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

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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:

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[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:

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“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:

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“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

    "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.”

    Oooh yeah Lowe. Spit that fire!

  • Hippy

    There are two guys Lowe needs to find and throttle
    : the guy who dealt Pronger for Smid and Lupul

    : the guy who gambled on Lowe.

    Those two guys need a severe thrashing!

    !!

    !!!!

    This will be a good chance to see if 78 can hang playing secondary tough min and if his early sparks of chemistry with 26 can extrapolate into something that's sustainable over the short to longterm.

    It also keeps 89 and that gang out of harm's way and I think that's really what's needed.

    If this doesn't work than I'll guess the Oilers look for a vet centre to help Horc out with the heavy lifting and God help the eventual throttled who think otherwise.

  • Hippy

    I've been mad at Lowe since the Smyth debauchle. Please don't explain to me again why I'm wrong or how O'Marra is a good prospect or how Smyth wasn't worth the cap hit. My take on the situation is this: What player out of the Lowe era will ever have his Jersey retired? Smyth did everything and more that the Oiler organization asked of him. He was described by Lowe as "the perfect Oiler." If Smyth didn't deserve an inflated contract why did Dustin Penner? Everyman Oiler in that dressing room knows that as long as Lowe is at the helm it is unlikely that they can go the distance, be a franchise player, and have their number retired one day. So why show any real loyalty in return?

  • Hippy

    Jonathon,

    Let me start by saying I like this site. A good mix of insight(You, Browlee, Gregor) comedy (Wanye, Amber and BJeans) and real pros (Gregor and Brownlee), but I sense you are starting to suffer the sophomore jinx or believe you are just that much smarter than all of us.

    Good to see you read the other stories on here. Gregor has a whole story that Sestito got recalled and you hint it might be Brule.

    Great journalism, but I guess you were spending too much time trying to defend Pouliot and how he will be the best 3rd line centre by Xmas.

    Or maybe, that the Ducks should trade Getzlaf for Horcoff, because clearly Horcoff is a better player.

    Or you were probably searching the web looking for another story that you could copy and paste and comment on.

    How about come up with your own ideas more than once a month? It is lame how I have to read your regurgitated thoughts on other's original ideas.

    Thankfully Wanye, Brownlee, Gregor, Jeans and Boots can have original ideas on here. Your stuff is getting stale. You used to be good, but seem more interested now in telling us how smart you are. You are not qualified or experienced enough to be a columnist. Stick to what you are good at, number crunching. And getting your crotch sniffers, Dennis and Travis, to back you up in every way. So predictable that it has become comical.

    I'm sure you (or your sniffers) will have some long drawn out response, because you seem to be able to criticize everyone, but the minute someone comments on you; you have to freak out. Just take it as constructive criticism and don't bore US with your reasons as to why you didn't read Gregor, or that Horcoff is better than Getzlaf. We all know there is no defense for either. Just chalk it up as a mistake.

  • Hippy

    Mike S:

    Good to see you read the other stories on here. Gregor has a whole story that Sestito got recalled and you hint it might be Brule.

    This story was written hours before Gregor posted his article – format problems kept it from being posted. So shut up 🙂

    Or maybe, that the Ducks should trade Getzlaf for Horcoff, because clearly Horcoff is a better player.

    Read what I wrote. I said Horcoff is a more complete player than Getzlaf – they play different roles entirely. Getzlaf excels in his (beating up on NHL weaklings) and helps his team win. Horcoff is good at his (playing toughs to a standstill while still contributing offensively). I never said Hocoff was a better player, but it amazes me how many people think that Getzlaf could instantly adapt to Horcoff's role. The roles are different.

    By the way Mike, thanks for the criticism, I'll be sure to take it to heart, blah blah blah.

  • Hippy

    You used to be good, but seem more interested now in telling us how smart you are.

    Well, if I could rely on other people to tell you how smart I am, I would, but unfortunately, that's a burden I need to carry alone.

