INTERESTING QUESTIONS

Through eleven games the Oilers have exceeded everyone’s expectations, even their own if you put them on a polygraph, but as they get set to head out on six-game road there are numerous questions surrounding the team.

1. How many league categories are the Oilers leading?

  • They have the lowest team GAA at 1.46. The Kings are the only other team surrendering less than two goals a game with a 1.91 GAA. The Oilers have been incredibly good in their own zone.
     
  • They have the most giveaways with 163. The Flames are 2nd with 130 while the Habs are 3rd with 113. Pittsburgh is 4th with 94. The Oilers will need to cut down on the GvA if they want to keep winning. I do wonder how consistent this stat is marked from rink-to-rink, but considering the Oilers have 70 more giveaways than 26 other teams, I’d suggest it is a major concern.
     
  • They are tied with the Dallas Stars for most too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties. They had three in the first five games, and only one in the last six, so they are improving, but their changes in the 2nd period have been brutal at times.
     
  • They are a perfect 1.000% when trailing after the first period. Of course it has only happened once, but they are 1-0 when trailing after the first. Slow starts killed this team last year and that hasn’t been the case this year. Funny enough the Oilers are 30th in the league when leading after 20 minutes. The Oilers are 1-2-2, good for 0.200 success rate. Who would have guessed that fast starts would actually hurt them? It is a stat that doesn’t jive with their success.
     
  • They are tied with Carolina for most games with even shot totals. The Oilers are 1-0-1 when they have the same shots as the opposition. Carolina is 0-2 when tied in shots. Yes, I know another obscure stat.
     
  • They are tied with the Stars and Hawks for most points in the West with 16. The Oilers didn’t register their 16th point until November 25th last season.
     
  • Nikolai Khabibulin leads the league in GAA at 1.12, while Dubnyk is 8th at 1.98.
     
  • Khabibulin leads in SV% as well with a sparkling .960, while Dubnyk is 6th at .938.
     
  • Ladislav Smid is first in blocked shots with 40. As a team the Oilers are 3rd with 184. In case you are wondering, last year the Oilers were 10th with 1,219.
     
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads all rookies in goals (5), in points (11), in powerplay points (6) and home points (11). He is a lock to win rookie of the month for October. Only Phil Kessel has more home points (14) than RNH.
     
  • The Oilers also have the biggest improvement in waiver wiring positioning. They started the year with first crack at waivered players, but as of today every team except Chicago and Pittsburgh would choose ahead of them.

 It has been two years since the Oilers led in any category, other than sucking, so this month has been a welcome change for the organization and their fans.

ARMCHAIR COACH

Ales Hemsky will be on the road trip, but it’s not certain when he will dress. He likely won’t play Thursday in LA, but there is a good chance he could suit up next Tuesday in Montreal. Last year he also returned to the lineup in Montreal, after missing three games, and picked up three points, unfortunately he re-aggravated his injury that night and proceeded to miss the next ten games. For his sake, I hope that doesn’t happen again.

When Hemsky returns, Tom Renney is going to have to make a few difficult decisions.

Who does he take out of the lineup and where does he play Hemsky?

For many it seems obvious that he will slot in on the RW with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth. That would seem like the obvious choice, but if that line, along with Ryan Jones, continues to play well, I wonder if he’d look at playing Hemsky with Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner.

Gagner has been okay on the wing, and he and Paajarvi had some great chances in the 3rd period v. St. Louis, but up until then they hadn’t had much chemistry with Eric Belanger.

Renney will need a go-to, reliable line on the road, and he has that with the Horcoff line. Would he surprise some people and try to jumpstart Paajarvi and Gagner by playing them with Hemsky? Those two combos along with the Hall/RNH/Eberle line would give him three potential scoring lines.

What combos would you like to see Renney use once Hemsky returns?

ODD MAN OUT

In previous years here on the Nation, the return of Hemsky would have started a heated debate over which under-performing forward should come out of the lineup. This year, however, the decision is much harder, because no one is playing that bad, but barring an injury in the next few games Renney will have to make a choice.

The candidates seem to be Lennart Petrell, Ben Eager, Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander. Sam Gagner has only played five games, so he gets a longer leash, but he’d be the only other possibility at this point.

