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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.