DEEP THOUGHTS XXIII: A LONG WINTER

The only thing as brutal as the Edmonton Oilers power play lately has been the weather around here. The good news is it’s supposed to stop snowing and warm up. As for the power play, not so much.

While the mercury is headed north in the next couple of days, the Oilers power play has gone south and stayed there over the past 11 games, a stretch of futility in which its gone zero-zippo-nada-no cigar in 38 straight attempts after an 0-for-5 hummer in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center Sunday.

It’s a headlong lurch into the tank that’s coincided, not surprisingly, with the loss of defenceman Ryan Whitney, who tore up his right ankle against the Buffalo Sabres back on Dec. 28.

Toss in the ongoing ineffectiveness of Kurtis Foster and you get what we’ve got. The Oilers couldn’t even get a sniff with a six-on-three against the Ducks late Sunday after they yanked Nikolai Khabibulin while already enjoying — wrong word, probably — a 5-on-3 advantage.

With Whitney likely done for the season — the Oilers won’t confirm it but my information is he’s having, or has already had, surgery on his ankle in Charlotte today — the outlook isn’t going to improve anytime soon.

After this 11-game toot into the porcelain, Edmonton’s power play has sunk to 29th in the NHL, book-ending nicely with the penalty killing, which is 30th.

THE WAY I SEE IT

— The Oilers will likely make an announcement about Whitney’s surgery after tomorrow’s morning skate in preparation for tomorrow night’s game with the Minnesota Wild.

Like I said, the Oilers wouldn’t confirm anything about surgery, but it makes absolutely no sense to have Whitney fly all the way to Charlotte to see the specialist-surgeon who has already worked on him, ship him home and then send him back to go under the knife.

— The Oilers would be in bigger trouble than they’re in now on the back end if rookie Jeff Petry hadn’t stepped in as impressively as he has since getting the call from Oklahoma City Dec. 27.

Petry, 23, played 23:25 against the Ducks and looked as solid as the Canadian dollar. Before Whitney was injured, he had a lot of good things to say about the kid, and we’re seeing some of those attributes now. Too bad for the Oilers we won’t see them together, at least not for the balance of this season.

— Speculation is Shawn Horcoff is just about ready to go after sitting out 17 games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He is close and will skate again tomorrow, but my information is Horcoff hasn’t been medically cleared to play and likely won’t be ready against Minnesota. Best bet is Thursday against Dallas.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

— With Horcoff and Jordan Eberle due back this week, the Oilers need to make a decision up front. If the Oilers look at sending Linus Omark back to OKC instead of making a call between J.F. Jacques and Zack Stortini, they’re making a mistake.

I don’t know why, exactly, coach Tom Renney has lost confidence in Stortini, but if I had a vote, he’d be staying and Jacques would be on his way to the AHL. In any case, I want a longer look at Omark.

— Magnus Paajarvi played his backside off against the Ducks in what was easily his best game with the Oilers. Sam Gagner also showed a pulse after a tough stretch and Omark was on the go all night. I don’t know about the long-term viability of this trio as a line, but they likely bought another game together with Sunday’s showing..

— I’m underwhelmed with Ales Hemsky 10 games into his return from a tweaked groin in terms of his effect on the power play. He’s been very good 5-on-5, but he hasn’t been the catalyst I thought he would be with a man-advantage.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • neojanus

    Despite point production, I think Hemsky has looked sloppy on a lot of occasions since he got back. He botched the two-on-one that could have tied the game yesterday and he is one reason why the power play has had little flow the last ten games or so. Everyone here knows about his amazing offensive abilities, but his attempts at creative play-making have not been at the level they need to be.

    Foster is a bust. I really want the man to succeed, but it just isn’t working for him this season. He looks defeated on the ice as well. Disorganized, slow, and just disconnected (not that he’s the only one). If I had a shot like his, the very least I would do is make the opposition pay for blocking them. I’m from the school of “fire pucks at all angles” when it comes to the power play. Foster (Souray as well when he wasn’t the enemy) have shots to at least cause some bruising. When creativity fails, look for the ugly tips.

    Geesh, that fourth line needs fixing permanently. I have no real answers for it. I agree that Stortini seems like a better option than Jacques… except that recently Jacques has actually scored. The problem with Stortini is that he has two distinct styles: 1) He plays like a bat-out-Hell, creating amazing energy or 2) He plays like an idiot, taking terrible penalties and showing a prowess for poor positional play. I don’t trust Jacques to bring anything consistently, but I just don’t trust Stortini to play wisely. I’d rather have the guy that might score once in a blue moon than the guy who kamikazees once in awhile.

