November 22 2011 01:47PM
The Oilers woke up in Smashville (Nashville) this morning, but they probably felt like they were there last night. The Stars punished the Oilers physically last night, and the Oilers were unable to handle it. The biggest farce in the NHL is the inconsistency from building-to-building regarding hits. Whoever was tracking them last night gave the Stars 47 hits and the Oilers 33. That is ridiculous.
Of course the "hits" statistician in Dallas is the most overzealous/bias/kool-aid drinking in the league. For the past five years no NHL team has had a bigger margin of hits-at-home to hits-on-the-road than the Stars. From 2006-2011 the Stars had 564, 482, 209, 452, 492 and 416 more hits at home than on the road.
It is embarrassing that the league doesn't send a memo to Dallas to understand what a hit is. They are so out of whack it's mind-blowing.
Season Hits at home Hits on road Total hits
DALL 2006 1163 (+561) 559 1722
EDM 2006 602 601 1203
DALL 2007 1076 (+431) 594 1670
EDM 2007 645 653 1298
DALL 2008 914 (+396) 705 1619
EDM 2008 520 610 1130
DALL 2009 1264 (+640) 812 2076
EDM 2009 624 769 1393
DALL 2010 1416 (+659) 922 2338
EDM 2010 757 809 1566
DALL 2011 1314 (+405) 898 2212
EDM 2011 909 885 1794
The road numbers are fairly close between the Stars and the Oilers, but the difference at home is frightening. Did the Stars really deliver 405 more hits at home last year, yet only 13 more on the road than the Oilers. No chance. If the NHL wants people to take their stats more serious, then they need to have better guidlines and ensure they enforce those guidelines.
That being said, even with a statistician who thinks every bump is a hit, it was clear the Stars out hit the Oilers last night.
The sad reality for Oiler fans is that likely won't change any time soon.
Please don't expect Darcy Hordichuk, in five minutes of icetime, to somehow stop the opposing team from delivering clean, hard hits. It won't happen. Hordichuk had three hits in five minutes, and Colten Teubert once again led the hit parade with 6, but the fact is the Oilers don't have many physical players.
Expecting your fourth line to match the physical play of the entire other team is wishful thinking.
The Oilers don't have anyone in their top-nine who is a consistent physical player, so you can't expect the Oilers to respond physically. The Oilers will beat teams with their speed, quickness and skill, but if they get into a physical game they are overmatched.
Last night's outcome could have changed on one play. Had Ryan Smyth been able to bury that wide open wraparound, the game would have been tied at one. Steve Ott wouldn't have scored on the ensuing rush, because the faceoff would have been at centre, and who knows what would have happened. The Oilers will be in games because they have skill, but no one should expect them to respond with lots of physical play, because they just don't have the manpower for that.
Teubert has looked good, and he'll be a guy who hits everyone like Mark Fistric did last night, but right now he's only playing 11-12 minutes a night. Theo Peckham was that guy last year, but he is struggling mightily right now. Andy Sutton is physical, but if he's in then one of Peckham or Teubert will be out, and that still only leaves two guys who play more than ten minutes/game.
The frustrating part of a rebuild for the fans is when reality sets in like in did last night. The Oilers have filled a few voids, improved special teams and faceoffs, but it's impossible to fill all the voids in one summer. The Oilers management has to realize that this team is not built to be a playoff contender, because they strictly aren't big enough, and they will need to rectify that in the coming years; likely through the draft.
Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton are all skilled guys with size, but only Hartikainen might be ready next year. Pitlick could surprise and be ready, but Hamilton isn't a regular in the AHL yet, so it will be a few years before we see him.
When the Oilers come across an opponent like the Stars, and the possibly the Predators tonight, their PP has to score for them to stay in the game. The Oilers were outshot 30-12 at EV last night, but they had over 10 minutes of PP time and couldn't score. They've been very good with the man advantage this year, especially at home, but when they face an aggessive team they need to make them pay with the extra attacker.
