High Five

The absolute highlight of the weekend for Oilers fans had to be watching the rookies last night. All the stars were out on a clear night for the future. Hall, Eberle and Magnus Pääjärvi showed tremendous skill and the ability to be in the right place at the right time (I call it Steve Shutt syndrome) and dominated the ice. There are going to be growing pains for this team, but the future looks bright and there will be plenty to cheer about in  2010-11.

Terry Jones slid an article into the slipstream Saturday that had some interesting items. The article is here. The Renney quote about "1-3-5" is another positive indicator about management’s approach (no quick fixes!) and he also said this: 

  • “Before they disbanded the national team with Hockey Canada, I worked in something of a hockey laboratory. You’d train for two weeks and then go out on the roads for two weeks. There was a lot of technical and tactical."

I believe that is the kind of approach required with this team. The kind of approach that Roger Neilson took when coaching the Peterborough Petes, who did some amazing things with that OHL team (Craig Ramsay arrived in the NHL as a quality 2-way player. He has stated many times that Imlach’s Sabres had to overcome the NHL coaching, and Ramsay had a wealth of knowledge that had been driven into his brain from Neilson, That Petes team was legendary–one time Neilson had defenseman Ron Stackhouse defend a penalty shot instead of the goalie, and another time when his team was up by a goal late Neilson sent out three extra players with a few seconds left. If he got a penalty, so what?) including training a generation of quality NHL players. The basics. If Renney can build on what they’ve already learned, this team will maximize on the available talent.

Last night’s game was splendid in so many ways. After making sure the gifted kids are healthy and have ten fingers and toes, it was heartening to see Tyler Pitlick play at such a high level. Quoting Jason Gregor:

  • PITLICK: Isn’t afraid to hit. Had a big hit behind the net that led to a good scoring chance early. He uses his size wisely, especially when shielding the puck. He has very good offensive instincts, and he and Paajarvi played found some chemistry early. Looking forward to watching him at Rexall this year; when the Tigers play the Oil Kings.

That item comes from the article below, and contains a very nice rundown of the entire game (and a few other interesting items). The other thing I noticed last night was the size on defense. There were tall trees every shift, and I checked after the game to make sure my eyes saw it right. Here are the stats on last night’s blue:

  • Alex Plante 6.04, 225
  • Johan Motin 6.01, 202
  • Jeremie Blain 6.02, 190
  • Brandon Davidson 6.01, 190
  • Martin Marincin 6.04, 187
  • Nolan Toigo 6.01, 187

Tall trees. Marincin has an enormous wingspan and Plante is healthy and looked solid (almost got beaten wide early but closed the gap very well and then played a steady game) and Brandon Davidson also showed some calm feet. The Oilers badly need to have at least a couple of these young men develop into NHL players, and last nights debut for this six gave some hope (even if it is a rookie game).

I think that is the theme for the season: baby steps.

    • Reggie

      Actually, the two are not directly related. If the Oilers finished 28th, but won the lotto, they could have first overall, but when then get 33rd.

      Finishing last gets them a lotto pick, which turned out to be the #1, and the 31st.

  • EasyOil

    Any thoughts on how Kristians Pelss played LT? From what I saw, kid has some wheels and some nifty moves. Also showed some compete level on at least one occasion where he battled in the corner and kept possession for several seconds all on his lonesome. This kid is a total mystery to everyone it seems, yet I find myself hoping this kid turns out. He definitely playing in the Dub this year?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    @bookie….i was stoked when we got Pitlick at #31, and i too hope he pans out for us. he looks very talented! i was also impressed with the play of goalie Olivier Roy. i’m a big fan of his, was glad we were able to still get him where we did in the previous draft and hope he really is our goalie of the future! Davidson was a steal in the 6th round after being ranked as high as #48 in the 2nd round by NHL.com. he appears to have a bright future as well!

      • Milli

        Maybe someone with a teenage daughter.

        But don’t hate, it’s not my fault. I took a sleeping pill and a muscle relaxant and was totally ‘out of it’ when I made that post.

        • Ben Dover

          I thought the original post was funny.

          This one though………pure comedic genius
          Kudos man, kudos

          **thrusts at you inappropriately**
          ***Subsequently gets fired by the Saskatchewan Roughriders***

      • Ben Dover

        I actually think that the attacks on Tillman have been prone to hyperbole. What he did was stupid, immature, and totally irresponsible. It also could have a real impact on the girl involved. However, there is a huge difference between what he did and Graham James or with pedophile priests.

