GDB 42.0: CAN THEY IMPROVE?

 

The Oilers start the second half of their season hoping they can find some consistency and learn how to play better in the 3rd period. The Oilers have been outscored 44-31 in the 3rd, despite outscoring the opposition 36-32 in the 1st and 43-40 in the 2nd. They need to be smarter and sometimes more patient in the 3rd and wait for the opposition to make a mistake, similar to the Wings and Pens, rather than try risky plays.

When you sit in 27th place there are many areas that need improving and yesterday in the comment section Rindog was asking why the Oilers are so bad 5-on-5. Technically they aren’t awful, having allowed 75 goals and scored 66, but it is clear they haven’t been very productive offensively at even strength.

It depends how you look at it. The Oilers are top-ten in EV GA having surrendered 75, but only LA, Minny and the Islanders have scored fewer goals with five skaters. So they don’t score much, but they don’t give up much either. They improved their EV/GA immensely from last season. They were 27th last year, allowing 171, but offensively they were 28th scoring only 127. They were -44 five-on-five in 2011, so I’d argue they’ve taken big strides at being more competitive through the first 41 games.

When you combine their improvement defensively at EV and their improved special teams you wonder why this team still can’t win? They’ve been in most games this year, but they still haven’t learnt how to close out teams, and that likely will only come with more experience.

I did wonder if the lack of offense from their blueline contributed to their lack of scoring 5-on-5.

Senators D-man Erik Karlsson leads all NHL D-men with 24 EV points, and the Sens are 4th in EV goals with 89, but does points from your backend equate to more 5-on5 scoring? (Teams tied with total goals were ranked by GP)

TEAM       D-MEN PTS    D-MEN GOALS     OVERALL RANKING IN 5-ON-5 GOALS
OTT                70                          13                                        4th (89)
PHO               67                          14                                        12th (78)
COL               65                          12                                        22nd (70)
STL                63                          17                                        18th (72)
WASH            63                          9                                          13th (76)
VAN                63                          13                                        7th (84)
TOR               62                          10                                        6th (84)
DET               62                          20                                         2nd (95)
WPG              61                          14                                        19th (71)
TB                  61                          14                                         9th (81)
PHIL              61                          11                                        3rd (89)
MONT            58                          10                                        11th (78)
BOS               58                          11                                        1st (100)
CBJ               57                           14                                        26th (65)
PITT               56                           9                                         10th (78)
NASH            55                           12                                        25th (66)
FLO                55                          11                                        27th (65)
CHIC             55                           10                                        5th (86)
S.J                  54                           9                                         15th (75)                
CAR               54                           9                                         16th (75)
NYR               53                           16                                       14th (76)
ANA               50                           11                                        23rd (69)
CGY              46                            8                                         21st (70)
BUFF            43                           11                                        17th (72)
L.A                 43                           14                                        30th (59)
N.J                 42                            7                                         20th (70)
DALL             39                            6                                         8th (81)
EDM              39                            9                                          24th (66)
MINN             35                            4                                         29th ( 59)
NYI                 31                           5                                          28th (59)

Most of the lowest scoring teams five-on-five, Minny, NYI, Oilers, and LA don’t get much scoring from their backend, while Dallas seems to buck the trend. The Avalanche also seem a bit out of place at the top, but 11 of the top 15 teams in D-men scoring are also in the top 15 in EV goals. I do think there is correlation, however, like most statistics there are some exceptions.

I don’t think the correlation is blatant, but if you look at last year’s Oilers you do see a trend.

I looked at the Oilers EV scoring with Ryan Whitney in the lineup for the first 35 games compared to the final 47 without him.

With Whitney the Oilers scored 66 EV goals in 35 games, which is an average of 1.88 GPG.

In the final 47 games the Oilers only scored 67 EV goals, for an average of 1.42 GPG.

That is almost 1/2 a goal less/game without a proven puck moving D-man. Of course this is only one year, but I do think the absence of an elite puck-moving D-man does impact their EV scoring. Having skilled forwards makes a huge difference, but if you look at most of the best EV scoring teams they have one excellent puck mover.

Andy Sutton has been the Oilers most productive PPG/EV D-man with 6 points in 21 games, while Potter has 6 in 27, Smid has 7 in 41 and Gilbert has 9 in 38.

I don’t think we can say that the Oilers have sacrificed EV offense by playing better defence, because they are on pace to allow 21 fewer goals at EV, while scoring five more goals than last year. I just think it reflects some of the weaknesses of this team.

This team doesn’t score five-on-five for numerous reasons.

  • As a group they don’t go to the net often enough.
  • They don’t shoot enough.
  • They don’t have any healthy elite puck-moving D-men.
  • They aren’t big enough up front to consistently go to the tough areas.

