GDB 37.0: DOWN TO THE DIRTY DOZEN

The Oilers took care of business and swept the Flames, two games they had to win, and now the real games begin. Nine of the Oilers remaining 12 games are against playoff teams, and this is the scenario the Oilers desperately wanted their young team to experience.

The intensity will increase, and the youthful Oilers will need to match the consistency, smarts and veteran savvy of the Canucks, Ducks, Blackhawks, Wild and Kings.

These games matter. The players know it, management knows it and the fans know it. This should be fun.

You can sense the excitement in the city and on the Nation. Fans are jacked up. The scar tissue you’ve obtained from seven seasons of watching an over-matched, under-talented, uninspiring team is starting to breakdown. You actually look forward to the games, because you believe your team has a legitimate chance to win.

If you are under 30 it is likely a feeling you’ve never truly experienced during the regular season. The Oilers are still a few players short of being a dominant team, but their first line is the hottest line in the NHL, and when one line is that good you have a chance to win any game.

During this five-game winning streak Taylor Hall has 14 points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 10 and Jordan Eberle has 8. They’ve combined for 32 points, and the scary part is that they’ve missed some glorious chances. Their speed, skill and smarts are a deadly combination right now, and it will be interesting to see how Alain Vigneault, Darryl Sutter and Bruce Boudreau try to slow them down on this road trip.

LINEUP

Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle
Paajarvi/Gagner/Hemsky
Jones/Horcoff/Yakupov
Brown/Smyth/Petrell

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Whitney/Potter

Dubnyk (Although Krueger hinted he hasn’t made up his mind and Khabibulin might play. I don’t see any reason not to play Dubnyk)

Magnus Paajarvi is banged up, but Krueger said this after the game last night, "It’s not a serious injury, it’s a manageable one. He’s probable for tomorrow." Hemsky has been playing with a minor knick, and I suspect Paajarvi will dress tonight. If the injury is more about pain-tolerance than impacting his play he’ll go. Players can play hurt, but it isn’t wise to play injured, especially if the injury will limit your performance.

Jerred Smithson, acquired yesterday from Florida, will be in the hospital today as his fiance is scheduled to give birth. He told me yesterday that if things go as planned, he’ll join the team in either Los Angeles or Anaheim. "Family comes first, once we get the baby figured out, I’ll join the team as quick as I can. I can’t wait to play in Edmonton," Smithson told me on my radio show yesterday.

I’d play Smithson when he gets here. He shoots right and his FO% the last four years is: 54.8% in 2013, 56.1% in 2012, 57.4% in 2011, 54.9 in 2010, 52.6% in 2009. He can win draws, and you can use him and Horcoff on different sides.

QUICK HITS

  • The Oilers nine remaining games against playoff teams are all against the top-six teams in the west. They will have to play one of them in the playoffs if they make it, so they might as well get used to it.
     
  • The Oilers are 8-2-2 since Shawn Horcoff called a player’s only meeting and returned to the lineup in Chicago. I know the 4/93/14 line is carrying this team offensively, but Horcoff’s message sunk in. The Oilers have cut down on their turnovers in the defensive and neutral zone. And they rarely turn it over at the offensive blueline anymore. Those plays were killing them early in the season.
     
  • The other big change is their willingness to drive the net. Guys without the puck are finally going to the net and creating havoc. 
     
  • The Oilers are 2nd in combined special teams at 108.3. They are 3rd in PP effeciency at 23.8% and 7th on the PK at 84.5%.
     
  • It is hard not to like Roberto Luongo these days. His twitter feed is hilarious, and yesterday, when the Canucks made the idiotic decision to make him hold a press conference to discuss why he wasn’t traded, he was very honest and classy. When asked why he wasn’t traded he replied, "Cause my contact sucks. If I could rip it up now I would."
     
  • You could tell not playing is killing him. He’s handled this situation extremely well, and when the Canucks finally trade him to the eastern conference I suspect many fans will be cheering for him. Tonight of course, you hope the Oilers light up him and Corey Schneider.
     
  • Derek Roy will help the Canucks. They desperately needed a 2nd line centre, and he will give them some much-needed secondary scoring.
     
