WHO FITS?

When Taylor Hall was injured on November 26th the Oilers said he’d be out 2-4 weeks. Two weeks was this past Saturday, and if you split his diagnosis down the middle three weeks will be this Saturday in San Jose. The Oilers play Thursday in Phoenix, and I suspect we might see Hall either Thursday or Saturday.

When he returns Tom Renney will need to shuffle someone out of his top-six. I wonder which one of Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner or Ryan Smyth goes to the 3rd line?

If he bases it on recent performance it would seem obvious that Ales Hemsky will be moving down.

Hemsky has three goals and eleven points in 19 games. At times he’s looked disinterested, and I’m curious if he is a bit cautious after coming back from another shoulder injury. He doesn’t have a contract past this year, and if he suffers another injury his chances of getting a long-term deal would diminish even more. I haven’t spoken to him about this, but I can understand if staying healthy is in the back of his mind.

Hemsky has yet to dominate a game this year, which he used to do consistently in previous years. His body language suggests something isn’t right.

Prior to Friday’s win over Colorado Renney was asked about what he’d like to see from Hemsky:

I think he has to stay, not patient, because that can be misconstrued as ‘it will be alright and everything is cool,’ but I think he has to be patient with this (recent struggle)."Look for consistency in his puck movement and look for consistency in his attack game, and understand that I (Hemsky) might not be in the best position offensively, but I can place myself in a good position to be defensively conscious and by doing that more often than not then his offense will come.

I think you are looking at the transformation of a team before your very eyes and he is a part of that and it takes time. Maybe his job description is changing a bit. I’m not suggesting anything by that at all, but maybe as we start to kind of find where everything fits here to move forward maybe that is what Ales is having to go through right now

He’s a vital piece to our puzzle, there is no question about that, but you’ve got to make sure you are playing within our game plan and within our team needs. He has some very important intangibles as a player that we require.

Renney finished off his thoughts with this:

"Is the glass half empty or is it half full? That is a choice you make every morning."

The last line seemed to be a question directed at Hemsky about how he would react to the situation. Is he going to pout about his role changing or is he going to rise to the occasion and answer the internal challenge to secure his spot as a vital offensive leader of the team?

It is up to Hemsky to re-affirm that he is still a dangerous offensive player and that he wants to be a leader. For years Hemsky talked about not having much offensive skill to play with. It was a valid concern on his part, but now that he has some legitimate offensive-minded players in the lineup you’d think he would flourish rather than struggle.

The Oilers need two offensive lines to be competitive, and Hemsky and Eberle give them two excellent right wingers, but Hemsky needs to look at the kids as healthy competition, and battle for PP time. Turn it into a healthy competition, rather than pout that he’s been supplanted as the go-to guy.

If Hall is ready to play on Thursday Hemsky might find himself on the 3rd line with Ryan Jones and Eric Belanger.

I wonder what combos Renney will trot on Thursday if Hall is back?  Here are some options:

        Does he go back to the H2E line – Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle?

        Does he put Smyth with RNH and Eberle?

        Have Hall play with Gagner, right side, and Horcoff?

        Put Gagner in middle with Hall and Hemsky?

        Moving Horcoff to 3rd line with Jones and Eager?

What would you do?

I’d put Hemsky with Jones and Belanger and see if he responds. Hemsky would still be on the 2nd unit PP of course.

ICETIME

Lately it seems some think that Renney should be playing Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle more than Smyth and Horcoff. In the future I agree with that, but right now I’d argue that Renney has used his kids very well.

                                      EV/game          PP/game             SH/game              Total TOI/game
Horcoff                          14:27                 3:18                      3:01                          20:48
Smyth                            14:51                 2:58                      2:11                          20:01
Nugent-Hopkins         13:30                 3:42                      0:02                          17:15
Eberle                           13:16                 3:35                      0:01                          16:53

The major difference is that Horcoff and Smyth kill penalties. PK minutes are more demanding than PP or EV so can someone explain to me why you want two young players playing more demanding minutes that will likely wear them down for their PP and EV minutes? It makes no sense at this point.

If you are wondering, Sidney Crosby averaged 13:39 of EV time in his rookie season. He played :38/game on the PK, and he played 5:04 of PP time. There were way more powerplays that season. The Pens had 495 PP chances for an average of ten PP minutes per game. Right now the Oilers are on pace for 330 PP chances and average about six minutes/game.

Patrick Kane averaged 14:19 EV and 3:56 PP during his rookie campaign. Nugent-Hopkins could get one more EV shift a game if you want him over 14 minutes, but it’s not like he’s been stapled to the bench. He is excelling on the PP and Renney has protected him 5-on-5.

