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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#51 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 21 2012, 11:06AM
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Ben wrote:

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.

Actually he was fantastic the two years before this past one, and he was pretty good last year too.

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#52 OilDoug
August 21 2012, 11:30AM
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I agree, play the kids, lets see what they got. Along with the names you mentioned I hope we see Paajarvi and Hartikanen in the lineup and given regular ice time.

I also hope we see guys like Pitlick, Lander and some of the young D given some games. They are the future of this team.

Horcoff, Smyth, Belanger, Eager, etc. need to be phased out completely or have their ice time reduced. If they don't like it send them to minors or put them on the first plane out of town.

I'm not saying throw all the kids in the water right away but soon enough its time to see if they are part of the solution or spare parts to get needed pieces.

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#53 tileguy
August 21 2012, 12:01PM
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David S wrote

"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."

Back to the coke machine discussion.

Oh Ben Eager, start eating a bowl of nails for breakfast (and some omega 3's for smarts)

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#54 nunyour
August 21 2012, 12:22PM
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maybe you could put your vets to better use,smyth could stand in front of the net for nug and eberle,hemsky could set up yak who seem to be a shooter with horcoff,and hall gags and jones would be interesting, and playing with a vet would add a small measure of respect.

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#55 Harlie
August 21 2012, 12:38PM
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Reminds me of taking off the wheels of my 5 yr olds bike. As I was running behind him holding on to the seat I let go and just then he says" Daddy, don't let go!!" I said, too late, your already doing it, just keep peddling and keep your head up. Steer for the grass if you need to bail.

Man it seriously brought a tear to my eye to watch him peddle away and keep the bike up.

Then after it was all done he said, "Daddy, you know who taught me to ride my bike?" I proudly said, "yes, it was me." Then he said "no, it was me who taught myself, cuz I was doing the peddling, right Dad?" haha

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#56 dawgbone
August 21 2012, 03:02PM
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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.

Fail as in what? Finish 29th? 30th?

They've been doing that anyways. Worst case scenario is the kids will struggle against tougher competition.

Well, at some point they are going to have to step up and face that competition anyways. Might as well do it and fail in a season where they aren't going to make the playoffs anyways.

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#57 MB
August 21 2012, 08:02PM
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@DSF

BURN!

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#58 Ben
August 21 2012, 08:11PM
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Cheap Shot Charlie wrote:

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*

Well played, I can see why it's Cheap Shot Charlie.

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#59 NewAgeSys
August 22 2012, 12:10AM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

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.

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??

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