Their system does play a part, but I think it is a smaller one than the other aforementioned factors.

LAST CHANCE TO SEE HHOF?

Yesterday I had the pleasure to speak with the longest serving GM in the game, Lou Lamoriello. He’s incredibly intelligent and even he admitted it is better for the league if teams play each other home and away. "I have to put aside my own agenda and do what is best for the league, even if it isn’t the best for the Devils." The Devils have a great travel schedule and they always will, but he realizes that many fans out west have missed out on having a chance to see, arguably the greatest goaltender of all-time, often enough throughout his career.

Tonight mark’s the Devils 4th visit in the last 11 years. How many of you have seen Brodeur live? I’m guessing not many, and that is wrong. The last time the winningest goalie was in town the Oilers shutout Brodeur and the Devils 2-0 on March 7th, 2010. Previous to that Brodeur beat the Oilers 3-1 on Dec 21st, 2007 and he won 2-1 on Dec 30th, 2001. Edmonton fans went six full years without having a chance to see him in person; that’s a travesty.

Hopefully the NHL and the NHLPA get their collective heads out of their asses and respect the fans by showcasing the best players in every city at least once a year.

FANS GET SHORT STRAW

After the Flames chased Brodeur from the net seven minutes into the first period last night, you would have thought we’d see him tonight, especially when Hedberg was just as bad allowing four goals on nine shots, but this morning Devils head coach Peter Deboer said that Hedberg would start. Brodeur has yet to play back-to-back games this season, but does the coach really consider seven minutes a full game?

If realignment doesn’t go through, there is no way the Devils will be in Edmonton next year, and I’m not sure Brodeur will be around in 2013/2014 so it looks like Oiler fans will miss out on watching one of the all-time greats one final time.

LINEUP

With Jordan Eberle out 2-3 weeks and Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen back in OKC, Tom Renney had to juggle his lines again.

Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Horcoff – Jones
Paajarvi – Belanger – Lander
Eager – O’Marra – Hordichuk

***Update…O’Marra is battling the flu, so the Oilers have recalled Milan Kytnar from Stockton in the ECHL. There are no flights available from OKC to get a player to Edmonton in time for the game.***

The bigger question will be the PP formations. With eight forwards split amongst the top two units you have to think Paajarvi will get some PP time on the 2nd unit. You might see Hemsky on the 1st unit with Hall, Smyth, Horcoff and Potter on the first unit, and then Gagner, Paajarvi, Jones, Belanger and Petry on the 2nd. No official word, but I got the sense Hemsky will be on 1st unit tonight.

Smid Petry
Peckham Potter
Sutton Tuebert

Renney will switch up his D-pairings tonight.

The Oilers blueline consists of $7.39 million in salary. Anyone expecting them to win consistently with that blueline needs to have their head examined. Money isn’t alway an accurate indicator of talent, but in this case it illustrates how limited they are at this point with injuries to key D-men, and how inexperienced they are.

They have a total of  54 goals and 243 points. Andy Sutton has 146 of those points. The other five have combined for 17 goals. They are very inexperienced as Potter, Petry, Peckman and Tuebert have a total of 258 games, 10 goals and 46 points.  

They will be in tough against the Devils top two lines:

Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus

Nikolai Khabibulin get the start.

QUICK HITS

  • I wish Gilbert Brule all the best in Phoenix. Todd Nelson told me yesterday, "The biggest improvement in Brule’s game was that he became reliable enough to use in key situations late in games. He’s thinking the game better and he has his confidence back." Brule might become a solid 4th liner in Phoenix, and he has the skill to be a 3rd liner, but only is he’s mentally prepared. For his sake I hope he’s found some peace off the ice, and he can enjoy the game again.
     
  • With all the injuries on their backend I wonder if the Oilers recalled Brule believing someone would claim him, thus opening up another contract spot. The Oilers are in dire need of finding a veteran D-man. Colten Teubert should be playing 20+ minutes in the AHL, but injuries have forced the Oilers to keep him here. Tambellini is looking for a D-man, and I expect he’ll find a stop-gap in the near future.
     
  • The NHL should name Eberle to the all-star team. He was 7th in league scoring prior to his injury and he would have been a lock to go. Even if he can’t play he still should be allowed to take part in the weekend and rub shoulders with the best in the game. You couldn’t pay me to watch the game, but for the players, especially young ones, it is a huge honour to be chosen. He deserves to be there.
     
  • The race for the Calder is heating up as Adam Henrique is now only one point back of Nugent-Hopkins. Hall played with Henrique in Windsor and he compared the two Calder candidates."Nuge is a pass-first player. He’s all hockey IQ, is incredibly talented and he’s always aware of everyone on the ice, whileHenny (Henrique) goes into the battles and penalty kills a lot. He’s great on faceoffs, good in his own end and just a solid centre. I’m sure his work on the PK isn’t a surprise to anyone in the Devils organization because he was always great at that in junior."