Playing Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle more minutes won’t guarantee they’ll score more. I’d argue they wouldn’t be as fresh with more minutes right now, and their production might dip. In the future they will play more, but more minutes doesn’t automatically equate to more points if you look at the forward leaders in TOI.

TOP OF THE POPS

Kovalchuk         25:09 (1:13 on PK)        

Parise                22:28 (2:23 on PK)

Getzlaf                22:16 (0:46 on PK)

Kopitar               22:10 (2:46 on PK)  

Perry                   22:05 (0:47 on PK)

St. Louis            21:31 (0:25 on PK)

Callahan           21:30 (2:01 on PK)

Giroux                21:28 (2:50 on PK)   

B. Richards      21:25 (0:16 on PK)

Eric Staal          21:20 (1:04 on PK)

Only Giroux (1st) and Kopitar (23rd) are in the top-30 in scoring. When Kovalchuk was scoring 40 and 50 goals he averaged between 21 and 22:30 of icetime. Playing him 25 minutes a night is asinine, and likely a big reason why he only has 18 points thus far. Every player in the NHL is in excellent condition, and if he is taking shifts where he hasn’t fully recoveved he won’t be able to blow past players like he has in the past.

I see more risk than reward in playing Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle much more at this point. Renney might squeeze an extra shift (avg. :45 seconds) in per game, but I don’t see any reason why these two youngsters should be playing on the PK where the minutes are much more demanding. It doesn’t make any sense at this point of their development.

DAY SEVEN

On Friday we raised another $3,250 for Santa Anonymous. Thanks to Bruce for his generous bid.

Today we have another great package. Fresh off another loss to those dreaded Flames we have a package that will get your fired up to be at the next Saturday night Battle of Alberta.

Larry Ricci from KIA West Edmonton generously donated the following package.

His three (yes three) club seats for the Oilers/Flames game on Saturday January 21st.

Wine, appetizers, dinner, drinks and dessert at Pazza Pazzo Italian Restaurant. (Larry is a very proud Italian and he loves this place)

Limo service to restaurant, Rexall and back home.

$50 in Oiler bucks to have a few beers at the game.

To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email gregor@theteam1260.com Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST with 100% of the money going to the Christmas Bureau.

Over 60,000 people need help from the Christmas Bureau so if you can’t bid on this package, but you want help you can donate here. They are only at 25% of their goal this year, so if you can spare $20 make a donation to help others in need.

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’d take Burris till the Eskies find the next Matt Dunigan. Bold move no doubt but you could easily see the Eskimos needing a more mobile quarterback behind an often underachieving O line. There must be another shoe dropping on this front. If they go to camp with just Jyles as their No.1 guy, we’re probably in alot of trouble.

    On the Oiler front, same mission….Sell the farm!

  • shanetrain

    Slightly off topic but if the Eskimos end up with Burris we are screwed. He was so much fun to cheer against. I can’t possibly bring myself to cheer for him. No way.

    What is Donovan McNabb doing these days?!

    Also an extra kudos to Gregor for doing this charity work. Cheers to you sir. This is a great time of the year for most, but for some it is simply the worst.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I can’t tell if you are joking. Normally, I’d assume any trade idea that stupid was a joke but we have entered bizarro world here.

      In any case Schenn straight up for the Oilers first round pick would be a horrible deal.

      This means that you effectively think Hemsky has negative value. Good work.

      • We dont agree often, but here we do.

        Hemsky and a 1st better get you more than a 2nd pairing defenseman. That’s a 13th overall right now with the 1st rounder and falling fast. That could easily be another top 10 by the time the season’s over.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          And exactly how many years are you willing to wait
          for the 1st rounder defenseman to develop ?

          Granted my offer was off mark , ok ok give a guy a break but…
          Schenn is a good player and bound to be better. More pressure on him
          in TO than there would be here. Schenn could start here now, and possibly in the top 2 pairing [Possibly]. The chances of this all happening
          are probably nil anyway.

          If you were to have to trade Hemsky for a D man currently playing
          in the BIGS, Tell me who you think would be a fair swap one for one.
          Not that it would happen but let’s pretend…as we always do.

      • Crash

        Perhaps that was a little much, but i like what Schenn Brings
        and i dont like anything Hemsky has left to offer.
        D men take time to develop. We have seen the best of Hemsky , IF
        thats what you want to call it. This years draft is deep in D men, i realize that but based on where I think the Oilers may be picking, 6-10 is my guess…. I would take Schenn. Yeah ok, adding Hemsky
        would be basically tossing him in for zip. I’ll give you this one.

