THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE REASONABLE

We’re one third of the way through this season and as always there are some who are performing above expected levels and others who have fallen behind. The list of overachievers for the Oilers is interesting, but the guys trailing "reasonable" are the story here.

Each year, before training camp, I create an offensive ‘line in the sand’ for each regular player. The idea is to create a ‘reasonable expectation’ for the player–not too high, not too low–based on their own past. It’s like a handicap in golf: you’re not playing against anything but your own score. Here’s how things are going so far this season.

OILER RE (SO FAR) 12-13

  1. Sam Gagner +5 Actual: 16, 5-11-16 (14, 4-7-11). This is such a bizarre season for Gagner, who is scoring at a terrific pace while also centering a 2line that is getting its teeth kicked in at even strength. Still, offensively he’s more than covering the bet.
  2. Justin Schultz +3 Actual: 16, 4-4-8 (RE: 15, 1-4-5). Schultz has exceeded his number smartly in the first one-third of the season. Although he does appear to be hurting a little, the young man is so talented his results rank among the best overachievers so far this season. Stud.
  3. Taylor Hall EVEN Actual: 16, 3-13-16 (RE: 13, 7-6-13). He’s on pace and meeting expectations. Hall’s goal total is a little low, but these things even out over time and we do know that he dedicated himself to improved passing this year.
  4. Jordan Eberle EVEN Actual: 16, 5-6-11 (RE: 15, 5-6-11). Eberle is where he should be based on reasonable expectations and he’s been excellent on the powerplay. I think that entire 1line has been terrific, better than the numbers suggest so far, and if the Hockey Gods even things out we should see a nice run in March.
  5. Nail Yakupov EVEN Actual: 16, 5-4-9 (RE: 15, 4-5-9). Young Russian has been inconsistent–this is what rookie’s do–but has met expectations and shown glimpses of what he will do in the future. Wonderful talent, his shot is breathtaking and I expect the Oilers will take better advantage in the coming weeks.
  6. Ladislav Smid EVEN Actual: 16, 0-2-2 (RE: 14, 0-2-2). Smid is not going to make his money posting goals and assists, but did enjoy a spike last season. His offense is where it should be, and we should not expect 5 goals in the final months of the season.
  7. Ben Eager EVEN Actual: 7, 0-1-1 (RE: 10, 1-1-2). Big winger had some injury troubles early but seems to be rounding into form. His most recent games have been (imo) his best as an Oiler. I have adjusted for his injury.
  8. Ales Hemsky MINUS ONE Actual: 16, 7-3-10 (RE: 12, 3-8-11). This is basically even, he’s had a nice start to the year (especially on the PP) offensively. Like Gagner, Hemsky has some question marks surrounding him based on how many shots the line is giving up compared to what they’re doing at the other end. The boxcars are fine.
  9. Teemu Hartikainen MINUS ONE Actual: 15, 0-2-2 (RE: 10, 1-2-3). The big Finn is on pace for what we’d expected, getting some PP time and then up and down the depth chart depending on which way the wind blows. It doesn’t show up in the stats, but he’s becoming a terrific down low battler, suspect Smyth’s help is part of it.
  10. Shawn Horcoff MINUS ONE Actual: 7, 1-1-2 (RE: 15, 2-3-5). I adjusted for injury. Horcoff–like Belanger–is having a good season and his being placed on the IR coincided with a downturn in team performance.
  11. Nick Schultz MINUS ONE Actual: 16, 0-1-1 (RE: 16, 0-2-2). Offense isn’t his calling card, although you’d think he would get some points just based on playing next to the other Schultz. It has been a struggle for him defensively of late, but the offensive numbers are what we should have expected from him.
  12. Lennart Petrell MINUS ONE. Actual: 13, 1-0-1 (RE: 10, 1-1-2). Winger had an injury that cost him a few games but he’s on track for the season. Might get pushed with the return of Jones and the early season performances of Hartikainen and Paajarvi.
  13. Ryan Smyth MINUS TWO Actual: 15, 2-3-5 (RE: 13, 3-4-7). A minor downturn in terms of offensive output, I did predict he would have fewer PP opportunities and Smyth lost a game via healthy scratch. Smyth is an all-time battler, though and has played better since returning.
  14. Eric Belanger MINUS TWO Actual: 13, 0-2-2 (RE: 15, 2-2-4). Veteran has been playing an extreme defensive role, and the minus 2 RE should not be viewed as a negative. Belanger is delivering quality play and looks exactly like the player Edmonton thought they were getting summer 2011.
  15. Magnus Paajarvi MINUS TWO Actual: 13, 2-0-2 (RE: 1-3-4). All kinds of good things–including growing confidence in his offensive game–make this a very nice beginning for Magnus Paajarvi. Down slightly in RE, but in the range of what we could have expected.
  16. Ryan Whitney MINUS THREE Actual: 12, 0-3-3 (RE: 13, 1-5-6). I did account for some worry about his ability to play at previous levels but didn’t nick him enough. I don’t believe this is a slump or that he’s not doing his best to perform at the highest levels.
  17. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MINUS SIX Actual: 15, 1-6-7 (RE: 14, 4-9-13). The Nuge is injured and it is certainly having an impact on him. On the other hand, like all gifted offensive players he’s getting chances galore and if healthy I belive the Nuge would be on pace. At this point, he’s having a disappointing season.
  18. Mark Fistric DNQ Actual: 10, 0-2-2. I did not project Fistric (he was acquired later) but this number should be viewed as a positive. Big defender has had an impact in his first 10 Oiler games.
  19. Anton Lander DNQ Actual: 4, 0-1-1. I did not project Lander to play in the NHL this season. He did look good though, in between Harski and Paajarvi on the Nordic Line. Lander’s injury was a bad turn. 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The RE numbers are here. I think everyone is in the range save for Gagner and Schultz (positive) and Nuge and Whitney (downside) but the two who are not performing at level have been/are injured and that has impacted performance.