    Paajarvi has impressed me all season and he’s beginning to use that size a bit more. I think his biggest issue was that he didn’t have a true forward identity until recently. He seems to have found more of his own style recently instead of playing so tentatively. That’ll pay off very very soon.

    I hope Tambellini offloads some speed and finds some strength along the boards this summer. To me, that is the biggest problem. The Oilers are forced to play east to west because, unless position is established, they lose the battles against the boards. Not that surprising given the age and size of so many forwards.

    I’d toy with looking at giving up the lottery pick this year and some speed to find that powerful forward that can win more of those battles and get the puck to the net. It would help the power play and it would help open up the ice for the amazing speed and hands of the young stars.

    • O.C.

      Pretty much agree with everything there… I think the What is Wrong With Alice question is way over rated.

      The PP. Two problems
      The D is learning.
      The system is missing instincts… Sort of like they are practicing during the game.

  • I really enjoyed seeing Sam answer the bell last night, as by his own admission he’s had a tough stretch lately. It seems to take him a few games to get in sync with his (latest) line mates, but once he does, all hell breaks loose.

    While it was only one game, I too would like to see the Swedes and Sam together for a while. Magnus is really starting to bring it and Linus is like a terrier going after a tennis ball along the wall. Still astonished that Renney had Omark and PRV on the bench when it seemed their line was by far the most dominant in the latter stages of the game. Great stuff to watch.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Gagner couldn’t have played too well last evening, they lost. I may have missed parts of that game but i don’t remember seeing hell break loose with PRV and Linus on those highlights last evening.

      You were more likely to have been witness to “a” player scoring a goal rather than a “great” player scoring a goal….big difference.

      • From Bruce’s game wrap-up at Staples blog:

        #89 Sam Gagner, 8. Strong bounceback game after a rough night in L.A. Struggled somewhat in the first half of the game (three giveaways) before coming to life late in the second with an assist and a goal on one shift, then continued to bring it for the duration as the Oilers pressed for the equalizer. His line with Omark and Paajarvi showed some real chemistry as they had the puck on a string in Anaheim’s zone, with Sam contributing a number of dandy feeds as well as five shots. Oilers outchanced the Ducks 10-0 with Gagner on the ice, including 6-0 at even strength, and he posted an outstanding +16 Corsi at even strength. 6/13=46% in the faceoff circle.

        http://communities.canada.com/edmontonjournal/blogs/hockey/archive/2011/01/17/oilers-2-ducks-3-can-t-get-no-satisfaction.aspx

        +5, 1 G 1 A, Game 3rd star, 28 Season Pts (1 off the team lead)

        BTW – I seem to recall Gagner doing pretty well with Hall and Eberle after a few games too.

        I never said Sam was a “great” player, but he’s on his way to becoming a damn fine one.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          A good half game here and a good half game there. How many days/weeks passed between those two good half games David?

          I have no doubt Gagner will be a good player in the NHL in a few years but if he’s projected as our potential No.1 center here like Archeology guy suggested last week then we’re not going anywhere fast with his on again off again game. With his consistency he’s 3rd line center best case scenario on a decent hockey club.

          Whenever i see Sam having an off night i’m reminded of that image of 2 hungry, grizzled old vultures nestled on a branch, thinking…. Patience my arse, lets just kill something now. I hope you don’t starve yourself waiting for Gagner to be the player you had hoped for David, after 3 1/2 yrs of it i’ve had enough of the waiting for something i feel may never arrive. Always having the benifit of being 18, 19, 20 and now 21, has grown stale, how much longer will you wait?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            FA aquisition, since when has anyone suggested we go this route?

            The draft….is our one constant hope.

            Trade Hemsky, Penner or Gagner. If it involved a lottery pick or Brayden Schenn, these are the only available assets we have that are worth anything, if it netted us one or two of these they’d be gone.

            I can see by your responses David that you’re backed into a corner, be better next time.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            So we trade him for a Lotto pick, you either draft his clone in RNH or go with Couturier.

            I don’t really like those odds of improving on our situation (especially considering you want to give valuable assets over and above Gagner)

          • The draft isn’t the quick fix you’re looking for. Maybe…MAYBE it works. We got lucky with Hall – a solid #1 BPA. Eberle, Omark and PRV were/are projects.