        You just cant be serious thinking this guy still has it in him.
        He is an ok player even as it stands now, however, his attitude
        for what ever reason is bad and if we can see it, how the hell do you think his team mates feel. I have no idea what to do with him already.
        He has worth, but if he wants out he needs to say so and play
        hard and earn the respect of his team mates.

  • Torcida

    I think the Hall shoulder injury freaked him out a bit, he was getting rocked in Dallas, was going into corners..Soon as Hall got hurt he stepped back from contact..

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Hemsky for Schenn straight up wouldn’t happen because of Hemsky’s contract situation. But Hemsky is a better player than Schenn.

    Right now Gilbert and Smid are our best defensemen. We need defensemen better than them and Schenn isn’t that guy.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Ill take Schenn over Gibby anyday. In Edmonton that is.
      Schenn is under alot of pressure in the so called centre of
      the Hockey universe. Tom Gilbert is having a good year and has
      toughened up but, he is still soft. Depends on what your beliefs
      are for a top 2 D pairing. I say Schenn still has more upside
      than Gilbert.. Just my opinion.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    You can’t trade Hemsky for a plug and play defenseman because any team that trades for Hemsky is doing so for a playoff run this year and hence can’t afford to trade any thing of present quality.

    You are also way off base on the quality of Schenn. Right now he’s a good version of Peckham. That’s not really a compliment.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’ll also add because this is the current Hemsky thread that it simply isn’t true that Hemsky hasn’t been playing well.

    When Hemsky is on the ice the Oilers outshoot the competition. Despite the fact that he has been playing against the best players on the other teams. To put the point in plain English. Despite the fact that Hemsky never shoots somehow the Oilers get lots of shots when he is on the ice. Also despite the fact that Hemsky is soft and a bad defensive player the other team does not get lots of shots when he is on the ice.

    So you can drop the vague innuendo about body language and attitude because none of those things are real if they don’t translate on the ice.

    • You are seriously messed up dude. Vague innuendo ?
      I guess its just me and the thousands of fans and
      TV color guys / commentator’s that see it. You must be
      infatuated with this guy or related. Look at what you just stated, He is soft and a bad defensive player ? But we out shoot the competition
      when he is on the ice ? WOW ! Thats because the guys on he ice with him know they better keep the puck in the offensive zone because they are hooped if they have to depend on him for defensive support !

      Is that plain English enough for you Captain “I have a man crush on Hemsky” for you ? Perhaps i am actually trading verbal jabs with Ales
      himself..

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Your ability to put so much wrong into one small paragraph is impressive.

        I’m particularly impressed by the notion that the guys on the ice with Hemsky try harder defensively because they know how bad he is. That’s a good one. Keep tying yourself in knots.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          What is impressive is your lack of knowledge for the game itself.
          My comments relating to his line mates trying harder to cover for him defensively were as absurd as your’s from previous comments stating a team full of Hemsky’s would dominate, yet you go ahead and state
          he is soft, poor defensively and rarely shoots and he is an asset to this organization. Get your act together Cousin. You are indeed Captain Obvious.. Are you for real ? you couldn’t be. No one is that…….

          ahh never mind. Go Oilers.

  • Oilerbill

    BTW if your answer is Belanger or Horcoff at #2 center enjoy missing the playoffs. Horcoff can fill the roll until Gagner is ready and from what I’ve seen he is not ready.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I heard J.Blum was sent to the minors, wasn’t he apart of a Smid trade last yr? I thought he was #2 next to weber/suter.

    Its just a matter of time before Hemsky gets traded, I like the guy, but if a Mark Fistric came into the conversation I’d trade 83 in a second.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Not sure if this has been suggested yet but I’d like to see the following line combos:

    RNH-Eberle-MPS
    Gagner-Hemsky-Hall
    Horcoff-Jones-Smyth
    Belanger-Lander-Petrell
    (swap in Hordy and Eager when necessary)

    I hope Hemsky picks up three points next game so we can move on to the next player. Who’s up to bat anyways? Peckham? Whitney? Dubbie?

    PS – Articles on the other sites (Flamesnation, CanucksArmy etc) barely get to 30 comments. We may disagree on a lot of things but I think we can all agree that we have the most passionate fanbase. (or we don’t have lives)

    • 5 Cups

      I don’t like PRV on the 1st line the kid has struggled. IF this were to happen I think he would have to score in 1 or at the very most 2 games or back down he goes.

      Teddy is not as good as he is made out to be lets start picking on him. I would call him a solid #7.

