Who do you love?

Jason Strudwick
July 26 2012 09:59AM

All coaches have players on their team who they trust above others. Part of that trust comes from the coaches pouring over stats. Which center wins the highest percentage of draws? Which defencemen has the least number of turnovers a game? Which forward hits the net with a shot most often?

The Little Things

Those are all some of the stats that can be tracked, recorded and reviewed. However a coach's trust is earned in many more ways then from just a stat sheet he can review while riding on the team plane to the next city. It is the little plays made during the game that are not tracked by stats that really influence a coach's trust or lack thereof in a player.

Can a winger get the puck out on the wall in his own zone when it is rimmed to him? This is a huge play that directly impacts a game. The ability to perform this task properly, as in getting it out, immediately takes the pressure off in the defensive zone. How many times do we see a winger fail to get it out because of the pressure applied by a pinching defenceman and it result in a goal?

Can a defenceman retrieve a puck in his own zone and under pressure make a quick breakout pass? So important! This is one of the most difficult plays in hockey to do but when done properly it literally stalls the offensive teams forecheck. With the all out jail break forecheck many teams use now, with a sharply passed puck, an odd man rush going the other way is possible.

How likely is a player to make the correct decision with the puck? There are times in the game when there isn't a great play to be made. A one on three rush though the neutral zone is one of those times. Will the player try to beat all three while his team mates change and possibly turn it over which will result in a mess? Or will he dump it in the short side corner which will allow his line mates to change?

Krueger's List

The new coach of the Oilers, Ralph Krueger knows the players on his team. He has been with them for a while so I would expect he knows who he has trust in and who he does. Of course his opinion can change with a players improved attention to detail.

He is fortunate to have many offensive weapons in his top six forwards. I think scoring goals and a high power play efficiency won't be an issue for the Oilers. My concern is who will protect the leads?

It is game eighty two. The Oilers need two points in this game to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Wild are in town, it is the third period, one minute to go and the Oilers are winning by one. The face off is in the Oilers defensive zone. The Wild throw Koivu, Parise, Heatley, Suter and Spurgeon on the ice.

Ralph Krueger will put together a group of five players he has trust in to protect that lead and to do the little plays I outlined above with a minute to go. My question to the Oilersnation is...Who do you love? Who do you trust to be out there and protect that lead? Tell me your five players that you think will get the job done. Don't just tell me your favorite players, put yourself in Ralphs shoes.

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.
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#1 geoilersgist
July 26 2012, 10:04AM
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Horcoff, Smyth, Eberle, N.Schultz, Smid

Eberle is to keep them honest and he plays solid defence. The rest are just solid at defence and Horcoff wins a ton of draws

Almost forgot to bang my mighty FISTS as I typed this

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#2 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
July 26 2012, 10:15AM
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Old Schultz, Smid, Horcs, smyth and Pisani (I wish). But really, Belanger would be out there as insurance in case Horcs got booted from the draw.

Great article. Really good.

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Same as Max Powers, but Jones instead of Smyth.

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#4 fuzzy muppet
July 26 2012, 10:25AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

The same Jones that Krueger pined after being completely negligent in his own zone??

NO WAY.

Smyth, Horcs, Hall. Smid and N. Schultz

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#5 Dodd
July 26 2012, 10:25AM
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Impressed that so far Horcoff is (rightfully) named here. Players don't set their pay, and we should stop expecting a $6Mill game from him.

I'd maybe have Petry in the mix with Smid, though veteran Schultz might be better.. not sure on that one.

I wonder who (if anyone) says Whitney? Interesting.

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@fuzzy muppet

Your response is to go ahead and throw a kid that is lost in his own zone on who had a grand total of 2 minutes and 40 seconds of PK time last year?

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#7 fuzzy muppet
July 26 2012, 10:34AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Killing penalties has nothing to do with making the right play with the game on the line.

This is Taylor Hall's team. When he's on the ice, the play goes the right way.

