Bring on The Ginger

The Edmonton Oilers have tried 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on the penalty-kill. It’s been a disaster, so bad that the club is looking up at the rest of the league. I’m all about the lottery pick and "exciting last place hockey" but the PK is rapidly becoming the story this season. 

On Halloween night, Derek Zona at the Copper and Blue wrote a detailed and informative article on the Oilers terrible penalty-kill. Since that day, it has gotten worse. At the end of the article, Zona says:

  • I’d like to understand why there is such a difference between the two systems, why different tactics are being used, and how it is that an AHL team is light years ahead of their NHL parent-club in these areas, but I doubt this is a question the people with access are going to ask. 

That was 14 days ago and there’s still no answer on the subject. It’s one of two things: either the altered PK alignment is trash and must be done away with immediately, or it’s an issue that involves the actual players on hand to do the job. The Oilers main PK men at forward are Colin Fraser, Shawn Horcoff, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Cogliano (with Ales Hemsky getting a bunch of playing time there too).

Meanwhile in OKC, Liam Reddox continues to build a reputation as being an all-around player and receives solid reviews for his penalty-killing work. Plus he’s scored 2 SH goals so far this year. Reddox has played on the PK with the Oilers in NHL games (a little over one hour in his 56 game career) and along with Ryan O’Marra seems to be doing the lion’s share of the spade work when the Barons are a man short.

Kelly Buchberger coached Reddox in the minor leagues and raved about him at the time:

  • "Night in and night out, he’s been our Ryan Smyth. He goes to the net all the time. He’s used in every situation. Last year in Stockton (ECHL) he didn’t play a lot. He’s a surprise. Now it looks like he has a chance to make it. He’s our Ryan Smyth the way he works in practices and the games. I’ve been at the rink early and who walks in the door before eight, for a 10 o’clock practice? Liam– so he can start working out. He competes, plus he’s got skill, lots of skill. You know how Smytty drives to the net, burying that shoulder? Well, Liam does a lot of those little things, too. He’s made big strides in one year. I use him on the point on the power play and when we’re down five-on-three, he’s the forward I send out."

The penalty-kill requires speed, aggressiveness and all out effort. That’s pretty much the Liam Reddox resume. I don’t know if the diamond can work (given enough time) but do know that whatever the Oilers are doing now (22 goals against in 66 sorties) is a disaster. Liam Reddox seems a reasonable reaction to a runaway train.

  • I think in injection of Reddox might be just what this team needs.

    If we don’t get guys playing with more energy in here soon, this year’s team is going to start looking a lot like last year’s team, and that was hard to watch.

    ELPH is fine, but without the E, it makes for a long winter.

  • I think this Diamond set up we have going on is more of the problem than the players. Its horrible. we are out manned in all the wrong spots on the ice with the diamond. At the points its a 2-1 for the PP. Down low is a 2-1 for the PP. The middle of the ice its a 2-1 for the PK. How the hell would that work? It looks bad on paper and even worse on the ice. Go back to the old box style, and our PK would be over 80% rather than the current 65% right now.

    You can see the players are often confused by it. You have to wonder why no one else in the league uses it? I could see it working for a umbrella PP but a traditional PP eats the diamond for breakfast lunch and dinner.

    I guess what Im trying to say is that our PK with the same players now, wouldnt be as horrible as it is now with the Box style.

    But I do also agree LT. Reddox is prob ready for a 10 game stint. Omark is prob also ready for a 10 game stint. And Paajarvi is def ready for a 10 game stint in the AHL.

  • Lowetide

    CurtisS: The PK alignment does look wonky, but I’ve never heard it explained (in terms of benefits). I’d be willing to suffer through a period of time until the players figured it out IF there were proven benefits.

    Are there? Or is this one of those things that has been rejected after testing?

    Right now it looks like a complete dud.

  • I really like the Red Ox and was extremely disappointed when they kept Jones over him. Jones had a great game at first, and for a moment I thought “wait, that was the right choice”… but I definitely take that back.

    Oddly enough our better PKers have been Andrew Cogliano, Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. They don’t get a lot of SH TOI though, but they aren’t allowing many at all. These guys likely aren’t facing the top PP’s as much as the other guys though, I would presume (I’m sure some stats folks can pull that up though), but they’ve been good anyways. On defence the same can be said for Peckham and Strudwick. I guess it probably makes sense though that our top PKers would get roasted more often though, because they face the better PPers. In that sense, Whitney, Fraser and Smid have been the better guys and young pup Eberle hasn’t faired well at all.

    Jones was horrid, and as such got his SH TOI yanked. That’s the guy I’d probably replace with Reddox for a few.

    • Yeah, after a fast start MPS seems to be showing his age. Perhaps he will be ok but I’ll wager that some time in the A will develop his confidence. Reddox seems like a good call up, he would be a better 3rd line fit.

