Oilers vs. Wild Postgame: Moreau, Penner Lead The Way

Jonathan Willis
April 05 2010 11:59PM

Edmonton Oilers: 4

Minnesota Wild: 1

What a great game to watch. Seriously, writing the three stars I could submit half a dozen or more names that played well; a far cry from other nights where it’s a real struggle to find three players. The goaltending was solid, the team played well, and even some of the customary whipping boys – Patrick O’Sullivan, Taylor Chorney and especially captain Ethan Moreau – had solid nights.

 

Oilers Three Stars, According To Me

 

1. Ethan Moreau. It’s been a tough season for the Oilers’ captain, but he was at his best tonight, charging the net hard and showing off his skating ability and willingness to shoot the puck. He had what was probably his best game of the season (though he had a couple of good ones around the trade deadline) and came oh-so-close to recording a hattrick. He finished the night with seven shots.

2. Dustin Penner. Penner also managed two goals, setting a new career high with 31 on the season and continuing to cement his place as the best player on this year’s team. By eye, his skating has fallen off since the beginning of the year but he’s a smart player with a good shot and he somehow just keeps scoring after a bit of a drought.

3. Ryan Potulny. The TSN commentators kept pointing to Potulny’s stretch as a healthy scratch as the reason for tonight’s turnaround, and perhaps it was. After going minus-6 over his last two games, Potulny recorded two assists tonight and finished plus-1. He meshed well with Penner and played a key role in his goals.

 

Reading Between The Lines

 

Steve Tambellini did his best not to give anything away during his interview (one of the things I do like about him is how he plays his cards closer to the chest than previous managers) but the way he phrased things and reacted made it seem pretty clear that the Oilers weren’t going to do something crazy with the top pick (should they get it) and would pick one of Hall or Seguin. I’d bet Hall is the player selected if the Oilers retain the top pick.

But if Steve Tambellini didn’t want to speculate, Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie were under no such constraints. Dreger made two points, both of which gel nicely with common sense: first, that Tambellini is “highly unlikely” to deal Hemsky, and second that Jordan Eberle will be an Oiler next season. For his part, Bob McKenzie suggested that it was “50/50” that Magnus Paajarvi would stay in Sweden for next season.

 

Hail The Whipping Boys!

 

We mentioned Moreau’s efforts above, but there was one more point I thought was worth making: watching Moreau interact with his teammates tonight, it was easy to get the sense that he’s well-liked in the dressing room. Now, it’s always dicey to make psychological assessments of people you don’t know from watching them play a game for an hour, but Horcoff’s obvious desire to get Moreau a hat-trick, and the response of young players (particularly Chorney and Dubnyk) to Moreau was an interesting thing to observe.

Speaking of Chorney, has he had as good a game in the NHL as the one he had tonight? The stats sheet reads one assist and plus-2, but there’s much more to it than that. In my game notes I can see a half-dozen times I marked Chorney as making an exceptional play: some of them offensive to be sure, but also some great reads in the defensive zone like when he easily handled Guillaume Latendresse midway through the second. I’m sceptical about how high his potential lies long-term, but for tonight at least he was excellent.

Shawn Horcoff had a nice night as Moreau’s setup man and looked a lot more like the player from season’s past than he has for much of this year.

Finally, Patrick O’Sullivan may have been snake-bit but he could easily have finished with two goals on the night too: on two different occasions he fought through multiple opponents to get a chance, most notably when he hit the post after taking the puck through Brent Burns and Martin Havlat along the boards and then dancing past John Scott in the slot. He also formed an effective penalty-killing duo with Marc Pouliot.

 

Quick Hits

 

How good would Greg Zanon have looked on the Oilers’ blue-line this season? Playing through a hairline fracture, I was reminded of Steve Staios of old watching Zanon complete his shift after blocking a shot that obviously stung.

Speaking of shot-blocking, Zack Stortini showed pretty much everything anyone needs to know about how he plays the game tonight when he was hurt blocking a shot and then desperately tried to get in front of a second shot a few seconds later. I’ve grown to like Stortini more and more as a player this season.

