Runaway Train

Lowetide
October 23 2011 09:35AM

I'm worried about you, I'm worried about me

The curves around midnight aren't easy to see

To try and get off now is about as insane

As those who wave lanterns at runaway trains

-Rodney Crowell

I wonder if these kids who go high in the draft have any idea about the kind of impact they have on their bosses. Should RNH and Taylor Hall become impact players and bring glory to the Oilers, GM Steve Tambellini and coach Tom Renney (plus others) will see their stock rise in the NHL men's club and possibly have a long run of success in Edmonton.

I think this week got away from Tom Renney a little, and I'm not at all certain it was his fault. Although we speculate on what he meant, let's review his words.

  • Renney: “It’s important to know that we’re coaching to win, too. As much as those three kids with Ryan can help generate offence, it’s also a case of what you take, but what you leave."
  • Renney: “We have to work that angle, as well, and make sure that he continues to make a solid contribution to our team, so at the end of the day when you look at his situation specifically, we look at the body of work here and determine whether he’s going to stay here or we have to send him back. I want to make sure that we’re able to go after our games as well at that same time not having given the kid the short-end of the stick in terms of his evaluation to be here.”

Source is here. All of these Renney quotes are reflected in Robin Brownlee's recent item here at ON--the head coach is asking them to do their homework, eat their veggies, do the due diligence.

I think Renney's tactics were also a little about getting the kids to re-focus in the offensive end. There was a "too cute" look to their performances lately, trying to make a quick move in tight to get a better chance. The problem is that NHL defensemen will shut that down tighter than a drum in a heartbeat, so boring things like getting it deep or shooting it instead of stickhandling are the better percentage play.

Last night's RNH goal is an example of what the kid can do--it was a quick release made at a point in the sortie when a pass was still an option and the play was still developing--and probably brought a smile from the coach.

I talked to Jason Gregor on Nation Radio yesterday and he had a great explanation for all the fuss surrounding coach Renney's words about RNH. Gregor was at the media scrum (it was about 5 reporters) and explained it this way:

  • Gregor: "He (Renney) was throwing out a few ideas and I think a few guys jumped the gun on it. He said it was an option (HS) he might look at, but you're not going to sit down a guy who has 40% of your goals."
  • Gregor: "He told all three kids that 'you guys are in great position with the puck, you have to shoot the puck.'"

I think Jason nailed it. This isn't much ado about nothing, but it's also not the story it turned into after the fact. Tom Renney's job is to win hockey games and not screw up RNH's development. If the kid isn't performing at a level that suggests he can contribute this season they should send him away. And the decision about whether or not to send him back is close, so it is understandable that the coach is considering options like a healthy scratch.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We've talked at length about the value of elevating kids during their entry level contract. Some feel RNH should go back to junior no matter what, others feel he needs to prove that he can contribute at least offensively.

Here's a bulletin: this kid can do things in all three zones. He is a brilliant turnover machine, going stealth at times or simply picking a pocket at other times. He's made more Doug Weight saucer brilliant passes in 7 games than I've seen since the actual Doug Weight, and last night he murdered New York City with a splendid release that Joe Sakic would have been proud to own.

Tom Renney, being of sound mind, will keep Nugent-Hopkins this season and play the living daylights out of him. However, he should also have the freedom to HS RNH or any player if he feels that's an option that will help his player and team win hockey games.

Should the Oilers send RNH back to junior, then I believe we can openly question their stated mission: that winning is what this season is all about and all things will be about winning hockey games (over development). NOTHING Tom Renney has said this fall suggests that is a possibility. Look, the kid has not only passed he's getting straight A's. What can we complain about? A few faceoffs? An unusual haircut? An overbite? 

Really, I've got nothing. He's already doing things some of the older kids haven't figured out and he's doing them in defensive and offensive zones. He can't fight and he can't play goal. After that, we're just going to have to watch him.

In Edmonton.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#1 Costanza
October 23 2011, 09:38AM
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We should doubt this kid everyday so he keeps slamming up points. Also the way he plays on HNIC I could alomost stand to listening to Kevin Weekes....Almost.

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#2 RyanCoke
October 23 2011, 09:39AM
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Nice, just finished reading last post and hit refresh to a new article. This kid is amazing. He is a perfect fit on a line with hall and eberle. Also I think corey potter is a silent off season pick up, he fits so well with our defensive core and seems to have good vision. I can't wait to see how rnh and the kid line is doing by midseason. Also I was a big hater of bulin but can't complain so far at this point in season. He is doing great.

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#3 John Chambers
October 23 2011, 09:47AM
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Too bad we only get to witness The Nuge's brilliance for two more games before he gets sent down.

