Fresh off the presses! Here is the second quarter report card for the Oilers. Every kid hates report card day and why should the Oilers be any different? A reminder before you start dissecting my rankings – this is only a quarterly report based on how players performed in the past 20 games and not a midway ranking for the entire season. For you can see their respective grade from the first 20 games here.
A Ales Hemsky. Just like the first 20 games, Hemsky was clearly the best forward on the Oilers. His absence in the last seven games has shown just how good he is and how boring the Oilers are without him. Hemsky is still over a point a game and was on pace to score 25 goals for the first time in his career. The only knock I have on Hemsky is that he is always the first player off the ice after practice. He needs to spend some time with the young offensive players. Being a leader is something he needs to do more of in seasons to come. (A+ first 20)
A Sheldon Souray. He has been fairly consistent all season. He shows up every night, and is one of the few players who is hard to play against. He is making more good decisions than bad in his own end, and is 6th in defencemen scoring and second in goals. He scored 3 GWG during the second quarter stretch and if the Oilers are going to make a run to the playoffs he has to stay healthy. His one punch on Mattias Ohlund put an exclamation point on the second quarter of the season for Souray. (A first 20)
A- Andrew Cogliano. The speedster has been the Oilers second best forward in the past 20 games. He’s scored seven goals in this stretch and he is averaging two more minutes per game because of it. 64 shots on goal is not enough for Cogliano, with his speed he should be averaging two shots a game at least. If he shoots more he might turn into a 30 goal scorer down the road. (B- first 20)
A- Dwayne Roloson. The wily old veteran has become the starter once again for the Oilers and outside the brutal game against the Sharks he has been solid. His save % has improved from .913 in the first 20 games to .916. Roloson has played in 16 of these 21 games and for a guy who was supposed to be the backup he has been one of the few pleasant surprises on the team this season. His play has garnered a bit of interest around the league, but right now the Oilers can’t afford to move him unless they plan on missing the playoffs. (B first 20)
B+ Erik Cole. Cole has been dominant in the last 15 games. His stats still don’t show this to be the case, but he is a factor on most shifts now. He had 55 shots during this stretch and with five goals and ten points his stats don’t really reflect how hard he has worked during the second quarter. He has found chemistry playing with Gagner and you wonder that if he starts getting some breaks he still might be able to score 25 goals this year. Cole is the wildcard on this team. If he continues to improve as the season goes on the Oilers can make the playoffs. He needs to be a factor every game, either on the scoreboard or in the corners. (F first 20)
B Lubomir Visnovsky. This stretch was pretty much a carbon copy of his first 20 games. He was a +3 in both stretches, he scored 13 points in this quarter, yet only two goals compared to four in his first 20 games. You would expect him to have more giveaways than most guys on the team because he handles the puck so much, but after 16 in the firs quarter he had 31 during this stretch. That is the only area of concern in his game, otherwise he has been good. (B- first 20)
B Denis Grebeshkov. Wanye’s old goat buddy was a team best +7 during this stretch and his defensive play has improved. He still doesn’t shoot enough though in my opinion with only 26 shots all year, but his play is on the rise right now. His play and RFA status makes him one of the few marketable commodities on the team right now. I’m not sure the Oilers can afford him next year so I wouldnt be surprised if he gets moved. He told me last week that he wants to stay in the NHL, rather than play in the KHL so that should help when teams start calling Steve Tambellini. (C+ first 20)
B- Jason Strudwick. The veteran native of Edmonton dressed in 18 of the 21 games and scored his only goal of the season. He has had some spirited scraps and played most of this stretch as a forward. He’s been consistent all season, but he only managed four shots on goal during this quarter. With most of those games being played as a forward he needs to find a way to generate a bit more offence. (A- first 20)
