Hemsky’s lungs and PK problems

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.

Other tidbits

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.

  • Jason Gregor

    @ TV:
    They aren't that worried about losing him right now, with most teams at the 23 man limit or close. Remember it was only two years ago that Jason Pominville cleared waivers three different times and wasn't claimed.

  • Wanye Gretz

    TV wrote:

    I would hate to see Grebs go anywhere, I would much rather they sign him to a long term deal in the $3mill range max & trade off Gilbert to use him & another top prospect as the main cogs to some sort of package deal.
    x6

    This statement marks the madness which has infected many of my fellow fans of the Oil. $3 million for Grebs? For what exactly?

  • Dennis

    It only took 36 games but now the MSM are on MacT's tail about the PK!!!:)

    The Oilers don't block shots anymore and I'd like to know how and when they came about that decision.

    Also, it was a bad idea to lose two faceoff men and not replace them in the same summer the NHL decides that every PP begin with an own zone faceoff.

    Now, of course if Kevin Lowe didn't know years ago that the cap was going up there's a real possibility that he's also not being informed of rule changes.

  • Chris

    Roli has been good. Our D has been providing lots of offence. The PK is terrible. How much blame for terrible penalty killing should fall on the current Oiler defence? I've spent so much time being mad at our wussy and ineffective group of forwards I've given the back end a free pass… What is your take Gregor… In a dream world where trades still happen, should the Oilers trade for a shutdown D-Man to help the PK? Or is this all about faceoffs and lack of grit on the front end?

  • TV

    Polutny has to clear waivers to be called up & I don't think they want to lose him & the offensive depth he gives the Falcons, so I don't think that is really an option? I do hope that KFC (Pouliot) is healed up & can replace Reddox on the 1st line instead.

    I would hate to see Grebs go anywhere, I would much rather they sign him to a long term deal in the $3mill range max & trade off Gilbert to use him & another top prospect as the main cogs to some sort of package deal.

    x6

  • Jason Gregor

    @ rindog:
    I said Reddox played well in that game, but the Oilers don't have anyone else right now on the roster that can bring more offence, other than Brule. (Excluding Nilsson, Gagner or Cole.)

    Cogliano is NOT a winger. He can't play the wing. He gets lost out there, and there is no reason to move him there. IF they don't call up Potulny or Schremp they don't have any other options with Hemsky and Pouliot out.

    As for Perrault, he doesn't kill penalties, so having him win faceoffs five-on-five doesn't really help this team, because their PK is their biggest weakness.

    Perrault is not the answer in my opinion. If he killed penalties then it would make sense, but five-on-five then you are taking minutes from Cogliano and Gagner and that makes no sense to me.

    MacTavish did state he doesn't know his game, so I'm guessing then the scouts are the ones that don't want to bring him in.

    Reddox had played all three positions in the past two years, so he can do it. Much like Pouliot or Brule or many others, but Cogliano can't and I don't need to see him on the wing. HE is best when he is in constant motion, and playing the wing would have him standing still much more.

  • rindog

    Jason,

    How do you not just smack MacT in the head while your talking to him???

    A couple of things….

    I know you defended Reddox after the first game on the top line – but do you really think he played well (as a first line player)? He battled hard but didn't give any depth or offense to a supposed scoring line?

    If MacT thinks he played well there – doesn't that speaks volumes as to how much MacT really doesn't get the offensive side of the game?

    The answer he gave you is almost insulting. ("Like whom?")

    Our biggest concern going in to the season is how we were going to get 7 players to fit into the top 2 lines.

    Let's forget about Moreau and Pisani on the top two lines for now)…MacT now has 6 players available for the 6 spots and is still bumbling his way with the line-up.

    Playing players out of position for kicks is moronic. Playing them out of their comfort zone out of necessity (injury) is called coaching.

    I can understand wanting to keep Cole and Gagner together for the time being. If we wants to leave Nilsson with Cole and Gags – fine. So…by process of elimination, that leaves Cogliano. What is wrong with giving him a shot on the right side? Is it going to affect the dominance of the current 3rd line? Is Cogliano not as good of an option as Reddox? If Reddox is a good enough player that he can play out of postion temporarily – isn't Cogliano?

    Also,

    Wasn't it you who fired a verbal insult at me a couple weeks back for bringing up Perrault's name (when you were discussing Gratton)?

    Either that means you agree with MacT's assessment (I sure hope not) or you too can see that the minuses a guy like Perrault might bring are no worse than a Strudwick, Reddox or Stortini.

    I get a kick out of MacT's comment:

    "but the question is what you give up minus what you create"

    That is his new catch phrase and while it may sound good it makes no sense (when spoken by MacT). Unless you actually can evaluate what the players actually bring to the table you shouldn't be making comments like he did.

    I would like to know exactly what he thinks a guy like Perrault would be giving up on a guy like Reddox? What does Reddox (insert any number of other names here)bring to our team that is so valuable?

    The fact of the matter is – we have one less point than we did at this exact same time two years ago and 2 more points than we did last year. Are we seeing any type of growth at all?

    I am having a tough time listening to MacT's ramblings when it is evident that he can't lead any team (regardless of the roster) to anything other than mediocrity!!!!