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#8 AutoOiler
July 26 2012, 10:37AM
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Belanger Horcoff Hemsky Smid Schultz "the Elder" Dress Belanger in a Wild uniform and I will guarantee no one scores.

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#9 Mark-LW
July 26 2012, 10:42AM
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Belanger, Smyth, Horcoff, Smid, N. Schultz

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#10 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
July 26 2012, 10:44AM
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Horc - faceoff

Hall - unmatched will to win. I specifically recall him talking about small plays, like getting the puck out on the boards.

Smyth - will sacrifice and has most experience, plus can take the faceoff if Horc gets booted

Smid - best defensive defensemen

N. Schultz - second best defensive defensemen? This could be Petry, depending on how this season goes.

Dubnyk - better if there's a goalie

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#11 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
July 26 2012, 10:59AM
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Horc/Smyth/Belanger/Smid/Schultz

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#12 Mantastic
July 26 2012, 11:02AM
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Horc, Hall, Jones, N. Schultz and Smid.

Horc for faceoffs.

Hall will do anything to win.

Jones to block shots.

Nick and smid to calm the waters.

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#13 sloppy joe
July 26 2012, 11:04AM
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I'm with Max Powers:

Horc, Belanger (need a 2nd faceoff man), Smitty, Smid, N. Schultz.

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#14 Dman09
July 26 2012, 11:11AM
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Nuge, Smyth, Eberle/MPS, N.Schultz, Smid + anyone but BULIN

All of these guys are very disciplined, last thing you need in a penalty. They also play very well defensively. I think Nuge's defensive game gets underrated because he does so well offensively but the one thing about him that stands out in the key situations is his ability to read the play and make the right choice, be in the right place. Also he is sneaky and very mobile, has unique ability of stipping guys of pucks in the situations you don't think possible.

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#15 vetinari
July 26 2012, 11:14AM
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Interesting...

1st unit (veterans)- Smid and N. Schultz on defence Horcoff, Belanger (on wing but a backup to Horc in the circle) and Smyth

2nd unit- Whitney and Petry on defence Gagner (for faceoffs), Hall (who is willing to sacrifice himself and go through people if needed) and either Petrell or Jones (shot blockers, defensive role players)

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#16 dessert1111
July 26 2012, 11:16AM
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Belanger for the draw Horcoff for draw insurance and doing what it takes Pajaarvi for defensive awareness and speed Smid and Nick Schultz I think speak for themselves

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#17 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 26 2012, 11:16AM
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None of the above.

3 first overall draft selections in a row pretty much reveals there's nobody in your lineup capable of participating in such fantasies.

Maybe we could revisit this in 2 or 3 yrs when our Oilers are no longer the laughing stock of the league.

3 yrs down the road maybe the fab 5 have you up two goals and it's not as much of an issue.

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#18 OTown
July 26 2012, 11:19AM
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The key would be Horcoff and Smid would have to be out there. The other 3 spots would be any of Smyth, Hemsky, Hall, Ebs, Petry and Schultz depending on whether or not Krueger has a chance to mix lines or had to keep the lines in tact.

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#19 Archaeologuy
July 26 2012, 11:26AM
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Nuge, Smyth, Hemsky, Smid, N. Schultz.

My biggest wildcard is Nuge, but I like his skill level at getting the puck off of opposing players' sticks. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Also, I'm banking that by game 82 of this coming season he will have improved his draws and dzone awareness.

Smyth is a dependable vet used to going up against top competition. Plus he has great hair. Always an x-factor.

Hemsky knows how to play the tough competition. Him along with Nuge are my two offensive guys. Cant be all Defense out there.

Smid and Schultz are defense first, low event players. Smid has an edge to his game, Schultz has poise, and the Oilers love poise like Wanye loves Bieber and Gangsta Rap. They can also both move the puck up the ice at an acceptable level.

Those are my 5.

