DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE: EDITION X

I wonder if Tom Renney will be using a similar image to figure out his plan for the final 33 games. The Oilers are out of the playoff hunt, but look for them to try a few different looks and don’t expect them to be a doormat the remainder of the way.

"There are some things we want to change, there is also some things we are going to implement that we believe will do us good in the long run as an organization. We are going to keep things simple, and we aren’t going to try and reinvent the wheel. We are going to make sure on two things: Going into next year that we have a solid foundation on how we want to play, and that there is enough diversity to that where we can extract different tactics as required," said Renney.

"We want to continue to grow people and put them in a position where they can do that, and find out even more about themselves at this level. We can certainly be very disruptive in the western conference. We want to win and we want our record to be as good as we can possibly get it. Part of our mantra will be to go out, play hard and try to make a mess of things out here (in the west)."

I sense that Renney’s comments will excite and possibly irritate some fans.

It is really a catch 22 right now for the Oilers. They want to develop their players, and if they play well the wins will come, but the draft pick will drop. I’ve stated from the start you can’t ask your team to lose on purpose, and with so many young players still trying to find their way around the league, there is no chance Renney will even think of hindering their development for a better draft selection.

The bigger questions are what diversity will we see in the final 33 games, and how will it impact the future of the Oilers?

FINAL 33 TO HELP THE FUTURE?

 

Here are a few things I hope we see down the stretch.

  • Taylor Hall playing centre. I might as well start with the obvious and easy. Renney is already on record as saying he wants to see more of Hall in the middle, as does every Oiler fan.
     
  • Andrew Cogliano on the wing. It is clear he can’t win a faceoff consistently, but he has learned to compete much harder the past two seasons. He’s becoming a pretty decent penalty killer, and if he is going to help this team moving forward he has to do it on the wing.
     
  • Shawn Horcoff playing between Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark. Horcoff helped Jordan Eberle and Hall early this season, so why not see what he can do with the two rookie Swedes.
     
  • It sounds like Eberle will play Wednesday, Ales Hemsky is getting close and eventually Gilbert Brule will re-surface. When all three are back there is no way that Omark can go to the minors. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paajarvi’s best stretch has come with his fellow countryman in town. Like most rookies Paajarvi took some time adapting to the NHL game, but it is clear he had a harder time adjusting to life off the ice. Omark has made Paajarvi’s time away from the rink much more enjoyable and comfortable, and we are seeing the result of that on the ice. Based on this link, some might say they’ve become too comfortable, but it’s clear Omark’s presence has helped his younger Swedish teammate.
     
  • Give Jeff Petry as much PP time as possible, and encourage him to use his shot more. Petry has the ability to get shots through the lanes and on goal. He is savvy enough to know when to wind up and rip one, or just sift it past the legs of the shotblocker and get it on goal. He has shown tremendous poise in the past five games, and I’d like to see more of him on the first unit PP.
     
  • Let Dubnyk play 20 of the remaining 33 games. Khabibulin isn’t giving this team a better chance to win, and hasn’t for the past month. Let Dubnyk play three in a row a few times and see how he handles it. There is no point worrying about Khabibulin’s ego or confidence. He is a good team guy, and I don’t see him rocking the boat.
     
  •  Play Hemsky with Gagner for 15 games and Hall for 15 games and find out which centre he works best with. I think Gagner fits better with Dustin Penner, and Hemsky with Hall, but let’s see if indeed that is the case.
     
  • Give Omark more PP time. He is more creative than Hemsky on the halfboards, and he seems to move the puck quicker. At times Hemsky seems to have a set play in his mind as he enters the zone and has a hard time deviating from that.
     
  • Try a forward on the blueline on the PP. Hall played there in Windsor, so let’s see if he can do it here. Without Ryan Whitney this team doesn’t have four solid PP defenders, so use a forward while Petry, Tom Gilbert and Kurtis Foster can rotate as the other three D-men.
     
  • Find a way to ensure this team is ready to play from the opening puck drop. We’ve seen three different coaches for three consecutive seasons, and none of them have been able to get this team to consistently be ready to compete from the opening whistle. It is up to Horcoff and the other leaders to find a routine that fits with this group and stick with it.

FOURTH LINE FOCUS: TOO MUCH

For many years there has been too much focus on the fourth line guys in Edmonton. Without looking at the stats can you name the fourth lines in Philadelphia, Vancouver, Detroit, Washington or Pittsburgh? If you can, you spend more time reading the stats than Wanye does watching rap videos. I understand you want decent role players, but the reality is when you have a good to great team your fourth line doesn’t matter that much.

