QUICK HITS…

Coming out of the first weekend in the NHL the Oilers are one of only six teams to start the season a perfect 2-0. You know it is early considering, Dallas, St.Louis, Toronto, Carolina and Detroit are the others. Five of these teams missed the playoffs last year, so don’t get to excited.

The Oilers played a perfect game v. Calgary last Thursday, and then were perfectly ineffective against Florida, but they won. Nikolai Khabibulin was superb in both games, and only Roberto Luongo has a better SV% amongst goalies who have played two games. Luongo sits at .973% while Khabibulin is at .969%.

Tom Renney wasn’t happy after Sunday’s win and he was questioning the energy/jump of his team. Renney will not allow this team to be comfortable at any point this season, and while he wasn’t impressed on Sunday he didn’t finger any specific players. He made it clear his team needs to work harder and with more energy if they want to keep winning.

Here’s a few other observations through the first two games:

  •  Shawn Horcoff has two goals and neither has come off his stick. He couldn’t buy a break last year, and you wonder if this is a sign he might get some bounces this year. Players don’t care how the goals go in, as long as they score, and despite the fluky goals Horcoff’s confidence is pretty high right now.
     
  • Theo Peckham has blocked 11 shots in two games. Dennis Seidenberg led the league with 215 last year, so obviously Peckham won’t maintain this pace, but he has been solid through two games. He’s been physical, moved the puck decently well and hasn’t made any glaring giveaways. His D partner, Jim Vandermeer has struggled moving the puck out of the zone, and he will need to settle down.
     
  • The Oilers are a perfect nine for nine on the PK so far. The big difference is their less-aggressive system. Last year, their aggressiveness got them in trouble and out of position . Khabibulin has been their best penalty killer, but so far the Oilers have done a good job keeping teams to the outside and staying in the shooting lanes. 
     
  • Their most glaring weakness has been their faceoffs; Again. Shawn Horcoff and Colin Fraser were supposed to be good, but they are 40% and 42.3% respectively. Gilbert Brule is 70% on the ten draws he has taken, and you wonder if Renney will start to use him more. They were awful against Florida, 33%, and that was a big reason why the Panthers always seemed to have the puck. It is early, but Renney admitted he is concerned, so I’ll be curious to see what he does to improve it.
     
  • Kurtis Foster only has one shot in two games, and hasn’t been involveds offensively at all. He needs to use his size more and he needs to start shooting the puck.
     
  • I’ve really liked how aggressive Renney and Ralph Krueger want their D-men to be when joining the rush. There has been a strong onus on jumping up in the play and so far they haven’t given up a lot of odd-man rushes. It has made the games more exciting to watch.
     
  • Renney spent a lot of time on breakouts this morning. They struggled making a two-foot pass on Sunday and they spent a good 20-25 minutes on basic breakouts schemes.
     
  • They also worked on one-on-one, two-on-one and two-on-two drills down low in the offensive zone. They didn’t cycle the puck very well in either game, according to the coaches, and they want more scoring chances from in close.
     
  • Tom Gilbert has yet to win a game in Minnesota as an Oiler. He will try again on Thursday. The entire Gilbert clan has sat at the Excel Energy Centre for every game Gilbert has played there and he is yet to meet them after a victory. They lost in OT in his first game there, and he is hoping the streak ends Thursday.
     
  • The Oilers will travel a bit differently this year. They will practice in Edmonton tomorrow. Clear customs in Edmonton, and then fly to Minnesota. Last year they would fly and practice after they landed. The players and Renney feel the new sched will allow them to be more productive in practice feel more refreshed when they land.
  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’m not a fan of the agreesion with the d-men. Sure for Whitney, Gilbert and Smid it is okay, but the others can’t skate well enough to be pinching. I agree on Vandermeer and wonder where his hockey sense is at times.

    I really wish the answer to sunday’s game was a big turkey dinner, it was really hard to watch and at least you could’ve just ripped on the guys for bad eating habits.

    Brule, why is he not taking more draws? Samething as last year, the guy wins a good chunk of the draws he takes, but doesn’t take nearly enough.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Also any quick thoughts on the Eskimo trade? I really got the impression from the CFL twitter people that Prefontaine was going to be moved at some point this year. I just never really heard that before and was kinda shocked to hear this.

    • Jason Gregor

      Move for the future. Prefontaine was a big salary, and Tillman needs to free up money moving forward.

      I think Tillman wanted to get something for Prefontaine, rather than just let him go in off-season. Esks need better Canadian talent, and they are high on Legare.

      • Jason Gregor

        Very interesting clip on TSN with Prefontaine taking a crap on the way out of town…didnt he do that when he left the Big Smoke to come to E-Town. Kinda funny about how he didnt want to talk about it but when Mitchell(think thats who did the interview) pressed a little bit he dumped his grievances.

