Hemsky, Horcoff still out

Playing the San Jose Sharks is a tough task any night, but facing them without your best player makes it even harder. Ales Hemsky will not play tomorrow night, but he did ride the bike last night and again today so he is slowly feeling better, and with Shawn Horcoff’s back still bothering him it could be a long night for the Oilers.

The Sharks played their worst game of the season Tuesday in Calgary, and with two days off since then, they will be looking to get back on track. But they’ll have to beat their nemesis, Dwayne Roloson. Roloson’s best games the past two years have come against the Sharks, and with the Oilers first line hurting, he better be ready for a barrage of shots from the Sharks.

The biggest problem with the Oilers last night was their inability to win a one-on-one battle. The first line PP unit was the worst. They had three consecutive power-plays in the first period and even with an extra man they never worked hard enough to get control of the puck. Outside of when Tom Gilbert missed the net from the slot and Andrew Cogliano missed on a one-timer, the PP generated nothing in the first period.

Your best players need to be your best players if you hope to win, excluding the rare games like the Islanders win where your fourth line makes a difference, so with Hemsky out and Horcoff hurting guys like Penner, Cole, Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson needed to step up.

Nilsson was the best of that bunch, while the rest didn’t do much. Too often this season the players have been outworked by their opponents, and that falls squarely on their shoulders. The coach can only motivate so much — the majority of preparation comes from the players, and this group doesn’t have enough guys that are ready to play on a consistent basis.

My other beef is what system do the Oilers play? They aren’t a puck-possession team, they don’t trap, they don’t dump and chase. They are a hybrid of nothing and that’s the problem. Either the players deviate too often from the system, or more likely they don’t truly know what it is and how to execute it.

It seems to me that most of the players don’t know. Every system should have a safe zone or starting point. When things start going wrong, or the momentum is lost, the players need to know what the basic starting point is and get back to it. To me that is one of the major issues with this team, and that falls on coaching.

Repetition is the only way for the players to understand this starting point. It has to happen in practice, in the film room, and essentially it needs to be beat into their brains. I don’t think they get a consistent enough message, and that needs to change.

The players and the coaches need to realize that both are at fault for the continual shortcomings of this team. The coaches need to deliver their message better, and the players need to be ready to play. If not, the never-ending-merry-go-round that has become the Oilers will continue to spin on the path of mediocrity.

Mac attack

Steve MacIntyre has been cleared to play and practiced without a visor today for the first time since Eric Godard busted his orbital bone in November. MacIntyre was giddy with the idea he would be exchanging bombs very soon. He won’t play tomorrow and probably not against St. Louis, but with Donald Brasher in Washington and the Bogeyman in Minnesota look for MacIntyre to lace them up early on the road trip next week.

Hemmer and Scorcoff improving

Ales Hemsky rode the bike last night and again this morning and is feeling better. He didn’t speak to the media, so it is tough to gauge how much better he is feeling, but his coach announced they are seeing progress.

“He’s feeling a little better. From what I understand talking to Kenny (Lowe) he made it through yesterday nicely and it looks good, but he is still a ways away.” So don’t expect to see #83 until the three-game road trip at the earliest.

Shawn Horcoff didn’t skate today, but said his back is feeling better. He doesn’t plan on skating on off days until he feels better.

“It’s getting better, but it’s not an injury you want re-occuring. It was bothering for a week until I hurt it last weekend. I’m not sure if I hurt it in the gym or during a game, but as long as we get it under control it won’t matter. Face-offs are the real problem right now. Skating doesn’t bother me, but hunching over seems to irritate it.”

The biggest problem for Horcoff is that there is no one else who can take the draws, so he will have to hope that the rest on off days is enough to make it heal.

LINES?

It was impossible to tell what the lines will be for tomorrow night based on practice. Horcoff didn’t skate, but Penner and Cole did skate together at times. MacTavish’s thoughts on his lines:

“I like Cole with Gags, and based on one bad game I’m not sure I want to switch them up just yet. Nilsson has been playing well as of late on that line so we will see.”

If Penner is ready to play that makes a major difference. He needs to be a difference maker, and he has to be one more often, especially with Hemsky out of the line-up.

  • Dennis

    His salary might preclude his ability to be dealt but trading away Moreau would be a great move right now.

    It would give this team a little shake-up and an eye opener and it would remove a fellow who honestly needs to be either bumped down the pecking order or extracted altogether.

