A Real Eye Opener

Jason Strudwick
April 18 2012 08:17AM

So far the first round of the playoffs have been even better than I expected. There has been everything from high to low scoring games, great to bad goaltending and some of the most physical hockey seen in many years.

The physical hockey has been a surprise considering some of the non-traditional rivalries that it has sprung from. Pittsburgh and Philly was a no brainer; we all knew it would get rough. The same can't be said for the Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers matchup, or St. Louis vs. San Jose.

Other than the Florida/New Jersey series, all of the first-round matchups have been very physical. Every check is being finished with extra love. Big players are playing big and the smaller players must have an attitude.

If this year's Edmonton Oilers were magically thrown into a series versus Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, etc, would they be able to match and stand up to the intensity?

I don't think so.

It is clear the talent being assembled in the Oiler top six will rival most teams in the future. Another first overall pick, assuming they keep it, will only add firepower to that group. Unfortunately great talent doesn't guarantee playoff success.

Teams need somebody to do the heavy lifting. Bangers and crashers with skill are required in the playoffs. I would take a David Backes from St. Louis or Dustin Brown from L.A before either Joe Thornton from San Jose or Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. The first two are having a huge impact on their teams' success whereas the others have been largely invisible so far in the playoffs.

With a few tweaks and some luck, next year's Oilers should challenge for and possibly clinch a playoff spot. Getting into the playoffs and having playoff success are two different things however. Without some heavy lifters in the top six or at least in the top nine forward group, playoff success could prove difficult if this year's physical trend continues into next year.

Finding players like Dustin Brown will not be easy. That is the challenge for the Oiler management going forward.

Previously by Jason Strudwick

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
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.
Avatar
#1 Gitagrip
April 18 2012, 08:21AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

FISTicuffs and ruffians are an itergral aspect of this man's game. You need to have a pair to play.

Avatar
#2 PT
April 18 2012, 08:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

You'd take Backes and Brown - two guys who have never played past the first round - over Malkin, a former Conn Smythe winner? Granted Malkin having a poor showing this year but let's not over evaluate 3 games for each of those players.

Avatar
#3 Dave
April 18 2012, 08:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
9
cheers

The Journal pop up at the bottom is driving me insane...anyone else?

I don't mind the side ads but the bottom pop up has to go.

Avatar
#4 Bacon Nachos
April 18 2012, 08:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

i think big joe and marleau are perfect examples that tear apart the regular season, only to disappear in the post season. if their success transferred seamlessly to the playoffs, san jose would have had a cup by now.

i think brown has always been one of the more underrated power forwards in the league, and a leader in the dressing room. i'm sure LA is thankful they didn't trade him.

while not a solution, i'd be interested to see a guy like hall integrate a more physical tone to his game. he's growing to be a big man. throw some of that weight around.

Avatar
#5 Sliderule
April 18 2012, 08:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

If the refs keep calling the game the way they have in last half of season and playoffs between injuries and suspensions the only players left to play will be bottom six.

Avatar
#6 borisnikov
April 18 2012, 08:38AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
Dave wrote:

The Journal pop up at the bottom is driving me insane...anyone else?

I don't mind the side ads but the bottom pop up has to go.

When "the man" is paying the bills you have to do what he says. I hate them as much as the next (pop ups that is) but if it allows Wanye and Co. to spread the OilersNation gospel so be it. And besides... he sold his soul for this so he'll be spending all eternity in a lake of fire; he needs to make some money while he still can.

Avatar
#7 Shredder
April 18 2012, 08:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Struds, let me just say we miss your physicality...but you're right...Hartikainen might have the grit you speak of to last a playoff series, I'd even go so far as to say Gagner is a real tough little gritty bugger when he wants to be, but the current group outside of them need to show a little more of it.

I've always thought Jones could add a little more of that element to his game, and Eager has the capabilities but shows it on rare occasions. Hordichuk does it every shift, but he only gets a couple shifts a game and likely won't be back...

