THE END OF ELPH???

Jason Gregor
December 03 2010 01:29AM

Three straight wins with three different goalie and five wins in their last seven games and all of a sudden the Oilers look a competent NHL team. Sam Gagner has a point in four straight games, Taylor Hall is suddenly tied with Gagner and Dustin Penner for the team lead in goals with eight, Ryan Whitney leads all NHL D-men in assists with 20 and even Jim Vandermeer is playing well.

The question that needs to be asked; Is this team for real or was it just a short blimp on the ELPH screen?

Before many of you Kool-aid guzzlers get your shorts in a knot and call me negative, read the article.

Last year from Dec 3rd to Dec 11th the Oilers won five straight on the road with wins in Detroit, Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. They returned to Edmonton with a record of 15-13-4, but despite five straight wins the Nation wasn't bursting with excitement.

That team was held together with papier mache and most knew it was only a matter of time before they came unglued. After that stunning five-game winning streak the Oilers lost 20 of their next 21 games. From Dec 15th to Jan 30th, you celebrated one measly victory, a 3-1 win v. Toronto at Rexall Place on Dec 30th. It was six-week stretch many of you have erased from your memory.

 

My late father would have turned 67 today. He was a die-hard hockey fan, but he never got too excited or upset after a win or a loss. IIn the past seven games after watching the top-three lines score, all three goalies play well and all three defence pairings play decent, he might have been inclined to believe this team was ready to compete.

I'm not fooled into thinking that three games means this team is ready to make a push for a playoff spot, but I've seen a lot of improvement the past two weeks and right now I'd lean towards them slowly creeping up the standings, than falling back into the bottom five in the NHL.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND LAST

Even the most optimistic fan knew that without Ales Hemsky, Nikolai Khabibulin and a brittle Sheldon Souray last year's team wasn't going anywhere. They had POS and Robert Nilsson shuffling in and out of their top-six. They had two rookie goaltenders, aging veterans who were past their prime and a coach with a temper shorter than your woman's when she falls into the toilet in the middle of the night because you left the seat up.

You didn't think they would lose 20 of their next 21, but very few were fooled into believing they could compete.

I think this team is different.

Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi are only going to get better as the season progresses. Khabibulin and Hemsky are healthy (for now), Gagner, Cogliano and Brule are still improving and aren't on the downside of their career, and Tom Renney has proven to be a patient teacher. Renney refused to put Hall and Eberle in pressure situations early in the season because he wanted to protect them. Then he sent them a subtle message that they needed to be more than offensive players by benching them in the 3rd period of a meaningless blowout.

Since that benching Hall has gotten much better in his own zone, and it has resulted in a big improvement in his +/- and now he is a co-leader in goals. Eberle hadn't scored in 15 games until last night, but he has looked more comfortable and is starting to live up to his reputation of making big plays in late-game pressure situations. The kids don't seem to get nervous when the game intensifies.

I don't think this team is a playoff contender, and barring major injuries I don't see them being able to stick with Wanye's plan of Exciting Last Place Hockey. As long as the injury bug doesn't hit this team, I don't think they will garner another lottery pick for Steve Tambellini and staff.

DYING A SLOW DEATH

This team isn't bad enough to finish 30th, and I hate to say it, but I don't see them being a lottery team either. Don't get me wrong, this team isn't ready for prime time, and I'm sure we will witness a few more one-sided loses, but the kids are finding their groove and it looks like they are finally getting a grip on how to play away from the puck, and how to eliminate the glaring giveaways from their game.

Like any young team, they will forget these lessons from time-to-time and they will still give you ample opportunity to yell at your TV, curse a player's name, demand someone get traded or assigned to the minors and proclaim "fill in blank" is overpaid. However, they will also present you with feelings of pride, hope and belief like they did this week, and those games will start to become more frequent as we enter 2011.

ELPH was put to rest on December 2nd, 2010.

For many, you left way too early. Wanye and company were just starting to know you, but, alas, Hall, Eberle, Gagner and the rest of the youthful, exuberant Oilers were too naive to know they should have kept you around.

I doubt MOTRPH (middle of the road place hockey) will be able to capture the hearts and imagination of Oiler fans the way ELPH did, but I just can't see the Oilers being capable of keeping ELPH alive.

My heartfelt condolences go out to Wanye, who I know will be crushed, when he realizes ELPH is gone. This weekend when you are out Christmas shopping or nursing a hangover think of Wanye, and raise a glass to his beloved ELPH.

He will be missed. 

