player creates versus what he gives up.

Fans expecting that Quinn will run three offensive lines, turn back the clock, and win games 7-6 just haven’t been paying attention.

Fernando Pisani’s Injury Woes

From Robin Brownlee’s article yesterday:

[T]here is a concern Pisani’s bad back could keep him out long term. He had an MRI Monday and the team’s medical staff is awaiting results. If Pisani has structural damage, like a herniated disk, he could be on the shelf awhile.

This latest news is just the most recent example of the injury bug that has afflicted Pisani over the last three seasons, during which time he has:

  • broken his left ankle (42 games missed)
  • suffered a back injury (2 games missed)
  • fought through ulcerative colitis (26 games missed)
  • and experienced a concussion (5 games missed)

It’s been suggested on this site (and elsewhere) that a guy like Liam Reddox or Ryan Stone could easily step into Pisani’s roster spot. That’s nonsense, of course. For those of you who don’t buy Gabe Desjardin’s Quality of Competition measure, here are the ten forwards that Pisani played the most against last season:

  1. Jarome Iginla
  2. Ryan Getzlaf
  3. Milan Hejduk
  4. Daymond Langkow
  5. Todd Bertuzzi
  6. Ryan Smyth
  7. Corey Perry
  8. Mike Cammalleri
  9. Tyler Arnason
  10. Paul Stastny

Liam Reddox and Ryan Stone are both fringe NHL’ers; they simply won’t perform well against those sorts of players. Unfortunately, neither will Pisani unless he’s healthy (as he showed last season) and aside from Ales Hemsky the Oilers don’t have a lot of guys on the right side who can handle those minutes.

This latest injury is seriously bad news for the team, and it isn’t going to be solved with some random fourth-liner, however much Oilers fans might wish it would be.

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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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#101 RossCreek
September 30 2009, 12:27PM
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Brian O'Niell www.canucksarmy.com/2009/09/a-brief-blast-of-updates/#respond wrote:

In additional news – leafs suck, flames suck, oilers suck.

How dare he! Sick 'em boys

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#102 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 12:27PM
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RossCreek wrote:

IIRC, your not too big on Stone. Not that I see it happening, but would you take a look at Picard instead if you were calling shots?

No.

I would have brought in someone like Colin Stuart from Calgary.

This team has enough reclamation projects; what it needs is someone who can fill a specific bottom-six role. Maybe Stone's that guy; his minor-league stuff is encouraging but I have trouble getting by his foot-speed.

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#103 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 12:30PM
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Oilersordeath wrote:

Isn’t that something to be a little optimistic about?

I'm pessimistic about this team for a ton of reasons, and if there's one thing I would take from the preseason it's Khabibulin's performance.

Which wasn't encouraging.

(I'm not actually putting much stock in that, due to sample size).

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#104 Ogden Brother
September 30 2009, 12:30PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: he just shoul have been replaced with a grittier vetran version of himself. Either that, or he could’ve been the younger replacement for an aging veteran .

True enough, I seen a budding capable third line center there (which.... well you know). For some reason the team seen differently.

I guess my point is that "Kyle Brodziak" is a minor cog on any team, but on this team, with these needs. He either needed to be here, or someone NHL proven needed to replace him.... Now we have a maybe.

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#105 RossCreek
September 30 2009, 12:35PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I'm thinking a 3rd line of... Cogliano-Brodziak-Gagner ...may have looked decent. Brodziak could've shifted to the wing for either of them and still took the faceoffs.

Anyways... old news... just never got in to a Brodziak argument before... I know him a bit (friend of bunch of friends) so there could be some bias... in which case I'm glad to see him elsewhere. Now I don't have to cheer when he scores ;-)

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#106 Petr's Jofa
September 30 2009, 01:09PM
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@ Jonathan Willis

How can you say that Picard's stats resembles Jacques' when clearly Picard has been twice as productive on the score sheet?

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#107 RossCreek
September 30 2009, 01:16PM
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@ Petr's Jofa: LOL. Clearly.

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#108 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 01:42PM
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@ Petr's Jofa:

Nice.

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#109 GSC
September 30 2009, 02:07PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC: I don’t have to explain why Brodziak threw fewer hits, since I never argued that he was grittier than Brule. What I said was that he was bigger. Meaning that when he went into the corner to fight a puck battle, he had a built-in advantage over someone like Brule. And yes, he did go into corners and fight puck battles. In the preseason, Brule threw a big hit on Martin St. Louis. I was flabbergasted when St. Louis came away with the puck. The point here is that when it comes to gaining possession, Brule’s going to win some battles because he’s gritty and fearless. Brodziak’s going to win some battles because he’s big and strong. I’m not convinced that Brule wins a ton more than Brodziak.

Just because someone's bigger doesn't mean they have a built-in advantage over another to win a puck battle...you even alluded to it with your mention of Marty St. Louis maintaining possession despite being hit by a bigger and stronger Brule. It's about what you do with that size, and Brodziak didn't utilize his big frame nearly enough.

