THOUGHTS ON THE TRIO

Jason Strudwick
March 14 2012 09:50AM

Tom Renney has been taking a lot of heat ever since the Oilers' strong start fizzled out. Fans and media alike have been very irritated with the amount of ice time, or lack there of, for the three young studs on the team: Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. It is fun to watch this young trio play, they are energetic and creative, but I do agree with the conservative approach to their ice time.

All three are averaging right around the same ice time per game - 17 to 18 minutes. Not bad for young players. They get good time on the power play so if they are to get more time it would have to come at even strength or short handed. Are there more minutes for them to be had? Should the time be given?

To be a good penalty killer a player must have some hockey IQ, good work habits and courage. It is clear that these three young players have the first two. When killing penalties courage means blocking shots. Getting into the shooting lanes of the offensive defence men is so important on the PK because getting shots from the point is the first option for power play units.

I don't doubt that they have courage, but does a coach want his three best players diving in front of big shots from the point? A shot to the foot from a Weber or Chara doesn't feel like a hug from Grandma. It can mean a trip to the IR for four to six weeks while a broken foot heals.

THE RIGHT MEN FOR THE JOB

I prefer a coach to use players from the third and fourth lines to kill the bulk of the penalties. An injury suffered to one of them isn't as hard to overcome as it is to a top line player. Would the Oilers miss Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins more than Belanger or Jones?

I think it would be a good plan to put them out there for the last thirty seconds or so of the kill. Often, a penalty killed results in momentum and the young trio are the kinds of players that can take advantage of that momentum. This plan may amount to a little bit more ice time each game, maybe a minute or so, but it would more importantly be serving a purpose without the risk of injury that comes with full PK time.

Could they get more even strength time? For sure. Some coaches ride their top players hard every night. When playing against Tampa Bay it sometimes felt like St. Louis and the Great Vinny never came off the ice! The day will come for the young Oiler trio when they are on the ice all the time but not now in my opinion.

At some point they will be handed the keys to the kingdom and allowed to run wild. Now is the time to keep them hungry and wanting that extra ice time and responsibility. Players develop better when they are chasing what they want and not so well when just handed their goal.

PREMEDITATED

Tom Renney is a hockey man through and through. All the moves he makes are well thought out. There are no knee jerk reactions. He has a plan and will stick to it. Does he have a responsibility to share with the Edmonton media and fan base exactly why he makes this line combination or play player "X" a certain number of minutes?

I don't think so. Keep in mind he is building a team and developing young players. Although I am sure most of us can keep a secret there may be one or two members of the OilersNation that may leak his plans to players on the team if he decided to open up his plan book.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 The Towel Boy
March 14 2012, 09:55AM
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Excellent insight from someone who knows the drill. WRITE HERE MORE PLEASE!

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#2 steve the z
March 14 2012, 09:58AM
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Good article Jason, I remember reading a similiar piece about Crosby when He was rookie/sophmore. His development was managed the same way, the best player in the game! Thanks for a practical opinion.

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#3 Clarko
March 14 2012, 10:09AM
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I couldn't agree more with not playing the kids short-handed. Do we really want our best offensive players using so much energy trying to kill penalties? Probably wouldn't be a good use of assets.

What really drives me nuts about Renney though is his seemingly lack of accountablity with the veterans of this team. It doesn't seem to matter how many mistakes they make or how unproductive they are, they always get their icetime.

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#4 Senator Theo
March 14 2012, 10:13AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

Excellent insight from someone who knows the drill. WRITE HERE MORE PLEASE!

I like the idea of getting them out there for the last 30 seconds of a kill. Could create some good chances on the transition.

Great article Jason - the Oilers miss you.

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#5 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 14 2012, 10:16AM
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It's a good thing the iconoclastic 8th century is well behind us.

Struds: I don't have a problem with the kids' TOI. But there are lots of other questionable things happening... the most present is the limited use of Schultz. Do you have any thoughts on this? Some think it might be a kind of Coaching Protest against the trade. If that doesn't explain it, why is 15 getting less TOI than arguably much less reliable players?

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#6 Quicksilver ballet
March 14 2012, 10:25AM
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Hey Jason...stopped by the SEC Ikea last evening. The only thing the food bar in there had on hand for lingonberries was a jam and a concentrated liquid you perhaps add water to. No fresh Lingonberry sightings as of yet.

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#7 Oilcan
March 14 2012, 10:30AM
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Great article Struds.

A question that has been circulating after the game is that there was bickering and fighting going on during and after the game. Now in my opinion thats normal and in some cases maybe a good thing, when guys are like a family I am sure they are bound to get into it.

Coming from someone who played does this happen often and is it really an issue at all with the players? Can it be beneficial?