            The draft isn’t pegged to be as good as last year’s (or so I hear). And even at that, you’re still waiting a number of years for the great prospect to pan out.

            The draft is also one of several tools at our disposal. I mean, nobody thinks we’re going to draft our entire team, do they? C’mon man.

            On top of which you want to ditch our developing/developed assets for yet another “maybe”? Really? At what point does this stop being a repetitive cycle of “development”.

            Hmmm…So you want results now, yet advocate using the draft as “our one constant hope” – knowing full well the odds are long drafts will pan out like Taylor Hall.

            Looks like someone is backed into a corner.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Like it or not the draft is the only “quick fix” here in Edmonton. Till things get turned around with an adequate nucleous we’re on our own and this is the only (not several) tool we have at our disposal. Sure we may lure the odd boffo free agents such as Fraser,Foster or MacIntyre like we did last off season, maybe they ended up here because they had few/no other offers.

            At what point do we stop the repetitive cycle of developement? As soon as we can continue to draft the likes of an Eberle or a Hall. These kids are already playing at a level that surpasses that of a Cogliano or a Gagner in only their first season.

            As always, you draft for core players and trade/sign UFA’s/ RFA’s/FA’s for deficiencies.

            The chances of netting a Cogliano or a Gagner are greatly reduced the higher you select in the draft, all the more reasons to liquidate these near misses into another shot in that top five. Gagner at 6th has left us all wishing he was better.

          • Wait. A play-making pass maestro who projects to score 50-60 points this year – at 21 – is a bust?

            Just exactly how good does a 6th draft pick have to be to pass your acid test? You know we’re not realistically going to have a team of Eberle (drafted #22 BTW) and Hall’s, right?

            An argument could be made that we already have a pretty decent nucleus. We add one more decent top niner and fill out the bottom with actual NHL’ers and this team competes for a playoff spot next year, which I believe is the one teaching tool we absolutely have to accomplish for this young group.

            We’re tanking this year, so we’ve probably got 5-6 players that wouldn’t normally be on an NHL team that intends to compete. The task of filling in those holes isn’t nearly as tough.

          • 24% body fat

            agreed,

            gagner 18 years old 49 points on a team with no offence skill except hemsky

            eberle 21 years old and only 6 months youger than gagner on pace (with full season) for 55 points the same as Gagner for the same age, and with a lot more talent to play with.

            Considering that Sam was playing in a much harder league than jordan was for the last three years lets give him the benefit of the doubt.

            Sedins did not hit 50 points until they were 24 or 25.

            Why cant we just stop jumping on our draft picks and hope they can gel and develop together.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Go ahead OB1, all the more reason to shoot for that1 or 2 spot….if you look in the rear view mirror i’m sure you could dress that list up so it looks real bad if you leave out the ones that made it. The ones coming down the chute this year are the only ones that matter.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            You can include the ones that did make it and it still doesn’t look that great.

            Sure the ones coming down the chute are the ones that matter, unfortunatly for you though they seem to be a weak group.

            ~Boy I’d love to trade Gagner and Penner for the next Cam Barker, Joni Pitkanen or Benoit Pouliot.~

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Good luck to you, sir. You are the one lobbying to trade Penner/Gagner for a pick that has decent odds of turning into one of the three above.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Doesn’t say sarcasm as far as i’m concerned. Can you show me in the mans guide to the internet where it states this sir?

            I didn’t think so….Good luck, try again…thanks for playing.

          • Wanyes bastard child

            So you know that it denotes sarcasm here on ON yet in your tiny deluded world you choose to ignore the fact that we all know what it means and ignore it, then try and make myself as well as OB1 look like intellectual inferiors to your vast ~knowledge~ of the internet.

            I refer to my post in the polls comments #14 and if you have no answer to that then I may as well just bang my head against a wall along with many other posters here because you are to stubborn and unwilling to admit that yes, you may have been wrong once (ALOT) in your lifetime.

            But i’ll leave you to it to try and take the high road and have everyone else call you on your bull$#!t. Happy trolling 🙂

          • You know, maybe you’re being too harsh on the guy. Anyone who’s like 55 years old and has nothing better to do than start nonsensical arguments with nonsensical opinions and then change the game on the fly probably has a pretty mediocre home life. This is also the same guy who “Likes” Jason Strudwick as per Facebook. Clearly there’s a few pistons missing from his motor.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            The youngest of 5 daughters she wanted to keep her Schmidt maiden name, hope this doesn’t make me less of a man allowing her to do so. Where do you find info like this Jeanshorts, did you find it in her obituary?