I’d keep Paajarvi in and I’d seriously consider playing him with Hemsky. He definitely needs to be more consistent, but I wouldnt’ plant him in the pressbox just yet.

Petrell doesn’t make any mistakes. He is solid in his own end, leads all forward in blocked shots and is tied for the team lead in hits (18) with Smid. He has played his role exceptionally well. He doesn’t add much offence, although he’s had some great chances the past few games, but that’s not what Renney wants from him. He has been a very solid 4th liner. He and Lander have been a solid 3rd PK pairing.

Eager is starting to play better, although I’d like him to be a bit more emotionally involved. He is an excellent skater for a big man and he doesn’t give the puck away. He doesn’t kill penalties, but he is the only forward with any sort of truculence in his game, and that will keep in him v. certain teams.

Lander impresses me more every game. I love how hard he competes, he has very good positional play and he rarely turns over the puck. If Renney considers moving Gagner to the middle, Lander is probably the odd man out. I think he has been more effective than Belanger in most aspects, except in the dot, and I think he is going to be a vital piece of the puzzle in the near future. If Lander comes out, I’d ship him to OKC because he needs to be playing.

I’d take out Lander, and move Gagner to the middle. They will either put Jones or Hemsky on his RW. I like Gagner more in the middle because he needs the puck to be effective. He is better at cycling the puck, than attacking on the rush, so maybe Jones is a better fit for him, but I’d be curious to see him with 83 and 91 for a short time.

Who would you take out?

QUICK HITS

  • It sounds like Cam Barker could be back Thursday in LA, but with Ryan Whitney still a few weeks away, and Andy Sutton likely suspended, don’t be surprised if the Oilers call up Colten Teubert at some point on this trip. He’s been playing very well in OKC and the Oilers want to give him a look.
     
  • Khabibulin has to be the biggest surprise in Edmonton, but he isn’t the only player making a surprising comeback. Sheldon Souray has eight points and is +8, while playing 20 minutes a night in Dallas. Considering Souray was a combined -64 in his previous five NHL seasons, his +8 figure is a huge surprise.
     
  • Another former Oiler is off to shocking start as well. Marc-Andre Bergeron is 2nd amongst NHL D-men with 12 points, and eight of them are at EV,  which is tops in the league. He’s been playing top-four minutes in Tampa and  averaging over 16 min EV/game. 
  • Quicksilver ballet

    6,10,4,83,89.

    One of these players is not like the others…
    one of these players… surely belongs…
    Can you guess which player is better than the others….
    I’ll tell you if it ain’t so…..

    Only one will be wearing Oilers silks by the end of next season.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        2011-2012 he’s due 6.5. In
        2012-2013 he’s due 6.0 and in
        2013-2014 he’s due 4.0 with a 5.5 cap hit.
        2014-2015 if man is still alive, he’s due 3 million for this season.

        For a team scrambling to get to the cap floor, taking on 7 million over two seasons to buy yourself an 11 million dollar cap hit over those two seasons is a bargain. The Oilers will probably be able to find a taker next summer. That would save a club 3.5 over the last three seasons of his deal. 16.5 in cap hits (over 3 yrs) for only 13 million is actual salary are what teams trying to get to the cap floor are looking for. The Oilers could perhaps receive a second rounder in exchange.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          naive question time: why would a team want to take on extra cap hits? wouldn’t this restrict their ability to deal, acquire, etc? isn’t cap space at a premium?

          am I missing something?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Teams are having to give players more than they deserve in an effort to get to the floor. Nashville giving David Legwand 4.5 per on a multi yr deal is one example of this type of situation. It’s driving up the values on the middling type of players in this league.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      When you raise the stakes to that level fine… Hall is off the trade block…

      But in your enthusiasm for rebuilding you seem to overlook the need for a team, cohesiveness, etc.

      To extend the analogy. The Oilers aren’t on land with an infinite supply of resources in which to rebuild, we are far from an ideal situation here. To use the classic metaphor, we are at sea, rebuilding a leaky ship, a board at a time, with whatever resources we can muster…

      real world solutions.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Are you dipping into the sauce already?

      Horc stays. He is our Captain as well as a very effective player. Hall… is… Hall.