Grit does not go hand-in-hand with size.

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#110 I'm a Scientist!
September 30 2009, 02:15PM
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I have quickly scanned the comments... i don't think this has been reported yet (sorry if it has) but Reddox has cleared waivers.

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#111 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 02:39PM
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GSC wrote:

Just because someone’s bigger doesn’t mean they have a built-in advantage over another to win a puck battle…

Yes, it does. Size and strength matter a lot in puck battles.

you even alluded to it with your mention of Marty St. Louis maintaining possession despite being hit by a bigger and stronger Brule.

I'm not sure what the two of them are listed at, but they look identical in size and St. Louis seems stronger...

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#112 common sense
September 30 2009, 02:43PM
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Life is pretty much "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Your blogs and alot of the Oilers blogs are "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Pretty well stating the obvious. Give me something original or is this complaint par course...

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#113 TonyT
September 30 2009, 03:35PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Hey Willis, I know Adam Oates is with another organization but he really helped our faceoffs in that year he was an Oiler. Why then can't the Oilers go out and hire a face off coach?

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#114 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 03:36PM
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@ common sense:

Elaborate:

How have things changed? How have they stayed the same?

Here, the implication is obvious: the coach changes, the deficiencies remain constant.

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#115 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 03:40PM
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@ TonyT:

The Oilers hired Mike Sillinger as their development coach, and he was certainly a faceoff ace.

That said, guys like Horcoff and Stoll have a lot more physical tools to begin with than guys like Gagner and Cogliano.

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#116 Lofty
September 30 2009, 03:42PM
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Chris wrote:

The entire Oiler organization is working hard to reverse it’s negative image with the players, that’s why.

Bull!!! you cant choose to protect your image over wins per season

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#117 GSC
September 30 2009, 04:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Size and strength matter a lot in puck battles. I’m not sure what the two of them are listed at, but they look identical in size and St. Louis seems stronger…

Strength does not inherently come with size. You claim that St. Louis, listed at 5'9" (much more like 5'8"), is stronger than Brule, listed at 5'10"...so, Brule is actually bigger but you claim that St. Louis is stronger.

How does that correlate exactly to bigger size = more strength? If that was the case, players like St. Louis at his age would be long retired because they just couldn't win puck battles. It has just as much to do with balance, instincts, stick skill, vision, foot speed, and agility as it has to do with strength.

Another example: Hal Gill. A hulking presence on the ice, but due to having a definite lack of other intangibles to augment his size, he's notorious for losing puck battles to more agile and smarter players. Staios has the same problem.

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#118 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 05:01PM
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@ GSC:

St. Louis and Brule are both listed at 180lbs. And I wasn't claiming anything about which was stronger, just offering an observation from one sequence of one game.

Are you seriously arguing that Brodziak's size is a non-factor in puck battles though? That's crazy talk.

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#119 Kingsblade
September 30 2009, 05:19PM
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@ GSC: Are you serious?

1) He said size & strength not size = strength.

2) Brule is 1 inch and 3 pounds heavier. They are essentially the same size no matter how badly you want to use this one specific case to "prove" your point.

3) He also did not say that bigger stronger guys are automatically better in a puck battle. He said that it gives them an advantage. It is obviously still up to the player to use the advantage, but the advantage remains. A bigger guys will out battle a smaller guy if all else is equal.

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#120 Kingsblade
September 30 2009, 05:21PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC: St. Louis and Brule are both listed at 180lbs. And I wasn’t claiming anything about which was stronger, just offering an observation from one sequence of one game. Are you seriously arguing that Brodziak’s size is a non-factor in puck battles though? That’s crazy talk.

Brule has 3 whopping pounds on him if you look at hockey-reference.

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#121 David S
September 30 2009, 06:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yes, it does. Size and strength matter a lot in puck battles.

Jonathan, I would have thought Dustin Penner circa 08-09 would have made you think twice about that.

Tenacity and overall attitude can make up for 20-30 extra pounds. Witness the Detroit Red Wings.

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#122 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 06:50PM
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@ David S:

Penner circa 07-08 might have; I'm one who thought he was underrated in 08-09.

I completely agree that size isn't essential. But if you had two identical players with the exception that one is 5'9" and the other 6'3", I guarantee that in the vast majority of cases the 6'3" player would have the better career.

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#123 GSC
September 30 2009, 08:15PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ GSC: St. Louis and Brule are both listed at 180lbs. And I wasn’t claiming anything about which was stronger, just offering an observation from one sequence of one game. Are you seriously arguing that Brodziak’s size is a non-factor in puck battles though? That’s crazy talk.

Brodziak's lack of utilization of his size is a definite factor in puck battles. That's what I've been arguing all along.

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#124 Fiveandagame
September 30 2009, 09:26PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: ~ oh no, not another size argument~

Signed;

Pouliot's a weenie

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#125 jgwedw
October 10 2009, 06:46AM
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