GDB 30.0: PUSHING FOR THE PLAYOFFS?

In 2007 the Houston Dynamo of the MLS made the playoffs, and were looking for their 2nd consecutive championship and had this highly motivating slogan of; DREAM. SCREAM. BELIEVE. It clearly worked as the Dynamo won their second straight title.

Tonight is game 30 on the NHL schedule for the Oilers and Leafs, and while neither fan base has any expectation of the playoffs, both teams feel they are a four-game winning streak away from being in the hunt. God bless their naivety.

I wouldn’t expect a different belief inside any professional dressing room, because the players play to win, not to rebuild or look to the future. There are players in both rooms who won’t be in the NHL next year, so they don’t have a mindset to think that far in advance.

Luckily for them, they have plenty of media and fans who can look into our own crystal ball and see the future for them.

When the Oilers arrived in Toronto on December 2nd, some media outlets had the audacity to ask which team has the better future. I know Leaf fans get a bad rap around the league for being blindly loyal, a bit self-centred and sometimes irrational, but even the most diehard Leaf fan could see that Nazim Kadri by himself doesn’t match up to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi.

Brian Burke has tried to rebuild the Leafs by trading away two first rounders and over hauling his entire lineup, except Tomas Kaberle in the past 18 months. The Phil Kessel trade will haunt him for years, while he fleeced Darryl Sutter in the Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie trade.

Matt Stajan is making $3.5 million, has been a healthy scratch for two games and has one goal in his past 43 games as Flame. He has four in 52 games since being acquired for Phaneuf. Niklas Hagman has 12 goals in 58 games.

Still Burke and his congenial coach, Ron Wilson, still believe they can make the playoffs, and the feeling is mutual inside the Oilers room. Don’t tell Hall or any of the other kids that it would be best for them to finish in the bottom five and get another elite pick. Leave that to the media and fans.

It’s great that neither team realizes they have little chance to make the playoffs, so we should see a decent effort tonight.

REMATCH TONIGHT 

It looks like Tom Renney will insert some toughness into his lineup tonight, with Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini and Jason Strudwick all dressing. Ryan O’Marra, JF Jacques and an injured Jim Vandermeer will replace those three in the pressbox. It sounds like Vandermeer will be out at least a week and the Oilers will probably recall someone before Thursday game v. Columbus. Shawn Belle seems like the likely candidate.

MacIntyre will surely dance with Leafs tough guy, Colton Orr. Those two have fought close to 15 times dating back to junior according to MacIntyre, and i’d be stunned if they don’t chuck the knuckles again tonight. Orr might be the most willing fighter in the game.

A few years ago when Strudwick played with Orr on the NYR, Strudwick told me on my show about Orr’s first trip to Minnesota. "After the morning skate I see Orr in the dressing room and he looked dejected. I asked him what was up and he told me that he just found out Boogaard (Derek) wasn’t injured and wouldn’t dress tonight. Orr was seriously upset. He wanted to test himself against the big guy, and all day he was really down. The guy knows his role and embraces it. I’ve never seen a guy that upset about not getting to fight."

Being a heavyweight is a thankless job on many nights, and Orr might relish the job more than anyone. MacIntyre knows this and will be prepared to renew acquaintances tonight.

BRULE TO THE MIDDLE

I’ve wanted to see Gilbert Brule play centre for awhile, and tonight we’ll get to see the former sixth overall pick skate between Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Jones. "I grew up most of my life and in junior playing centre, but I like playing wing as there is a little less responsibility in your own zone. I will need to have my head on a swivel tonight, but going back to the middle should allow me to use my speed a bit more," said Brule about making the switch tonight.

Renney is hoping that moving Brule to the middle will get him more involved.

"There is a lot to like about his game when he is playing well, and I have to give him a chance to rediscover his game. He is a good little centreman. He’s a good faceoff guy, and by his own admission he realizes he has been a half step away from what needed to be done, whether it was jumping to a lose puck, finishing a check or picking up a man. It is a function of making sure his feet are moving and we think that maybe with a little more responsibility in the middle, and the need to move the puck he c an feel better about that part of his game and the rest of it will go."

Renney will also switch up his lines a bit and has moved Linus Omark up to play with Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner, so Penner can return to his natural LW position. 

