Here’s the third quarter report card for the Oilers. This is a quarterly report and not a midway ranking, and you can see their respective grade from the first and second quarters in here and here. Also read below for an update on Ethan Moreau’s condition.
A+ Dwayne Roloson. The Colossal Fossil has been the Oilers most consistent player this segment. He was the either the first (4) or second (4) star eight times this stretch. His save % is now .917, he is 14th in wins and only four goalies with more wins have a better save %, Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Niklas Backstrom and Steve Mason. He has started 18 in a row and with no back-to-back games in their next eight games I don’t see him sitting anytime soon. (B first 20, A- 2nd)
A Ales Hemsky. Hemsky scored ten goals in the 18 games that he played. He was super-star dominant in the early part of this quarter, but only had two goals and two points in the last six games. He had 17 points in the 18 games, but he leaves you wanting more. On a team starving for offence he is clearly their best player, and he has become so exciting that if he doesn’t dominate a game we are disappointed. He has raised the bar, and with 10 goals in 18 games and linemates that are struggling he is deserving of this grade. (A+ first 20, A second quarter)
A- Sheldon Souray. Souray continues to be consistent physically and emotionally. His points were down a bit, 11, in this quarter compared to his 14.5 average in the first two. He played over 28 minutes in five of the games, and with the style he plays that gets taxing. The return of Grebeshkov should ease his minutes and allow him to be more effective. His point totals and +/- was down a bit this quarter, so he dipped slightly. (A in first two segments)
A- Zack Stortini. Career segment for Stortini, who didn’t forget his job even though he snipped four goals in the 14 games he played. He also had five tilts, and Stortini’s confidence is evident in every area of his game. He is throwing more punches and scoring more goals. Strange stat, he didn’t miss the net once this segment. All nine shots of his hit the net and four went in. He has a 27.8 shooting% now. You can’t expect much more from Stortini. If his more talented teammates would work half as hard as he does the Oilers would be in a much better position in the standings. (C first 20, B- 2nd)
A- Tom Gilbert. After no goals in the second quarter Gilbert was a beast offensively this quarter. He had 18 points, the most of any Oiler this segment. He only had two goals, but 16 assists for a D-man is very good. The problem was he had 21 giveaways as well. Of course not all of them resulted in goals, but his turnovers did result directly in six goals for the opposition. I would still like him to use his size a bit more, especially in one-on-one battles down low, but his offensive production was incredible. He played lots of minutes this quarter, so you would expect a bit of an increase in his turnovers. The fact is he produced offensively, and on this team offence means more. Plain and simple. (B- first 20, C- 2nd)
B Denis Grebeshkov. Nine points in the 14 games he played, a +4 and the giveaways continue to shrink. His value is even more important on a team with so many forwards who struggle to score. His return has a double positive, in that he brings more offence but also he can take some minutes away from Souray and Gilbert. He still needs to shoot more though, 38 shots is unacceptable. (C+ first 20, B- 2nd)
B Kyle Brodziak. Ten points in this stretch, (5th most on the team) and he had 19 hits this segment compared to 22 in the first two combined, which shows he is trying to be more physical. He is still above 50% in the draw, but if he could become 52-53% that would help. He was consistent this quarter and if he and his wingers continue to produce it could go a long way to the Oilers making the playoffs. It is sad when your 4th line scores almost as often as your 2nd line over 20 games. (C first 20, B- 2nd)
B Lubomir Visnovsky. He had six points in the six games he played before tearing his labrum. He has been very consistent this season, and before the injury you sensed his game was getting even better. His absence has been very noticeable, especially on the PP. He gets a grade because of how big his injury has been. (B- first 20, B 2nd)
