Are they nuts?

As Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish likes to say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Fans can only assume, then, MacTavish and bosses Kevin Lowe and GM Steve Tambellini have seen enough in the wake of a 6-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on the final day of 2008 to understand they need to make a deal or maybe two before we get very deep into 2009. That, or check into a rubber room.

MacTavish’s 29th-ranked killing units were abysmal yet again in Cowtown as the Flames powerplay lit them up for three goals in five attempts. No matter who MacTavish throws over the boards, it’s like sending somebody to fight a fire armed with a can of gasoline.

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Hand in hand with that miserable performance, MacTavish’s centres got schooled in the face-off circles again. The All-Thumbs Unit of Shawn Horcoff, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Kyle Brodziak went 25-40 on the dot for 38 per cent (including 7-23 in the defensive zone).

Neither of these issues is stop the presses stuff.

Enough is enough

“We’ve got to find a way, or find some new guys that can kill penalties,” an exasperated MacTavish said after his men in the middle and the PK soiled their straight-jackets again.

“It’s been an aspect in our game from the start of the year and it’s gone poorly from the start. We can’t clear the puck when we need to. Somebody’s got to step up and try to kill penalties or we’re going to have to try and find somebody that can.”

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To be fair to the ATU, the Oilers feeble penalty-killing record doesn’t rest solely with the pivots. That said, lost face-offs and lack of puck possession play a big part in it.

The biggest difference between this season and 2007-08, when the team was ranked fifth on the PK, is the Oilers have lost two key face-off men and penalty killers in Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner.

Stoll, shipped to Los Angeles with Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky, is ticking right along with the Kings. He’s ranked seventh in face-off percentage at 57.6. Reasoner, with Atlanta, is ranked 49th at 50.3.

By the numbers

Horcoff, ranked 36th, remains the Oilers best face-off man at 51.8 overall despite a hideous mark of 8-16 on a night he’d rather forget Wednesday. After Horcoff, it gets thin.

Brodziak, the only pivot to break even in Cowtown at 9-9, is rated 55th at 49.9. Gagner is 118-148 for 44.4 per cent. Cogliano is 107-179 for 37.4 per cent. Say no more.

So here we are. The aforementioned centres continue to work with assistant coach Bill Moores on face-offs after practice. They go through buckets and buckets of pucks on a daily basis. They’re trying to get the hang of it, but the results speak for themselves.

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At some point, as MacTavish said Wednesday, personnel trumps practice and the faces have to change.

Good and cheap

If I was Lowe, I’d be picking up the phone and putting the arm on old friend and confident Scott Howson in Columbus and inquiring about what it might take to get Manny Malhotra.

I can’t think of too many reasons why I’d want a former first-round flop like Malhotra (seventh overall in 1998) on my roster, but there’s no question the 28-year-old journeyman has an element the Oilers need.

When it comes to face-offs, Malhotra isn’t only good — he sits fifth in the NHL with a face-off percentage of 58.6 — he’s earning a relatively modest $1.5 million this season as he heads into unrestricted free agency.

Malhotra is 286-202 in face-offs overall, and he’s a demon on the dot when the Blue Jackets are shorthanded. On shorthanded face-offs, Malhotra is 54-36. The other thing worth noting is he’s better on the road at 59.5 per cent than he is at home, 57.6 per cent.

Pull the trigger

You’d think an efficient, inexpensive player like Malhotra and a chance to address face-offs and penalty killing might be worth a call from Lowe or Tambellini. Maybe — again, I’m assuming evidence of this fatal flaw down the middle is sufficiently obvious — the call has already been made. I’ll try to find out in coming days.

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In any case, even if it’s a long shot, it’s a far more attractive and likely proposition than trying to lure Stoll back from the sunny sands of Newport Beach or watching the ATU get schooled.

The way I see it, Moores can dump rubber on the dot until his right arm falls off and MacTavish can diagram the penalty kill until the cows come home, but it won’t make a difference.

A trade will. Or, at least, might.

  • ramped up

    @ mjsh:
    Gilbert and Moreau give you way more. First you don't take your captain out of your line up who plays harder…and yes he does take penalties but he works extremely hard and chips in when he can. Give Gilbert a chance to prove himself…he did it last year and could easily do it again once he gets going. Your two guys are good i'll give you that but they are a lot of the same…we need a change that is effective immmediatly

  • mjsh

    @ ramped up:
    Moreau is too close to the end. Vermette and Phillips give the Oilers the penalty killers they must have, grit and a shut down d man that they do not have. This is what they are missing. Yes, Gilbert is decent but you have to give up something to get something.

