Ralph Kreuger and the Healthy Scratch

Getting healthy scratched sucks! It really sucks. Coaches and most players will spin it as an opportunity for the scratched player to learn from watching. Maybe he can work on his conditioning or the mental break could help him get out of a funk. No matter how you spin it, as a player it sucks. Any player worthy of an NHL spot will not like it and take it as motivation to play better.

Ralph Kreuger decided to sit Ryan Whitney for the game against the Canucks. Ryan Whitney hasn’t played to the level that he has set for himself nor the coaching staff. His stat line through the first eight games is subpar based on what he has done in the past.

  • 8 games, 0 goals, 3 assists, minus-5, approx. 17:30 TOI

I am not always a huge stat guy. For me stats tell part of the story, but there is a lot more to the game than stats. That being said, Whitney should be better than this line suggests.

There is a lot more to be gained by watching a player then looking at his stat line. The last few games I have put the isocam on him as I watch the games. There are two areas of his game that I think are missing.

He is not moving his feet. To often when his partner passes to him D to D he receives the pass and does not skate. He simply continues to glide. It doesn’t matter if it is a neutral zone play or defensive zone behind the net play, this is the pattern he has established.

A D-man’s first reaction should be to take one or two hard strides. This does a couple of things. One, a defenceman always makes a better pass when his feet are moving, always. Two, it makes the read for the checking forward harder. Now the forward coming to check you must react to your movement.

There are more options for the D-man when he gets skating so the forward must identify which he should close off. The defender can choose to both continue to skate the puck or pass it. If he is just gliding, the forward knows he can only pass the puck; he isn’t a threat to skate. Too easy to predict and easier to shut down. All the other players on the other team also recognize that a pass is coming so they can be more aggressive with their decisions. That is the domino effect of a defenceman not moving with the puck.

The second area that Whitney seems to be lacking is in aggression. Think back to the pre-injury days, he was putting up numbers offensively and being aggressive defensively. I now see indecision in his game on the defensive side. He seems to be caught in between ‘should I go or not’ or ‘can I keep that puck in at the blue line or should I retreat?’ Usually indecision means his confidence is not where it should be.

When a D-man is feeling good his gap is tight on rushes, he attacks players in the corners aggressively and pinches at the offensive blue line. These are just some examples, but three that we all can recognize easily that happen on the ice during a game. He isn’t as sharp as needed right now and it has affected his game.

The big question is why is this happening? Two reasons I can see.

1 – His feet are still bothering him and he might never be the same.

2 – He still hasn’t gotten up to NHL speed because of the lockout.

Still too early to tell but Oilers fans should hope it is number two and not number one!

Setting the Tone

I am impressed by Ralph Kreuger making this decision. It isn’t easy to sit a veteran player out of a game. You can risk having that player turn on you. It can mess up the dressing room, I have seen it. Whitney isn’t going to be a problem though, he wants to be here long term.

Ralph is saying loud and clear with this move that no one is safe on this team. If he feels that you are not performing to your ability and someone else can do your job better, he will not hesitate to make the switch. I love this and as fans you should as well.

This will keep everyone on their toes. He is creating internal competition. Instead of him having to push the players, they will push each other to be better or they could face line demotions or a trip to the press box. Good teams have this. For the first time in quite some time an Oiler coach also has the ability to do this.

This move took courage to make, and I for one am really impressed.

Super Super Bowl Commercial!

Did anyone see this commercial during the Super Bowl game? It is a commercial for Volkswagen.

This is one of the funniest I have seen for a while. Were there any better ones?

    • Phixieus666

      Just think about how impressed your fellow senior citizens will be with your mad grumpy, cursing and fist shaking skills when you grow older! Being an Oilers fan has really set us up nice for those darn neighbourhood punks and their rock n’ roll music…

  • Jason Strudwick

    Regardless of the finishing place for the Mighty Oil this year, I think our man Kreuger is just the ticket. Moving onward, I can see this coach as having the attention of all players. Respect is earned and with respect comes committment to which is a needed ingredient to success. Go OIL Go.

  • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

    Agreed one hundred percent struds. It’s tough for a defensive player to make a play when he is flat footed. If he would take those strides, more options would open up to him. I feel like Whitney still has his game but when he can’t get anywhere on the ice, it certainly is to his detriment (especially given the previous injuries to his foot). I know a lot of the time the temptation is to be reactive, but I think if Whitney would be more aggressive on and off the puck, he’d have a lot more success.

    I hope Fistric is back soon, seeing Potter out there makes me nervous. I think it makes him nervous too.

  • Haven’t been too keen on Whitney in previous years, but I think most of that has to do with the foot problems he’s had. When he’s on his game, he makes his D-pairing better. His decline has been disappointing to watch, and I really hope he can get things back together and revitalize his career. He’s a character guy and good to have on the team, but right now all I see is a guy that should have been pulled in favor of Mark Fistric, earlier on.

    I am really pulling for him to turn things around though. He can be a great D-man to have when he’s at the top of his game.

    P.S., Resssspec, boss mon.

  • A-Mc

    Wow that white boy NAILED the Jamaican accent. I’m impressed! *watches it again* awesome!

    Hey Mr. Strudwick, What about option #2b (or #3): Ryan Whitney has essentially been out of the NHL for 2 years with out the ability to practice or train.

    How many NHLers could walk away from the team today and come back 2 years from now having done very little training or practicing, and still be anything worth a damn? (Excluding the guys like crosby, who are better than most even while sleep walking).

  • Phixieus666

    Struddy I’ve been watching Whitney closely all season and I have to say, yes there is a problem but I don’t think its the foot speed. There have been moments where he has beaten a speedy forward back to a puck or out maneuvered them. I think his best game was the first one against the AVs. I think the tools are still there, he just seems to be holding back and not using them. Maybe hes worried about re-injuring himself or he is too indecisive because of lack of confidence but I think its all in his head.

    I’m a Whitney fan and I hope he sits back and stops worrying and just plays because he loves it. Maybe because of all the injuries and fighting to come back so much and not living up to the coaches or his own expectations right off the bat he’s lost the fun and enjoyment of the game. I’m pulling for him.

    • Zipdot

      Dang, you should have read the article! Strudwick didn’t say foot speed was a problem. He said gliding was the problem. And he talked also about what might be going on in his head. I hate to be “that guy”, but why comment if you didn’t read the article?

    • OilersBrass

      I think it’s just a numbers game, there are simply more capable players in our bottom six role.

      I know it’s only been a few games but that Nordic line is almost exactly what a fourth line needs to be, strong defensively, creating chances, and able to draw the odd penalty.

      And then outside them you have Eagre, Jones, and Petrell all down around that spot, and all of those guys are better there than Peckham is.

      I think this idea looks good on paper, but in practice would be a disaster. If he’s not fit enough to play a stay at home defensive role, then he’d never fill a bottom six winger role, whose expected to both fore and back check.

      • Phixieus666

        I’m okay with Peckham sitting on the bench for better players but right now Eager and Jones are injured, the Nordic line all have twoway contracts so if anyone gets send down it will be them. Short term injuries that don’t go on IR still count against your contracts and since they are carrying 8 defense-man right now they may be forced to throw a guy on waivers and hope he clears or play a defense-man as a forward.

        I know what your saying and I agree with you but the Oil may have no choice unless they are willing to lose a player for nothing which given history they don’t like losing players.

  • Phixieus666

    Just a question for you. Would not a team such as the Oilers be better served with a number 8 defencemen like Jim Vandemeer who can pencil in on a 4rth line?

    If your going to play your enforcer 2 minutes a game, would it not be better to have a guy like Vandemeer who can come in and play that role and also play some defensive minutes? It seems with the amount of shots these defencemen block these days and the general physicality of the game that a defencemen gets injured too often. Its less of a big deal when a forward goes down, but it can really impact a team like it did the Oilers last game. Seemed that the Oilers had to play some guys too many minutes, and it throws outta sink defence pairings. Your thoughts.

