Growing Pains

Life doesn’t always turn out as planned. One minute you’re on a big time television show and the next minute you’re making straight-to-DVD classics. The window of opportunity can close quickly. Thank goodness there are older folks around to give advice.
 

As we edge closer to decision day on Taylor Hall’s season (should they send him down to junior?) fans of the Edmonton Oilers are beginning to see just how large a step it is from junior to the NHL. In pre-season, when the muckers were on the powerplay and the ten-year veteran minor leaguers played with the superstars, Edmonton’s kids weaved magic into every shift. As the pre-season wound down, the points dried up. Now that we’re into the NHL regular season, time and space have evaporated and the three kids look like, well, kids on many shifts these days.

With the Oilers first loss last night, the coach has an opportunity to change some of the team’s structure. Gilbert Brule is either injured or unable to play in Minnesota (he fell down a lot last night) so there may be some changes there. Ryan Jones has probably earned a shift on a regular line, and to me eye Magnus Pääjärvi has played well enough to grab a spot on the Horcoff line. The question becomes who do they demote?

Probably Taylor Hall. He is "in between" right now, not handling the puck much and chasing it a lot. Off the rush, he doesn’t appear to have the previous drive to get around NHL veterans and is left to make a less creative play (and sometimes forces a play without success). With kids, it takes about 5 minutes to start losing confidence, so this is an issue Renney needs to address.

Shawn Horcoff has already given some insight into the situation. Quoting Horcoff in the the tsn article: "His shifts are too long. And he has to come back deeper for the puck to open up more ice. You have to overwork to get more ice. He’s taking off (too quickly) and the defencemen are right there, but that’s the NHL. These things will come. He wants it so badly, he stays out there because he wants it (to make something happen)."

These are common maladies for young players and can be filed under "errors of enthusiasm" at this early juncture. Will he learn from this? His average shift lengths in the first three NHL games have been fine (49 seconds in game #1; 51 seconds in game #2; 46 seconds in game three) but what Horcoff is talking about are a few prolonged shifts per game. Last night he had 5 shifts over one minute, with the longest being 1:26. Jordan Eberle had 7 shifts over one minutes with the longest being 1:40 (PP). The Swedish teenager had 8 shifts over a minute, the longest being 1:24. Checking the TOI totals for the two previous games, they seem to be about the same as last night’s in terms of the three young forwards.

I think Taylor Hall might benefit from playing on a lesser line for a few games. Elevate the Swede, get Brule out of the lineup until he’s healthy and give Ryan Jones a chance to play with Cogs and Hall on the 3line. Either way, the coach will have to do something soon. Taylor Hall is a very confident young man, but he’s also used to a lot of success. OHL to NHL is a massive gap.

  • Stone Hands McOsta

    I think Eberle looked by far the most confident on that second line last night. He deserves the minutes he is getting, and Paajarvi is at least back checking like a mad man. I think those two with Horc in the middle could be a thing of beauty. Let Hall play on the 3rd line, at least he’ll look better then Cogs.

  • R.A. Slapshotzky

    The puck was bouncing so bad for the Oil last night. Listening to XM NHL home ice on my way home from work and I heard a caller complain about the puck being too bouncy…haha. While I don’t necessarily agree with the caller, I think there should be some standards to the ice conditions. Is there anyway of fixing this problem? Who knows.

  • There really should be an exception for first round picks to go to the AHL in their first season. Hall does seem to be in-between and the answer to that is the A. Stupid rules. I do think it will click for him eventually but he’ll take a ton of flak in the meantime.

    On another note, I love how many times MPS back-checked last night. Seemed like he even beat the second defenseman back to the zone on occasion.

    Once his adult muscles grow in he’ll be one hell of a hockey player.

  • reb98

    Don’t interpret this in to a Horc hater comment, but Horc wasn’t helpng his line offensively at all last night. I know the ice was bad, but Horc’s stone hands were back last night. The puck was a grenade.