      Whitney, Gags, and Hemsky… well maybe I give you 2 of those 3. You gotta think that the entire league knows Whitney’s probs and would be too scared to make that move. Same with Hemsky, who I think would sign here for 3.5 knowing his injury history as well.

      Gags… well… could be on the way out with Omark.

  • DrPow

    With hemsky returning to a successful unit for once, the main thing we need is an injection of offense into the lines that aren’t producing. I don’t think throwing Hemsky back with Smyth and Horcoff, and moving Jones down with Gagner and Paajarvi will do that. Jones wont jump start 91 and 89. Jones has fit in exceptionally with Horcoff/Smyth, so keep that line in tact and play Hemmer with Paajarvi and Gagner. Belanger slides down to 4 between Petrell and Eager, Lander to OKC where he will get tons of minutes and play in every situation.

    Boom. 3 lines with some offensive pop. Lord Stanley of Preston, welcome home.*

    *soon

  • CaptainLander

    I like Gregor’s lines here, Magnus seems like he is close to getting something that will boost the confidence. He is by no means playing bad defensive hockey just a little weak on the offense, in time I think that will come, for now he needs to keep playing at this level. I keep Lander in the press box for at least 2 games to see if Hemmer can make it that long without injury, if he is doing okay at that point send him to the A. When Darcy comes back he and Eager can switch off. As for the Horc line as long as the play against the top lines in the league and continue to succeed keep em together.

  • geoilersgist

    I don’t mind Eager at all at least he can skate and so far hasn’t been a defensive liability. I really wish things didn’t have to change with Hemsky coming back but they do have to. I would much rather have Eager in the lineup than Hordichuk.

  • bazmagoo

    I think those line combos sound like a smart way to play it. There is no doubting we can flip one or two of these forwards into a top 4 d-man at some stage this year. This is the way to showcase our forward talent towards that end.

    Hall-RNH-Eberle
    Paajarvi-Gagner-Hemsky
    Smyth-Horcoff-Jones
    Eager-Belanger-Petrell

    Works for me!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Why are people talking about getting rid of Horc still? He was solid last year and has been fantastic so far this year.

    The guys had one bad year since the lockout…. Time to face facts that he’s a high quality NHL’er

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Eyes sees whats you did der Obbie…

      You called me a “person/people” and i thank you for that sir, it’s a step up from what we use to call each other.

      We’ve come along way Obbie. If you would’ve pre-empted my premeditated attack on Horcoff, we would’ve missed out on this moment.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      I guess it is just a matter of perspective then. He was -22 in 06/07 and -29 in 09/10. That would be two bad years on that number alone.

      In my opinion, he has had one good year since the lockout as he had 73 points in 05/06. He hasn’t had above 53 points since and has averaged a little less than 44 points per season. All why getting the most ice-time on the team. Add to the fact he has had only two 20-goal seasons in his career. Again, not inspiring numbers for a guy who gets #1 center ice-time.

      After saying that, Horcoff is playing better this year and can be a productive 3rd line center. However, trading him while his value is probably up isn’t a terrible idea.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        I wouldn’t put too much faith in those +/- numbers.

        Also, 73 points isn’t a good year, it’s a fantastic year.

        He plays more minutes then (almost) everyone else on the team because he’s one of the best players on the team. Pretty simple.

        • Jason Gregor

          One good year doesn’t make him “one of the best players”. His 2nd best total ever as an NHLer of 53 points would have ranked him 75th among NHL players last season. Not exactly great for a #1 center. And again, averaging 44 points per season would put him well out of the top 100.

          And I put some faith in +/- numbers. While the media would have you believe he is a great defensive center, you can see multiple plays every game where he is giving the puck away and losing his man in the defensive zone (Remember the Burrows goal against Vancouver). Sorry, I’m not seeing a need for a guy who was a flash in the pan one year of his career.

  • 1983 and This Year

    Renney’s only course of action is obvious: ice a 5th line.

    If he’s found a way for us to lead the Western Conference, surely he can find a way to do that.

    🙂

  • Bandwagon jumper

    @Romulus’ Apotheosis He referring to the odd team in the league who struggle to make it to the cap floor. So a contract where the cap hit is higher than the actual cash paid out is advantageous to them. At least from a contractual sense.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      and @Moneypuck

      thanks for the info. So many little details I still don’t know.