I don’t see any point to having a tough guy square off against Derek Boogaard; he’s best dealt with by having guys skate around him and the Oilers did that well tonight. Andrew Cogliano chipped the puck past him and skated away, and as Boogaard put his head down to putt-putt up the ice he looked totally outclassed. It was hardly a unique situation; later in the first he took a run at Strudwick but took so long getting there that 43 had already passed off the puck and skated out of harm’s way by the time he arrived. Later on in the game, he put his team off-side because he couldn’t skate fast enough to clear the offensive zone. He’s big enough to beat up just about everyone, but when he gets played as a hockey player the deficiencies in his game become readily apparent.

John Scott is the other iffy hockey-playing behemoth in the Minnesota line-up, and he laid a licking on Dean Arsene after Arsene’s clean hit on James Sheppard. For his trouble he took 17 minutes in penalties, a prime example of a case where the instigator rule is useful. I’d love to see it used more often to dissuade fights after clean hits.

After a lousy start to his career, Devan Dubnyk has looked a lot like a guy who could challenge for the backup job in camp next year, and he was solid tonight, making 25 saves on 26 shots. I still think it’s a long-shot that he gets picked up on waivers if the Oilers send him down next year, but he can improve his chances with a strong finish.

I always love watching Andrew Brunette play: he’s got some rough spots but he’s a fine hockey player. He’s also proof positive that sometimes NHL teams underrate their own prospects: Brunette had five outstanding seasons in the minors, performed well in NHL cameos, but never got a chance in the big league until expansion came. He’s now on the right side of 650 points and just a little shy of 1000 games played.

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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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#51 Cory Dakin
April 06 2010, 04:11PM
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And I'm also aware the hemsky straight up will not get he first pick, just throwing something out there for consideration.

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#52 rubbertrout
April 06 2010, 05:38PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Not sure about Penner, but RB seems to think that Hemsky wont be back. That's the source of the gone after contract talk.

Personally, I'd like to think that IF Tambellini can turn the boat around next season* then Hemsky will see this as a club on the rise and stay longer.

*Miracles, I'm banking on miracles

Wasn't there some discussion from Hemmer's girlfriend that said Hemsky wanted to go? I can't recall where that came from though.

Manitoba Fats would never leave the best donairs in North America.

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#53 Matt Henderson
April 06 2010, 05:45PM
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@rubbertrout

Yeah, that was from some guy that said he knew his girlfriend. So this is at least 3rd hand info, if we are to believe the guy who claims to know Hemsky's girlfriend.

I'm not exactly sold on the pie in the sky dream that professional hockey players tell their "Girlfriends" the truth all the time anyway.

EDIT:*Imagines conversations with PuckBunny girlfriend*

"Of course, where do you think I should sign when I hit Free Agency"

"I've always wanted to live in New York or L.A."

"Oh...Uh...You think I'm taki...Yeah we could live in L.A. together, sure...sure"

"Really!?! I cant wait to tell all my friends I'm moving to L.A. in two years!!!!!"

"Yeah...two...years...together...sure"

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#54 Jamie B.
April 06 2010, 06:32PM
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I've been to Pardubice, Hemsky's got nothing to complain about.

Except for the fact that he plays for a god-awful team. If he wants to move on because of that, sure.

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#55 madjam
April 06 2010, 07:00PM
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Cory Dakin wrote:

I wonder if Tampa bay might be easing off the gas pedal a little with toronto only two points behind them now. I'm sure they wouldn't be upset getting another top pick this year and the leafs certainly aren't going to ease up because Boston gets their pick anyway. I also wonder of a trade for a top pick could happen with them. Hemsky wouldn't look bad playing with Stamkos. Ovbviously this is purely thought of by me and carries no weight.

Stamkos would be nice no doubt . I forsee both Penner and Hemsky being untouchable for next two seasons as a transitional base to develop our teams youth around . We need to keep competent elder base around while youngsters develop . That means keeping Moreau and Horcoff as well despite off seasons . Defensively Whitney and Gilbert look to be part of that base as well . Would not surprise me to see Oilers spring for Alzner to develop with Plante , before his value goes skyward . Despite Jagr's age his contribution as a transitional base could be huge . Jagr would also like to bring with him another player off his Olympic team that might prove inexpensive and worthy if he is a good judge of talent - sorry i don't recall the players name . We may end up with very little of our diminutive base . Maybe only Gagner will be kept , as he shows the best promise . Waiting for Cogs , Eberle,and Brule might be a couple of years yet and they may lose out to Magnus , Hall or Sequin in that time .

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#56 rubbertrout
April 06 2010, 07:21PM
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@Matt Henderson

Third hand info is closer to the source than I am. Brownlee thinks he's gone too.