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
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
Avatar
#51 Epicus
December 03 2010, 10:17AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Jason Gregor wrote:

I answer most questions. While I don't think it is likely, the possibiliy, albeit very slim might exist, so I answered. And realistically if this team goes 4 and 2 in home stand they won't be far out...that is a scary thought.

Gregor, lets say we do end up in 10th. No playoffs, no lottery pick. is this draft deep enough for the faithfull to get exicited about a lower round pick?

Avatar
#52 Dipstick
December 03 2010, 10:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

This Koolaid is very sweet but it has a short shelf life. By this time next week it could be bitter. I still believe in ELPH (exciting lottery pick hockey).

Avatar
#53 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 10:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm not saying but i'm just going to say....

We would have been watching this type of hockey all year long if Sheldon Souray was in that dressing room, if our blue line crew wasn't struggling most nights things would be different.

Tambellinis plan must've been to tank it this year again, he could always turn up the heat and move Hemsky and Penner. I'd much rather have a lottery pick this year than finish out of the top ten draft picks this summer. We'd best hope for some injuries and Steve liquidating some of our more expensive assets.

I hope this Souray situation costs Tambellini his job, flushing 9 million dollars of someone elses money down the drain can do that to you.

Avatar
#54 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 10:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

.....so, are we all Khabibulin fans again. A shutout while in the center of the hockey universe. Someone please nail Dubnyks arse to the bench again please.

Avatar
#55 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 10:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Penner and Gagner to the Islanders for their first pick and a prospect will put things back on track again.

Just say no to a 10th-15th overall pick this summer.

Avatar
#56 Epicus
December 03 2010, 10:38AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

.....so, are we all Khabibulin fans again. A shutout while in the center of the hockey universe. Someone please nail Dubnyks arse to the bench again please.

I hope that was sarcasm! Why would we nail him to the bench? only 2 outcomes from that and both are bad for the team! #1 He sits as Khabby wins and doesnt get another start for 7-8 games. Down side? No development. #2 He sits as Khabby loses a bunch. Sure we get closer to the ELPH dream, but I for one would rather do it while developing a goalie!

I think we need to make sure Dubnyk plays at LEAST 25 games this year if not 30 just to keep him on track with development.

Avatar
#57 Dyckster
December 03 2010, 10:38AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'm not saying but i'm just going to say....

We would have been watching this type of hockey all year long if Sheldon Souray was in that dressing room, if our blue line crew wasn't struggling most nights things would be different.

Tambellinis plan must've been to tank it this year again, he could always turn up the heat and move Hemsky and Penner. I'd much rather have a lottery pick this year than finish out of the top ten draft picks this summer. We'd best hope for some injuries and Steve liquidating some of our more expensive assets.

I hope this Souray situation costs Tambellini his job, flushing 9 million dollars of someone elses money down the drain can do that to you.

Please quantify your Souray statement with some actual facts.

The team sucked last year with or without him. He was on a -42 pace. How do stats like that make us better this year?

We essentially have two players performing Souray's role on Oilers Ver.2010/2011. Foster has the bomb from the point, JV adds some toughness. Difference is Vandermeer hasn't been bleeding goals (the last few games anyway) like Souray habitually does. I say we're better off without him on the ice....and off.

Avatar
#58 ItsTheBGB
December 03 2010, 10:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Epicus wrote:

Gregor, lets say we do end up in 10th. No playoffs, no lottery pick. is this draft deep enough for the faithfull to get exicited about a lower round pick?

This draft is very deep. We could luck out and get Murphy or Musil if we finish around tenth. I still think our team will be closer to lottery though.

Avatar
#59 D-Man
December 03 2010, 10:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'm not saying but i'm just going to say....

We would have been watching this type of hockey all year long if Sheldon Souray was in that dressing room, if our blue line crew wasn't struggling most nights things would be different.

Tambellinis plan must've been to tank it this year again, he could always turn up the heat and move Hemsky and Penner. I'd much rather have a lottery pick this year than finish out of the top ten draft picks this summer. We'd best hope for some injuries and Steve liquidating some of our more expensive assets.

I hope this Souray situation costs Tambellini his job, flushing 9 million dollars of someone elses money down the drain can do that to you.

Don't be surprised if Tambo deals Penner at the trade deadline... After next year, he won't be able to sign both as we'll have three kids commanding million dollar contracts the year following... I'm (hoping) going on the assumption that he signs Hemsky to another three year extension leaving Penner on the trading block...

Even if we finish around 24th or 25th this year, we'll still have gaping holes on our back end and our PK... I won't be shocked if Tambo uses Penner (and one of our smaller forwards like Brule/Cogs/Omark) to fill one of them or at least get another 1st or 2nd round draft pick...