    Without the grit, the Oilers are not going to make the playoffs.

  • ramped up

    Lets remember that our best player was out for two games and what happened??? I guarandamntee you if S-Mac was in the line up Tootoo doesn't hit Hemmer and we win one of those 2 games. We need to get S-Mac back and Hemmer, shore up some pk specialist and get rid of a goalie…sounds easy!!

  • Chris

    I'm weary of the new collective bargaining agreement. I keep WAITING for a trade that may never happen…I'm sure disappointed fans in many other markets are going through the same thing. Will there ever be any movement? Fact is, KLowe, some media people, and fans like myself figured the Oilers were going to be a solid team that would contend for the division… I said myself, in the offseason, that this team would have what it takes to win… or if not pieces were in place to tinker with the lineup. We were all mistaken BIG TIME. Worst thing is, the contracts have been signed, commitments have been made: This is your team Edmonton: Small, inconsistant, overrated, and generally boring to watch. This isn't a rant; This is an acceptance speech.

  • Rod Brind'Amour's Career

    Dan T wrote:

    Your all forgeting an important person who, if things work out, will be here next week. Rod Brind’Amour, who will give us 3 solid lines and we make us contenders. He can be had for Brule, who in my opinion is way over rated.

    Sorry guys but my career is pretty much over. I am 64 years old, I play on the gayest team in the gayest division, and I am barely able to keep up with the new fast-paced NHL.

  • @ Dan T:
    Dan T wrote:

    Your all forgeting an important person who, if things work out, will be here next week. Rod Brind’Amour, who will give us 3 solid lines and we make us contenders. He can be had for Brule, who in my opinion is way over rated.

    That would be a swell way to continue to inflate the team payroll with declining, overpaid veterans. Sweet, only 2 years left on that deal after this year! The only way I'd be for that deal is if Garon and Staios were going the other way, which seems extremely unlikely.

  • Jay

    @ Robin

    The Oilers miss Stoll and Reasoner clearly on the dot and PK. Reasoner had to go, I don't think we needed to see another year of extra attack time given to Reasoner, but it got worse it went to Moreau and now 1st line time to Reddox, I see a pattern… but back on topic. The other element is Greene, Stoll, and Reasoner played around 3 SH minutes a night. The 'brain trust' didn't replace them. They didn't replace the FO ability. They didn't replace the PK ability (shot blocking hustle and hoockey sense). They also didn't replace the toughness.

    Toughness provided for infront of the net… Greene is gone and Smid (who plays tough) is down in SH minutes. Grebeshokov plays more a PK role now and Strudwick ate some minutes, be admittedly he's no Greene either. Also, Pitkanen's wasn't replaced either. Now debate his heart, but he couldrag the puck as well. Now no one does.

    Now I agree their needs to be a change of personel, but there was nothing wrong with the old personel.

    More importantly, I always hear how the fan overrates the players. Short said it amongst others. Let me be clear, no one overrates the players abilities more than the Oilers staff. Need proof? Reddox on the first line. Peterson experiement. Making checkers scorers and trying to make scorers checkers. Horcoff a 'first line center' (clearly a 2-3 if even a 2 making 1st line money). Poloson overpayment. Pisani overpayment. Gilbert overpayment. Losing trades for Weight, for Pronger, Pitkanen for a UFA in Cole who is not a fit for the MacT system (not unlike Lupul or Sykora). Sestito call up, oveplaying/paying Staios, signing Penner and losing 3 low draft picks in a deep draft (crap shoot? only if you are poor at your job). They've created a passive and soft and easy to play against team with a lack of a genuine leader (Moreau, Staios, Horcoff, Souray have done what?).

    Change of personel? I'm all for it. Lowe, Pendergast (I won't go into he drafting), MacTavish (love the 4th line offensive zone faceoffs and the blender), Huddy (love the 1st line with the 3rd pair), Moores, Buchberger especially, and Pete "I destroy goalies" Peters. This is what they built. Then let qualified personel in Tambo and his new staff put their fingerprints on this team, Lowe and Co. have hand their 3 chances.

    You reap what you sow.

  • RobinB

    @ Dan Tencer:
    I didn't think for a moment somebody has beaten you senseless with the stupid stick.

    So, "Dan T," don't come around here pretending to be somebody else. Jackass.

  • Dennis

    Look at RB using stats!!

    Sniff, sniff, he's growing up!!

