TIME FOR THE BIG BOY BIKE

Robin Brownlee
August 20 2012 05:50PM

When I took the training wheels off my son Sam's new bike this week, I knew he'd lose some knee skin and spend a lot of time picking himself up off his backside and giving me the stink eye. It's necessary, though, if he's ever going to ride the damn thing right.

The way I see it, if the Edmonton Oilers are going to become the kind of team fans have spent miserable six seasons out of the playoffs hoping they can be, the training wheels have to come off for the 2012-13 season, whenever that begins. Games, like knee skin, will be lost. They'll do a header over the handle bars a time or two. The Oilers will end up flat on their asses more times than fans would like to see. Necessary.

What the hell does that mean, Brownlee? Well, simply put, when the gate does open for the new season with Ralph Krueger standing where Tom Renney used to, I think it’s time to expect we'll see Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins used more often and in all situations. Less protected, even taking the item Willis just referenced from NHLNumbers on combined quality of opposing forwards and defense pairings – a useful analysis that lends clarity -- into context.

In fundamental terms, without the benefit of charts, graphs and spreadsheets – other people do it better than I and it's not my thing – I want more Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins (and Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky and even Nail Yakupov, for that matter) and less Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth.

Turn the team over to the kids now (they're going to take it sooner rather than later anyway). I say wind them up and turn them loose, notwithstanding the obligatory rookie leash in the case of Yakupov. No training wheels.

TWO WHEELS

Contrary to the common perception, Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins weren't spoon-fed a steady diet of patsies and ham-and-eggers in terms of opposition when forwards AND defenseman are taken into consideration, as the NHLNumbers data shows.

That said, while we can argue the extent, Renney certainly made a conscious effort to put the kids in situations where they had the best opportunity for success. There's nothing wrong with that. Makes sense. In 2011-12, after all, we were talking about two sophomores and a raw 18-year-old rookie in RNH. Now, with Hall and Eberle entering their third seasons, Nugent-Hopkins his second and Yakupov fetching the energy drinks in the dressing room and destined to get stuck with the rookie tab at a team dinner, I'd suggest it's time to see more of the first three, with Yak, Gagner and Hemsky also jumping ahead of Horcoff and Smyth in the ice time pecking order.

No chance, no way Horcoff should lead the Oilers in average ice time per game with anything approaching the 19:35 he played last season. Same with Smyth, who logged 19:04 and was higher than that until he was cut back in the second half of the season.

By comparison, Eberle averaged 17:35, leaving him sixth among forwards. Hall checked in behind Horcoff and Smyth at 18:13. Nugent-Hopkins and Hemsky played 17:36. And, yes, I know a lot of the added ice time Horcoff and Smyth got came by way of killing penalties, while shorthanded duty was an afterthought with the kids.

Tougher forwards? Sure. Defensemen? Yes. Zone starts? Get out there. By any measure, it's time the kids led the way, even if there's going to be times when it seems like detention in the school of hard knocks and skinned knees, as my son Sam will attest. "Dad, I'm scared."

Two wheels, son. It's time.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 BArmstrong
August 20 2012, 10:17PM
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Hold on... this is great...

"The West Coast Express - one of THE BEST LINES IN HOCKEY"

The championship rings those guys must have!!

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#2 David S
August 20 2012, 10:34PM
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I don't often agree with DSF, but when I do, it's about the Oilers depth.

We got slaughtered last year by bigger teams who actually understand the meaning of "depth". It was especially apparent on the road. With literally no upgrades except for a rookie #1 pick, how does anybody figure we're going to do much better?

Sure Eberle, Gagner, Nuuuge and Hall will be more mature. But Hall isn't going to be a factor for a good three months at least and the powers that be decided having a big, scoring power forward like Penner was a bad idea. How often did we get rag-dolled last year on the road without favorable changes? ALOT. And we were no hell at home either.

Hemsky is still a question mark with shoulders of glass, Horcoff is Horcoff and Smyth is rapidly running outta juice.

Frankly I'm pissed. We could have upgraded any or all of Hordichuk, Belanger or Eager. But noooooo. We're "hoping" Whitney comes back to 80%. We're praying to god Dubnyk can carry the load, but what happens to those 20-30 games that go to Khabby?

That's BS. If we want to season our young guys, they need to see some games in the playoffs. There doesn't seem to be any desire for that to happen this year.

I agree with Brownlee. But like DSF says, the supporting cast is weak and the holes are huge.

They're going to get crushed more often than not. In the process I'd bet at least one of them is going to get put out for the season. None of this has to happen. Total BS man.

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#3 Cheap Shot Charlie
August 21 2012, 03:11PM
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@DSF

It seems like you're going to need this more now than most articles.

