David Perron: MacTavish’s Masterpiece?

Jonathan Willis
November 24 2013 11:30AM

With the Edmonton Oilers struggling as they are, Craig MacTavish hasn’t exactly been given a free pass by fans in his first full season as general manager. What even his most ardent critics should agree on, though, is that it looks like he fleeced the St. Louis Blues when he pawned off Magnus Paajarvi and a draft pick in exchange for David Perron.

Perron was already a pretty good player when MacTavish added him. But the 25-year-old forward is on pace to exceed his previous career bests – and by a lot.

The Basic Numbers

The chart above shows Perron’s 82-game pace from every season in his career where he played more than 40 games. The only preceding season even close to his early work this year was 2011-12, where Perron rode a high shooting percentage to a 30-goal pace.

The really astonishing item here is Perron’s shot totals. Players don’t typically see huge leaps in shot totals, but Perron is running at more than double his established career rate. What’s going on?

Five-on-five

Numbers for this chart (and the next one) come from ExtraSkater.com and BehindtheNet.ca.

There really isn’t much to see at this level: Perron is a hair below his career goal numbers and a touch above his career assist numbers.

But something interesting happens when we compare Perron’s shot numbers for this season to last season. Perron had 61 shots at five-on-five in 48 games a year ago; this season he has 54 in 20 games. He’s firing the puck roughly twice as often as he has in the past once ice-time is accounted for. His goal totals are only at his career rate because his shooting percentage is half what it was last year at even-strength.

In short: he’s been good so far, but if these shot numbers are for real he’s likely going to be even better at evens in the near future. Which is frightening.

Five-on-four

Perron’s numbers are through the roof here. Some of that may come from playing on a better power play unit – it’s extremely difficult to separate teammate and coaching effects from player talent when looking at special teams numbers – and the assist totals in particular may not be ridiculous.

As for the goal totals? Digging into the shot numbers again, we find that Perron is again firing the puck at roughly twice the rate he did in St. Louis, but this time his shooting percentage is roughly double what it was last season. This to some degree will off-set the expected rise in his five-on-five shooting percentage.

In other words, these numbers are likely going to come down because that spike in shooting percentage probably isn’t sustainable, but even so he’s legitimately on pace for a career-best season.

The Biggest Question

I can’t recall an instance of an experienced NHL forward suddenly doubling his shot rates at the age of 25. One of the reasons people like me prize shot rates so much is because they tend to be pretty stable; players reach an established level of ability and move a bit but the fluctuations are nowhere near as dramatic as shooting percentage is.

I don’t know if Perron can keep up this shooting pace, and I didn’t watch him closely enough in St. Louis to hazard a guess as to what’s changed. One item that stands out – Tyler Dellow brought it to my attention on Twitter last night – is that Perron is getting a higher percentage of his shots through to the net (he has 16 missed shots on 80 shots this year; last year the number was 31 on 84) and that seems like something that probably won’t continue, but it isn’t close to being the whole explanation either.

My gut feeling is that Perron shoots a little less frequently simply because this is so far out of the norm, but at the same time it seems entirely possible to me that this is a breakout campaign and an indication of a more trigger-happy player.

If so, that’s fantastic news for Edmonton. Perron is under contract for two more years at a $3.812 million cap hit; that’s a pretty fair deal for a 50-point guy and a ridiculously good deal for a player who will challenge for 30 goals every year if he keeps shooting like this.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 Slats
November 24 2013, 10:48PM
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Nimrod wrote:

Perron has been a pleasant surprise, but his offensive numbers will probably come down. I suspect Eakins likes him because unlike many of the other top six forwards there is some sandpaper to his game, even if he's not the biggest guy.

Perhaps when Perron cools off Yaks will start to heat up . . .

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#102 dangilitis
November 24 2013, 11:15PM
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DSF wrote:

Perron was moved as a salary dump so the Blues could sign Chris Stewart and TJ Oshie.

With Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Reaves, Cracknell, Sobotka and Lapierre, the Blues are a very gritty team.