So far this year the Oilers have 17 EV/SH goals at home and 16 on the road, but they've scored 13 PP goals at home compared to only 4 on the road. This team will stay competitive this year because on the PP they can use their skill, and don't have to worry as much about being hit.
QUICK TURN AROUND
The Oilers don't have time to feel sorry for themselves, because they are in NashVegas tonight to take on the surging Predators. The Preds are 6-1-3 in their last ten, with all three of those OT/SO loses coming in OT.
Rookie Craig Smith leads the Preds in points with 15, despite this awesome missed goal last week.
I'm sure the Preds have been giving him the gears ever since, but the rookie has been solid. The Preds are still led by their big three: Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. Weber leads the league at +19, has 14 points and plays 26:33/game. Suter is +15, has 13 points and plays a bit more at 27:16/game. No team uses their starting goalie more than Rinne. He's started 18 of the Preds 19 games and he'll start tonight against Devan Dubnyk.
Khabibulin has come back to earth. He wasn't awful last night, but three weeks ago Toby Petersen wouldn't have scored. Dubnyk hasn't started since he gave up six in Boston on November 10th. He came off the bench v. Ottawa last week, but he hasn't had a great game since he stopped 40 of 41 in a victory over Colorado on October 28th. Dubnyk needs a solid outing, and the Oilers need him to play well if they want to avoid their 2nd loss in 24 hours.
Outside of Dubnyk we will see a few other changes. Taylor Chorney was sent back to OKC today, and Alex Plante has been recalled to take his place. Chorney isn't big enough to be a regular NHL D-man. If he had lots of offence you could overlook his size, but he doesn't. Plante has played 8 NHL games and registered 2 points and is an even player. He is still a prospect/suspect at this point, but he's still only 22. At least he'll bring some needed size and muscle. His footspeed is an issue, but he has really improved his competitive play the past few years.
The Oilers won't skate this morning in Nashville, so we won't know who is in or out for sure until closer to game time, but I expect Renney to juggle his roster. I could see him putting Paajarvi back in on the 3rd line and he'll maybe insert Eager. Unless he plays his 4th line more than 5-8 minutes no one should expect the Oilers to be a more physical team tonight.
- Ales Hemsky needs to start shooting more. I know that's nothing new, but in the previous five years he's averaged 2.33 shots/game. This year he has seven shots in 8 1/3 games. (he only played a period v. Minny) He has to start becoming more of a factor in games.
- I'm not saying the Oilers can't muck and grind it with other teams, but they just don't have enough big forwards who can lean on the opposition.
- I understand why Renney uses Belanger to win faceoffs on the PP, but once Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter return I hope he's not out there anymore. Especially if the are changing on the fly and you don't need him to win the draw, because he doesn't have a big enough shot from the point to be effective there. Or at least, he hasn't shown it yet.
- I'm curious if all those who said,"Ryan Jones is an awful hockey player," still feel that way. I find it interesting how few of them have admitted those comments might have been a touch off-base. We've all been wrong before, but I find it interesting how we haven't heard much from that camp. Or the camp who said Nugent-Hopkins was a bad pick because he only had 27 goals last year. It's okay to be wrong, I've been there, but don't think I haven't noticed how those who love to point out when others are wrong haven't said boo about their own misguided projections.
- Kyle Turris might want to hire a new agent. Turris sits out training camp, the preseason and misses the first 19 games of the regular season to get $2.8 million over two years. A $1.4 cap hit sounds about right. He held out to get what he could have got in the summer. Asinine.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Only Colorado has few home wins than the Predators, and the Oilers will have a much better effort tonight, and they'll win 3-2. Hemsky finally makes an appearance.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The cameraman will pan to Carrie Underwood at least four times, not that I'm complaining. We'll also see the TooToo Train take some healthy runs at the Oilers. Tootoo is the exact type of player the Oilers need. He plays hard, hits hard and plays over 13 minutes a night.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sam Gagner scores his first goal of the season. I have no idea why, just a hunch.