 

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are desperate, but they’re banged up. Tonight is the Devils 9th set of back-to-back  games, and so far they are 5-3 on the backend, while only going 4-4-1 on the first night. Meanwhile the Oilers are 4-1 v. teams that played in Calgary the previous night. Something has to give…I’ll take an embarrassed Devils team in OT, 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Taylor Hall opens the scoring. He’s scored the Oilers first goal seven times so far, and with RNH and Eberle out he’ll lead the charge.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Without Mike Comrie in the lineup, Ilya Kovalchuk will look for another small guy’s hair he can pull to fight after the Oilers go up 1-0 early. Sam Gagner will gladly oblige and after a spirited tilt the Devils score. This will fire up the anti-Gagner camp suggesting his fight cost the Oilers the game, based on what they read in Willis’ article. This will be the first of many GDB comment sections that will have Oiler fans battling against each other. I might wager that the comments sections in the 2nd half of the season might be as, or more, entertaining than the games.  

  • Wanyes bastard child

    HEMSQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  • Wanyes bastard child

    ….well …I guess I spoke too soon. ANyways…..Hemsky gets the big picture regardless…..hasn’t done anything near enough this year. Lackadaisical at times.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Just thinking out loud… if any was the time, now would be a good one for Sutton’s third suspension.

    Take out Henrique then look up at the Nuge pointing “All for you kid, all for you!” finish with a salute and a skate off into the sun.

  • Dipstick

    Very frustrating to see a decent effort tonight and still get the loss. My remote incurred some damage in OT after spontaneously shooting out of my hand and into the tile floor.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      I hear ya man, I believe I’m on remote # 12 now. I dont know how they just seem to fly out of my hand and of course never into something soft.

  • O.C.

    Oil got a point.

    Hemsky looked good, Hall was flying, Petry was stellar on offense after his one mistake.

    Worst game Ryan Jones played in a while. Fought the puck

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I have to wonder how players like HALL etc can tolerate this losing. Did anyone see Hall rolling his eyes and kind of throwing up his hands when the Oil were lining up for an ‘o’ zone face-off on the pp? I think that was body english showing frustration with the gong show that was happening either on the bench or in the circle. It was a close up on HALL so I couldn’t see what was going on. He looked pretty disgusted to me.

    Another 3-5 yrs of losing and playing for ownership and a GM who can’t find their asses is going to take its toll imo.Yes there is some improvement this year. But how long will the young talent be able to handle this loser organization without giving up. Tambellini is going to have to make a trade or signing to bring in some real help. I don’t see it happening based on the last 3 seasons.He has brought in mostly cast-offs from other organizations or marginal misfits who can’t stick elsewhere.

    If the Oil draft a D man in the first round how long will it take him to develop? Most say 3-5 years. Will current young players on the Oil have any confidence left by that time.

    It appears Tambellini and Lowe are going to wait for draft picks to mature. Who in hell (free agent) is going to sign to come here who is not named Eric Belanger and Ben Eager? If that is the ‘plan’ then I think it sucks. No one is saying an overnight turnaround is expected. Failure to adequately assess the players here and in OKC and taking appropriate action is a major downfall of the brain-trust. I’m just saying…

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    People dont play in PIT cause of its location.They play cause Crosby and Malkin play there.

    People will want to play in EDM cause of 4,14,93.

    Josh Gorges and Brad Stuart cant be that hard to convince to sign here.

    And next year managment has some room to move around cap wise so..

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I think Gorges just signed an extention with the habs for another 3 yrs.

      I just hope those 3 are still around in 3yrs and they don’t pull a Turris and ask to be traded on account of all this losing.

      Katz needs to bring in new management for this team to start winning on a regular basis.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    watched what i could stomach in between geeking out on my iphone and parenting sleeping kids. thought Hall looked great but someone needs to desperately teach him how to finish. when he learns that he is an easy 40 goal man.

    MPS looked the same unfortunatley. i wonder if he is afraid to make mistakes infront of Renney based on the season so far. looks conflicted and confused. made really nice defensive play on a 2 on 1 tho.

    Khabby has been great this season. good for him.

    as much as i internalize my despise for Peckham’s play he isn’t the worst defender on our team and often gets played in tough spots. funny how Renney is more than willing to put him out to the fire (succession positions) but won’t with MPS. hmm.

    lastly if we are in fact still (i sure hope not) in the early years of the re-build then lets focus more development of younger defenceman in the AHL (ie Tuebert) and forwards (Lander, MPS etc…) or simply more ice time in the NHL. one or the other please. not tthis middling stuff we seem to be doing.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Random observations from last night’s game, and TSN’s broadcast of it…

    – Ray Ferraro hit the nail on the head all night – if you put three players on a line together who have, one or two goals (PRV, Belanger and Lander), you’re simply not going to get any offence from them. The statistics don’t lie. Those of you out there who are starting to call for Renney’s firing (I’m not there … yet) just got a little more ammo.