No surprise that Perron is a different player now that he's not playing Hitchcock's D first system.

Too bad the Oilers didn't draft him when they had a chance.

"Too bad the Blackhawks didn't draft Patrick Sharp when they had the chance back in 2001.

Adam Munro, Matt Keith, Craig Anderson (who they lost on waivers), Nicolas Corbeil were all drafted by Chicago, ahead of Philly's 95th pick."

... is what a pathetic and sour old loser would say!

Who the heck cares how a team acquires a player? Flyers got fleeced in 2005 and the Hawks made up for that poor draft big time with this trade 4 years later. Sound familiar?

And who cares what the circumstances in St. Louis were at the time? Oh, they had to shed salary? Thanks, captain obvious! MacT was an opportunist, and 28 other teams lost out, case closed. Arguing anything around this point and blaming the team that won the trade for not drafting Perron in the first place is loser talk, coming from someone who likes to argue for the sake of it.

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#103 Spydyr
November 25 2013, 07:34AM
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YFC Prez wrote:

Wow. This thread is totally derailed.

Mr DSF ,

Can you agree on the 2 main points from Willis' article ? 1 Mac T fleeced St. Louis on the deal sending out Paajarvi and getting Perron. 2 Perron is having a career year offensively.

I'm fairly confident even the most jaded fan such as yourself will agree with these 2 points.

DSF trolls for the win.

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#104 S cottV
November 25 2013, 08:17AM
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D-Unit wrote:

I'm not saying Eakins is without fault for where this team is at, but I am very doubtful many other coaches would have the Oilers in much of a different position. One thing I do fault him for is that he assumed he was dealing with a team who understood the fundamentals of playing NHL Hockey. Any coach coming to a team who has been through as many coaches as the Oil have recently should have picked up on that. Ralph wasn't the guy to be coaching this team either. Let's face it, the only reason he was ever head coach was because Steve T didn't want to do any hard work finding a new coach last year, and didn't want to look like a bad guy.

I would have to disagree. An experienced coach would have this team at .500 with an outside chance at rallying to make the playoffs. This is a disaster because it would have put the club in a position to play very serious must win hockey games for the remainder of the year. A great learning experience for the club, whether they ended up making the playoffs this year or not. Now - they will try to put a brave face on it - say the right things - maybe get the players to rally somewhat around the bigger picture beyond this year - but - very difficult to play 60 games with no chance to make the playoffs. The fact that we have had such turnover with the Head Coach was probably all the more reason to avoid too many system changes - too soon. The players looked like they were over thinking - second guessing themselves left and right through too many avoidable losses this year. I read a post not long ago that was apparently from an inside source which said something like "it might take 30 or 40 games for the players to totally get what Eakins is trying to do." OMG! Information overload - and it sure looked like it. With a 4 year contract, you dont have to fully put your stamp on a team until mid way through year 2, after a decent run at the playoffs year 1 and well on the way to making the playoffs in year 2. Arrogance, ego and inexperience got in the way. Geez - will this team make the playoffs next year? Only 140 more games to go, before we find out I guess...

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#105 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 25 2013, 08:39AM
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All I know is that I picked him up in the 18th round of my fantasy draft because of a comment on the trade article that predicted an uptick in his production.

Couldn't be happier.

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#106 D-Unit
November 25 2013, 09:13AM
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S cottV wrote:

I would have to disagree. An experienced coach would have this team at .500 with an outside chance at rallying to make the playoffs. This is a disaster because it would have put the club in a position to play very serious must win hockey games for the remainder of the year. A great learning experience for the club, whether they ended up making the playoffs this year or not. Now - they will try to put a brave face on it - say the right things - maybe get the players to rally somewhat around the bigger picture beyond this year - but - very difficult to play 60 games with no chance to make the playoffs. The fact that we have had such turnover with the Head Coach was probably all the more reason to avoid too many system changes - too soon. The players looked like they were over thinking - second guessing themselves left and right through too many avoidable losses this year. I read a post not long ago that was apparently from an inside source which said something like "it might take 30 or 40 games for the players to totally get what Eakins is trying to do." OMG! Information overload - and it sure looked like it. With a 4 year contract, you dont have to fully put your stamp on a team until mid way through year 2, after a decent run at the playoffs year 1 and well on the way to making the playoffs in year 2. Arrogance, ego and inexperience got in the way. Geez - will this team make the playoffs next year? Only 140 more games to go, before we find out I guess...

