Springtime in Edmonton

A long season is near its end, the Oilers are still miles from the second season and the town team is flagging on the left coast. It’s probably time to review the good things about this year’s team.  

Driving around today and talking to Oiler fans, it’s a mixture of good, bad and indifferent. Another season without playoffs can be disconcerting, but we shouldn’t forget about the good things we’ve seen in 11-12. Is this team a zero or a ten?

IT GOES TO ELEVEN! 

  1. The Nuge arrived looking like a 12-year old with some long sticks. He graduates the season as one of the two best freshman on planet Earth. RNH’s future is extremely bright. Oh, I know all about the zone starts and the qual comp, but he’s a powerplay savant and is EV numbers look fine for a teenager. Man. He’s better than a lot of us thought he’d be, and when they take you #1 overall that’s maybe the best compliment of all.
  2. Taylor Hall played much of the season with an injury and still managed to post strong numbers. His secondary numbers are good and improving and #4’s CorsiRel is strong. Injury is a concern, but when healthy Taylor Hall makes everyone better–we can see that much since his departure.
  3. Jordan Eberle had a career season–he posted the 2nd best point total in the NW division this year and even on nights when nothing rhymed this kid brought it. Future captain? He has a lot of the qualities based on what we read and he’s still in his entry level deal.
  4. Devan Dubnyk’s .927SP at even strength is tied for 13th in the entire NHL The gifted kids can only take this team so far, and a support group that doesn’t cost the moon is vital. A home grown goalie making reasonable bucks would go a long way to giving this team the kind of value contracts required to make the playoffs consistently.
  5. Jeff Petry emerged as an actual NHL defenseman this season and gives Edmonton a young defender with that most rare of things–a wide range of skills and an ability to play big minutes. It’s easy to forget that Petry wasn’t guaranteed a job this season. Those days are gone.
  6. Ladlslav Smid and his calm feet (as my friend Louise calls them) allow Edmonton fans at least some hope against fast moving opposition sorties into the Oiler zone. His offense is a bonus and the organization should be given credit for having so much patience with this player.
  7. Edmonton has the league’s second best PP! Holy hell, that’s some improvement! 54 goals with the man advantage compares well to last season’s 44 and the % has improved from 14.5 to 20.8. Crazy.
  8. It doesn’t sound impressive, but the PK is the NHL’s 14th best at 82.6% and 50 goals against. Last season? 74 goals against and a 77% success rate–good for 29th overall.
  9. Ryan Smyth returns to the scene of the crime and then delivers beyond expectations. The old war horse wore down as the season progressed, but he showed that even at this age there’s a lot he can do at a high level. One of the best things about this season has been his return.
  10. GF-GA: Man, what an improvement. I know there have been a few blowouts, but this teams goal differential has seen exceptional improvement. An example: 141-193 at evens one year ago (-52) and 151-175(-24) this year at the same discipline. That’s a lot of gap closed.
  11. Wins: A year ago, the club won 25. This season, with 2 games left, they’re at 32. They’ll finish about 10 points north of their final total a year ago.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth repeating. This has been a tough year no doubt and there will be changes. Management? Maybe? Players? Sure. Coaches? Pretty certain. But these kids will be back in the fall and so will you.

The Edmonton Oilers didn’t have to rebuild like this, but went scorched earth. On days like this–the day after a subpar performance–it’s easy to forget the quality of these young men.

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, the Nuge. You can look forward to their exceptional, God-given talents again this fall and a few new faces too. Lots of work to do, but the long process continues. Will spring 2013 bring a playoff spot? A finish ahead of the Godless Flames?

It’s springtime in Edmonton.

    • Marshall Law

      How is this futility? A rebuild doesn’t mean that you automatically become awesome. Everybody wants a great team but nobody wants to go through the necessary growing pains to get it. You can’t have it both ways.

  • vetinari

    There have been some improvements this year, but after back-to-back 30th place seasons and a 29th place finish on the horizon, is this really moving in the right direction or simply treading water?

    It feels like we’ve been skating in circles for at least three years now and it won’t be management, the coaches or the veterans who will lead us out of the wilderness… it’s all on the kids and I hope they have thick skins and a boatload of patience…

    • Lowetide

      I think one could argue the Oilers were a bit unlucky in the W-L department although the games where they scored big answer a lot of the improvement.

      But, 25 wins to 32 is definitely progress. And there were times this season when EDM dominated the other team. Certainly more than in recent memory imo.

      Oilers badly need to improve their defense and that includes making a tough call on Ryan Whitney if he’s not way better in the fall.

