GDB 53.0: ROAD WOES & RENNEY OUT.

Sam Gagner has dominated the hockey world since Thursday, 11 points in two games will do that, but tonight will be a great test to see if Gagner can maintain his dominance. The Oilers have been brutal on the road this year. They are 6-18-2 and have the fewest road points, 14, in the NHL. Columbus has a slightly worse road winning %, but being better than the Blue Jackets by .03 isn’t much to brag about.

The Oilers have played five solid games, but until they start producing on the road they won’t be moving very far up the standings.

The Oilers have played 26 games at home and 26 on the road, and when Tom Renney doesn’t get last change this team is clearly not as good. That is only one factor of course, but it is clear the Oilers need to be more competitive on the road.

                                                  HOME                     AWAY
shots for/against                 728-789                 652-842                 
goals for/against                   76-66                      59-82
PP %                           (26 of 103) 25.2%    (17 of 92) 18.5%     
PK%                           (18 on 102) 82.4%    (16 of 98) 83.7%
Points                                         33                            14

The Oilers have been a completely different team away from Rexall Place, excluding their PK, so I’m hesitant to say this team has turned the corner. They will need to be much more competitive on the road, because right now the only players who are more productive on the road v. home are Ryan Smyth, 15 pts at home, 21 on the road, Ales Hemsky, 10/12, Ben Eager, 2/5 road and Anton Lander 2/3 road.

The Oilers young guns, most notably Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, have been understandably much better at home than on the road.

Eberle has 33 home points and 19 on the road, while RNH has 25/10 ratio while Taylor Hall is almost even with 20/18, but we shouldn’t be surprised that when Renney doesn’t get last change the kids have a harder time producing. They are only sophomores and a rookie, and there is a learning curve in the NHL.

I should also point out that only Steven Stamkos has more home points than Eberle 35 to 33. Eberle has been incredible at home with 33 points in 23 game, while RNH has 25 in 19 home games, which puts both of them top-ten PPG at home.

The Oilers have taken strides lately, but they need to show improvement in their final 15 road games, before we can say they are taking the next step.

LINEUP

The Oilers will dress their healthiest lineup of the season tonight in Toronto. Tom Gilbert will dress and he’ll play with Cam Barker. The top-two pairings will stay the same and Andy Sutton will take a seat in the pressbox.

Hall – Gagner – Eberle
Horcoff – RNH – Hemsky
Smyth – Belanger – Jones
Eager – Lander – Petrell

Smid – Petry
Whitney – Potter
Barker – Gilbert

Dubnyk

The Oilers are 3-3 in their last six visits to Toronto, including a 5-0 victory last year. The Oilers have scored 22 goals in those six games and given up 19, so I’m expecting we’ll see lots of goals tonight.

QUICK HITS

  • Sam Gagner set an Oiler record with points on 11 consecutive goals. Wayne Gretzky was in on 10 straight twice, but couldn’t match Gagner. During the Detroit game every time Gagner had the puck, the crowd was anticipating him doing something special. It was eerie, yet very exciting to feel that type of energy in the building. You will likely never see that kind of two-game hot streak again, so I hope you enjoyed the ride.
     
  • Not surprisingly, Gagner was named first star of the week today. He’ll face the 3rd star, James Reimer, tonight. Reimer had two shutouts last week making 74 saves.
     
  • Eberle is tied for 10th in league scoring with 52 points, and he’s only two back of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, who are tied for 5th with 54 points. Eberle could realistically finish in the top-five in scoring this year, and he has an outside chance of becoming the first Oiler to score 80 points since Doug Weight had 90 in the 2000/2001 season.
     
  • I’m not big on questioning a coach on his shootout selections, but there is no way that Eric Belanger should have gone before Nugent-Hopkins and Shawn Horcoff on Saturday. Belanger hasn’t been "hot" offensively, he didn’t generate numerous chances on Saturday and historically he is awful (1 for 10) in the SO. The Oilers won the game, but they easily could have lost due to a bad decision. The SO is not the time to "try and get a guy some confidence," it is about winning and putting guys who give you the best chance to win. I understand going with a Hall, even though he hasn’t been great in SO, because he’s one of your best offensive threats, but Belanger isn’t. After the game some of the players were stunned Belanger went.
     
  • Even though I’m not a fan of any NHL team, I can honestly say that when the Oilers play the Flames or Leafs, I want Edmonton to win. I loathe Calgary, and I can’t stand the arrogance of some Leafs fans as well as certain media and bloggers. Now that Gagner has 11 points in two games, you will read and hear how the Leafs should grab him, with an underlying tone that it would be an honour for Gagner to play in Toronto. Up until this streak, no one in Toronto wanted to trade for him, but now he should want to play there. Give me a break…
     
  • Some commercials are brutal, but there is always a few during the Super Bowl that grab my attention.

