The right stuff

 

The response from my article last week, ‘Who do you love?‘ was impressive. You readers gave a lot of good and interesting feedback and opinions. There were both safe and surprising choices for who you all thought should be on the ice to protect a one goal lead.

Before I reveal who would be my choices, I want to discuss some of your feedback.

In the scenario I set up last week, it was obvious that winning the face off was crucial. To be ready for a situation like that a team must be prepared for it. That is why each defensive zone face off is important. To me it makes no difference if it is game one, forty or eighty, each one goal game should be treated like it is life or death. Getting your ‘last minute’ personnel out there in that situation often is the only way for them to be ready and able to perform as a group when it is needed the most.

The feedback certainly showed me there is an understanding that Shawn Horcoff is a valuable player to this Oiler team. His name was included in nearly every group of five. For a guy who takes a lot of heat for parts of his game I wasn’t sure if it would carry over to this.

Horcoff is the type of player that will become more important to this team as the team improves. He will do the subtle plays that will go unnoticed on the stat sheet. Solid penalty kill minutes, hard minutes against top lines and gritty face off wins are just a few examples of what his type of player provides to winning teams.

Looking back at a few Stanley Cup winners, names like Kris Draper, Sammy Paulsson, Travis Moen and Rod Brind’amour give good examples of what I think he provides. None of these guys filled up the net with goals but they sure prevented them from going into their own nets. If the Oilers can start moving into a playoff position I believe Horcoff will be applauded for his efforts rather than being a lightning rod for the frustrations of some fans and media. You can write that down!

Kyle Brodziak, Resolute/Wikimedia Commons

I do have some concern that the team does not have a right-handed centerman. I guess it is a luxury for many teams but it would be nice to find a way to get one on the squad. For me, Kyle Brodziak was that player and he has developed into a very solid part of Wild. The Oilers might like to have him back.

My last minute five some has four players many of you picked and a bit of a surprise. The defenceman were easy. Smid and Petry. They work well together and I would rather not break up the pair. Nick Schultz is next in line.

Up front, I roll out two centers. Horcoff and Belanger are my choices for now. Right now I don’t think Nuge or Gagner are up to the task. The last forward spot is harder but I am going with Petrell. He has a bigger body and is willing to do whatever is necessary.

The Oilers top six is stacked with the ability to produce points. They will need help to protect leads. I hope the rest of the forwards step up big time and provide this support.

Olympics…

I can’t stop watching the Olympics! As I write this I am watching women’s weightlifting. Are these woman ever strong! Wow.

  • Cervantes

    Nice work Struds, and way to stand up for Horcules. All the haters need to think about how shattered these fresh new kids would be if he wasn’t soaking up the toughest 22 minutes a night. Also, good choice of Lennart, he knows what keeps him in the NHL. Would have also accepted Jonesy, guy is fearless.

    All the hall/nuge voters need to think about what would happen if those kids took a Studly Wonderbomb to the face in game 12. You don’t put your most valuable assets out there and ask them to lay down in front of a last minute slapper. You have a third/fourth line that can still be a bit of a threat. That’s why I like Jonesy, his shorties keep the other team honest.

    Also, the other acceptable answer would have been Schultz/Strudwick, of course.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    @weirdal

    Yet most thought the same as Struds. I guess it’s safe to assume that the Horcoff haters are just more vocal than most who really see him for what he is.

  • I think all the hate on Horcoff is due to expectations. We are paying him like an elite scoring centre and he isn’t one. He had inflated numbers when he was our only option at 1c and we awarded him an overpay contract based on those numbers.

    We are now playing him in a mostly defensive role and matching him up with the toughs. He is valuable to the team if you take his contract out of the argument and since we are not yet up against the cap it should not be included in his value.

    If Horcoff was not here and we could attract a centreman to replace him that brought exactly what he brings to the table at a cap hit of 2 million a year everyone would love the new guy.

  • DSF

    Defensive zone faceoffs:

    Horcoff – 193W – 200L

    Malhotra – 348W – 231L

    Steckel – 193W – 149L

    Backes – 204W – 185L

    Thornton – 246W – 203L

    J. Staal – 144W – 110L

    Stoll – 194W – 154L

    Cullen – 213W – 163L

    Zetterburg – 171W – 150L

    Kelly – 196W – 146L

    E. Staal – 231W – 216L

    By no means an exhaustive list but certainly an indication that, while Horcoff may be the Oiler’s best choice to take a D Zone draw, he’s actually having his lunch money stolen on a regular basis.