B- Sam Gagner. Some Citizens of the Nation might not want to hear it, but Gagner was much better during this stretch – especially in the last 10 games. After a measly one goal and five points in the first 20, Gagner rebounded with 3 goals and 11 points this quarter. It is clear he is more comfortable in the middle, but like Cogliano he has to get better in the dot. He was 49% in the first quarter, but he was only 41% in this stretch. He has to improve in that area to make the leap to a consistent threat. Ironically for Gagner, he played about 30 seconds less per game during this quarter, but was more productive. (D+ first 20)
B- Kyle Brodziak. He started the quarter with his first of two short stints in the press box, but rather than pout Brodziak has responded with a much more consistent game. Five goals during this stretch has him on pace to match the 14 he scored last year. Getting 14 goals from your fourth line centre is huge, so Brodziak will need to continue scoring. He still needs to be more physical and use his size more. Too often he doesn’t want to engage and that is my biggest concern with his game. He was exactly the same 51.3% in the dot during this stretch as in the first quarter and if he can get close to 53% that could make a big difference, especially on the PK. (D+ first 20)
B- Zack Stortini. Stortini has been much better this quarter. His fights were more spirited and they had more punches and less of the patented grappling which has made Stortini famous. His grusome injury came just when he was playing his best hockey of the year. Stortini doesn’t have much natural ability, but he gives you everything he has every night and during his six minutes a night he makes his presence known. He brings energy to the game and on a team that has so many players who don’t – he will be missed. (C first 20)
B- Ladislav Smid. Smid has been pretty steady since becoming a regular again. He has cut down on the stupid penalties and he competes hard every night. He needs to work on his shot though. Right now he brings pretty much no offensive threat to his game at all. He’s getting better on the PK and I think his play is the key if the Oilers move one of their top four D men. If Smid can continue to improve then Tambellini would be more willing to move one of his top four guys for a scorer. (C first 20)
C+ Marc Pouliot. It’s really too bad Pouliot got his bell rung by Foligno because up until that game he was showing signs of being a former first rounder. Five goals in an eleven game stretch had him playing the best hockey of his life, then he got rocked and since returning he hasnt been nearly as effective. Pouliot is a reliable player, but he doesnt hit anyone or play with energy. When Pisani returns I just can’t see how there is room for both of them unless Pouliot starts scoring like he did during that 11 game stretch. (D- first 20)
C Ethan Moreau. After a solid first 20 games, Moreau only had two goals and five assists in this quarter. The most damning stat for the Captain is his 41 hits the first 20 games and exactly half that the next 20. He needs to be more physically involved, especially on a team that doesn’t have many forwards who are willing to hit. (A first 20)
C Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. The rookie only appeared in one game so it’s hard to rank him. He went 1-4 on his conditioning stint in Springfield and all reports were that he was ok, but not great. A .906 save % is okay, but Deslauriers needed to be better down there and now it will probably be a while until he plays again. It might not be fair, but he needs to play like he did against the Rangers and Devils in his next start if he wants another one. (B first 20)
C Shawn Horcoff. His game still isn’t at the level the Oilers are going to need it to be but he is getting closer. But all you Horcoff haters out there take note: after only 11 points in his first 20 games he was almost at a point a game pace with 18 during this stretch. His faceoff % in this stretch was 53.3% and he will need to keep it there or get closer to 55%. He is still struggling handling the puck, and isn’t a key factor in games often enough. Without Hemsky and with an inconsistent Dustin Penner on his left side, Horcoff’s output is coming with much more effort. Before Hemsky got injured his game was coming close to what he did last year. He needs to keep producing with or without Hemsky, if the Oilers have any hope of making the playoffs. (C first 20)
C- Dustin Penner. Penner was horrendous during the first quarter of the season and his efforts landed him squarely in the pressbox. He then responded with a solid ten game stretch where he averaged a point a game, but unfortunately for him the last ten he has been more of a passenger than performer. Penner might be the most frustrating player on the team. When he decides to play, he is a beast down low and uses his 245 pound frame effectively. You wish that others like Landon Wilson would piss him off early in games, because when he gets mad he is a handful. Until Penner can find a way to be ready to play even 80% of the time, he will be a heartache for fans and a headache for the coaching staff. (D first 20)
