GDB 68: It’s simple – chemistry’s either there, or not

pennistry

Do you remember your English 10 teacher? Mine was Mrs. Stroud and I couldn’t stand her obvious bias. The first essay I wrote I got 69%, and every one after that was within three percent + or -. I had 85% in grade nine English, and I got 84% in English 20, so I couldn’t understand how I became such a bad writer over that one summer. Of course my other grades weren’t stellar, but that’s not my point.

My buddy always got 80+ on his essays so late in the semester, to prove my point, we wrote our own essays and switched the names. I still got 71 and he got an 84. When I told the principal what we did, and how Madame Stroud was clearly biased, he wanted proof. Well, since in my time we didn’t have a home computer, I wrote on paper and then typed it at school. I always threw my paper away like it was some big accomplishment having it typed. Needless to say nothing happened, and Stroud hated me even more after that.

My point is, as humans we are all biased, but teachers (My mom is one, and she just got her doctorate so don’t take offence, teachers) and coaches have to try to hide and ignore those biases. Craig MacTavish has to find a way to put his frustration and bias towards Dustin Penner aside, for the sake of his team (and possibly MacT’s job).

Ales Kotalik is not working on the first line, and there isn’t time to find out if the chemistry will develop.

“I think you can see chemistry in one game, and it’s there or it isn’t,” said Thrashers head coach John Anderson.

Anderson is in his rookie season in the NHL, but he won four championships in the AHL so he knows how to determine chemistry and a winning formula.

This is not the time to send messages or get the point across to players. The Oilers are in a dogfight for the playoffs and they have only won three of their past 11 games. A few more losses and they will be in chase mode once again.

Ice your best line-up, your best possible combinations and go from there.

Put Penner back with Hemsky and Horcoff. Move Kotalik back to his natural right wing along side Gagner and Nilsson. Leave O’Sullivan with Cogliano and Pisani because they have chemistry and then you have Moreau, Brodziak and Stortini as your energy line and potential shut-down line.

If Penner has one of his “going-through-the-motions” games, sit him and promote O’Sullivan there and Moreau up to the third line. There are lots of options within the game to get guys going. Make it a healthy and competitive atmosphere. Play whichever line is going, and if it is a different top nine forwards every night that play in the final ten minutes, so be it.

Sure, Penner can be frustrating, but he has also shown in the past that after a benching he can go on a productive ten game stretch, and right now you need him to be productive. Like it or not, he is your best option on the first line. You said it yourself earlier this year, so go with you gut.

Kotalik wasn’t lighting it up before he came here, so help him out and put him back on his right wing, and more importantly play him on the left point on your first PP unit. Your PP has stunk for the past month. You are 6 for 51 in your past 13 games, so it clearly isn’t working.

You are six points back of Columbus all of a sudden for 6th spot, and that is the spot all Albertans want. Fans don’t want 7th or 8th, they NEED 6th place.

Our economy is in a bit of a dip, it’s not warm enough for girls to wear summer dresses yet, they’re trying to take fighting out of hockey, and the Oilers have the most clothed ice girls in the league. Give the fans something to cheer about, check your pride and ice your best possible lineup.

LOYALTY IS TAUGHT

While many of us have bemoaned that there is too much loyalty within the Oiler organization, yesterday’s actions by the former GODFATHER of Oilerville showed where Lowe and company learned it.

Glen Sather, who orchestrated and conducted the glory days of the Oilers, stood up for his buddy Peter Pocklington and forked out a cool million for Puck’s bail. That is loyalty.

Whether you like Pocklington or not, Sather’s gesture re-affirms the depth of the Boys On The Bus loyalty. A true friend is one who stands beside you in a time of need, and Pocklington definitely needs one, and has a pal in Sather.

I understand where Lowe and MacTavish got their loyalty from, so if anything MacTavish owes it to Lowe to play Penner and try to save face for his GM.

  • Chris

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    My opinion of Kotalik isn't based on his performance as an Oiler… that wouldn't be fair. I'm looking at Kotalik's season, and his career. I will never understand MacT's decision to use him on the first line. IT MAKES NO SENSE! Some ideas, may or may not work… this was a no-brainer. I'm watching the Oilers fade in the race for 6th… and it's killing me!

  • Chris

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    I agree. Kotalik should be on the point during the PP… otherwise, why even try to hide him in the lineup? Was the 2nd round pick to Buffalo a hockey decision or a peace offering?

  • Phil

    You nailed it Jay. Agreed on all accounts.

    On another note, the woman that sang the National Anthem for the Laffs/Flamers game was pathetic. Not supposed to be sang like that, I don't care if she was trying to put her own "new" twist into it (probably wasn't even tho), it was still brutal.

    Oh Can-eee-da? That's just wrong.

  • Ales Kotalik is not working on the first line, and there isn’t time to find out if the chemistry will develop…

    Ice your best line-up, your best possible combinations and go from there.

    Put Penner back with Hemsky and Horcoff. Move Kotalik back to his natural right wing along side Gagner and Nilsson. Leave O’Sullivan with Cogliano and Pisani because they have chemistry and then you have Moreau, Brodziak and Stortini as your energy line and potential shut-down line…

    Kotalik wasn’t lighting it up before he came here, so help him out and put him back on his right wing, and more importantly play him on the left point on your first PP unit. Your PP has stunk for the past month. You are 6 for 51 in your past 13 games, so it clearly isn’t working.

    Nice to see that we agree on Kotalik not being a first line winger with Hemsky and Horcoff. On the other hand, I don't see any reason to bump Pouliot out of the lineup so he can dress on the second line either.