The Oilers record is not because of overall downturns in performance. Their 5×5 scoring and the 2line’s troubles are the major issues, with the 1line, Schultz the younger and goaltending the positives.

If this team does the same things for the next 16 games, they should win more games. Seriously.

 

      • DSF

        The Oilers should take a look at J.M. Liles.

        With Gardiner set to return soon, the Leafs have 10 NHL defensemen on their roster.

        I would image the Oilers could pick him up fairly cheaply.

        He could certainly give a boost to the 3rd pairing and is another option on the PP.

        • Hair bag

          I do like the fact that DSF actually comes up with names/specific players that could address our needs…as opposed to the hoards who just constantly scream for the anonomous Top 4 D-man.

          While Liles doesn’t add the much needed toughness we will eventually need, he would seem like a decent stop gap, in an attempt to gain a playoff spot, given that our top 3 offensive D-men are fading….Whitney is struggling in a big way…Petry’s offense has tailed off this year…J. Schultz is looking much less inspired/agressive than he did in the first 10 games…

          • DSF

            Why is that a problem?

            With Souray’s $1.5M coming off the cap next season, Liles could replace Sutton’s $1.75M cap hit and you would have a much better defenseman for only $600K more than this season’s cap hits.

            Liles would also bring much more offence to a team that has only 4 goals from the D and all of them scored by Schultz.

            Liles scored 7 goals and 30 points last season and would bring not only scoring but also puck movement and a veteran presence to the D corp.

            The problem is he has a NTC.

            Another option, although likely to cost more in a trade would be Cody Franson who is having a great season (1G 10A 11P +11).

            In any event, with Gardiner returning and Morgan Rielly and Matt Finn on their way, Toronto has a glut of defensemen and that should be an opportunity for the Oilers.

          • Skidplate

            With Liles game and age (32) 3 years at 3.875 is too much for my liking.

            Franson, now we are talking. I was greatly irritated when Toronto got him from Nashville for basically nothing. He would be a prefect fit on the Oilers.

          • DSF

            Well, I’m not sure that a 32 year old defenseman isn’t EXACTLY what the Oilers need.