Avatar
#60 dawgbone
December 03 2010, 10:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The Oilers play has certainly turned around. 27 has propped up Brule (again) and is making Cogliano look useful.

Gagner is starting to make simple plays at the other teams blueline, and taking it wide instead of trying to dangle in a danger area.

Hall and Eberle are finding their mark in the offensive zone and doing a much better job in their own end.

Paajarvi is starting to generate more chances and not just hanging back.

The Oilers are have manged to string several games together where their goaltender isn't awful (and is out right excellent on some nights).

There are still some issues. The PP in this stretch went 3/24. The PK improved a touch, improving from about 67% to 74% (17/23), still good enough to be last place. One thing that has saved them is that they've given up just under 1 PP opportunity per game less than they were earlier on (down to 3.3 from 4.2). They way they've been killing penalties that represents a huge benefit.

The Oilers have been sawing off the scoring chance numbers (after getting killed earlier) which is a good sign. Everything points to a turn around, it's whether or not it continues.

Special teams have to improve and Khabibulin can't be as bad as he was earlier.

Avatar
#61 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 11:00AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Dyckster wrote:

Please quantify your Souray statement with some actual facts.

The team sucked last year with or without him. He was on a -42 pace. How do stats like that make us better this year?

We essentially have two players performing Souray's role on Oilers Ver.2010/2011. Foster has the bomb from the point, JV adds some toughness. Difference is Vandermeer hasn't been bleeding goals (the last few games anyway) like Souray habitually does. I say we're better off without him on the ice....and off.

Statistitions were created by Federal government in a make work project Dyckster. Don't be baffled by the matrix of numbers implicated to keep these people employed. If these numbers were important then they would have these numbers present on the top of the TV screen during the game instead of the score. Statistics are usually kept by those who can't play the game, and therefore sell very few tickets.

Avatar
#62 Jmask5
December 03 2010, 11:08AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

This is the very definition of bittersweet.

On one hand its hard not to get excited when the team you love is winning games and getting contributions from its up and coming rookies.

But This team still needs 1 more piece. In order to become a Stanley cup contender we need a big center. Given the way UFA has gone for the Oilers and the asking price for such players it would be best to get him through the draft.

Having said that I'm not sure if there are any sure things in this draft.

And as for the D. I like what we have.

Whitney-Gilbert Smid-Pekham Plante-Petry Chorney

I think if these guys play to their potential then they can help the Oilers win in the future.

Avatar
#63 Dominoiler
December 03 2010, 11:10AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

@Quicksilver ballet

!!! WTF !!!

Avatar
#64 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 11:13AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Epicus wrote:

I hope that was sarcasm! Why would we nail him to the bench? only 2 outcomes from that and both are bad for the team! #1 He sits as Khabby wins and doesnt get another start for 7-8 games. Down side? No development. #2 He sits as Khabby loses a bunch. Sure we get closer to the ELPH dream, but I for one would rather do it while developing a goalie!

I think we need to make sure Dubnyk plays at LEAST 25 games this year if not 30 just to keep him on track with development.

I thought his back would have broken down by now. Renney wants to ice the best lineup to help his team win, most nights this means Khabibulin in goal if he's healthy.

If Nickolia can keep this up i'm sure a contender in need of some help in goal would offer up a draft pick for him. We did give a first rounder to Minnesota for the aging Roloson a few years ago, so there is hope.

Avatar
#65 Dyckster
December 03 2010, 11:17AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Dominoiler wrote:

!!! WTF !!!

What he said.

Avatar
#66 BarryS
December 03 2010, 11:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Quicksilver ballet

Get over your Souray crush, he's done like dinner. This is his last pro contract. That spilt milk is long dry.

The team plays to win, so get over it. Shot numbers mean nothing except when the goalie lets in one from centre like one did yesterday. Sort of reminded me of JC Trombley(?) who scored those types several times a year.

Toronto had lots of shots but fewer real chances than we did. That we scored five times is a tribute to how bad there defence and goaltending really are. Khaby played a good workmanlike game which this year has been rare and so did our defence. No soft goals and one or two really good saves, about what to expect from real NHL goaltenders.

Avatar
#67 positivebrontefan
December 03 2010, 11:20AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Jason Gregor wrote:

No one...The year they forfeit it, there will only be 29 first round picks.

That makes sense but if they forfiet then finish last then everyone moves up one spot.