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#20 B_Oilers
July 26 2012, 11:27AM
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Smid for shot block and defensive-dman, N. Schultz excellent d-dman (or Ryan Whitney if healthy to get puck moving),Hall for speedy attack and to keep Wild worried so they don't forget about their own defense, Horcoff for faceoff, Smyth for backup faceoff (or Hall if needed)along with defensive coverage if not over used through the year

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#21 Walter Sobchak
July 26 2012, 11:29AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Horc/Smyth/Belanger/Smid/Schultz

Completely agree.

you must have two centers out.

@ QSB

Also, I tend to agree with QSB statement overall though.

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#22 Mark-LW
July 26 2012, 11:35AM
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why does everyone want Horcoff out for the faceoff? wasn't Belanger better?

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horcoff, belanger, smyth, schultz, Smid (DUBNYK!) in crucial moments you NEED a faceoff win so Belanger incase Horcs gets thrown out and plus he's no slouch on the Defensive end

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#24 Oiler Al
July 26 2012, 11:48AM
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Hall - Horcoff_ Petry Smid - N.Schultz

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#25 Jason
July 26 2012, 11:53AM
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The key here is the Oilers being up a goal. If they were down a goal, you'd put very different players on the ice. But protecting the lead I'd go with:

Jones / Horcoff / Hemsky

Smid / Petry

Eberle isn't one of the better Oilers in his own end. Hall is better, but still, to this point in his career, has played against softer competition.

On the other hand Horcoff, Jones, and particularly Hemsky all did very well against quality competition this year and are all very sound in their own end.

Smid and Petry were the two best defensemen the Oilers had last year, worked well as a pairing, and faced by far the toughest competition amongst Oilers blueliners.

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#26 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 26 2012, 11:57AM
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After 5 yrs of watching Horcoff come out on the short end of the stick, it's difficult to comprehend that many here would rather stay the course and accept the all to known outcome. His mantle must be getting awfully crowded with all those Frank Selke trophies i'm sure.

Outside of Hopkins, the other 3 centers make me want to stick my finger down my throat. Horcoff and Gagner were constants over the last 5 yrs. Get these government issued centers the frigg outta here. 35-40 pts a year shouldn't land you 5.5 million bucks a year, even in Edmonton.

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#27 Cody anderson
July 26 2012, 12:03PM
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I noticed most of us have listed basically the same people. I love Nuge and Ebs however unless they improve a lot defensively this year and their quality of competition moves up a lot I would not have either of them out.

On Forward I would have Smyth, Horcoff, Hall and if any of them are tired I would replace them with Hall, Paajarvi, or Belanger. Must have 2 guys that can win a draw on the ice.

On Defence I agree with the consensus to start N. Schultz and Smid. If either is tired replace them with Whitney if healthy.

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#28 Cody anderson
July 26 2012, 12:08PM
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@Oiler Al

Very interesting idea starting Petry on the wing. Unless he has practiced getting the puck out when rimmed around the boards I don't think I would go this route.

What I do like about it is god forbid a Dman breaks a stick or falls down out of position it would be awful nice to have him to slide back to cover.

I like the out of the box thinking.....Kudos!

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#29 David S
July 26 2012, 12:15PM
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Anybody putting Horcoff and Smyth out there has a really short memory. Both those guys were basically brutal by March this last year. Smyth especially after Christmas was a shadow of his early season play.

Of course if you like muffins at the net from the blueline, whiffed gimme's from the slot, and seeing guys getting pyloned when it counts then Smyth and Horcoff are your guys.

Last minute of a one-goal lead NEXT YEAR I'd throw out Hall, Gagner, Eberle, Smid and Petrell (the hard-nosed D). Opposing team will be cheating. One slip-up and it'll be in the back of their (empty) net. Best defense is a strong offense.

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#30 WhattaMike
July 26 2012, 12:19PM
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IMO, you have Horcoff, Smyth, and this year add RNH. You throw Smid and Schultz (SR) on the back end.

Now, my reason for RNH is not his faceoff skill (presently) it's his very skilled ability to take the puck off the opposing team player's stick.

Belanger of course right now is a better face off percentage winner than Horc or Nuge, but it's after the puck drops that I am watching out for.

