GDB 42.0: SINK OR SWIM IN THE SHARK TANK?

Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are a combined cap hit of $28.07 million for the Sharks, and they are a combined -40. Marleau is an ugly -17, while Thorton sits at -12, Boyle at -10, while Heatley is the oddball at -1. The Sharks have lost five straight, they’ve been shutout three times in their past nine games, and they are currently sitting in 11th place in the Western conference. They won’t have their leading goal scorer, Logan Couture, tonight due to a deep bruise from a collision with the Leafs’ Colton Orr on Tuesday, and with only ten wins in 22 home games the Oilers might have a fighting chance tonight.

If the Sharks played in a Canadian market they would be getting ripped daily by the media and their fans. They have a payroll of $59 million, almost half of that from four guys, and none of them are averaging even a point a game. For years the Sharks have been the poster boy for underachieving in the playoffs, but through 44 games they are easily the biggest disappointment in the NHL. ** Okay maybe the Devils are a bigger one, but some felt the Devils would slip this year, no one picked the Sharks to be this bad.**

Since the lockout the Sharks were 131-45-29 at home, prior to this season. In those five years they averaged a stellar home record of 26-9-6. The HP Pavillion was one of the toughest places to play, but this year the Sharks have lost to the likes of Toronto, Buffalo, Carolina,  and Columbus (twice). Even though the Sharks have beaten the Oilers three times this year, the Oilers shouldn’t enter the game worried that they’ll get dominated.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS?

Taylor Hall played his first NHL game as a centreman in Dallas and after a tentative start I thought he got progressively better as the game went on. He was around the puck a lot more than in previous games, and it seemed Ales Hemsky was looking for him in the offensive zone.

His faceoff % wasn’t great at 38, but that is a bit misleading.

Hall was very good in the offensive zone winning six of nine. He only took one draw in the defensive zone and lost it. He struggled the most in the neutral zone, winning only two of eleven. By winning six of ten in the offensive and defensive zones it seems Hall is more prepared when the draws are more important.

Many centres have told me that they like to experiment in the neutral zone. They try different things, sometimes they want to give the opposing centre a different look, and/or something to think about the next time they battle in the dot. Others have admitted they aren’t as focused in the neutral zone. I’m not sure if Hall fits into any of the aforementioned categories, but I’ll take a guy who wins 67% of his draws in the offensive zone, and not fret too much over neutral zone draws.

I’d like to see more of Hall in the middle, and it sounds like Tom Renney will keep him there for a few more games, and possibly up until Shawn Horcoff returns.

PLEASANT SURPRISE

Hall’s switch to centre was the main focus last game, but once the game started the trio of Sam Gagner, Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi were surprisingly effective. They didn’t register any points, but I thought Paajarvi skated better than he has in the past ten games. Omark battled hard, took a big hit from Jamie Langenbrunner but it didn’t stop him from going into the tough areas later in the game. Gagner was moving his feet all night and distributed the puck very effectively. They didn’t get hemmed in their own zone for extended period of times, and all three of them skated with a purpose all night.

The Oilers might have played their most complete game of the season in Dallas. They didn’t give up many scoring chances, fired a season-high 41 shots on goal and didn’t give up a PP goal. They didn’t win but should have lots confidence heading into San Jose.

GOOD PK COULD EQUAL W

The Oilers are 86% in their last 17 games killing off 49 of 57 penalties, and they will need to continue that trend if they want to win tonight. The Sharks are 5th in the NHL at 21.7%, but they are only 1 for 16 in their past five games and they’ve lost all five.

In the Sharks’ 21 wins they are  30% on the PP (29 for 96), but in their losses they are only 12% (10 for 84). It seems pretty clear that if the Sharks get a few PP goals their chances of winning increase dramatically.

QUICK HITS

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal tonight, and regardless of the outcome, if he plays well Renney should put him back in the pipes in LA. Dubnyk hasn’t started in back-to-back games when Nikolai Khabibulin has been healthy this year, but the time has come for the 14th overall pick in 2004 to get some more starts.

In the last month Dubnyk has started four times and has a 1.98 GAA , 0.931 SV% and went 1-1-2, while Khabibulin went 1-8 with a 3.44 GAA and 0.885 SV%. Khabibulin has lost his last seven starts, so please stop with the argument that he gives the Oilers the best chance to win. He did at the start of the season, but in the last month he hasn’t been better.

It is time to give Dubnyk more starts.

  • Look for Steve MacIntyre to be in the lineup more often. Yesterday Renney said he will look at the odd MacIntyre penalty in the same light as he would a young player making a mistake. He will deal with it.
     