Thanks

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#8 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 14 2012, 10:38AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6_PtNRYhy0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJUvPZI3Cr4

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#9 RexLibris
March 14 2012, 10:44AM
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Re: Schultz, from what I have heard recently about Renney and his coaching mandate, the reason he is getting less ice time that some others is that, with the team firmly entrenched in second-last place (it's a nice change from saying 29th over and over again) this team needs to dole out ice time with the view of evaluation and, in effect, pro scouting the team's own players.

That's my guess anyways. I think they feel they know what they have in Schultz (or presumably they wouldn't have traded for him) and that right now the coaches are pushing guys like Petry, Whitney and Smid to determine more accurately what areas they will need to work on over the summer.

My hope for this franchise, and maybe I'm being naive in suggesting it because teams probably already do this, is that when put into a situation like the one the Oilers are in, that the coaching and management staff take it as an opportunity to attend to other, often overlooked, areas of player development. A rebuild shouldn't just be about drafting, if a management group takes it's job seriously. But it should also include putting into place the good practices, policies and personnel infrastructure that enable it to maximize the return on each one of the team's assets, from players to scouts to trainers and coaches.

Anyway, that's my rant for this morning.

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#10 jimmyc
March 14 2012, 10:54AM
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Great blog Jason, I know Brownlee can read, maybe he will get off Renney's case on how much ice time the kids are getting. I don't want any of the kids killing penalties. Double shift them from time to time, but let the penalty killers do the job.

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#11 Dodd
March 14 2012, 10:57AM
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@RexLibris

I completely agree, Rex.

As for other Renney decisions that have come under fire lately (Belanger on the ice for the final minute when we need a goal, etc) I figure after Christmas when we were looking like our fate was decided, Renney tended to the task of waking up some players who are slumping - Belanger and Eager in particular, since we have them for another couple years.

I don't necessarily disagree with that, even though the optics at the time made us all shout WTF?

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Another great article that I agree 100% with.

Baby steps. Be nice to one day have our own Kovalchuk on the PK that can steal the puck and break out for a SHG. Although I guess we do have Jones that has done that from time to time.

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#13 Smokey
March 14 2012, 11:03AM
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I`d keep Renney if Lowe and Tambo are somewhere else next season. Scotty Bowman himself could not get this team with only four or five solid forwards and two top six defencemen, and no starting goalie into the playoffs.

Management is the issue, and hopefully Renney ( a good guy) is not being scapegoated. Only time will tell.

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#14 Smokey
March 14 2012, 11:10AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

It's a good thing the iconoclastic 8th century is well behind us.

Struds: I don't have a problem with the kids' TOI. But there are lots of other questionable things happening... the most present is the limited use of Schultz. Do you have any thoughts on this? Some think it might be a kind of Coaching Protest against the trade. If that doesn't explain it, why is 15 getting less TOI than arguably much less reliable players?

Tom had a top 4 guy in Gibby who could play 23 mins a night, and the management downgraded to a number 5-6 defender. Hes using him in the role he should be in. Shultz is realiable, but hes not a puck mover. Somehow management got rid of one of their best defencemen. When a organization downgrades, we see other players get exposed. Potter, Whitney, Shultz have all been struggling lately.

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#15 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 14 2012, 11:19AM
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RexLibris wrote:

Re: Schultz, from what I have heard recently about Renney and his coaching mandate, the reason he is getting less ice time that some others is that, with the team firmly entrenched in second-last place (it's a nice change from saying 29th over and over again) this team needs to dole out ice time with the view of evaluation and, in effect, pro scouting the team's own players.

That's my guess anyways. I think they feel they know what they have in Schultz (or presumably they wouldn't have traded for him) and that right now the coaches are pushing guys like Petry, Whitney and Smid to determine more accurately what areas they will need to work on over the summer.

My hope for this franchise, and maybe I'm being naive in suggesting it because teams probably already do this, is that when put into a situation like the one the Oilers are in, that the coaching and management staff take it as an opportunity to attend to other, often overlooked, areas of player development. A rebuild shouldn't just be about drafting, if a management group takes it's job seriously. But it should also include putting into place the good practices, policies and personnel infrastructure that enable it to maximize the return on each one of the team's assets, from players to scouts to trainers and coaches.

Anyway, that's my rant for this morning.

That's as good a guess as any... I wonder if that was the case, though, and evaluating players was priority #1 over winning games... why isn't Peckham playing more, or for that matter Barker.

Sutton and Potter now have contracts and while Potter is still firmly in the "wait and see if you are only an AHL player" camp and therefore still being evaluated... shouldn't Peckham be getting a final look this season? I mean it's decision time on him isn't it?

