Questions that need answers: third edition


What a whirlwind final hour of the trade deadline. Just when it looked the Oilers were going to be shut out, they pull off two deals just before the deadline. On paper the deals should improve the Oilers, but exactly how much remains to be seen. Lots of questions surrounding the deadline and the Oilers so here we go.

***Reminder if you have a question you want answered, send it to Gregor at

Why did the Kings give up on a young Patrick O’Sullivan?

At first glance, you wonder why a 24-year-old with loads of offensive creativity finds himself in his third organization already. O’Sullivan was drafted by the Wild in 2003, and then traded at the 2006 entry draft to the LA Kings (he was traded with the 17th overall pick, which the Wild had obtained from the Oilers for Roloson).

Now he is dealt for Justin Williams, and then Erik Cole. Williams had back-to-back 30-goal seasons, before he tore his ACL in 2007, and then tore his Achilles in an off-ice pre-season workout. He has played 32 games since returning earlier than expected, but has struggled mightily with only three goals and 10 points.

So why is O’Sullivan dealt for a guy who is injury prone and struggling? I have no idea. Rob Daum, who coached him in Houston in 2005/06 gave him high praise. “I think he is a top-six forward in the NHL. He skates well, has a quick release and is a very good passer.”

I don’t doubt that O’Sullivan possesses those attributes, but Dean Lombardi is a pretty astute GM, and he gave him away for injury-prone 29 year-old. It just doesn’t seem right.

Jarret Stoll told me, “Sully has sick skills. He is a great passer, and isn’t afraid to shoot. He should really help the Oilers. We have been penalty killing together and he is very quick.”

I can see why the Wild traded him, because they wanted a proven passer to play with Demitra, but why the Kings gave up on him is perplexing. What about someone who hasn’t been associated with him? I spoke to a scout from San Jose.

“His awareness on the ice is exceptional. He skates well, but has long stretches where he doesn’t battle hard enough, and can be lazy. When he is on he can be a difference maker, and he isn’t afraid to shoot, but like most players his age consistency is an issue.”

We will see if he can find the consistency to go with his skill set.

If Bill Guerin was scratched on Saturday, why did it take so long for him to get traded?
— Mitch

The Islanders only dressed 19 players v. Buffalo on Saturday, and with Bill Guerin being a late, and supposedly healthy, scratch there was lots of speculation he was going to be dealt. There was lots of talk that the Capitals and Islanders had a deal in place, but somehow it fell through. The Islanders had no choice but to sit him out again on Monday v. Colorado after scratching him on Saturday.

It didn’t look good in my opinion, and it’s fitting that the Islanders ended up getting less for Bill Guerin than the Leafs got for Dominic Moore. After the Capitals deal fell through, it looks like the Islanders just gave Guerin away for anything. Guerin had a no-movement deal and made it clear he only wanted to go to an Eastern team. That left the Islanders seven or eight trading partners in the East. Clearly there wasn’t much interest so the Penguins got him for a conditional pick. If they miss the playoffs the Islanders get a fifth, if they make it a fourth, and if they win one round a hird. Not much for a guy who sat out two games.

Is it a coincidence that most of the scumbag, loser, and dirtiest trash hockey players in the NHL have at some point played for Mark Crawford?
— Dan

As a player, Crawford was chippy and intense. He has been behind the bench with players like Claude Lemieux, Chris Simon, Todd Bertuzzi, and Sean Avery.

I think it’s more of a coincidence that they were on his team. He inherited all of them, excluding Lemieux whose first season in Colorado came in Crawford’s second as coach of that organization. But do I think he liked his players to play on the edge? You bet.

Crawford has always had a few players who played on the edge, and in some cases crossed the line. If you’re insinuating that Crawford is the reason they were cheap players, I would disagree. I’ve spoken to players who played for him and they said he was intense, and wanted his team to play an in-your-face style. But I don’t believe he told Lemieux to crosscheck Draper into the boards, and I still don’t think he told Bertuzzi to cheap shot Steve Moore to the extent he did.

There are many coaches who encourage their players to intimidate the opposition, but when a player commits a flagrant cheap shot, I find it hard to believe the coach told him to carry it out in that fashion. I know coaches have given guys the tap on the shoulder to go fight, or encourage their guys to “run” the opposition, but the decisions by Bertuzzi and Lemieux were ultimately made by those gents.

I’ll be having Ron Low in studio very soon, and when I do I will ask him about Crawford’s decision in round one of the 1998 playoffs when he had Warren Rychel and Jeff Odgers on the ice late to pound some non-heavyweight Oilers.