  • I’m not sure what the market value will be for Zack Stortini, but I don’t see him being in Edmonton past the trade deadline. Unless the team is trying to shop JF Jacques, it seems that Stortini can’t get out of Renney’s doghouse. It has become clear the team thinks Jacques is a better skater, and that MacIntyre is tougher. I think Stortini brings a more complete and consistent game than either of those two, but a change of address seems likely for #46.
     
  • I thought Taylor Chorney looked faster and stronger in his season debut in Dallas. My concern is that I don’t see one element that he excels at. He won’t be a shut down guy, and with Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry here I don’t see him becoming an offensive D-man. He can fill a role for now, but I’m not sure he fits in long term in Edmonton.
     
  • Ryan Jones has ten goals splitting time on the 3rd and 4th lines. I’d resign him for two years, and $1 million/year. Don’t break the bank on him, and it makes no sense to trade him for a 2nd or 3rd rounder. Jones gives you a pretty consistent effort every night, and looks like he is a solid bottom six forward.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Even without Logan Couture, the Sharks are too much for the Oilers. The Oilers will play well again, and Dubnyk will earn them a point, but they’ll lose 3-2 in OT.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Sharks will score on their first PP, and the posters will rip me for bringing up the Sharks’ PP success. The Oilers will rebound and kill of the next four PPs, but it won’t be enough to earn them the victory.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Our resident diehard Oiler fan, and founder of the Nation, Wanye Gretz is back from panhandling in Mexico and watching Coyotes games for $20. He will be so excited to wear his Eberle Pajamas and Oilers socks that he got for Christmas for an Oiler game, that he’ll forget the game starts at 8:30 MST. By 7:10 he will have six posts on this thread screaming about his TV not working and he can’t believe the only Oiler game of the year not on TV is tonight. JS and BM will immediately try to calm him down by suggesting he come to their site and make fun of girls that have shot them down in the past. Wanye happily joins their chat, and since the list of SHUT DOWNS is long, they end up missing the first 50 minutes of the game. Wanye curses their name and vowes he will never speak to them again, unless they make it up to him by getting him tickets to an Oiler game in February.

 

  • Wax Man Riley

    What is with all the freaking trade talk? Now it’s time to ‘fess up guys. You are mostly Flames fans…right?

    If they move anyone I assume it will be one of the bottom six guys we all know aren’t getting it done.

  • O.C.

    With booger likely out for a long time with his Ninth concussion, Sather will need someone.

    JFJ had a great game last night.

    Linus doing something to tick off refs? Only one of three penalties was deserved.

    Solid game by Smid. He never gets credit.

  • O.C.

    Omark has really deserved a stay but after horc,eberle is back i think he goes oklahoma because its a waste not playing him top-six (pp) time. I think trading omark in a pack for a big c its a better thing right now because oilers hasnt room for him.

  • smiliegirl15

    I think Hall to centre has been a solid decision. Penner and Hemmer had clicked before but all they needed was Hall in the middle.

    The loss to Dallas wasn’t so hard to take with their 41 shots on goal. It’s about time. To see it pay off last night was a beautiful thing.

    Omark’s penalties were rough. Good for Penner to talk to the ref to find out why they don’t seem to see the Shark infractions. Penner seems to have a lot more fire lately and that’s a good thing!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Overreaction for the day:

    Scrap the trade Penner/Hemsky talk. Resign them both and we have a real #1 line for the next 4-5 years.

    (somewhat serious though)

  • The result was different this game for a couple reasons. Dubnyk was the best penalty killer (and good lord were there some brutal calls) AND when on the PK the Oilers actually got the puck out when they had possession of it (rather than that patented soft pass to there stationary D man).

    Hemmer was lights out, could easily have had a few more points, that Foster………….ffs!!!!!!!!!! plus he short armed that one….. shovel it into the empty net after you have the goalies jock hanging in the rafters dude.

    Hall was Ok at center, he has the skating lanes down he just doesnt have much of a feel for what the heck to do in the dzone. Hes light years ahead of Gags at age 18, kind of reminds me of cogs at 18 in that regard, gets there with ease then kind of starts to think……… no thinking… just react.
    Think about babes and tonights post game conquest and such…. thats proper 18 year old stuff.

  • Petr's Jofa

    All this “Should Edmonton trade Hemsky, or Penner, or Gagner, or Jones,” talk is just silly. I would trade any and all of them for the right price. The real question we should be talking about is what are they worth? What is the right price for them?

  • Rob...

    Is it considered standard practice when you have possession of the puck during a line change to dump it in to your opponents zone, ***where none of your teammates can hope to get to***? I find it somewhat amusing how often we discuss face-offs and how important puck possession is, yet at least 5 times a game the Oilers surrender the puck on purpose.

    Also, MPS looked great yesterday. He made a few attempts at hits, even in open ice, and looks like he’s starting to realize what an asset his size and strength are. I hope he keeps it up.

