Did Craig MacTavish move Ladislav Smid to Calgary just in time?

Jonathan Willis
January 14 2014 07:37AM

Something funny has happened since Craig MacTavish made the highly criticized trade that sent defenceman Ladislav Smid to the Calgary Flames in exchange for futures. Smid has imploded with the Flames, and that oh-so-weak Oilers defence seemingly hasn’t gotten any worse.

In fact, Smid’s departure appears to have marked bit of a turning point for the Oilers; after going 4-14-2 to start the year Edmonton won the first game post-Smid and has put together a still bad but much improved 11-14-3 record since.

As interesting as that won/lost record is, it’s nothing close to definitive. A lot goes into a win or a loss and often a team’s record with a given player on it is more luck than anything else. All it does is show that the sky hasn’t fallen in Edmonton post-Smid.

But other metrics show a lot more than that.

Ladislav Smid in Calgary

There’s something interesting that happens to Flames defencemen when they get paired with Smid: They get worse. Calgary gets out-shot by a 3:2 margin when Smid is on the ice, and no matter who he is paired with the partner has been better off with almost anybody else.

The following chart shows the percentage of all attempted shots taken by Calgary with a given defence pair on the ice. The break-even mark is 50 percent, with higher being better and lower being worse:

For pure puck-moving defencemen, like Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman, the addition of Smid to their pairing hurt. In Giordano’s case – and he’s the guy most worth paying attention to since a) we know he is an exceptional defenceman and b) he’s played the most with Smid – the difference was roughly 3.5 shots out of every hundred. In other words, Calgary went from being out-shot 52-48 with Giordano and X on the ice to being out-shot 56-44 with Giordano and Smid.

For guys who aren’t puck-movers, Smid was kryptonite. We’ll ignore T.J. Brodie, since the sample size is so small, but Chris Butler and Shane O’Brien both go from being bad without Smid to being outshot 2:1 when paired with Smid.

In short: in Calgary, Smid has been worse than useless when paired with anybody other than an exceptional puck-mover, and even in the latter pairing he has dragged down the results of that puck-mover.

Ladislav Smid in Edmonton

There is an idea floating around that Smid – a big, tough, physical defenceman who knew what do in his own zone – was carrying regular partner Jeff Petry and that with Smid gone Petry has been exposed as a bad defenceman.

It isn’t a theory that harmonizes with available fact. Let’s start by looking at Petry’s numbers with various partners this year:

The idea that Petry’s a trainwreck just doesn’t work because almost everybody he partners with gets better in the process. Petry has played with five regular partners this year, and it’s not a fantastic list – he’s played with Andrew Ference against tough opposition or he’s played second-pair minutes with a rookie (Anton Belov, Martin Marincin) or the remains of Nick Schultz or Ladislav Smid, who we’re discovering has major holes in his game.

Unsurprisingly, Petry’s looked bad at times. More surprising is this:

  • Ference has been at his best with Petry.
  • The Oilers out-shot the opposition by a wide margin with rookie Belov on the ice with Petry
  • The Oilers out-shot the opposition by a wide margin with rookie Marincin on the ice with Petry

What about Smid’s Oilers numbers?

We’re looking at pretty small sample sizes here, but Smid was a disaster when not paired with Petry and this season he’s been a disaster with anybody other than Petry, Giordano or Wideman.

What to Make of It All

Ladislav Smid has been one of my favourite players to watch for a long time. In interviews he comes across as funny, upbeat and a consummate professional. On the ice, whatever his faults, I’ve never had any reason to doubt he was giving it his all. Blocking shots, making hits, taking hits, whatever; Smid was a guy who always showed up.

So it brings me no pleasure to say this: It looks like something has gone very wrong with the player. With numbers like he’s posting in Calgary, he’ll be lucky if he can hang on as a third-pair defender, and only then if he’s playing with a competent puck-mover. Maybe this is all temporary, and he’ll rebound (I hope so; I’ve always liked the way he plays) but this is an awful stretch of hockey for a guy who has three seasons left at $3.5 million.

