It’s Coming From Quinn, But…

Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009 09:04PM

change

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.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Sam
September 29 2009, 09:05PM
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If you aint first you last!

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#2 HBOmb
September 29 2009, 09:10PM
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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

One of these things is NOT like the others....

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#3 nickxero
September 29 2009, 09:10PM
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The difference? MacT would say these things KNOWING who he had already put in the doghouse and who was coming over for a BBQ on Sunday.

Nobody ever critiqued MacT's observational skills... he should do fine on TSN. But it was his lack of ability to motivate and do anything about it that made him the coach we know.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 09:13PM
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nickxero wrote:

MacT would say these things KNOWING who he had already put in the doghouse and who was coming over for a BBQ on Sunday.

And that's a legitimate complaint. I've really, really enjoyed Quinn's shots at the veterans (and Souray's comments along the same lines).

But some people think the issues MacTavish spotted didn't exist.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 09:14PM
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@ HBOmb:

I know, I laughed a little when I say Arnason.

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#6 Pouzar
September 29 2009, 09:19PM
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Ya the Pisani injury really hurts an already weak PK. In other 'could have been an Oiler' news, apparently Betts is doing very well in Philly on the PK and will soon sign a contract with them. As for Stone, I think his cup of coffee with the team will likely only last until Pouliot returns. I know Pouliot is not too high on many peoples depth charts around here lol, but I think it just becomes a numbers/contracts game - what do ya figure JW?

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#7 Peebos
September 29 2009, 09:19PM
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“I don’t see a lot of checkers here. I don’t see a lot of shutdown centres.”

Hey, remember when we had guys named Stoll, and Reasoner, or even Brodziak? Those were pretty decent checkers/shut-down centers. Seems to me they could win the odd faceoff too....

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#8 Pouzar
September 29 2009, 09:22PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

I agree,I love the veteran accountability by Quinn too. So refreshing!

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#9 heavyd
September 29 2009, 09:28PM
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Is anyone having trouble listening to the team 1260 right know, on the onternet?

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#10 Ogden Brother
September 29 2009, 09:30PM
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It's going to be a good year for those that supported MacT as a competent, capable NHL coach :)

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#11 Gunner
September 29 2009, 09:33PM
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MacT was a good coach but lets not go crazy here. He was not without flaws.

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#12 Gunner
September 29 2009, 09:36PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I agree with you about Reddox and Stone. However, using the analysis that you did(Quality of Comp), you are not really giving the red ox a fair shake. Just because he hasn't played against those guys at this point in his career is not to say that he isn't capable of doing it. He may, he may not. But because he hasn't doesn't mean he can't. If that makes sense.

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#13 Pouzar
September 29 2009, 09:36PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

It’s going to be a good year for those that supported MacT as a competent, capable NHL coach

If MacT was still the coach and Gagner was on the 4th line there would be a torch and pitchfork convention...

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#14 offside
September 29 2009, 09:38PM
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Where do you find the stats of who a player has played most against?

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#15 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 09:38PM
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@ offside:

Hockeyanalysis.com

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#16 Ogden Brother
September 29 2009, 09:41PM
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Pouzar wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: It’s going to be a good year for those that supported MacT as a competent, capable NHL coach If MacT was still the coach and Gagner was on the 4th line there would be a torch and pitchfork convention…

Yup

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#17 Ogden Brother
September 29 2009, 09:45PM
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Gunner wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: I agree with you about Reddox and Stone. However, using the analysis that you did(Quality of Comp), you are not really giving the red ox a fair shake. Just because he hasn’t played against those guys at this point in his career is not to say that he isn’t capable of doing it. He may, he may not. But because he hasn’t doesn’t mean he can’t. If that makes sense.

That's a tough stance to take though, it's the same as: JDD might be a vezina candidate, he just hasn't had the chance to prove either way.

Really, if Reddox could handle the Iginlas and Getzlafs of the NHL, he should have been dominating (defensively anyways) the Kieth Yandels and the Martin Skoula's of the league.

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#18 Pouzar
September 29 2009, 09:52PM
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Lawton waived his 4th line in TB yesterday, perhaps Reddox gets picked up there. That's a team without alot of bottom 6 energy guys.

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#19 Gunner
September 29 2009, 09:53PM
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@ Ogden Brother: It wasn't so much as I disagreed with the point Jonathan was making so much as his method to prove it. Basically I'm being far to anal and I should have just said that I agree with the entire article.

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#20 Gunner
September 29 2009, 09:59PM
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Just checking the TB roster and they may surprise a few people this year. If they get some decent goaltending I think they have a shot and getting into the playoffs for sure.