  • I liked the Columbus decision to acquire Marian Gaborik, especially because it didn’t cost them any of their three first-round picks. Even if they don’t make the playoffs this year, the Blue Jackets added a proven sniper. Basically, the deals between the Rangers and Blue Jackets look like this…Nash, Brassard, Dorsett, Moore and a 6th for Gaborik, Dubinsky, Erixon, Anisimov and a 1st rounder. I’d still say the Blue Jackets did well.
     
  • Very interesting move by George McPhee to trade away Filip Forsberg, 11th pick in 2012, for Martin Erat. The Capitals will win the South East this year, because they are rolling and the Jets and Hurricanes are on the skids, but how will this trade look in a few years. I’ve gotten very differing views from scouts. Some really like him, while others think he’ll never produce more points than Erat. Time will tell. Caps win trade today, but Preds could benefit greatly in the future.
     
  • Don’t look now, but the Oilers playoff chances, according to sportsclubstats, are up to 42.1% after last night’s victory. Before the five-game winning streak they were at 4.1%. That is quite the jump. Detroit is at 72.7% and St. Louis 70.4%, but the Oilers have closed the gap considerably.

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL….

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Have to go with the hot team considering I’ve picked them to win the last four. I know how superstitious the Nation can be. Oilers win in OT, 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Hall, RNH, Eberle line combine for six points.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:  Ryan Smyth ends his 20-game goal scoring drought with a deflection early in the 2nd period. Smyth does a triple combination fist-pump, look-to-the-heavens, glove-slide-on-the-ice celebration afterwards. His young teammates love the "celly," especially Yakupov who says to Smyth, "Prunes is going to love that and use it during Hockey Night in Canada,"

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

***This will be a DSF comment free section today. From your quiet editor/tech producer who needs a break from it all. Any comment with mention of him will be quietly deleted. Enjoy the game and one free day…***

    • Phixieus666

      Hell no man, that is exactly what I’d be telling my guys to aim for. They play two games against each of Van and Min. If they win all 4 of those that closes the gap to 1 point. and above all else, winning the division guarantees a playoff birth.

  • geoilersgist

    Make it 6 straight tonight! I think the Canucks were idiotic for making him hold a news conference. In all honesty they would have been smarter to move Schneider with his low cap hit and probable better return. If the Oil win tonight and some other games go our way we will get some breathing room.

    Awesome NSOGDP you are killing it JG.

  • Jason Gregor

    Uh huh, and those teams don’t usually win. How many world series have the A’s won since the team started doing that? Boston, even the one that won, still has a very expensive roster.

    Furthermore, Hockey is a cap sport, which kind of makes any money ball comparisons moot.

    And Hockey is not like baseball.

  • Clyde Frog

    But baseball is 100% different statistically…

    You can isolate each individual interaction and those interactions have a very high correlation coefficient.

    IE each pitch is an individual statistical point, each subsequent action can be broken down by the outcome of the pitch, etc.

    Hockey isn’t like that at all; at best you are relating items that actually have very little to do with each other and projecting from that.

    For instance look at a players shooting percentage versus a goaltender during a game. Look at the 100 different factors that contribute to those numbers…

    Where did the shots occur from, who was the players linemates, where were they? Who was the opposition on the ice? Where were they? Was there traffic in front of the goalie? Was the puck recently passed? Did the player deke? Was he being stick checked?

    Now an advanced stats blogger will tell you those will be washed out in the averages, but at the same time they lament their statistical sample sizes.

    How do they compensate? They divide stats by each other to come up with different looking numbers that they feel reflect reality better…

    Then fully understanding that one shot is completely unrelated to another in a way that is completely impossible to mathmatically model, they try to regress performance to a mean they build by jumbling every possible player together.

    In conclusion: Advanced stats in hockey is a joke, it mostly guess work and drawing conclusions from numbers they artificially create as apposed to modeling anything through math.

    Don’t believe me? Ask them for the R squared value of their model, then ask them to define it as it relates to the work they did.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Did you actually watch the end of Moneyball?

    The point was that you actually CAN build a very effective team by relying solely on advanced stats because the anecdotal evidence doesn’t paint the whole story.

    Sure they lost an important game, but I’m pretty sure in the epilogue text it talks about the fact that their system was so effective that every team in the league now uses it.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Sorry.

    I read you as apologizing (after a fashion) for RNH’s poor defensive play.

