What do we need to do to get this team out of the funk? What? WHAT?
Even Wilson's Leafs have avoided a funk this bad.
I'm past making excuses for the lack of chemistry.
We need ... Emilio Estevez.
He's the answer from above - the Mighty Ducks movie has all the answers we need:
We should all forget blaming Hemsky, Visnovsky, Gilbert, and the goaltending. Souray is playing great. No my friends, we need ... Emilio Estevez.
The tandem of the Edmonton Oilers, Emilio Estevez, and Daryl "Batman" Katz is what we need to turn this team around.
What the heck? Didn't we start this goddamn season with a record of 4-0? Yeah - the talk about good luck and bad luck. But it's time to start playing as a team and the veterans need to do something to help these young guns out of the funk.
I blame it on all the talk about a sophomore slump that the media did over the summer. Bastards.
Vernon Fiddler and Rich Peverly always seem to play well against Edmonton. As I mentioned in a post a long time ago, the Nashville Predators have a lot of local players playing on their team. Scott Nichol, Fiddler, and Nick Tarnasky are all born and raised in Alberta. Jordin Tootoo is famous for being the first Inuit player to be drafted into the NHL.
The Oilers probably have more:
a) skill b) size c) speed
but MacT called out his team after the last game for not having enough "grit" or "pluck." All these local players seem to have a lot of pluck. Kyle Brodziak is one who ended up on the Oilers. It will be interesting to see how the Edmonton Oilers react against the plucky Predators Edmontonians.
Conclusion: Oilers unleash the inner beast and send the Predators packing in their home town
Here is my first ever Top 10 Prospects Chart: This is not based on any fancy scale or criteria like Guy Flaming's or Lowetide's (yet) and is just based on who I feel could come up to the Oilers and actually perform / fit into a role right away. This is mainly based on (in decreasing level of importance):
a) prior NHL experience b) success at the minor pro level (AHL, ECHL, etc.) c) Oilers' current club needs d) ability to improve (or amount of progress since draft day and/or signing) e) success at the amateur level (OHL, CHL, etc.)
1. Rob Schremp
Comparables: Sam Gagner, Jussi Jokinen, Jiri Hudler, Phil Kessel
2. Theo Peckham
Comparables: Jason Smith, Brooks Orpik, Igor Ulanov
3. Gilbert Brule
Comparables: Mike Peca, Niko Kapanen, Pascal Dupuis, Radek Dvorak
4. Ryan Potulny
Comparables: Raffi Torres, Jason Chimera, Scott Hartnell, Niklas Hagman
5. Liam Reddox
Comparables: Ethan Moreau, Matt Pettinger, Chris Clark
6. Slava Trukhno
Comparables: Patrick Thoresen, Valteri Filppula, Tomas Plekanec
7. Sebastien Bisaillon
Comparables: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Campoli, Phillipe Boucher
8. Riley Nash
Comparables: Paul Stastny, Mikko Koivu, Chris Higgins
9. Bryan Young
Comparables: Scott Ferguson, Alex Henry
10. Devan Dubnyk
Comparables: Jason LaBarbera, Olaf Kolzig, Sean Burke, Darren Puppa
Honorable Mention: Tyler Spurgeon (who has been more impressive on faceoffs and puck battles than Ryan O'Marra)
The reason I didn't include Mathieu Roy and Jean-Francois Jacques is due to the fact that they haven't been entirely healthy for long enough periods for them to be considered "ready to contribute." If they had been, however, they would've pushed Bryan Young and Riley Nash off the list.
Feel free to chip in on whether you agree or disagree.
When we lost Rob Daum and hired Kelly Buchberger, there was some worry from the Oilers fanbase that the team was hiring all defensive guys while trying to build and all offense type of team. We felt the PP might suffer. Though elements of that worry were right, it actually turned out it was the defense that ended up suffering. Though things are starting to click in Oil Country and the team is starting to play better, I still think we need to get past the lucky 4-0 start and get back to thinking of ways to improve the team's performance on the ice. Offense and defense are intricately connected and here's why:
If a team consistently fails to gain the offensive zone, loses the puck near the blue line, or can't get a cycle going in the opposition zone, you will end up getting outshot every game. This is especially if you play every D-zone situation as if it were a penalty kill because you're having trouble leaving the zone.
So far Souray, Visnovsky, and Grebeshkov have done amiable jobs at floating the powerplay. But for a team that has over 10 million committed to special teams specialists, our team deserves better. That's why I propose...
It's time to hire Denis Savard as an assistant coach.
That's right, Denis Savard. I think the Edmonton Oilers under Daryl Katz are past days of the old boys club as evidenced by the hiring of Steve Tambellini. Denis Savard has spent a lifetime playing and coaching offense, and he did a great job bringing up the kids in Chicago last year.
Of course while MacT has a pretty good resume with developing diamonds in the rough (Brodziak, Stortini, Nilsson), he has also been known to do some roughing of diamonds in the clear (Schremp, Conklin, Rita). You could also argue that Savard's reputation was helped out by two wonderkids named Toews and Kane - but that's besides the point. If you asked someone at this point last year who would be better - Kane or Stamkos, they would've chosen Stamkos. Steve Stamkos got his first point of the season last night. And for some players it takes them longer than others. Joe Thornton, Ales Hemsky, and guys like David Vyborny took a while to live up to expectations, so developing Toews and Kane were no guarantees.
But prospect development is more in the realm of Pendergast and Truitt's responsibilities. I prefer Savard as a PP and offensive specialist and I think he would add a touch of perspective and offensive flair to this all "Oilers glory days" bench-crew.
David Staples talks about Arthur Farrell's book, Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game and he describes a type of player named the cringer, in relation to MacT throwing the team under the bus and calling out his players to perform on the upcoming roadtrip. Not that I totally disgagree with David, but I don't think this Farrell comparison is useful.
Here is the definition of a cringer according to the aforementioned book:
"Pluck is an essential to a man who aspires to perfection in the game. ... The calculating player often saves himself by avoiding unnecessary dangers, but occasion demands, at times, a fast rush through a 'bunch' of fighting players, through swinging, smashing sticks that, in noise and movements, resemble a threshing machine, a desperate jump, or a block of the puck, at the expense of a sore punishment, to score or save a single goal, and the risk must be run."
Why is this a problematic definition?
Don't get me wrong, I love the bull-in-a-China-shop type players like Ethan Moreau, Erik Cole, Rick Nash, etc. etc. and shot blockers like Smith, Greene, and Volcheckov etc. etc. So I agree and disagree, and I disagree mainly because...
Any book written about the Montreal Shamrocks is a little outdated, in my opinion. The Montreal Canadiens are celebrating their centenniel season, are they not?
Can you imagine the nightmares MacT and Huddy would have on defense if our D-core started pinching at every potentially retrievable puck? Well, we'd end up giving up a lot of shots and taking bad penalties on odd-man rushes, not like that doesn't already happen...