            I noticed you changed your original post as well as your initial attack there Jeans. Jason Strudwick has been thrown under the bus here so many times i thought he could use another friend.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            So, i’ll take that as a no?

            You may take a couple more days if you like, well i guess it’s obvious you may need these couple days to back up this fact/fiction, or maybe you’re just making up the rules as you go to suit your needs this evening?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I thought that this was a forum to discuss varying opinions Robin. Just because someone puts a thought up it doesn’t mean it can’t be challenged or see it from a different angle?

            I don’t feel it’s fair, this keyboard justice thing we have going on here, where are these guidelines when other members throw JFJ or Jason Strudwick or Dustin Penner under the bus?

            If i’ve put myself above anyone else here or participate in any slap fests then i can understand, i’ve only made an effort to defend the other side of the arguments here. I’m not aware of any harm in knocking Gagner of his pedestal when it happens to others here with regularlity.

            Just doing my best to drive up the post count here, if i’ve raised some blood pressures that would just be a bonus.

            Is four weeks on the LTIR enough of a break for you guys Robin, i could change to Quicksilver light…would this be okay?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The power play struggles may have more to do with talent than strategy. If you don’t have the talent then your only other option is to rely on strategy…. if you do have the talent then you’re farless likely to be in need of that overated strategy character people keep referring to.

    Petry just seems to be getting better and better as each week passes. Really impressed last night when he tried to catch that Ducky with his head down coming into the nuetral zone. A brash move from a kid in the league for just a couple weeks, it’s great to see that level of confidence increasing.

  • Oilers4ever

    I don’t know who coaches the Oil’s PP on the bench.. but whoever it is should be fired from that job and give it to someone else… 6-3 for almost 30 seconds and not even one great scoring chance. Fricking juniors could do better than that.. but I guess that’s what happens when nimrod coaching puts out two dmen with the wrong handed shot so the one timer could not be setup. Like if you don’t have the right handed shot in dman.. with a 6-3 in the last minute, I think with 6 forward we would have had a better chance.. like put out Hall, Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Paaravji, and Omark. Put Penner in front of the net (the actual only thing they did do right) and shoot the fricking puck. Stop looking for the pretty pass. Gagner had the best chance and it was pathetic at best… totally don’t get how they gassed that chance… even DeBrusk with SN said they totally blew and he usually isn’t that critical of the team. ELPH my arse… their game in LA was an embarassment and so was their effort last night until the last 5 minutes of the 2nd period. Seriously, how many times is going to take for no-shows to happen in the first period before this team gets its through their head that you can’t do that at any time… This teams sucks. PERIOD. There… I’ve had my vent for the day… it’s been built up since the end of last night…. 🙂

    • theoil

      How is the coaching staff responsible for our ‘quarterback’ being completely ineffective on the power play… when was the last time the team had a power play that was better than 20th?? Was Hemsky even a part of it?? Yes the coaching staff is partly to blame for being so stubborn when it comes to the formation but man, what are you supposed to do if their best players are the problem???

      • Oilers4ever

        What? You’re gone… If you don’t think the players I listed in a 6-3 are enough talent to score then this team will NEVER have enough talent. PERIOD. It’s the strategy the coaches are using… there are teams with less talent than the Oil who have a higher rated powerplay. WHY? Because they shoot the f’in puck instead of looking for the pretty play all the time. You’d think there were six friggin ballerina’s on the ice in tutu’s trying to score in that 6-3. Drive the fricking puck at 95 miles an hour from the point. With a 6-3, at best, you have a 4-2 lookign for a rebound out front, and one of the two is the goalie. If you can’t execute a 6-3 for 30 seconds (and the actually won the faceoff to boot), you don’t deserve to be in the league.. not a coaching level, not at a playing level. PERIOD.

  • Horcsky

    Robin, do you see the Oil doing much at the deadline? As frustrating as Tambellini’s hesitancy to address needs can be, he did some nice things at the last deadline.

    Am I crazy for thinking the Oilers should be actually trying to ice a team that is playoff capable next year?

    • The Oilers can take a run at the playoffs next season without being busy at the deadline, as in gathering pieces and free agents over the off-season. Best example is getting a return for Souray in the summer, when he won’t be exposed to re-entry waivers. That said, if somebody out there wants or needs a spare part at the deadline and will part with picks or something Tambellini needs, why not? Can he unload Foster, Vandermeer or Fraser for something?