    A fun question to consider: of the group of Ales Kotalik, Liam Reddox, Kyle Brodziak, Ethan Moreau and Sam Gagner, who are the best and worst even-strength scorers relative to ice-time this season?

    The worst: Ales Kotalik
    The best: Marc Pouliot

    To recap: Liam Reddox is more likely to record a point on any given shift than Ales Kotalik, based on their play this season. About 20% more likely, in point of fact.

    Marc Pouliot is almost twice as likely to score on an even-strength shift than Ales Kotalik.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  • Chris

    March 4th 2009. Trade deadline day. I had O'Sullivan slated in on first line left wing. Then MacT does, what MacT does… he converts another right winger (with no previous first line experience) into our first line left wing. The notion that friends and fellow countrymen will have natural chemistry is collosally stupid. Why not throw Cogliano and JF Jacques together… they're both CANADIAN… of course they're gonna light it up and complement each other…STUPID! Why not look at the player's style, track record, tendencies, etc… It's called scouting, planning,… you know…coaching. It's sad, when even a dumb fan like me, can clearly identify MacT's persistant misuse of available assets. MacT has cost this team at least two wins since the trade deadline… If O'Sullivan finally gets a look, and is able to contribute with Hemsky, I will add "FMNF" to by tag.

  • Dennis

    My 10th grade English teacher was gay and then predictably enough looked the other way while JW and I made out;)

    I feel like Gregor's baiting me here when he puts out a top 12 and omits one of our best players from the past few games, Pouliot.

    I do agree that it's time to stop shagging around and put 27 back with 10-83; that's where he should have been all along. MacT doesn't like it because 27's a guy who doesn't always hustle or use his size but he's the best option at LW but you have to put him there and swallow your anger and then beg the GM's this summer to move him. But, yes, for now, don't try to send messages at the risk of losing points.

    The whole thing with 21's worth watching because MacT's painted himself into a hole by proclaiming him yet another "one-shot scorer." I believe the first time I heard that was in regards to Jochen Hecht and here we are again:D

    The constant in the production of the new 89 line has been the 89-78 combo. They've seen the likes of Cole, 19 and now 12 moved through their other wing but these two have been the constant and the line's consistently. 21's got the career edge over 78, that's for sure. But if you believe in keeping together a line in it's infancy like 19-13-34, you have to believe in keeping 89-78 together as well. Especially considering 78's not taking draws for that troika.

    But maybe you try and squeeze something out of 21 by playing him with 12-89 but at the very least 78 plays over 46.

    Otherwise, you're as biased as Mrs. Stroud:)

  • Milli

    Gregor, that nice.

    I couldn't believe when I heard that slots had bailed out Puck…But I guess your right.

    Cogs and Sulli have looked great together, as has gagner…I was all over him, but I'm starting to understand why they kept going back to him…

  • Archaeologuy

    "Whether you like Pocklington or not, Sather’s gesture re-affirms the depth of the Boys On The Bus loyalty. A true friend is one who stands beside you in a time of need, and Pocklington definitely needs one, and has a pal in Sather."

    Gregor, there's only a slight but important difference between loyalty and enabling. Like giving a crack-head money "for the bus" one more time, Lowe is giving MacTinker one more chance, then one more chance, then…

    We need an intervention here people. Sometimes you need to say no to the people you love.

    Dear Oilers,
    I love you but I cannot support you until you take ownership of your problems and enter into a Coaching rehab centre. I have changed the locks and my phone number. You need a lifestyle change. Your old friends (dynasty hangers on) must be forgotten and your old stomping grounds (7th-9th place) must never be frequented again.
    Your family loves you, but you arent you anymore. You're just a MacJunkie these days. A shell of your former self. I hope you understand.
    Archaeologuy

  • Chris

    Gregor I 100% agree. Penner (unfortunately) is the best fit on line 1. If Penner mails it in; give O'Sullivan a look… Awesome! I've been crying for this since O'Sullivan and Kotalik arrived.

    Since the trade deadline, the Oilers have had secondary scoring, solid/ not stellar goaltending, skated well, and yet have managed only one win… MacT needs top get that first line going.

  • Reggie wrote:

    Vets get free passes on poor play and lack of results all the time. See Horcoff and his ice time vs results and numbers. Sure, play him in tight defensive situations, that is a good fit, but he continues to see PP time when he’s not delivering the points 5 on 4.

    Oilers forwards with better point production (relative to icetime) than Horcoff on the powerplay:

    1. Hemsky
    2. Nilsson

    Horcoff and Cogliano are virtually tied (both clipping in right around 3.5 PTS/60). To paraphrase Bruce Willis, "That isn't a choice, it's a lack of options." Gagner's having a bad year 5-on-4 (2.01 PTS/60), and Cogliano can't win a faceoff.

    I don't much like it, but I don't see that there's been a better powerplay option at centre on this team this year.

  • Reggie

    "Ice your best line-up, your best possible combinations and go from there."

    I don't believe that MacT understands this approach. He plays favorites all the time. Vets get free passes on poor play and lack of results all the time. See Horcoff and his ice time vs results and numbers. Sure, play him in tight defensive situations, that is a good fit, but he continues to see PP time when he's not delivering the points 5 on 4. See Moreau's high number of bad penalties and no change in ice time.

    The rest of the players see this and it affects team chemistry, it affects how they see the coach and it affects performance.

    Team is about fairness and togetherness. This season is about MacT trying to keep his job – and it shows in his approach.