The cavalry isn’t coming and neither is Ales Hemsky. Hemsky spoke to the media today and he is still not feeling well enough to practice, so look for him to miss at least the next two games, and realistically the Vancouver game as well.
It doesn’t sound like a call up will happen, so the Oilers will go with the same lineup tomorrow, and the same lines. I asked MacTavish, now that Hemsky is out for the next few games, if he would put someone else on Horcoff’s right wing.
“Like whom?” he replied.
I suggested possibly Cole or Brule.
“Cole would be the guy, but they (Nilsson and Gagner) are playing well together. Brule. Is he ready for that? We will start him in a lesser role and see where he goes from there. If looks like he is having a dynamic game offensively then it will be an easy switch.
“So far Liam (Reddox) has done a decent job. He scored a goal the first game, and was instrumental in the goal that was disallowed, so it that would be a couple points in two games so that’s pretty good production. It’s something I’ll entertain but not at this moment.”
I haven’t been one to jump all over MacTavish, but this decision puzzles me. How will you know if Brule is ready unless you give him a shot? What do you have to lose? Or what about calling up Ryan Potulny, since he leads the Sprinfield Falcons in goals? I agree that the Gagner line is playing well, so there is no point moving Cole, but Reddox is not the answer. Brule might not be either, but I’d like to see that first before I make that conclusion. Give him a shot. But Reddox isn’t the biggest problem for the Oilers right now.
Their PK is atrocious. It has been all season, and it isn’t showing signs of improving. Of course, the face-offs are a major issue, but they are only part of the problem. Consistently the PK is giving up the seam pass, and with mostly veterans on the PK that is inexcusable.
“It’s been the main contributor for the last couple of loses. We need to have more of a presence in the dangerous areas where we are giving up those really good looks. We are hesitant on the PK and that is never good. We just have to focus more on individual assignments,” said MacTavish.
I asked him what he has to do different as a coach. Will he change the system or the personnel?
“I’ve seen teams that are chasing a strategy that works, and they never get there. Penalty killing is a very coachable area, and as a coach you should be able to identify the personnel you have and find a system that best suites their strengths. We (coaches) have to focus in on it more and try to improve it.”
What about the face-offs?
“You can’t do much there as a coach. You can work on it in practice, but ultimately that comes down to guys winning the draws. We might give Tyler Spurgeon a look to see if he can helps us, but ultimately guys have to improve.”
What about bringing in a specialist like Perrault?
“I’m always a skeptic. You wonder why a guy is not playing when he has those numbers in the dot. I don’t know him very well or his game very well — the scouts would know better — but the question is what you give up minus what you create. You bring a guy in like that who is out of a job for a pretty good reason and he has played on a lot of teams, and why is he playing on a bunch of teams? Probably because there are a bunch of weaknesses in his game that are hidden in those face-off numbers. Unlikely that we will do that (bring him in) but we do have to improve, so we will need to do something.”
Perrault would help them in the face-off circle, but not on the PK, which is the place they need the most help.
Then why haven’t they called up Spurgeon? They can’t keep waiting for these guys to win draws, because clearly it isn’t happening.
Marc Pouliot is feeling better and will practice tomorrow, and he might return on Monday. Pouliot looked much better than Hemsky, so expect to see 78 before 83.
Steve MacIntyre will have his face examined on Jan 6, and if everything looks good he expects to take his visor of on the 15th and be ready for action. He says his orbital bone feels fine, but joked that he only thought it was a black eye to begin with so he’ll wait for the results before he gets too excited.
Many, including myself, have wondered how long Denis Grebeshkov wants to play in the NHL, or if he will go back to Russia and play in the KHL. While Wanye was cheering loudly as Grebeshkov recorded his first four-point night against the Flames, I wondered how long he would be in the Show.
“I want to play in the NHL as long as possible, because it is way more fun to play here than back home,” said Grebeshkov.
When the mic was off we spoke at length about playing back home, and I left with a sense he truly likes it here, but if he gets double the money back home he probably would go. He said he is looking at signing an extension in the NHL first. Either way, I don’t see him staying with the Oilers very long. He is a player that teams would have interest in, and unless Tom Gilbert gets moved, I suspect Grebeshkov will be the odd man out. The Oilers need some more size on their backend, and Grebeshkov has a good salary and he can move the puck. Which are two qualities that make him attractive to other teams.