Adding Yak will be great, but I think looking for the grit element in any 18 year old is the wrong thing to do. The bang and crash 18 year olds add are not as effective as guys in their mid 20's.

Maybe it's time to do an article about potential UFA's to add to the bottom 6 that will the bang and crash element...

Avatar
#8 Fred
April 18 2012, 08:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Big physical teams are having success in the playoffs. Finding 2 way players is a challenge, but this is not Edmonton's philosophy. Does not matter who coaches Edm. Until the climate changes in upper management Edmonton will be a young fast team with great potential. I've been saying this for 5 years.

Avatar
#10 Dman09
April 18 2012, 09:21AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Anyone else ever notice that when Crosby gets into scrums and fights that the refs never grab him and tie him up but always the guys he fighting or jawing with. Especailly when punches are going Crosby can keep swinging at the guy while the ref ties up his arms. Its like a gang beating.

Avatar
#11 JustAName
April 18 2012, 09:23AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Firefox + Ad Block Plus = The way web surfing should be.

Avatar
#12 Jonathan Willis
April 18 2012, 09:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

It's worth noting that Dustin Brown doesn't play like this every playoffs; this is the first time he's ever scored more than one goal in a playoff series.

I *really* like Backes, but Malkin brings so much additional offense that I would be unable to make that trade. I mean, Malkin played fewer games this season and *literally* finished with more than twice as many points as Backes.

Avatar
#13 Dman09
April 18 2012, 09:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

It's worth noting that Dustin Brown doesn't play like this every playoffs; this is the first time he's ever scored more than one goal in a playoff series.

I *really* like Backes, but Malkin brings so much additional offense that I would be unable to make that trade. I mean, Malkin played fewer games this season and *literally* finished with more than twice as many points as Backes.

I agree JW, Malkin was the reason the Pens won the Stanley cup that year in my opinion. And it wasn't just his offense but the two way play, stealing pucks and blocking shots. I just feel that since the Cup win that style disappears when Crosby in on the team. He needs to be the #1 for a team and a guy that leads the way. With Malkin and RNH the Oil wouldn't have a #1 line but 2 #1A/B lines.

Avatar
#14 Dman09
April 18 2012, 09:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I hope the Oilers take long looks at Martin Frk, Tom Wilson, and Henrik Samuelsson. All are likely to go in the 2nd round. Anyone know where to find what picks the Oil have this upcoming draft?

Avatar
#15 -30-
April 18 2012, 09:50AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Dave don't let the ad spam destroy your browsing experience. This site is perfectly clean on my browser. Get Adblocker and NoScript for your browser. All that junk will disappear.

BTW, I used to work for Postmedia, "the man" and they definitely know that it's a problem with all the popups and ads but the money in the short term is more important to them.

Avatar
#16 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 18 2012, 10:04AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

And to think for 24 hrs at the trade deadline the Oilers could've possibly had Dustin Brown. Hemsky,Omark/2012 second rounder may have been enough if you took back a salary dump as well as Brown. You snooze you lose, and we sure know all about losing.

Seeing this 2 Ambulance per arena style of hockey, the fab 4 Oilers are probably glad the playoffs are two yrs away.

Avatar
#17 Spydyr
April 18 2012, 10:09AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

That is why Gagner is not a number 2 center on any team that will go far in the playoffs.

He will be destroyed.

Wasn't D.Brown available at the trade deadline.

Would of, should of ,could of ,yet again Mr. Dithers.

Avatar
#18 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 18 2012, 10:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Bring back Raffi Torres!

A 5'11" 200lb predator on skates.

Avatar
#19 Oilfan69
April 18 2012, 10:34AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
JustAName wrote:

Firefox + Ad Block Plus = The way web surfing should be.

I do thatfor most sites but whitelist Oilersnation so wayne gets the revenue. However I agree that pop up from the bottom is quite annoying :P

Avatar
#20 CaptainLander
April 18 2012, 10:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Did Malkin not win a Con Smyth trophy when the Pens won the cup? Have a tough series but come on, Malkin? Thornton I get not overly tough and proven to not take his game to the next level in the playoffs. Can I have both?