*HUG*

Just because you're not the hot stud you used to be and your flare for artistic drama is waning doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to get out there and meet someone, DSF. You are a fabulous person and have a great personality, if you'd just let it show. Take a look in the mirror and say to yourself "I have a lot to offer!"

Note: All the above mention on your personality is a metaphor on the Oilers and your views. But I think you might actually be a nice guy, if you'd let us get to know you.

P.s. Here's an extra one for good measure... *HUG*

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#4 Cervantes
August 20 2012, 06:09PM
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Fewer minutes for the grind line (Smyth Horcoff Jones) will make those guys MUCH fresher later in the season, and will help us maintain consistency instead of dumping it halfway through the season. Also, those guys not seeing the other teams top F all the time will give them a much-deserved bump in points and stats. As much as everyone loves to dump on these guys, Smyth is a consistent 40-50 point guy, and Horcoff was on pace for 60-70 point seasons before he got saddled with every possible tough minute for the last few seasons. Those guys, with a sprinkle of Yak or Hemmer on the RW, will have great success against the other teams 2nd-3rd lines, and make us a much more balanced attack team. Krueger has no choice but to give the kids tough minutes. If he doesn't, these guys will get overloaded, again, and we'll be dead meat, again. He's smart enough to see that.

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#5 DSF
August 20 2012, 08:23PM
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They.Will.Get.Killed.

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#6 Reg Dunlop
August 20 2012, 08:45PM
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@DSF Who exactly will get killed? Are you referring to the young oil talent? On ice or off ice at the Drake hotel after last call?

Just curious... how come Renney was described as 'sheltering' Hall and Ebs for developmental purposes while when Vigneault throws the sisters out against Hordichuk he is a wiley coach seeking to take advantage of a favorable match-up? This year it will be described as Kruger releasing the tigers to feast on the NHL's weak, if there is a season.

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#7 Quicksilver ballet
August 20 2012, 10:41PM
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@Poolanov

Such a profound response Rugslinger, you're awesome sir.

3 first overall selections in a row may scream the total opposite there turbanator.

Conjure us up a scenario that says otherwise. With your obvious grasp of the language, paint us a picture that isn't hope based 2-3 yrs down the road.... if the kids are still here.

Get out your bus pass Rugger, the bus anxiously awaits your boarding.

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#8 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 21 2012, 08:25AM
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DSF wrote:

Huge difference.

At the time, the Sedins were playing behind, the West Coast Express, one of the best lines in hockey.

Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrsion were drawing the top opposition not the Sedins.

Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky are a long way from the West Coast Express.

It's going to be interesting to see the type of non-sense you are posting in a year or two when the elite young players are playing with experience and confidence.

These guys are 1st overall draft picks, two have proven they can produce at a mid range+ first line level and the other put up Stamkos caliber numbers in junior.

It may take a little bit more time, but odds are they will performe like the last 25 or so forwards taken 1st overall.

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#9 BurkeTheTurd
August 22 2012, 09:28AM
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NewAgeSys wrote:

Now we are talking here!!!!

Take a step further and imagine if LA had OUR talent base last year??Because they used the NHS like we can also do.

LAs system adjustments with 25 gms to go last year added new components to their gameplan that allowed them to execute an NHS inspired full rink trap or system check-mate on their opponents,this leveled the playing field talentwise with everyone they faced,and it became a game of guts and one man efforts at proper times,breaking system continuity bacame the only way out of a dual system check-mate,and thats dynamicly how almost all of LAs playoff game winning goals were scored,they looked like superman efforts but were really system induced tacticly.

Stoll had more than 21 pts,he had the brains and ability to sell the NHS tactics to his teammates and coaches expediently enough for them to make a contribution to LAs cup run and win.I keep saying Stoll because he was the first to definitively use NHS tactics on LAs team.I know because I watched him do it exactly as I created the NHS to function.I dont care if Stoll or anyone else who has read of the NHS data actually uses it and tells themselves that it is just free random posts and there is no original source,because that is not the case and I am the original source,when you follow the mantras of a specific system and its tactics and incorporate them into an existing system,what are you supposed to call it other than integration??

The source is the catalyst of change and LAs gameplan changed with 25 gms to go last year and those changes fuelled a winning Stanley Cup run,so what was the source of those changes,and even more specificlly ----what exactly were those changes that brought this sucess teamwise to LA last year???What exact adjustments did they make and carry through??There are so many great hockey minds here and I just need ONE to step up and identify those LA changes because they validate the NHS,if i do it it changes nothing---if someone else does then it then my NHS is independantly validated.