        With that said, I cannot fathom that an organization would hire him to be the face of the team. It is insane. A whole world of candidates and you pick the damaged goods. Its just terrible PR. It’s also terrible management as the guy at the helm has a long ways to go before he can command full respect from all of those that work for him. I know that if someone I worked with did that, I would have a hard time taking him seriously or respecting him.

        • Your comments are sincere and well-reasoned. Some of the other posts about Tillman have me questioning whether the poster is sincerely concerned about the victim, or is more taken with an opportunity to make a joke. As someone said, that IS classless and doesn’t respect the way the affected parties resolved things.

          • bdiddy78

            The real joke being made here is the slap on the wrist the justice system dished out to Tillman. I’ll admit that I have a sick and twisted sense of humor sometimes but we are way too lax on pedophiles and sex offenders in general in this country.

            And bookie’s point about the move by the Esks being bad PR is totally on point. It just shows how desperate this once proud organization has become. Thank god it is now NFL season so I don’t have to hear anymore about their “football” anymore.

          • The Real Scuba Steve

            Are you kidding me??

            You’re going to compare a “clothed thrust”, to pedophilia or being a sex offender

            What he did in most offices turns into a sexual harrassment seminar. I get that it was a 16 yr old girl, and that makes it worse, and I don’t say what he did is ok, or that he doesnt deserve his punishment, but thats blowing it way out of proportion.

            I have a 9 yr old daughter, and sure, I’d take legal action if someone did that to her. Difference is, if someone sexually assaulted her, or raped her, the guy wouldnt make it to court………my point being, there is a huge difference, and Eric Tillman isnt some monster

          • bdiddy78

            Okay, I agree that what he did wasn’t pedophilia or rape and I was wrong to imply that it was. But he very possibly affected that girl for the rest of her life and pretty much received zero government-imposed punishment for it. And now he is already getting a good job offer, just months after admitting his wrong-doing.

            Do you think he would have received as little punishment if he weren’t the GM of the beloved local sports team? Maybe, but then that only highlights how little protection is afforded to children, and yes, a 16 year old is still a child, in this country. And if he were employed in a normal office job and committed sexual harassment and other employers knew about it, would he so easily be considered for a new job? I doubt it. My point is that the guy got off way too lightly.

          • bdiddy78

            And that I will agree too, that there is a double standard in place for high profile members of the public.

            I just don’t think its classless to give someone who made a mistake a second chance. And the gravity of his mistake shouldn’t ruin the mans life. He affected the poor 16 yr old girl negatively, and should be remorseful about it, but if the legal system, and the “court of public opinion” have glossed it over, and put it behind them, then I can as well.

          • Dutchscooter

            I’m not defending the guy, I’m just defending the ideal. You can’t railroad someone if you don’t know the facts. TILLMAN WAS NEVER CONVICTED. So, the proverbial slap-on-the-wrist doesn’t really apply if he wasn’t convicted of a crime. He pled no contest, which basically means that both prosecution and defence knew what happened, everyone involved in the case (including the victim) doesn’t want severe repercussions, so the judge gave him a conditional release.

            BTW, why are we debating Tillman on a Oilers subject? Bring on main training camp!

  • Ender

    The big quote for me in the Jones story was this one:

    There are those who don’t think it would be a bad thing for this team to finish at the bottom of the standings and get another early pick in the draft.

    But not Renney.

    “I’d rather these young players begin to develop a winning attitude right now than getting one more top player,” he said. “I’d rather they’d start their careers by experiencing something nobody thought they could.”

    Nice. I know it may not be realistic to expect playoffs for the first time in five years after just finishing 30th last year (and 30th with a lot of room to spare) but I am not endorsing another Dive for Five. Last year, it was a necessary evil. A second straight year, though, would just be a cop-out. We went down to the basement and got what we needed. Now we get our ass back upstairs and get to work. I’d much rather shoot for eighth in the West this year and miss by 4 points than set the target on last place and hit it dead center. Time to climb, boys.

    • See, I’m very torn about what would be best for the Oil. I still see the team missing depth at Centre, and I would love to see the club pick up one via the draft.

      On the other hand the team has had 5 straight 1st selections in the draft that look like NHL players and it’s about time the Oil get back to winning.