1. when it isn't the playoffs, the reward doesn't outweight the risk of pinching EVERY time and injuries play a big factor 2. if you rushed at every challenged puck, then you'd get more D-men injured on icing plays and on plays similar to the Brandon Sutter/Doug Weight incident where puck possession is a close race 3. does that make Wayne Gretzky a cringer?
The point is taken: there are times to be cute with the puck (you hear that Visnovsky?) and there are times to just hammer the message home with your solid play (you hear that Pouliot?).
However, if the point is taken too literally, then you get the Sheldon Souray syndrome, where every single pass to the point is a chance for #44 to blast it indescriminatly at the opposition shot-blockers. If the point is taken too literally, you get guys getting anxious on the PP when they should be setting it up, nice and calm. If the point is taken too literally, you get OT giveaways by guys trying to rush it into the O-zone before clearing the D-zone.
The results? We don't like 'em.
So, what is the problem with Farrell's defintion, after saying all that? The problem is that while it clearly defines the kind of player Farrell likes, he says "there are situations when [player] should do [such and such] to improve the team's chances" and yada yada yada. The fact is, this is an open admission that when playing hockey, it's not all about brains and it's not all about brawn. It's about BRAIWNS (it's some sort of mix between brains and brawn) and it starts with a healthy breakfast. What's his point? Farrell's point is that the player should use discretion when deciding when to make a strong push through the opposition wall.
If we were going to doll out lessons on discretion, it won't help the Oilers' players. I'm sure they're all old enough to make decisions, but if they were all helpful to the team we wouldn't have a coach at all. The coach is the mastermind of everything on and off the ice. We don't need more options on the PK - we need less. We don't need more choices on the PP - we should focus on simplifying it. We don't need more complications in the lineup - we need stability. We need to get our game plan to execute - or else we'll need to change the game plan. Options? Give me the 2 points, and I'll be happy.
From what I interpreted, Farrell wishes for more one-dimensional players - and maybe some of us feel that we don't have enough pluggers on the team. That's not the kind of players we are collecting on this team we are building in Oil Country, though we already have Penner, Cole, Pouliot, Brodziak, Pisani, Moreau, Stortini, MacIntyre...
Perhaps a clearer message to send is this: fight for the puck, or lose the game. Plain and simple. None of this hockey philosophy crap about which kind of player does what. Otherwise we're all going to start sounding like Don Cherry, and we wouldn't want that. Just plain go out there and win the game, or MacT will scratch your ass from the lineup, because he does have plenty of options. Plain and simple.
According the the Boston Bruins PPV announcer, they have SUPERMAN in net. Apparently its true, because the Oilers were shut out this game - with a little help from Sam Gagner and the Bruins PP. Roloson played markedly well.
In this photo, Tim Thomas watches the puck fly by him. For the longest time, the former Oilers goaltending prospect thought he would watch his career fly by him as well. As you are all probably familiar with by now, the Thomas story involves a lot of perserverance, determination, and patience. In the last few years Thomas has established himself as the #1 in Boston. This year, it's not so etched in stone as Fernandez has come in to Boston as the #1b, perhaps to push Thomas to play better, who knows.
The only thing worse than watching your career fly by is watching PPV that is not worth your time. For those of you who were not at Rexall Place, tonight's game was on PPV and I've got to say I wasn't too impressed with the team's uninspired coverage last year on the PPV. But as a result of my unwillingness to commit to feeding the profitable yet lacklustre Oilers PPV machine, I decided to stream the game online from a popular P2P streaming forum. To be fair, I haven't watched an Oilers PPV game yet this year so I will be curious to see how they have changed it for this 2008-09 season.
To be fair, the shots were pretty close by the end of the 3rd but the Bruins still outshot the Oilers by a considerable margin. Still, it was an entertaining game and the 1-0 score is misleading.
Turns out the Boston Bruins have poor PPV coverage as well. Not only are the announcers heavily biased in their coverage of the Bruins they also get excited (they sound like they peed their pants) over seemingly unimportant plays which confuses listeners/watchers when the play is actually worth getting riled up for (think 630 CHED but on crack and from Boston). Furthermore, the Boston announcers called our rink Rexall Center. Come on buddy, you're a professional - get it right. This is down the same school of the announcers who have poisoned the airwaves with mystery players such as "Sam Cogliano" and polluted the press with the likes of the infamous Ladislav "Smead."
The Oilers performance tonight:
The Oilers started the game getting heavily outshot in the 1st period due to some spirited D coverage by the Bruins. Once the Oilers got into the flow of it, Hemsky and Cole were starting to zip around in the 2nd period. Grebeshkov and Gilbert looked great again.
3rd period: Roloson keeps the team in it and Cole, Moreau, and Cogliano make a lot of great plays going into the Bruins zone. Hemsky beginning to play a bit more of backchecking, stripping Nokeleinen of the puck at one point. The announcer did not feign to describe the great goaltending on this night. Roloson robs Savard at one point. Sam Gagner was mostly unoticable but he did pull of some sweet moves in the last minute of play. More on Sam Gagner's play later. All examples point to one thing: team chemistry and consistency are starting to find its way into the Oilers play.
OT: Sam Gagner's play leads to some mayhem in the D-zone. Oilers fail to kill off the subsequent penalty. Sigh.
At least we got 1 point, eh?
The D in the Oilers defensive zone is still a bit worrisome in terms of challenging shooters, though. I don't know if anybody else notices this, but we just let people cycle around the outside forever and ever and ever... this is like a PK, except it lasts the whole game. Sure, we haveMacT and Huddy who know all about playing defensively. But there has to be some time in the D-zone when someone has to pull a Regehr or Smith and strip a guy of the puck with strong physical play? Otherwise the opposition is going to tee up one-timers from the slot all game, and that sure caused us to bite the bullet in the Vancouver game. I'm sure a small change to the D-zone coverage could prevent the Oilers from being outshot every game.
Boston Bruins Announcement Gems:
(1) OH MY GODDDD.... SUPERMAN! (2) Coming straight to you from Rexall Center... (3) Steve Staios was coming in the back door HARD...
Brent Sutter, a hockey pseudo-legend, spoke about the Doug Weight hit on his son here. Here is obviously peeved about it, and relates the following quote:
It was a hard hit, a legal hit ... but something has to be done about players being hit in the head while in a vulnerable position.
Sutter nails it on the dot. Also quoted:
If a player got hit in the head, whether it was clean or dirty, you knew what was going to happen. It was going to be a long night for the guy who did the hitting. And the next time, it would be a long night.
The game today is better in a lot of areas. But in some areas, it's not and it's troublesome. There is a lack of respect for opponents' players. It's the way the game is played today, and there are significant injuries. It is what it is.
Unfortunately, the league is better at wiping out one thing and not the other. One thing is a deterrent to the other thing (aka big hits draw revenge so thus prevent stupid plays) but if you remove the balance then there will be too much of one thing. In a weird kind of way, the senseless violence balances out the senseless violence: revenge brawls or fights send a message about decking vulnerable guys on the ice. Not that I would suggest the Canes go and target Doug Weight, but it is a pretty effective deterrent to on-ice headshots. And obviously more effective than anything the league has tried recently...