As for Craig MacTavish, he was harshly criticized for the Smid trade. But right now, it looks like he cleared a bunch of money, added some prospects and moved a player who wasn’t furthering the cause. If trends continue as they have since the trade, that will be a monumental victory for Edmonton’s general manager. At the very least, it may be wise to tone down the rhetoric condemning him for making the unpopular move.

Finally: It isn’t easy to say nice things about Jeff Petry to Oilers fans. He’s a favoured whipping boy and he probably always will be. But it’s funny how good his partners always seem to look. First, it was Smid. Then it was Anton Belov – whose play fell off at right around the same time he got bumped to the third pairing. Now it’s Martin Marincin, a second-year professional in North America who miraculously seems to be handling second pairing minutes in his first dozen games in the majors. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to ask whether Petry has something to do with that.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Pizzy
January 14 2014, 08:18AM
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Ladislav Smid is still better than half the Oilers defense and was one of the only few Oilers who seemed to give a crap. You use these “Questionable” advanced stats to prove your point and just rip a guy. No class Willis! No class!

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#2 CowboysRidingT-Rexes
January 14 2014, 08:13AM
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In 3 years this will be remembered as MacT's best move. A future franchise goaltender and a useful forward for a career struggling d-man.

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#3 Still Hopeful
January 14 2014, 10:53AM
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@DigDeepNBleedBlue

No, they got a draft choice and Eberle was available. Doesn't count. They sent, arguably, the MVP of the playoffs and got a draft choice.

The other two players were dudes.

Again, poor management.

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#4 Still Hopeful
January 14 2014, 10:46AM
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Wasn't Smid the product of the great Kevin Lowe trade moving Chris Pronger quickly after he wanted a trade and getting Smid and Lupul in return.

Where are they now? Not in Edmonton. Burke clearly won that trade.

You don't trade the one guy who pushed the Oilers to the cup final within two weeks unless you get a blockbuster. He jumped the gun.

This was just the start of How Bad Management of the Oilers is.

Make no mistake, this team is going nowhere until Lowe and MacT are gone.

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#5 Darren
January 14 2014, 07:49AM
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Smid has been playing on the right hand side. Something he has never done as a pro. He will get better as time goes on, or if he moves back to the left side. But he also plays for the Flames. Although the Flames are better than the Oilers...they are still awful.

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#6 RMGS
January 14 2014, 09:38AM
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Those who love MacT are loyal to no end. One way to read this analysis is as an ex post facto absolution of a poor trade by the Oilers. A 27-year-old bona fide NHL D is worth more than the marginal prospects gained.

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#7 Neilio
January 14 2014, 09:18AM
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So you're making conclusions based on a half seasons work on two of the worst, most chaotic teams in the league? He was a good defenceman before and he will be a good one again. Smid's poor play with the Oilers this year coincides with Eakins' failed Swarm system, BTW.

Regarding the trade, take this for what its worth. I have it on good authority that Smid asked for a trade because the locker room had become unbearable. Eakins plays favorites heavily and it has divided the room. Eakins made no bones about Ference being Smid's replacement, and the first time he actually spoke to Smid was when he told him he'd been traded.

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#8 **
January 14 2014, 08:51AM
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They key words here are: small sample.

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#9 Cubro
January 14 2014, 02:15PM
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This is the best article of the year!! Bravo JW, Bravo.

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#10 S cottV
January 14 2014, 08:13AM
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The numbers are probably skewed by his general use as a shut down kind of guy. When on your heels vs pressing opposition who need a goal, you tend to use Smid. When you need a goal and are pressing forward vs a team that is protecting a lead, you tend not to use him.

Also - would his style of play be a factor?

Tends to cheat to a defensive position. Tends to cheat back into the net area, as opposed to pushing threats away from the net.

A bigger "stay at home" d man, tends to stay closer to the net, inviting more outside shots and then relies more on subsequent control of the area around the net.

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#11 CaptainLander
January 14 2014, 08:11AM
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Petry reminds me of Tom Poti, Poti was a whipping boy for a while before being traded (along with Rem Murray)for Mike York. Not sure the Oil won that trade. Poti had a pretty decent career.

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#12 Zarny
January 14 2014, 10:34AM
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The hate some fans have for Petry is the same as the hate some have for Gagner.