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#57 Crash
April 06 2010, 08:05PM
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Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

Looking for a reason why Penner should/could be traded right now?

Well, here's maybe the most important one: There's no friggin' way he re-signs in Edmonton in two years.

The minute - hell, the second - his contract his up, he's outta there. I'd have to believe he's had it up to here with playing in a fishbowl with a big contract.

Yes, I know. He still has two years left on his contract after this one. Normally, you'd wait until he was entering his final year before making trade considerations.

But right now, he's a 30-goal scorer with a not-too-onerous contract. His trade value might not be worth more than it is right now.

Of course, the same scenario could apply with Hemsky, too. He will likely bolt when his contract is up.

But, right now, I'd argue that Penner's worth more in a trade than Ales Hemsky. Penner's healthy; Hemsky, not so much ...

I realize someone's got to do the scoring during the rebuild, but if we all agree that Penner's gonzo 2012, why not package him for another building block?

With this being the prevailing attitude all the time....that guys are always going to bolt when they become UFA's...

How the hell will this team ever be able to compete if they were to do what you want even before their players reach UFA status....and that is trade them. How do you know there's no friggin way Penner won't resign? At some point don't we need to extend some of our best players if we want to become a higher end team? Shouldn't we try? There are lots of players that play in a fishbowl and resign.

If the Oilers always were to trade their 27 yr old pending free agents they will NEVER become a winning team....what do you suggest they trade Penner and Hemsky for?

Let me guess, draft picks or prospects. Does this same attitude never end here? So when the guys we get for Penner and Hemsky approach 28 yrs of age and UFA status..you'll be here calling for them to trade those players too while they are at their highest value....and for what? Let me guess...oh yeah, draft picks and/or prospects....

and the beat goes on...it's groundhog day

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#58 Pajamah
April 06 2010, 10:13PM
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Calgary lost, Avs up 3-2 late, I may have to party like it's 1999

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#59 leftwinger9
April 06 2010, 10:37PM
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The Avs did it!

The Flamers are out!

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#60 Matt Henderson
April 06 2010, 10:43PM
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leftwinger9 wrote:

The Avs did it!

The Flamers are out!

Whoooooooooooooo!!

*revels in the misery of others*

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#61 Kizz
April 06 2010, 10:44PM
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Whats worse than being last in the league... being in ninth place when everyone was predicting you to go deep in the playoffs... thanks flamers

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#62 Dan the Man
April 06 2010, 10:47PM
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Kizz wrote:

Whats worse than being last in the league... being in ninth place when everyone was predicting you to go deep in the playoffs... thanks flamers

Edit: being in ninth place when everyone was predicting you to go deep in the playoffs AND not having a 1st or 2nd round draft pick.

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#63 Matt Henderson
April 06 2010, 10:48PM
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@Kizz

I believe you forgot to mention "without your 1st and 2nd round draft picks as consolation".

But it's ok because at least they have Olli Jokinen. Oh...Nevermind.

EDIT: Damn, Dan got there before me!!

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#64 Dan the Man
April 06 2010, 10:51PM
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@Matt Henderson

In your face!

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#65 Matt Henderson
April 06 2010, 10:55PM
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@Dan the Man

*checks face for duplicated comment*

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#66 Jaime
April 06 2010, 10:55PM
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Sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

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#67 esa tikkanen
April 06 2010, 11:23PM
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this oilers fan is thrilled that the evil team to the south missed the playoffs and does not even have a first or second rounder this year.

For some reason I thought the Flames traded their first rounder in 2011 as well. Is that correct? can anyone confirm?

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#68 Crash
April 06 2010, 11:26PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

Edit: being in ninth place when everyone was predicting you to go deep in the playoffs AND not having a 1st or 2nd round draft pick.

They may not even have their 3rd rounder as they owe us either this years or next years 3rd rounder in the Staios deal....

How sweet it is!!

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#69 Crash
April 06 2010, 11:29PM
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And now we wait for Iginla to turn down Canada at the world championships just like he always does giving some lame excuse....

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#70 THEBIGD
April 07 2010, 12:13AM
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Cory Dakin wrote:

And I'm also aware the hemsky straight up will not get he first pick, just throwing something out there for consideration.

