Souray shines

With so much focus on the three-headed goalie monster, Sam Gagner’s slump, the MacBlender and Wanye losing another bet, hardly anyone has mentioned one of the few consistent positives for the Oilers this season: Sheldon Souray.

Souray has lived up to his contract this season. Not only is he tied for the team lead in goals (with five), he’s +1, is second in shots and ice time and most important he has the fewest giveaways of any defencemen. In fact, according to www.nhl.com he only has four in the first 14 games.

We shouldn’t be surprised with his goal production, since he scored 26 one year in Montreal, and averaged 18 goals over his last three seasons for the Habs. But during those seasons he was +4, -11 and a gross -28 the year he scored 26.

Souray admitted that he was cheating defensively with the hopes of producing more offence. When he signed with the Oilers last season he vowed that he would better defensively.

“I have to find the right mix of the game I played early in my career in Jersey with the offence I have added in the last three years. I haven’t forgotten how to play defensively, but I did think offence too much in Montreal at times.”

Souray said that at the start of last season, and due to his nagging shoulder injuries, he never seemed comfortable. This year he looks like a completely different player. He is making the right decisions more often than the wrong ones, and he is playing with an edge.

Currently Souray is sixth in scoring amongst NHL defencemen with 11 points, and his five goals are second behind only Nashville’s Shea Weber. In his three seasons with the Devils, he played 182 games and scored only four goals. He was a stay-at-home defenceman, with little to no offence and was a combined +17 in those years.

Clearly Souray knows how to play defence, but now it seems like he’s figured out how to mix solid defence while contributing offensively. Up until this season, Souray was either good defensively with no offence, or good offensively with shoddy defensive play.

So far he seems to have found the perfect balance to be a go-to-guy in both ends of the rink. Souray’s brute strength and toughness give him the attributes to be a true #1 D-man who can produce offence but can still shut down the opposition’s top line.

Souray’s play has quieted many who questioned whether the Oilers had a true top-end D-man, but as good as he has been, even he can’t supply the answers to the other questions that still linger.

  1. Do the Oilers have a #1 goalie?
  2. Can the Kids produce?
  3. How many line combinations will we see before December?
  4. Will Wanye be wearing a Flames thong this year, as opposed to his regular thong?

The Oilers will need to find answers to the first two questions sooner than later if they want to compete for the NW division, and not just their usual scramble for eighth place.

I hope we never hear the answer to number four!

—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca

  • Jerry MacWire

    Souray is starting to build momentum. He seems to make a point of being chippy and physical. I like how he took exception to the hit by McDonald(?) yesterday and dropped them in a microsecond.

    That is more of the take charge attitude that the Oil need. He is starting to look like great value for the $.

    -30-

  • Cole

    1)Starting Goaltender: Deslaurier
    2)Line Combos: Mac T made a mistake in taking Moreau, Pisani and Cole apart. Needs to give rest of team time to gel.
    3)The kids will be okay, it took Hemmer a while to get going this year, the kids will follow, they've had good chance cant finish.
    4)"Wanye" and "Thong".. Question "What are 2 things that should not be said in the same sentence ?", much like "Calgary Flames" and "Stanley Cup".

  • Amber McCormick

    I don't think I will ever get tired of this picture! It fills my heart with sunshine. I think it should be considered for a Limited Edition T-shirt of the Nation. (maybe a little picture of me on the back..)

  • Chris.

    Hey Cole, don't rush to conclusions with Deslaurier. Remember in 05/06 when Mike Morrison dropped in from Heaven and deliverd the Oil into a five game winning streak following a seven game losing streak? Where is Morrison now?

  • PaperDesigner

    See, I had always had Souray pegged as a defenceman who was limited in the range of his abilities, but did a few things extremely well. Namely, he knew how to run a powerplay by blasting shots, play tough and kill a few penalties. He's a much better all-around player than that. He doesn't have the speed or passing ability that some other defencemen have, but he's smart, and uses what abilities he does have in those areas to play an effective game.

    He's not in the Pronger/Niedermayer/Zubov/Lidstrom category, but he's a good enough player to be in the mix of the next group down.

  • Cole

    Chris, good point. It could go south on him, and I hope it doesn't. He has played the best of the 3 goalies, he has good rebound control, has not looked like he has gotten out of position, and has stayed calm under pressure. Most importantly he has not given up the suspect goal, or the "next goal" that Garon and Rolli have, thats why I say give him a chance.

  • chaz

    Great article Jason. I couldn't agree more. Souray is awesome. If he keeps it up, he'll make a run for the Norris. I also think he's great at making those around him better. Great little passes to get his line-mates involved along with the knowledge that Sheldon will back anyone up on the ice makes it warm and fuzzy for all of the other Oil on the ice. Throw in a slap shot that goalies cannot seem to control, and that he consistently gets on net, and there's not much to not like about this guy. He's signed longterm and seems to love it here. Chris Who?

  • Fiveandagame

    Souray = Pronger – minus the ***hole part.

    Souray is by far the best d-man the oilers have had since CFP and will be for years to come. hard hitting, hard shooting pisser of a guy to play against and from the looks of things is a hell of a team player.

    I wish I could have his babies he's so awesome.

    Finally all the Souray haters from last year will shut their yap. He is a steal at the price we got him. How many d-man can score goals AND put up 100min in hard nosed penalties?

  • Line Combos: Mac T made a mistake in taking Moreau, Pisani and Cole apart. Needs to give rest of team time to gel.

    Moreau, Pisani and Cole have been bleeding chances against all year, and haven't even been playing the same level of competition that they normally do.

    Moving Pisani away from centre was a good decision that should've happened a few games back.

  • suntory hanzo

    Any update on the golden boy/ Goat picks from the beginning of the season? It's getting hard to wear my Ganger jersey at home now…c'mon hockey gods..just give him a goal!

  • Joe

    Well, like someone said on the HF boards, Deslauries has the tools – it's just a matter of does he have the toolbox.

    I saw an interview with him on the oil's web site, and you can kind of get a feel for his personality.

    Very competitive, likes a challenge, and he talks to himself. Clearly he's batshit insane.

    But all great goalies are batshit insane. Here's to hoping he can keep up his stellar tending.

    And on the note of Souray: He has been a steady hand on a shaky team at times. He's making smart plays all around and generating offense. Not only that, but enough people around the NHL know about his shot that it can clear up room for someone else to step in.

    I like this team.