      Oilers badly need to improve up front, at wing and I’ll say maybe center too although how you offload Horcoff or Belanger is a mystery to me. And they need to go into the summer with an idea about how to flush Khabibulin. Do I expect them to do all of those things?

      No.

      But I expect the Oilers will give the coach better D and a veteran hand up front.

      I think it’s reasonable to assume they’ll return to MacTavish country (35-38-40 wins) next season. And if they are serious about fixing the defense maybe the playoffs are a possibility–at least until the deadline.

      • paul wodehouse

        We all clammer for a specific dynamic we believe will take us to the promise land. The Kings, Sharks, Sabres and Capitals are notable examples of teams that have the necessary ingedients: elite goaltending, stud defence, producing star forwards, yet they are in a stuggle just to qualify for the playoffs, let alone a realistic chance to win the Cup. With all that “potential” there is still no free pass or magic formula. Wins in get you to the show. Injuries prevent you from getting wins. So Lowetide is it depth that separates the Sharks from the Canucks or what. Where will the Oilers legitimately be 5 years from now? Are we an also ran entry or do we have the depth?

  • vetinari

    What concerns me is how small we are at the forward position.

    In a couple of years we will have the nuge and Gagner.On the wings we will have Hall and Eberle and probably MPS .Other than Hall they are not that good at the cycle.The only player in the minors who looks like he can fill the role is hartski.

    The Oilers know this is a problem but then they pick up Eager and Belanger who haven’t even been close to being able to handle the problem.

    When they passed over a player like Fiddler who filled the bill and signed Belanger to a three year deal you have to wonder about our pro scouting.

    If the Oil draft a defenceman I have no confidence that our pro scouts will be able to find the grit forwards we need.

    • Marshall Law

      I agree that size is a concern but it’s hard to fix all of a last place team’s problems in one season.

      Grit is definitely a need but you don’t address that need via a lottery pick.
      There was nothing wrong with the eager signing. He’s had some injury problems but aside from that has lived up to his billing.

      Belanger was truly a disappointment. However, it’s hard to blame the pro scouts on that one as Belanger had been a consistent 40 point guy up until this year. His faceoffs alone still make him valuable. Renney just plays him too much.

      Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater here. This team is miles ahead of where they were last year, regardless of what their record might indicate.

        • Marshall Law

          Right… because we all had them winning a division title at the start of the year.

          Sometimes people get lucky.

          Raise your hand if you knew who Jason Garrison was at the start of the season.

          • Marshall Law

            Well, if you had pegged as one of the scoring leaders amongst D men this year, then why the heck are you sitting here commenting on a blog? You’re management material!

          • Marshall Law

            Say what you will about Lowe, and he’s certainly made his share of mistakes, but there are worse things in life than experiencing game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

          • Wanyes bastard child

            Actually, after losing to the Jets tonight, Florida hasn’t even clinched a playoff spot, let alone the division. They have won a stellar 37 of the 80 games they have played – a dominating .462 winning percentage. I don’t know why you bother posting here, surely there is a Miami site where you flog your dolphin.

          • DSF

            Good grief.

            The Panthers have gone from last to the playoffs in one offseason.

            They’ve improved by at least 20 points.

            I guess you can’t see success when it’s right in front of you.

            No surprise.

          • The Soup Fascist

            I guess you can’t read the standings when they’re right in front of you. For all their alleged success the Panthers have exactly 5 more wins and 4 more regulation wins than the Oilers, after 80 games. We’ll see how the puck bounces next year. In the meantime, watch Buffalo and Washington break your little heart.

          • Marshall Law

            Certainly they’ve improved mightily this year. Unfortunately, I think it has more to do with luck than good management, and I’m a Tallon believer!
            Look at the amount of mediocre players on that roster that lost their minds and put up career numbers this year. That’s an anomaly.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Last year, the Oil were blown out (lost by 4 or more goals) 13 times. This year it happened exactly twice: 5-0 to Anaheim, and 6-2 to Calgary (6th goal into an empty net). They were in more games. They were tied entering the third period more time. They finished with 32 fewer points than the Flames last year. This year, despite limping home with half a defence, and missing their heart and soul player, they trail the flames by 13, closing the gap by 19 points. Yes, there have been massive disappointments. But I see a few rays of dawn sunlight at the end of this dark night.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @Marshall Law

    fu·til·i·ty (fy -t l -t ). n. pl. fu·til·i·ties. 1. The quality of having no useful result; uselessness. 2. Lack of importance or purpose; frivolousness. 3. A futile act.

    You play the regular season to make the playoffs, what game are you watching?

