A more rational line up

Joanne Ireland has some good news in today’s column – Craig MacTavish is going to go back to a more traditional set of lines.

Based on Saturday’s practice, the top three forward lines will look like this:

Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky

Nilsson – Cogliano – Gagner

Moreau – Pouliot – Cole

I’d look at this as a chance to get the struggling members of the Kid Line back on their feet, and I think it’s a strong bet to work well. Once the Oilers get into Decemeber, they’ll play 8 of 13 at home, which will give MacTavish the advantage in line-matching by virtue of having last change. With the first and third lines facing the opposition’s top players, Nilsson, Gagner and Cogliano have a chance to play against lesser lights and in offensive situations, something that should revive their offensive stats and add some scoring punch to a team that needs it badly at even strength. The decision to use Pouliot as the third line pivot is a good one; Pouliot has failed to show the offensive touch he had in the QMJHL as a professional, but plays a very smart positional game and should be able to handle a defensive role given that he’s flanked by a pair of quality veterans.

The fourth line is a bit of a question mark, given these lines:

[Ladislav Smid] will play up front again against the Kings.

The Oilers will also recruit another farmhand, Gilbert Brule would be a good bet given the intent is to add more jam, but a call won’t be made to Springfield until after the Falcons close out their weekend set.

The only (relatively) sure things at this juncture is that Smid will play on the fourth line, and that there will be a call-up. That likely leaves two of Kyle Brodziak, Zack Stortini and Liam Reddox on the outside looking in, and it may be the two veterans who are scratched. Stortini has not played to the same level as he did last season and has only appeared in 11 games, while Kyle Brodziak has been a healthy scratch already and seems to be in the doghouse.

Now, if MacTavish would just scratch Strudwick and move Smid back to his natural position, I’d be a very happy guy.

Pressure on the Front Office?

Also in today’s Edmonton Journal, Dan Barnes gets some excellent quotes from Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish on the possibility that MacTavish is experiencing new pressures from higher up. First, Kevin Lowe:

“I think that any pressure Mac would feel is out of common sense, out of having been around the game forever, and is totally self-imposed,” said Lowe. “And that’s a good thing. For the naysayers who think we sit around and feel comfortable in our positions, I’d like to take them and throttle them. They have no idea how much we put into this, how much we grieve and sweat and the other emotions we exude after losses.”

For the record, I do not agree with the common sentiment that Lowe and MacTavish were rather carelessly meandering through their assignments. Lowe has always shown a ton of emotion as the G.M.; recall, for example, his “Is it me?” moment with Terry Jones shortly before the Dustin Penner offer sheet, and there should not be any doubt that he feels the struggles of this team as personally as anyone. His decisions are certainly subject to criticism; he has made some brilliant moves and some jaw-droppingly dumb ones, and deserves to be criticized where appropriate, but his heart has always been in it.

Next, Barnes asks MacTavish if he was feeling the heat from higher up:

“No,” MacTavish said Saturday, when hit with the time-worn theory. “We’re on the same wavelength in terms of where we want to get to. Sometimes I’m the most impatient. As a coach, you need to be. Coaches are more in the here and now, dealing with the day-to-day emotional roller-coaster of wins and losses, where managers thankfully are more longer-term. Tamby and Kevin, they’re seeing lots of potential in the team. As a coach, I want immediate results.”

There’s a lot of truth in that statement, I think. Coaches (and most hard-core fans, for that matter) live in day-to-day mode, following the team’s every struggle and every success. It is very difficult to take the long view when the team is coming off a disappointing loss, much like it’s hard to see the faults after winning a couple of games. Craig MacTavish entered this season sounding as optimistic as I’ve ever heard him, and after a brutal 20-game schedule, loaded with back-to-back sets and a 30/70 home/road split, the Oilers are two games below five hundred. It’s natural that he be disappointed, and he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t putting pressure on himself, and then on to the players as well.

Interestingly, though, MacTavish also had this to say about treating players the way he treated Penner:

“I don’t believe in it.”

The fact of the matter is, once November is in the rear-view mirror, the Oilers will have played 16 on the road and 7 at home. Over the next two months, they’ll play 17 of 25 at home, and it’s up to the team to capitalize on this easier schedule and climb the Western Conference standings. If they can do that, everyone will be breathing easier. If they can’t, I’d be very surprised not to see changes behind the bench.