Target these adjustments or rather these integrations of NHS tactics into LAs existing hybrid,and you will see the future of NHL hockey,you will see how and why they won a Stanley Cup with the lineup they iced,and if no one pays attention to the NHS,LA will repeat this,as it is they will smoke a lot of teams early in the year probably to the half-way point when teams come on board.I already gave their playoff opponents limited NHS data and several used it last year dureing the playoffs with consistant sucess--just late starts-- so there are already other teams who will be sniffing around.

I mean i have a seriously limited knowledge of technical hockey applications,so what i mean here is,did LA start useing a left-wing lock with 25 gms to go??What technical changes did they make,from gm 1 till game 57 they were doing a consistant set of things on the ice,and then they made a series of adjustments which remained consistant from that point untill they skated the cup in a big circle.Someone with more hockey ability than me who knows how LA played all of last year please help out here if you can.I already have a list of my own NHS adjustments exactly as they implemented them to their existing system chronologically.I just need you to find them on your own so I can show us how those adjustments originated,we dont need each other to bring this data together,it is alreadyconnected,we need verification of the source of LAs adjustments independant of me the NHS creator and salesman.

And yes its time for the training wheels to come off here.Lets get down to the business of doing business.Someone who is hockey-smart help me sell this NHS like a business,man I am just a conduit here,and this is such an easy sell if a hockey person just outlines LAs cup run and its catalysts------that should be easy for a hockey guy right??

You should go coach instead of blogging, go take the system and win a few memorial cups, then off to the big show!!!!

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#10 The Real Scuba Steve
August 20 2012, 05:46PM
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Please, move on from this. It's not happening with my items.

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#11 michael
August 20 2012, 06:10PM
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I agree. Its time. Hopefully the kids will respond accordingly.

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#12 Wanyes bastard child
August 20 2012, 10:10PM
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@Ben

Ben, you must be new around these parts, meet DSF. It doesn't matter what you say, you are wrong and he is right. Back up what you say with irrefutable evidence, you are still wrong. He will pull some obscure stat or reference out of no where that backs only what he has to say but which makes absolutely no sense in any shape or form otherwise.

Don't get me wrong, he is an intelligent man (woman?) but there is no point in arguing/having a discussion with him since you are always going to be wrong and he will always be right.

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#13 BArmstrong
August 20 2012, 10:12PM
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Let's stop the unkind Sedin comparisons. Hall and Eberle seem to despise losing - the Sedins... don't appear to mind.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
August 20 2012, 11:23PM
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And this is a point where Robin Brownlee and I are in complete agreement. Renney's usage of those players was sensible, and as the year went on their minutes got tougher.

Now it's time for a further evolution of that process. It's time to see how these players fare against top lines. Keep putting them in offensive situations, by all means - but it should be against the best the other team can offer, both forwards and defencemen.

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#15 Wax Man Riley
August 21 2012, 09:45AM
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DSF wrote:

I guess you can throw them to the wolves and see how it works out but the Oilers dire lack of a supporting crew means they will likely fail.

You can pine all you want for "two legitimate scoring lines" but that is fantasy and to my eye, the Oilers have "one legitimate scoring line".

The Oilers had only 5 players break 40 points last season.

The Canucks had 7 and their first line blew away the Oilers first line.

Play these kids against the best and you'll likely see a bigger disparity.

*Note*

Jannik Hansen, a third line player for the Canucks scored more points than Hemsky, Horcoff and Jones.

You can't win when your best players are so far behind.

So?

The STANLEY CUP CHAMPION LA Kings had 4 players break 40 points.

Their 3rd line center, Stoll got 21.

DSF logic says they are a terrible team. The Oilers are a better team. They had more players above 40 pts.

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#16 BurkeTheTurd
August 21 2012, 09:46AM
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Well if Kruger does play the kids more often, the Oilers like it or not, will have one of the better 3rd lines in the league and a very competitive first line. Wont talk about the 4th line though.

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#17 David S
August 21 2012, 11:04PM
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Just the fact we have a guy on here called "Cheap Shot Charlie" with a matching avatar and attitude has got to be one of the most awesomest of awesome things here at ON.

"Cheap Shot Charlie". Man that's just great.*

*If that's you Wanye, hat tip and a fresh fiver in your jockstrap sir.

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#18 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 22 2012, 08:06AM
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@NewAgeSys

so you are asking for someone who knows what they are talking about to help sell your idea? the one you admit was generated by someone with "..a seriously limited knowledge of technical hockey applications"?

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#19 The Real Scuba Steve
August 20 2012, 05:48PM
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The Real Scuba Steve wrote:

Please, move on from this. It's not happening with my items.

Wow, you were fast this time!

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#21 Quicksilver ballet
August 20 2012, 07:19PM
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Outside of the J.Schultz aquisition, it looks like Tambellinis actions this summer have us headed towards another lotto finish.