    – Further to the above: If they’re going to go to the trouble of sending PRV down to OKC and then calling him back (that’s two plane tickets, excursion-fare), shouldn’t they audition him on a better line than that?

    – Yeah, OK. It’s time to send Lander down. Doesn’t have to be the rest of the season, but if it is, so be it. It’ll do him a lot of good (and help OKC immensely, now that Brule’s gone).

    – Somewhere, sometime, Ales Hemsky did something to forever irk TSN panellist Aaron Ward. He was way too hard on him last night. Did Ward never play through injuries during his charmed NHL existence? Put me in the camp who thinks that Hemmer should to be traded for the good of the Oilers (and, quite frankly, Hemmer), but also put me in the camp that thinks Ward can go urinate up a rope.

    – Cool to see Milan Kytnar called up. Might want to do something about that number, though. As memory serves, the last player to wear No. 64 (outside of training camp) was Jason Bonsignore.

    – I really hope the mouth-breathers and knuckle-draggers who booed Shawn Horcoff when he turned away from the puck during the penalty kill (assuming you’re educated enough to read this, you know the play of which I’m referring) were given the stinkeye by the rest of the Rexall crowd. Booing someone who was dog-tired after skating seven miles during a PK and opted to do the responsible thing and turn for a change rather than chase a loose puck on a low-percentage play in the Devils zone demonstrates a shocking – disturbing – lack of common hockey sense.

    I assume it must have been a sizable crowd of boobirds because it takes a lot of booing for it to be heard on a TV broadcast and, if so, that’s embarrassing for what should be a knowledgeable hockey market like Edmonton. That’s Los Angeles or Madison Square Garden stuff. Then again, maybe some of the DNA that once booed Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey is still seeping around the Coliseum…

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Yeah, that Ward commentary re: Hemsky was definatley a little ridiculous. He was basically saying that it’s possible the Oilers will reveive basically nothing from a trade.
      He said something like “They’ll be lucky to get a draft pick” or something to that effect.
      We may overvalue our players, but that was just silly.

    • Romanus

      I was at the game and the booing was disgusting to hear from what are supposed to be “hockey knowledgeable fans”. You could tell he was dog tired, and make the smart play, but all i heard from behind me was. “What a bad effort from our $7MM man”. Haters are so obsessed with his salary that they will never see any good unless he transforms into Sydney Crosby. Classless and questionable in “hockey knowledge”.

      Same with the new goat in Hemsky. we are so worried about trades, etc. that can’t cut the guy a break to recover from his surgery and have a bit a patience. He has come around the past few games, his shot is getting better again and saw him with some decent defensive zone coverage. A half ass hemmer is still better than half our team. Use his supposed reduced value to sign him for a discount. All you will get for him is prospects, and we have enough of those. We need to start securing real player to complement our core or the rebuild will be 20 more years.

  • vetinari

    I’ve tried to watch the games lately with an eye towards individual performances rather than results because 3 points in 8 games is somewhat disaapointing.

    However, I thought Hall has been playing some of his best hockey the last few games and he reminds me of a cross between Messier and Anderson when it comes to sheer kamikaze passion when he storms down the ice. He’s going to be our future captain (when Horc moves on) and reminds me of a hockey equivalent of a running back.

    The veterans (Hemsky, Horcoff, Jones, Gagner) and the defence (Petry) were uneven and inconsistent last night… not horrible, but not great either… they seemed to be dysfunctionally functional most shifts with Khabby holding down the fort (although I grimaced at the short handed turnover and goal).

    Potter is getting more time on the pp and can move the puck through most lanes but sometimes can be pressured to throw it too quickly to a man who’s not quite in position breaking up flow… promising but needs work.

    Loved Kytnar when he was with the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL and he didn’t look out of place on the ice when compared to the other Oilers. Would have loved to see him get a point or two last night.

    • Eddie Shore

      I thought Petry had a great game (other than his turnover). He was consistently joining the rush and jumping up in the play. We need some production from our D so I thought that was a good sign.

  • Eddie Shore

    It looked to me like MPS has not changed his game since coming back, he lingered a bit longer in the O zone, but he was timid when he had the puck.

    Tuebert really impressed me for the first time in a game all season. Now I can see why he was a 1st rounder, prior to this game, I didn’t see it…

    Jacques was very visible last night, I don’t normally notice the “lower lights” on other teams, but he was impressive.