I also don't know about evaluating Whitney by leading him in TOI every night. If he can turn the corner on that ankle, wouldn't it be in the offseason? and does playing him this much now help or hurt him (I don't know the answer)?

At any rate, I like your intuition on this... but it puts a lot of other decisions in an equally curious light... I'm not sure we have a decent omnibus explanation yet... probably never will though...

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#16 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 14 2012, 11:22AM
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Smokey wrote:

Tom had a top 4 guy in Gibby who could play 23 mins a night, and the management downgraded to a number 5-6 defender. Hes using him in the role he should be in. Shultz is realiable, but hes not a puck mover. Somehow management got rid of one of their best defencemen. When a organization downgrades, we see other players get exposed. Potter, Whitney, Shultz have all been struggling lately.

I don't think you can say Schultz is 5-6. Here's a good pre-trade, last summer look at him:

http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/6/23/2236663/oilers-summer-trade-target-nick-schultz

I think he's clearly a top 4 shut down guy who can play the toughs and survive defensive zone starts.

The deal was lopsided in my view... but Schulz is no dud.

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#17 Oiler Al
March 14 2012, 11:38AM
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The kids were getting extra time because, other than Smyth [ at least earlier on] could not get much done. Situation exists today...nothing from the Vets.. Gagner had one great week this year, but on average is game is not that great..wont even mention Hemsky and Horcoff. Should have No.1 PK line [3rd line] and 2nd Pk [ 4th line ] The first two lines reponsible for the bulk of the scoring.Same goes for the D men. I think Renney thinks he sould be open the gate and role out four lines... this isnt Detroit... they play a different game... [ 5 man unit up and down ]

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#18 Dman09
March 14 2012, 11:45AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

That's as good a guess as any... I wonder if that was the case, though, and evaluating players was priority #1 over winning games... why isn't Peckham playing more, or for that matter Barker.

Sutton and Potter now have contracts and while Potter is still firmly in the "wait and see if you are only an AHL player" camp and therefore still being evaluated... shouldn't Peckham be getting a final look this season? I mean it's decision time on him isn't it?

I also don't know about evaluating Whitney by leading him in TOI every night. If he can turn the corner on that ankle, wouldn't it be in the offseason? and does playing him this much now help or hurt him (I don't know the answer)?

At any rate, I like your intuition on this... but it puts a lot of other decisions in an equally curious light... I'm not sure we have a decent omnibus explanation yet... probably never will though...

I think that the team may have already formed an opinion on both Barker and Peckham. We have all seen how bad Barker has been this season and when they do try to give Peckham a chance he plays almost as bad as Barker whether it be 3 or 4 penalties or bad reads and pinches. That makes it really hard for Renny, who is trying to win games, to give them playing time.

The problem with Peckham is this, we have similar players in OKC(Tuebert)that are almost equal to Peckham considering how he has played and yet they can't send him down like them. Sutton was signed and can fill that role until Tuebert is ready and Tuebert can get some cups of coffee while Sutton rests from time to time or serves suspensions. There will be lots of defenseman entering the system this upcoming year and they will need the contract space for them. There is also the possibility one of them surprises at camp and earns a job, maybe a Fedun/Klefbom lets say. Also the defense this year was aweful and I would think Tambo would want to try FA for a more veteran reliable guy than Peckham and there looks to be some decent ones on the market this year.

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#19 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 14 2012, 12:08PM
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Dman09 wrote:

I think that the team may have already formed an opinion on both Barker and Peckham. We have all seen how bad Barker has been this season and when they do try to give Peckham a chance he plays almost as bad as Barker whether it be 3 or 4 penalties or bad reads and pinches. That makes it really hard for Renny, who is trying to win games, to give them playing time.

The problem with Peckham is this, we have similar players in OKC(Tuebert)that are almost equal to Peckham considering how he has played and yet they can't send him down like them. Sutton was signed and can fill that role until Tuebert is ready and Tuebert can get some cups of coffee while Sutton rests from time to time or serves suspensions. There will be lots of defenseman entering the system this upcoming year and they will need the contract space for them. There is also the possibility one of them surprises at camp and earns a job, maybe a Fedun/Klefbom lets say. Also the defense this year was aweful and I would think Tambo would want to try FA for a more veteran reliable guy than Peckham and there looks to be some decent ones on the market this year.

I'm not sure about Barker. I've made up my mind... but until the ink doesn't dry on another contract, I'm not convinced the team has given up on him (maybe I'm too cynical in this regard).

I didn't know Peckham was in waiver land yet. That complicates things. But if Rex is right than evaluating supersedes winning right now. And in that case I'd think you'd play him. If the team had given up on him... wouldn't they try to trade him at the deadline? why let him walk at the end of the season?

