“Patience my ass. I’m going to kill something.”
Anybody boomer-age or even those over 35 might remember that line from a popular T-shirt and poster from the 1970s that featured two hungry looking buzzards sitting in a tree. And, while patience is often a virtue, I’m with the buzzards when it comes to the pitiful excuse for penalty killing that we’ve seen from the Edmonton Oilers this season — a PK that sits ranked 28th.
Wanye note: It’s true. I found this badge on the internet confirming this story:
But, while we wait for Kevin Lowe or GM Steve Tambellini to address what is obviously a glaring weakness by acquiring a centre who can win face-offs shorthanded — call me crazy, I think that might help — I thought I’d get the takes of captain Ethan Moreau and Shawn Horcoff.
Did they agree it’s time to make a personnel move? Did they acknowledge the inability to win face-offs is a significant problem? Well, no and sort of. So what’s the answer? To hear them tell it, patience. Yes, 36 games into the season, patience would be a good place to start.
GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME
“There’s a lot of new guys, a lot of new personnel,” Moreau said. “It’s going to take some time to know each other’s tendencies, so we have to change our system a little bit to be more predictable.” And here’s what Horcoff, who kills more penalties than any other Edmonton forward, has to say. “It’s a matter of trying to get everyone on the same page and adapted to the same system,” Horcoff said with a straight face.
“Even on the back end, too. We’ve got some different personnel on the back end, too. That takes time. I actually believe familiarity is more important on the PK than it is on the power play.”
Now, I’ve got a lot of respect for Moreau and Horcoff and I’ve known them since they were rookies, but I have difficulty buying the argument the penalty killing is atrocious — 42 goals allowed in 159 attempts — because the Oilers have new players and it’s going to take time for them to become a cohesive unit. It just isn’t so.
Among defenceman, Steve Staios gets more shorthanded ice time than any Oiler at 3:50 per game. Sheldon Souray is next at 3:49, followed by Tom Gilbert at 2:33 and Jason Strudwick at 1:47. Among forwards, Horcoff leads with 3:15 per game. Kyle Brodziak is next at 2:51, followed by Moreau at 2:35 and the injured Fernando Pisani at 2:24.
Now, did I fall down the stairs and hit my head, or is this pretty much the same core group of players that did the bulk of the penalty killing last season, when the Oilers finished ranked fifth on the PK?
I GOT MY GUY
Moreau points out that the fans aren’t alone in the frustration they feel at watching the Oilers trot out the same inept act every night. It’s worse for the players — even if they get paid to participate in the failure as opposed to paying to witness it.
“After games, everybody is frustrated,” he said. “I’m out there getting scored on, so as frustrated as a coach or fan could be, we’re five times that. The guys who are out there blocking shots and trying to kill the penalties are the most frustrated. We’re putting in the effort every night.”
When asked about the possibility of Tambellini making a deal to bolster a group that hasn’t done the job, Moreau shrugged it off.
“There’s not much we can do about that,” he said. “Personnel, that’s not up to us. If you’re on the penalty killing unit, you try to do what the coaches tell you to do, stay within your system and work hard. That’s all you can do.”
NOT ROCKET SURGERY
Anybody with half-a-brain can see the Oilers need a centre who can win a face-off and kill penalties to make up for the losses of Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner. When Horcoff is the Oilers best overall centre on the dot at 51.8 per cent but is just 61-89 shorthanded, it’s tough to argue.
“Maybe now this year, with them (face-offs) being in the zone so much,” Horcoff said when asked if poor performance on the dot is the single biggest factor that has the penalty killing struggling so mightily.
“Face-offs aren’t just one guy’s stat. I think people who know the game and watch the game realize the help is and how important those 50-50 battles are . . . especially on the PK.”
“That’s one part of the issue,” Moreau said. “There’s face-offs. There’s predictability. There’s goaltending. Those are the things that kill penalties. There’s so many things that go into it. I don’t think you can simply say we need a face-off guy.”
Patience my ass . . .
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.