Also wish to state that I see there are many out there who want Horcoff out there at a very important time but then why all the bash talk against him...lol?

Belanger seems to have support as well, despite his very horrible season, of which I do hope he bounces back from in a big way this year...if not traded.

I am a Horcoff supporter as a player but not his contract myself. Anyways I am getting geared up for this season and without being too overexcited I hope for a great year with the Oil.

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#31 CDean
July 26 2012, 12:38PM
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Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky for forwards, review the Hemsky goal vs Dallas that Patrick Stefan missed the empty net to know why. They did it before they can do it again. For defence, N Shultz and Whitney. All veterans all the time, no running around like a chicken with your head cut off like Jones would do.

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#32 bdiddy18
July 26 2012, 12:39PM
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Belanger, Horcoff, Petrell, Smid, N. Shultz

in this scenario you send the uglies out... guys that perform that stuff that isn't pretty but are effecient.

Belanger is there to ensure two faceoff men are present. Smid and N. Shultz are there to block shots and Petrell is there because he is an efficient PK man and proved so throughout last season.

Petrell also scored a couple shorties last year.

there is no learning curve scenario here - no need to have any of the next generation out there. They will learned far more game 1 of the playoffs after this win is secured.

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#33 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
July 26 2012, 12:47PM
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@ David S

Amazing how perception can be so badly distored when someone doesn't realize what situation players are playing in.

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#34 Josh03kennedy@gmail.com
July 26 2012, 12:49PM
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Smyth, Gags, Hemsky Smid, Petry

Horcoff gets beaten on too much for my trust anymore in these Situations. Smyth and Hemsky are the best wingers for the last minute we have right now. Gags has lots to prove and keeps improving, rather see what he can do with the chance.

Don't break up defensive pairs for the last minute. Smid is going to think Petry is in a spot, when it turns out Schultz is on the ice in a different spot. Won't end well.

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#35 book¡e
July 26 2012, 01:10PM
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I am mostly on hiatus, but had to put this out there.

Hall, RNH, Eberle,

J.Shultz, Petry.

Up 1-0 with one minute to play in game #82 of the season sounds like a good time to score a goal and sew up the win.

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#36 Jonathan Willis
July 26 2012, 01:33PM
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@book¡e

In the scenario Jason Strudwick just outlined, the Oilers are ahead by one, not down by one.

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#37 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 26 2012, 01:36PM
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@Ob1

How long will it take to realise all these keepers were doing more harm than good.

What good is a welder if he shows up for work with only one tool in the back of his truck.

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#38 Cody anderson
July 26 2012, 01:37PM
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I love the enthusiasm of the guys looking to score in this situation. With 1 minute left and a 1 goal lead the most important things are wining the draw and getting the puck out. Obviously if you are able to get and maintain control of the puck even better. If you are looking to score in this situation you are far more likely to get scored on then if you are trying to keep it simple and get it the hell out of your end.

This is Horc's specialty. Anyone who doesn't have him on the ice doesn't appreciate what he brings to the table or understand line matching, shutting down the other team's top players, or the overall defensive side of the game.

This is a purely defensive moment and this is where I agree with Kreuger's philosophy of sticks on the boards. In your own end it is much easier to have a right handed guy on the right wing and a left handed guy on the left wing.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
July 26 2012, 01:42PM
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My list:

Smyth - still the best two-way winger on the team, bar none. He can also take faceoffs as needed - something he did for Nugent-Hopkins last season on the PP.

Belanger - the best faceoff guy on the team, and for all of his offensive struggles last year he's still fine in his own end.

Horcoff - the best defensive forward on the team, IMO. Yes, the scoring's gone, but he can still defend.

Smid - best defensive defender on the team.

Petry - I too dislike the idea of breaking up defense pairings, and I really like Petry's ability to move the puck quickly out of the zone. If I'm breaking pairings up, then Nick Schultz.