The problem with the Oilers is that the only physical players they have are fourth line guys. They don’t play their fourth line enough to allow them to get in the game, but there is an expectation that in those limited minutes they want the 4th liners to play so aggressive and physical that other teams will think twice about being physical with the top-nine forwards.

The reality is that won’t happen.

Theo Peckham plays a regular shift and that allows him to be more physical and keep teams honest. Until the Oilers get someone who can play a regular shift in their top-nine, or ideally top-six, and brings a physical edge the Oilers will be considered an easy team to play against.

Hall and Paajarvi have some size, and as they mature they will become harder to play against strictly because they will be harder to move off the puck, but the Oilers need to develop one or two guys who are skilled and physical. Right now they have skilled guys, and some physical guys, but no one who possesses enough of both.

***In the opening photo, when I leaned back I saw what looked like Jesus with a circle around him. Weird** 

 

  • Glad to see Stortini go, all year he has been bad this year. The Dallas game was the last straw. He took a huge step back this year. One way contract or not he had to go. The next one to go should be Fraser. Brule and Reddox can do the 4th line center 100 times better. They both can do better on the faceoffs and can kill penalties. Thus what good is Fraser? He does not score, hit, get under anyone’s skin, or faceoff very well. It is better to keep Omark and Reddox as at least they work hard every night. For those who say the Oilers are now too small and will get pushed around, that was happening with those guys in the lineup. Dress Big Mac for the rest of the year if we have too. At least people are scared of him even if he only plays a few minutes.

  • Jmask5

    I’d try PRV on the point not Hall. Paajarvi has scored a couple of goals from the point this year. One drop pass from Penz and another on a nice dish from Cogs. That’s 2 more point shot goals than Smid.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    worst comment ever about the fourth liners Jason. total deflection from how bad the ones are here. lots of the fourth liners on the teams youve listed are key penalty killers and role players. Steckel? Gordon? Hendricks? Adams? Talbot? Helm? Abdelkader? Betts? Powe? the one case you could have is Vancouver.

    all of those guys have seen or see fourth line time. to say Fraser, and the other band of losers on that fourth line isnt important is a total disrespect for what some of those dudes do in the shadows.

    just because the Oilers third and fourth lines suck (and frankly so do their top 6) doesnt mean you should negate the role of those players in successful organizations who play an intelligent game of hockey.

    is the fourth line the least important? sure, based on categorical naming and minutes, but what some of those dudes do in those minutes is highly important throughout 60 minutes of hockey. something the Oilers rarely play. and cant.

    the entire bottom 6 is important to success. trying to liquidize it is just being spiteful because people are nagging at how BAD the oilers role players are at their job.

    i gotta go lose a fight to Matt Niskanen now and get a contract from 3 games of playoff hockey with a sucker team.

    • Jason Gregor

      How good would those guys be on average teams?

      Did I say the 3rd line wasn’t important? Nope I said fourth line guys. Remember how everyone thought Ben Eager was really useful in Chic. Well in ATL he wasn’t.

      The best players will make the 4th liners job much easier.

  • stevezie

    Oh, and Jason’s completely right on 4th liners. Yes they’re nice to have, but considering tv timeouts and infinitely better conditioning there isn’t much need to play them more than 5 minutes a game. The biggest use a 4th liner has is to fill in should a top niner get hurt, which admittedly is a guarantee at some point.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    1. Love the idea of 13 as a winger because we’ve wasted enough FO’s on him.

    2. Not sure how great he is as a PKer, though. In fact, I’m not sure that anyone on the club is a good PKer. They started out great and then had a really good stretch but all along were still giving up a tonne of shots. And now it’s terrible again. So, I don’t know if there’s any loonies to be hauled out of that septic tank.

    3. 4th liners are great to have if they can also kill penalties. You either used your best EV players on the kill and you use the bottom half of your forwards. But I don’t know if a 4th line is needed for anything else.

    • Jason Gregor

      Ideally they can bring some energy and not be a defensive liability. Fourth liners who are good excel at one thing. Either solid F/O guy, or great shot blocker/penalty killer or a guy who is consistently physical.

      Find a guy like that and then your fourth line can be effective, but when teams don’t have elite top-six forwards more focus is put on 4th liners, and I think normally they can’t live up to being impact guys.