        Reason why he 1 step punted was because the offense is BRUTAL.

  • Woogie

    I really like what Renney has done so far this year.

    When Quinn was hired I was like “WOW… this is awesome and I can’t believe we got him”. Then the season started and he made a ton of bizzare moves.

    Looks like Renney actually has a plan and seems to be more about the players then Quinn.

  • Dan the Man

    Part of the problem with Foster not shooting is Whitney refuses to pass him the puck. Don’t mean that as a knock on Whitney but he seems to prefer to pass it down low then across to Foster for the shot. Maybe Foster needs to move to a unit with Gilbert on the PP.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I mentioned that after the CGY game that Foster really had no chances because no one gave him the puck. Put him with Smid and you’ll see Foster getting the shots.

  • If Horcoff can score 20+ goals this year I think he could care less if he shot any of them in. I wonder how many times he will get away with that “questionable” type of goal vs. the Panthers. It’s nice to see the guy catch a break.

    Khabi has been lights out… here’s hoping they can hold off on his next court date until the season is over.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I’ve heard lots of Khabi has been lights out or has been amazing, but the fact is he is going to have to play like he did Sunday on a lot of nights. If he doesn’t then we won’t have chances to win.

    • I was also wondering why they didnt start the year with the Whitney Gilbert pairing either. They have all the time in the world to mix and match as they see fit, I just assumed with all the changes they’d like to keep some things familiar.

      Whatever floats Renney’s boat, I guess.

  • Early surprises on the positive side for Peckham and Jones. Defense needs to improve but we all knew that was our weak spot on this team anyway. Like Horcoff said Sunday night “Good teams find ways to win these bad games” or something to that effect anyway. He is right! Last years Oilers would have found a way to lose to the Panthers, this years team found a way to hang on to the win.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Gregor

    You may not care too much but in your opening comments on your show you said Prefontaine was traded to Toronto for Legare, their second round pick in 2009. Actually he was their first round pick, second overall. Hopefully this means he can play as a starter at some point on the Dline.

    Regards

    • Jason Gregor

      Did I say 2nd round…ha…Meant 2nd overall. You would think he’d be a starter in the future.

      He won’t be a starter right now, but they just need him to be solid on special teams and be in the rotation on the D line. Dee Sterling is done for the year, so they are short a canadian D lineman who can play. They hope Legere is that..

  • Woogie

    I like the way Peckham has played for the first two games but ‘moved the puck well’ would not be a description I would use.

    If anything I thought he was a poster child for what was wrong on Sunday in terms of getting the puck up ice and generating pressure in the offensive zone.

    Jason are there any rumblings about the 3 goalie situation yet? I see that Greiss cleared waivers and yet was of the impression that he was a legitimate blue chipper.

    After seeing that, surely we can assume either of DD or JDD would clear as well.

    • book¡e

      Keep in mind folks that the concern is not about clearing waivers, it’s about clearing re-entry waivers (when the goalie will be half price with the Oilers picking up half for the remainder of the contract) if they have to bring the goalie up.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t recall him making horrible passes. Vandermeer struggled way more, and the biggest problem v. Florida was that the forwards had way too much separation between them and the D. You can’t ask your D to make 30 foot passes all the time. The forwards need to support each other and the D better. Watch for that to improve.

      The Flames didn’t pressure half as much as Florida did, and the Oilers never adapted to their system.

      Nothing on the goalies…They are in no rush, since Khabibulin might play the first seven games with all the down time in between.

      • Jason Gregor

        It wasn’t bad passing that stood out for me it was a lack of passing that stood out.

        Granted although there are times that just getting the puck down ice is a good idea, there seemed to be a few occassions where Peckham dumped the puck into the offensive zone when he had skilled forwards waiting for him to move the puck up to them when they were all in the neutral zone.

        Not only doesn’t he get the puck to the guys who can do something with it, he was also waiting too long for the dump in resulting in a lack of speed for a forcheck.

        Like I said I don’t mind how he has been playing so I don’t want to turn this into some ultra critique of his game, I just didn’t agree with the ‘moved the puck decently well’ comment.

      • Travis Dakin

        That last little bit about the travelling… That’s the stuff I love reading here (among many other things). Little inside stuff that we’d otherwise not know. Thanks.

  • fuck off

    During the summer I posted about Brule deserving a chance at the 1C spot over Horcs and Gags. I still think he deserves a look at it; nice to know he’s doing the job when he does get into the dot.

  • Ducey

    Question:

    Lets say Bulin is lights out until the deadline (maybe a .920 SV%) but the Oilers are still well out of a playoff spot. Would there be any opposition to trading him and the remaining 2 years on his contract? Do you think there would be any trade market for him?

    • Cru Jones

      If you can’t get anything for Simon Gagne, you’re not even going to be able to think about dreaming about possibly contemplating being able to maybe even think about being able to trade Khabibulin.