Minimum upgrades added, always possible Halls shoulder doesn't come around till well after Christmas like Hemskys shoulder did last season. Whitneys ankle....a case to be made for this coming season to go either way.

Little doubt a 26th place finish (along with a possible lottery upgrade) would help this club.

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#22 Dave Casselman
August 20 2012, 08:05PM
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Mr. Brownlee's article might be interpreted as a variation of 'what a difference a year makes. . .' And he's absolutely correct, it's time.

These kids aren't anywhere near their ultimate potential, either in body, maturity, or hockey experience and intellect. If they turn out to be what many think they can be, including me, the future indeed looks bright.

Frankly I'd be shocked if even Steve Tambellini could f*** this up. Give the kids time and in 5 years or less it's going to take one hell of a team to beat them in the Cup(s) final(s).

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#23 yawto
August 20 2012, 08:22PM
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I realize that Smyth is getting older now but with these blogs on the future I only have to say that if Yakupov can fit in the top 6 and be effective, this team will be greatly improved. My reasoning is, that even at 36, a team that can boast forward lines where players of the caliber of Ryan Smyth and even Shawn Horcoff can not crack the top 6, is a much better team than one that relied on Smyth in a top 6 role. A team that can potentially rely on Ryan Whitney as a 5th D (that is saying Smid/Petry stay the same level or slightly better than last year and the Schultz' running the second pairing) is much better than a team that was relying on an unrepaired Whitney to lead a Defensive line. Smyth, Horcoff and Whitney are my reasoning we will be better. As RB said, if the wheels are taken off and the kids show they can ride, these veterans can be more than effective in a complimentary role.

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#24 DSF
August 20 2012, 09:02PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

@DSF Who exactly will get killed? Are you referring to the young oil talent? On ice or off ice at the Drake hotel after last call?

Just curious... how come Renney was described as 'sheltering' Hall and Ebs for developmental purposes while when Vigneault throws the sisters out against Hordichuk he is a wiley coach seeking to take advantage of a favorable match-up? This year it will be described as Kruger releasing the tigers to feast on the NHL's weak, if there is a season.

You obviously have no idea what Vigneault was doing.

He sent out the Sedins for a huge number of Ozone starts but they, almost without exception, faced the toughest matchups in terms of forwards and defensemen...and they still killed it.

When the Oilers' youngsters faced top pairing D and tough forward competition they faded like wall flowers.

Take a look at how Hopkins scored on the road when the opposition coach had the last change.

Brutal.

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#25 Poolanov
August 20 2012, 09:20PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Outside of the J.Schultz aquisition, it looks like Tambellinis actions this summer have us headed towards another lotto finish.

Minimum upgrades added, always possible Halls shoulder doesn't come around till well after Christmas like Hemskys shoulder did last season. Whitneys ankle....a case to be made for this coming season to go either way.

Little doubt a 26th place finish (along with a possible lottery upgrade) would help this club.

Keep the doom and gloom crap to your batman reviews

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#26 Ben
August 20 2012, 09:30PM
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@DSF

At some point in time though the Sedins were terrified little rookies that were scared to go into the corners and at another point a coach had to start using them against the top matchups.

The Oilers are not in a situation where they are going to challenge for the cup at this point in time and if they truly want too in the future now is the time to get Hall, RNH, Ebs, and Yakupov used to facing the top pairings and forward units of the opposition.

A coach can only hide them for so long until it almost hinders their development. Why not do it in a season where the team is going finish in the 26-30 hole again.

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#27 The Soup Fascist
August 20 2012, 09:37PM
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DSF wrote:

You obviously have no idea what Vigneault was doing.

He sent out the Sedins for a huge number of Ozone starts but they, almost without exception, faced the toughest matchups in terms of forwards and defensemen...and they still killed it.

When the Oilers' youngsters faced top pairing D and tough forward competition they faded like wall flowers.

Take a look at how Hopkins scored on the road when the opposition coach had the last change.

Brutal.

But isn't that kind of the point - that as these young guys mature physically and gain game experience, they contribute more year after year? And in more difficult conditions.

The Sedins hit the league as 20 year olds and did not become "proficient" - for lack of a better word - for 3 to 5 years depending on your definition. Then they were off and running.

Why is it improbable that players with better draft pedigree and with a couple of years playing in the CHL, in North America on NHL sized rinks, are ahead of the curve a bit?

Obviously there are going to be matchups that bite them in the a$$ occasionally - even routinely on the road, but those should be less and less, year over year. Especially assuming two legitimate scoring lines are formed. What am I missing?