            But Franson would certainly look good as an Oiler.

            Problem is, he is having a career year and is RFA at the end of the season so he might not be cheap for very long.

    • Lowetide

      I don’t think they’ll finish 29th. The Oilers have absolutely failed on this home stand and losing Hall for two games is a horrible result.

      Having said that, there’s a lot of talent here and they’re not getting the breaks 5×5. The goaltending has been good but not insanely good (aside from Khabibulin’s small sample size).

      The Oilers have scored 15 5×5 goals this season and are playing their 17th game today. Last season, the Oilers had 139.

      This too shall pass.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    The way your post reads LT you would think that the oil was knocking on fifth place instead of fifteenth.

    Point comparisons,as I think you would agree, are a pretty flimsy metric.

    And when you discount how this team plays when it’s opponent is down a man the point totals get REALLY ugly.

    That said I don’t disagree much with your assessments. I think that JS has been scouted now and teams are adjusting to his lack of a shot for example.

    By and large most of the players are playing as well as was expected.

    But the problem is that this team is as unbalanced as a stroke victim.

    And that is a KLT (Katz-Lowe-tambelini) failing. I don’t know about you but I give THAT team an F-

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I’d rather trade our first this year for someone who can play now. Tambellini is cooking with ingredients chosen at random. Address a need.. God help me but we could use a bit of Burke right now.

    • The Oilers Shot Clock

      Not sure if you are aware, but the draft lottery now includes the bottom 15 teams. Thus the bankable value of first round pick from a bottom-feeding team has been cut in half.

      I think it’s a great change BTW as it removes a lot of the incentive to tank a season.

      • Hair bag

        Agreed…new draft rules are an improvement. But I still don’t fully understand the math behind it.

        Under the new rules, if a team finishes 31st overall and LOSES the draft lottery, do they not still get the second overall pick??? Is that really a big disincentive to tank it at the end of the season???

  • Skidplate

    RNH does look tired to me too,i would try Smitty at centre there,seem as good as anyone on face offs and has said he enjoys the challenge,then he can go stand in front of the net where he is at his best.

  • Lowetide

    I still think patience are required. I know we have been waiting for a very long time, but we are getting close now. At least the games are more entertaining. This team is the youngest in the league; with a little more seasoning they could really take off. Let’s not panic ourselves into a bad trade.

      • Hair bag

        DSF raises a good point here. Experience is worth a ton in pro sports…Sweet Spot is typically 24 to 30….

        Right now, experience and talent wise, we fall in a category with the
        Columbus, Winnipeg, Toronto, Minnesota, Colorado and Buffalo’s of the league.

        Hopefully, next year we’ll move into the realm of the Carolina, Ottawa, St. Louis’s and LA’s of the league.

        Within two years, as we age, the Chicago’s and Pittsburgh’s of the league.

        But only if we don’t panic and don’t dither.

      • Skidplate

        Your right on there. All this talk and excuses about being a young team when in fact as stated above not really the case at all. Management is starting to run out of where to blame – there is no where to hide now if your sitting on Mahogany row. Quite frankly as a die hard Oil fan I like many are getting quite sick of management not being abel to address issues that have been quite obvious for years now. It’s time for a major shake in front office and I’m starting with Klowe and ending with Tambo and everything in between.
        This team is a Pond hockey team ! I want NHL calibre, the fans at least deserve that.

      • Skidplate

        DSF, you are right. But other than Col and Win, Edmonton is a whole 1 year older than the rest of the teams you state. With the departure of Khabby’s 40 years next year, that brings our average back right near the bottom.

        What RBC was getting at was the Oilers are a young team. He to is right.

        • DSF

          Virtually all teams have one or two greybeards that bring up their average age.

          For example, the Kings have Willie Mitchell (35) and Rob Scuderi (34) on defense who are nearing the end of their careers.

          STL has Nichol (38) Langenbrunner (37), McDonald (35) and Redden (35).