B- Jason Strudwick. His minutes grew with the injuries to 71 and 37, and when paired with Peckham he was a good mentor for the rookie. He continues to fair well in most of his fights, and is one of the few signings that has worked out for Kevin Lowe. He isn’t flashy, but his noticeable enthusiasm for the game is refreshing. (A- first 20, B- 2nd)
B- Ladislav Smid. Another guy who stepped up due to injuries on the backend and he played solid. Five assists, with three of them coming as he led the rush show he is trying to add more offence to his game. But he has to work on his shot, which could be the worst point shot in the league. He hasn’t scored a goal since March of 2007. He doesn’t take many penalties for a guy who plays physical, and the best part about his game is that you are seeing improvement as the season progresses. (C first 20, B- 2nd)
B- Erik Cole. He has been the most talked about Oiler of late, but for trade speculation rather than production. He is a tough guy to evaluate. He went nine games without a point in this stretch, but he finished with seven goals. He had 58 hits this quarter, and just when you think he is going to be a dominant force most nights he seems to disappear offensively. Brownlee and I have disagreed on whether he will be here come Wednesday at 1 p.m., but with Moreau’s injury I’m more certain than ever he will be here. They need at least one forward to play physical. (F first 20, B+ 2nd)
C+ Steve Staios. After a horrendous second quarter, Staios rebounded and played much better this segment. I still think Staios plays best between 18-21 minutes, and I give him credit for play upwards of 26 and 27 during some games, but if they ask him to keep playing that much it will affect his game. He shows courage by blocking lots of shots, he stepped and in the game v. Minn after Buffalo demolished them, he crushed Veilleux with a hit, and has a spirited tilt with Clutterbuck. He leads by being competitive every game. We know he doesn’t have the most ability, but he shows up and that is more than most of his teammates can say.(B- first 20)
C+ Liam Reddox. The little Red-Ox is consistent every game. He battles hard, skates hard and has fit in nicely on the 4th line. He brings energy every game, and lately has started to make good decisions with the puck. You wonder if guys like Nilsson, Gagner, Cogliano and Pouliot played with the same determination how good they would be. Many ripped Reddox because the coach put him in a bad spot for 5 games, on the first line, but it is hard to criticize what he brings to the ice now. I believe that Reddox’s play might make Pisani expandable in the future. He is much cheaper, skates as well and is even grittier.
C Andrew Cogliano. He had a tough stretch with only two goals. You would like to see some improvement in his faceoffs, but there hasn’t been any. He is still a woeful 38%. You would like to see him improve to at least a 45% guy the next segment. It is an element of his game he needs to work more on, because he hasn’t shown any signs of improvement all year. Like many other forwards he needs to engage more, and with his speed you would like to see him draw more penalties. (B- first 20, A- 2nd)
C Steve Macintyre. He played seven games and wasn’t a defensive liability, but outside of his two fights he didn’t do much. Of course it is hard to make an impression in three minutes. With the games becoming even more important, I doubt you will see lots of MacIntyre down the stretch. (B- first 20, N/A 2nd)
C Theo Peckham. He played eight games, and was a +1 in these eight games. He was physical, and most importantly he played a simple game. He wasn’t a major factor in games, but he never hurt himself either. He showed he can add some toughness on the backend for next year, or possibly this year if there is another injury.
C- Ethan Moreau. Moreau is an emotional player, but his emotions got the best of him too often during this stretch. Too many penalties hurt him, and he needs to be more controlled. While the penalties piss you off, at least he has produced something, scoring five goals. Only Cole and Hemsky scored more goals this quarter, so you would give Moreau an A for offence and and F for discipline. (A first 20, C 2nd).
****Update on Moreau’s eye. He has a scratched cornea and there is blood behind the eye. The good news is that he is staring to see shadows, so the outlook looks good. His return date is up in the air right now, but most importantly it sounds like he should escape serious injury.