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#40 Cody anderson
July 26 2012, 01:42PM
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@book¡e

If the tables are reversed and we are down by one and in their end I like you lineup.

I would probably replace one of the D (depending on who is playing stronger) with Yakupov and my 6th attacker would be Horcoff as it is esential to win the draw.

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#41 growler
July 26 2012, 01:44PM
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The Oilers will not get close to the playoffs. Unless the kids step up to be trusted. In this situation.

Hall Gagner Eberle Smid and the Klefbomb.

I picked Gagner over the nuge. Because he has more grit. Speed to burn on the wings with Hall and Eberle. And some size on the back to lay the lumber.

Belanger wont be on the team. If they have a chance at the playoffs.

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#42 Dman09
July 26 2012, 01:45PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

I love the enthusiasm of the guys looking to score in this situation. With 1 minute left and a 1 goal lead the most important things are wining the draw and getting the puck out. Obviously if you are able to get and maintain control of the puck even better. If you are looking to score in this situation you are far more likely to get scored on then if you are trying to keep it simple and get it the hell out of your end.

This is Horc's specialty. Anyone who doesn't have him on the ice doesn't appreciate what he brings to the table or understand line matching, shutting down the other team's top players, or the overall defensive side of the game.

This is a purely defensive moment and this is where I agree with Kreuger's philosophy of sticks on the boards. In your own end it is much easier to have a right handed guy on the right wing and a left handed guy on the left wing.

Horc good if he wins the draw but after his hockey sense isn't as good as others. Only time will truely tell what happens.

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#43 book¡e
July 26 2012, 01:45PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

In the scenario Jason Strudwick just outlined, the Oilers are ahead by one, not down by one.

I meant to say that - my failure to do so kind of took the punch out of my comment - I am going back into hiding now (after editing my earlier comment).

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#44 Old Retired Guy
July 26 2012, 02:21PM
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This is the NEW LOOK Oilers.....

If they're up by one with a minute to go.....

Pull the goalie and try to go up by TWO !

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#45 vetinari
July 26 2012, 02:35PM
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@ Old Retired Guy -- There were times last year when Khabibulin was in net and I thought that maybe we would be better off if we pulled the goalie for an extra attacker!

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#46 Old Retired Guy
July 26 2012, 02:40PM
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Answer #2

Shane Doan, Ryan Johansen, Bobby Ryan, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Streit

Summers not over yet boys!

Lets GO Tambo!

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#47 Old Retired Guy
July 26 2012, 02:43PM
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and.......yes I know that most of you think I'm dyslexic and that it should have read...

Let Tambo GO !

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#48 Cody anderson
July 26 2012, 02:46PM
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@Dman 09

I hate, hate, hate Horcoff's contract, but if used in the right scenarios he is a valuable part of this team.

He is a good faceoff guy and I would say our best defensive forward at this time.

We desperately need Nuge and Gagner to continue to get stronger and better in the dot. There is no way Horcoff should be one the PP. One other option is to have Hall taking reps in the dot at practice. I don't like him moving to center at this point but I would be fine with him helping off in the faceoff dot if he is better then Nuge and Gagner.

Defending a lead with a minute to go Horcoff is my fist pick of all of our forwards to put on the ice.

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#49 Old Retired Guy
July 26 2012, 02:49PM
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Off Topic

TSN has a "Who's Best Under 25" contest going and so far Ebbs has gotten by Toews and Hall has gotten by Stamkos so it's down to the final four.....so get in there a click a few times if you get a chance. (if nothing more than to drive eastern teams fans crazy!)

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#50 Old Retired Guy
July 26 2012, 02:54PM
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Back on Topic

@Dman 09 wrote "I hate, hate, hate Horcoff's contract, but if used in the right scenarios he is a valuable part of this team.

He is a good faceoff guy and I would say our best defensive forward at this time."

Any chance Horc would pay us back for ripping us off all of those years by signing for something like 1.5 million/per season for 2 or 3 years thereby evening out the money and giving us a really good 3rd line checking center for our cups runs?

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