I don't think you can say an experienced coach "would have", but maybe "should have". Things were a disaster, and it is system related. But systems get way too much talk. Every system comes back to fundamental hockey, with some minor differences. The players had a hard time playing his system and he did make tweaks to it. Though, it appeared the players only wanted to play the "I will just do whatever I want system". No coach will ever implement it though, cause it doesn't work.

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#107 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 09:22AM
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What a trade by MacT, St Louis was thoroughly fleeced. Their backs were to the (cap) wall, but it's good to see a GM capable of making a calculated move against a team backed into a corner. Usually it's the Oilers between the hammer and the anvil.

The Smid trade is still a head scratcher though, ol' silver fox must be confident he can get Belov to re-sign.

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#108 Walter Sobchak
November 25 2013, 09:23AM
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While Perron is an obvious win for MacTavish, Like most Oilers fans I'm still left wanting more!

While Perron was a win, it has little consultation to myself this year.

MacTavish talk at the beginning of the year just seems to be complete lip service.

I want more, hell, I demand more after 8 years of inept management!!

Get us two top pairing defesmen, Two centermen and a third & forth line for Pete sake.

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#109 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 25 2013, 09:29AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Grebeshkov and Smid were horrendous moves.

Another way of looking at it...........Anyone who has ever been in a position that calls for high level decision making based on a multitude of variables knows and understands that it's not a perfect science.

Putting aside your perception of the results...which is 100% hindsight......when you're in the position of the decision maker, in real time, part of the equation is the calculation of the percentage chance that you'll be right/correct in your assessment.....you have two fundamental choices....One...do nothing.....Two....take a risk.....which is what decision making is...AND....look for ways to mitigate that risk.......

Grebeshkov was risk mitigation.....one of either he or Belov needed to pan out in order for the decision to sign both to be deemed a success.

As for Smid...you can debate the return value of the players coming back...but it seems clear that Smid, as much as we liked his character, was not a part of the system the Oilers are building....in other words, he was not a fit....doesn't mean he's not a good player......beyond this..all else is conjecture and opinion...which is fine....

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#110 camdog
November 25 2013, 09:45AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

What a trade by MacT, St Louis was thoroughly fleeced. Their backs were to the (cap) wall, but it's good to see a GM capable of making a calculated move against a team backed into a corner. Usually it's the Oilers between the hammer and the anvil.

The Smid trade is still a head scratcher though, ol' silver fox must be confident he can get Belov to re-sign.

I'm starting to follow Mact's logic here, not saying that I agree, but I understand.

Mact thinks that Klefbomb will be as tough as Smid and ready for next season. Between Belov and N.Shultz the Smid role became redundant. The organization doesn't think Smid is good enough with the puck and not tough enough to warrant keeping around for another 3 seasons at his projected salary and subsequent cap hit.

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#111 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 09:49AM
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@Walter Sobchak

Top pairing defenders don't grow on trees, as much as I wish they did. And it's a little more complicated than getting a couple centres, MacT needs to find a couple centres that bring an element the Oil are missing, namely size and functional toughness. And those don't grown on trees either.

I'd say they have the pieces to make a good 3rd line. The fourth line definitely needs a serious overhaul, when you're right, you're right.

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#112 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 09:57AM
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@camdog

If the 'Smid with offense' comparison of Klefbom is correct, then I would completely understand jettisoning Smid at his cap hit. But if Belov elects to go to a contender, and Klefbom doesn't live up to his billing, the Oilers could be hurting for defensemen next year.

Here's hoping Belov signs here and the big Swede is all that and a bag of chips. I'm looking forward to shouting 'DROP THE K-BOMB' when opponents cross the blue.