Costanza - easily one of the best handles and pics I've seen on ON. Hopefully we get to witness your brilliance for more than two more games.

More Costanza! More Nuge!

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#4 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
October 23 2011, 09:57AM
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We need to bring in Comrie again to teach the kid how to fight. Then he'd almost be complete...

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#5 Crackenbury
October 23 2011, 10:03AM
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It's time to tell him to find a place to live. There's no reason for the Oilers to prolong it. Hall said yesterday he was told right from the start he would be staying. Do the the same for RNH. You're not getting rid of 40% of your offence. Talk about sitting down RNH for a game when he knows he's staying becomes a teaching tool instead of a benching.

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#6 Clarkenstein
October 23 2011, 10:04AM
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Vancouver in here on Tues. night... be nice for the Oil to dress Semenko to play with the Nuge. They won't take cheap shots at him will they?

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#7 Priest
October 23 2011, 10:07AM
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This roster we are seeing is the roster they are going to hang thier hats on this year. It's too bad but i believe ther is no longer a spot on this team for Omark, he just played himself off in the first 5 games. One thing has to be kept in mind about the goal production so far, look at the goalies we have faced, Backstrom, Kipper, Lunquist, Renne, Luongo twice. Bobby Lou, Vokoun are next up. these are some excellent goalies.....I guess whan you look at it so is Khabibulin. With the iminent departure of Omark and the steady play of Lander the sign of H.O.P.E. must change to H.E.L.P.

we will see....

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#9 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
October 23 2011, 10:17AM
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Off topic but Barker had his best game if the year last night IMO.

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#10 Clarkenstein
October 23 2011, 10:22AM
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I've defended him but he doesn't think the game fast enough IMO. He just doesn't move his feet fast enough. I've also noticed if the puck is in the corner he stands in front of the net with his stick in both hands about 3 feet off the ice oblivious to the defender behind him. I think Teddy will replace him against VAN.

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#12 Archaeologuy
October 23 2011, 10:26AM
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@Max Powers - Team HME Evans

I thought he was a dog out there. He was slow to move and react all night. At least that was my interpretation.

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#13 michael
October 23 2011, 10:30AM
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One goal-One assist. Shoot the puck. I swear we at OilersNation will be all taking Valium with the way Renny has pulled us this way and that this week. Omark looks schedueled to go to OKC sooner than later. Or a trade to Columbus may be in his future. Columbus is in a deep pickle. Scott Howson has to win. Not a chance he goes into next week with the lineup he has currently. Would Hemsky and Omark get you Ryan Johansen and 3or 4th round pick at this point? The Oilers are flush at foward and Hemsky has had a working relationship with Scott Howson. The Oilers may need to take a player back to make the money work. But you never know in this day and age.

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#14 sean john
October 23 2011, 10:32AM
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I think the kid made the team last nite. After 2 lacklustre games of unnoticeable play (although he wasn't noticeable terrible, either) he comes back with a 1st star performance. It is now quite probable that RNH will be the team's leading scorer after 9 games. It would take a serious set of stones to sent him back to junior.

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#15 michael
October 23 2011, 10:34AM
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I am going to reserve comment on Barker until he has played about 41 games. This a guy who is rebuilding his confidence and his game. I really don't think we'll see his best game until he has regained alot of that confidence.

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#17 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
October 23 2011, 10:43AM
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@Archaeologuy

He led the team in ice time and the team got a shutout. Renney must've thought he was doing pretty decent.

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#18 Hemmertime
October 23 2011, 10:44AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I thought he was a dog out there. He was slow to move and react all night. At least that was my interpretation.

And it was still his best game of the year!

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#19 Archaeologuy
October 23 2011, 11:00AM
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@Max Powers - Team HME Evans

It just struck me how slow he was. I need to really watch him for more than 1 game (yesterday was the first that I focused on him). Next game I will try to focus on what he's doing well vs what he isnt.

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#20 melancholyculkin
October 23 2011, 11:02AM
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Hopkins now has a sh% of 29.4%. If ever something was unsustainable that's it.

Omark on the other hand has both a Sh% of 0% and an onsh% of 0%. Speaking of unsustainable.

I can't wait until the Oilers deal Omark for a 4th round pick, his percentages regress to the mean and he starts scoring at the same time that Hopkins' percentages regress to the mean and he stops scoring.

That'll be fun.

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#21 Woodguy
October 23 2011, 11:04AM
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Look, the kid has not only passed he's getting straight A's. What can we complain about? A few faceoffs? An unusual haircut? An overbite? 