    • Phixieus666

      I still think a guy like Peckham would make a great hybrid player. As a forward he can play the physical nasty games as much as he wants without worrying about his defense positioning like he would as a defense-man. Not to mention if that guy learns how to take face-offs, he could just push the other center out of the way to get control of the puck. I’m a huge fan of the hybrid player and I wish that some coaches would experiment more with the idea especially the Oilers who are always sky high in injuries.

        • Phixieus666

          Dustin Byfuglien does it. There is no reason other players can’t. A lot of players have played other positions before. I believe MPS played as a defense-man at one time. Probably part of the reason his defensive game is pretty solid.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            No he didn’t Chicago needed size and a net presence up front and had a deep defence so they shifted him to forward. When he was traded he told Winnipeg that he wanted to play defence and didn’t like being a forward so there was no switching back and forth, he’s a dman and given the choice will stay that way. Also Byfuglien is a better skater and more athletic than Peckham. Peckham’s lack of agility and his somewhat below average ability to pivot and turn and complete lack of offense wouldn’t make it a good fit.

            Also MPS did that when he was young before the SEL. That’s like saying Hall is a centerman because he played center before junior.

          • Phixieus666

            No its like saying he has had experience playing center/Defense and may excel there given the opportunity. I in no way said MPS was a defenseman your just twisting words. You think Peckham is any worse than MacIntyre or other fighters in the league? Peckham also had a couple nice pinches for goals in his best season. You can’t expect a guy to put up points if hes only getting 25 shots in a season. I would put Peckham in before I’d put Hordichuck in.

          • O.C.

            Byf is a good hockey player. Can skate, shoot and pass. Theo is a marginal hockey player. Can hit and fight. Struds played a bit of wing over the years as well. Not really game changers are they? I’d rather the Oilers found good players who balanced the roster. Seems like a reasonable strategy for a professional hockey organization, non?

          • Phixieus666

            The issue is you can only have some many contracts, it would be nice to find good players to balance the roster but in order to do so you have to move contracts out. He may be marginal but he could fill the same role as a Hordichuck but can also fill in on defense when needed ie. injuries. And if you ask a player would you rather play wing on the forth line and fill in on defense as needed or sit up in the press box. I’m pretty sure you already know the answer to that one.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Any thoughts on moving Whitney to play with J. Schultz and N. Schultz to play with Potter? Potter is not having a good year. He fumbles the pucks and makes horrible plays. Maybe he is making Whitney look worse than he is?

      • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

        Totally agree. I thought that pairing looked alright. No need to mess around too much with the D. With the exception of Whitney, the D has been good this year. I can’t believe I’m saying this but our D is not the problem, we need more goals.

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      This is exactly right. It’s not just Whitney that’s making Whitney look bad. It’s Potter as well.

      Why oh why is Potter getting any ice time? The guy has one skill – ONE!! – one-timers on the PP. The same PP that he’s not a part of any more. Everything else is just a giveaway or an icing after a giveaway or an icing. With a little blown-d-zone-coverage-because-he’s-out-of-position mixed in.

      I hope Whits comes back with a vengeance and Potter rides the pine… on an AHL bus.

  • O.C.

    Well written and that was my favourite commercial as well. Sent to my Jamaican friends.

    Here’s ten of the best from the HarbaughBowl and one that wasn’t allowed to be played.

    I ain’t linking them – Ctrl C is your friend












    • Man, what a weak bunch of commercials. Saw most of those. The only one I liked was the VW one…

      And you missed the best of them all:

      It’s funny how we get all pumped up for commercials though… 😛

      • O.C.

        Weird how we have different tastes too… I HATED the Samsung Commercial.

        Then again, I just ordered the new B/B.