Please people trust me the best thing the Oilers can do is trade Hemsky.I been saying this for 2 years now and how he is still a Oiler is beyond me. As a star or even a Superstar he is not.Please look what he has done both for the team and the City of Edmonton? Which is nothing.He sneaks out after the game to avoid the media as well he is the first person off the ice in practice.Yes he can skate and do all the fancy moves,but 9 times out of 10 he loosed the puck or gives it away to the other team, only to watch them come down and score against us. I am so ill from hearing people calling him our franchise player.He is not even close to that type of player.And as of today we don't have a franchise player and I hope one of the new kids will work out.As we need all the help we can get.On a good note I am shocked but very happy to see what Dustin Penner has done this season.If he works out and takes care of his body in the off season maybe be our next Captain.As just maybe he can feed on what he has done this season.That would be great for our very young Oiler team.Time will tell?

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#71 THEBIGD
April 07 2010, 12:24AM
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@dragon

Amen finally someone sees what I have been seeing in Hemsky for the last 2+ years.Thank you for seeing this too.

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#72 dragon
April 07 2010, 12:50AM
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THEBIGD wrote:

Amen finally someone sees what I have been seeing in Hemsky for the last 2+ years.Thank you for seeing this too.

:-) and we are not alone.

someone even suggested that RB believes Hemsky won't be around for long.

well, rebuilding it is, for sure, 'cause the way I see it Hemsky is part of the veteran core that needs changing, and I don't mean just shipping Staios to the south.

let's not forget: the team sucked this year more so because of lack of leadership then because of injuries.

I hope Tambo does this summer what he wasn't able to do last summer: clean up the (toxic) locker.

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#73 madjam
April 07 2010, 07:11AM
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dragon wrote:

:-) and we are not alone.

someone even suggested that RB believes Hemsky won't be around for long.

well, rebuilding it is, for sure, 'cause the way I see it Hemsky is part of the veteran core that needs changing, and I don't mean just shipping Staios to the south.

let's not forget: the team sucked this year more so because of lack of leadership then because of injuries.

I hope Tambo does this summer what he wasn't able to do last summer: clean up the (toxic) locker.

Disagree with your analysis to a fair degree . Oilers never filled glaring weaknesses that needed filling from the previous year. It soon caught up with them after a not to bad start to season . From there it dominoed into our worse season . No tools for Oilers to excel with was our major problem all year , the rest was predicable symtamatic results and not the major cause . Management has to take accoutability/responsible for helping make the locker room toxic, as much if not moreso than anybody !

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#74 Bill up North
April 07 2010, 07:20AM
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The team finished last because key veterans (Hemsky, Souray, Habby, Comrie) were sick or injured for the majority of the season and others (Horcoff) were playing through injuries.

I think the reason Penner did so well at the beginning of the season is because of Hemsky. I know they weren't on the same line but Hemsky plays against the other teams top D pairing so that guys like Penner don't have to.

People rave about Penner being young and is having his break-out season. To put it in perspective, Hemsky is a year younger than Penner. Hmmmmm.....

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#75 rubbertrout
April 07 2010, 07:40AM
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WANYE AND BINGO

I think the news about our Calgary bretheren calls for a little TROLOLOLO? N'est pas?

*smiles at the tought of the big cheque he will be receiving from the Flames for his deposit on playoff tickets

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#76 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 07 2010, 08:45AM
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THEBIGD wrote:

Please people trust me the best thing the Oilers can do is trade Hemsky.I been saying this for 2 years now and how he is still a Oiler is beyond me. As a star or even a Superstar he is not.Please look what he has done both for the team and the City of Edmonton? Which is nothing.He sneaks out after the game to avoid the media as well he is the first person off the ice in practice.Yes he can skate and do all the fancy moves,but 9 times out of 10 he loosed the puck or gives it away to the other team, only to watch them come down and score against us. I am so ill from hearing people calling him our franchise player.He is not even close to that type of player.And as of today we don't have a franchise player and I hope one of the new kids will work out.As we need all the help we can get.On a good note I am shocked but very happy to see what Dustin Penner has done this season.If he works out and takes care of his body in the off season maybe be our next Captain.As just maybe he can feed on what he has done this season.That would be great for our very young Oiler team.Time will tell?

I can kind of see how people could come to the above conclusion last year, but after this past year? Have you not seen what happend to our offense??

Your argument is roughly equivalant to writing a paragraph about how the earth really is flat.

Wake up.