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#113 Oildrops
November 25 2013, 10:02AM
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Dubnyk has not been rock solid, his corners are still the place to get goals, he's been beat so many times and saved by the post the past games.

With the Hawks, those guys don't miss a lot so I aspect him to be as soft as butter on Jennifer Garners a**.

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#114 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 25 2013, 10:09AM
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Dubnyk named one of the NHL's 3 stars of the week:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693003&navid=DL|NHL|home

So… I guess everyone predicting he had eternally cratered was being reactionary… who would have guessed?

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#115 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:12AM
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camdog wrote:

I'm starting to follow Mact's logic here, not saying that I agree, but I understand.

Mact thinks that Klefbomb will be as tough as Smid and ready for next season. Between Belov and N.Shultz the Smid role became redundant. The organization doesn't think Smid is good enough with the puck and not tough enough to warrant keeping around for another 3 seasons at his projected salary and subsequent cap hit.

I agree with the assessment of Smid and agree he is redundant. But I am still pissed at that trade for the little return that we get.

Perron is also redundant in the Blues roster and they need to dump his salary, yet they get something back in MPS and a 2nd. What do we get for Smid? A 170 lb AHL center and a goalie prospect who just graduated from WHL. I don't care about giving Roy because he won't get us anything anyway.

Didn't San Jose Sharks get 2 2nd round picks for Douglas Murray last year at trade deadline? I'll take Smid over Murray any day. So can we at least get one 2nd round pick for Smid?

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#116 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:17AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

If the 'Smid with offense' comparison of Klefbom is correct, then I would completely understand jettisoning Smid at his cap hit. But if Belov elects to go to a contender, and Klefbom doesn't live up to his billing, the Oilers could be hurting for defensemen next year.

Here's hoping Belov signs here and the big Swede is all that and a bag of chips. I'm looking forward to shouting 'DROP THE K-BOMB' when opponents cross the blue.

The Habs just signed Alexei Emelin to 4 years @ 4.1M per. I guess Belov will be asking somewhere around that number. If we believe we can sign him to 3-4 years @ 3.5M per, then it is a better contract that Smid's 3.5M contract.

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#117 war
November 25 2013, 10:19AM
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Mact did great getting Perron,Gordon and Ferrence,and I gotta think theres something coming after getting rid of Smid,so i give him a b+ for that.He gets a d+ for the goaltending issue though and hope he fixes that during the off season

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#118 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:31AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Dubnyk named one of the NHL's 3 stars of the week:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693003&navid=DL|NHL|home

So… I guess everyone predicting he had eternally cratered was being reactionary… who would have guessed?

I have said before, by the end of the year, his SV% will be .915 or better, mean average or better than average.

Dubnyk's number is about the same as Crawford and Crawford has a much better team in front of him.

If we want an elite goalie, than Dubnyk is not the answer. But who is going to trade away their elite goalie?

Before we can develop our elite goalie (either we draft our own or we trade for a prospect with the potential), I think we are stuck with Dubnyk.

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#119 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 25 2013, 10:40AM
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pkam wrote:

I agree with the assessment of Smid and agree he is redundant. But I am still pissed at that trade for the little return that we get.

Perron is also redundant in the Blues roster and they need to dump his salary, yet they get something back in MPS and a 2nd. What do we get for Smid? A 170 lb AHL center and a goalie prospect who just graduated from WHL. I don't care about giving Roy because he won't get us anything anyway.

Didn't San Jose Sharks get 2 2nd round picks for Douglas Murray last year at trade deadline? I'll take Smid over Murray any day. So can we at least get one 2nd round pick for Smid?

This is my main beef with it. If they thought he was redundant for next year, the right move is to wait for the trade deadline when even mediocre defencemen will net a decent return from teams making a push.

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#120 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 10:44AM
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@war

I'll give him credit for chasing Schneider and Bishop, at least he recognizes the weakness in net. Was it ever revealed what Gillis was asking for? Schneider would look great between the pipes in orange and blue right now, and this season would probably have started much differently.