  • Hockey Gods

    Jason, great work on your show ranting about the music at RX1. It is pathetic, being at the games there is nothing to get the fans fired up between whistles, if the fans are jacked then the players might add a little more jump.

    Then during commecial breaks and intermission fans have to deal with that phony Mark chump and can't even enjoy some hot looking ice girls.

  • Pokie Reddik

    He called it the right wing lock, the old Red wings system , they now play a puck possession which MaCt has implemented at the begining of the season, this is why we are fighting for top spot in our division. MacT has no game plan. As "POO" said " I really don't know what I am supposed to do, Mac hasn't told me anything just what line I am on"
    Time to hire Bob Stauffer as G.M. and Barney Rubble as coach

  • Wanye Gretz

    Jack Bauer wrote:

    Lets trade O’marra, Schremp, Garon, Mctavish, and Joey Moss for Lecavilier.

    I cannot agree with trading Joey Moss. That dude is hands down the hardest working mother trucker paid by the Oil. If I had half that dudes work ethic I would be way further ahead in life than I am today.

  • Chris

    I enjoy reading trade proposals written by upset fans desperate for some change/ excitement like for example:

    Let's trade Schremp, Horcoff, Gilbert, and maybe Brule and a pick for Spezza….

    Does anyone realize that an NHL team is only allowed to have 50 contracts on the books?

  • Travis Dakin

    Chris wrote:

    Didn’t MacT bring in the trap during round one of the /06 playoffs? He had a cute name for it that escapes me…but it was a trap. I don’t want the Oilers to trap, but it is clear that we lack the personnel/ commitment to be a puck possession team. Is it time to employ this EVIL system if it wins us more hockey games?

    You shut your damn mouth!

  • Chris

    Didn't MacT bring in the trap during round one of the /06 playoffs? He had a cute name for it that escapes me…but it was a trap. I don't want the Oilers to trap, but it is clear that we lack the personnel/ commitment to be a puck possession team. Is it time to employ this EVIL system if it wins us more hockey games?

  • Bruthah

    Wanye Gretz wrote:

    I would like to propose a trade too:
    To Pit:
    JDD, Grebeshkov and the rights to Petr Kilma
    To Edm:
    Malkin
    If we are going to try and fix this squad let’s get a premiere player for free. That would seriously help the lineup immensely as the Oil wouldn’t be forced to give much up in return.
    *drool*

    That's a baaaaaaaaaaad trade from the eyes of a Pittsburgh fan.

  • Wanye Gretz

    I would like to propose a trade too:

    To Pit:
    JDD, Grebeshkov and the rights to Petr Kilma

    To Edm:
    Malkin

    If we are going to try and fix this squad let's get a premiere player for free. That would seriously help the lineup immensely as the Oil wouldn't be forced to give much up in return.

    *drool*

  • shakey

    When Lubo and to a lesser extent, Gilbert, isn't on the ice, our break-out from behind the net consists of taking 3 strides, turning back, passing behind the net and repeat until the other team goes for a line change or someone falls down. How may times has the play started up ice only to be turned over before center and right back into our zone. Staios is probably the worse for this and Grebeskov makes it look a lot harder than it should be. I will say he looks better lately but he has his moments still.

  • swany

    After one of the Oilers losses a lady phoned into 630 post game show, she played with the ladies team and stated that the Oilers pactises awful, she couldn't see what type of system they were using and that it was a gong show. They laughed her off, but from your blog Jason does it look like they practise a system or not?

  • sitting_at_my_desk

    will be really tough without horcoff and hemsky….
    i think something has to be done
    we should trade nilsson, grebeshkov, draft pick for kovalchuk.. we need an impact player…

  • smytty777

    "My other beef is what system do the Oilers play? They aren’t a puck-possession team, they don’t trap, they don’t dump and chase. They are a hybrid of nothing and that’s the problem."

    I think this hits the nail on the head, the PK is a perfect example of systematic ineptitude. No one seems to be sure who is doing what on the ice.

    You can chalk up a couple of the Vancouver goals to "bad reads", but the defensive zone coverage has been far too inconsistent all year long for that to be an excuse.

    The Oilers seem systematically confused in their own zone and that needs to change. I'll leave it to debate whether the bulk of the blame should fall on the personnel or the coaching staff.