Brown Nuge Ebs Hall Malkin Yak

Avatar
#21 Gitagrip
April 18 2012, 10:47AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Quicksilver Ballet

Torres.. what team could not use or afford to carry for a regular season a Series Changer. You absolutely need to know where and when he is on the ice. QB, as per your poll blog, I guess you just got lucky.

Avatar
#22 Clarko
April 18 2012, 11:08AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

I don't want anything to do with a guy who goes out and tries to intentionally end other player's careers. There is a line between playing on the edge and being tough and being dirty loser who tries to injure players over and over again. I hope he gets thrown out of the league for that hit last night. How many times is a guy allowed to blantantly injure his colleagues with no respect before the league takes these head shots seriously? I would have a hard time cheering for a guy who has that much disrespect for other players.

Avatar
#23 PT
April 18 2012, 11:13AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Backes would definitely look great between Hall and Nail, but Malkin's one of the truly elite players in the game, with a great playoff resume up until this year. I don't think I'd ever pass on a player like that.

Avatar
#24 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
April 18 2012, 11:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Clarko:

I agree with this 100%. Torres is an idiot, and I'd rather have him disgrace some other team.

Avatar
#25 Walter Sobchak
April 18 2012, 11:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

It's not necessarily the top two lines that need toughness. It's everyone else on the team.

To many times in the regular season players just didnt bring "IT" it being toughness and grit.

That's why players like Horcoff, Jones, Bellanger, Lander, Paajarvi, Barker, Potter, don't bring anything else to the table. I singled those out at being the most obvouse but even players like Eager, Smyth, Whitney, Petry took many, many games off.

That's potentialy 9 players in the line up who won't bring anything extra to the table! The Oilers are soft like daisy's and will never get to the playoffs with the likes just mentioned let alone do anything if they got there.

Players like Tootoo-Clutterbuck-Clowe-Moen-Doan-Nichol those are tough players to play against, might not have the best skill but they bring " IT "

Avatar
#26 Fred
April 18 2012, 11:29AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

That is why I never understood why Edmonton never went after Hanzal or a player like Brandon Sutter. I understand now , their philosophy has never been to get bigger.

Avatar
#27 Dman09
April 18 2012, 11:30AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Bring back Raffi Torres!

A 5'11" 200lb predator on skates.

Just goes to show you don't need to be 6'4" and 220+ to be a beast on the ice. What is Hall right now 6'1" and 200lbs?

Avatar
#28 PaperDesigner
April 18 2012, 11:34AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Strudwick wrote:

I have always really liked both Brown and Backes. Backes is a big string center will both skill and leadership. How would he look between Hall and Nails next year? I would take him over Malkin in a heartbeat!

Except Malkin does way, way more to help you win a game than Brown and Backes combined. There are a lot of guys in the league that can score a little, and hit a lot. There are very, very few that can score an awful lot, and Malkin is one of them. And last time I checked, they count goals on the scoreboard, not hits. Does physicality affect the score indirectly? Perhaps, but it's not something you can prove directly. Has Malkin won games single-handedly multiple times over the years through prodigious offensive output? Absolutely.

Honestly, I think you're simply empathizing moreso with a player type that is closer to the role you played in the NHL, rather than objectively evaluating what factors most into winning. Malkin will help you win way, way more than Brown or Backes. Not that they're not good players, they are--Malkin is simply on another level.

Avatar
#29 Fred
April 18 2012, 11:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Hard to have success in the NHL without a dominant two way center and a power forward on the 1st or 2nd line.

Oilers philosophy again is wrong, and it won't matter who is the coach.

Hall Eberle RNH Gagner Yakupov

Where is the power Forward? Where is the dominant 2way center?

I would trade Gagner and Omark for Brandon Sutter in a second. Hanzal is untouchable now.

Avatar
#30 Fred
April 18 2012, 11:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think players like Gagner are good in the regular season, he will score points and his stats will be respectable. But once the playoffs start he will be dominated by bigger stronger centers in the top 2 lines.