    • Marshall Law

      Thanks for spelling it out.

      It’s not their fault you were expecting a playoff birth after consecutive last place finishes.

      Since when is development futile? I guess this season was a real waste of time for the likes of Eberle, Petry, and Smid.

    • book¡e

      The problem is that some of you just watch the games, others just watch the season, I am watching the overall strategy and thinking long term. There are reasons to be critical of the long term strategy, but if you are upset because the team didn’t make the playoffs, maybe you should be a fan of the Flames or Leafs…

  • Wanyes bastard child

    “But these kids will be back in the fall and so will you.”

    Well, I will be an Oilers fan next fall, but if they make a cluster of it this summer I might not be able to stomach watching. To wait this long and see more mistakes would be too much for me. Damn stats 😉

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I think the biggest improvement, non-stats, is that we were actually in most games this year. Last year, we were getting blown out of games, this year we at least had a chance in them.
    By next year maybe we win some of those close ones, or learn to close out games.

      • Johe

        Your brilliance is confirmed with this post! The Oilers are 29th in shots per game, hence they are lucky to be where they are in the league… 29TH!!

        And I feel the need to point out edmonton has improved by 7 wins this year, the exact same number as Florida has improved by. And edmonton’s goal differential is better than florida’s. But none of that matters to you because you are a troll. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You CAN be positive DSF. Try it sometime. Makes life a whole lot more pleasant. Or else just go find some panther fans to hang with.

        Ahhhh I’m just kidding. I always enjoy arguing with you, because I’m always right ;). Btw, I admit Florida is much improved and their future looks pretty good, but same goes for Edmonton. Can’t you admit that? Or will I just have to rub it in your face the next few years? Haha

  • The Soup Fascist

    I would say the Oil did crap this year just because they are 3rd last and rightfully should be crapped on for finishing that low. They have made progress in the right areas and hopefully sooner than later we will be watching meaningful hockey come this time next year or the year after that. The thing that really concerns me about this team is front office managment and the inability of this team to bully other teams.

    Tambi has got to go. I find him a very poor GM in the fact that he made a guest apperence the night Hall got rocked and apprently was livid about the hit yet showed absolutely no emotion. Wasnt the whole goal coming from his mouth this year was to make the playoffs? yet we dont see or hear from him anytime during the season when this team still had meaningful games. I hate Burke but you have got to give him credit that when he wants his voice to be heard everyone hears it. Also Tambi & co cannot seem to figure out how terrible some of the obvious weakness’s of this team are. Also not to mention they have been sewered by a few former players and made Edmonton not a hockey hot bed for players which is concerning.

    This team is going to need to get a heck of alot grittier and in your face if they want to keep these youngs kids safe and not afriad. Cory Sarich and Glencross always are giving our skilled players shot and there is no one to dumby them for it. It still irks me that Hall basically had to take matters into his own hands at 18 and fight a guy cause he was sick of being hit and cheap shotted. In my opinion Edmonton needs to start sticking up for eachother alot more like the Bruins, Chicago and Philly and play with friggen emotion

    I think this team improved in single statistical areas but an overal grade of D

    • Reg Dunlop

      Agree 100%. Our players need to start a look but don’t touch policy regarding Hall and the boys. They don’t have to chuck the knucks every game but… a reaction like the Flyers had to Vitale hitting Briere, emotion shown by the coaches, things lacking in the Rexall home dressing room. Gamesmanship; a facewash here and there, a whack after the whistle. Things that may make other teams focus less on harming the kids.

      I worry that,even if our rebuild results in a play-off appearance, this group has zero chance of winning play-off style hockey. Too small and soft. Does that mean we start phase 2 of the rebuild in 2014? “What, you want to make the play-offs AND win some games? Why didn’t you say so” Maybe it buys Lowe another few years employment.

  • O.C.

    Have tickets lower Bowl in Roger Cent Sat night. Wish things were different but just the same, am going.

    Swan song for Renney? My guess is he and Tambo are gone. Announcement will come on the Monday or Tuesday at the latest.

    Or I could be wrong.

  • paul wodehouse

    …OC

    while i disagree with the rewarding futility theory, i’m all good with our GM being pink slipped if Renney gets shown the door as well…

    IMO there are too many up pointing arrows from this season too justify why the Coach needs to go…I really feel that there is a huge disconnect between the two and during the season Renney may have just said …”y’know what boss f*ck it…i’m done with this crazy sh*t you want me to do…playing this player where i know shouldn’t, doing this when i know i should be doing that…and making the media go nuts all the time & making me look like a f*cking idiot just because you want another dungeon bottom five finish…”

    if Renney goes so should our incompetent GM …i’m hoping your guess is correct OC
    …aren’t they usually?