    • Chris.

      Only to a contending team with the 3.75M available cap space, their #1 goalie is injured/sucky and they have a weak backup. Perhaps Buffalo if Miller goes down, Carolina if Ward goes down, etc.

      I’d hope that by the trade deadline that the Oil have figured out which of DD/JDD to keep and that the one they choose can sustain being the #1.

      For now, I’m not rooting for that trade to happen.

    • D-Man

      Good question… I’d make the trade in a heart beat (assuming we’d get a decent return), even if we were close to a playoff spot… That contract is a good deal for 2 years, but awful for a 4 year term. We’d free up cap space and be able to find a decent (and younger) free agent. Roy should be close to playing in the NHL is two to three years (as a backup to start) and we should have been able to make a decision on JDD/DD by then. You also have Gerber practically for free as well.

  • Cru Jones

    Probably the two biggest things I’ve noticed thus far this year is the assortment of offensive players being sent out to kill penalties, and the effort being made to hold the offensive blueline.

    The PK thing is something that hasn’t happened in Edmonton in a long time. Even though it’s just two games, Eberle being a big part of a yet unblemished penalty killing record says a lot about the kid’s abilities, how much faith Renney has in him, and how different the current coaching regime’s tactics are compared to those in the past. Detractors knock Eberle because he’s not big enough and/or not fast enough, but the kid knows where to be, when to be there and how to get there, and that’s an invaluable asset.

    We might have more of a player in the kid than even the most optimistic of us hoped for a short time ago.

    • Let's Rebuild

      The possibliltiy is that we have a replacent for Pisani that won’t just be a one hit offensive wonder. (or what we always hoped Pisani would become after 2006)

    • Chris.

      On Sunday, when the Oiler had to start a long five on three kill, Renny sent out Horcoff, Eberle, and only one D-man (I think it was Gilbert). Eberle made a great play, and drew an even up call after mere seconds. Tremendous confidence by Renny to put two forwards out in that situation… and Eberle only in his second NHL game! I just can’t stop gushing about this fine young player.

      • C-DOG

        It’s amazing more coaches don’t do this (2F on a 3 on 5). Usually they only resort to it when they are down to 4 defencemen.

        Against a team that likes to generate offense from the point, having a forward out there makes a lot of sense. Against a team that likes to work down low (like Vancouver), not so much.

  • Chris.

    Gregor wrote:

    Nothing on the goalies…They are in no rush, since Khabibulin might play the first seven games with all the down time in between.

    I wonder if the plan is to play Khabibulin through the easy part of the schedule, then send either DD or JDD down for a conditioning stint. Then Tambellini can intruct Renny to use the conditioned player in a one of five games relief rotation for awhile and then send down the other in turn. ~Why if Tambi really plays his cards right: he may never have to make a decison between the two!~

  • Chris.

    The difference between the upper and lower eschilon of Western Conference is miniscule this season i feel (smallest i can recall), and Oilers youth movement could fare well by seasons end . I don’t find any club that strong overall in West this year .

    Oilers have the speed and toughness to compete this season with what appears to be a more offensively gifted team than in past(spread out) and a team concept they seem to be adapting to . Can they maintain this focus throughout the year despite some down times ?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I agree with your comment. Prior to the season last year the experts had the Oilers picked to finish 12th and the Blues and CBJ finishing 10th and 11th.

      Who has improved their personnel more in that time? The Blues with the addition of Halak, or the Oilers with the rookies and a healthy lineup?

      TSN picked Calgary to make the playoffs this year. Calgary really really blows. I mean they really suck, and have no young kids to temper the misery. Sucks to be Calgary.

      We’re not going to win the cup (or even a playoff series), but the playoffs aren’t an unreasonable goal … assuming a number of players have career years and they stay healthy.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m not saying, i’m just saying.

    Oilers have a number of veterans with valuable playoff experience, combined with a 2nd tier of players looking to show they belong in the top 6 on a more consistant basis, as well as a crop of new kids looking to do more than stay in the NHL this season. If Khabibulin can continue to give the Oilers more than their monies worth on that contract of his, who knows what the ceiling/potential for this team can be. If half the veterans have carrer years and 2 out of the 3 new kids turn out to be impact players, with solid goaltending maybe this team could do some damage even this year. Perhaps Souray even gets a second chance here.

    Tarbender, another round please!

  • Slapshot

    So Idiot friedman from HNIC says that Tambellini should end this debacle with Sheldon Souray.Maybe if Souray had kept his mouth shut and if Souray had not fought Iginla, he would not put Tambellini in the position where no one wants Souray.

    • book¡e

      I actually think they should let him stew down there for a month or two and then bring him up through re-entry waivers to let someone have him. I think the negativity around the situation is bad for the organization and not worth the 2nd/3rd round pick they will eventually trade him for (next summer?)