In my mind Gagner should be traded this year.

Avatar
#31 D-Man
April 18 2012, 12:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

That Hanzal is so hot right now....

I think if you're looking for a power forward - you're looking towards St. Louis... Stewart hasn't really found his way there and has been a healthy scratch and on the 4th line at times... Assuming he could get his head screwed on straight - he'd be a pretty good fit in our top 6...

But the underlying problem is that team's aren't going to just 'give' you that type of player... You're also really overvaluing Sutter too - he hasn't got over 40 points in his first three years and plays as a defensive center in Carolina... He'd be a pretty good 3rd line center here...

My point?? I agree with you that we need more size and grit in our top nine, but we can't be hasty on making a bad trade... Our top six might be a bit small going into this year - but our focus should be improving our 3rd line - so they can play 18 minutes a night and chip in offensively now and again... A 3rd line of Horcoff-Jones-Smytty doesn't exactly instill fear in the opposition... If (and a big if) we can get Eager healthy (and with his head screwed on straight) - he could be ideal in our top 9... Hartikinan might not drop the gloves, but loves to crash and bang too... I'm not sure you're going to fix this with nothing more than patience and a bit of luck in OKC and the draft...

Avatar
#32 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 18 2012, 12:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The Flyers should have an Ambulance circling the arena in the hours leading up the game.

There's a little Reggie Dunlop in all of us.

Avatar
#33 Spydyr
April 18 2012, 12:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

The Flyers should have an Ambulance circling the arena in the hours leading up the game.

There's a little Reggie Dunlop in all of us.

I'm thinking Pittsburgh is putting the foil on tonight.

Avatar
#34 gord962
April 18 2012, 12:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The only person really doing any hitting for LA is Brown, a bit by Richards. I doubt Williams has 1 hit and Carter turns when he has a chance to finish.

Avatar
#35 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 18 2012, 12:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Spydyr

That would be the more entertaining route, but i think we'll see the Pens turn the other cheek tonight. Shy away from the after whistle stuffs. Pittsburgh's shown they can't thug it up with the Flyers. Tonight they'll focus on beating them on the scoreboard. Figure this one's going 6.

Avatar
#36 Spydyr
April 18 2012, 12:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Quicksilver ballet

I'm thinking the score will be indicative of what happens.If the Flyers get a up a few look out.

It will be game on.

Line brawls.Old time hockey.Eddie Shore.

Avatar
#37 Dman09
April 18 2012, 12:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

The Flyers should have an Ambulance circling the arena in the hours leading up the game.

There's a little Reggie Dunlop in all of us.

Hell yes and make sure the lights and sirens are going.

Avatar
#39 GSP
April 18 2012, 01:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Struds...what are your thoughts on Chris Stewart in St. Louis? He seems like he could fit the bill for what we are looking for. He seems to be on the outs a bit in St. Louis and I believe he is an RFA at the end of the year. Would he be worth going after? I have heard on Gregor's show that he might be a bit of a partier. Thoughts?

Avatar
#40 Time Travelling Sean
April 18 2012, 02:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Trade Gags? At least give him a chance to play in the playoffs. Look at Briere? Giroux? Kane? Mcdonald?

I mean I know the Brown's/Doan's/Morrow's/Backes' are all important, you need someone to fight in the trenches, and play a gritty game.

Avatar
#41 Fred
April 18 2012, 03:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ D-man

Gagner and Omark for Brandon Sutter.

I don't think Carolina would do the trade, but I think this would be a steal.

Avatar
#42 Monaertchi
April 18 2012, 03:38PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Strudwick wrote:

It is clear that Malkin is a better point producer than either Brown or Backes. I won't argue that. There are things these two players do on the ice that cannot be shown on a stat page. How do you measure leadership and gamesmanship?

Would the Oilers top two lines get more points with a Malkin at center? no doubt. But when a game gets dirty and goes into the trenches I will take the other two.

I cannot stress how important these types of players are to winning. Look at any Stanley cup winner and you will find them. It is simply a fact.