  • shanetrain

    Replace Renney with MacTavish.

    Keep Krueger and find a Charlie Huddy to mentor the D men.

    Get rid of Tambelinni and put Lowe back in the seat. We all know who calls the shots anyways.

    I am actually OK with Renney. Did not like his handling of Omark personally.

    • paul wodehouse

      …i think Alain Vigneault is one more second place finish in the SCF away from being replaced by the Chicago Wolves Head Coach MacT…

      not sure if he’d be coming back here anytime soon Shanetrain…but with this outfit and it’s forever old boy club i wouldn’t be a bit surprised …

        • paul wodehouse

          …back atcha with how we fans miss MacT and his wry wit and never ending collection of glasses…

          i even kinda miss him on the tube doing his analyst gig…he is a beauty and VERY well spoken …

  • paul wodehouse

    Next season we should see a vast improvement in teams results and play . If Tams gets an extention , Renney will be the fall guy most likely . Renney might not be a good enough motivator despite being a teacher type . Renney’s NHL record is not great to begin with .

    Tams, and secondary Lowe, may not be the managerial personnel to lead our fortunes upward . Their choice and judgement of personnel, and dealing for new personnel leaves a lot to be desired . Without new management , i doubt much pogress will be made over next two seasons with just a coaching change . I believe our major problem is higher up than coaching . Till that gets resolved , i doubt much forward progress will happen .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    fu·til·i·ty (fy -t l -t ). n. pl. fu·til·i·ties. 1. The quality of having no useful result; uselessness. 2. Lack of importance or purpose; frivolousness. 3. A futile act. 4. Anything under the direction of Steven Tambellini.

  • Milli

    I really think Renney deserves another year. I am really on the fence with Tambo, I just cannot decide. I think part of it is because Winnipeg Jets Gm (Chevy I believe) sounds so passionate and involved everytime I hear him do an interview, and Tambo is very bland. The thing about this is, a GM maybe should be bland and never make a rash/rush decision. I loved Klo and still do as GM, but I do wonder how many decisions he made that where a knee/jerk reaction as opposed to following a longterm plan?

  • Dan the Man

    If you would have suggested all of those improvements to me at the beginning of the year I would have thought you were drinking the kool-aid and I also would have thought it would mean a greater improvement in the standings.

    Maybe it’s not really a bad thing though, solid improvement in several areas but we still end up with a lottery pick. Of course I would have loved some playoffs but who really thought that was a realistic goal to begin with?

  • DSF

    I would give them another year too. There were a few things that had me shaking my head (e.g. so much PP time to Belanger), but on the whole it is hard to pass judgment on them when they didn’t have a full stable of horses.

    Looking at the big steps forward on PP, PK, and the amount of progress we saw Hall, Eberle, and RNH make, I would be inclined to try and give them a few more horses and see what they can do with a full roster.

    Notwithstanding my opinion, I certainly get the sense that Renney will be gone, and the new coach will likely be making the call on the others.

    Re getting some more horses, I guess we just cross our fingers and hope Tambo gets something done.

  • DSF

    Absolutely NOT!. I maintain Renney should have been replaced back in December!. They had a great start 12 games and a decent 12 games or so to end the season . The 50 ood games inbetween were terrible. Game after game, the team failed to show up, getting scored on in the first couple minutes of the game, many times etc.
    Poor, checking, poor forechecking, players not hard on the puck, very little real hitting, no system to get the puck out from their zone, loosing puck posession all over the ice.. their 5 on 5 play was brutal. Yes, F/o improved, as did the power play and PK, but here we are moving from 30th place to 28/29th. You want to keep them for another year.? Why?

  • You pretty much have to. We don’t really know who or what marching orders were driving the bizarre bench decisions. On the one hand you could say Renney was out of his mind for large parts of the season. On the other you could argue those decisions helped to keep us within reach of a really high pick. It doesn’t take many “wacky” decisions on a thin team like this to turn the tide into a sleek Russian first-rounder.

    Personally I cannot believe for a moment Renney was that dense on a regular basis unless he was being given a shove.

  • Tracie

    Unless someone like Lindy Ruff becomes available, who is better out there? I say keep him and hopefully Renney calls out his players the first time this year, instead of the 40th time…

  • book¡e

    I have thought that myself – How does Renney go from strict line matching to ‘meh’. I think its hard to measure a guy when you don’t know what his marching orders are.