        You don’t like the Upton commercial at the drive in? Really? The Farmer one is probably the best but you have to know the history there…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If Fistric had tagged that Canuck on monday, they’d still be trying to extricate that poor sap from the boards.

    I think we all know now Whitneys days as a top 4 blueliner are done. The way things have started this year, must confirm this. The sooner they’re able to move him, the better. Pair him with Justin for a couple weeks before the deadline to stimulate the market for his services. Damaged goods in, damaged goods out.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Hey Jason, do you mind if I take the title of this article as a band name?

    After his play this season me and my bud decided that we could no longer be called “Devan and the Soft-Ones”.

    Good read as always!

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Great read. It’s nice again to get an insiders eye on why Whitney’s game hasn’t been good this year, instead of just saying his ankle problems or he isn’t the player he used to be.

    It’s really too bad because a healthy Whitney on his game makes our defence pretty good, but this guy means everyone else is playing a little above their heads.

    Struds do you think he will be able to get back on track? And if he doesn’t obviously the Oilers just let him walk, but do they try and replace him or are they thinking Klefbomb is just a younger version of Whitney (as they seem to play good in all areas of defence, but not outstanding in any of them)?

    To me it seems like one of our defensive prospects will be the answer as good defencemen seem impossible to come by through any sort of trade.

    • Jason Strudwick

      Hard to get top dman. Oscar could fill the role but will it be next year? He will have missed almost a whole year of Develpoment. What are the odds he jumps right to the NHL next year and plays 20 mins a night? Not great, he is still young.

      Scary thought for you all…what happens if one of Smid, Nic, Justin or pretty get hurt?

  • Zipdot

    As much as I have disagreed with your past articles, I thought this one was very well written, and brought up some great points.

    Although many points were brought up by other people this season, you seemed to add some depth. More articles of this quality please.

  • Banger

    The worst thing about that commercial is when it was leaked a week before there were people actually saying it was racist and should be pulled. What a world of whiners we live in. Great commercial.

  • Hemmertime

    There was a controversy whether the VW add was racist or not and questions if it would be shown.

    I think the commercial is good, cant believe some people think its racist.

    “Da land of 10,000 lakes mon”

  • O.C.

    It’s nice to have a coach that isn’t afraid to dress what he feels is the best lineup every night. If you’re not playing hard/well, then there is always room in the press box. The depth that the Oilers have added over the past few seasons also helps give the coach the hammer in that situation.

    Whitney has not been skating hard for whatever reason this season. I hope that it’s fixable and not because his foot is still bugging him. Whatever the reason for his lacklustre performace so far, hopefully his benching lights a fire under him and he can get back to playing like he is capable of playing.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Jason, Thanks for the pickup with the VW commercial. You have to smile listening to the dude’s accent. However for every well-intended, light hearted commercial, there always have to be a couple of “fun sponges”** who want make their own candles brighter by blowing out everyone else’s. A couple of samples from the peanut gallery:

    Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of the multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing, chimed in, “It’s pretty horrific. Why do they have a white guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?”

    Mediapost.com’s Barbara Lippert said, “Didn’t anyone look at this? This is so racist. It’s just saying that black people are happy.”

    Someone less enlightened than me may want to point out that they are both women – but I would NEVER do that.

    At any rate “Reeespect, Boss mon”

    ** “FUN SPONGE” A term typically used to identify slide-rule totin’ stat geek’s references to unsustainable Oilers’ shooting % and feminists more worried about everyone else’s business than their own personal hygeine.

    Best term ever coined (but not yet trademarked) by an ON reader. Wish I could remember who it was???

  • The Soup Fascist

    This was the best commercial NOT seen at the Superbowl. Allegedly, pulled by Carl’s Jr. prior to last Superbowl. Or a big publicity stunt. Either way ….


  • vetinari

    Loved Whitney in the day but I think his legs are letting him down and creating the indecision for him: in the second or two for him to decide whether he can physically do something, he hesitates and the play has moved on without him. Either he isn’t fully trusting his body or he isn’t fully healed.