      It still seems super counterintuitive that this is a problem. I get the idea of a floor so teams are forced to try and compete and all but how a team could so radically underspend in modern hockey is beyond me. and the solution of overpaying certain players seems like a bad one.

      Instead of one bloated contract (that may come back to bite you, when you find yourself closer to the cap) why not spend more throughout your positions? I just seems like the former is a short-term solution at the cost of long-term planning.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      You can watch Shanahan’s explanation at the mainpage

      http://www.nhl.com/

      Looks like @Brownlee got this one right.

      I was hoping for 2… but there it is, we’ll have to deal with it.

      [sidenote] i really like this new approach by the NHL. video explanations. more transparent. However, it would be great if they did the same for controversial non-calls too, ie. explained why no discipline. obviously they don’t do this because it would open pandora’s box, but on really obvious, big no-calls that people are talking about, it would be nice to hear their defence of no discipline.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Better to initiate it rather than always be responding to it.
    Initiating it sometimes comes with a price. One suspension down, 5 more to go. Stirring the pot lets us all know we’re still alive.

  • Bandwagon jumper

    If Sutton got 5 games, how many did Wolski get, or how about that dirty hit on Belanger last game. The 5 games on Sutton is fair, no one should question that However, we are a month into the season and Shanny is as consistant as Colon Campbell.

    I hope in the new CBA the NHL and the players go to a private arbritrator to administer justice.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      There is one big difference in the way justice is administered. I agree the wheel of justice is still spinning. (if Sutton were a Marquee player, like Blake was; and Landeskog was an average player like Belanger, probably no discipline, or less time)

      However, now that they are itemizing and video taping their decisions and making them publicly available it will be much easier to hold them accountable. Their own actions and explanations will serve as models going forward and we can call them on it easier.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      I beg to differ I think we should question it. Some people are saying that he lifted the elbow to hit him. Sorry if Sutton lifted his elbow it would have gone right over his head and not even touched him. I think it was a good hit, The avs player was entering the oiler zone and was looking behind himself instead of forward. If he had been looking forward it wouldn’t have looked as bad as it did. If now you can’t hit players unless they are looking forward how do you expect guys to defend their territory when all a guy has to do is not pay attention where he is going to get a zone entry. Then when you look at other hits around the league that are worse, they aren’t even being reviewed. Complete BS. How can you not review the boarding hits that belanger recieved and then later in the game he rubs a guy out on the boards and gets called for boarding on a hit that was initially on the shoulder and was still about a 5th of the others. Double standard, inconsistant, lets face it they are turning it into a circus now.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Two lines I’d like to try is either

    Paajarvi-Lander-Omark

    or

    Paajarvi-Gagner-Jones

    Paajarvi, Gagner and Jones had some success last year before being dissolved, I think due to injury?

    The All-Swede line is something l’d like to see for at least a game or two to see what kind of chemistry there is there.

    If we tried the all-swede line…

    Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
    Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Paajarvi-Lander-Omark
    Jones/Eager/Petrell-Belanger-Gagner

    If we tried the Paajarvi,Gagner and Jones line…

    Hall-Hopkins-Eberle
    Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Paajarvi-Gagner-Jones
    Eager/Omark/Lander-Belanger-Petrell

  • book¡e

    I, for one, am glad to see an Oiler get a 5 game suspension for something.

    This accomplishes two things – 1. Creates a healthy fear of being decapitated when playing the Oilers. 2. Its 5 games that the Oilers get to check out a prospect.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Paajarvi was really coming on last game. He even got some time with the kids in an attempt to get him on the board. The line with Gagner and Hemmer could give us 3 pretty good scoring lines. Lander has played so well but it might just be a matter of a numbers game. A little time in OKC is not a demotion however. This road trip could come down to balanced scoring and some help from that third line would be a nice boost.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    never took credit nick. i did’nt claim it was all MY idea and clench my sits in evil fashion. Gregor very well did propose those lines. i simply wrote them out in a different format. for clarity purposes and added my 2 senses at the bottom.

    was i boasting somewhere that offended you?