I guess the question is evaluation or winning... if evaluation than playing Schultz less makes some kind of sense... but also, if that is the case, the other decisions remain curious too. I get playing the hell out of Smid and Petry to continue their stellar development... but why is Whitney getting so much time? i don't know... it's all so confusing.

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#20 mayorpoop
March 14 2012, 12:48PM
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Very informative read Jason. You directed me to some things I had never thought of.

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#21 Oilcruzer
March 14 2012, 12:49PM
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Anyone else notice there is no Struddy love expressed for ST?

Not sayin, just sayin...

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#22 RexLibris
March 14 2012, 01:01PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

I'm not sure about Peckham right now, but my gut tells me that Barker walks and Peckham is offered up at the trade deadline. I was thinking that perhaps Montreal might be a possible trading partner as they recently moved Hall Gill and could be interested in a tough-as-nails stay-at-home defensive project for a 2013 draft pick (they have two this year and three next year so it could be a very easy trade to make, and would give the Oilers three second-rounders in 2013).

I suspect the playing of Whitney is that, mistakes aside, he still has a good sense of the game and the coaching staff are confident that he will turn his play around and end the season on a positive note. Whitney has always come across as a (more than usual) competitive person and I have to think that the coaching staff want to give him the opporunity to go into the summer feeling more encouraged than he has the previous two seasons.

As far as a replacement for the extra defensive position I think the team is probably aiming for players in the Matt Carle range.

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#23 vetinari
March 14 2012, 02:34PM
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Always love a player's take on things, and especially from someone who knows the personalities involved.

The main reason I advocated a possible change at the coach's position is not that I think that Renney does a bad job or doesn't know his stuff, but rather because the players seem to seem to tune Renney out and lose energy, enthusiasm, focus and committment as the season wears on, especially in the back half of three consecutive losing seasons.

I think it may be merciful to ask, do you really think that Renney can take this team any further considering what management has given him, or would a new voice and direction in the dressing room fix this problem?

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#24 Thinker
March 14 2012, 06:11PM
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First of all i would like to apologize for anything i said about you in the past, as it was merely part of being a fan of a losing team. That said i love that your writing here jason, you can offer insight that most of the other writers in the oilogosphere cannot. I wanna know from a players perspective what a certain player was thinking on a certain play, and what it takes to be a winning club. Point is, be a more frequent writer. Ps can you tell everyone that dustin penner isn't actually a lazy ass?

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#26 madjam
March 15 2012, 08:35AM
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Back from winter vacation in Arizona. Oilers play a very poor team game by todays standards and their record shows it . Caught last nights game and some improvement -result a win . Keenan made a nice statement in regards to building a ream . It only takes one year now to build a contender , as shown by many teams this year . Example -Florida . They , including MacLean, laughed at Columbus maybe going for another 4 year rebuild . Sounds like they are going for the Oiler futility root .

Keenan and MacLean hit the nail on the head when they alluded to Oilers use of underachieving veterans as the Oiler problem .

Both figuered we would be better off handing the time and reigns over to the youngsters , as the veterans have done very little .

It'll take us another 2 years plus to get rid of bad contracts such as Hemsky's .Tams and Lowe have put us in quite a bind . We need a revamp of upper management and a coaching change might also be adviseable considering our record . Out team should have been more productive all year , but little progress was made . Our talent level is indicative of more results than they have . We can't , as a team, continue to overpay fleeting veteran talent.

I'm one who hopes some managerial and coaching people do not get a new contract .

I disagree with Strudwick , as our veterans have done little to improve our results, and we would be better served giving that time to our future youth to develop .

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#27 Oilcan
March 15 2012, 10:22AM
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Jason Strudwick wrote:

Teammates going at it is during a game on the bench is nothing new. It can happpen quite frequently. It shows passion and I like it. It becomes a problem when the issues are not resolved. Sometimes the issues are very minor. A winger yells at his centre to pass him the puck or a dman shouts up to the forwards to come back and get open for breakout passes. Not a big deal.

It becomes a bigger deal when players chirp others guys on their team behind their backs. It can get unhealthy quickly and must be addressed in a meeting similar to what the Oilers had after the Shark game. I have no idea what went on in the meeting but I expect the players voiced anything that was bothering them.

Losing sucks and this will not be a fun last few weeks. The players are most likely looking forward to the end.

Awesome! Thanks for the info!

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#28 Läppen
March 20 2012, 01:47PM
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Snälla kom tillbaka till Södertälje och spela för oss en säsong till! Om inte; Tack för den här säsongen! Du är en grym back!

Regards, Läppen

ps. google translate.

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