          • Skidplate

            Yes but Khabby is 40! not 35 or 34. We have Smyth 37, Horcoff 34, Belanger 35, Sutton 37 AND we are still within 1 year of the bottom three in league age. So yes, the Oilers are a young team.

  • Alsker

    Sorry forgot about that(too much kool-aid last night) but Tambos legacy is Eager/Hordichuck/re-aquiring Smitty/Jones/Petrell?/N.Schultz wheres the WOW factor or impact player..been a long time since a Pronger/Guerin type splash

    • Lowetide

      I think we do have to give Tambellini credit for the Justin Schultz signing. At least some of it. And he is certainly the biggest free agent signing I can recall in many years.

      His free agent signings of 2011 summer (Belanger, Eager) are finally paying off–playing much better.

      It isn’t enough, surely. However I’m not certain if he’s making the calls on all of these things.

      • Skidplate

        I am not giving him ANY credit for a players choosing us. Never was he mentioned by Schultz, in fact Gretzky and Coffee had more to do with this than Tamby.

        This is a very polarizing figure, he does present himself like a decent and caring human being…….I will give him that. As a GM he has never given me the impression that he is in charge, driving the troops so to speak.

        He comes across as more the reluctant leader managing through consensus…….this is not what we need at this juncture. THere are builders and maintainers………I strongly suspect he is a maintainer.

      • Skidplate

        How on earth do you give Tambellini credit re Schultz . Everything I read tied into Hall , Coffee , and Krueger and a young team . If we are honest here Tambellini has made more mistakes than I would have expected . I have blamed Lowe and that was for hiring him .

  • Crackenbury

    I hope you’re right about winning more games, but to me it looks like another decent start followed up by the true nature of this team; an overwhelming acceptance of losing.

    If Tambo doesn’t make some kind of move soon, within the next 10 days, he needs to go and it can’t wait until the end of the season. Katz needs to show the fans and players he wants to win more than he wants to surround himself with comfortable people. Firing the training staff isn’t going to cut it this time.

  • Alsker

    Good read as always Lowtide, definitely more optimistic way of looking at things then the anger/panic we fans are at right now…Out of curiousity what was the last deal this management group made? Its been so long…

    • Lowetide

      Fistric from Dallas. I felt it was an overpay but did like the fact the organizaton added depth and a guy who has played a lot of NHL games. I’m fine with that deal.

  • Lowetide

    Skid: I hear you, but would dearly love to see Steve Tambellini do something to help this team before they pull the plug.

    I think he owes it to the fans, and maybe his future.

    • Skidplate

      I just think we are too far away yet. The something that Tambellini needs to do may be too much.

      It will take more than one dman to get our 5 on 5 scoring up to snuff. By the time you address 5v5, faceoffs, toughness, defensive help we may not have any draft picks left and I am scared to think what we would need to remove from our team to get there.

      I am OK with a top 10 pick this year, one more year of seasoning for our future stars and one more off season to address the teams needs. (I know, I know, how many chances does this management team need).

      • Hair bag

        I don’t get the idea that what you do this year, next year, two years form now…is a matter of timing. The evaluation period is over/done….from here on in you do everything you can to win/make the playoffs…and you take every opportunity that presents itself to improve your team through trades, the draft, and buying UFA’s….

        If you make the playoffs….great everyone on the roster gains invaluable experience…if you don’t make the playoffs then you pick where you pick and maybe get lucky with a lottery win however unlikely…..

        Point is the time for waiting is definitley over…There is no longer any value proposition in waiting……No Panic….But NO Dithering either….

    • Skidplate

      Hear what you are saying but I don’t want any GM of the Oilers doing anything because of “his” future. Remember MacT on July 1st, something about ensuring you don’t do anything stupid. Note – Not endorsing doing nothing either.

  • Skidplate

    I think with the very difficult road trip ahead, if the team falls too far back and RNH is truly hurting, then he should take care of that injury now. It would probably mean a draft lottery, but this is a good year to pick early. I know it absolutely sucks to be talking this way yet again, but the facts are the facts. We are not there yet.