It simply isn't rational and stems from them not meeting some delusional expectation some fans have. Gagner hasn't become a #1 C and Petry a top pairing D so the simple folk pile on the hate.

The reality is both are very good players who aren't fully developed and certainly aren't perfect; but both will be very good NHLers for many years to come.

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#13 Oilbaron
January 14 2014, 12:28PM
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IMO Smid can appear pretty cocky sometimes. When traded I wondered (just for fun) if he ever used that 4-year/$3.5 million contract as clout in the dressing room, rubbing other players and management the wrong way. I don't question his passion for the game, but he also seems like a player who can act like a black hole during times of losing.

This data partly supports my theory at least

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#14 Toro
January 14 2014, 07:57AM
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Good read , I for one was against the Smid trade, he was one of the few Oilers who seemed to care about this team , I still think it's too early to pick a winner in this trade and with Smids bad numbers in Calgary you could argue that it was the right time to make the trade but with Smid being under 30 I don't see his game slipping this early in his career and I fully expect him to bounce back at some point. As far as Petry goes he does seem to be the whipping boy right now and when I watch him play I see him making a lot of defensive mistakes , I truly don't mind him as a player but maybe now might be the time to trade him while he might have some decent trade value and use him in a package to aquire a top Dman that we need.

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#15 Czar
January 14 2014, 08:34AM
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I liked Smid as an Oiler, now that he's in Calgary he's dead to me.

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#16 Nimrod
January 14 2014, 11:32AM
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When you're 29th in the league with an inverted bullet and allowing most goals in the league, pretending that the trade of a guy the team re-signed less than a year ago is somehow a triumph because the team decided to trade him to another team equally bad and that team remaining bad is somehow proof of a brilliant trade?

Desperately clutching at straws is what this is.

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#17 Raine
January 14 2014, 01:22PM
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I wrote about Smid and his blocked shots as being over rated prior to his contract extension. I knew putting value on Smid blocking shots was wrong and he was going to be awarded. http://www.oilogosphere.com/blog/dont-base-smids-contract-on-over-rated-blocked-shots/

Smid's blocked shots were highly over rated. When you get hemmed in your own zone and allow more shots towards the net it's likely you'll have a higher blocked shots count. Problem with Smid is he's always premeditated blocking a shot rather than forcing a turn over or preventing the shot. He simply collapses and everyone calls him a warrior. Blocking a shot should be done in desperation and not premeditated, in Smid's case he allowed the shooter to take the shot - whether Smid blocked it or not I'd much prefer the defensemen forcing a turnover and gaining possession of the puck.

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#18 Raine
January 14 2014, 02:00PM
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Raine wrote:

I really don't find these stats that significant either. Smid has been paired with Giordano the majority of time in Calgary. When he's not, small sample size, it's only a different of -3.6%. Not even worth noting imo.

Also to add to that, I don't take stock in stats from someone who isn't watching the games. Stats based on analyzing video footage by a competent viewer is one thing - you watch the game and by watching the game something triggered the viewer to analyze a specific area of the game. Huge difference.

Simply taking stats from a stats page off a website doesn't weigh heavily in favour of making a proper conclusion on whether or not it's true. Is Smid really struggling in Calgary or is there other areas that may contribute to these stats (even the stats aren't that significant).

We need someone who regularly watches and analyzes the Flames to weigh in. This article needs to be posted at Flames Nation.

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#19 FireKLowe
January 14 2014, 03:51PM
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Zarny wrote:

Spare me your drivel you dumb tard.

Lowe got a 1st round pick which turned into Eberle. That isn't pure fluke. Good fortune perhaps, but the intent of getting the 1st round pick was to draft a player of that caliber.

No different than Bos using the 2nd overall pick from the Kessel trade to draft Seguin. It wasn't a fluke. It was good fortune that the pick turned out to be #2 overall but a quality 1st round player is exactly what Bos knew they would draft with the pick. Same with Edm.

Had Eberle been drafted with a 6th round pick from the trade...that would have been a fluke because very few players drafted in that position turn out like Eberle. Middle first round? Not even in the same vicinity as surprising.

Like it or not, Lowe made a good deal under the circumstances.