C- Tom Gilbert. Quietly Gilbert is in the midst of a horrible goal scoring drought. He went the entire 2nd quarter without a single goal and is even shooting less than before. He only has 21 shots in the last 21 games. For a guy who plays as many minutes as he does, especially with some PP time he needs to start shooting more. He needs to be more involved in the play too. All too often he doesn’t hit, he isn’t shooting, and most nights you are left wanting to have seen him compete harder. Like many others, Gilbert needs to make an impact in more games in the second half. (B- first 20)
C- Mathieu Garon. He was better this quarter – but not by much. Based on the high expectations placed on the netminder going into this season, Garon has easily been the biggest disappointment on this Oilers team. He hasn’t been able to wrestle the starters job back from Dwayne Roloson and it doesnt look he will anytime soon. He has to be kicking himself for turning down a contract extension from the Oilers this summer. He will be hard pressed to get anything better this summer, unless Roloson gets hurt and he carries the load. (F first 20)
D Robert Nilsson. Pretty much the same as his first 20 games, where Nilsson was a non-factor more often than not. His stats don’t show it, 7 points in first 20 games, and 6 points during the second 20 but most nights this quarter you have probably noticed him more. He might be the second most skilled forward on the team, but too often you don’t know if he will show up. Skipping the optional practice wasn’t a great decision, but since hes been paired with Gagner and Cole you sense he is starting to play like he did late last season. He is still way too inconsistent. (C first 20)
D Steve Staios. Staios has struggled making the outlet pass out of his own zone as of late, and seems more interested in just putting off the glass and out rather than make a play. After only seven turnovers in the first quarter, Staios had 24 during this stretch. You can’t afford a turnover a game from a 3rd pair D-man. You never question Staios effort but he needs to play smarter to regain his solid first quarter ranking. (B- first 20)
N/A Steve Macintyre. He only played in the last two games of the quarter and didn’t make much of an impact in either one. The next few games his dance card should be filled with Donald Brashear and the Bogeyman when the Wild comes a calling. He has been working hard in practice and has been working a bit with Rocky Thompson on fighting so we will see if it pays off in the next little while. With Stortini out for at least three weeks he should be a regular in the lineup. (B- first 20)
N/A Fernando Pisani. You didn’t play a game during this time so no grade for you Pisani.
Note: Schremp, Brule and Potulny didnt play enough to garner a ranking either.
C- Coaching Staff. Among things, the coaching staff get a down grade because they still don’t make enough in-game adjustments to effectively read what is going on during the game. Having the last change in 13 of the past 21 games means they should have had better matchups but that didn’t happen often enough. MacTavish has been more consistent with trying to keep the same lines and barring injury and that has helped. Reddox on the 1st line still is mind-boggling, but putting Gagner with Cole and Cogliano with Pouliot and Moreau seems to be working. I would like to see some different looks on the PP, especially a down-low threat. I was a believer in calling out Penner and Nilsson, but calling out Rob Schremp was a big mistake. While I agree with MacTavish’s assessment, I don’t see the point in it. He didn’t have much, if any, trade value before, and I would suspect it is even less now. (C first 20)
Grade as a team: C The Oilers were 9-9-1-1 in their first 20 games with 14 of those games on the road and sat in 9th place. They went 11-9-0-1 during this stretch, but played 14 games at home. Too often they are comatose to start the game – especially at Rexall Place – and rarely do they take the game to the opposition. The veterans have said on many occasions that they have to play harder, or be more prepared. Here is a crazy idea for you Oilers Veterans: how about actually doing something about it? Talk is cheap and the veterans have to either lead this team or get out of the way and let the young guys take hold of the reins. (B- first 20)
There you have it Nation. Feel free to listen in or drop me a line on Just a Game today between 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260. We will be looking for your thoughts on the report card and how the Oilers have performed during the second quarter of the season.