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#28 DSF
August 20 2012, 09:39PM
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Ben wrote:

At some point in time though the Sedins were terrified little rookies that were scared to go into the corners and at another point a coach had to start using them against the top matchups.

The Oilers are not in a situation where they are going to challenge for the cup at this point in time and if they truly want too in the future now is the time to get Hall, RNH, Ebs, and Yakupov used to facing the top pairings and forward units of the opposition.

A coach can only hide them for so long until it almost hinders their development. Why not do it in a season where the team is going finish in the 26-30 hole again.

Huge difference.

At the time, the Sedins were playing behind, the West Coast Express, one of the best lines in hockey.

Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrsion were drawing the top opposition not the Sedins.

Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky are a long way from the West Coast Express.

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#29 DSF
August 20 2012, 09:50PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

But isn't that kind of the point - that as these young guys mature physically and gain game experience, they contribute more year after year? And in more difficult conditions.

The Sedins hit the league as 20 year olds and did not become "proficient" - for lack of a better word - for 3 to 5 years depending on your definition. Then they were off and running.

Why is it improbable that players with better draft pedigree and with a couple of years playing in the CHL, in North America on NHL sized rinks, are ahead of the curve a bit?

Obviously there are going to be matchups that bite them in the a$$ occasionally - even routinely on the road, but those should be less and less, year over year. Especially assuming two legitimate scoring lines are formed. What am I missing?

I guess you can throw them to the wolves and see how it works out but the Oilers dire lack of a supporting crew means they will likely fail.

You can pine all you want for "two legitimate scoring lines" but that is fantasy and to my eye, the Oilers have "one legitimate scoring line".

The Oilers had only 5 players break 40 points last season.

The Canucks had 7 and their first line blew away the Oilers first line.

Play these kids against the best and you'll likely see a bigger disparity.

*Note*

Jannik Hansen, a third line player for the Canucks scored more points than Hemsky, Horcoff and Jones.

You can't win when your best players are so far behind.

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#30 Ben
August 20 2012, 10:01PM
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@DSF

Sure it's a huge difference, but at some point in time the kids of the Oilers are going to have to take the reins. Besides they've all been playing the North American game for a few years, not the SEL game and know what to expect. As I said the Oilers aren't cup chasing right now, so looking towards the future letting the players they plan to build around is the correct way to go.

As for your 40 point reference that is skewed in the Canucks favor anyways. You are comparing the first line of a President Trophy team that is carried by two 10 year veterans to a team that finished 29th and are lead by sophmores and rookies.

Fortunately Horcoff, Hemsky and Jones aren't the Oilers best players. Unfortunately at this point the 18-22 year olds are.

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#31 The Soup Fascist
August 20 2012, 10:06PM
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DSF wrote:

I guess you can throw them to the wolves and see how it works out but the Oilers dire lack of a supporting crew means they will likely fail.

You can pine all you want for "two legitimate scoring lines" but that is fantasy and to my eye, the Oilers have "one legitimate scoring line".

The Oilers had only 5 players break 40 points last season.

The Canucks had 7 and their first line blew away the Oilers first line.

Play these kids against the best and you'll likely see a bigger disparity.

*Note*

Jannik Hansen, a third line player for the Canucks scored more points than Hemsky, Horcoff and Jones.

You can't win when your best players are so far behind.

The fact is there are few other options. There is no veteran first line like the WCE to hide behind. Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky are not able to carry the team for any appreciable minutes. That is fact.

So what does Kruger do? Whine, bitch and hope for skilled veterans to appear out of thin air or throw the saddle on the bronks?

File this under wishful thinking. Could it be argued that the Sedins development was stunted by the lack of critical minutes due to the shadow of the WCE? It took the Sedins until 5 years in and 25 years old to crack 70 points.

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#32 Ben
August 20 2012, 10:10PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

The fact is there are few other options. There is no veteran first line like the WCE to hide behind. Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky are not able to carry the team for any appreciable minutes. That is fact.

So what does Kruger do? Whine, bitch and hope for skilled veterans to appear out of thin air or throw the saddle on the bronks?

File this under wishful thinking. Could it be argued that the Sedins development was stunted by the lack of critical minutes due to the shadow of the WCE? It took the Sedins until 5 years in and 25 years old to crack 70 points.

Hey wait didn't it take Eberle 2 years and until he was 22 to crack 70.

You can't hide him after a season like that anyways.

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#33 The Soup Fascist
August 20 2012, 10:15PM
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Ben wrote:

Hey wait didn't it take Eberle 2 years and until he was 22 to crack 70.

You can't hide him after a season like that anyways.

I guess that was my point.

Hall and RNH (and Yak?) won't be far behind.

