Playoffs are ruthless

Ruthless

I’ve long believed great players don’t need a Stanley Cup to be considered among the elite. Of course it helps, but you need to be on a great team to win the Cup. I’ll be very surprised if we see a team match the Blackhawks’ three Cups in six seasons during the next few decades. In today’s salary cap era, it is extremely difficult to keep a team together for six seasons, and if you do, you will need some luck and, most importantly, you’ll need to avoid serious injuries.

During their three Cup wins, the Hawks’ core group of seven players — Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Niklas Hjalmarsson — missed a total of two games. Hossa and Keith each missed one game during their 2013 run.

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Kane did get injured late in 2015, and missed the final 21 league games, but he returned for the playoffs. He missed only one regular season game during their other two Cup runs.

The Blackhawks were not only good, their best players were always available to play. When they lost to the Kings in the conference final in 2014, Brent Seabrook was the only one of the seven to not dress for all 19 playoff games. He missed three due to a suspension.

The Hawks also always had excellent secondary production.

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In 2010, Dave Bolland and Dustin Byfuglien tied for fifth in Hawks playoff scoring combining for 19 goals. Hossa had three that year. Keith had two.

In 2013, Bryan Bickell was second behind Kane in playoff points. He finished with 17 and was second on the team in goals with nine behind Sharp’s ten. Thirty-five year old Michal Handzus was acquired at the deadline for a fourth round pick, and he became their second line centre for two months. Toews had one goal in the first three rounds, yet the Hawks still won.

In 2015, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette gave them centre depth, and Richards, who was very average in the regular season, chipped in 14 points in the playoffs.

The Hawks had an unreal core of seven players, who played pretty much every game, and GM Stan Bowman found the right pieces to fit the puzzle every year.

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The Hawks success had some people actually believing Toews was a better player than Sidney Crosby. At one point in 2014, Toews laughed at the suggestion, but some believed because he had won two Cups he was the better player.

Between 2009 and 2016, Crosby scored 644 points in 494 games, while Toews tallied 510 in 581 games. Crosby had 1.30 points per game, while Toews produced 0.88 PPG. Crosby won one Cup, while Toews won three. Toews was on a better team, but in my eyes it is obvious who is the better player.

DEPTH MATTERS…

Depth

The Blackhawks didn’t have the same depth on the blueline this year as previous Cup years, due to a lack of cap space with Kane and Toews’ contracts eating up $21 million. Trevor Van Riemsdyk wasn’t as good as Johnny Oduya. The Hawks lost in seven to a deeper Blues team.

The Penguins got by the Capitals, because their defensive depth was more consistent. Mike Weber and Nate Schmidt each had a terrible giveaway that led to the game winning goal in two of the Penguins four victories. When Derrick Pouliot and Justin Schultz had to play due to an injury to Olli Maatta and a suspension to Kris Letang, they didn’t make any glaring mistakes.

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Some have suggested Alex Ovechkin isn’t a great leader, and that’s why the Capitals lost. However, no numbers back that up.

Ovechkin had 2-5-7 in six games. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for 1-3-4.

During the playoffs when Ovechkin was on the ice the Capitals outscored the opposition 19-5. When he was on the bench they were outscored 17-10. The Caps GF/GA ratio was +14 with Ovie on the ice and -7 without him. He scores, he is physical, he competes. I’d say he led by example, but some still believe he isn’t a winner. 

With Crosby on the ice the Penguins have outscored teams 15-9, but when he’s been on the bench his supporting cast outscored the opposition 22-16. The Penguins goal differential is +6 with Crosby and without him. The Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin line has been fantastic for the Penguins.

The Capitals had a great season, but the Penguins have been excellent since December 21st. They were 33-12-5 in their final 50 games, and are 8-3 in the playoffs. 

The Penguins outscored the Capitals 16-15 in the series. They won four games by one goal. The shots were 209-202 for the Penguins. The shot attempts were 407-399 for the Capitals.