Doug Weight, as well all know, is a classy player. But his hit on Brandon Sutter was not a classy move. The former Oiler captain was himself a victim of a big hit in the 2006 SCF that knocked his shoulder out and him out of the remainder of the series. There's Jim Rutherford, who is upset about the NHL saying that it is "concerned about headshots," when he contends that they are cleary not concerned.
There are many opinions on the headshot contorversy: there's the old school club, who believes all hits are legal as long as there's no elbows or leaving the feet involved, and then there are those who believe all headshots should be eliminated.
We all know big hits can change a game. Whether this is Kariya recovering to become a cult hero, or Stevens knocking Lindros out of the game. Whether this is Stoll getting demolished by Markov leading to a Datsyuk goal, or Ruutu removing Jagr from the Olympics. However, as we all know not all of these hits were helpful to the team of the guy who laid the big hit and most, if not all of the time, the guy who gets hit leaves the game with a concussion or a major injury. Sometimes, that one hit stays with a guy for the rest of his career.
To be fair, sometimes players don't mean to hit other guys in the head. Such as Pronger on McAmmond (SCF) and perhaps Weight on Sutter. But the bottom line is, should somebody lay a big hit on someone who has their head down?
Does it matter who does the hitting: whether it's Ruutu, Weight, Armstrong, or Stevens? Does it matter who gets hit: Kariya, Letowski, Lindros, or (Mathieu) Roy? I don' think it matters who is involved with the hitting or getting hit, but the NHL seems to think so. There is no real standard when it comes to punishing players. If you're a golden boy like Pronger or Stevens, it's A.O.K. If you're Downie, Simon, or (insert name of relatively unknown plugger here) you will be punished accordingly. I think Rutherford has a point. It would like to give the impression it cares by punishing the outcries against unpopular players and holding back on popular ones.
It's not really about who is doing the hitting/getting hit as much as it is about the attitude that is associated with the hitting.
We've all heard the argument about "late hits," "interference," "leaning with the shoulder," and "leaving the feet." It really does come down to a split-second decision, as many commentators on the subject have suggested. Perhaps we should change the way we react to this situation so that people can make better split-second decisions. Erik Cole broke his neck and other guys have had career threatening injuries. How long before someone gets paralyzed or loses their life?
I think it's stupid to suggest cracking down on headshots: those events would still happen anyway in a contact sport. What I do propose, however, is returning to an environment of mutual respect: NHL players shouldn't be hitting other guys who have their heads down. This is about discretion and picking your battles: you don't have to go out and destroy everyone you hit.
The weather is unpredictable, as evidenced the wicked wind that swept through the city of Edmonton today. Unpredictable also is the game of hockey.
Key reasons for an Oilers' loss: a) the loss of Strudwick and Cole (and along with him all the positive momentum) b) not converting freebies (Nilsson, Pouliot, and Nilsson again) c) an overall fatigue from playing 3 games in 4 nights
There were 3 or 4 times (at least) where the Oilers didn't capitalize on their chances where they should've or could've that would have totally changed the tide of the game. Not that this is trying to place blame in any way, but it is definitely a learning experience for the Nilsson's and Pouliot's for whom we have been singing praise as of late.
Erik Cole's looked really good on the RW and I think Alexander Edler agrees. After Cole and Pouliot's chances, it could easily have been 3-1 Oilers at one point. But it didn't end up that way: Cole got kicked out for a stupid jersey rule that not every ref calls nowadays anyway and Pouliot shot it off Luongo and then the post (yes, consecutively) despite the indescribable openness of the open net. It was wide, wide, wide open, and he had all, all, all the time in the world.
Playing with Hemsky, Nilsson fanned on a one-timer play, and he did so again playing with Grebeshkov. Sure, these things happen all the time in tight situations. Sure, some people will say Grebeshkov should've shot the darn biscuit. I disagree. The only thing that's hard to swallow is missing tape-to-tape plays. You gotta convert those buddy! When Grebs dekes out the whole 'Nucks squad and leaves you an empty net to convert, you gotta convert. Same with Pouliot not converting with Luongo down and out. When you have all the time in the world, you gotta roof it buddy.
Nevertheless, Nilsson and Pouliot were still among the better players out there tonight.
Also, Mattias Ohlund is a freakin' coward. He had his chance to defend his honour against MacIntyre when Steve took a run at him, but no, Davison did that for him. When Cole decided he was game to fight Ohlund, Mattias decided not to take off his helmet equipped with a face mask. For fuck's sake, if you're going to fight a guy who's game, take off your freakin' helmet.
The momentum was not seized and the 'Nucks capitalized on their somewhat marginal chances in the 2nd. We did manage to come back to tie it 3-3, but the 'Nucks eventually took it. Why? Capitalizing on chances and playing consistent hockey.
Another dinger for me is Souray's discretion (or complete lack thereof) when it comes to shot selections. A lot of D-men will shoot or one-time shots at the net on the powerplay if it means they can get a deflection, a rebound, or if they intend to slap-pass it for a play. When it comes to Souray, he shoots everything really hard, all the time. Sure, we know you can shoot it hard Souray. But a) hitting the net is important, and b) shooting it in a situation where it's an obvious blocked shot causes turnovers and odd-man rushes in the opposite direction, where the puck shouldn't be going on your own powerplay. Visnovsky is guilty of this too, but Souray is notoriously guilty. If you're blocked, don't hammer the goddamn biscuit. You have options at the piont even if you're blocked, Sheldon! You can a) walk around the guy after faking the shot or b) slap-pass it to someone for a one-timer or c) shoot it to a marginal scoring area in the goalie's range to create a rebound chance.
And geez, if you're gonna shoot it intentionally at a 'Nucks player blocking the shot, at least break something. I'll take an ankle or knee.
Grebs had a few bad turnovers tonight too, but Mr. Lube and Tom Gilbert bailed him out a couple times - so life's good in the D-zone.
Last thought: yikes, Stortini and MacIntyre are running into each other on that line. I think it's time to split 'em up and use em as deterrents on separate lines.
What is that? A fishing hook? A hockey stick? The head of a smiling sperm whale? Proof of Global Warming? No, silly. That's the Vancouver Canucks' excuse for a hockey team logo. Now feel free to point and laugh.
Prediction: I made predictions for both teams yesterday but now I'm gonna commit to the Oilers for a comeback win.
The key for the Oilers: playing a solid, simple game where they grind it out for the full 60 minutes; finding chemistry early and sticking with the formula; surviving the 1st period assault from the Canucks; be as solid on the PK as on the PP (we have 10+ million commited to special teams specialists); best players must be best players: expect Garon to play as he always does against the Canucks
The key for the Canucks: with weird things happening all week and coming off a unsuccessful 6 game road trip, they need to come out hard early and set the tone; roll 4 lines; timely saves from Luongo; secondary scoring from Wellwood (repeat performance)
The Oilers have looked as dreadful as the Canucks lately, but the Oilers are playing the 3rd game in 4 nights unless something as weird as Todd Marchant's goal happens tomorrow, expect the Canucks to have the early jump (very similar to the Calgary @ Edmonton last weekend)
Oilers player picks:Pisani, Hemsky, Cole update: I forgot that Pisani will be sitting this one out with an injury. Looks like I'm going to have to pick Penner and Moreau instead of Pisani and Cole Cancucks player picks: Bernier, Wellwood, Raymond (always seems to perform well against us)
Palin is a bad omen not just for the USA, but for the game of hockey
Manny Legace on his minor hip injury:
"She's been pretty good for our game," Legace said. "I'm starting to like her more and more. No grudge."