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#34 DonDon
August 20 2012, 10:36PM
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Unfortulately, Steve Tambellini has already f***** this up. For a 29th place team, he has only added one FA rookie, Justin Schultz, and another rookie, albeit the #1 draft choice, Yakukpov, for the 2012-2013 season, if there is one. That is it, other than the departure of Barker and the promotion of Krueger to head coach. Krueger may be better than Renney, but I don't think the club or fans can count on him being a miracle worker.

There are serious questions about the goalies (is Dubnyk ready to perform successfully in heavy duty play? It is evident Khabibulin isn't) and defence (full recovery of injury-prone Whitney, competency of Sutton and Peckham?). Then there is the lack of an NHL-type 2nd and 4th line centre. Can the club count on Eager and Hordichuk to 'protect' our young assets in a tough Western Conference? Are they even good enough to contribute in a meaningful role for a change?

Will the play of the aging veterans Horcoff, Smyth, Hemsky, and particularly Belanger, continue their swift decline?

Is this being pessimistic, or exhibiting a sense of realism? Robin, we really won't know until the season starts, but if we go with Einstein's theory that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (the playoffs) is a sign of insanity.

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#35 Ben
August 20 2012, 10:46PM
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David S wrote:

I don't often agree with DSF, but when I do, it's about the Oilers depth.

We got slaughtered last year by bigger teams who actually understand the meaning of "depth". It was especially apparent on the road. With literally no upgrades except for a rookie #1 pick, how does anybody figure we're going to do much better?

Sure Eberle, Gagner, Nuuuge and Hall will be more mature. But Hall isn't going to be a factor for a good three months at least and the powers that be decided having a big, scoring power forward like Penner was a bad idea. How often did we get rag-dolled last year on the road without favorable changes? ALOT. And we were no hell at home either.

Hemsky is still a question mark with shoulders of glass, Horcoff is Horcoff and Smyth is rapidly running outta juice.

Frankly I'm pissed. We could have upgraded any or all of Hordichuk, Belanger or Eager. But noooooo. We're "hoping" Whitney comes back to 80%. We're praying to god Dubnyk can carry the load, but what happens to those 20-30 games that go to Khabby?

That's BS. If we want to season our young guys, they need to see some games in the playoffs. There doesn't seem to be any desire for that to happen this year.

I agree with Brownlee. But like DSF says, the supporting cast is weak and the holes are huge.

They're going to get crushed more often than not. In the process I'd bet at least one of them is going to get put out for the season. None of this has to happen. Total BS man.

Other than giving the Kids the reins what else can the Oilers do? Smyth, Horcoff, Jones, Belanger, and Hemsky aren't better players than Hall, Ebs, RNH, Gagner and hopefully Yakupov not offensively at least and without signing Parise, Semin and Olli Jokinen, it falls to the youth to lead the team offensively. That means that they are going to have to play against top pairings and forwards.

Lets face it, attempting to rely on Horcoff and Hemsky hasn't exactly done much in recent years.

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#36 David S
August 20 2012, 10:52PM
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Ben wrote:

Other than giving the Kids the reins what else can the Oilers do? Smyth, Horcoff, Jones, Belanger, and Hemsky aren't better players than Hall, Ebs, RNH, Gagner and hopefully Yakupov not offensively at least and without signing Parise, Semin and Olli Jokinen, it falls to the youth to lead the team offensively. That means that they are going to have to play against top pairings and forwards.

Lets face it, attempting to rely on Horcoff and Hemsky hasn't exactly done much in recent years.

They could have upgraded any or all of Hordichuk, Belanger and Eager. That would have been a good start. Build a competent 4th line that can take some heavy heat once in a while, rather than a bunch of fill-ins and nobodies.

They could have brought in a seasoned, decent backup goalie and have Dubnyk and him fight it out. They could have sent Khabby down to OKC or bought him out.

And nobody can tell me there weren't D upgrades available out there. One guy goes down and we're back to calling up Colten freaking Tuebert.

See where I'm going with this?

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#37 Ben
August 20 2012, 11:01PM
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David S wrote:

They could have upgraded any or all of Hordichuk, Belanger and Eager. That would have been a good start. Build a competent 4th line that can take some heavy heat once in a while, rather than a bunch of fill-ins and nobodies.

They could have brought in a seasoned, decent backup goalie and have Dubnyk and him fight it out. They could have sent Khabby down to OKC or bought him out.

And nobody can tell me there weren't D upgrades available out there. One guy goes down and we're back to calling up Colten freaking Tuebert.

See where I'm going with this?

Yeah the Oilers depth sucks. 15 years of inept scouting, drafting, signing and play does that. The rebuild won't be easy. The Penguins took 5 years from the Fleury draft to even make the playoffs and that was with players that exceed Hall, RNH, Ebs, Gags, Duby and Yakupov.