      We have no lives.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Maybe it is time that we get away from the 3 scoring lines dream for this season because we don’t have the horses right now. I think that Smyth and Jones had their best stretch of the season playing in a checking role. Eric Belanger kind of reminds me of a less gritty Michael Peca so if it were me:

    Paajarvi and Lander to the minors.
    O’Marra to the big club.

    Hall – RNH – Eberle
    Gagner – Horcoff – Hemsky
    Smyth – Belanger – Jones (tough matchup line)
    Eager – O’Marra – Petrell

    The bottom six (except Eager) will get their PK minutes. The top 6 (as well as Smyth) will get their PP minutes. I just think that it makes more sense than putting skilled guys on lines where their skill won’t really mesh with the other players on the line. We don’t have the horses for 3 scoring lines this season. A few years down the road, maybe, but not right now.

    GO OILERS GO!!

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I like what crash had going.

    I also agree the Horc Smyth Jones should be getting another look as they actually were playing “relentless together”

    I think using Eager with RNH Ebs at Evs might actually work,if he can keep up the high energy play like the last 2 games before Calgary. It also gives them a bodyguard, kinda like Semenko used to do for the other 2 not to be named players.

    This leaves 04 89 83 for the other top 3 line. Which could be a very strong line and maybe get 83 going as well

    Then whoever else left over on 4th line with MPS occasionally switching with Eager depending on toughness of opponents.

    That imo would be an awesome lineup

  • I’m not sure what we all expected? The start even had me convinced the Oilers had turned a corner.

    Hemsky is not the Oilers problem, far from it. But it gives reporters and TV people something to dramatize about. Hemsky is hurt plan and simple. If you’re an opposing GM you already know there’s no way he passes a physical. He’s here until he gets better physically, I don’t see the Oilers trading him until the deadline.

    Untill then embrace ELPH for at least another year. Cheer on RNH for the one trophy the Oilers don’t have. Hope Smyth can score 30 and Hall comes back ready to dominate.

    Cant wait till the draft day when we choose Dumba

    • 5 Cups

      All well and good to cheer on RNH but I wouldn’t be polishing that trophy quite yet.

      Adam Henrique, who has played 5 fewer games than RNH is coming on hard…1G, 2A tonight in two periods and he’s also killing penalties (his goal tonight was short handed).

      If you look at RNH’s lack of production on the road and with 9 of the Oilers next 11 games on the road against tough opponents, objects in the rear view mirror may be larger than they appear.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Putting Hemsky with Horcoff and Smyth just seems like the right decision but you cant have Hall on the 3rd and with the way Gagner responds you cant put him on the 3rd either. I would go with a line of

    Gagner-NUGE-Eberle (only if gagner puts up good numbers like he has been)

    Hemsky Horcoff Hall

    Smyth Belanger Eager or MPS (I think mps needs to go down and get some scoring happening)

    Hordichuk-Lander-Petrell (I think the Oil have really found a solid 4th line player in Petrell, A Kirk Maltby type. A guy who knows if role and plays hard for it)

    If Gagner struggles easy fix, put him on the 3rd line bump Hall up and Smyth up DONE!!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    The 27th worst defensive center in the league that can’t score at a high enough clip to be an outscorer doesn’t belong in the same sentence as RNH.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Adam Henrique:

    5V5

    GFON/60: 3.02
    GAON/60: 3.02

    5V4

    GFON/60: 7.10
    GAON/60: 1.42

    4V5

    GFON/60: 3.22
    GAON/60: 1.07

    So, we see he is playing relatively tough competition to a draw at evens, has very good PP numbers in limited ice time and is actually outscoring the opposition while killing penalties.

    No doubt the kid is a bum. 🙂

  • Wax Man Riley

    Ya OB1.. quit tryin’ to troll. Everyone knows Gagner is a washed up has been and will be playing in the ECHL next year.

    HE SO SMALL AND SLOW AND DUMB AND CAN’T PLAY HOCKEY ON THE ICE

  • Oilerbill

    ~No this week it is Hemsky~

    As for Gagner, my stance was and is that in order for this team to utilize Gagner for the betterment of the team, he has to be the number 2 center. If he plays the wing we still have a hole at center and yes we have too many small wingers. Why play a natural center on the wing?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The opposite wing thought right? He played on the left side last friday when he had some success.

    Not often you see Gagner and success used in the same sentence.

  • Oilerbill

    That’s right so give up on the 22 year old ever playing the position he has played his whole life and where the Oilers will have a hole when they’re ready to contend.

    Think it’s time you give it up OB wannabe. Your lack of vision for the future is tiring.