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#77 Bucknuck
April 07 2010, 10:02AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

I agree with you. If anything, this year has shown exactly how important Hemsky is to this team. With him in the lineup the Oilers have a chance at a playoff spot. Without him they are a last place team.

That doesn't mean he is untouchable, but it does mean he is a difference maker for your club and is certainly not expendable.

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#78 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 07 2010, 10:07AM
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Bucknuck wrote:

I agree with you. If anything, this year has shown exactly how important Hemsky is to this team. With him in the lineup the Oilers have a chance at a playoff spot. Without him they are a last place team.

That doesn't mean he is untouchable, but it does mean he is a difference maker for your club and is certainly not expendable.

Ya, of course he's not untouchable. A last place team (or really almost any team for that matter) should always be open to moves for basically any player.

It's statements like:

"Please look what he has done both for the team and the City of Edmonton? Which is nothing"

That are completly baffling.

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#79 Ender
April 07 2010, 10:20AM
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To trade Hemsky is not unthinkable. To not get fair value, though, is a crime against humanity (in Edmonton at least) and I don't think it's possible to get that. I'm guessing that Hemsky is worth more to the Oilers than he is to most other GM's. While he could certainly be moved, there is little point in moving him at a net loss to the team. If rival GM's see a net-loss trade to the Oilers as an even-steven trade in their eyes, there's not much point in dwelling on what he might fetch. Would it be worth it to trade him for a top-3 pick? That's debateable and depends on who you ask, but it would never happen so why waste time pondering? In terms of ability, upside, and contract size, Hemsky is a bargain by any standard; to trade for another player straight up, you are unlikely to get the same bang for your buck coming the other way.

I'm not so much scared that the Oilers are going to keep Hemsky and see him not produce as I am scared that they'll trade him away for the 20th pick and a 3rd-pairing D-man, neither of whom will ever impact the team the way Hemsky did.

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#80 dragon
April 07 2010, 10:44AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Ya, of course he's not untouchable. A last place team (or really almost any team for that matter) should always be open to moves for basically any player.

It's statements like:

"Please look what he has done both for the team and the City of Edmonton? Which is nothing"

That are completly baffling.

I don't think anybody can deny that Hemsky helps this team and any team, in the proper role. The question is: can he play the role that is assigned to him, or he needs free reign.

Because I don't see Quinn being the coach to do that.

As far as the season goes, I would consider the inability to new defensive system culprit number one for such a performance. I'm very far from a hockey expert, but looking at the big teams defense is key for winning games (as well as helping offense).

The reality is defensive abilities in forwards takes quite some time to develop (see Gags, Cogs, Hemsky, Penner) and if you pair that with the lack of trust between the forward and defensive core, you get a pretty tense locker...

RW seems to help the defensive issue, young goalies getting more confidence as well, but if the next season rolls around and you still have vets that don't buy into the system, it's gonna be another long year in Oil Country.

I think hockey is moving towards Total Hockey, where every player becomes an interchangeable part of a mechanism...IMO.

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#81 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 07 2010, 11:29AM
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dragon wrote:

I don't think anybody can deny that Hemsky helps this team and any team, in the proper role. The question is: can he play the role that is assigned to him, or he needs free reign.

Because I don't see Quinn being the coach to do that.

As far as the season goes, I would consider the inability to new defensive system culprit number one for such a performance. I'm very far from a hockey expert, but looking at the big teams defense is key for winning games (as well as helping offense).

The reality is defensive abilities in forwards takes quite some time to develop (see Gags, Cogs, Hemsky, Penner) and if you pair that with the lack of trust between the forward and defensive core, you get a pretty tense locker...

RW seems to help the defensive issue, young goalies getting more confidence as well, but if the next season rolls around and you still have vets that don't buy into the system, it's gonna be another long year in Oil Country.

I think hockey is moving towards Total Hockey, where every player becomes an interchangeable part of a mechanism...IMO.

Of course our defense sucks, it has for years. The diffence is that our offense "sucked" as well this year when it was middle of the pack the last three years. Which area do you think Hemsky affects the most?

It isn't one or the other that matters (offense vs defense) It's goal differential. It should be beyond clear that Hemsky is VERY important to the GF for this team.

Sure trade him, but their better be another offensive catalyst coming back either from that deal or another.

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#82 Gunner
April 07 2010, 11:40AM
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@THEBIGD

Dude, your spacebar is broken.

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