Both teams are very good, but the Penguins’ depth, even as far down at their #7 and #8 D-men, were a bit better. Hockey is the ultimate team game. You need all your players playing well to win, not just your superstar forwards who play 20 minutes/game.

HOW IT RELATES TO THE OILERS

Comparing

The Oilers haven’t been close to a playoff spot since they drafted Taylor Hall, and some believe Hall and the rest of the core are the main reasons why. I can’t get on board with that rationale.

Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have areas of their games they could improve. They are not perfect players, but I don’t buy the theory they are bad leaders. They might not be great leaders, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Not all players are natural leaders, but I disagree with those who believe their play is the main reason this team has been the laughing stock of the NHL since the start of 2009.

You need a good team to compete, not just a few good individuals. Hall, Eberle and RNH need to be better moving forward, no doubt, but suggesting they are the root of the problem is pointing the blame in the wrong direction. The Oilers have not had enough quality NHL players to compete. I’m also not saying you can’t trade one to improve the team, I believe that needs to happen, but not because they are bad players or people, but instead because the blueline needs to be upgraded. 

Connor McDavid is such a special player the Oilers will undoubtedly improve during his tenure, but in order for him to get in the playoffs he’ll need a better supporting cast than Hall had during his first six seasons.

And when the Oilers finally make the playoffs again, I’m sure McDavid will hear catcalls if the Oilers aren’t successful in his first few appearances. McDavid could dominate for the 20 or so minutes he’s on the ice, but if his supporting cast isn’t competitive he won’t win.

The Washington Capitals have some great players, and a really good team, but they faced a team with great players and a supporting cast who were better at key moments in the game.

The line between success and failure in the NHL playoffs is arguably thinner than it’s ever been before. Not only do you need a great core, you need some luck, some timely scoring from unexpected sources, and you need to stay healthy.

The Oilers haven’t had much luck staying healthy for many years. That, along with some improved depth, is desperately needed if you expect to see them compete for the Cup in the coming seasons.

Getting to the playoffs will be an accomplishment after the Decade of Darkness, but once they are there Oilers fans will be reminded how hard it is to win. You’ve learned the hard way that 2006 was luckier than anyone could have imagined.

GOING TO VEGAS

5th Annual Jason Gregor Show_WSOP Tournament_1080x1080_Facebook_YHD

This
year’s tourney will be held at the Yellowhead Casino this year. It
includes a complimentary lunch. We over 50% sold out. You can sign up here. Good luck.

Recently by Jason Gregor:  



  • IronX

    True the D has been brutal. I do think there’s a problem with the core, but let’s not argue that point right now.

    The fact of the matter is that we don’t “need” the 3 of Hall, Eberle and RNH when we also have a Draisatl, a Yak, a Pouilot , and yes: a McDavid.

    I think the time to trade one of the core players might be close to done to get the necessary D and a complimentary player.

    3 years ago we could have traded Eberle for a competent D and a second or third liner . This year…. I’d like to see which GM takes that gamble.

    The core is not the problem, but they were meant to be the solution, sadly, they are not.

  • abmule

    It was said a better supporting cast than Hall had. The real question is can Hall accept that he is part of the supporting cast? A few seasoned Dmen go along way but don’t fix the stink in that dressing room.

  • Bucknuck

    Everyone is so frustrated that if you dare say anything good about anybody not named McDavid you get flamed. It’s a sad time to be an Oilers fan when people are turning on the good players on the team.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason when the fans are all pushing the “panic” button.

      • McPucker

        Some people seem to think there’s a suck/don’t-suck on/off switch for NHL teams, or the Oiler’s anyway.

        There were quite a few and some significant changes made last year. The Oilers were a better team this year than they were last year. If you don’t think so, you’re not watching the games.

        If there aren’t more significant changes between now and training camp, then PC isn’t doing his job. At this point I have to no reason to think that PC isn’t going to do his job well.