Why are Cogliano and Gagner so bad on draws? What do they need to do to improve?
— DJ

I see a few reasons. First off, neither one is that strong just yet and their technique is their biggest downfall. When you watch them getting lined up for the draw they don’t look comfortable. Adam Oates wasn’t the strongest guy but he had incredible technique. Rod Brind’amour has strength and technique. Jarret Stoll has both as well. But 13 and 89 have neither right now. They will naturally get stronger as they mature and work out more, but their technique better improve or it won’t matter.

Stoll told me a few years back that just entering the draw from the right angle can make a difference. Some other nuances include, the angle they put their stick at before engaging, finding a position that allows their body to move fluidly. It seems simple but lots of faceoff guys swear these nuances are what separate a guy from being 55% instead of 50%. Heck if Cogliano could be a 47% guy that would be major improvement. Both youngsters need to work harder at honing their skills on the dot, and Cogliano would probably see an increase of two to three minutes a game just because of it.

When is the right time to fire a coach?
— Noel

Very tough question to answer. Look at the recent firings in the NHL and there is no trend that seems to suggest what is right. Atlanta, LA, Tampa, NYI, Colorado, Florida, San Jose and Toronto all had new coaches at the start of the year. Right now only San Jose and Florida are in the playoffs and San Jose was a great team before the coaching change.

Chicago and Tampa made changes early in the year, and it seems to have helped the Hawks but the Bolts still stink. Recently Pittsburgh, Ottawa and the Rangers have made changes. The Pens are 6-1-1 under Dan Bylsma. The Sens are 6-5-3 under Cory Clouston and the Rangers are 1-1-1 under John Tortorella.

The Sens have improved a bit, the Rangers are even and the Pens are finally playing like they should. I’ve always thought that coaching is a bit overrated. If you have good or great players they will make you look better. Some coaches can have teams improve by five or six wins a year, but I don’t think coaching can make a team go from average to great.

I think timing is based on a feel. The GM needs to know his players and the dynamics of the room. Have they quit on the coach? Do they need to hear a new voice? Does the system fit the players?

To me it is easier to fire a coach than suggest as a GM that you haven’t given him any legitimate tools to work with. Look at the eight new coaches that started the season: have any of them made a significant difference to the standings of their team? Peter Deboer in Florida might be the only one. They are on pace to finish with eight more points than last season, and should make the playoffs barring a collapse. I do think coaching can improve your team by four to five wins over the season, but most of it is up to the players to respond and play the system.

I think a change can have positive effects in that certain players will respond better to a new coach. The curiosity of how the Oilers would play without MacTavish is hard to ignore. You will find out next season if the Oilers don’t make the playoffs, or if they have an uneventful first round exit.

Will the Oilers’ new players be enough to get the Oilers in the playoffs, and who do you think is their best match-up in the first round?
— Steven

I think O’Sullivan and Kotalik, along with the fact that Minnesota, Nashville and Anaheim didn’t improve will be enough to get the Oilers in the playoffs. Before the Flames got Jokinen, I would have said the Flames were the best match-up, but now I’m not so sure. It is either the Flames or the Blackhawks, and based on the results between them so far this season you would have to think the Flames might be the best bet. I do think that the Hawks’ inexperience makes them more vulnerable than the Flames, but screw logic.

I’d rather see a Battle of Alberta over any other first-round match-up. Detroit and San Jose would dominate the Oilers, while the Hawks and Oilers could be free wheeling, it wouldn’t have the intensity of a BOA.

It has been 18 years since the Oil and Flames did battle for a meaningful game and that is long enough. The Flames have wrapped up third place, so it’s up to the Oilers to get sixth. If they have to throw a game at the end of the year to make it happen, they better do so.

The fans need it, the media wants it, and the players should experience it. A playoff battle between the two cities after so long without one would be epic. All the Oilers have to do is be better than Columbus and Nashville down the stretch to make it happen. Really is that too much to ask? I think not.

  • Jay

    The question has been asked a couple times, but still no answer (that i have seen). How come everyone is slotting Kotalik in with Hemmer and Horc, but Patti-O isnt getting much consideration? If Kotalik cant score 5 on 5 then what is the point of having him with Hemmer and Horc. Doesnt Patti-O make just as much more sense in that slot?… Anyone?

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I am calling for an immediate moratorium on referring to O'Sullivan as "Patty-O". It's a terrible nickname, the guy hasn't even played a game for the Oilers yet and it's already annoying.