D’OH…LET’S TRY AGAIN

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Leafs are still smarting from that 5-0 blowout loss to the Oil twelve days ago, and the Oilers have added some muscle to the lineup tonight. We’ll see more fights than goals early, which will get the crowd more into the game, and they will witness an exciting 3-2 SO win for the Oilers.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gene Principe will start his intro with some sweet Italian dance moves as the era of the Oilers cheer team begins. They will announce the name at five o’clock today, and as long they aren’t called a drilling term like the Blowouts, Kicks, Gushers, Vibroseis, Mousehole, Centrifugal pump or Cat cracking (oops that was already used) and hopefully not the Puck Hogs then most fans will be proud of them. (All those years working in the oilfield finally paid off for an article)

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: When OT starts the fans will be praying no one scores, with the hope they can witness Omark’s second SO attempt. Renney will stick with Hall, Eberle and Omark, and the kids will try to one-up each other. Eberle will use a quadruple deke, in-tight spin-a-rama move and score.

Hall will wheel in at full speed, put the brakes on, flip the puck up, juggle it three times on his stick and then one-time it out of mid-air, but he’ll be stopped by JS Giguere. Omark will come in across the blueline, and Giguere will charge out at him, so Omark just calmly skates by him, narrowly missing Giguere’s blocker, which he threw. Omark slides the puck into the open net, and has to avoid an irate Giguere on his way back to the Oiler bench.

After the game Giguere is still fuming, and says he will retire if they don’t remove the shootout because the kids in the league don’t respect old guys like him. Nazim Kadri is mad that none of his teammates wanted to try and match the young Oilers’ creativity, and Omark is disappointed he didn’t get use his planned move where he plays hacky sack with the puck, while doing a double-axel, and turning his stick upside down and shooting with the butt end of his stick.

SEE WHAT THE ENEMY IS SAYING

What do those clever folks over at TheLeafsNation think about tonight’s game?

Here is a brief snippet:

"Tambellini is a moron and has no idea how to run a team. Maybe when the Oilers change their locale and move to Quebec City they’ll change their GM as well and finally stop being a perennial bottom feeder."

Classy.

WIN TICKETS

If you want to win a free pair of Oiler  tickets, follow me on twitter (@jasongregor). Answer my question on Twitter regarding the dance team and if you are correct, you might win tickets to Thursday’s game. Don’t answer here, the winner will come from a reply on Twitter.

    • Freezing Weather Fan

      We still had 1 good period. It just happened that our good period was in the first this game. It’s about what we can expect from this team so far this year.

  • Oilchange64

    Disappointing night for a) the team and b) the cheer team. I am totally ambivalent about having cheerleaders and only base this comment on pics at the Journal. Will be interested to hear what those who were at the game have to say. Perhaps Ice Girls have set an expectation that was not realistic.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Well, after not getting to the game until halfway through the second, due to snow, traffic, lack of parking, and this stupid thing called work, I saw a TV-time out cheer dance. They came out in different entrances, did a cheer to some loud music and left. They looked like ….. cheerleaders. They weren’t Atlanta Ice Girls, just Edmonton Cheer leaders.

      Maybe it’s something you have to get used to. I cheered harder for the race cars on the score clock. They didn’t seem out of place, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.

      They were cheerleaders. That is all. Tired. Early morning.

    • Yeah not to be too picky because id bang each and every one of those girls if given the shot, but I saw hotter girls than that going to grant macewan. Your telling me you couldn’t of found some 19 year old 100 pound girls to be your cheer team? And no question those outfits dont do those girls any favors.

  • Oh get over it you Casanovas. These girls aren’t there to just look hot, they also have to have the ability to dance, which is why there are a few, umm, more “athletic” girls in the bunch.

    You also gotta realize this is Edmonton. It’s not like L.A or Vancouver or something where hot girls from all over the world migrate to in search of greener pastures. I’m sure this isn’t the absolute cream of the crop of good looking Edmonton girls, but from where I’m sitting they look fine to me.

    Those outfits though……….yikes. Everyone always cracks on the Oilers for living in the glory days, and if they keep trotting them out in those Austin Powers inspired get-ups we really won’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to dispelling that “rumor”.

    At the end of the day, I think we can all agree on one thing; it’s all about the pure love of dance isn’t it gentlemen?

    • I’d be OK if the girls chosen looked fit and/or toned. Problem is, most of them looked like they didn’t even know what “a gym” was. Not atrocious, but not carved like alot of the Ice Girls we’re used to seeing. Probably on purpose though. Those granny outfits don’t give you a chance to see ripped abs or great legs anyways. Still, good first step.

  • O.C.

