Chemistry

Lowetide
December 06 2011 09:07PM

This is Joe Murphy. A November 1989 trade that brought him to Edmonton was a key element in the Oilers run to their 1990 Stanley. Murphy developed great chemistry with Adam Graves and they formed the heart of the "Kid Line" that spring.

Sometimes a slight adjustment is all it takes.

In recent games, Sam Gagner has been placed on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Although it took some time (Gagner is also recovering from an injury and adjsting to a move to RW), the trio is starting to find the range and offer the Oilers another scoring option on a nightly basis.

Old timey fans will remember the days of the high flying Oilers, a time when the dedicated skill lines had a third threesome who could do damage too. I think the Oilers might be close to having enough skilled personnel to fill the required 9 slots for three skill lines.

The problem may be chemistry.

CHEMISTRY

A month ago, the Oilers top 3 lines went like this (C-L-R):

  • Horcoff-Smyth-Hemsky
  • RNH-Hall-Eberle
  • Belanger-Jones-Gagner
  • Lander-Paajarvi-Petrell

That's from the Detroit game on Remembrance Day. Since then, injuries and ineffectiveness have led to some shuffling, and the RNH-Smyth-Eberle line has had a very nice run. The Horcoff-Gagner-Hemsky line is also playing well in recent games, and even the third line (Belanger-Paajarvi-Jones) has shown some things.

Taylor Hall is close to returning, and Anton Lander might play in the Oilers next game. So the club has some options, and chemistry will play a major role in how things play out. Veterans Smyth and Horcoff appear to be the most adaptable of the old hands, and I'd suggest that Jordan Eberle can be creative with pretty much everyone and leads the youngsters in this area (at least at even strength).

So, if we "pair up" three lines, like this:

  • RNH-Smyth
  • Hall-Eberle
  • Horcoff-Hemsky

it's a matter of finding the best chemistry available from the group that includes Gagner, Jones, Belanger, Paajarvi and Lander. Ben Eager may also be in photo. I'd suggest leaving Gagner on the Horcoff-Hemsky line (they're already creating) and trying Ryan Jones with Smyth and RNH (he's done well everywhere else they've tried him this season).

Which leaves us with the choice of Belanger between Hall and Eberle. Now, I'm not telling you anything you don't know when saying Eric Belanger has struggled this season offensively. However, he's also endured a terrible Zone Start and hasn't had the best linemates this season. This might be a time for Belanger to get the "push" to see if he can help this team get something they haven't had in ages--balanced scoring.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers have enough talent to reach the tipping point offensively--icing a team with three lines that could make you pay at any given time. The gifted kids (RNH, Hall, Eberle) married to the quality veterans (Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky) could form the foundation for a strong 9 up front. 

Sam Gagner is better and finding the range; Ryan Jones is having a terrific season in all areas; Eric Belanger is a veteran with successful offensive seasons in the recent past. Jason Gregor wrote a fine article on Belanger today and it's probably time for this solid veteran to step up.

The opportunity exists for the Edmonton Oilers to roll three lines that can score goals. 

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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 TSN 1260.
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#51 David S
December 07 2011, 02:49PM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

I think it has alot to do with LT's post. Belanger has yet to develop chemistry with any of our top 9 players.

He might be a top 9 guy on Washington because his style and experience fit that team, but he's been a solid gold bust with the Oilers so far in the top 9 outside of the areas I mentioned above. He may or may not be better than some of the players we have in that role, but right now he simply doesn't fit. Thus he belongs on the 4th line until he works his way up, like Sam did in the past.

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#52 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 07 2011, 03:01PM
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David S wrote:

I think it has alot to do with LT's post. Belanger has yet to develop chemistry with any of our top 9 players.

He might be a top 9 guy on Washington because his style and experience fit that team, but he's been a solid gold bust with the Oilers so far in the top 9 outside of the areas I mentioned above. He may or may not be better than some of the players we have in that role, but right now he simply doesn't fit. Thus he belongs on the 4th line until he works his way up, like Sam did in the past.

That still doesn't change the fact that we don't have 9 forwards playing better.

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#53 Oilerbill
December 07 2011, 03:23PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

It's a joke that you think PRV is a superior player at this point.

Jones has gotten off to a nice start, but that's also debatable.

You didn't address anything with your Gagner to the wing, all you posted was your opinion.

I think it's fairly safe to say that Gagner has played the best all around hockey of his career the last 8-10 games or so.... which has predominantly been on the wing. He also had the most productive set of games in his career on the wing in his rookie year.

You are pretending that he's proven to be a far better center and pretending that he and the team aren't flexible enough to have him on the wing.

All anyone has to offer is their opinion. I think Paarjavi has more upside and is a more talented player than Belanger.

Your short sightedness in this matter is your opinion. I will not call it a joke but if you want a team full of pluggers then go cheer for Phoenix or someone.

If you think the 4 or 5 points in 8-10 games that Sam got as the most productive of his career then this conversation is over.

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#54 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 07 2011, 03:50PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

All anyone has to offer is their opinion. I think Paarjavi has more upside and is a more talented player than Belanger.

Your short sightedness in this matter is your opinion. I will not call it a joke but if you want a team full of pluggers then go cheer for Phoenix or someone.

If you think the 4 or 5 points in 8-10 games that Sam got as the most productive of his career then this conversation is over.

"I think Paarjavi has more upside and is a more talented player than Belanger."

And that's where your whole feeble argument falls apart.

You don't win games on potential, you win games with current, quality hockey. PRV certainly has far more potential and if I could only keep one I'd keep PRV.... unfortuntly for you though the question is to build the best top 9 possible for today.

Also, are you being intentionally obtuse Bill?