  • Hippy

    Willis: I know you're a lot of things but I never knew you were a hypocrite:

    This is from from one of your comments yesterday

    Jonathan Willis Says:
    November 22nd, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    To recap:

    Braden: I’m too stupid to understand that the SCF Run example was an illustration of a point. Numbers don’t provide answers. Stanley Cup winning coach Mike Babcock is worse than MacTavish. Duck’s fans are smart – turn to them for player evaluations.

    Mie: Jonathon, have you ever watched a hockey game? Geez, you’re dumb. I bet you’ve never even talked to a hockey person. Numbers scare me.

    It's funny, I don't recall saying "ck’s fans are smart – turn to them for player evaluations.", in fact I actually said the opposite.

    "Go ask someone who doesn’t cheer for the Oilers, a NW team or the Ducks and you will find a more accurate diagnosis than any emotionally invested Oiler fan or number on a computer screen ever could."

    But I guess when you have nothing going for you putting words in my mouth might work.

    As for me saying thats that you didn't actually say

    In yesterdays post you said "He’s a useful player, but he isn’t remotely a complete one." when discussing Getzlaf and also said "There is a huge difference between a player being successful against top opposition, and being successful against the waiver wire fodder of the world. The latter player can be useful; the former wins you games." when comparing Getzlaf and Horcoff – clearly insinuating that guys like Horcoff are more important than Getzlaf in terms of helping the teams win games.

    I'm done defending common sense so I'll let you have the last word (or statistical number).

  • Hippy

    I like to vent/post thoughts based on emotion. I'm a true GEEK Fan in that regard. I don't pretend to have a background in hockey or statistics. I always lose in my hockey pool. This is a fun sight and when guys like Gregor, Brownlee etc respond to my musings I get a kick out of it. I admit also I tend to write more when the team is performing poorly. It's cheap therapy for the depressed. GO OILERS!

  • Hippy

    Braden:

    When the Ducks won the cup, which line was more important – Getzlaf or McDonald?

    When the Canes won the cup, which line was more important – Brind'Amour or Staal?

    When the Lightning won the cup, which line was more important – Richards or Lecavalier?

    It's a team game, so both lines are important. Generally though, the job done by the McDonald/Brind'Amour/Richards line is what makes the difference in the playoffs, in my opinion.

    As for hypocrisy, fair enough. Apparently neither of us is a stranger to hyperbole.

  • Hippy

    Aslo, in the above instance, I'd say the majority of NHL GM's would trade McDonald to get Getzlaf, or Brind'Amour to get Staal, or Richards to get Lecavalier.

  • Hippy

    Rick –

    I agree with your point that some blogs tend to develop a clique of commenters that exclude others as time goes on. This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to do here in knitting together different viewpoints.

    Truth be completely I wrote that because I know who 'Mike S' is and the 'who are you' is more between he and I.

  • Hippy

    "If you assemble all the best higest scoring super star players you win championships. Everyone knows that!

    Sincerly, The 2004 New York Rangers."

    This is classic

  • Hippy

    Tampa Bay signed a defenseman who was +20 or better in 4 of his last 5 seasons for 1.25 million. After a half year off the guy is already playing the third most defensive minutes on the Bolts. TBL got in good and cheap here.

    +1 Jon Willis.

  • Hippy

    Chris,
    Your comments on the Smyth trade brought a tear to my eye. Finally there is someone who feels exactly the same as I do. That trade was the single biggest mistake that Lowe has ever made.

    Though it must be said that I believe Lowe has admitted his error and has learned from it. I think the Horcoff deal (who has similar numbers to Smyth) is evidence of this.

    The latter statement where you speak of the team not having loyalty to Lowe is probably not out of line, but I think by putting the Tambo buffer in there Katz has moderated that somewhat.

  • Hippy

    I think we all know what an internet troll looks like and I'm more than happy when a mod calls 'em as he sees 'em.

    I really like the diversity of opinions here. But when a guys posts up and uses this platform to be a dick just because he can, then he needs to get beat down. Nobody should have a problem with that.