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#21 freeze
September 29 2009, 10:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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

Well, I can honestly say that I don't want Stone or Reddox on the ice with 9 out those 10 for sure. Maybe 8 out of 10.

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#22 bookie
September 29 2009, 10:18PM
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Totally agree with the article.

My hope is that Quinn 'solves' it better. There have been loads of comments from Players and even management that suggest that Players under MacT really didn't receive clear instructions as to what to be doing out there. Having this knowledge, I think Quinn is being very straightforward with his messages both in the room and in public.

The calling out of the veterans (though not by name) has been shockingly honest. I can't say I am confident about who we are talking about, but I am pretty sure it's not Souray (who has been the go to guy for quotes that mimic Quinn's with regards to vetrans).

I am betting that on puck drop day that we see the C and perhaps one or two A's on different jerseys. No announcements, no nothing, just changes. It will be a big drama in the press, but the coaches and players with just say things like "Coach thought it was time for a change"

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#23 nickxero
September 29 2009, 10:23PM
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MacT was always spot on when it came to ID'ing the problem. I'm actually looking forward to his stint on TSN. His observations were usually spot on.

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#24 Poo Czar
September 29 2009, 10:36PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

know, I laughed a little when I say Arnason.

I sat next to Tyler Arnason's Aunt at one of the Colorado games last year. She was very polite. That is all.

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#25 oilerdiehard
September 29 2009, 10:39PM
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It seems to be getting popular with the big MacT boosters. To say well MacT said the same thing and you guys thought MacT was wrong. How hypocritical all you MacT haters are. I guess it was predictable that would happen. But is definitely a new fave pass time already.

I guess the focus needs to shift somewhere now that Schremp is gone. :)

I was always more in MacT's corner than not. At least until last season when he seemed to go off the deep end in a lot of respects. Not to mention things just seemed to be getting really stale. On top of lots of whispers and hints from media and players (and even MacT himself a bit) that he had kind of lost the room and the players ears.

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#26 Dan the Man
September 29 2009, 10:42PM
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Are there stats available on who scored the most points against the Oilers last year? I'd be curious to see how it compares to this list. I know Iginla usually lights up the Oilers but I guess he lights up a lot of teams. Arnason also has the Oilers number for whatever reason.

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#27 Racki
September 29 2009, 11:04PM
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Pouzar wrote:

If MacT was still the coach and Gagner was on the 4th line there would be a torch and pitchfork convention…

I can honestly say that at one point last year I was saying that he should have been either put on the 4th line or in the press box. While he was struggling, certain others were on the outside looking in (no names.. won't beat that dead horse).

It wont be long term either, one would hope. It's obviously a short term motivational thing (so long as Gagner takes the hint and steps it up).

Also to JW's point, I agree that inherently all coaches teach the importance of a strong defensive game. But I think Quinn's head is on straight in that he isn't kidding us by making the lines about Liam Reddox getting some top line time because of some good checking shifts. He's putting guys in positions where they can succeed. I think most would admit that this lineup has its flaws. MacTavish cried out that message last year by putting Pisani on 3rd line center last year amongst other odd moves. But I think Quinn's game plan/strategy is obvious here: each line is balanced - there are 4 scoring lines; there are 4 defensive lines; there are 4 grinding lines. Someone else on another site used to bring up an old Scotty Bowman quote about how he used to feel he had a good line up if he could envision any given player shifting up and down the lineup without the integrity of the line changing. That seems to be what we have here. As Dan Tencer put it, the parts are interchangeable. That, I love. And as much knock as there is that this lineup is missing some components, it seems that Quinn has found a way to make do with what hes got. Well, that remains to be seen, I suppose. But I've got a good vibe going into this season that this team is in better hands.

I know this wasn't something you were disputing in your post, but to me the biggest factor is that all players seem to be on the same page now and buying into what the coach is selling. The second biggest factor here is the balanced attack we appear to have. It's a poor mans attempt at emulating the Detroit Red Wings system. The thought being that they can't play their checking line out all night against your whole team. One line might get shut down, but one or more of the other lines should be able to do some damage. And well, with each of the lines having some defensive player on it, hopefully they won't leak too many goals. Again, all of this is great in theory... guess we'll have to see how it works in execution.

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#28 Death Metal Nightmare
September 29 2009, 11:12PM
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quinn has said what any typical coach says. cue up any coach who has different comments than those anywhere. you wont find it. in fact, based on comments from the radio and news media - the "structure" of the defense is even more strict than MacTavish. which begs the question - WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY DOING UNDER MACTAVISH?