- Manny Legace on Palin carpet mishap
Yeah right Manny, you're not allowed to complain about how she almost broke your hip so you came up with this safe answer for the media. Legace would leave the game in the 1st and the Blues would go on to lose 4-0 in the game.
Here's an idea... hockey ceremonies should lay out skate friendly red mats instead of the red carpet. Screw the celebs, the Blues have a season to salvage. The Blues don't want to end up like the Flyers, losing their first 6 games after another Palin-related event in which she dropped the puck at their season opener.
Why did the Flyers win tonight? Simple. The curse passed on to the St. Louis Blues. Mike Richards and co. breathed a collective sigh of relief tonight.
If you want to do the Blues a favour, invite Palin to come drop the puck for your team. It will be dandy.
Oh, if only hockey were as simple as football. Every time you crossed the blue line you'd score a goal and Wayne Gretzky's records could be plausibly shattered by a Georges Laraque. Alas, that is not the case, and all the better for it. The nuances of the hockey lineup and getting the "right mix" for overall team chemistry is one of the more interesting aspects of acquiring offensive rushes and for breaking up the ones coming back your way.
Dan Tencer reported some lineup changes on his Oilers.nhl.com blog. And who said "bloggers" never did anything useful?
All I can say is: we told you so. The online Oilers community has been asking for Penner to be given a shot at top 2 line duty for weeks now, not at the detriment of the off-season acquisition Erik Cole but for the benefit of the entire team's chemistry and overall competitiveness. Furthermore, seeing Nilsson's improving play we've been asking for him to get moved up to the top line for a shot, though I still prefer keeping the Kid line together and moving Penner up to the 1st line. We'll have to wait and see.
I think this works with Cole playing Pisani's role while we split up the team's roughnecks Stortini and MacIntyre so we can plausibly role 4 lines. Also, by putting Penner on Hemsky's line we can re-establish that net presence we lost when we moved Penner to the 3rd line while Horcoff and Hemsky can play relatively unharassed. I agree that Nilsson has earned his 1st line ice time but I believe Penner will be more effective at that 1st line LW role as the team is built now.
I'm also going to go a step further and suggest defensive lineups:
I'm curious how Visnovsky will fair without Souray. I'm also curious what Smid can do if he is given a chance to play with Souray. Will this mean Souray will get the freedom to be more offensive? Or will Souray drop back and let Smid do his thing. I don't think that together, Staios and Visnovsky will be as inclined to give away the puck as much, because unlike when Staios is paired with Smid or Strudwick, he is not the offensive guy in that pairing.
Sure, there's the age-old argument that coach MacBlender will mix up the lines anyway, which seems to be a convenient argument both for those in favour and against line changes, but the truth is, no matter how much MacT moves the lines he still sticks generally to the original lineup as drawn for the pre-game.
Oilers lose 2 straight; Drop games by collective score of 7-1
As reported by Dave Staples, Ray Ferraro blames part of the loss on Wednesday to the lackadaisical play by some players such as Ales Hemsky. Certainly, it doesn't help your team's chances of mounting a comeback or maintaining a team backcheck, but when the score was 3-1 already and Hemsky's not the only one taking a break, the outcome wasn't supremely altered by this individual play. Might have been an extension of the problems all night. Certainly, he needs a kick in the pants and playing with a defensively reliable centerman in Horcoff is supposed to help. We'll see if adding Nilsson will improve this further.
Are we trying to hide Hemsky's lack of defensive responsibility, you ask? You bet we are, and it's not necessarily all a bad thing. There's a reason why the Paul Coffeys, Sergei Samsonovs, and Jaromir Jagrs play with good, reliable players. Not because they're overtly one-dimensional but because they are more offensively-minded than defensively-minded. You can teach defense, but you can't teach offense. That's why guys like Hemsky will slip up in the defensive zone, occasionally and unfortunately.
Then there's the qualm about the Oilers goaltending and being outscored 7-1. Certainly, Garon's play last night wasn't stellar at all times but there were a few times when he kept the team in it. Roloson's play on Wednesday garnered 27 saves in a full 60 minute game, which is good for a 0.900 SV%, which isn't poor by any losing goaltender's perspective.
The root of the problem ofh being outscored 7-1?Offense and special teams, and not goaltending. If you acquire guys like Souray, Visnovsky, Cole and you beam about Hemsky the Kid line and their collective skills, you better deliver. Getting scored on in the PK doesn't help either, but what can you do, Steady Steve isn't around to mind the guard. How's that Strudwick fellow doing without Staios, anyway? If MacBlender really thought goaltending was a problem Roloson and DesLauriers would not be getting their alternating games in.
The key: scoring early obviously didn't do anything in Colorado, so I will say keeping overall team balance; letting the goalie (presumably Garon) get a feel for the puck early How to do it: shake up the lines (being done) Will it work: if they Oilers find consistency
The prediction for Saturday night: If the Oilers win: 4-2 (EN goal) If the Canucks win: 4-3 (OT)
The last time the Oilers won 5 in a row to start the season, the man pictured above was playing the role played by Steve MacIntyre today. Alas, the day when it happens again will have to wait for another season. Back then, I was not yet even born and the Oilers were in the height of their young dynasty. That was an elite team that dominated.
Our modern Oilers team, though 4-1, has won by a combination of luck and good goaltending. Some may find that Roloson was a bit rusty. Others will point to the fact that he made 27 saves. Who's to point the finger anyway? Getting shutout is a matter of lack of offense, not exactly Roloson's area of expertise. The Oilers are good now, but not great yet.
30 years changes a lot, but the game of hockey, despite new CBAs and new NHL's and all sorts of weird marketing campaigns, has not essentially changed. What was important in the first decade of Oilers hockey is equally important in its third: team chemistry and overall consistency are still indicators of an elite level team.
The Edmonton Oilers have to get a lot better to reach that elite level - but elements of that kind of team chemistry is all that is missing. All the parts to be a very good NHL team are already here or can be easily acquired with what we have, the only remaining considerations being the next year's salary cap.
Among some of the questions we need to address:
a) What's going to happen with Roloson and DesLauriers? How many games should for Garon should that translate into? b) Is Pisani going to stay in the C position all year? Or are do the Oilers have plans to acquire a veteran centerman? c) What are the chances of Cole resigning long term? How long of a term should that be? d) Consistency: we've acquired talent, got younger, got tougher - but we're still struggling to play consitently, even though we still have a winning record. Winning records at the beginning of the year can mask potential problems down the road, however. (I remember one season the Oilers started October at the top of the NW division and then subsequently failed to make the playoffs. Correct me if I am wrong).