That skinny tie and undertaker suit he had on with Scott "no question is too akward" Oake should be sent back to junior.

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#22 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 23 2011, 11:05AM
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Re: Renney/Nuge/kid line

I think it's important the fans don't try to "micromanage" how the young stars are handled. All coaches want their players to focus on defense and piles of rookies see time on the bench/in the pressbox.

Renney is an experienced guy, I'm confident he knows how to handle NHL players in NHL situations.

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#23 Archaeologuy
October 23 2011, 11:05AM
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Fun fact: RNH has scored as many NHL goals in 7 games as Omark has in his career.*

*brought to you by the main consprirator of The People Against Omark

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#24 champski
October 23 2011, 11:06AM
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@michael

If the jackets have to win why would they want Omark?

He can't stay in the lineup on last years worst team!

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#25 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 23 2011, 11:08AM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

Hopkins now has a sh% of 29.4%. If ever something was unsustainable that's it.

Omark on the other hand has both a Sh% of 0% and an onsh% of 0%. Speaking of unsustainable.

I can't wait until the Oilers deal Omark for a 4th round pick, his percentages regress to the mean and he starts scoring at the same time that Hopkins' percentages regress to the mean and he stops scoring.

That'll be fun.

Unfortunatly for Omark his "mean" at the NHL level seems to be about 6.5% .... so really, by the numbers he needs about 8 more shots or 5 more games before he "regress to the mean" for goal #1

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#26 michael
October 23 2011, 11:13AM
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He would go along way to helping Columbus on thier PP. Who does rick nash currently have who can pass the puck like Omark? Don't underevaluate Omark based on the numbers he has produced this year. He is a specialist but guys like Cliff Ronning made careers out of being a specialist.

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#27 crazydoug
October 23 2011, 11:16AM
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lets all remember that RNH is still a rookie, he's not crosby/ovie that is pretty much expected to get a point every game. he's passed most peoples expectations so far this year

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#28 Oilcruzer
October 23 2011, 11:28AM
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What's interesting is MPS is not filling the net, nor is Eberle or Lander for that matter, but no one is dogging them. And for good reason.

Love the game these guys bring. 91 might be my next jersey.

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#29 Chris.
October 23 2011, 11:37AM
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Lowetide wrote:

One of the things we're going to have to dealth with this year (imo) are some tough nights for RNH and that line on the road. Renney has them playing some easier opposition at home and RNH's home/road numbers are already quite severe.

That's okay. I can only afford to go to the home games.

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#30 Clarkenstein
October 23 2011, 11:39AM
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michael wrote:

I am going to reserve comment on Barker until he has played about 41 games. This a guy who is rebuilding his confidence and his game. I really don't think we'll see his best game until he has regained alot of that confidence.

Agreed but more like 20 - 25 games.

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#31 John Chambers
October 23 2011, 11:46AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Fun fact: RNH has scored as many NHL goals in 7 games as Omark has in his career.*

*brought to you by the main consprirator of The People Against Omark

Fun Fact: Khabibulin leads the league in GAA and SV%.

*from the fine internet visionary who selected the Vodka Prince as his star

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#32 John Chambers
October 23 2011, 11:50AM
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@michael

Interesting. With our newfound depth at Centre, maybe there's a possibility of sending Hemsky and Gagner to Columbus if the return was Johansson and a D prospect.

For all of Tambellini's "assessing", I think it's fair to say that the team is building around 4 players ... all others are expendable for the sake of adding other key building blocks.

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#33 Costanza
October 23 2011, 12:07PM
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Lowetide wrote:

One of the things we're going to have to dealth with this year (imo) are some tough nights for RNH and that line on the road. Renney has them playing some easier opposition at home and RNH's home/road numbers are already quite severe.

Yeah but how many times have we seen players play against that same opposition and still stink. We must remember that these kids are posting impressive numbers, not just average but impressive. Easy competition or not they are helping us win games.

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#34 Archaeologuy
October 23 2011, 12:10PM
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@John Chambers

Well done. You use your powers for good, but I use mine for awesome.

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#35 ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10
October 23 2011, 12:21PM
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RNH is da man

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#37 Costanza
October 23 2011, 12:31PM
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John Chambers wrote:

Too bad we only get to witness The Nuge's brilliance for two more games before he gets sent down.

Costanza - easily one of the best handles and pics I've seen on ON. Hopefully we get to witness your brilliance for more than two more games.

More Costanza! More Nuge!

(Wipes large tear from eye and continues making pancakes)

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#38 melancholyculkin
October 23 2011, 12:38PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Unfortunatly for Omark his "mean" at the NHL level seems to be about 6.5% .... so really, by the numbers he needs about 8 more shots or 5 more games before he "regress to the mean" for goal #1

Way off base here my friend. 56 games is way, way, way too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about sh%.