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#29 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 11:48PM
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oilerdiehard wrote:

To say well MacT said the same thing and you guys thought MacT was wrong. How hypocritical all you MacT haters are. I guess it was predictable that would happen.

Firing MacTavish was a good idea.

But the issues that MacTavish identified were legimitate issues, and bringing in a new coach doesn't fix the roster.

But to expect the Oilers problems to just disappear without roster changes is foolish, and it's unsurprising the new coach identified many of the same issues.

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#30 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 11:50PM
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Death Metal Nightmare wrote:

quinn has said what any typical coach says. cue up any coach who has different comments than those anywhere. you wont find it.

But that's not what people were arguing when MacTavish was coaching.

"He's too defensive..." "He mixes lines too much..." "He doesn't play the kids..." "What does jam mean..." "He's turning ____ into a checker..." "He hates Schremp..."

MacTavish had issues. But a lot of people are going to find that htings they hated about MacTavish will continue under Quinn.

Because a lot of those things made sense.

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#31 ScubaSteve
September 29 2009, 11:53PM
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oilerdiehard wrote:

It seems to be getting popular with the big MacT boosters. To say well MacT said the same thing and you guys thought MacT was wrong.

I don't think anyone ever though MacT was wrong in what he said. The issue was he was wrong in what he did. Wanting more jam out of your line-up? Good. Putting Reddox on the top line? Bad. Trying to get Penner to play up to his potential? Good. Publicly calling him out? Bad. Making Nilsson earn icetime because of inconsistent play? Good. Allowing Moreau, Staois, Horcoff, Gagner to play more minutes despite the same type of play? Bad.

MacT as an analyst? Good. MacT as a head coach? Bad.

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#32 Joey Moss
September 30 2009, 12:00AM
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I don't care what Pat Quinn says to the media, I care how he executes his plan on the ice and keeps players motivated.

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#33 Woogie
September 30 2009, 12:05AM
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@ ScubaSteve:

OH ScubaSteve you make me laugh.

however all your points are valid.

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#34 Wanye Gretz
September 30 2009, 12:17AM
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oilerdiehard wrote:

To say well MacT said the same thing and you guys thought MacT was wrong. How hypocritical all you MacT haters are. I guess it was predictable that would happen.

I still hate Craig MacTavish, though I do find him quite entertaining on the telematrix ice hockey squadron discussion forums on TSN. I also hope he is coaching again soon in the NHL>

But seriously, I will never turn away from FMNF2009.

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#35 Chris
September 30 2009, 12:59AM
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I think it's funny that when Quinn makes many of the same decisions/comments as MacT... we will be doing so as the winningest active coach in the NHL; thus thwarting much ignorent criticsm.

The real tragedy is that that Mact... though he ment well, was not even close to being the winningest coach!

*I'm sorry.... so very drunk...*

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#36 Tha Legion
September 30 2009, 06:00AM
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No more 9-2 losses gdi

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#37 GSC
September 30 2009, 07:10AM
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Souray was quoted (yesterday I think?) regarding how Quinn brings a new system and a new philosophy.

The proof is in the pudding, not in the coach-speak to the media. That's what I'll be looking for, and I've seen enough subtle changes in the style of play in the preseason to warrant some optimism that this change is for the better.

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#38 Halibut
September 30 2009, 07:46AM
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Peebos wrote:

“I don’t see a lot of checkers here. I don’t see a lot of shutdown centres.” Hey, remember when we had guys named Stoll, and Reasoner, or even Brodziak? Those were pretty decent checkers/shut-down centers. Seems to me they could win the odd faceoff too….

Brodziak wasnt a shut down center even if he did have a better faceoff %. But who wins the faceoff isnt the problem it's what happens after that matters. Quinn's said it already many times we dont fight for the puck enough or play smart once we've lost the puck. Who cares who won the faceoff if you get it back right away.

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#39 GSC
September 30 2009, 07:59AM
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Brule: upgrade on Brodziak in terms of grit and faceoff ability.

Stone: can jump in as a centre in a pinch, known for faceoff ability and grit.

Trading Brodziak is hardly an issue with this club, easily replaced. Now, players like Glencross and Stoll, not so easily replaced. The hope has to be that Jacques replaces the former, while the latter has yet to be replaced.

Still hoping for a veteran, right-handed centre...As much as I like the changes Quinn brings, I'm on board with Willis that it's not enough to simply hope that players suddenly "get it." Never hurts to make certain.

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#40 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 08:27AM
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But I think Quinn’s head is on straight in that he isn’t kidding us by making the lines about Liam Reddox getting some top line time because of some good checking shifts.