      • Or we could acquire a decent centre in a year or two when it looks like this team is on the upswing. The only reason we’re having no luck so far doing this is because no solid player would seriously want to play on a losing team if they had a choice. Lets face it. We made losing an art form last year.

        There’s probably more than a few options out there right now or in the near future. My thought is you build through the draft for positional need (an NO, not goalies – there’s whacks of them out there for cheap) when you can’t acquire through trades or free-agent signings.

        • Decent (read: Franchise quality) centres are hard to acquire. I’d rather draft one than pay through the nose to pick up a free agent or trade away one of the kids to get a C.

          Obviously the Oilers need to take the BPA in the draft, but I bet Chicago is thanking the hockey gods they didnt win the lottery in 2006 and had taken Erik Johnson instead of Toews.

          • Yeah. I’d have to agree with you if acquiring a decent centre was as hard as you say. Then of course you’d say “screw it” and develop your own. Of course then we’d have to artfully tank another season and it seems Renney isn’t too keen on having his young guys live through that. I get the feeling he wants them to compete and let the chips fall where they may. Although I bet Quinn thought the same thing last fall and look how that turned out.

    • Chaz

      Totally agree. Had a conversation/arguement with my buddy this weekend, and I love that Renney pretty much repeated what I said (~He must have somehow been listening to me~).

      Building a winning team and attitude will do more for this team going forward than another lottery pick. With Hemsky and Khabbie back, I don’t think we’d be in the run for a lottery pick anyways so let’s start our rebuild by exceeding expectations now, not next year. Losing is too painful and we’ve had enough of it already!

    • I'm a Scientist!

      I couldn’t agree more. I think a lot of the MSM is playing down the Oilers… too young and inexperienced, crappy defense, goalie mayhem… but I honestly think we are going to do better than projected! Even if we end up with as many man-games lost to injury, i think we are MUCH better prepared to deal with it because of the additions to the Barons!

      Dive for Five be damned…let’s start pulling for the Climb for Nine!

      • Ender

        I agree that I think the MSM is off about the Oil. TSN projects us in 30th but says Calgary is 22nd? I’m going to enjoy laughing at them over that one.

        Targeting ninth, though? We may end up there and spin it as a victory, but I don’t think you set finishing just out of the playoffs as a goal going in. If I’m Magnus or Taylor, I don’t know how motivated that gets me.

        How about ‘Date with Eight’?

        • Chris.

          I love all the pre-season optimism… but lack of experience, poor goaltending, poor goaltending, and poor penalty killing, and (did I mention poor goaltending?); will likely keep the Oilers at, or near the lottery next draft. How many games will Renny give Khabibulin to find his form after a tumultuous and difficult year? Ask Tiger if personal distractions can affect performance.

          • Ender

            I think that was Renney’s point. The Oilers have no business making the playoffs this year. How much does that do for his team’s confidence, then, when against all odds they become this year’s Colorado?

            If they perform at reasonable expectations, then of course this is going to be the long year everyone predicts with another shiny booby-prize at the end of it. I’m just hoping that somehow they catch enough lightning in their bottle to power them to a dance-invitation when everyone says it can’t be done. I think that’s what Renney’s hoping too, and that makes me like this coach a lot.

          • It can happen. Lightning can be caught in that bottle. It just needs all the things that went wrong last season to go right this time.

            Healthy vets. Steps forward from the likes of Gagner, Cogliano, and Brule. Rookies living up to the hype. Whitney and Gilbert proving last year’s chemistry wasnt a flash in the pan. Foster and Smid playing well together in greater roles. The 5-7 defensemen not being liabilities on the ice. One of the 4 goalies stopping pucks at a regular rate.

            A lot of dominos need to fall, but it CAN happen.

          • I know people are all over the goaltending, and I know certain people seem to feel that the team has nothing to do with the goaltending. I also know that Deslauriers and Dubnyk let in some really bad goals.

            However.

            Look at last years’ defense. Look at the inability of last years’ forwards to play remotely defensively.

            I really don’t think goaltending is the issue here.

            I also have a hard time believing that this year’s team is worst than last year’s, as well as believing that if injury hell hadn’t struck last year the team would have finished below 10th in the conf.

            Sure, the lottery might happen, but short of the Oilers Plague returning (staying?) I don’t think it’s particularly likely.

            I mean, have you looked at Anaheim’s defense this year?

        • I'm a Scientist!