        Other than #97, anyone is tradeable. I just hope the return is equitable, or the Oiler’s kick-butt on the trade.

          • McPucker

            I said it be and I’ll say it again, if you don’t think they’re better team than they were last year, you’re not watching. Maybe checking the standings, but not watching the games.

          • IronX

            You my friend, aren’t too smart.
            Please answer yourself these questions (not to me, my mind is made up and I base it in facts):

            The Oilers are better – better than who? Better than Toronto? well, Toronto tried very hard to be worse, and it was not by much of a difference.

            Better than last year? Not really, last year they were 28, this year 29 – in a league in which they compete against other temas that MATTERS, if they were competing against themselves, trying to be better players everyday well…. they should go back to peewee.

            OK, they had more points than last year, but so DID everybody else…. so again, better than what? And what does it matter when we were 29 of 30?

          • Spydyr

            I watch pretty well every game. As a team defensively they may have regressed last season. You might have been noticing all the pretty dangles. I was watching the missed defensive zone coverage, lazy back checks and running around in their own end chasing the puck.

            Along with their compete level outside of Connor. The coach seemed pretty frustrated by the end of the season as the team was not learning.The team as a whole plays atrociously without the puck.

      • Bucknuck

        How about fix the glaring weakness on the team that has existed for all ten years. If that takes one of the core then so be it, but it doesn’t mean the core is bad.

        The team loses because it has a terrible defence. you can’t win in the NHL when Ference, Nikitin and Schultz are your defense miracle cures.

          • madjam

            Your rink dimensions are wrong for one baggedmilk . Not even in NHL is the width only 18 meters . That would be like playing in a hallway . IIHF rules state most are 61 by 30 meters , while minimum is set at 56 by 26 meters , not the 18 you suggest . The wider width is to promote more of a finesse game they feel . Let us not belittle what Hall can do on the additional ice surface , seeing as he is I believe leading scorer of goals in tournament , above the likes of McDavid and rest of Canadian squad , Draisaitl , Matthews , Laine and several other NHL payers throughout this competition .

          • camdog

            “At the first tournament in 1920, there were many differences from the modern game: games were played outdoors on natural ice, forward passes were not allowed,[109] the rink was 56×18 metres (the current International standard is 61×30 metres) and two twenty-minute periods were played.[11]”

            NHL rinks are 26 m wide. That’s from Wiki though. If the rinks were 18 m wide, guys would be getting killed with the speed of the game that it is today.

          • camdog

            You might want to just delete the series of quotes. I really have a hard time believing that the Russian Federation is going to play games on rinks smaller than NHL rinks, that’s not the way they role over there.

      • Oil City Roller

        Ya man, Hall is lighting it up against the Romanian All Stars or whoever they are are playing. The fact that the NHL makes the Oilers play real teams is just more evidence of how biased the league is against Edmonton. Just think of all the sick dangles you could see from Eberele if the NHL let the Oilers play against the Mongolian Mustard Dogs instead of the Chicago Blackhawks.

          • Oil City Roller

            Oh no, I remembered. I’m saying I couldn’t give less rips about this loser consolation tournament. Hall could score 1000 goals for all I care. I want to see the Oilers make the playoffs in the NHL and see Oiler players score actual NHL goals in NHL games.

          • Benny Botts

            Man you are so out of touch. I question your hockey knowledge if you think the IIHF World Hockey Championships is a loser tournament, have a look at the title of the tournament. Take the blinders off man and think before you post. Either put fourth a valid hockey argument or take your trolling elsewhere.

          • Benny Botts

            Maybe if you are from North America, like my original post said this is a WORLD tournament and is HUGE on a world scale. I was in Finland one year when it was on and it was bigger than the Stanley Cup there, it is huge overseas, so to call it a loser tournament is just arrogance on our side of the pond.