Chevy "crowdsourced" this ad. Zack Borst came up with this idea and won $25,000, which is great for him, but that is chump change for Chevy to pay for this spot. 

Clint Eastwood, the best tough-guy actor I’ve seen. He was the perfect voice for this spot.

This one made me laugh. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: We’ll see lots of offence tonight, and the Oilers will win their first road game since January 2nd with a 5-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gagner will get a point. That is probably the easiest prediction ever. He’s on fire right now, and his family will be in the building. I’m not sure if you can bet on players to register a point in a game, but if you can, I’d put some moola on Gagner tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After taking a puck in the head during practice this morning that required stitches, Tom Renney will show up on the bench wearing a helmet. Amateur coaches everywhere will be livid. In our over-reactionary-try-to-protect-us-24-hours-a-day society, some genius will see Renney on the bench and call his local hockey association demanding that coaches wear helmets during games now. By this weekend all amateur coaches will be required to wear a helmet during games. If you thought people got angry at Renney for putting Belanger in the SO, wait until you see the fallout from him wearing a helmet on the bench.

UPDATE

Tom Renney took a puck in the head at the morning skate, received numerous stitches, and he won’t be behind the bench tonight. Renney has concussion-like symptoms.Ralph Krueger will run the bench tonight. Just when it looked like the Oilers would ice their healthiest lineup of the year, they will do so without their head coach. The strange injuries continue to haunt this franchise.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Sure wish that Horcoff would get right out of the top six. Maybe that Smyth guy could play with RNH and Hemsky?

    Eberle is having one hell of a season and he is doing it kind of under the radar. Steal of his draft year.

    • If there’s ever been a player more artificially placed in the top 6 than Shawn Horcoff then I would like to know.

      The guy started out the year OK but has fallen off a cliff, and he’s still getting loads of ice time. He’s doing an OK job screening the Goalies on the PP, but it’s time to start cutting back on the evens and I dont think it would hurt the kids at all if that meant that they faced tough opposition a couple more shifts a game.

      They gotta start getting it at some time.

      • Completely agree on cutting back on evens AND first PP time. If you job is to win the draw in the PP and your not then why are you on it? Give Gagner that spot!
        I’m guessing about another 5 points Gagner would have.

        As far as total ice time, it’s way over the top how much time he gets a game. It’s time to start testing the kids against the other teams best. Maybe even some PK time?

        As far as noticing Horcoff falling off a cliff that was about two years ago.

        I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the guys protected up high.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Is Gilbert eventually going to slide back up with Smid or end up somewhere’s else?

    Has Petry legitimately moved past Sutton on the depth chart? Are the two platooning? How long until ST sends Peckham down (or is there a waiver issue)?

    living in toronto tonight’s going to be a lot of fun… You’re right Gregor leaf fans and media are irritating as hell. only vancouver can compare.

    GDP: high scoring 5-3 Oilers goals by Gilbert (welcome back!), Eberle x2, Jones and Hall.

    best Eastwood movie: Iwo Jima (dir); few dollars more (starred)

  • Dan the Man

    Belanger in the shootout was inexplicable unless he was doing it to try to get his confidence back like he did with Gagner a while ago. Even if that were the case it would still be completely ridiculous.

    I really want to beat the Leafs BADLY. I hate them just a shade less than Calgary and Vancouver.

  • Oilers4ever

    Wow, Bellanger before Nugent Hopkins in the shoot out. Talk about over coaching and trying to prove how smart he is. I would like to know the reasoning behind that decision. Serious blatant stupidity. Why is Ballanger even shooting? You have to question was Renney seriously trying to win the game?
    The puck that hit him in the head this morning is just pay back for that ridiculous decision in the shoot out.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      As a coach you can go to bat for your guys like that. If i’m not mistaken, it was a shootout goal about 3 weeks ago that started Gagner breathing a little easier. Renney was just trying to do the same for Belanger.

      Compassion or criticism, the head coach decides where or when it’s needed. I’m sure we’ll see Eric allowed another opportunity or two in the next week.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Everyone that thinks that the young guys have been ALL WORLD and that the vets have been COMPLETE GARBAGE this year need to read this article very, very closely.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Slowing down for sure, but the home/away record and the home/away production shows us really quickly that the young guys are getting some serious sheltering at home, while the vets are being thrown to the wolves.

        Now, I agree 100% with the strategy, but people need to realize that this is what is happeining when they are talking Hart trophies for the youth and buyouts for the vets.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Define veteran?

          Hall,Ebs and Hopkins (next season) are fine veterans. Grigorenko and Murray will make fine vets in 2 yrs as well. Their best days are ahead of them sure but in Horcs case, it’s all downhill from here.

        • Horcoff has been hammered in terms of QualComp, its a big part of his futility. I just think that it’s that time of the year where process beats results (despite winning streak) and the kids can be shown what a few more shifts a game against top opponents is like.