          I am on board with the ‘Date with Eight’ slogan! The SuperComputer couldn’t come up with something that rhymed with eighth, so i went with Climb for Nine. Yours is better.

          *sips Kool-Aid*

          • I also want the team to experience success and go for it this year. The goal needs to be Worthy and Attainable. High fives for ninth will feel a little empty, I think. The difference between 9th and 8th is huge considering everyone from 11th to 7th is in the mix.

            We need a meaningful goal that is independent of most of the Western conference teams. Let’s make sure we are the Best Team in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta — ensuring Calgary is the FAIRY OF THE PRAIRIES.

            – Worthy yes. Attainable – I think so.
            High Fives.

  • I’m just sticking with my typical pre-season prediction of suggesting that the Oil will go 82-0-0-0 enroute to a series of sweeps and sipping from the chalice.

    Seems reasonable no?

    I’m really waiting for Wanye’s stars and goats. This year we might have a few guys to choose from as stars.

  • Jamie B.

    Now imagine throwing Hemsky, Gags, Bru into the mix with MPS, Hall and Eberle. It will make these kids that much better playing with atuall pros! I thought Hartikanen was really good out there, he was banging bodies and created turnovers.

  • PabstBR55

    It’s a real guessing game as to where they’ll finish, but my feeling is that it will be between 74 and 86 points.

    74 if they start slow, experience some critical injuries, trade a quality player for a prospect over the course of the season, and if the rookies don’t adapt to the NHL game quickly.

    In any event, it can’t be as calamitous as last year.

    86 if they get decent goaltending, have their key players stay healthy, and have a rookie of the year candidate … or two.

    There are too many other good teams in the conference to reasonably expect to make the playoffs. People will suggest that Colorado did last year, but they had incredible goaltending.

    If there is an upside, it’s that our division is probably the weakest in the NHL. Will be fun to watch.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Hehehe. Love the bunnies. Lowetide’s pics are the best. Anyway, I’m with Rennie. The DFF was an inevitability, and it was fun having ANYTHING to cheer for last year, but enough with the loser attitude. Playoffs would be a miracle, I think we all know that, but “winning” for this group would be just learning how to be hard to play against. Gimme some goals, some scraps, and a positive move in that direction, and I’ll be happy this season.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Out of curiosity, who are wearing the C and A’s for the rookies? I see Eberle has one of the A’s.

    Injuries aside, I see no way how we can be in last place again. If you take any team and they lose their best forward, their best d-man and starting goalie for most of the year, of course they’ll drop like a rock in the standings.

    My goal this year would be to make it into the Top 20 in the league. I would be extremely surprised if we make it to the playoffs.

    Talent-a-plenty for top-twenty!

  • Let in “some” really bad goals?

    Some? SOME?????

    *Loosens tie. Opens top button. Grabs paper bag with makeshift Oilers logo from desk drawer and starts breathing deeply into it to prevent passing out from hyperventilation*

  • Milli

    I’m lovin the “date with eight”. I realy have a tough time believing that we can be near 30th again. Really though, I do think that alot hinges on Khabby, Hemmer and Penner. If the first two are healthy and if Penner stays like he was last year, that buys the kids some adjustment time. Man I can’t wait for some real hockey, hockey that you get excited about…..It’s been a while!

  • Ben Dover

    I would welcome another top 5 pick. I want scoring along the way however. I want the team to be solid for years and years (no wheel spinning here remember).

    Another 2 (maybe Penner/Hemmer gets you 3) picks in the top 35 picks next year wouldn’t bother me a bit.

    It wouldn’t be as painful because the expectations are low now anyway and the hockey simply cannot be worse than last year.

    Cela dit, if they get into 8th, fantastic.

      • Ender

        No, inside joke.

        ‘Ender’ from stillnoname.com is a pretty smart guy. We happen to share the same name.

        Maybe we should start an Ender clan to balance to Ogden monopoly on here. Of course, we’d need a Third.

          • Ender

            Hence the reason I went by Ender the Dragon for a couple of years; to avoid people thinking just that. Now that he’s posting again, though, I’d give him the name back on the Nation if he promises to use it. I don’t know what this tiff with Brownlee is about, but I enjoy his take on most things.

          • ubermiguel

            Nah, it’s yours. I’m not likely to post super-often, partly because of responses like Brownlees, but mostly because when I post at all I tend to post a lot which involves nothing else getting done. I’ll pop in now and again, but nothing regular.