    Belanger fares better with 169W – 140L.

      • DSF

        Actually, he isn’t, Belanger is.

        On many teams, Horcoff wouldn’t even be the third best option.

        Defensive Zone draws:

        Malhotra – 348W 231L

        Pahlsson – 218W 205L

        Lapierre – 215W 174L

        Kesler – 210W 169L

        Weise – 122W 86L

        Sedin – 83W 75L

        Zetterberg – 198W 171L

        Datsyuk – 165W 104L

        Fillplula – 158W 142L

        Helm – 129W 113L

        Abdelkader -104W 77L

        And so on…

        Fans say Horcoff’s contract “doesn’t matter” but it does.

        If he weren’t pulling in all that cash the Oilers could easily find a better defensive centre AND a player who could replace his offense.

        How about a player like Pahlsson who made 2 million last season AND a player like Jiri Hudler.

        Both were available.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Are you sure these are right??? Guy at work keeps telling me Horcoff is a top defensive guy. Oh wait. His an idiot.

      I can’t tell you how much I live this post. Classic. Please post it everytime “Horcoff” and “defense ” is mentioned in the same blog.

      He may have been the best defensive forward on the team for the past 3 years but Edmonton has finished in the cellar those years. Time to bring in some real defensive forwards perhaps?

    • Cervantes

      One of the areas the Oilers struggle is the level of compete when the face off isn’t won cleanly. There are many times that the puck is sitting close to the dot or is between the wingers feet and the Oilers lose the battle. The point here is face off percentage isn’t a solo stat in some cases – it is a collective effort by the 3 forwards. The Oil get out-muscled in a lot of these battles. When you look at those with a high FO percentage, the common theme is good team support.

      • DSF

        I read through the comments of this blog to simply post what “j” just said. Winning faceoffs is a team effort. Obviously their are better faceoff men then others but if your wingers can’t win the battle’s and your D can’t move the puck quickly and effectively, then winning the draw just advances the oppositions dump and chase.

  • @ DSF This is a telling list. I thought Horcoff was better on the draw then this. Possibly the oil should invest in a faceoff coach that does faceoffs for 30 minutes a day with each cetreman until we improve in the dot.

    It sucks when we consider Horcoff our only option in important faceoffs and even he is under 50%

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @DSF

    You’re not conforming like the rest. Please fall in line with the others. Anything contrasting pro Oiler propoganda will not be tolerated.

    With analytics like the hopes mentioned here, it’s no wonder we’re on the heels of 3 first overalls in a row.

    Horcoff is Boss till we can roll out from under this mistake.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Horc has some valuable skills no doubt but he will face heat from the fans for the remaining duration of his contract because the skills he offers doesn’t match his paycheck. If he made what guys like Moen, Pahlsson, Brodziak etc make then the fans would love him.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Thank you DSF. I look forward to the ass kissers lining up to jump back on the Horcoff bandwagon. Fact is he’s fighting for a 3rd line spot anywhere else and was a 3rd liner here.Like refusing to sit Barker, Belanger or Khabibulin last year oilers managment refuses to accept they made a mistake and treat a player accordingly. They paid him line a allstar and gave him allstar minutes which he didnt deserve

  • Reg Dunlop

    I think most like Horcoff , but his contract should go as others you mention were usually applicably contrated much below his exhorbitant contract . You don’t pay that amount for that caliber of hockey player even today . I’d say it is costingb about $4M we could have better spent elsewhere to upgrade over last couple of years . His worth when weighed against his monstrous contract is vastly overrated .

  • Reg Dunlop

    Most of the Horc haters can’t get past the salary, which is a mighty albatross, but after the damned thing runs out he could be a much more appropriately priced 4th line center for us. His salary makes him untradeable so we should get what we can from him, which is actually quite a lot.
    The best thing RK could do for Horc (and Smytty) this season is cut back on his minutes. The kids can eat up a few more minutes and then the geriatrics won’t wear down so much as the season goes along. Even the odd night in the press box for a rest is not a bad idea.

    • DSF

      Horcoff is costing the team wins…even in a third line role.

      His ON +-/60 was 421st in the league.

      There were only 22 players who played 60+ games last season that fared worse.