  • Shaun Doe

    Before the Hall at centre experiment I figured it would be best to go back to:
    Hall-Gagner-Eberle
    Penner-Horc-Hemsky
    MPS-Cogs-Omark
    Jones-Brule-(JfJ,Storts,Smac)

    but now there is some question. It makes sense to train Hall at centre if he has an aptitude for it, which he seems to so far. So now…

    Penner-hall-Hemsky
    MPS-Gagner-Eberle
    Jones-Horc-Brule
    JfJ-Cogs-(storts,smac) ??

    Who would have thought getting healthy bodies could make more problems than solutions…

  • Bucknuck

    I say Omark can go back down. Sure he scored last night, but he’s also responsible for the two powerplay goals that were scored by the Sharks last night. It won’t hurt his game to play more in the AHL, and he is getting a good look so next year he will be fully ready for the bigs.

    I really don’t expect everyone to stay healthy until the end of the season anyway. If it looks like Reddox is helping the PK (and I don’t know the answer to this) then I don’t want to lose him on waivers. This isn’t a team that needs to win now.

    Having said all that, I see no reason that JFJ stays here other than the fact he is a big body that bangs. If you can get anything for him I think he should be traded away.

    I hear that the writing is on the wall for Stortini, but I hate it. I think he’s great. He hussles every shift, he agitates, he backs up his mouth against anyone, and I think he is a good guy in the room (can anyone back this up?). On a team that lacks size and grit, how does Stortini draw the trade card, I just don’t get it.

    • 66% of Omark’s penalties last night were phanton calls. I wouldn’t send him down. What for?

      Omark and Paajarvi have looked good together the last few games. They dont get exposed a lot in their defensive end and they move the puck out well. Omark is very slick and confident with the puck and off it, give him more games and ice-time and he will come along just fine as a top 9 forward. I also like how Paajarvi has been using his body a little more lately.

  • GBO

    Did you read Matheson’s comments of Omark? I very surprised by his assessment. I think Omark’s been playing great and he gets right in there. It was like the refs were looking to call something on him last night. I thought they were all weak calls.

  • Do anyone thinks that Omark who hasnt had a freeticket at camp and has without any doubts played himself into the team the hard way take one more sent down to oklahoma he surely plays in another team next year(traded) and if they not let him go he goes russia there he earns 1 years ahl sellery in half a month.

  • The Hall Way

    It was the only reason I could think of why he still is getting more games than DD. If this is a development year then play DD. It doesn’t make sense, same with JFJ over Stortini that’s a puzzle as well.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Gregor, there are a number of, in my mind, questionable decisions that Renney and Co. have made this year. This is one of them.

    Perhaps the media can answer these:

    1. Why is 35 playing so much if he’s not being showcased?

    2. Why has 91 not had a stint in the A when he’s clearly lost on the ice most of the time? (The statement in this question is arguable but I’m willing to argue. Of the top 9, 91 has the least impact.)

    3. Why is the 4th line on the ice at all in the last ten minutes of close games? Does that serve to a player development purpose?

    I don’t know if I’m the only one who doesn’t know the answers to these but, please, can those close(r) to the Oilers provide some insight?

  • Horcsky

    I have been OK with most of the moves so far this year, but unless playing JFJ in favour of Stortini is a way to Strudwick™ the team, then I have oh so little faith in coaching and management.

  • Jason Gregor

    Perhaps the media can answer these:

    1. Why is 35 playing so much if he’s not being showcased?

    2. Why has 91 not had a stint in the A when he’s clearly lost on the ice most of the time? (The statement in this question is arguable but I’m willing to argue. Of the top 9, 91 has the least impact.)

    3. Why is the 4th line on the ice at all in the last ten minutes of close games? Does that serve to a player development purpose?

    I don’t know if I’m the only one who doesn’t know the answers to these but, please, can those close(r) to the Oilers provide some insight?

    Early in the year they played Khabibulin to keep them in games, and he did. You can’t develop a team if you are losing every game. Now that Dubnyk is playing better it should change.

    You can make an argument it would help his confidence to go the the AHL, but I don’t think it would help him adapt to the NHL. Paajarvi’s speed would dominate in the AHL, but it is how he uses his speed.

    Renney wants Paajarvi to learn to battle through players more. It is a good debate whether a trip to the AHL would really help him. I think it benefits him more to learn up here against the best.

    Same reason I would argue that while Ryan O’Marra is a good faceoff guy in the AHL, when he comes up here he struggles. I think the best way for him to improve would be to stay up here and battle against NHLers. Just me though.

    And the fourth line had scored on their previous shift. Do you bench them after that? Player development has to involve all of your players now and then. You have to reward guys when they play well, and in the limited minutes in Dallas, the 4th line was VERY effective.