  • topshelf

    @ Jay:
    Go to the oilers website and watch Kotalik's highlights. He has a bomb and likes to use it. Match that up with Hemsky's passing ability and ON PAPER it looks to be a good match.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    @ socaldave:

    Sully I can live with, but not Patty O. For god's sake he is a man, not a place where you drink beer in the summer! Let him have his dignity!

  • Word

    I have some important questions that need answering:

    1) What semi-obnoxious catch-phrase are we gonna use to describe the Kotalik-Horcoff-Hemsky line?

    The Czech-Mates? The Ales Stars? Ales, Ales and a Second Line Center?

    2) Will Liam Reddox be so upset about his demotion that he pulls out his best Zoolander burn and tells MacTavish to "Kota-lick his balls"?

  • shakey

    socaldave wrote:

    @ Mike Krushelnyski:
    Sully sounds like the guy that would drive Tony Soprano around and kick ass when needed.
    Patty sounds like the old drunk guy drinking scotch in the corner until he pisses himself.

    Maybe we could call up the grand wizard of stupid names, Pierre Maquire and see what shitastic name he has for him.

  • Asher

    Ender the Dragon wrote:

    @ Jason Gregor:
    Jason Gregor wrote:

    #58 Jason Gregor March 5 2009, 3:37 pm.
    Asher wrote:
    Remember, Cole gave more or less the same reply to this question when he was traded to Edmonton, even though it clear to anyone who’d seen him play that he was much more comfortable playing on the right side.
    He played LW for seven regular season games…Not a real long stretch. Cole was very honest that he liked Edmonton. But he liked Carolina more. If you think there is more to it, then you can, but in this case there is no RED flag regarding the city or the team.
    I think you’re missing Asher’s point; Cole said he could play the left side because he was new and because he didn’t want to give the impression that he was unable or unwilling to handle such an assignment. Asher is suggesting that Kotalik and Pati-O are saying the same thing for the same reasons. Nothing to do with the city, it’s all about whether they can honestly play left wing and if they’re giving you the straight scoop on their comfort-level playing there.

    Thanks, Dragon. That's exactly what I was meant.

  • Jay

    I am not questioning Kotaliks hard shot. But a player needs more than just a hard shot to score goals (i.e. Horcoff. The guy can shoot the puck, but has difficulty picking the corners). Also, O'Sullivan (as he will hereafter be known as, sheesh) is also reputed to have a hard shot. I say your proof is not good enough!

  • Dennis

    Gregor: Nice to see you coming around on 78 but I think what would really set off the new 19-89 combo would be Rick Rypien!!


    But seriously, folks, it's odd that 26 showed some much disappointment about leaving but then you allude that he had no interest signing an extension?

    So, is he a real 'pro' when it comes to handling the media as well? Or did he just think Lowe would keep him around even though he had no interest in coming back and that he was a rapidly depreciating asset?

  • Jay

    I meant "proof". And by proof i mean proof of why Kotalik should be automatically on the 1st line over O'Sullivan. By that logic, the hardest shot on the team (Souray) should be Hemsky's trigger-man. Think he could get 20 goals as a first line winger?

  • socaldave

    @ Dennis:

    far be it from me to assume what JG was speaking about, but I think he said Cole would absolutely have liked to finish the year here, liked his mates, liked the environment in the room, so yeah – disappointed to miss out on the stretch drive.

    JG then said Cole wanted to see what the market out there was going to be before he committed to anyone. For me, there's absolutely nothing against the city or the team with that – UFA's in every city in the league will do the same.

  • Ender the Dragon wrote:

    Asher is suggesting that Kotalik and Pati-O are saying the same thing for the same reasons. Nothing to do with the city, it’s all about whether they can honestly play left wing and if they’re giving you the straight scoop on their comfort-level playing there.

    O"sullivan played LW in LA, so why would he have to say anything different. As for Kotalik, he wants to play with Hemsky and LW is his only option. He also has played LW before, so not lying.

    Eric Cole was happy to try the left side, because he had a chance to play with Hemsky. It isn't as simple of the left or right side. The big reason it didn't work is because Cole likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone. Problem is that doesn't work with HEmsky's game. It was more about chemistry than RW or LW. Some guys have it some don't. Same reason Jokinen left Phoenix, he and Doan didn't gel together. Some times it just doesn't work. Happens all the time on different teams.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Word wrote:

    1) What semi-obnoxious catch-phrase are we gonna use to describe the Kotalik-Horcoff-Hemsky line?