    • Skidplate

      I was thinking the same thing last night. He started the season strong for a rookie, but his play has trailed off and been quite brutal the last few games. I think he and the organization would benefit from him spending time in OK.

      The question then is who comes up. Reddox or Omark?

    • D-Man

      I don’t think sending Paajarvi down to OKC will do anything aside from destroying his confidence – but I do believe he should be seeing a lot more time on the PP, not the PK… He’s got too much talent to be playing 3rd line minutes… Granted, he’s behind Hall and Penner on the LW depth chart – but Renney needs to find more ways to try to get him involved…

  • Made an addendum to post #8 above.

    Also, I agree Nate.. they should give him a whirl on the PK. I’d say even move Eberle out of there. He’s a guy who can score the odd short-handed goal or two, but when you’re leaking goals on the PK like he is, it’s probably best to try someone else there. They might be trying to force him through it though for experience.

    But I’d like to see either Hall or Paajarvi out there. I don’t think Renney liked Hall’s initial PK in the start of the season where he played keep-away for a bit rather than the simple dump in. I thought it worked well, but it might be more of a junior-level thing and too high risk at the NHL level.

  • Renney and Perry Pearn used the diamond in New York but were way more aggressive in the neutral zone resisting the entry. They also utilized some guys that became incredibly adept at it like Callahan. NYR took the pk to a superb level and as they gained confidence they gave the opposition no time. It really was a superbly coached system that the players kicked ass at.
    Pearn is awesome at it, but to put things in perspective, hes never had to endure a 750 save percentage. Therin lies the major problem with the PK…. the tender is the king of the entire system and ours have been brutal.

    The yotes were solid on the PK last year which makes sense, Tippett was a faceoff and PK machine as a pro. Pearn and King on board throw in a stellar goalie and voila!

    Can ginger play net?

  • Lowetide

    D-Man: I’d agree with that. It’s a dead heat in terms of even strength (5×5) points-per-60 number (courtesy behind the net).

    Through 14 games:

    1. Eberle 1.62
    2. MPS 1.54
    3. Hall 1.53

    Now that will change after last night’s game and the play is dying on his stick. Having said that, I’d wait for another 5 games to see if there’s a way to get him out of the funk.

    If we reach game 20 and he still hasn’t done much with authority then it might be time to send him down. LOTS of forwards I’d send out before MPS.

    • D-Man

      I don’t even think I’d send him down after 20 games… The play has died on his stick the last couple games, but he has shown glimpses of speed on the forecheck… I don’t see him out there as a defensive liability either; I’d say let him try to figure it out even if it takes a whole 82 games… Asides from Omark – I still can’t see anyone who’s comparable to MPS down in OKC…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I hope the Oilers call up a Dman while they’re in call up mode,Gilbert is getting more brutal every shift he’s on the ice

    Reddox and Belle can slide in for Gilbert and pretty much any forward in the line-up

      • a lg dubl dubl

        True Gilbert does block shots with the best of them but ive lost count how many times hes been out of position and unwillingness to take the body around the net that lead to goals

  • Wanyes bastard child

    BEING POSITIVE ! We are positively not in a rebuilding season . We are positively the worst core team in the league , even far surpassing last year . We are positively teaching our rookies how to play losing hockey . We are positively the worst of the worst, in a bad/inferior division where we are last in a division that occupies 3 of the last 4 places in Western Conference . We positively realize you cannot build a proper rebuild by making your core worse off to begin with .We positively have the worst defence in the NHL , and not much better in goal .

    We positively can’t make deals to better ourselves or fill voids left by previous years . We are positively headed in the wrong direction again . The sooner we realize the positives , the sooner Katz might actually get on with a proper rebuild . Lets hope we do not have to wait for next season to kick start the proper rebuid with another round of gutting of the core making us weaker again .

    Positively , our rebuild won’t start until Katz puts in place a team that can actually accomplish it . To date , whatever he has tried , has not accomplished that goal and continues only to worsen . I have a positive feeling Katz is getting close to doing something that might actually bring about a proper rebuild yet this season , and give Oiler fans something positive to hang their hopes on . Positively time to take rebuild out of reverse mode .

    Might putting the rookies all on one line with limited minutes and exposure be better for them at this stage , while club works on improving it’s core base ?

