Hindsight

hindsight

I’ve had a horrible feeling of déjà vu this summer while watching the Oilers chase after Dany Heatley. I’ve been banging the drum for a veteran third-line centre for a while, most notably here. But I seemed to remember making a similar post last year…

And here it is: Fixing Actual Problems, September 2nd, 2008:

Let’s look at two statistics. I know not everyone believes in statistical analysis of the game, but these two are very simple and obviously connected to a team’s ability to win.

Goals for, 5-on-5: 146 (11th in the league)

Goals against, 5-on-5: 169 (27th in the league)

Of those two statistics, where do the Oilers have the most room for improvement? They actually scored more goals than the Pittsburgh Penguins five-on-five, so at even strength offense really isn’t a huge problem.

Defense, on the other hand, is. Only the Los Angeles Kings were a worse team at stopping goals at even strength than the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference last season. Healthy seasons from Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Ethan Moreau and Sheldon Souray should help that number, as will an early reliance on Mathieu Garon, but at this point the playoffs are hardly a sure thing.

The loss of three players who handled a bizarre amount of defensive work (Reasoner, Stoll, Torres) is going to leave players like Marc Pouliot and Kyle Brodziak in ugly positions. I’ve talked about this before, but Reasoner took 141 more draws in the defensive zone than he did offensive zone. Jarret Stoll took 181, and Raffi Torres was fifth among forwards by this number, with 35. Basically, these guys started in their own end a lot more, something that leads to goals against, and those faceoffs still need to be taken….

I am of the opinion that the Oilers will make the playoffs, but if they don’t, I doubt very much that it will have anything to do with a lack of offensive prowess. It will be because the team lacks players who know what to do in their own end, and that isn’t a role that rookie/sophomore players excel in.

Marc Pouliot wasn’t an NHL player for the majority of last season. Kyle Brodziak finished -9 in relatively sheltered minutes, far easier minutes than Stoll/Reasoner played last season. Andrew Cogliano played the easiest minutes of the bunch, and still had 3 goals scored against him for every 60 minutes of even strength ice-time.

This team doesn’t have a centre capable of playing tough minutes outside of Shawn Horcoff, and if they miss the playoffs, we’ll look back and see that this hole is a big part of the reason for it.

Some replies:

  • “The other team cannot score if the Oilers have the puck all the time.”
  • “Brodziak improved significantly over the year and Horcoff is returning from an injury. I’m optimistically hopeful this will be enough but otherwise bringing in a soon to be UFA player should be a feasible option.”
  • “Defense can be taught while offensive prowess is a talent.”
  • “You may score 3 goals on us every game, but we’re going to score 5. (A system that seemed to work pretty good in the 80’s).”
  • “I personally see a correlation between the Oilers of this year and Buffalo two years ago. Impressive amounts of offense and three lines that can score. Thomas Vanek was their 3rd line center and put in over 80pts and 40+ goals. We could be that type of team.”
  • “I also think you’ll see the Oil make a depth move come the deadline where they bring in a shut down forward for their 3rd or 4th line similar to the role Peca played for us in the 06′ cup run.”
  • “Most of the problems appear to arise from players moving into roles they aren’t comfortable with. Just because Brodziak was playing easy minutes doesn’t mean he’s going to be eaten alive each time he’s facing some serious talent. Weak competition does not mean weak players.”
  • “The Oil made huge strides in making themselves better compared to the rest of the conference, so sit back, relax, and watch us make 1st or 2nd in the division.”

The point of this isn’t to tell everyone how smart I am (although feel free to read that into it – I promise I won’t mind) but just to remind everyone that we’ve been here before. The usual objections have been raised – the kids will step up, Tambellini knows what he’s doing, there’s no need to stop goals if the Oilers score 5 every game – but I view those the same way I did last year.

The Oilers failed to address obvious defensive deficiencies last season and they paid for it with a miserable penalty-kill, poor defensive play five-on-five, bizarre coaching decisions (I’m quite sure MacTavish would have been happier to keep Pisani on RW), a poor record on faceoffs, and ultimately a season finish that didn’t include the playoffs.

Let’s hope they don’t care to repeat the experience.

  • Hippy

    @ Jack Bauer:
    Was offered Danny was not interested, he preferers beach bunnys.Wait a second someone send him a video of the WEM waterpark that will close the deal!!!!

  • Hippy

    Charlie wrote:

    Just to add one last thought:
    There was a time when the Canucks were in the playoffs on the shoulders of Morrison, Naslund, and Bertuzzi. The Sedin’s were 2nd liners, and their goaltending was, well, Dan Cloutier. They ad a coach that they had to fire after missing the show (Crawford), and replaced him with some new blood and new systems (Alain Vine…ut).
    There will be a time that our 2nd line youngsters are 1st line studs. Our Cloutier (Roli) has been replaced by our Lou (Bulin). We have a ton of kids hungry to play (Brule, Schremp…) who may actually have a roster spot under the Quinn-Renney game plan.
    It took Mess & Gretz 5 years for their first cup. Is it too much to ask that Cogs and Gags get a few seasons under their belts before they get us to the playoffs? Not really. Lets just be patient and enjoy watching this team become what it can be.

    This poor guy is about to get slaughtered

  • Hippy

    Charlie wrote:

    It took Mess & Gretz 5 years for their first cup. Is it too much to ask that Cogs and Gags get a few seasons under their belts before they get us to the playoffs? Not really. Lets just be patient and enjoy watching this team become what it can be.