The Edmonton Oil Kings acquired Torrie Jung from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a 6th round pick. This is the second time Jung has been traded this week, as he was acquired from the Kelowna Rockets by Lethbridge also for a 6th round pick. Details here.
Jung sat on the bench and backed up Cam Lanigan tonight as the Oil Kings extended their losing streak to 4, in a 2-0 loss. The Oil Kings have lost by scores of 7-5, 6-3, 7-2, and 2-0 over the stretch of the 4 games. It seemed obvious to some that they needed to upgrade their goaltending. Torrie Jung is a 7th round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have a bit of trouble with acquiring or drafting goaltending themselves...
Will Torrie Jung help this ailing Oil Kings squad? His statistics would not suggest this to be the case, but this is not a judgment on his skills in any way. On an Oil Kings team that mustered 10 shots in a 2-0 loss, goaltending has proven to be the least of their concerns. I suddenly feel a world of sympathy for Cam Lanigan.
Quiz: Name two competent goalies not named Nikolai or Darren who have played for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
We're all familiar with the story - Dwayne Roloson is acquired from our NW division rival, the Minnesota Wild in return for a 1st round pick (Trevor Lewis, LA) and a 3rd round pick (Michael Forney?, ATL) which were pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that helped Minnesota acquire Pavol Demitra that following draft.
Dwayne Roloson then went on to play 19 games for the Oilers, going 8-7 with a 2.42 GAA and a .905 SV%. Decent numbers. But people were shocked that Edmonton had give up so much to a NW division rival to acquire what they thought was a questionalbe #1. Boy were they wrong.
In the playoffs, the Oilers, with the stellar goaltending of Roloson, knocked off one giant at a time. First it was omnipotent Detroit Red Wings. Then it was the come-from-behind thrashing of the San Jose Sharks, another cup favorite. Lastly, it was the domination of the powerhouse Ducks.
We'll never know what would have happened if Marc-Andre Bergeron, Andrew Ladd, and Dwayne Roloson never got tangled up that day. We'll never know what would have happened if Jason Smith hooked down Rod Brind'amour or if Ty Conklin would have shot it up the ice instead of leaving it behind the net. We'll never know what would have happened if Jussi Markkanen had replaced Roloson that night.
What we do know though, is what did happen. The Oilers fell behind 3-1 and became one of the few teams to come back to force a game 7, with the help of some ballsy goaltending by a certain Jussi Markkanen. We didn't make history as the third team to come back from the 3-1 deficit, but we sure gave had a hoot trying. The Oilers Cinderella story of a cup run was over and we all felt drained. It was beautiful, but no cup.
A couple rough-and-tumble seasons later the team is looking up and the career of the soldier who saw us through the whole mess is looking down. The emergence of Garon as #1 and DesLauriers as a legitimate option in the future has raised questions about Roloson's role on the team.
As I had predicted, he is slated to start tonight in Chicago (PPV) or though there's a chance it's tomorrow night in Colorado (TSN) instead. Hopefully he gets to wear the Grant Fuhr replica mask soon. Why? Because, as always, there are rumblings about his future in Edmonton and about whether it his time here is limited.
I think Garon and DesLauriers have some valuable lessons to learn from Roli's bag of tricks from the spring of '06, for their own future Oilers' cup runs.
Memorable Dwayne Roloson Moments:
1. Spring 2006, 2nd round - Game 3 - 2 OT, Sharks @ Oilers view
Dwayne Roloson robs Jonathan Cheechoo on a one-timer, point blank. Maybe it was coming on Cheechoo's forehand side, and he suggested he let up on the shot. I think Dwayne Roloson's glove disagrees mightily.
The save prolonged the game, and in 3 OT Shawn Horcoff scores the goal that ends the game. Instead of going down 3-0, the Oilers are back in it at 1 games to San Jose's 2. Oilers go on to win 4 straight to take the series.
The Game 3 recap has conveniently disappeared from the Oilers website and I was forced to link it to Game 4 instead. 2. Spring 2006, 3rd round - Game 2, Oilers @ Ducks
Roloson conveniently shakes off his mask a few times in Game 2 of an Oilers 3-1 win. This peeves the hell out of Randy Carlyle as Roloson goes on keep his crease clear. Oilers go on to win the series 4-1.
3. Spring 2006, 1st round - game to be determined, Wings @ Oilers
Dan Cleary wraps it around the net and Roloson, standing erect and hugging the post - keeps it out somehow! He never gives up on the play and because he squeezes his pads, hugs the post and turns his skates, he keeps it out. That's right DesLauriers - that's how you keep the Bertuzzi's of the NHL from scoring from that area!
4.Spring 2006, 1st round - Game 1, Oilers @ Wings
Dwayne Roloson makes 54 saves in a 3-2 loss to the wings in 2 OT. Maltby deflects the puck past Roloson and it's probably a lucky goal. The Red Wings take home the win - the Oilers take home the message: we can beat the Wings. MacTavish adapts the "trap" in order to make Roloson the center of the defensive system and forces the offensive threats out to the brinks of the defensive zone. Works like a charm. Strangely enough, Roloson performs so well with the system that his SV% is better without Pronger on the ice!
And take home the message they did indeed. Edmonton won the next 2 games on route to eliminating the President's Trophy winners in 6 games.
5. Spring 2006, 4th round - Game 1, Oilers @ Hurricanes
Andrew Ladd steams into the Oilers zone with the puck. Marc-Andre Bergeron, unable to control him, attempts to derail him by pushing him into the post. Unfortunately, Ladd falls gratuitously onto Roloson's blocker arm and right leg, effectively knocking him out of the rest of the playoffs. Have more Dwayne Roloson moments? Drawing penatlies on Red Wings? Batting pucks out of the air? Complaining to refs? Post 'em and leave 'em in the comments section!
Lowetide finally spoke up about the issue outside of "comment-space", here. He waited until both sides of the story came out, and I commend him.
Also hilarious, was this post by Andy Grabia, regarding JJ Hebert's comment on bloggers.
Here's a quote from LT's comment-space:
Devil's advocate mode ON:
When someone enters your home without permission, does it matter whether they are polite or not?
There is clearly an "economic value" to live-blogging from the pressbox. For anyone to do it without asking for permission first seems naive.
That said, the Oilers probably could have been more gentle with the said blogger, but said blogger seemed NOT to have a good understanding about how to "police" his own activity. He made a poor presumption.
How much economic value live-blogging has is irrelevant I think. As long as the game of hockey lives, it will always be more economically important than someone's description of it.
It may be the tip of the iceberg (in terms of blogging, bloggers, and/or the growing Oilers coverage on the internet). I like to think of it like a comparable to the whole Copernicus story - sometimes the truth works itself out one way or another.
I like the fact that LT took his time to post on this while people everywhere (including myself) were running around with their heads chopped off due to the confusion. I think now that some of the controversy in the issue was due mostly to:
1) the Edmonton Oilers that delayed their response, which meant people would either have to believe D.Berry's story as it was (initially) or question his creditiblity (which also happened) 2) the MSM that pointed the finger at bloggers 3) the bloggers that pointed the finger back
I realise that posting all that stuff about "Oilers view fans as enemy" that I did falls under that category #3 as well but I don't regret it. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, even if it involves your favorite hockey team.