Avatar
#68 Tyler
December 03 2010, 11:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The question that needs to be asked; Is this team for real or was it just a short blimp on the ELPH screen?

I'll take the "blip on the ELPH" screen option, with the caveat that they might finish a little higher than "L" and the "E" might not be the case.

The Eastern Conference is a great place to convince yourself that things are looking up.

Avatar
#69 BUCK75
December 03 2010, 11:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement wrote:

It's great to see a few wins once and a while, and always awesome to see a maple laughs pump show... but i'm by no means ready to give up on Wanye's ELPH. A 3 game road trip is nowhere close to being enough to tell me these kids have turned the corner. They are providing some extremely exciting hockey to watch... and put together 3 great games in a row. But these are kids... and while we may be on a 3 game win streak, you can get that next 3 game losing streak is right around the corner.

Last year we ripped off a 5 game winning streak follwed by winning 1 of the next 21....

Just saying, here's hoping

Avatar
#70 JackBauer
December 03 2010, 11:29AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

Unfourtunately for us we may finish last in our conference but were not as bad as Toronto, Islanders, or the Panthers. To finish last overall means youll have to be as bad as those teams and I dont see how thats possible over the long run.

Avatar
#71 David S
December 03 2010, 11:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm not sure if anybody caught this, but I was coming home late last night and caught the Team's sports night talk show (and yes, I'm a loser for tuning in that crap). They played a clip from Taylor Hall in the post-game scrum from Toronto.

He said something along the lines of the team aiming for the playoffs (ostensibly as a sort of reach goal). I'm not sure if he'd been given the company line, but it really came across as if he believed they were going for it.

If this is the case, then whether they actually make the playoffs or not it appears that ELPH is now off the table. Maybe wildest expectations are being realized in that all three rooks are paying off (pretty rare) plus a few of the younger vets starting to mature to expectations (Gagner comes to mind).

In multiple-scenario strategic planning, this would certainly be the "best case" outcome, of which several where probably planned out. Therefore, if the team continues to improve, you'd expect moves to be made to shore up obvious holes (which you'd assume were left that way on purpose - part of the the "worst-case" scenarios leading to a high draft pick).

Avatar
#72 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 11:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Have a good weekend all you puckers.

Avatar
#73 Eddie Shore
December 03 2010, 12:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
David S wrote:

I'm not sure if anybody caught this, but I was coming home late last night and caught the Team's sports night talk show (and yes, I'm a loser for tuning in that crap). They played a clip from Taylor Hall in the post-game scrum from Toronto.

He said something along the lines of the team aiming for the playoffs (ostensibly as a sort of reach goal). I'm not sure if he'd been given the company line, but it really came across as if he believed they were going for it.

If this is the case, then whether they actually make the playoffs or not it appears that ELPH is now off the table. Maybe wildest expectations are being realized in that all three rooks are paying off (pretty rare) plus a few of the younger vets starting to mature to expectations (Gagner comes to mind).

In multiple-scenario strategic planning, this would certainly be the "best case" outcome, of which several where probably planned out. Therefore, if the team continues to improve, you'd expect moves to be made to shore up obvious holes (which you'd assume were left that way on purpose - part of the the "worst-case" scenarios leading to a high draft pick).

What did you think the team's goal was?

Avatar
#76 knobert
December 03 2010, 12:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Did any one else notice that there is a lot of beard growing happening on the team?? Are they doing team building/rallying other than Movember?

Avatar
#77 thebiggestmanintheworld
December 03 2010, 12:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Wow that kool aid must be good. I've seen playoffs mentioned WAY too many times here. 3 game streak is nice, and the team looks like it's playing with a ton of confidence, but just remember our 5 game road trip last year and what followed. I mean Toronto started the season out 4-0 and you see how that's working out for them. Patience people. A fist overall pick is still in the picture...

Avatar
#79 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
December 03 2010, 01:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I thought his back would have broken down by now. Renney wants to ice the best lineup to help his team win, most nights this means Khabibulin in goal if he's healthy.

If Nickolia can keep this up i'm sure a contender in need of some help in goal would offer up a draft pick for him. We did give a first rounder to Minnesota for the aging Roloson a few years ago, so there is hope.

was roloson an injury plagued goalie with multiple years left on his 35+ contract when he was dealt? nope.

you have a better chance seeing madjam win an award for writing than seeing a team take on 'bulin and the sh** mess that comes with him

Avatar
#80 Chris.
December 03 2010, 01:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Getzlaf was a 19th overall pick. Eberle was picked 23rd overall. Heck Messier was taken in the third round... watching a young team turn a corner is worth a lot more to me than losing just so Stu has an easier time procuring talent at the draft. Death to ELPH!