  • Hippy

    "If you assemble all the best higest scoring super star players you win championships. Everyone knows that!

    Sincerly, The 2004 New York Rangers."

    Yup, talent doesn't win hockey games – well, except when defending MacTavish's mediocre coaching record. Then it becomes the seed that fertilized the egg; vital, essential, required, ect

  • Hippy

    "That trade was the single biggest mistake that Lowe has ever made."

    Yes, because paying 5.4 million in exchange for a feel good story and 60 points would have been such an astute move.

  • Hippy

    Mike says, "Whatchu talkin bout Willis!"

    Mike: First off, you might want to look up the word 'analysis' in the dictionary, where you'll find Jonathon's picture.

    You see, just because two people are discussing similar ideas doesn't mean that one is unoriginal.

    And to compare Baggedshorts and jeansguy or whatever to Jonathon suggests you don't know the difference between apples and oranges– or your head and your arse for that matter.

  • Hippy

    Braden,
    I would take Smytty over Cole, Penner or Nilsson any day of the week. He spent the money on those guys; why not a career Oiler.

    What does MacT keep bitching about? It's a "lack of jump". Smytty never had that problem. He had no lack of grit either, if you care to remember when he had half his teeth knocked out of his face and he kept playing.

    The other thing Smytty had was that of his 60 points, half were goals. the closest thing we have had to a 30 goal scorer since he left is Penner. That is sad.

  • Hippy

    Braden. I know that hockey is a business. Gm's move players all the time trying to balance youth with experience, fill needs, manage the cap etc. Some players, however mean more to the the locker room in general than their numbers indicate. Core guys who buy in to an organizational philosophe deserve more respect from management than what was shown to Ryan Smyth. Lowe didn't dish 30 goals for 5.4 mil. With that trade, he broke faith with every Oiler who was willing to block a shot with his face. This breach was evident on the ice for the last twenty games or so of that season. Pure demorilization. He did it again when he dumped Gator. I know Jason is beginning to lose a step but he would still fit in nicely on this roster playing with Staios. To dump him for garbage like Pitkanen was also a mistake. Not number wise necessarily but still a mistake. Look at this team now…improved on paper but desperatly in need of a heart transplant. Why would the young guys on this team today risk their teeth to become the "perfect Oiler" just to be delt uncerimoniously at some trade deadline for limited short term gain? Loyalty breeds loyalty.

  • Hippy

    "Loyalty breeds loyalty."

    Don't get me started on the Ryan Smyth trade. That debacle begat bring94home.com – that begat the OilersNation.

    It was almost as bad as losing Pronger.

  • Hippy

    Jonathon,

    If my comment of sniffers offended you so much, how come that wasn 't in your response. Rather it was "I will take your advice, blah, blah, blah.

    Wanye,

    Who am I? Why does that matter.

    Who is Jonathon Willis and Wayne Gretz? Guys who write on a blog. That is it. Insightful and witty sometimes, but I guess not mature enough to take some criticism.

    You wrote that you know who I am, but unless I'm missing something I don't think we have ever met.

    Jonathon your argument that Getzlaf plays against the softies doesn't make sense. Who are the softies? 3rd line players? Isn't there job to shut down opposing top-end forwards?

    And this comment: "OF course Getzlaf is a better fit on Team Canada than Horcoff; with the wealth of centres Canada has, is there any chance Getzlaf won’t be used in the role he is now, beating the crap out of the opposition’s lower-tier players?"

    Are you saying there are lower-tier players in the Olympics? And if so, then wouldn't opposing teams want to put their scorers out against Getzlaf because he is so weak defensively? And if that happens, then doesn't he automatically play against tougher competition.

    Would Moreau's line be considered the harderest to play against, or Gagner's? Well if the Kid line is scoring then you'd have a bigger threat of garnering a minus, since Moreau's line doesn't score a lot.

    You also argued that Getzlaf gets all his points on the PP. Well he scored 20 of 24 on 5-on-5, but you didn't acknowledge that. I guess you only choose to use stats that work in your favour.

    That is fine. And don't worry I won't bother commenting or reading anymore of Willis' stuff because according to Wanye I'm a nobody. And only SOMEBODYS get too post on here.
    Great customer relations. Or do you only want people who adore you guys.