    It's nice to see that Some people are coming around to the fact we don't need to make a big trade to right the ship and let's see if you can follow along:

    27-10-83 – tough minutes
    12-89-26 – soft minutes
    78-?-34 – secondary tough min; 78-34 have shown some ice chem in the past so let's augment them. Malholtra would be nice but there could be someone else there that could do the job.
    18-51-? – at this point all Ethan Moreau should be doing is push-ups and sit-ups to motivate out-of-shape kids. But we'll keep him on the 4th line so that he can tell stories and also because you most likely can't move his salary.

    The two question marks are guys that need to be acquired that can kill penalties; one of them has to be able to win a faceoff and the other can just be a PK guy. I've throw out Boyd Devereaux's name as a guy that's just in the minors wasting and there has to be someone else out there.

    And the first person in the org who says we can't pick up minor league vets because of the 50 contract rule should be tarred and feathered.

    Note: maybe another way to go is if we have enough cap room left to take on a bad expiring contract of a fellow who can fill the PK role.

  • Rogue

    Lowe was saying the new NHL would be a fast skilled league after the lockout. That is the plan he has used to build this team. He must of watched too many of the "Charmin" commercials, as this team plays like a bunch of soft pansies. Some one should inform the players that NHL does not stand for No Hit League!! I just wish that any Oil player with a oppurtunity to take someone out along the boards would do it. Every one else does. You dont have to "kill" the guy, just eliminate him from the play for a few moments. Even PK takeouts behind our net, knock the damn guy down! You are never out of position if you do that. Dmen too soft around the net, forwards collapsing down to the circles and no FO superiority whatsoever.
    Surely someone out there is willing to trade a 3rd. or 4th. line specialist for Nillson. Especially if they are in need of some"potential" offence.
    This team has too many soft and small playing players. Hello management? Where are you? Quit blowing smoke up our butts about talent and start looking for a way to get the pieces we need or else it will be another 5 years before this team is a threat

  • swany

    Hanson#4 wrote:

    Lowetide has a great post along the same lines. He is throwing out Mike Sillinger.
    Somehow when I think of Oiler trades I get the feeling they are looking big … like Kovalchuk big … even though a little PK specialist pick me up is really what is needed. And long overdue.

    Then if this COULD be the case add a piece and get Marty back as well

  • Cam

    Jay wrote:

    @ Robin
    Now I agree their needs to be a change of personel, but there was nothing wrong with the old personel.


    Did anyone else notice that they didn't make the playoffs last year? Or was it just me…

  • Jay

    Cam wrote:

    Jay wrote:
    @ Robin
    Now I agree their needs to be a change of personel, but there was nothing wrong with the old personel.
    Did anyone else notice that they didn’t make the playoffs last year? Or was it just me…

    This is clearly in regard to the PK. Try and pay attention.

  • Deep Oil

    Eklund: One possible domino from this all could be Montreal and Pittsburgh getting much more aggressive on the Bouwmeester front.

    I am also looking into a rumour that would send Dustin Penner to Florida along with a MAJOR young player for Jay Bo.
    With JAY BO's drinking problem and dui – he will fit in with MACT – but I cant see JAY BO sticking around for the fishbowl here in Edmonton – salary dump for RFA in 2009?

  • Deep Oil

    Cam wrote:

    Jay wrote:
    @ Robin
    Now I agree their needs to be a change of personel, but there was nothing wrong with the old personel.
    Did anyone else notice that they didn’t make the playoffs last year? Or was it just me…

    didn't chicago kick savards butt to the club lounge and hired dui quenville (there is a lot of drinking in hockey) and now chicago is top 5 in the west with $12mm in goalies – so if we give garon, rollie and JDD – 3 million each – fire MACT – hire Pat Quinn next week – we should make the playoffs this year and make a run for the cup – simple

  • Another misinformed rumour from the anonymous blogger says Jay-Bo to Edm for Penner, Just what we need – Another defenseman

    I like the Sillinger idea, then he would have played for every team in the league. Malhotra would be nice, but why would Columbus give up on him? Somehow I think little Sakic will be back here, Atlanta would probably take a player from Springfield or a draft pick.

  • Deep Oil

    Terry Jones – jan 02 – Edmonton Sun – "This was my dream, and I really felt what we started in Edmonton has taken a special shape," said Patrick LaForge, the Oilers CEO who wasn't able to attend the game last year in Buffalo. OH WHY WAS LAFORGE NOT ABLE TO ATTEND????

    Deep Oil – LaForge was not able to attend the Ice Bowl
    now called the Winter Classic after the NHL forgot to COPYRIGHT (ICBOWL)- last year in cosmopolitan Buffalo due to a "Your not welcome" from GM Darcy Regier – and we will run your ass out of town – don't ruin the party – stay the Fcuk home LaForge and tell Lowe the next time he goes after a FA in small market – he is pissing in his own back yard. It will be a warm day in January when the NHL returns to Canada for the Winter Classic – needs to be USA teams on RED WHITE AND BLUE SOIL for fans to watch it on NBC.