Avatar
#81 Senator Theo
December 03 2010, 02:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Penner and Gagner to the Islanders for their first pick and a prospect will put things back on track again.

Just say no to a 10th-15th overall pick this summer.

I hope we find out later that you left your computer on and logged on to OilersNation, and some kid came by and typed this to try and make you look bad.

That's the only way any of these messages make sense.

Gagner...for real?

Avatar
#82 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 02:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Senator Theo wrote:

I hope we find out later that you left your computer on and logged on to OilersNation, and some kid came by and typed this to try and make you look bad.

That's the only way any of these messages make sense.

Gagner...for real?

Thanks for offering that out if i wanted it Menacer. I'll rephrase it in a kinder gentler form.

For Sale/Trade.

(1) One perennial 30 goal/30 assist hot/cold power forward in the making, 28 yrs old and nicely broken in for a team on the edge of greatness, or even on a team such as the Islanders. (2) One smallish, easily pushed off the puck most nights blue chip prospect with a trifecta of 40'ish point seasons under his belt. This miniature version lately bares a striking resemblance to a miniature George Parros complete with his trademark stash.

This is a time limited offer available to your team in exchange for your first pick this coming summer's entry draft.

Avatar
#83 Bucknuck
December 03 2010, 03:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Nice read Gregor. Gutsy play predicting the end of ELPH, but I believe you. This team is better than last place, and it is starting to show.

I am glad I don't have to be happy when they lose anymore.

Avatar
#84 Yetanotheroilfan
December 03 2010, 03:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I can not believe the amount of people in broadcasting and even on this page that have been drinking the 'Bulin Kool-aid. Are people actually looking at his numbers? I think we should start the transition now. Have Dubnyk almost half the games this year, if not more and put 'Bulin in a secondary role. He is a big spend for the Oilers, and a solid vet is great when Dubnyk starts to faulter. This year however, other then a few brilliant saves, 'Bulin has proved little as a number one goalie. I guess anything under 9 goals is an expectation for a true number one? Or perhaps you need to be at leat 30 years old in the Oiler franchise to be a number one? Just my thoughts..

Avatar
#85 Senator Theo
December 03 2010, 03:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

@Quicksilver ballet

That trade wouldn't make sense for either team.

Avatar
#86 Dennis
December 03 2010, 04:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
dawgbone wrote:

The Oilers play has certainly turned around. 27 has propped up Brule (again) and is making Cogliano look useful.

Gagner is starting to make simple plays at the other teams blueline, and taking it wide instead of trying to dangle in a danger area.

Hall and Eberle are finding their mark in the offensive zone and doing a much better job in their own end.

Paajarvi is starting to generate more chances and not just hanging back.

The Oilers are have manged to string several games together where their goaltender isn't awful (and is out right excellent on some nights).

There are still some issues. The PP in this stretch went 3/24. The PK improved a touch, improving from about 67% to 74% (17/23), still good enough to be last place. One thing that has saved them is that they've given up just under 1 PP opportunity per game less than they were earlier on (down to 3.3 from 4.2). They way they've been killing penalties that represents a huge benefit.

The Oilers have been sawing off the scoring chance numbers (after getting killed earlier) which is a good sign. Everything points to a turn around, it's whether or not it continues.

Special teams have to improve and Khabibulin can't be as bad as he was earlier.

Not sure if you got the memo DB but just because you and I can see the holes in the PK that doesn't mean it's a real story;)

In all seriousness, if the dye's cast with the kids being part of the top six then now the club should start to look to fix the bottom six and in doing that get two guys who are great PKers with one of them being a faceoff guy.

Avatar
#87 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 04:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Senator Theo wrote:

That trade wouldn't make sense for either team.

If that draftpick allowed us Sean Couturier i'd make that deal. I'd save Hemsky for a Jordan Staal deal.

Avatar
#89 Quicksilver ballet
December 03 2010, 05:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

A kinder gentler Robin Brownlee perhaps, that trigger finger must be gettin itchy by now, haven't seen any seasons beatings/banning on the Brownlee front for a few weeks now. Is this a record for him?

Avatar
#90 Mike Krushelnyski
December 03 2010, 06:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Hey if we finish a little higher up the standings we can always trade Hemsky or Penner to the Leafs for a couple of first rounders right? ;)

Avatar
#91 racsan2448
December 10 2010, 07:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

ELPH

E BERLE L INUS P AAJARVI H ALL

Comments are closed for this article.