    • D-Man

      I am positive that you are Calgary Flames fan or at least a fan of ‘Burke-style management’… What more could Oilers management do right now to change the ‘core’?? The only thing I could consider changing is dumping Strudwick and Vandermeer for Petry and Belle… That won’t make us any better, but now you have some younger players learning along with Peckham on the back end…

      Simply put, we can’t simply sign any FA to come here – any decent player would rather play for a cup contender than a last place team (See Manny Malholtra)… We can’t bring every rookie here either – we do still need some sort of veteran presence… You also can’t dump Stortini, Jacques or Smac (maybe Jones) to make roster space either… If you thought we were small and getting pushed around now – just wait to see how we’d be run over with no ‘4th line’…

      To judge a rebuild 14 games into a season is simply ludicrous. You can either a) be patient and level judgment two years from now or b) start cheering for the Leafs (who are trying to build a team the way you’re suggesting)…

      • Dutchscooter

        ‘ To judge a rebuild 14 games into a season is simply ludicrous. You can either a) be patient and level judgment two years from now or b) start cheering for the Leafs (who are trying to build a team the way you’re suggesting)…’

        I agree with you….and look what Burkie’s getting in T.O. right now……four games into this season the Toronto fans thought Burke was a genius (Leafs 4-0! We’re gonna be undefeated this year!) and now that reality has set in they want to hang him from CN Tower. So then, I guess that makes Brian Burke’s rebuild the correct path, right?

        As for the Flames, at least we have a glimmer of hope for the future. They have no direction and no future (‘cept for being old).

        • Lowetide

          Well there ARE some positive signs. The Oilers (despite being outshot) are posting some nice things at even strength and the kids are doing pretty damn well 5×5.

          The SH situation is so poor that it’s becoming the major issue. Seems to me that the idea is to have at least some success in terms of wins and losses and the special teams are an absolute nightmare so far this season.

          It needs to be addressed. Either change the style (and there have been lots of great points in this thread, I didn’t know Renney employed this style in NYC) or change the players.

          • D-Man

            That’s the challenge though, isn’t it?? Tambo has his hands tied in regards to making a trade for a bonafide 3rd line, face-off winning center or a solid #3/#4 PK killing defenseman… What do we have, that we’re willing to part with, that other teams want?? Penner?? Maybe?? Cogs?? Doubtful… No one would touch Khabby or Horcoff with their contracts… I also think the thought of dealing Hemsky or any of the kids (Omark included) would be political suicide in this town…

            I guess that’s why I’ve been a bit of broken record in regards to patience with the rebuild. Alot of our glaring holes won’t be fixed this year; and there isn’t any calvalry coming with the Red Ox or O’Marra… They’re both good AHLers – but I doubt that either could make a significant impact on the PK.

            Personally, I think the Oil needs to focus their PK attention on zone entry… A lot of teams carry the puck in with ease… We have this ‘diamond formation’ where we have our defense protecting the middle of the neutral zone and our wingers on the boards… I hope Renney uses our strengths – like speed – to institute a tougher forecheck to force teams to dump the puck in… Maybe that will help the PK while using the same personnel we have…

  • Lowetide

    The thing about Gilbert is that he has played well for much of his career. I think we have to endure the down periods and wait for the good times. Gilbert is a more cerebral player than most defensemen and God knows he’s had a lot of chaos in his game so far this season; but that’s pretty much par for the course because it’s such a tough position.

    Gilbert would be much smoother with a more experienced team and I think we might see him dealt at the deadline or over the summer.


    • a lg dubl dubl

      I hope your right about Gilbert getting delt at the deadline LT, it would be like christmas all over again at that time lol but with his salary at a cool 4 mill over the next 2/3 yrs he’d be a tough sell imo…but here’s to hoping.

      I don’t think Katz can really do anything but build the Oilers a new arena, trading players and such is up to Tambolini Ive seen grass grow faster than he makes trades/call-ups

  • Crackenbury

    A much better effort from everyone last night, but a loss is still a loss. There are so many areas this team is weak in it’s hard to know where to start. The defense is a disaster. Tambellini has to get his ass in gear and package up some forwards for some legitimate NHL defencemen. Add some defense by freeing up some forward positions and bring up a bigger body like O’Marra as well as Omark or Reddox. Our current lineup has no sandpaper and will continue to lose without some changes.

    • D-Man

      You’re obviously more privy to the rumor mill like the average joe on ON like me.. Have you heard anything??

      Just speculating – but maybe Pittsburgh would be interested?? They need some scoring on the wings for their top two lines… A Jordan Staal centering our 2nd/3rd line would be nice – but I can’t imagine the Pens considering something like that…

  • Lowetide

    D-Man: Actually, I’m not. I sometimes get information from sources but they’re rarely if ever media people. Edmonton’s a strange town in that lots of business people have connections and get inside stuff (which they sometimes pass along to me).

    I can say though that in listening to the radio (Stauffer for sure) there seems to be a sense that Penner is a little bit outside looking in (as opposed to someone like Hemsky).

    Penner would look great in a Bruin uniform imo.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Maybe there’s something there involving Lucic or Thornton, the Bruins would love to move Ryder and or Ference. Penner+ for Ryder,Thornton and that Bos/Tor first pick.

    • Lowetide

      The Leafs pick is probably not realistic; you cannot fleece Chiarelli. The Bruins are deep at C, though. I like their prospect Joe Colborne.

      We should put on offer sheet out for Peter C.