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#38 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
August 21 2012, 01:02AM
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God, we need hockey news....

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#39 Pouzar99
August 21 2012, 03:54AM
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The bad news is we likely won't see NHL hockey until December. The good news is Taylor Hall's should should be fine by then. Time to round up some Oil Kings tickets.

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#40 NewAgeSys
August 21 2012, 08:04AM
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Great read,and I concur with most of your analysis. This is a transitional year for our vets ,because for the first time in many years for some of them---they might be legitimately bumped down the rotational line chart,on a lot of other teams that wouldnt be happening quite yet.

I hope to see a bottom six comprised of our vets and whoever needs training wheels.

Halls shoulder better be ready,someone needs to sit down with Taylor and get a grasp and understanding of his personal definition of "feeling better"and "better".I dont believe we can risk his health so early in his career.He might be a bottom six starter so he can avoid contact useing his speed and be protected by the vets till he is sturdy again and confident,he needs to start hitting slower speed guys as he returns so he has tactical control of the contact,at a higher speed against faster opponents he is not in the most conducive position to test himself in degrees.We want him easeing back in not jumping back in.

If everyone buys into Kruegers system whatever it is we will be OK,team sucess is always system dependant,our biggest question marks going into the season are the Head coach and the SYSTEM he has decided upon,we need to see if he can manage his team well enough to execute whatever gameplan he has chosen.

We have the personell and they are evolveing on schedule if not early,we have a new Head coach,and he has a system for the team to use,so all is well----we just need to see if Mr.Krueger can make the loaf of bread rise properly and brown nicely on top 82 times,all the ingredients are in place,its simply time to get cooking/or coaching.

The training wheels definately need to come off this year,and the only way to do that is to redistribute the ice-time amongst the top 6 more equally,this is the only indicator that everyone is shareing equal system responsibility.

So yes naturally our vets all need to drop down the chart significantly and they need to stay there for 82 games,this might be the toughest thing to do if we dont start off smoothly,resist the urge to put the vets back in the top 6 to kickstart us again,we need to bite the bullet and expect the vets to crry us from deeper in the lineup.

I see more pressure on the vets and coaches this year by far thasn last year,because to let the studs evolve they need to give them the reins,not keep one hand on them,and this means a committment to supporting a complete team evolution,and leadership needs to come from deeper in the lineup as well,but for the first time definitive leadership will need to come from the top 6 of young studs,my money says Gagner steps up and rips that honor out of everyones hands from the 2nd line.

And lets remember that as soon as the training wheels come off and you let go of them these kids will NEED to be makeing their own decisions immediatly,they need everyones hands off of the wheel,and our coaches need to listen to their input as if they were professional peers,not rookies,so there needs to be flexibility there from the coaches that will be a new dynamic and it needs to be managed properly and tacticaly with forethought and planning.

We need to get a really good shot of Kruegers rug,so we can see what takeing the training wheels off does to him,ha ha ha.its gonna be either greyer or balder ,but somethings gotta give there,the scrifices coaches make sometimes amaze me.We need a before and after so he can remember what it took to get into the playoffs.

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#41 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 21 2012, 08:15AM
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Cervantes wrote:

Fewer minutes for the grind line (Smyth Horcoff Jones) will make those guys MUCH fresher later in the season, and will help us maintain consistency instead of dumping it halfway through the season. Also, those guys not seeing the other teams top F all the time will give them a much-deserved bump in points and stats. As much as everyone loves to dump on these guys, Smyth is a consistent 40-50 point guy, and Horcoff was on pace for 60-70 point seasons before he got saddled with every possible tough minute for the last few seasons. Those guys, with a sprinkle of Yak or Hemmer on the RW, will have great success against the other teams 2nd-3rd lines, and make us a much more balanced attack team. Krueger has no choice but to give the kids tough minutes. If he doesn't, these guys will get overloaded, again, and we'll be dead meat, again. He's smart enough to see that.

Exactly!

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#42 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 21 2012, 08:46AM
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Ben wrote:

Other than giving the Kids the reins what else can the Oilers do? Smyth, Horcoff, Jones, Belanger, and Hemsky aren't better players than Hall, Ebs, RNH, Gagner and hopefully Yakupov not offensively at least and without signing Parise, Semin and Olli Jokinen, it falls to the youth to lead the team offensively. That means that they are going to have to play against top pairings and forwards.

Lets face it, attempting to rely on Horcoff and Hemsky hasn't exactly done much in recent years.

Sorry Ben, but Hemsky is very similar caliber as the young guys and >> Gagner.