Follow up: Also, check out Deadspin's new article.
This is one of Edmonton's prodigal sons. His name is Jay Bouwmeester, one of the most highly touted defenseman in his decade, let alone in his draft year.
I've decided to make a post of all the players who have ever avoided playing in Edmonton or wanted "out," either because the city had a bad reputation over things other people said about the city, the team, the hardcore fans, or the media here. Here is the list and feel free to comment if you feel I've forgotten some:
1. Chris Pronger
Pronger-gate was a fiasco that involved everything from illegitimate love affairs to conspiracy theories. More maddening was the fact that Chris Pronger wanted out days after a heated run at the Cup that had brought the city together in one giant circle of community identity.
What did we get out of it: Lupul, Smid, and some 1st rounders What did we lose: 2 years to developing a new D-core What that means today: Smid, Plante, Cole, etc., C.P. plays for the "Not-so-mighty" Ducks of Anaheim
2. Jay Bouwmeester
Edmonton's prodigal son has been quoted time and time again as having rejected any plans to play in Edmonton. This past summer some were circulating rumours that he has had a change of heart. I believe that to be more fiction than fact.
I watched him at practice at the U of A in September and he is a beauty of a player: crisp oulet passes, great skating, and always attentive. That being said, he's got great skills and all that, but if he can't handle the pressure of the media and fans in Edmonton (as some have suggested) then it is plausible to suggest he can't handle it in any major market like Montreal, Toronto, New York, Detroit, or Dallas, and will spend the rest of his toiling days in the bowels of the NHL - the Southeast Division (though the rejuvenated Caps would have something to say about that).
I believe that to be untrue. Anybody who wants to play in the NHL will undoubtedly be in the spotlight even if at a limited role. Perhaps it's his way of avoiding Lupul-syndrome or Daigle-disease or a bout of Legein-itis: he was highly touted coming in and perhaps he's still adjusting to a career in the big leagues.
Whatever the case, it would be great to get a quote directly from Jay-Bo about why he doesn't want to play here instead of hearing the same old Eklund-based speculations.
What did we get out of it: Speculation What did we lose: Nothing What that means today: The Oilers are 4-0 without Jay-Bo, imagine with him in the lineup!
I have class now, I'll post more tonight.
3. Jaroslav Spacek
With Pronger tee-ing it up for him, Spacek's one-timer was nasty - almost as nasty as Marc-Andre Bergeron's one-timer. He was a great passer, though a bit dangerous in his own end at times.
What did we get out of it: Nothing What did we lose: Tony Salmelainen What that means today: Tony plays for the Swiss-A league on Sevette Geneve, Jaro Spacek is one of the mainstays on the Sabres' blueline
4. Mike Peca
He wanted out of Edmonton - and who could blame him? His family (according to word of mouth) wanted to be in the Toronto area and he needed to oblige. This also was another nail in the coffin of the 05-06 team.
Mike Peca recently got suspended for "touching" a referee. Would he consider a return to Edmonton as our 3rd line center?
What did we get out of it: Nothing What did we lose: Mike York What that means today: Peca traded in his maple leaf for a bluejacket, Mike York is playing for the Syracruse Crunch of the AHL (CBJ)
5. Mike Comrie
Now here's a touchy subject. Another victim of conspiracy theories, combined with a contract dispute, meant Comrie was torn out of the pages of "hometown hero" and tossed to the wolves. How fair that is now is still a question in my mind. But if the rumours were true about what he did, then I'm all for it. Tommy Salo was my favorite, after all.
What did we get out of it: Jeff Woywitka and some draft picks What did we lose:team chemistry, that season ended with a crazy 16-game run at the end of the year w/Petr Nedved that almost ended with us sneaking into the playoffs What that means today: Jeff Woywitka, Rob Schremp, Ryan Potulny
6. Mike Comrie
Now here's a touchy subject. Another victim of conspiracy theories, combined with a contract dispute, meant Comrie was torn out of the pages of "hometown hero" and tossed to the wolves. How fair that is now is still a question in my mind. But if the rumours were true about what he did, then I'm all for it. Tommy Salo was my favorite, after all.
What did we get out of it: Jeff Woywitka and some draft picks What did we lose:team chemistry, that season ended with a crazy 16-game run at the end of the year w/Petr Nedved that almost ended with us sneaking into the playoffs What that means today: Jeff Woywitka, Rob Schremp, Ryan Potulny
7. Sergei Samsonov
He was a key addition for the playoff run that culminated in Hemsky's goal against Anaheim on the 2nd last game of the 05-06 season. Samsonov wasn't as equally effective in the playoffs but he was still a key offensive player. The question of intangibles always lingers around Samsonov and has followed him even after he left to play in Montreal, Chicago, etc.
What did we get out of it: Nothing What did we lose: Marty Reasoner What that means today: Reasoner signed in ATL, Samsonov was dealt to Carolina where he is restarting his career
And in case you are new to this whole thing, go here or here.
Also, this is the last blog entry I am going to dedicate to this issue unless (a) more information comes out or (b) a useful new perspective or outlook is available.
If I blog any more on this my hockey pals will probably bust my balls.
Elliotte Friedman puts it much more eloquently than I've read elsewhere so far. It helps to put things in perspective, whereas other members of the MSM or not-so-"MS"M have either tried to shift the blame, point fingers, or ignore the issue altogether.
The most useful, fair and objective responses/coverage regarding the issue that I've read or received from members of the MSM or from the blogosphere were from these following people:
1. Elliotte Friedman, various publications 2. David Staples, Cult of Hockey/Edmonton Journal 3. Lowetide, Lowetide 4. Matt and Andy Grabia, Battle of Alberta
The most interesting responses/coverage:
1. Robin Brownlee, OilersNation (I didn't agree with everything he said, but at least he was objective about it) 2. Grease Trap, Oilblobosphere 3. David Staples, again 4. Chris and Mike, Covered in Oil
The least useful responses/coverage:
1. Jason Gregor, Team 1260 2. I don't like to put him up here, but Wanye Gretz's latest article didn't help me make up my mind at all on the issue, though it did bring out the positive side that the Oilers are freaking 4-0 right now, and also he is still my favorite writer at OilersNation (not including Lowetide, if you include him) 3. Loxy, Hot Oil (sorry Loxy! but I didn't write a letter and I don't think it would help as much as blogging away at the issue!) 4. Marcel Mutoni, Deadspin - this guy confused the issue for a lot of people, including yours truly
One thing's for sure: I don't know why I didn't read Cult of Hockey more often before, but there's some good stuff on there. I'm a new David Staples fan.
Disagree. I don’t WANT more rigid impositions placed on internet writing, I’m simply recognizing that they exist in cases where credentials are involved.
But earlier he said: Really Robin?