  • Hippy

    "You used to be good, but seem more interested now in telling us how smart you are."

    Ah Jon, if they weren't hating they wouldn't be reading. I wish someome would tell me I used to be good.

  • Hippy

    Ah Jon, if they weren’t hating they wouldn’t be reading. I wish someome would tell me I used to be good.

    I'm just glad that they can read. So many people with clear and identifiable problems also struggle with illiteracy, so it's nice to see Mike S. doesn't have that to deal with as well.

    And Wanye, of the two of us, who correctly CALLED that Grebeshkov would be a goat? That seems plenty "good" to me.

  • Hippy

    Please note: The "good" used above wasn't meant in a sarcastic way. I realized after I typed that it might come across that way, but, for the record, Wanye's pretty awesome.

  • Hippy

    It's okay Willis. 100% of statistics are usefull and relevant 30% of the time. I enjoy reading your take on things even if I understand/ agree with you 27% of the time.
    *please note that I violently disagree with 79% of what I don'T understand.

  • Hippy

    Wanye Gretz Says:
    November 24th, 2008 at 9:41 am
    Oh and while I’m addressing you Mike S, who are you and why should anyone care what you think again?

    Right. That’s what I thought.

    This is not in defence of of what Mike S wrote. But…

    What's the point of a comment section then?

    Was I wrong to hold out hope that this site wasn't going to follow suite with most of the other blogging sites out there where it seems like the whole point of a comment section is to create some kind of like minded clique where only self congratulations and back slapping is allowed?

  • Hippy

    Rick:

    I don't mind the criticism so much, because everyone's entitled to an opinion, and my skin isn't that thin.

    I do have a real problem with Mike S referring to other commenters as "crotch-sniffers". In that respect, I think he was leaning towards exactly what you suggested – a comment section where we need to be a "like-minded clique".

    Wanye and DJ have been pretty tolerant in what kind of commentary they allow, taking the high road and letting different (and often asinine) commentary from all kinds of people (me, as an example). That said, I am convinced that if guys want to use this forum solely for the purpose of launching unwarranted personal attacks at other commenters, they're going to find themselves unwelcome very soon.

    Mike – if you don't like what I write, that's fine. If you want to attack my viewpoint with whatever kind of bizarre argument you come up with, that's fine to. Don't pull that kind of stunt on other commenters again, though. It isn't welcome.

  • Hippy

    Re the ongoing Horc-Getzlaf debate.

    Willis. We agree that Getzlaf fills a different role than Horcoff. But you are arguing that Horcoff is a more complete player. Therefore, you are saying that the role of a two way penalty killing forward is more important/valuable than that of a high end offensive guy. Most fans disagree. There are more Horcoff type players around than the Getzlaf's. Do you like Brindamour more than Lecavlier?

  • Hippy

    Chris:

    It really depends on the team. In Anaheim, where Getzlaf has a defined role, and there are other guys to handle the toughs, he's a major asset. He kills the (weak) opposition, and it helps the Ducks win games.

    If the Oilers were to trade Getzlaf for Horcoff without any other moves, it would be bad for the team. Gagner/Cogliano aren't ready for Horcoff's role, and Pouliot/Brodziak have yet to show they can anchor the third line, so Getzlaf would be thrown into a role he's never handled before. The reverse is true as well – Anaheim would be stupid to replace Getzlaff with Horc, because Horcoff isn't as good at kllling weak opponents.

    I've made no secret that I really like Horcoff, because I think there are fewer of his style of player around, and I think coaches ought to mold their players like that. Rick Nash post-Hitchcock is a far better player than pre-Hitchcock. Marc Savard in Boston is a much more valuable player than Marc savard in Atlanta, because he's still successful, but in a much more difficult role. Jarome Iginla is always more valuable than Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Zetterberg is always more valuable than Vincent Lecavalier, etc.

    I'll put it this way – on that 2003-04 Lightning team, I liked Brad Richards much more than Vincent Lecavalier.