SHOOTING, FACEOFFS and LEARNING

Jason Gregor
October 18 2010 01:58PM

The Oilers had yesterday off and today they did an off-ice workout and some film study. They will be back on the ice tomorrow at Millenium Place, SMACKDOWN is at Rexall, and you can bet that Tom Renney will be want to focus on a few areas. Faceoffs is an obvious weakness right now, but there are other areas that he need work.

The Oilers aren't shooting the puck very often. Dustin Penner, 13, is the only forward in double digits in shots on goal, and Tom Renney feels his main priority still has to be getting his team  to understand how to play in their own zone and away from the puck. (You can watch his press conference at www.oilers.nhl.com this afternoon.)

The Oilers are averaging 25.5 shots/game, only the Dallas Stars have fired fewer at 22.5, but the Stars have three forwards with ten or more shots. The Oiler forwards aren't being selfish enough right now. They are looking for the cute play, or hesitating and getting the shot blocked, but the most glaring weakness is they aren't going to the net often enough to get rebounds.

"You don't pass the puck into the net, you shoot it into the net and that is something we really, really have to do. The net is the end point no matter what you are doing, and we have to start making sure we have people there. Sometimes you don't want to take the shot because it is just you and the goalie, and what is the point, but a pass off the goalie is a great pass if you have guys going to the net. It is something we have to play close attention to," said Renney.

While Sam Gagner has four assists in four games he only have five shots on goal and he is averaging 18:49 a game. He needs to get more pucks on net. Andrew Cogliano is playing 13:03 a night and he has five shots, while Gilbert Brule only has three in four games. Brule has a hell of a shot and he needs to start using it more. And it isn't just the forwards. Ryan Whitney is playing over 26 minutes a night and he has a measly four shots. He has a good shot and a solid one-timer and it is imperative he starts using it more.

FACEOFFS WILL BE GROUP PROJECT

The Oilers have struggled in the dot for two years, finishing 25th in 2009 and a 30th last year. They aren't much better through four games this year, and Renney was quick to point out that if they are going to improve in the dot it needs to be a team effort.

"As a coaching staff we have to place a premium on that every day. It is very disconcerting. Whether we are on the powerplay, where you have possesion in the offensive zone or on the penalty kill, and we all know where that starts, from a  static start in our zone, this is very, very dangerous territory for this team. With what we are trying to do, our faceoff play is not good, and has to improve dramatically over time, if not sooner.  

"A tie is a good as a win. We have to recognize that it (faceoff) isn't just a finesse move or a skill move, it is a power move. You have to have strong hands, strong forearms and a real frame of mind that at the very least they (opposition) aren't winning the draw. What we have a tendancy to forget is that the wingers, and even the defencemen have to pay as much attention to the linesman's hand, and the puck, as the guy taking the draw. It is a five-man function, and if we aren't one of those teams that has any of those personal attributes we have to win draws as a committee."

50% OR BUST

The Oilers won't become a 50% team overnight, but they will need to pay more attention to every little detail in order to give themselves a fighting chance in the dot.

There is a lot of little things that Renney wants to improve, but he can't do all of them at once. They will need to come in small doses, but I asked Renney which area has to be the main focus right now?

"We do have lots of small areas to work on and that is why most coaches will start with the defensive plan first. As we sort out our house offensively and learn that part of the game and how we are going to work collectively, because most of that is instinctively, at least initially. Let's make sure we are on the same page defensively, and that is why most teams put a focus on defensive team play initially before offensive team play.

"We've tried to (work on offense) in the last week, and it came back to bite us a little bit. We tried to pay more attention to attack and as much as we are okay defensively, we aren't great. We have a lot of work to do there and so we are coming back to that again this week. You will see that is how we will go about learning this game together."

This season will be a work in progress for the Oilers, and as long as Renney is seeing improvement in the areas that he is focusing on he'll be happy. When the Oilers host the Wild on Thursday look for more attention to details in the specific areas Renney outlined. They can't improve every area instantly, but he will demand he sees improvement in the areas that they are spending extra time working on. 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 Oilertown
October 18 2010, 10:56PM
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Sure glad Tavares is back for my BP hockey draft and put up a couple points. Unfortunately I didn't know that there was more than 1 draft or would have entered them all. Being a first time poolie its kinda addicting checking out where I am sitting lol.( Which would be 72nd but I have about 5 or 6 players that are really slumping right now). Doughty and Zetterburg just to name a couple.

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#52 Rogue
October 19 2010, 12:46AM
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@MattL

Brainless whiner? Bandwagon? You are great at assuming. I am none of those. Just adding some humor. Maybe we name Gilbert "The Garrote". I find it ironic that this Dman, who IS soft, gets fined for a so called dangerous hit. Never blamed him for anything, let alone evaluate him. And by the way, Lidstrom can handle himself when he needs to. Next time get your crap together before you start wailing like a teenage girl. JTDC!!

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#53 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 19 2010, 08:24AM
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Gregor

Way off topic, but if there is a guy show I'm not sure Rishaug should be invited. Gray'a Anatomy playing on the tvs? Seriously? No Entourage or Eastbound and down?

You are onto something with the whole guy show. I'm also thinking if they were serving liquor at the women's show that the 2% population of males(if straight) should've been in their glory.

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#54 Team Hall
October 19 2010, 10:34AM
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Hey Jason, how about this idea - lets stick Hallsy on the #1 pp unit with Hemmer feeding him. The kid has a Laser beam shot, and if set up properly, could plunk a few goals for sure. It would put the kid in a position to succeed, and may help our pp out a bit. Am I way off here? Just an idea.

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#55 It's Obvious...
October 19 2010, 01:47PM
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It's obvious where that team is from. They touching feet so they would have to be in some sort of gay league. The only gay teams I know are from Calgary so there you have it. Mystery solved.

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#56 Spydyr
October 20 2010, 02:21PM
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MattL wrote:

Holy smokes you bandwagon haterz, when was the last time you saw Nick Lidstrom hit someone? If he could HIT and SCORE and PASS, you'd be complaining about how he's making 7mil/year.

All you brainless whiners can't think or evaluate the game for yourselves so you just start mimicing whatever complaint is popular at the time. You don't always need a scapegoat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat

In the NHL your defencemen have to hit,be tough in the corners and move people from in front of the net.To even say Gilbert's and Lidstrom in the same sentence never mind comparing the two says something about your hockey knowledge.

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