The blog Covered-In-Oil was not connected to whatever other work Dave Berry was doing. Nobody here expects blogs to overtake true journalism, the 630 CHED radio network, or mainstream live hockey. Thus, it is silly to say that if a press media guy uses formal language in the regular MSM he can't use informal language on a personal blog. It would be foolish to suggest that professional journalists use the same language in emails as they do in articles, and the same story goes for blogs.
Updated 2:59 PM
Robin continues with:
I don’t know how the blogger was treated by Oilers PR staff that night because I didn’t see it first-hand. Both sides, obviously, have their versions of what went down.
As has been pointed out, members of the media have issues with the Oilers PR staff from time to time, and that’s the case with every NHL team. It’s part of the job and the interaction that takes place. They have rules and expectations. We have jobs to do.
As chapter chairman of the PHWA in Edmonton in past seasons, I’ve been in the middle of those scrapes many times on behalf of writers over access to players, making sure the dressing room is open after the game within the prescribed time, etc etc.
While I’m not all that familiar with Berry’s work, I’d hate to think a disagreement with a member of the media relations staff would lead him to quit blogging. That seems like an over-reaction and very thin-skinned coming from someone who, from what little I’ve read on CIO, writes with a robust, in-your-face edge to his work.
Well I get Robin's point, but since David didn't quit doing what he was doing before (it was a short hiatus, at its furthest extent) it's not really valid to question his ability to man-up to the situation. Not that I want to defend it either (since he needs to defend himself) but I don't think he's done anything excessively whiney as some people have suggested. The majority of the outcry has been from other bloggers, and not from David himself. Some may have taken it too far (calling for heads to roll) whereas some have taken it too lightly (quote, "I don't give a flying ****") but nonetheless, I think it's still a pertinent issue.
Wanye Gretz of OilersNation does have a good point though... the Oilers are 4-0-0 to start the season, and the last time that happened I wasn't eveen alive!
Quotes from Chris and Mike of Covered in Oil on the OilersNation comment area, who hit it ON THE SPOT:
What Dave said, and what I think:
Lastly, I want to clarify something for the people who have encouraged me to keep fighting the good fight, or some variation thereof. Though I appreciate your sentiments, to me keeping on is fighting the wrong fight. I understand the issues related to bloggers, their value and their growing importance in the media world. As Matt at BoA (here) so eloquently put it, though, that's not the drum I'm interested in beating. I respect the fact that the Oilers are a private organization who are free to issue their press passes to whoever they see fit. While I'm disappointed with their stance on bloggers, I also respect the fact that I violated their rules, even if I wasn't the only one to do it. What I don't respect is the fact that I was treated as someone acting maliciously or underhandedly; as I explained in an e-mail to the person I dealt with, I would have hoped the fact I was nothing but apologetic and cooperative was some indication of good will on my part. Naivete may not be an excuse, but it's an explanation, and at no point did it seem to me like the organization was interested in hearing even that. You're free to disagree with me all you want on this, but I feel a pretty good measure of character is how you act when you're in a position of power, and to me they acted with irrationality and pettiness; had they reacted with even a hint of either magnanimity or grace, I would have had no problem, even if their final decision was to revoke the pass.
- Taken from CiO
He's right about one thing: it's not about getting retribution or fighting the system or anything silly or revolutionary. It's about fairness in action; in policy; in countenance - I think this is the least any human being can expect from another human being.
Sports bloggers everywhere are talking about what happened to Dave Berry from CiO. Hockey fans from far away as Pittsburgh, Washington, L.A., and Tampa Bay have picked up on the story. This only further reveals the hypocrisy of the action of the Rexall "GestapOil" employee(s) who were involved and/or called the shots on Dave. Some non-hockey blogs have even picked it up.
To reiterate: this is not a call-to-arms; this is not a bunch of disgruntled bloggers yearning for a fight against our team (God no, anybody who would suggest it would be nuts). No, this is asking for what is fair for someone who has worked hard for what he has achieved and didn't deserve what he got instead.
And remember Oilers' bloggers, you could be next.
Here are some links to further coverage of the story I fished off other blogs:
Hot Oil - I don't want the press pass and other musings - here - and here Jean Shorts and Bagged Milk - here and here Oilblobosphere - here AOL Sports - NHL Fanbase - here Deadspin - The Edmonton Oilers Will Not Tolerate Your Live-Blogging Shenanigans - here Yahoo Sports - Puck Daddy - here The Blueland Chronicle -Oilers Brass are Petty Bureaucratic Tyrants - here Edmonton Journal - David Staples: Cult of Hockey - here On Frozen Blog - Caps and Oilers More Than A Conference Apart - here Barry Melrose Rocks - here Black Dog Hates Skunks - A High School Party Game - here Pension Plan Puppets - Rallying the Base - here Five Hole Fanatics - All class, all the time - here Sabretooth's House - Covered in Controversy - here Out Of Left Field - Covered In Oil embargo: The screwballs have spoken - here Still No Name - Because sports blogging is serious business - here The Program - This one hits hard... - here Here Come the Bruins! - Oilers: "Fans are just not that important to us." - here
This quote is taken from Covered in Oil and I think is the shortest, most concise representation about why fans are offended and why bloggers are essential to small-market teams like our Edmonton Oilers:
For some reason, I'm not all that surprised given the NHL's ineptitude when it comes to connecting with it's fans. The reality is that bloggers reflect the views of the fans for the most part, and don't churn out the same mundane articles that we get from MSM. Good on you for keeping the blog rolling.
Cliffster is right about one thing: sponsored articles are usually mundane, unchallenging and are not accountable to fans. Bloggers usually get the short end of the stick because most of them are anonymous. But nonetheless, we are more or less accountable to each other and to the teams we love: not out of duty, but out of respect. Respect should be mutual.
(1) Physicality - The CBC Hockey Night in Canada crew noticed the same thing I noticed: Erik Cole still hasn't quite fit in perfectly with the top line as of yet. But regardless of this, he led the team in hits tonight and was a presence all over the ice.
I don't think it would matter so much where Cole plays as much as he keeps it up until he find some chemistry somewhere on the team. THE SLAW HAS ARRIVED AND HE'S GONNA HURT YOU!
Speaking of physical play - great fight between Prust and MacIntyre. Calgary's BP has got some balls and it has nothing to do with spaghetti, trust me. To go up against a guy who's got 75 lbs on you is something else. Standing in there just so he can pummel your innards is another. If BP evades the IR after this one, kudos to him. THE CAVEMAN HAS ARRIVED AND HE'S GONNA HURT YOU!
(2) Missing Sheldon - For the first time this season, Visnovsky looked very human. Grebs looked a bit shaky last game and he looked very shaky to start this game. Him and Tom Gilbert got out with their skins intact though. (phew!) For the first time, we saw what Lubo plays like without that physical presence that Souray provides. Smid played decidedly well; he made safe plays, didn't overcommit to any pinch and was sound in his own end. I think he showed why I always say he plays better without Staios. Staios and Strudwick, with the exception of the own goal (that Strudwick put through Garon's 5 hole - and then proceeded to bank off his skates into his own net...) looked good tonight from the 2nd period onwards.