    …two maybe three minutes in Beauchemin crosschecked Hall hard on the back while blatantly interfering with him as 4 was going to the net…that was when Renney shoulda leaned on Smacs’ shoulder and said “twenty-two”…ok Smac might have lurched and said “HUH?” but he would have figured out that it was Beauchemin that needed ‘taking care of’ first. But he didn’t. Then when the Dion Funloaf chirped at the bench after scoring and did the face grab thing on Hall…Renney shoulda leaned on Smac again and said “three”. But he didn’t…Captain 3 is a chicken, 22 as well…Orr was never the problem last nite Nation, it was mostly those two that took unreal liberties with the kids all nite long and they never even got a sniff of Smac.The goon is disposable… So what if he gets the instigator penalty, he approaches Beachemin says this is for Hall A$$hole don’t touch him again and pounds his face [and i don’t care if it’s Sean Avery style]…it’s a pretty simple job Smac has, just get it done …not just fight the designated goon on the other team. Then somehow it would have been Captain Dion’s turn to take his medicine … we took four stupid penalties in the second period anyway why not just pummel #3 and tell him it’s for all the rest of the crap he was pulling. It’s about sending messages and Renney sent none.We won nothing last nite, including the chants battle …never heard GoLeafsGo drown out Oiler fans like that before…never saw so many Leafs jerseys… it was just ALL bad last nite…who was it? Tom Hanks…didn’t he say
    …there’s no cheerleading in HOCKEY !!!

    Disband Octane now!

    • I would agree with 2 out of 3. Mac has a role he just didn’t execute it effectively last night. The others get rid of them. I think you can add Cogs and Brule to this list. 2 smurf centers(part time with Brule) that add nothing. cough the puck up, play soft, and miss defensive zone coverages.

  • Dan the Man

    Recipe for losing = play Strudwick.
    In fairness he wasn’t the only Oiler that played poorly last night but wow…he’s a big step down from Vandermeer and I couldn’t imagine saying that about any other NHL player.

  • Rob...

    The Oilers definately have to use MacIntyre more effectively. When a coach has determined that his young stars are being roughed up, it is up to the coach to send out the hurt in 6’7″ form. Don’t target Ott, that’s just plain dumb and inneffective. Send him out to grab the Leaf’s captain and earn a 1 game suspension while beating the former Flame into a bloody pulp. I blame Renney for not doing this.

    Also, I don’t buy the argument that MacIntyre is using a valuable roster spot. Ask any of the top 9 if they’d like to pick up a few extra short shifts during the game, and see what they’d say.

    • Dan the Man

      I agree, Big Mac has to stop being so freaking polite and beat up someone other than the other teams heavy in a game like last night.

      The leafs took how many shots at Hall?

      The “tough guys” on the Oil have to stop taking no for an answer.

      No team is a afraid of MacIntyre fighting their heavy weight but if he grabbed Phaneuf it might make other players think…I better watch it or I might get “Ivanans’d.”

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Guys like Mac have to walk such a tight line. A bunch of foolish penalties and he knows he’s back on his way to the A, so he really needs to pick his spots.

        It’s a 450K line he has to walk.

        The super heavies are slowly being fazed out, the only benifit he brings is hopefully giving the skilled guys a little more confidence and maybe saving a beating or two for guys like Stortini/JFJ/Strudwick/Vandemeer.

  • Lost in how bad this game was, is what a great game Taylor Hall had. 30 games into the season and we are already taking this kid for granted.

    3 breakaways in the first period? We have something really great here, and he is really exciting to watch…even when the rest of the team is stinking up the joint.

    Oh, and Eberle too – he’s pretty fun to watch.

  • Dan the Man

    With the caliber and depth of our defence , i don’t understand why Plante is not up with big club ? Storts and MacIntyre taking up 2 spots and being used mildly . Studwick seems to have lost everything on the ice .

    THE PRESSURE COOKER OF PLAYING IN A CANADIAN MARKET TO MUCH FOR MODERN HOCKEY PLAYERS TO EXCEL IN ? Oilers and Leafs rebuilding differently , but both seem to be bottom feeders . Oilers by draft and Leafs by others drafts. Similiar results however , in play and results !

    When, and how much longer do Oiler fans have to wait on Tams and company to do something about our size and other glaring voids from past seasons, and even moreso this season ? Are they waiting for some miracle to happen with present squad ? The rookies are good, but not quite that good yet .