    "Hi; I'm Shawn, this is m' bruther Ales, 'n this is 'm other bruther Ales."

  • Ender the Dragon

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    O”sullivan played LW in LA, so why would he have to say anything different. As for Kotalik, he wants to play with Hemsky and LW is his only option. He also has played LW before, so not lying.

    I believe Sully (ok, I accept the name) will do just fine on LW; as you pointed out, not new for him. I just am not sold yet as to how well Kotalik (we gotta get that guy a name too) will really perform there. Time will tell.

  • Dennis wrote:

    But seriously, folks, it’s odd that 26 showed some much disappointment about leaving but then you allude that he had no interest signing an extension?
    So, is he a real ‘pro’ when it comes to handling the media as well? Or did he just think Lowe would keep him around even though he had no interest in coming back and that he was a rapidly depreciating asset?

    I watched the clip, and I didn't see anything close to resembling him almost crying like some have wrote. I think some people made their own assumption of what Cole was feeling at the time. I'm sure it is a bit of a shot to the ego when you get dealt, unless you truly hate a team or are holidng out.

    He is okay with the media. He gives some pretty safe answers, but when you talk to him without a mic he is more open, like many players. Souray is one who gives an honest answer without really worrying that he will offend anyone. And surprisingly most fans don't ever rip him when he says something.

    As for rypien…4th liner man…better there than Pouliot…As I said if Pouliot can't crack your top nine he can't help your team. He is not an energy guy which Rypien is….and I'm not coming around on Pouliot just yet…haha…I just said he is more deserving than Nilsson right now…

  • Rival

    Gregor: Depending on how things go in the summer and if Cole does not resign in Carolina, do you think Tambo revisits the Cole idea? I know they want to make a big splash but if its like any other year and their having trouble landing someone I would be open to the idea. Cole was a class act and I would of loved to of seen how he would of played with a year under his belt?

  • michael

    I want to know how does Hemsky nkow Kotalik was traded to Edmonton? Was he in the war room? Or do you think that Hemsky was asked by the team about Kotalik and he took that as Kotalik was traded to edmonton and then called Kotalik before Buffalo's GM could tell him. Sounds like Hemsky let the cat out of the bag. Jumped the gun . Or was he asked to approve a trade for kotalik because they know they need to have a winger for Hemsky that he would be happy with? End results are all the same.

    teammate michael

  • oilersseasonticketholdersince99

    Tambalini could have traded for Spezza,Malkin,Bowmester and ovechkin kept everyone we have and we would still find a way to lose to one of the worst teams (ottawa)why?Because most of our problems are behind the bench not on the ice.not until we get a new coach will we see the true potential of this team.we should have fired him at the 20 game many times does this team have to come out flat?

  • rindog

    @ CurtisS:
    CurtisS wrote:

    I love how Noel asked about firing the coach.

    I also included this when I asked Gregor the question:

    After 9 games and a 0-4-1 stretch (and playing horribly the first 4 games even though we won) to start the season – we were told it was way too early – wait until the 20 games or so.

    After 20 games we had 20 points (3 less than we did at this point the year after the cup run). We were still told it was too early, wait until we have played 40 games.

    After 40 games we had 41 points (a 1 point improvement from the first quarter). We were told we still haven't given him enough time to work with the roster.

    After the allstar break and another embarassing home ice loss (to Buffalo) we were told that we couldn't rid of the coach now because we were in the middle of a playoff race and there wasn't enough time for a new coach to implement his ideas.

    After 59 games we have managed to improve by another single point from the 2nd quarter (a win against TB would make it a 3 point improvement).

    I am guessing that none of the media think now would be a good time because we are in the proverbial "dogfight" to squeak into the last playoff spot.

    If we look at our record at the exact same point for the last 3 season it looks like this:

    06/07 – 61 points after 59 games
    07/08 – 59 points after 59 games
    08/09 – 63 points after 59 games

    The biggest excuse we heard over the last 2 seasons was that we were devastated by injuries and that NO coach could win with the makeshift roster we had.

    Until recently we have been relatively healthy (as much as any other team anyway) and yet we are still seeing basically the same results.

    We went 14-8-1 last year and missed the playoffs. It might take less points (than last year) to make it in – but are we really banking on the same sort of finish down the stretch this year? Why should we expect a team that has gone .500 over the last 55 games to all of sudden go on a magical run? Have they shown us anything to make us think this?