          • Oil City Roller

            The NHL players currently in the WHC have lost in the NHL playoffs (or failed to make them), and as such are playing in the WHC as a consolation. I don’t really care if the Finns love the WHC, all I am saying is it doesn’t float my boat. That, and you shouldn’t get to razzed up when Hall scores 10 goals against Balki Bartokomous.

          • Benny Botts

            Who said I was getting razzed up about Hall scoring? I never once put that in my previous comments, have a look…did you find it yet? Everyone has an opinion and if you don’t like the world hockey championships, that is totally fine. But to call it a loser tournament shows a severe lack of hockey knowledge and arrogance.

          • Oil City Roller

            I’ve never said trade Hall or that he sucks. I’m just saying you need to get defence and trading Hall might be a way to do it. But I guess I forgot that you can trade Yak and some twizzlers for Kieth. Obviously. Durrr

      • Bucknuck

        It’s awesome to watch…

        You got trashed for that comment? Unbelievable. What was worth trashing in that comment. That you dared to say something good about one of the top ten left wingers in the NHL who happens to be on our team? Ugh. ~How dare you~

        Makes me question the intelligence of my fellow Oiler fans.

        • Randaman

          The World’s are not the place to be judging players as the competition is not anywhere near what they face in the NHL, Olympics’ or the World Cup.

          I love Hall and don’t think he is part of the problem at all.

          I do however question Eberle’s heart/effort (unless they are in the offensive zone). He is SOFT!!

          Nuge could be a valuable trading chip. He is also SOFT!! Sorry BM. Yak is not intelligent enough for the NHL defensive game. The Russian team won’t even let him play (reason to be determined).

          I love the Oilers and most of the core but don’t demean our opinion just because you are in fan love with the so called CORE!!

      • Stanley

        Yeah Hall is looking great and i am a big fan but you cant disregard the level of competition he is playing against. Team Germany is no St.Louis, hell even team America has a very poor team this year.

    • Bubba Train

      I get up to read this completely reasonable summary from Gregor, decent piece of work.

      And First post about getting flamed if you say anything posative about Oilers players.

      Then watch as it comes true from Oilers Nation trolls. Those that say core is rotten are fools. Posters stating Trade them All are fools. Don’t go back ten years to try and prove your point, just live the here and now. The answer as suggested in the blog is build, build, build.

  • IronX

    All articles are becoming “the core is not the problem”

    “We need to address the blue line”

    “We can’t trade our best player who shoots right and who is at a sweet six million deal”

    “We can’t trade the best two way centre not named McDavid”

    “We need to get a top RHD but we’d be stupid to trade hall”

    “The 4th pick is very valuable, we should only give it away for Drew Doughty or no deal”

    “The core is awesome, all the core needs is to be healthy and a real D”

    “We need change but we should only trade Fayne”

    In other words: patience because rebuilds take time and we are just in the 10th year. Is that you MacT???????

  • OilCan2

    Brilliant Jason!

    Who would have thought a TEAM GAME with a roster of over 20 players would require all of the sled dogs to pull more than their own weight?

    Staying healthy is not over rated. I busted some ribs the last two years running at my hockey game. Pretty hard to score when you’re holding your pillow and trying to breath without flaking out from the pain. I think that’s what knocked Drai down a notch this last winter.

  • @Hallsy4

    I don’t think Yak, Pou, RNH or Ebs will see the ice in an Oiler playoff game. Not saying they are bad, they are good, but the makeup of this team needs different players to win. I can maybe see RNH staying, but I’d guess he’s gone too. Give value to get. I can’t wait until some trades start happening so we can quit talking about it and talk about how well Hamonic compliments the Stud D man, both aquired by shrewd deal of Chi Pete. All praise Bagged Milk.

  • Bubba Train

    Iron X I swear you are paid by Calgary to troll every single Oilers blog. I have yet heard a single posative, productive word from you. If you hate the Iil so much, leave, put yourself out of your misery.