      • Ender

        Without re-entry waivers (which he’ll never see) or else the Oilers doing something creative with Souray to void his contract, Souray is going to cost someone another $4.5M next season.

        Brownlee, do you really think there is anyone out there who is, even on a 1-year deal, ready to spend that kind of money on a blueliner that couldn’t even make an impact in the AHL this season?

        I don’t think we’re getting anything. Best case scenario is finding a way to dump him without affecting cap-space. Probable scenario sees another year just like this one, following which Souray’s career becomes another footnote in the NHL archives. In no scenario do I see us getting anything positive, even a seventh-rounder, in return. And if the Oilers take on another bad contract just to dump him, well, what’s the point?

          • Wax Man Riley

            I want Souray to be blowing the doors off the AHL to make a case of coming back to the bigs. Unfortunately he has barely made RIPple. So we see the possible end of Big Sexy’s career, unless he has a major turn-around this year.

            Who would really trade for a $4.5M player that isn’t making an impact in a poorer league.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            I’m talking about the hypothetical player coming back.

            If he’s useful, having a (short) bad contract should be irrelavant to everyone but Katz.

          • Ender

            8 months ago, Souray was a decent player who had a bad contract. After playing half-a-season in the AHL and not even being one of the best defencemen on his own team, much less in the league, now he’s become a bad player.

            He’s not the same Souray we once knew. Age, injuries, loss of self confidence, bad bounces, whatever . . . the odds of him even tearing it up in the AHL next year are long. The odds of him ever being an impact player in the Show again . . . even longer.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            You said:

            “And if the Oilers take on another bad contract just to dump him, well, what’s the point?”

            And I’m saying who cares if the the guy (the hypothetical bad contract guy we are trading Souray for) has a bad contract (as long as it’s short) Souray in the minors has no value to the Oilers NHL team, if we can parlay that into something that can play a competent role, bad contract or not, then the trade should be made.

          • Ender

            No, I really don’t think so. You’re looking at this from the opposite angle.

            While it’s true Souray isn’t helping the team anymore, it’s also true that he’s not hurting it. He has zero cap-hit to the team. The only way he even remotely affects the Oilers is that his salary might make the owner sigh once in awhile between chip shots. Other than that, the organization can pretty much pretend he doesn’t exist and go about building a good team.

            A bad contract hurts the team every day. It eats up cap-space that could be used to bring in another player. No amount of bad contracts are ever a good thing, not even one. Since Souray isn’t hurting us, why trade him for someone who would?

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            One question: Do you see the Oilers spending to the cap next year, without the hypothetical Souray return?

            The goal isn’t to have the most good contracts possible, it’s to ice the best team you can within the current cap limit.

          • Ender

            If they don’t, then you’re right; overpaying someone to play on the team and eat up the unused cap money wouldn’t make any difference.

            On the other hand, I’d rather see the team be aggressive in free agency and try and make every one of those cap dollars count before they deliberately take on a contract they know is bad just to get rid of a ‘problem’ that’s not hurting them. A free agent in theory has a positive contract value. Almost by definition, any contract brought in by way of Souray trade is going to have a negative value.

            In principle, I just can’t see why you’d want to take a bad contract you didn’t have to.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            I agree that you wouldn’t make the trade if you could spend every available dime on competent NHL’ers, but I doubt that’s the plan and I also doubt they’d even be able to attract enough quality guys to use it effeciently if they wanted to.

          • I’ll have to disagree Ender.

            If Souray remains healthy I can see a few teams taking a chance on him this upcoming off-season. Sure he is getting 4.5 mill for the year, but I think there will be atlest 3-4 teams willing to take that gamble. A new beggining and a change of scenery might re-birth him and his skills a little or a lot. If he isn’t good, there is always the waiver option for the team. It would only work out to be a 2 mill or so gamble.

            I think ST. will be able to move him.

  • Dyckster

    Hey Robin,

    Once 14 and 10 return, if you were coach, how would your lines look?

    27-4-83

    23-89-91 (Maybe exchange 91 for 14)

    14-10-28

    22-16-13

    46 sent down, 33 in and out of the lineup as required. What about when 67 returns? Maybe 16 in the PB?

    That’s how I sees it anyway.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Eleven point in 10 games for Hemsky, not exactly bad numbers. Even if you take out the 4 point night that’s still 7 in 9 games.

  • FISTTT

    great article browny.

    I agree the hemmer has been lack luster. Hopefully the handover wears off sooner then later. 29th is probably a given, but some excitement on our way there would be welcomed.