But, of course, idiots like you who drivel away never actually have an answer for what Lowe missed out on...so let's hear it...what trade did Lowe miss out on when Pronger was moved?

If I were Lowe I would've asked for someone of Scott Niedermeyer's stature in return. That would've been an apples to apples trade. Plain and simple dumb$hit!!!

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#20 billythebullet
January 14 2014, 07:48AM
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Wow. Would have never expected the advanced stats to show Smid as a boat anchor. Maybe this is why all we got was a bag of pucks for him...

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#21 Cold Hard Truth
January 14 2014, 11:42AM
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Nimrod wrote:

When you're 29th in the league with an inverted bullet and allowing most goals in the league, pretending that the trade of a guy the team re-signed less than a year ago is somehow a triumph because the team decided to trade him to another team equally bad and that team remaining bad is somehow proof of a brilliant trade?

Desperately clutching at straws is what this is.

That's all the writers are left to write about.

Common Willis foil: isolate a variable within the team, find a stat which challenges popular concensus, decide the parameters of the stat based on the argue bet you would like to make, then use into construct an argument which demonstrates what a genius MacTavish is.

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#22 The Last Big Bear
January 14 2014, 11:10AM
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I am a huge advocate of "advanced" stats when looking for information about forwards, but Corsi measures of any kind are effectively useless when evaluating defencemen, especially defensive defencemen. As a descriminator of defenceman performance, I'd say they're about as useful as +/-.

And I'm not saying Smid has been a Norris candidate in Calgary, but Corsi numbers, even in a WOWY context, are not the metric to use to show this one way or the other.

I think the "advanced" stat metric that best reflects a defenceman's abilities is TOI, which is just another way of explicitly stating that we don't yet have a metric that outperforms a coach's subjective evaluation of defensive defenders.

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#23 Dave
January 14 2014, 07:47AM
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Amen

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#24 Fish
January 14 2014, 08:23AM
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We should have a like or trash button for the articles. If that was the case, I would LOVE this article. Great article. Great info. Great argument. Maybe MacT is still as smart as we thought we was before he was hired on as GM.

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#25 Walter Sobchak
January 14 2014, 09:49AM
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Willis:

Not sure if this has been brought up yet...

I didn’t mind the Oilers moving Smid, I like him, and as you mentioned brought a lot of what the Oilers don’t do.

I just don’t like the return, how the Oilers could have drafted a like type goalie 3 months ago ( Jarry or Comrie) to finding a competent center for the Barons for probable a 4 to 6th round draft pick.

I honestly think the Oilers could have gotten a whole lot more at the trade deadline.

As for Petry, again, I like his game. I hate his compete level, I also have witnessed him leaving scrums, I find him to be almost butter soft (competitively not tough)

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#26 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 14 2014, 11:34AM
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Nimrod wrote:

When you're 29th in the league with an inverted bullet and allowing most goals in the league, pretending that the trade of a guy the team re-signed less than a year ago is somehow a triumph because the team decided to trade him to another team equally bad and that team remaining bad is somehow proof of a brilliant trade?

Desperately clutching at straws is what this is.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you're a half empty kind of cat. No?

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#27 -30-
January 14 2014, 08:24AM
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Finally!

Someone in Oilers management did a good thing. Acknowledge it and build on it.

I'm not a fan of Kevin Lowe. Anymore. He's done more harm than good to this club but can the bandwagon hoppers give kudos where their due?

Congrats Willis on a balanced, well put together argument.

-30-

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#30 Zarny
January 14 2014, 10:44AM
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RMGS wrote:

Those who love MacT are loyal to no end. One way to read this analysis is as an ex post facto absolution of a poor trade by the Oilers. A 27-year-old bona fide NHL D is worth more than the marginal prospects gained.

A better way to read this analysis is that all of those who were crying and complaining about the Smid trade were flat out wrong and basing their analysis on years gone by.

Because it was clear to anyone who watched the games that Smid was playing like garbage.

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#31 FireKLowe
January 14 2014, 12:17PM
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Still Hopeful wrote:

Wasn't Smid the product of the great Kevin Lowe trade moving Chris Pronger quickly after he wanted a trade and getting Smid and Lupul in return.

Where are they now? Not in Edmonton. Burke clearly won that trade.