I made two pretty clear points here, Gagner had a fantastic finish to his rookie year. Putting up something like 27ish points in his final 30ish games.... that was done on the wing.

The second point is that his last stretch of games have been arguable the best of his career for 2 way hockey. He's producing (6 points in his last 7) and appears to be playing responsible defensively.... the majority of this has been done on the wing.

Now, we can continue to pretend that he's a center or nothing, or we can accept that he just might have a future on the wing (or at least the versitility to play W or C effectively)

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#55 Lochenzo
December 07 2011, 03:57PM
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The m.o. of this team has always been speed. I remember watching Roman Hamrlik's first game with the Oil. World class Dman, world class athlete. But he didn't make it through his first game. Pulled out in the mid-3rd with leg cramps. Way more skating than he was used to in Tampa.

Belanger is a journeyman. He's changed teams many teams and been able to adjust. The speed can be difficult to adjust to. Your foot speed needs to be faster, your hands have to keep up with you and you have think the game faster too. Not only do you have to be faster to keep up with your linemates to be able to act in unison, but by nature, the speed forces the opposition to be faster in order to check you. So everything is faster and it can take time to adjust. But, as I indicated, Belanger is a veteran at this and I am sure he will make the adjustments necessary to be a larger contributor to this team.

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#56 Oilerbill
December 07 2011, 04:34PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

"I think Paarjavi has more upside and is a more talented player than Belanger."

And that's where your whole feeble argument falls apart.

You don't win games on potential, you win games with current, quality hockey. PRV certainly has far more potential and if I could only keep one I'd keep PRV.... unfortuntly for you though the question is to build the best top 9 possible for today.

Also, are you being intentionally obtuse Bill?

I made two pretty clear points here, Gagner had a fantastic finish to his rookie year. Putting up something like 27ish points in his final 30ish games.... that was done on the wing.

The second point is that his last stretch of games have been arguable the best of his career for 2 way hockey. He's producing (6 points in his last 7) and appears to be playing responsible defensively.... the majority of this has been done on the wing.

Now, we can continue to pretend that he's a center or nothing, or we can accept that he just might have a future on the wing (or at least the versitility to play W or C effectively)

Really I am being obtuse? Everyone that has played on a line with Belanger has slumped. The guy has been an offensive bust. If Belanger is so good at center and Gagner is so good on the wing, why did his game stink until they moved him off of Belangers' line? That is very clear and not obtuse.

Your argument has fallen apart like the play when the puck hit Belangers' stick.

If you think insulting me or my opinion is going to make your stance on things any better you are sadly mistaken.

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#57 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 07 2011, 05:08PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

Really I am being obtuse? Everyone that has played on a line with Belanger has slumped. The guy has been an offensive bust. If Belanger is so good at center and Gagner is so good on the wing, why did his game stink until they moved him off of Belangers' line? That is very clear and not obtuse.

Your argument has fallen apart like the play when the puck hit Belangers' stick.

If you think insulting me or my opinion is going to make your stance on things any better you are sadly mistaken.

Yes Bill, you are being Obtuse. I say Gagner has been great lately on the wing and was very good on the wing as a rookie to which your reply was.

"If you think the 4 or 5 points in 8-10 games that Sam got as the most productive of his career then this conversation is over."

Now what does your reply have to do with what I stated Bill? I was talking about his recent play on the wing and his play on the wing as a rookie, not whatever 8-10 game stretch it is you are refrencing.

I didn't say Belanger and Gagner are good together, I don't know why they would have to be good together for Belanger to be a good C and Gagner to be a good W.

I said Belanger is a good center.... which should be pretty clear... I mean you'd think the 3 or 4 coaches that have coached him the last 5 or 6 years would be correct.... or maybe not... maybe the 3 or 4 pros are wrong and you are right.

And I said Gagner has had success on the wing and that I think theirs a good chance that will continue... which has also been proven by his results on the wing at different times.

Pretty basic stuff.

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#58 Oilerbill
December 07 2011, 07:59PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Yes Bill, you are being Obtuse. I say Gagner has been great lately on the wing and was very good on the wing as a rookie to which your reply was.

"If you think the 4 or 5 points in 8-10 games that Sam got as the most productive of his career then this conversation is over."

Now what does your reply have to do with what I stated Bill? I was talking about his recent play on the wing and his play on the wing as a rookie, not whatever 8-10 game stretch it is you are refrencing.

I didn't say Belanger and Gagner are good together, I don't know why they would have to be good together for Belanger to be a good C and Gagner to be a good W.

I said Belanger is a good center.... which should be pretty clear... I mean you'd think the 3 or 4 coaches that have coached him the last 5 or 6 years would be correct.... or maybe not... maybe the 3 or 4 pros are wrong and you are right.

And I said Gagner has had success on the wing and that I think theirs a good chance that will continue... which has also been proven by his results on the wing at different times.

Pretty basic stuff.

"I think it's fairly safe to say that Gagner has played the best all around hockey of his career the last 8-10 games or so.... which has predominantly been on the wing. ".

Must have been your Jedi mind tricks.

"this is not the posts your looking for"

This is not the post I'm looking for

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#59 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 07 2011, 10:36PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

"I think it's fairly safe to say that Gagner has played the best all around hockey of his career the last 8-10 games or so.... which has predominantly been on the wing. ".

Must have been your Jedi mind tricks.

"this is not the posts your looking for"

This is not the post I'm looking for

See here's the thing Bill, he didn't have 4-5 points in his last 8-10 games, he had 6 points in his last 8 games... predominatly on the wing?

7 points in his last 8 games now, mostly on the wing.

Your theory is crumbling, fast.

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