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#43 Spydyr
August 21 2012, 09:09AM
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What I would like to see is sending your best players to kill penalties.Put Ebs and Hall out there.With Halls speed and Ebs smarts they will do just Fine.

That is how to increase their ice time and take it away for older slower players such as Smyth and Horcoff.

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#44 Cody anderson
August 21 2012, 09:10AM
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There are benefits to trying to get the youg guys out against softer D pairings. Obviously everyone knows that the other team is going to try to match their best D against our top offensive forwards, so they are going to play against those guys no matter what.

I think it would be silly to try to match our best offense against the other teams best defence as it will slow down the nnumbers they can put up. I would not be pulling the young guys off everytime they come on the ice, but there is nothing wrong with using the last change at home to force unfavorable matchups on the other team. Almost every team in the NHL attemts to do this to a degree.

Last year we were trying so hard to match lines that it almost allows the other coach to dictate how much the young guys play.

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#45 Cody anderson
August 21 2012, 09:22AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Sorry Ben, but Hemsky is very similar caliber as the young guys and >> Gagner.

OB1 I think Hemsky is a long ways off of the young guys.....but i hope you are right. if he comes back and plays the best hockey he has played we will have 2 legit scoring lines and a third with a scoring threat. It is a lot harder to match lines when the scoring is spread out.

The Oilers depth is getting much better. It was brutal a couple years ago when we had one line and then fill ins. We should now have a very good top 9 and the bottom 3 will have a mix of young guys and heavy weights. If we look at the options with the 4th line (I would use Paajarvi in the top 6) We have Hartikainan, Jones, Eager, Hordichuk, Petrell, and Belanger. If you are playing a tough team you put one or both of Eager and Hordichuk in the lineup for limited minutes. If you are playing a softer team and you want some offence out of the 4th you put Hartikainan and Jones out as the wingers. If you want to use them primarily as a shut down line you put Petrell out there with Paajarvi and sub Hartikainan or Jones into the top 6.

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#46 michael
August 21 2012, 09:31AM
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A late start to this season would probably benefit alot of Oilers. Just think of a couple of players who may qualify for OKC. Including JS and RNH. Perhaps a few months seasoning at the AHL level could help a player like TH to get his game up before the NHL season starts.There is in my opinion an opportunity for the Oilers to assess ,evaluate and improve a number of players while the lockout is on.It could benefit the team in a season that may turn into a sprint. Rather than a marathon. 50 games? Throw out the inter-conference games and play only divisional and conference games.Should be fun.

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#47 Cody anderson
August 21 2012, 09:55AM
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I think Kreuger will make a bigger impact then many are expecting. I think expectations, roles, and systems will be much clearer and I expect he will get better buy in and a better more consistant effort.

Tambs built a team with 2 toughs for a coach who doesn't believe in them. That means we were playing players with a lower skill set that have the ability to fight and then not allowing them to do what got them to the NHL. If you are not going to allow them to fight you can get players for cheap with better skills in other areas.

I expect kreuger will allow them to do their job when he plays them.

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#48 Cody anderson
August 21 2012, 10:08AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

What would make you say that? The fact that he's produced at the same levels playing tougher minutes as the young guys have playing softer minutes?

Hemsky has already done what we hope the young guys will be able to do.

I think the young guys have already shown that they can play with many people on the team and develop chemistry quickly. They make other players better when playing with them. They are also young, developing, and are only going to get better.

I think Hemsky, while skilled, is a hard player to play with. He is creative and unpredictable which makes him harder to defend against but it also makes him much harder to develop chemistry with. He holds the puck too long and tries to do to much on his own. Nobody knows if he will ever regain his game let alone get better.

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#49 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 21 2012, 10:20AM
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Cody anderson wrote:

I think the young guys have already shown that they can play with many people on the team and develop chemistry quickly. They make other players better when playing with them. They are also young, developing, and are only going to get better.

I think Hemsky, while skilled, is a hard player to play with. He is creative and unpredictable which makes him harder to defend against but it also makes him much harder to develop chemistry with. He holds the puck too long and tries to do to much on his own. Nobody knows if he will ever regain his game let alone get better.

The young guys haven't accomplished near what Hemsky has yet. Any talk that they are already better is based on hopes and wishes.

In a year or two I think it will be safe to say some/all of them are better, but not right now.

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#50 Ben
August 21 2012, 10:50AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Sorry Ben, but Hemsky is very similar caliber as the young guys and >> Gagner.

He was at one time, and has shown flashes in recently but for the better part of three seasons he has been useless. I know that is due to injuries, but he needs a huge bounce back season. Like playing 60+ games and being an offensive threat in the vast majority of those games. Not just a giveaway machine that plays 34 games.

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