    Our team needs more help and aid to compete , not the LEMONAID talent they have an abundance of ! If they are throwing away season again , at least bring up some young talent to get valuable time to develop for next season rather than waste the time and space on Lemonaid talents .

    • Who do you want to see up developing? There isnt anyone to bring up except defensemen and I think Chorney has proven that learning on the job as a defenseman in the NHL isnt that great of a plan.

      The team has an AHL club for the purpose of developing talent, so…what’s the issue here.

      The difference between the Leafs and the Oilers is that they’re resting their future hopes on Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri while the Oilers have Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Gagner, and some other future top 5 pick to be named in June.

  • I dont know if Mac was being polite yesterday. There was a shift or two where he was getting pretty greasy with Grabovski. The problem is it should have been Stortini getting his glove in Grabovski’s face and Big Mac fighting Orr.

    I thought the reffing was absolutely attrocious though. Brutal calls, worse kills.

    I hate Phaneuf.

    That is all.

    • Dan the Man

      You’re right, he did get a little greasy. I guess I just wanted more.

      The reffing was atrocious last night, I can’t believe they stepped in on Stortini and Beauchemin. That would have been a much better match for Stortini.

      Throwing Orr and Smac out of the game was also lame but then again I don’t know what was said down on the ice.

  • grantload

    Does anyone else miss Horcoff yet?

    As slow as Strudwick is, and yes that goal was a cluster when it banked in off him, but wow were the D inept at moving the puck out of our end or through the neutral zone.

    If the coaches and players are serious about winning this year – no reason to believe they aren’t- it’ll be interesting to see if mgmt. helps or not. ST may not want or be able to do anything with our top 9, but there has to be a way to upgrade with a 4th line/pk player. His action/inaction will be a message either way from the GM chair. If they are trying to change the culture then even a little help from above would support that attitude. Doing nothing sends a bad message.

    Looking ahead, I’d love to see them go after Bieksa in the summer. His skill set would fit in perfectly

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nice to come out of last evening with no points, one thing i noticed was Phanuef putting a horse collar on Taylor Hall to whisper sweet nothings in his ear, that would have been a good time for Steve to feed Dionne his lunch. No touchy the merchandise, jump off the bench, add 3 more games to your Christmas break Steve.

    Taylor looks a little like Bambi on ice at times (on his breakaway)…this kid is special kind of good, maybe even hall of fame good, if we’re fortunate.

  • 1manwolfpack

    Was at the “Grand Octane Unveiling”/”hockey game”…2 things to echo:

    Dion is a punk for chirping the bench and being a cheap SOB on Hall.Someone needed to step up and give him or one of the Leaf’s “skill” players a reality check.

    Octane was highly over-rated.I’m sure they wouldn’t give me the time of day but I was expecting more and you barely noticed them.Sure glad my mini pack $$ goes to great investments like that.Wish it could go to players that knew their roles or could play special teams!

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    3 powerplays and no shots????

    Only 1 guy got the memo about how to score in the NHL: Hall had 8 of the 23 shots…Leaving 11 shots between the other 17 guys. W T F!

    Cogs, Brule, Storts, Fraser, Strudwick are really making a strong case to be given up on.

    Smac needed to take one for the team and just grab someone and throw, who cares if he were to get suspended. Send a frickin message.

    “hey colton, we’re kind losing badly here, would you Pleaselet me beat you up, so we can gain some momentum back!”

    I’m fine with losing, but I really thought the days of not competing were gone.

    Embarrasing Last Place Hockey.

  • Many posters are so focused on Storts or MacIntyre and what what they should have done. My question is, why couldn’t Jones, Fraser or Peckham facewashed Kadri, or started treating one of the younger T.O. players like Dion was treating Hall?

    I would love it to be an Oiler player for once that dictated that part of the game, instead of us just responding all the time.

    • The thing is, would YOU want to be one of the guys that caused an opposing team’s PP given how crappy our PK is? It was bad enough as it was last night without some blockhead taking a 4 minute double for a payback facewash.

      I think that’s the problem. Teams like Detroit are hard to play against because if you take a penalty against them, the puck is in the back of your net. Us? Not so much. If our PP was a helluva lot stronger, teams wouldn’t be so eager to take liberties with our young guys. Right now there’s almost no downside to taking a penalty against Edmonton.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    Is there any truth to what I heard on Sonic two hours prior to the game …Taylor Hall did an interview or was somehow quoted as saying if the Leafs play like they played the last time [in TO] that, they would be ” ripe for the picking ”

    … anyone hear that?