    Yes, yes, let's watch Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky and Nikolai Khabibulin become all they can be…

    This isn't a team that's being built for five years from now. I'd be a big fan of a slow rebuild but this management group has never elected to take that route, and the moves they've made over the past three summers prove it.

  • Hippy

    I may be wrong but for me this was the summer where I hoped to see Tambellini make moves to get the organization back on track or at least headed in the right direction. I hoped to see the organization establish some semblance of order in a severely messed up outfit. Alas and alack no such luck. He appears to be consistently dithering.

    The net effect so far this off-season is that the Oiler organization has sustained another black eye that to this point has more black eyes than eyes. How does the fan base react? They brew another jug of Kool-aid and hope Heatley relents. I have my doubts if Moses could lead this crew anywhere.

    Yeah I know some Kool-aider will say 'whoa there' it's not even a month into the free agency season. Well, you can miss a bus by 5 seconds or 5 days…you still missed it and the Oil braintrust certainly seems to have missed or dismissed an opportunity to act.

  • Hippy

    Charlie wrote:

    It took Mess & Gretz 5 years for their first cup. Is it too much to ask that Cogs and Gags get a few seasons under their belts before they get us to the playoffs?

    Sam Gagner at 19: 76GP – 16G – 25A – 41PTS
    Wayne Gretzky at 19: 79GP – 51G – 86A – 137PTS

    Andrew Cogliano at 21: 82GP – 18G – 20A – 38PTS
    Mark Messier at 21: 77GP – 48G – 58A – 106PTS

  • Hippy

    Wow, so much for trying to be positive about the team. Thanks for naming the five vets on the Oilers to counter my statement about giving the KIDS time to play under a new system and see what happens.

    Gretz and Mess taking us to the cup is my equivalent to Gags and Cogs taking us to the playoffs.

  • Hippy

    All I'm saying is good things can happen when there is a coaching & goaltending change, and there are kids coming up in the system. Things aren't as bleak as they can seem.

  • Hippy

    @ Charlie:

    I went into this summer optimistic after Tambo's fired up presser about Mact and the team. Since then I haven't really seen anything to be too optimistic about. Not that things are easy for our management right now, were close to the cap and we have players with contracts that nobody wants. We don't have much trade leverage or room to sign anybody, something I hoped Tambo could do something about but nothing yet. Bhulin has the experience but if he goes down with one of his nagging injuries JDD is our starter, thats insettling to me. I hope Quinn and Renney can work some miracles because thats pretty much whats expected of them. I really hope we can still get a centerman, and Brownlee seemed to think Tambo is still working the phones so I think something will happen.

    And the whole sending videos to Heatley thing, omg, enough already. Prendergast must have been full of s**t the other day because the Heatly fiasco continues.

  • Hippy

    scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

    And the whole sending videos to Heatley thing, omg, enough already. Prendergast must have been full of s**t the other day because the Heatly fiasco continues.

    Are you telling me there are people out there who actually listen to what Prendergast has to say?

  • Hippy

    @ misfit:

    Apperently Brownlee does as he stated it in one of his last posts. I personnaly don't think the Heatley thing will be over until he ends up in a city that isn't Edmonton or Ottawa. If he stays in Ottawa we will continue persue him until he flat out tells us to screw off.

  • Hippy

    Why does everyone immidiatly revert back to Dany Heatley? Dan Barnes and his self indulgence have all of You minions gobbleing up every nibble … Here is Your headline … Nothing New on Heatley …

    Wake up …

    GarbageManBrian

  • Hippy

    We are a better team then last years by far
    Better coaching, healthy defense and checking forwards ( moreau pisani) gagne cogs and nilson grebs on contract year ( always play better) o'sullivan instead of Cole. Bulin vs Rolli comeon no brainer.
    Stortini has improved big time he is no longer a defensive liability. Mac T never player Penner on the PP after he scored 16 PP goals the year before I'm not sure he can rebound. Horcoff is overpayed but Smyth ( thank good he's gone) get the same money and had six more points then Horc and isn't overplayed.
    Lookin forward to see what the boys can do

  • Hippy

    How does this get you. The organization has no idea's where they are going. Looks like Smid is gone this year for sure, and not for Heatly. Any trade to get out. The Oilers should answer to the fans. These deals have Lowe all over it. Khabby for 4yrs 15M. Wanted to change the guard of the 40yr old goalies. Heatly begging is also Lowe. Seriously what do the fans have to get excited about?

    hxxp://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=451247

  • Hippy

    I agree sandra.. I felt the same about those moves (lowes influence)… very similar to last year, past history…

    this team isnt good enough to simply 'add a superstar' to become contenders… the supporting staff need to be established (circa 2005/6) before the org can legitimately feel that way.. and they continue to f'around without addressing the glarring hole(s) that JW (and others) have been documenting for two seasons in a row….

  • Hippy

    Yeah cause Johnathan knows every thing LoL
    You guys ever think that the oil can get anyone else via trade of UFA. If heatly, smid, pronger , arnott all didn't want to play here , what makes you think they want to come too. Even third line players have families and egos

  • Hippy

    oilers fan #1 wrote:

    You guys ever think that the oil can get anyone else via trade of UFA. If heatly, smid, pronger , arnott all didn’t want to play here , what makes you think they want to come too.

    Right. Every player in the league hates Edmonton. Might as well fold the franchise.