  • Slick

    Despite last night’s loss, I thought the Oilers played much better than they did earlier in the week against Florida. I don’t think it is time to blow up the lines just yet.

    If Brule is hurt, which seems likely to be the case, then I would like to see Vande Velde get a chance on on the third or fourth line, he looked great throughout the preseason.

    However, we all had an idea of how this season would play out, so why not let Renney do some more coaching (I guess or pk isn’t as good as it looked heading into last nights game) and let’s just see how things play out?

  • Dyckster

    There is absolutely no way you can give Hall an honest performance rating while he’s playing with Horcoff. They finally figured out you have to get Hemsky away from Horcoff to get his productivity going. Hall needs a playmaking centreman to realize his potential.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I wonder how many of the “let the kids play” crew are going to stick to their guns if we continue to see performances like the previous two games.

  • Penner-Gagner-Hemsky
    PayRV-Horcoff-Eberle
    Hall-Cogliano-Jones/Omark

    I just had to write it out to visualize it. Line 1 played well last night and I think keeping Penner and Hemsky together will draw the toughest competition away from the rookies; I like this move.

    I think Paajarvi would fit well with Horcoff and Eberle. He likes to carry the puck and control the play and he doesn’t have to be as defensively responsible playing with Horcoff so that might open up more offensive chances for him.

    If Brule is injured and out, I do not like the look of our potential 3rd line at all. With Jones playing there we have some grit and it will open up the ice a bit more for Cogs and Hall. Though we would have to hope those 2 have some decent chemistry to see anything come to fruition.
    With calling up Omark and putting him on that line we could see something special when they are on the offensive but, my God, we could be in a world of hurt in our own end…

    Renney has his work cut out for him in the next little while.

  • OttawaOilFan

    Lowetide,

    Love your articles (other then HNIC, I really only get to watch the games on a sh*tty internet feed through my PS3), they give me a lot of insight (as do all the writers on ON, including YOU, Wanye) into the games and help me see stuff I miss. JW did an article on face-offs recently and I was wondering what your take on it is? I know it’s only been 3 games but after watching last night’s game it seemed to me we lost a TON of face-offs (especially on the PP). Thanks.

  • Dyckster

    ~Fire up the blender!~

    I understand the need to coddle the kids, but surely they’re mature enough to know the rebuild was going to be a slow, methodical process. The four lines were put together with a purpose, barring injury, let things play out for a while. We all know Hall is here to stay, let the lad adjust. As LT stated, the gap between the OHL and NHL is huge. The three wonder boys have obviously got some game, give ’em time to show their stuff.

    Having said all that, on his current line, Magnus does like like a man amongst boys at times. Putting him in a position to succeed might not be a bad idea.

  • O.C.

    Thought Hall made some big strides yesterday. Finding seams, creating options. Brule looks sore, why not Jones at Centre on line 3?

    Would like to see giroux called up.

  • DonovanMD

    Send Hall back to junior, MPS back to Sweden, save their years of eligibility until they’re good!

    Ahem, that said, I highly doubt Hall goes back down, but he will struggle at times and thats ok and expected. Of all the rookie trio predictions I saw Lowetides were easily the most accurate and realistic in my books.

  • O.C.

    Paajarvi is almost the first man back every time and neither Brule nor Cogliano seem to have any clue what to do with the puck.

    Brule seems like the same chicken with his head cut off that he was in Columbus… lots of skating while being behind the play all the time.

    Cogliano is turning into Ethan Moreau Jr with all his shots from horrible angles. At least he’s not taking stupid penalties.

    That 3rd line as a unit has been a complete disaster and it’s bad when the 19 year old rookie is by far the best player on the line.

    Hall doesn’t do any of the same things he did in junior to be successful. His typical play was to drive hard to the net and either dish the puck off to an open player or go right to the net. He was almost like a drive and dish point guard in the NBA. Part of the reason is that NHL defenders are bigger and faster so he’s probably not comfortable with that yet, but he hasn’t tried it since the pre-season.