C- Shawn Horcoff. A strange quarter for Horcoff. At times it looked like he was incapable of finishing a one-timer, yet the small parts of his game improved. He was 58% in the dot during this stretch, and was +9. Hemsky was +3 and Penner +2 so it’s a rare stat where he isn’t being carried by Hemsky. 13 points just doesn’t cut, and at the end of the day doing the small things aren’t enough for your 1st line center. Horcoff better get used to hearing criticism, because when his new contract kicks in next year the expectations will be even greater. I really think MacTavish should lessen his PK minutes. I know he is in great shape, but why not use Cogliano a bit more? I know that Cogliano can only come off the bench on the fly, because he can’t win a draw to save his life, but I think it might benefit both players. (D in first 20, C 2nd)
C- Sam Gagner. Two goals and four points from your 2nd line centre is horrendous. While Gagner competes hard, he is clearly struggling to play like he did last year. His ankle is still bothering him a bit, but his over handling of the puck is what has plagued him the most. Regardless of the ankle, he needs to improve his foot speed this summer. While he claims he hasn’t lost any, you wonder if his confidence is where it needs to be. If the Oilers plan to finish 5th or 6th he has to start contributing. (D+ first 20, B- 2nd)
C- Marc Pouliot. Not much different from Pouliot. Rarely did you notice him in the 16 games he played. He doesn’t score enough to be a top six, he doesn’t play physical to be an energy guy, and rarely do you feel confident he will win the one-on-one battle for a puck. He seems to have lost the confidence of his coach, and you wonder if he will be here come Wednesday. He is the poster boy for soft, safe and unwilling to compete forward that the Oilers have an abundance of. (D- first 20, C+ 2nd)
C- Dustin Penner. More of the same from Penner. Sure he had 10 points, but do you remember a game where he took control of even a shift? It gets old to ask why he doesn’t look interested, but it is getting harder watching him float through most games. I don’t expect him to be as dogged as Stortini or Moreau, but being the softest guy on the ice when you are 240 pounds is embarrassing. If he gave even a decent effort I think he would score 25-28 goals easily, but he seems incapable so far of finding a consistent effort. (D first 20, C-)
D Robert Nilsson. One goal during this stretch from your supposed 2nd line LW is not good enough. The most damning stat for Nilsson is that not once in the 51 games he’s played has he been named a star. Not freakin once. Not once has he been one of the best three players on the ice. With the amount of natural ability he has you would think that in one game he would be a factor. I don’t expect him to be a physical presence, so all he can bring is offence, and he hasn’t been bringing it. The frustrating part about Nilsson’s game is that there is no middle ground. At least when Cole isn’t scoring he draws penalties or hits, what does Nilsson do when he score? If you know let me know. (C first 20, D 2nd)
N/A Fernando Pisani. Only played two games, so no grade.
N/A Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. Outside of two relief appearances his biggest contribution has been in practice. Maybe he has to let the forwards score more in practice to get some confidence. You wonder if he gets another conditioning stint, and they call up Dubynk and let him play in the one or two games that Roloson doesn’t start down the stretch. If JDD does play, it will be more his mental game that he showcases. (B first 20, C 2nd)
C is for COACHING. MacTavish was much calmer this segment. He didn’t call out anyone this stretch. I’d like to see him make better adjustments during the game. While it is human nature to have favourites, I wonder why Horcoff has to play as much as he does. He still can’t get over mistakes players make, but I give him credit for rewarding players who give a solid effort. They actually had their best stretch this quarter going 11-8-2, but this team still can’t seem to play consistent enough. At some point he needs to find a way to reach the underachievers. Saying he can’t isn’t an option.
Grade as a team: C+. They went 11-8-2 during this quarter, with eleven home games and ten road games. They still lack an identity at home, and that has to fall on the shoulders of the players. This team is where they are due to Roloson, their defence and Hemsky. It is not coincidence that almost all of the C grades and below are forwards. Currently the only playoff teams with fewer goals are Columbus and the Rangers. The fourth line has been overachieving, Hemksy is dominant, Moreau and Cogliano have produced okay, but the other six forwards are underperforming. Horcoff, Penner, Cole, Gagner and Nilsson have to improve, and if even three of them do the Oilers should squeak into the playoffs.