No, Quinn's putting Jacques on the top line. Can you imagine the pandemonium around here if Craig MacTavish stuck a guy with one point in sixty games on the top line?

Gimme a break. Reddox's 28 minutes - and seriously, that's it - with Ales Hemsky is the most overplayed talking point around.

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#41 onehitwonder
September 30 2009, 08:27AM
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One thing Quinn has going for him as of yesterday: He is putting Gags on the 4th line to get his feet moving, as opposed to putting him on the PK with Penner (of all people), and then complaining about our PK percentages.

I understood what MacT was shooting for, but I knew there had to be a better way.

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#42 Ogden Brother
September 30 2009, 08:30AM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

oilerdiehard wrote: It seems to be getting popular with the big MacT boosters. To say well MacT said the same thing and you guys thought MacT was wrong. I don’t think anyone ever though MacT was wrong in what he said. The issue was he was wrong in what he did. Wanting more jam out of your line-up? Good. Putting Reddox on the top line? Bad. Trying to get Penner to play up to his potential? Good. Publicly calling him out? Bad. Making Nilsson earn icetime because of inconsistent play? Good. Allowing Moreau, Staois, Horcoff, Gagner to play more minutes despite the same type of play? Bad. MacT as an analyst? Good. MacT as a head coach? Bad.

Run across the league you'll find all of those exact things in multiple places.

In fact, we've got JFJ on our top line, his pedegree is hardly any better then Reddox ;)

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#43 Ogden Brother
September 30 2009, 08:34AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

But I think Quinn’s head is on straight in that he isn’t kidding us by making the lines about Liam Reddox getting some top line time because of some good checking shifts. No, Quinn’s putting Jacques on the top line. Can you imagine the pandemonium around here if Craig MacTavish stuck a guy with one point in sixty games on the top line? Gimme a break. Reddox’s 28 minutes – and seriously, that’s it – with Ales Hemsky is the most overplayed talking point around.

JFJ on the first, Stone on the second, Gagner on the 4th would all have peopel flapping around.

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#44 Dominoiler
September 30 2009, 08:48AM
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Good point wrt pisani JW.. it needs to be said and Im glad you did...

Question is.. does he get bought out, or can he push through till the end of the season - while being effective (enough)...!?!

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#45 Dominoiler
September 30 2009, 08:55AM
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About Gags on the fourth.. lets be real people.. chill out.. the spot on the third is his to take... penner and cogs as wingers, its ideal.. plus, I really liked brule w moreau (and nils) on the fourth... those two w storts would be a serious crash bang line!

Dunno.. the way quinn likes balance tho.. brule may stick on the third (just to contradict myself)

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#46 Reggie
September 30 2009, 08:57AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

dox’s 28 minutes – and seriously, that’s it – with Ales Hemsky is the most overplayed talking point around.

And how much PP time last year as well ?

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#47 Ogden Brother
September 30 2009, 09:02AM
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Reggie wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote: dox’s 28 minutes – and seriously, that’s it – with Ales Hemsky is the most overplayed talking point around. And how much PP time last year as well ?

Reddox? He spent four and a half minutes on the PP in total.

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#48 Mills
September 30 2009, 09:11AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

No, Quinn’s putting Jacques on the top line. Can you imagine the pandemonium around here if Craig MacTavish stuck a guy with one point in sixty games on the top line? Gimme a break. Reddox’s 28 minutes – and seriously, that’s it – with Ales Hemsky is the most overplayed talking point around.

I think the difference is that Jacques played in the preseason with these guys and played well enough to show that he should at least get a shot on the top line to start the season. Reddox did not.

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#49 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 09:15AM
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@ Mills:

So which is worse:

- trying a guy whose resume says he's bottom-six winger on the top line because other guys are injured/ineffective?

or

- running a guy whose resume says he's bottom-six winger on the top line as the de facto plan out of trainng camp?

MacTavish would have been harped on mercilessly.

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#50 Jonathan Willis
September 30 2009, 09:17AM
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GSC wrote:

Brule: upgrade on Brodziak in terms of grit and faceoff ability.

Brule: downgrade on Brodziak in terms of size and faceoff ability.

Seriously, where do you get the notion that Brule is better than Brodziak in the faceoff circle?

Stone: can jump in as a centre in a pinch, known for faceoff ability and grit.

Stone: minor-league winger to date, when he played centre in preseason he (cleanly) lost the faceoff that led to the winning goal against in Tampa Bay.

Again: where do you get the notion that Stone is particularly good in the faceoff circle?

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