You don't trade the one guy who pushed the Oilers to the cup final within two weeks unless you get a blockbuster. He jumped the gun.

This was just the start of How Bad Management of the Oilers is.

Make no mistake, this team is going nowhere until Lowe and MacT are gone.

That is exactly what I have been saying for years. KLowe botched the Pronger trade big time and it's been downhill ever since. You don't trade a bonafide #1 D-man in the league for picks and unproven prospects. KLowe should've been fired for that offence alone.

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#32 FireKLowe
January 14 2014, 12:29PM
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DigDeepNBleedBlue wrote:

Lowe got Eberle in that trade as well....

Getting Eberle via the Pronger trade was pure fluke!

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#33 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 14 2014, 12:34PM
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FireKLowe wrote:

Getting Eberle via the Pronger trade was pure fluke!

Lets be honest with each other. You don't want to hear/read my opinion on this trade or any other Oilers' transaction. You just want to throw sh*t at the fan. 'Cause you can. Am I right?

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#34 FireKLowe
January 14 2014, 12:35PM
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Zarny wrote:

You should probably at least include the entire trade before driveling about who won.

The draft pick the Oilers also received was Jordan Eberle.

Like it or not, given the circumstances Lowe got good return for Pronger.

No he did not! You're an idiot for thinking that. Getting Eberle was pure fluke! Now had Eberle been a roster player or prospect for the Ducks then you can say Lowe knowingly made a good deal.

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#35 Zarny
January 14 2014, 01:10PM
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FireKLowe wrote:

No he did not! You're an idiot for thinking that. Getting Eberle was pure fluke! Now had Eberle been a roster player or prospect for the Ducks then you can say Lowe knowingly made a good deal.

Spare me your drivel you dumb tard.

Lowe got a 1st round pick which turned into Eberle. That isn't pure fluke. Good fortune perhaps, but the intent of getting the 1st round pick was to draft a player of that caliber.

No different than Bos using the 2nd overall pick from the Kessel trade to draft Seguin. It wasn't a fluke. It was good fortune that the pick turned out to be #2 overall but a quality 1st round player is exactly what Bos knew they would draft with the pick. Same with Edm.

Had Eberle been drafted with a 6th round pick from the trade...that would have been a fluke because very few players drafted in that position turn out like Eberle. Middle first round? Not even in the same vicinity as surprising.

Like it or not, Lowe made a good deal under the circumstances.

But, of course, idiots like you who drivel away never actually have an answer for what Lowe missed out on...so let's hear it...what trade did Lowe miss out on when Pronger was moved?

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#36 Raine
January 14 2014, 01:45PM
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CDean wrote:

What I find amusing is this is the last contract that Tambo negotiated and MacT trades it away. You can see the differences right there. If Lowe was making all the decisions then this wouldn't have happened. Further evidence that both Tambo and MacT have the reins.

Why does Tambellini always get the blame with contracts? Just easier to blame the guy not here anymore I suppose.

MacTavish was on that staff and was working with Tambellini at the time. Smid is right up MacTavish's alley with the blocking of shots - which was odd that he traded the guy. Lowe was on staff and each contract is run by Katz. Also, from my understanding, RICKY OLCZYK is the most heavily involved in contract negotiations - he's still on the staff.

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#37 gcw_rocks
January 14 2014, 08:32AM
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Long before Smid was traded I thought he had to go because you could not have both him and Ference on the roster at the same time, and Ference isn't going anywhere unless he asks to be traded.

So, Smid going was a forgone conclusion in my mind. My concern was what MacT got back in trade. Despite this implosion in Calgary, I beleive Smid had trade value when the deal was done, and that a real NHL player could have been acquired for Smid had MacT cast a wider net.

So, am I allowed to still be critical of the return?

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#38 Freewheeling Freddie
January 14 2014, 09:50AM
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Smid was way overpriced at 3.5 million. He had heart and played tough, he was also very good at blocking shots. However it was nice Mact got 3.5 million off the books. People love to bash Petry, but is starting to play much better, he has been used as a 1or2 defencemen which he is not. If and when he is used as a 3 or 4 he will fit that role nicely. These advanced stats are quite useless .The only advanced stats that anyone should care about are wins and losses. And finally Sam gets to play with Hall and Nuge and looks completely lost. His game has digressed so much that he should get a couple of games in the pressbox. Really 4.8 million

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#39 Cold Hard Truth
January 14 2014, 11:13AM
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Zarny wrote:

The hate some fans have for Petry is the same as the hate some have for Gagner.