            I’m not sure what the deal is with Brownlee either (and again, I genuinely am sorry if I misread you earlier Brownlee!) but he’s always seemed to be hostile towards me. The thing about getting run was a C&B issue that I think about 5 people know the actual story behind, and I’m pretty sure he’s not one of them, so meh. But that’s all just text, and it’s always hard to know *exactly* how someone is saying something. Where I read hostility could just be gentle affection 😉

            Other than that, I dunno. On paper I still have a hard time seeing this team as a lottery pick. Will they make the playoffs? Probably not. But if they can stay moderately healthy, I think they’ll be challenging for 8th (which is basically 8-12 these days).

          • Ender

            Ahhh, Browlee’s mean to everyone. That’s how you know it’s him and not someone hacking in under his name. Not that we’d want him to change; if he did that, we’d have to threaten to sic Wanye on people we disagreed with and boy, would that ever strike the mirth of God into their hearts.

            In any case, there are a lot of people on here who have offended someone. I think it’s like a prerequisite in some cases. As Willis said the other day:

            Jonathan Willis: Personally, I just try to remember that no matter what I write, somebody’s going to be irate.

            I hear you about getting stuff done. If I worked for commission, I’d have had to harvest organs under the bridge at night to make ends meet over the past couple years. Still, you know you want to. Come over to the Dark Side. We’ll save you a seat.

          • Dutchscooter

            We can offer more than just a seat. The dark side has cookies. And beer. Lots and lots of beer. And hoepfully this year we can offer you some laughs as we manage to beat Calgary in the standings. We may not make the playoffs, but if we beat Calgary most everything else will be forgiven.

        • Sorry Ender, I think he got that much. I’m pretty sure he was just slamming me without provocation – you know, sarcasm and all that.

          Of course I could be wrong. After all, Brownlee is all professional and stuff, so of course he’d never stoop to such a thing.

  • Lowetide

    Here’s my ideal season (my ideal season would involve a Stanley Cup, but keeping it within the plausible range): the Oilers are an entertaining team that’s always near the bottom of the standings, but is in the game most nights. They have a bad streak shortly after the all-star break which drops them to 30th, then they finish the season with a hot streak that pushes them up to 26th. Then they win the lottery. The players go into the off-season feeling good about the team as-is (since it finished so strongly with so many players who can only expect to be better the following year), and feel even better when they consider that another first overall is on the way.

  • Ender

    I am completely shocked.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be; a lot of people said it would happen. I wouldn’t believe them. Today, it happened.

    Sheldon Souray skated in camp with the team. In the interview afterwards (you can see it on TSN) he said that things are a lot different now than they were 5 months ago (~read: I got put on waivers and no one wanted me~) and that he just wanted to focus on helping the young guys and being a part of the team.

    Wow. Someone should have taken my money; I’d have put a bundle on Souray not playing in Edmonton this year. Looks like the almighty dollar has more influence than I’d have thought.

    So . . . how many people are trading in their new #4 jersey for a #44 instead?

    • What did you expect? If he doesn’t show up, he breaches his contract. He’d have given the Oilers an out, which only an idiot would do.

      And seriously. When has “the almighty dollar” (or in this case a crapload of almighty dollars) NOT had influence? Would you have done anything different with that much at stake?

      • Ender

        Oh, you misunderstand me. I’m not shocked Souray showed up. I agree, only someone with irreparable brain damage would sit home from Oilers training camp and forfeit close to $10M.

        I’m shocked that he was invited. I was pretty sure that he’d be told ‘Your cheques are in the mail; no need to come to the rink to pick them up’. Failing that, I thought that at least his training camp jersey would have the word BARONS written on it.

        WSTC?

        • Ender

          I did. If Katz wants City Hall to believe that they need to fund a new arena because the team is losing nothing, they can’t afford to pay Souray for nothing (or the AHL). It would undermine their position financially.

          If Souray isn’t traded he needs to be playing nightly on the OIlers, not the Barons, if Katz has any hope of City hall’s support for the new arena.

    • Ender

      I admire your optimism, but I don’t think the Abbotsford Heat can afford him. Do you think there’s anyone else interested?

      Maybe Tambo has hired some people to stalk the other NHL training camps and pull a Tonya Harding on high-profile defencemen. If he can’t influence supply, maybe he’ll have more luck with creating demand.