    He’ll definitely get better, but there is nothing to apologize for even now.

  • 24% body fat

    Ha! Not sure about its current status awaiting Webster’s approval. I actually feel a little bad as I didn’t read the last part of Gregor’s blog.

    I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that using biased stats to prove a point only really proves you’re biased. And it is great to see that all the nay sayers who use any kind of stats for prediction purposes, are usually only half right half of the time.

    Much like the end of Money Ball, you can’t build a team around averages because night in and night out, averages usually don’t amount to much.

    To that effect, everyone looking at the record we need going forward to make it, is basing their prediction off the fact that the projected point total to get in is like 55 or 53, and that other teams around us in the standings, will continue their win loss pace for the rest of the season.

    But hockey, and in fact most sports, do not work like that. Whose to say any of the current teams in the playoffs or the ones chasing won’t go into a slump, or go on a hot streak? Clearly most of the league is structured so that almost every team has a chance, and that is currently being demonstrated by how tight the race is in both divisions. To say the Oilers will win and lose a certain number of games based on their competition completely undermines the fact they’ve beaten every single one of those teams at least once, and if they’ve done it before, they can do it again.

    Banging away with stats, though useful to a point, kind of misses the point if that’s all you look at. Show me the stat that demonstrates why we’ve done so well since Shawn Horcoff came back.

    “The motivational speech to win ration increased upon Horcoff’s return”. Sorry for ranting but I’m sure anyone that has ever actually played hockey knows the infinite amount of intangibles that can’t be tracked that go into winning and losing.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I actually think the kinds of media narratives you mention matter way more than anything else.

    players in small markets get shunned, players who play well early and falter later suffer vs. the opposite, etc.

    oddly another thing is the psychological impression tying Landeskog probably made. a single point more than him and RNH probably would have won… it makes that big a psychological difference.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    RNH’s 2-way play has bloomed massively this year. better than you seem to think.

    he plays the toughs and is keeping his head above water:

    http://www.behindthenet.ca/nhl_statistics.php?ds=11&f1=2012_s&f2=5v5&f5=EDM&c=0+1+3+5+4+6+7+8+29+30+32+33+34+45+46+63+67+11+12+13+14+15+16#

    the visual:

    http://somekindofninja.com/nhl/usage.php?f1=2012_s&f2=5v5&f3=&f5=EDM&f4=C%2BLW%2BRW&f7=10-&bubbleType=corsiRel&yAxis=qoc&update-filters=Update+Results

    he is going to be a very, very elite #1 C.

  • West

    I agree with what you are saying, but I think the missed games due to injury should irrelevant. Look at it this way, if RNH had been called up after 21 games of the season and ended up winning rookie scoring race, the media would have been all over that “amazing performance”. And the Oilers would have a great big ONE Calder trophy.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    It’s hard to say what is relevant here…

    We don’t get to hold an autopsy on these kinds of decisions.

    I’m guessing the majority of the voters thought of Landeskog as the more “NHL ready” player. he looked, and looks, more like an adult really.

    RNH gives the impression of being a child in a man’s game (one who is destroying that game, but appearances mean everything).

    I also suspect the injury and how weird it was hurt RNH.

    At any rate, IMO the competition was a saw off… anyone suggesting either is clearly better is simply expressing a preference. It’s way too early to tell and both are magical players.

    also… always remember how many great directors, artists etc never won an Oscar or Grammy…

  • Bucknuck

    Is “douchebaggary” a word? It should be. If it is I wonder if Websters has “see troll” in the comment somewhere.

    Under “troll” I can think of a few names that could be referenced for sure. Someone who posts chiefly to upset people and get a reaction would be the gist of it. It would make me sad if some of them actually believed the drivel they are typing and they truly considered themselves fans. I would prefer to believe that they are just trying to get a reaction, rather than them being truly that arrogant and stupid.

    It’s just really good that the Oil have it within their power whether to make the post season or not. They do not have to rely on other teams losing. It’s just great to be in the mix. And the games are going to be intense and that is exciting for me. I have wanted to watch them play “meaningful hockey” for a long time.

  • book¡e

    Those odds are based upon an even pace of winning and losing over the season and are quite simplistic. They don’t take into account teams playing better or worse than they were earlier in the season.