  • Deep Oil

    Is it true that the NHL is thinking of staging the Winter Classic in Scottsdale next year to save hockey in Phoenix (tempe stadium) vs Atlanta, Florida or Nashville – tickets are $20 with free parking, $10 gas card, all you can eat nachos and bud light and winter classic hat (in canada they call it a toque) and free sun tan lotion. Bettman to sing kum by ya with sean avery at the ten minute mark of the third period. Everyone that buys a ticket get another ticket to a YOTES game for 2011.

  • Deep Oil

    @ Chris: very few trades will occur until the CBA agreement can transfer, buy out and ask for cap forgiveness – bottom line is most GM's are pressured to spend to the cap and then are just trading contracts not players. This is evident once again with the non decision of Sundin to keep the teams hot and bothered until cap forced him to grow gills and play on the wet coast instead of the big apple. Just think what excitement the salary cap would be if you could buy other teams cap with cash, players or draft picks – then teams could have SOME flexibility with parameters set on how much you could increase the cap – or add a luxury tax of 100% for teams that want to pay to play.

  • Chris

    @ Deep Oil:
    Would be exciting. Just imagine how much money KLowe could give to Moreau, Staios, and Horcoff then.hockeysmack wrote:

    Rewarding good soliders with these kinds of extensions is only a positive if your team has been, you know, successful.

    KLowe has screwed this team. If everything comes together and works perfectly the Oilers will still not be a serious contender due to lack of size, depth, intangibles, etc. The bulk of the roster is locked up long term to contracts Tambo can't move…

    Let's just pretend the goal of this organization is to win a cup… In 1988 the Oilers had SIZE first and then a bunch of skill. History remenbers the skill. The opposition remembers the McSorely's, Krushelnyski's, Muni's, Beukeboom's, Hunters, etc. We took the cup by force. When Gretzky was traded who did he want to go with him..?..McSorely and Krushelnyski. The 1988 NHL was WAAAY more free wheeling and offensively oriented than todays "New NHL"…yet the 1988 Oilers were probably a bigger team than what we have today. Do we have a pest like Tikkanen? Does Cole drive the net with the same authority as Anderson? Is anyone afraid of Stortini? I've been watching the 10 best games DVD over the Holidays and I've noticed something startling. Every shift…EVERY shift someone was rubbed out, smashed, flat out destroyed. Bob Coles voice never raises, there are no replays…a big hit is commonplace and expected. (Sometimes the camera doesn't even adjust toward the contact if the puck is moving away) Something important has been lost in this organization. Maybe we can't replace Gretzky and Messier but it is inexcusable that Lowe never remained committed to filling his team with character players. Grit players outnumbered soft skill player 3 or 4 to 1, and THAT is what truly made this franchise great. Lowe was there! How is it that he forgot what it takes to win?

  • Cam

    You guys are funny. You complain about the lack of grit and strength on the team and then talk about trading Moreau and Cole, who are the two biggest hitters on our team.

    It's like saying you want skill and then talking about trading Hemsky.

  • Chris

    @ Cam:
    I never said trade Moreau and Cole. Trade Horcoff, Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner, Pouliot, Brodziak, Gilbert, Grebeskov, Schremp, Reddox, Brule, Garon, Omark, Eberle, any other skill player with abilities less than Hemskey. Hemskey is a skill player. Maybe some of these guys can elevate their game into that category (Gagner, Eberle)

    However, if your game is not up to, or near to, Hemskey standards: than you are NOT a skill player. You are a passenger or a prospect. We need size and grit to win consistantly. Great teams impose their will in any type of contest…very few players on this roster are capable of contributing much to a truly great team… and yet KLowe has spent nearly to the cap.

    The Oilers are Okay. We can probably still make the playoffs if minor changes are made… but looking at what we have, and what we have coming, there is no cup in the forseeable future.

  • rindog

    Here is a little food for thought….

    After 36 games:

    In 2006/07 we were 18-16-2 (38 points)

    In 2007/08 we were 16-17-3(35 points)

    this year we are 17-16-3 (37 points)

    Considering that we have heard nothing but excuses the last two years (injuries, lack of a puck moving defenseman, lack of a stud defenseman, lack of a top line winger, etc) shouldn't our points be way higher this year considering we have pretty much been healthy and added those missing components???

    Wasn't it MacT himself that stated we should be much more competitive this year, maybe even contend for the divsion?

    I don't get it?????