Not to mention Omark's got a body of work in Europe and the AHL that suggests he's better than a 6.5% shooter.

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#39 Costanza
October 23 2011, 12:38PM
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Lowetide: Yeah but how many times have we seen players play against that same opposition and still stink. We must remember that these kids are posting impressive numbers, not just average but impressive. Easy competition or not they are helping us win games.

Ultimately, who would you replace him with? Also you are right the sample size of road games is extremely small and could be applied to all of our forwards. In the end W's matter. Love the statistical breakdown on stuff but if I had to pay money (and I do) to watch someone play, I'm taking The Nuge over Brule or any other young Oiler (Except Hall). The kid makes things happen, in all zones. I think he doesn't get better and the Oilers don't get better with him in Red Deer. Just my opinion.

Keep up the great work, and tell the Team 1260 to boost the signal strength or get the station on Shaw Direct so I can listen more out here in Edson.

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#41 Oilerfan84
October 23 2011, 01:00PM
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Anyone who thinks that RNH is going back down is about as bright as Pierre McGuire, way to much talent in RNH to be wasting time in the WHL. The only reason he may go down is for the World Juniors in that case it's a good call to send him down.

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#42 Crackenbury
October 23 2011, 01:09PM
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Typically I always like to root for the young guys and not say too much about their performance until they establish themselves or not. Omark, on the other hand, is mostly hype and YouTube sizzle. He has his moments where he looks good, but having him here over a big body like Hartikanen doesn't make much sense to me. We've seen what a difference a large body defense can make. Not many of our forwards are tough to play against, Omark just doesn't fit on this team.

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#43 gcw_rocks
October 23 2011, 01:27PM
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I think you have it right. I would be targeting Johansen out of columbus. If it cost Hemsky and Omark, so be it. RNH and Johansen has your wst and end line centre position settled for the next 10 years.

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#44 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 23 2011, 01:39PM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

Way off base here my friend. 56 games is way, way, way too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about sh%.

Not to mention Omark's got a body of work in Europe and the AHL that suggests he's better than a 6.5% shooter.

My post was somewhat tongue in cheak.

That said, I don't think we can pull out the "reversion to the mean" argument when we don't even know what the players mean is yet (too small of a sample like you said). How can we assume Omark has a better then 6.5% NHL mean to revert back to when he's never hit it?

I wouldn't put too much stock in Omarks AHL/Europe resume, he's a Jason Krog. Puts up good to great numbers against inferior players, but can't translate that success against the best of the best.

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#45 @NateInVegas
October 23 2011, 02:10PM
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The Oilers have had a favourable schedule to start the year. NYR, PIT, VAN were at the end of long road trips. And Edmonton was Minnesota's 4th game in 6 days.

Weber & Tortorella thought their teams were bad. Edmonton's defensive play has been as good as it will get. I think Edmonton will have an accurate read on the 2011-12 Oilers after they play 4 in 6 this week.

Tempered enthusiasm people.

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#46 Quicksilver ballet
October 23 2011, 02:43PM
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Please send Hopkins back. One more lotto pick could make a world of difference on this club.

We can't have this kid showing up all our veterans like this. We're towing a fine line here with Hopkins. What's next, trade Gagner,trade Hemsky for more kids like these?

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#47 dougtheslug
October 23 2011, 02:48PM
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The biggest change I see this year over the past two debacles is a group of players who are not just happy to be here but committed to making this team better. Led by the peerless Great Mullett, who plays every shift like it might be his last, there is a spirit here that I haven't seen in a while - guys like Belanger, and Eager and Pettrell and Lander seem to want to be here and play like they owe it to their team to compete, not like past years when a sizeable number of players seemed to be playing for the paycheque and little more. I was surprised by the emotion in Andy Suttons voice last night in the post game interview. Something is bulding here (I give most of the credit to Smitty) and I like it.

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#48 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 23 2011, 02:53PM
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@ QSB. Hate to break it too you but the vets have been fantastic. Every bit as good as the young guys.

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#49 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
October 23 2011, 02:56PM
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melancholyculkin wrote:

Way off base here my friend. 56 games is way, way, way too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about sh%.

Not to mention Omark's got a body of work in Europe and the AHL that suggests he's better than a 6.5% shooter.

kind of scary you almost word for word ripped that from an article off coppernblue from earlier this summer

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#50 Spydyr
October 23 2011, 02:59PM
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Kevin Weeks is weak........that is all.

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