Plus my sister is a massive Vancouver fan, I'd have loved to be able to rub her nose in it.

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#121 pkam
November 25 2013, 11:08AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'll give him credit for chasing Schneider and Bishop, at least he recognizes the weakness in net. Was it ever revealed what Gillis was asking for? Schneider would look great between the pipes in orange and blue right now, and this season would probably have started much differently.

Plus my sister is a massive Vancouver fan, I'd have loved to be able to rub her nose in it.

Rumor was Gillis asked a 1st and 2nd rounder plus a high prospect like Marincin or Pitlick.

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#122 CellyHard
November 25 2013, 11:27AM
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@WILLIS Do you think maybe a different coach and team could be why? He said Edmonton was more catered to his play style then St Louis.

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#123 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 25 2013, 12:08PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

This is my main beef with it. If they thought he was redundant for next year, the right move is to wait for the trade deadline when even mediocre defencemen will net a decent return from teams making a push.

You make a good point......It makes you wonder about the details......did they consider moving Nick Schultz before Smid but could find no takers? Did they value N Schultz more than Smid?(which would imply that they think Smids reputation as a tough gritty D man was exaggerated)....or did they value them about equally but liked the Schultz contract more ....or was it that the return for Smid was greater than what was offered for Schultz?

Also, did their scouts value Brossoit and Horak more than most of us casual observers do?

Also, is the new management style gaining traction?.....not waiting around once a decision is made....impatient....etc.

I wish the local media would ask these questions in the pressers....or maybe they did and I missed it?

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#124 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 25 2013, 12:13PM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'll give him credit for chasing Schneider and Bishop, at least he recognizes the weakness in net. Was it ever revealed what Gillis was asking for? Schneider would look great between the pipes in orange and blue right now, and this season would probably have started much differently.

Plus my sister is a massive Vancouver fan, I'd have loved to be able to rub her nose in it.

Here's hoping that Darnell Nurse and Marc Olivier Roy, in hindsight, make this one of the best trades that the Oilers never made.

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#125 yaksbak
November 25 2013, 01:58PM
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S cottV wrote:

I would have to disagree. An experienced coach would have this team at .500 with an outside chance at rallying to make the playoffs. This is a disaster because it would have put the club in a position to play very serious must win hockey games for the remainder of the year. A great learning experience for the club, whether they ended up making the playoffs this year or not. Now - they will try to put a brave face on it - say the right things - maybe get the players to rally somewhat around the bigger picture beyond this year - but - very difficult to play 60 games with no chance to make the playoffs. The fact that we have had such turnover with the Head Coach was probably all the more reason to avoid too many system changes - too soon. The players looked like they were over thinking - second guessing themselves left and right through too many avoidable losses this year. I read a post not long ago that was apparently from an inside source which said something like "it might take 30 or 40 games for the players to totally get what Eakins is trying to do." OMG! Information overload - and it sure looked like it. With a 4 year contract, you dont have to fully put your stamp on a team until mid way through year 2, after a decent run at the playoffs year 1 and well on the way to making the playoffs in year 2. Arrogance, ego and inexperience got in the way. Geez - will this team make the playoffs next year? Only 140 more games to go, before we find out I guess...

Scotty Bowman couldn't have had this team at .500 with the goaltending we got.

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#126 Walter Sobchak
November 25 2013, 03:20PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Dubnyk named one of the NHL's 3 stars of the week:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693003&navid=DL|NHL|home

So… I guess everyone predicting he had eternally cratered was being reactionary… who would have guessed?

Ya, ok.

~After wins vs the powerhouse Blue Jackets & the Flames, this set Dubnyk up for the real test which was the Panthers! ~

If Dubnyks the answer, then why are the Oilers looking so hard for a replacement?

Don't answer that, I'll come back to that after December & January.

You do this Rom, I tell you Paajarvi is junk, you throw stats at me, I tell you Hartikainen is junk you still throw stats.

Tell me something you know that the coaching staff & management don't know? Cause you are a complete miss on both Paajarvi & Hartkainen despite what the eyes tell everyone.

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