          I’m not saying the kids are ready to go Power Vs Power every night, just a little more each night in the last half of the season.

          Maybe a less difficult matchup every once in a while will allow Horc to provide a little secondary scoring too. Every experiment has some kind of unwanted sideaffect.

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

            I agree, I’d like to see some tougher matchups for the young guys (though they are clearly getting those tougher matchups on the road).

            Again, it all just needs to be kept in perspective when when are picking out our stars and goats.

          • Skewered goat is good stuff!!

            I place my choice of Souray as a prized possession here on ON. Kinda wish we had got something for him besides sore nuts but that would have been asking for progressive steve to surface…… and he doesnt get out much.

            If ever.

            Im back on my “dont give a rats as long as calgary loses kick”…. its become a spring time tradition. 6-2 leafs

  • Douche Nietzsche

    Those lines would be perfect if; Eager moved up to play with Hemsky and RNH and Horcoff went to the 4th to play with Lander and Petrell.
    Horcoff handicaps lines and plays in ways I still find hard to believe.

    Trade Horcoff and a next years 1st or waiver him to cut his salary.

  • Dyckster

    So, I’m a little lazy (k, a lot) and am hoping someone has this info handy. If our ratio of points earned at home versus away was on par with the league average, where would that put us? 33:14 (2.36:1) seems to be quite the disparity.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I think you are making way too much of the Belanger decision, Jason. The shootout is worse than a coin flip – only the best shooters average 50% . RNH was 0 for 2 lifetime before Saturday, and by his own admission was too nervous. You can make the case that a coach should play the percentages but there are too few shoot outs to really let the statistics tell the tale, as opposed to MLB where managers have 162 games and hundreds of events to let the probabilities play out. It’s a gut feel thing. I know the players practice their shoot out moves in practice – maybe Renney saw something he liked – how do we know? Afterwards you’re a genius if it works and a bum if it doesn’t. Bottom line is we won the game. Why are you still harping on this?

    • Horcsky

      For some players who haven’t had a lot of attempts there might not be enough statistics to indicate a players’ quality in a shootout. However, Horcoff is 24th in percentage for shooters, and he’s had 20 attempts (10 for 20). If you remove all the players who’ve not attempted more than 5 shots, Horcoff is 10th all time in shot % in the shootout among active players. 10th!

      That’s enough statistical data for me to support using Horcoff in the shootout every time, yet Renney still hasn’t caught on that he has an elite shootout player on his bench that he never uses. Mind-boggling.

      Also, Belanger is 1 for 10, I’d suggest that’s enough statistical evidence to start considering that he is garbage in the shootout.

  • justDOit

    I have to agree somewhat with the slug. Maybe Belanger was a SO magician in practice and Renney went on that?

    Or maybe he told Krueger “Anyone but Belanger.”, but Krueger only heard the last part?

    Or maybe it was just a hunch. After all, Renney’s the only one of us who gets paid for his hunches.

  • Oilers4ever

    Dumb dumb dumb… the line of Horc RNH Hemsky sucked against the Wings… get Horc out of there and put Smyth there. Sorry.. but Horc has zero offensive abilities… at least Smytty can stand in front of the net and bang in the garbage… Oilers need an effort like the third period against the Hawks for 60 minutes tonight or the Leafless Wonders will win.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    I wondered aloud about slotting Belanger ahead of RNH but I’m wondering if Nuge’s shoulder is still tender? Might explain why Horc is on LW (maybe take draws)!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Belanger shootout attempt was a head scratcher, kinda like last week when Newt Gingrich said the US would put on base on the moon in his second term as president. Everyone kinda just goes WTF.

    Renney must be feeling bit too invincible these days. I never heard what he said to the media about the decision, but if I were him I would just say an alien entered my body and leave it at that. Are the rest of the Oilers that bad at shootouts that a Belanger goes before the Nuge, Horc, Smytty, Jones, Lander. Man i`d put Hordichuk in a shootout before Belanger at this point Hordichuk I think can hit the net.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    Tileguy said,

    Why is Sutton sitting, is he nicked up? If not this decision ranks right up there with the Belanger decision. Unbeleivable!

    He was pretty much brutal Saturday, and Tom Gilbert`s is our number one defencemen. He got violated on Big Bert`s goal, and was a stepTeams got to make some decisions on who is staying or going in terms of defencemen the next while. After Barker laid off the Barley Sandwiches and dropped ten pounds hes not looking so terrible now, and I think he plays over Barker. Defence looks fairly ok right now, knock on wood.

    Whats with coaches getting dinged up. Heard Renney took a puck to the naugen, and got the Taylor Hall treatment. Heck, you know that a team is injury prone when the coach is getting nicked up. And Lindy Ruff has broken ribsafter a collision in practice.