      Now, you can argue he is “playing the toughs” but you’ll also have to admit that more than a few of the 420 players who were ahead of him had tough assignments too.

      That you need to cut back on his minutes to stop the bleeding is just sad for the teams highest paid player.

  • DSF

    I had Horcoff on my list only because he’s the go to guy for face offs at this point. But once the puck is dropped he’s not a killer defensive player….at 6 ft and 200 lbs plus, gets muscled out of puck to many times.[ he’s not the only one ‘]. He is also minus -23 on the team.. trusted with playing in key defensive zones??

    Poor back end, and poor goal tending were a problem, plus not much defense from the supporting cast up front.
    Have a look at plus/minus stats for teams like Boston, NY Rangers, St.Louis, Canucks… yes these teams have strong goal tending, but if you look at p/m for all players on these teams.. everyone has a responsiblity for defense.
    I think Kruger might change that to some degree.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    I don’t mind your lineup Jason with 1 minute to go in the third when the Oilers are up by one goal. Probably the best option right now unless we trade for someone better which we should. I agree with Lowetide that the veterans from last year were terrible yet they are all still on the team. The problem last year is that these veterans played most of the third period when we were up by a goal. I don’t think Horcoff has any place on the power play anymore either. I couldn’t help but notice he struggled in the offensive zone on the PP.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    LATEST FUTURES ODDS JULY 27TH @ Peppermill Wendover – have our Oilers tied for 25-27th position with Flames and Hurricanes @ 40-1. Canadians at 50-1 and Columbus and Islanders @ 70-1 . Sounds like we have a long way to go despite recent draft and Schultz . Odds seem to make the Oilers lack of moves a condemation of our club as it now stands .

  • DSF

    I see a textbook paper book line-up from you Jason,and I understand its strengths and the analysis that took you to those names,I also believ that there is a serious committment tacticly to the “hybrid”system most NHL teams are useing.This “hybrid”is the evolution of 80s hockey into the “trap” and then into the “hybrid”which is essentially a system designed to defeat and hold at bay the trap while retaining as much offense as possible.

    Last year my NewAge Hockey System showed that the “hybrid”can be adjusted to easily ‘trap”teams again,but in a new way,its called a system check-mate.LA walked to the cup useing a system they didnt even have a handle on until there were only 25 games left last year,but once they embraced it they excelled,our Oilers farm team did the identical thing,and even the Oilers got brave and began adjusting with about 25 gms to go and were actually turning it around as the season closed out.

    Because I assume that winning is paramount i am curious why you chose guys who were our most experienced defensively??Are you assumeing we will lose the face-off and need that kind of player out there??Is this defensive responsibility ?

    With one min to go and a faceoff in our zone ,isnt it paramount to win the faceoff in terms of winning the zone play—or focusing solely on getting the puck out of our defensive zone and past the blue-line–ASAP??If so how do you expect our horses to do that,our draft horses who do the heavy lifting??

    And winning is not defined by paper book lineups or experience ,it is a situational dynamic ,a game within the game,I believe if we prepare to defend in our zone with a minute to go WE WILL END UP DOING SO,and we dont want that at all.

    I do however appreciate the way your line-up compliments each other,I would love to scrimmage your five against my five in this scenario,simply because the defensive responsibility you injected into your gameplan is what i expect from most NHL teams,and this is the “hybrids weakness”it is a reflection of its heritage the “trap”was its father,and fire-wagon Hockey was its mother.Horcs might win the face-off more times than gagner but i believe Gagner will do his job most effectively a higher percentage of the time,meaning he is more reliable at achieving a task on-ice,he may not be able to win the face-off as much as Horcs,but I am trying to win a zone battle –NOT A FACE-OFF–so Sams my man.I want that puck on the far side of the blue-line at all costs,winning a face-off traditionally is a bad call odds wise,the control factor is not even there really,to many variables,i want to collapse on the face-off circle like the PK collapses into the net,because I am looking to win a zone battle–not a face-off.

    In your line-up i see skill that can negotiate its way through that dynamic with a face-off win,but i choose to send out a skill-set that can adjudicate a zone win.

    I am impressed by the committment to established veterans that you expressed,and i am equally impressed at the fact that all of them are very reactionary and have stelly nerves,they dont get ahead of themselves or let the play get ahead of them,the diametric opposites to the players i chose,verification to me that we are both exactly right on target.

    Great stuff than you for the real NHL insights.