I'm pretty sure that Kent Wilson just did an article yesterday on FN saying that the opinion expressed above is total bunk. At least he does a better job of saying why it is bunk than I can.

I realize that you played in the NHL and Kent didn't, but that doesn't mean you aren't wrong.

You are saying that ALL SC winners have a Backes/Brown type. That may be the case, but I doubt very much that you have looked every SC winning roster to be able to determine if that is actually fact. If I'm wrong and you have done this exhaustive research, then I wonder why you don't say how many SC winning rosters have a Malkin type player.

In other words, if you're going to make up facts to support your argument you should be more thorough.

Avatar
#43 Monaertchi
April 18 2012, 03:40PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

http://flamesnation.ca/2012/4/17/asking-the-right-questions-the-imprecise-and-unattainable

Avatar
#44 Wax Man Riley
April 18 2012, 04:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Dave wrote:

The Journal pop up at the bottom is driving me insane...anyone else?

I don't mind the side ads but the bottom pop up has to go.

Firefox with adblock and noscript = no ads. anywhere (or pretty close anyway)

edit: I see you all beat me to it...

Avatar
#45 Bulging Twine
April 18 2012, 05:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

It will be interesting to see how Paajarvi, Pitlick and Lander do in the AHL playoffs. I hope that Paajarvi can do well with the physicality. It will be good experience for them.

Avatar
#47 BlacqueJacque
April 18 2012, 10:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Great article. Of course, I love it because I agree with every point.

When Hartnell left Nashville for Florida, I was crushed that Edmonton wasn't trying to swing a deal.

I was never really a fan of Dustin Brown until this series. I always thought of him as more like a Burrows/Kesler hybrid. He has aspects of their game - the cheap little dirty tricks - but he separates himself from them in attitude. Real bulldog there.

As much as we deride his actions now, that check that Torres delivered on Michalek back in '06 turned around the series, derailed San Jose's Cup ambitions and in fact derailed the very promising career of Michalek himself. He hasn't been the same since, much like Kariya or Lindros after their encounters with Scott. We cheered then, or at least abstained from criticism - which is the same as silent consent. Even now many Oilers fans are conspicuously silent on Torres.

And short of Toews (imagine THAT controversy - budding superstar, face of the franchise, already concussed once), who could Torres knock out of the series who's more important to Chicago than Hossa? How can we think that Torres isn't doing exactly what his job is - or at least he thinks his job is?

You don't necessarily need a Raffi Torres. But you need players who can handle a Raffi Torres - some to intimidate him, all to be aware of him on the ice, and scorers who aren't intimidated.

Avatar
#48 Mike Modano's Dog
April 19 2012, 09:22AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Agreed, Jason.

We NEED to draft Tom Wilson in this next draft year. If any of you are not familiar with him yet, he's a big, bruising and punishing RW, and here's a story from this year's playoffs:

http://blog.mlive.com/whaletales/2012/04/plymouth_whalers_tom_wilson_pi.html

We'll see what we get this draft, but personally I hope we draft someone with his upside and physical presence. He had a pretty average regular season and then doubled his production to lead his team (tie) in goals in the playoffs, in +/-, and kept his penalty minutes up (actually with a slight increase).

I want a guy who brings it like this in the playoffs, and is a physical presence who can play with your elite players!

Avatar
#49 D-Man
April 19 2012, 10:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Fred... I think Carolina would jump at the chance to take a Gagner who is a proven 40 to 45 point guy and Omark who could add a bit more offense to their top nine.. Sutter is a good gritty number 3 centerman... He hasn't had one season over 40 points, while Gagner has already had 4...

Sutter is not the answer to adding size to our top six...

Avatar
#50 Fred
April 19 2012, 11:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I guess I see something in Sutter you don't. In my opinion we will have guys that can score points RNH Hall Eberle Yakupov. What we don't have is a gritty 2nd line center. Brandon is young and will only get bigger and stronger.

Since this trade is not going to happen we will see if Brandon is a 2nd line center.

Comments are closed for this article.