It simply isn't rational and stems from them not meeting some delusional expectation some fans have. Gagner hasn't become a #1 C and Petry a top pairing D so the simple folk pile on the hate.

The reality is both are very good players who aren't fully developed and certainly aren't perfect; but both will be very good NHLers for many years to come.

Fans have enough reason to dislike them for what they are, let alone what they ought to be, actually.

I think its you who is over-valuing them.

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#40 Zarny
January 14 2014, 11:22AM
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Still Hopeful wrote:

Wasn't Smid the product of the great Kevin Lowe trade moving Chris Pronger quickly after he wanted a trade and getting Smid and Lupul in return.

Where are they now? Not in Edmonton. Burke clearly won that trade.

You don't trade the one guy who pushed the Oilers to the cup final within two weeks unless you get a blockbuster. He jumped the gun.

This was just the start of How Bad Management of the Oilers is.

Make no mistake, this team is going nowhere until Lowe and MacT are gone.

You should probably at least include the entire trade before driveling about who won.

The draft pick the Oilers also received was Jordan Eberle.

Like it or not, given the circumstances Lowe got good return for Pronger.

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#41 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 14 2014, 11:39AM
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@Nimrod

Are you giving props to your own comments? LOL

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#42 Raine
January 14 2014, 01:50PM
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I really don't find these stats that significant either. Smid has been paired with Giordano the majority of time in Calgary. When he's not, small sample size, it's only a different of -3.6%. Not even worth noting imo.

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#43 Still Hopeful
January 14 2014, 02:13PM
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pkam wrote:

The question is why Eberle was still available at pick 22nd? Why 21 GM passed on Eberle and Lowe and Tambellini didn't?

Other than Stamkos, Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Karlsson, who was drafted ahead of Eberle do you think is better?

No credit when they did a good job and only count their mistakes. All management will fail by the way you rate them.

I don't need to rate them. They are the worst team in the league overall since Lowe took over.

The facts speak for yourself. And that includes with Eberle playing (although I do think he is a great player).

Time for a change in management.

Would any other business or organization be so bad and not get rid of the problem. The losing stigma is not going to change with other players in the league until they see fresh faces in the front office.

Hey I wonder how many people employed by the Oilers are replying to the blogs right now? My guess, a lot!

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#44 GriffCity
January 14 2014, 03:58PM
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Petry is dust...JW what is with your weird love of this guy? Must be your 3rd of 4th article with undertones of "Petryism".

Who knows, maybe I am wrong. Lets watch tonight's game with a little extra scrutiny and dissect Petry's game. We will reconvene here tomorrow and see if he is as good as you think or as bad as I think.

Same bat time....same bat channel

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#46 mk
January 14 2014, 07:56AM
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Thanks for sending us your junk, Edmonton. Ugh. I didn't like the trade when it happened and this supports that thought.

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#47 sizzay
January 14 2014, 08:22AM
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I think another important aspect to look at is paying a bottom pairing guy 3.5 mill. That's a tough guy to trade.

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#48 @Oilanderp
January 14 2014, 08:33AM
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Beware Ottawa! We are about to trade you Nick Schultz for Curtis Lazar!

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#49 mlselli
January 14 2014, 08:37AM
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I've never been one for stats, but what a surprise these ones are. I also liked the heart and physical play that we could expect from Smid . I was pissed at Mac T for the trade, and couldn't make any sense as to why, especially being as thin as our defence has been for far to long. Apologies to the GM. What looked to me as this move being a dark cloud, it appears there is a silver lining after all.

Just as an aside----Gagner is my whipping boy/goat.

Great article Jonathon. Thanks for pointing out the not so obvious.

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#50 pkam
January 14 2014, 09:57AM
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The problem with Petry is even he is playing well for most part of the game, he will make one or two mind boggling mistakes and usually it ends with the puck in our net.

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