(3) 3rd line versatility - The core of the Oiler's depth showed why this Oilers team was missing a beat without the Captain and Fernando Pisani in the lineup last season. Even without Gagner in the lineup, this pesky pair has forechecked the business into bankruptcy in opposition defensive zones and wrecked havoc on their outlet passes. The ability for either Penner, Pouliot, or Brodziak to slip into that 3rd line RW slot has shown how valuable this pair is to the team. What does this mean? It could mean that Erik Cole is headed to the 3rd line if he doesn't find chemistry within 2 or 3 games. If the 3rd line can find chemistry and ignite the flame under Pouliot and Penner, they can definitely do it for a crash-banger of Cole's quality.
(4) Roloson dressed over DesLauriers - As I predicted the other day, the decision to get JDD dressed as a backup could indicate that he was starting his NHL career. It happened.
This time, I'm guessing that MacT plans to start Roloson either next week in Chicago or Colorado in one of the back-to-back nights. MacT might keep going like this until one of the backups establishes themselves over the other. And plus, you can't make a move with the goalies unless they get some evaluation time.
Plus, it would be a shame if Roli didn't get a chance to don that Fuhr replica mask!
(5) Holy speed Batman! - Is it just me, or did Nilsson and Cogliano actually get better this game than they were in the previous 3? If they can play this well without Gagner, I can't wait til Samwise gets healthy and plays on the kid line again! Backchecking. Forechecking. Playing 4-on-4. Nilsson's ninja breakaway skills were wasted as he almost lit it up too. Cogliano breaking in on the RW and making Kipper look like a fool was reason enough to cream one's pants. Candy is dandy - but Cogliano's speed is godly. Move over, Matthew Lombardi!
- Team Extra (this week, it's Minnesota and Buffalo)
- (+/-) Gold Award
- Goalies for Poolies
It's the Minnesota Machine - Move outta the Way!
Anyone who doubted that the NW division was the toughest division in hockey - has not been paying attention to the Wild starts to the season (pun intended) for the Canucks, Oilers, and the Wild. Though the Flames and Avs didn't have such a hot start, they sure put in some real battles in the last few games as well.
The amazing part is that the Wild have done this much so far without some key players. Thus far, the Wild have seen injuries to Marian Gaborik, Marek Zidlicky, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, John Scott, Owen Nolan, and Kurtis Foster. Tonight, the Wild shutout the Lightning and won in a shootout - a tight 1-0 decision. Technically the Bolts shutout the Wild too - but all that matters is who won the game.
How are they doing this?
Like always, the Wild have a tight team game based on a tight defensive system. The fact that Antti Miettinen and Mikko Koivu are on pace for career years doesn't hurt, either. Koivu has 9 points and Miettinen has 7 points and a shootout winner. The only tandem doing better right now is the dreaded Dubinsky-Voros combination, who have also come straight out of nowhere. But back to the Wild: I love the fact that I picked Koivu in my pool. I traded Cam Ward so I could pick up Garon and Koivu - and it's worked out dandy.
The question now is - what happens when the injured players return? I would anticipate that Jacques Lemaire will not get the itch to fix anything that aint broken - meaning he will make the most minute changes to his lineup. That could mean that Gaborik will not restart on the top line. Won't help Gaborik to sign any long-term contracts, mind you.
I wish Minny all the best because they have shown that a good team game can overcome adversity. But when it comes down to the NW division title and playing against them - I hope they goddamn well lose to us. Pretty please?
Guys who you want on the ice - even if they won't score
(1) Michael Komisarek (+6) - 1 point (2) Dennis Wideman (+6) - 1 point (3) Andrew Ference (+5) - 2 points (4) Colin (John) White (+4) - 1 point (5) Willie Mitchell (+4) - 3 points
And the winner of the very first Bi-weekly (+/-) Gold Award goes to...
Michael Komisarek 1st (+/-) Gold Award
Just because he's not gonna beam down on you on the breakaway, just because he's not gonna outskate Marty St. Louis or deke out Mathieu Garon - doesn't mean he's not gonna HURT YOU.
That's right, MK is one TOUGH CUSTOMER.
You can't hurt him, either. That's because he's GOD ON SKATES and he's gonna SMITE YOU WITH HIS DEFENSIVE PLAY.
Check us out again in a coupl'a'weeks for the next (+/-) Gold Award.
Lindy Ruff's Team Turning Heads
While Minny and the NY Rangers were ripping it up last week in the limelight, the Sabres and Oilers were slowly giddying-up for a quick start - that nobody expected!
The Sabres have lost a game now in the shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers. They're still unbeaten in regulation, but at least that proves the Oilers are better. (Take that, Darcy Regier!) Ignoring the fact that I wouldn't touch someone named Darcy with a ten-foot-pole (Tucker, Regier, Hordichuk...) I must admit that Lindy Ruff is one of the best coaches in the league. The Sabres surprise is due in no small part to him.
Credit is also due to both goaltenders, the re-emergence of Thomas Vanek, and the scoring of Kotalik and Pominville. The veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen has also found his game. Now the question is: can they keep it up?
The disappearence of Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht is rather worrisome, but the fact that guys like Afinogenov have picked up their games means that Roy and Hecht cannot be far behind. Why do I know this? Because Roy and Hecht are historical performers.
My guess would be that this is signs of things to come for the Buffalo Sabres. When your secondary scoring is Derek Roy, Jochen Hecht, and Maxim Afinogenov, I think you're gonna be in fine shape.
Established #1's get De-established
The first couple of weeks have been a dandy. We've seen quick starts by surprising teams followed by slow starts by supposed contenders. Brodeur is looking to toy with Roy (yes, I realise it doesn't rhyme) and his wins record, and no wonder people are asking: how many shutouts would a Sawchuk get if a Sawchuk played today? Regardless, the once-thought-untouchable record of Mr. Terry God-of-Goalies is now being challenged by none other than Mr. Devil himself. Luckily, the hockey gods were kind to me in the auto-draft and they blessed me with Mr. Devil. Combined with Mathieu Garon, I'm wrecking havoc with only two goalies in a three goalie league and the extra forward Mikko Koivu is making me grin from ear to chin.
Now, who's on the way up, who's on the way down? Furthermore, what can we expect out of some goalie tandems that have faced some controversy or adversity? Read on to find out!
On the Way Up/On the Way Down
In a tough sports city like Philly, you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT drop the ball. When you're the goalie and the team leans on you like an old man on his crutch, you can't let the team down.
Martin Biron is letting this team down. The season's early, it's not a problem, right?
The Flyers have a backup in Antero Niittymaki who's stellar play in the past, who has seen some decent time since coming up from the AHL has been set back by injuries in the past. Recent play has shown that he is more than just "an option" to the team. This indicates that, at least for the time being, Biron may be backup.
If you have Biron, expect him to lose some minutes to Antero.
Thus far, Peter Budaj has been atrocious and expect him to get worse, with the Canucks and Flames clawing onto the Wild and Oilers. Surprisingly, Raycroft did pretty decent in his duties and his Avalanche debut. Until Peter Budaj can shake the questions of his #1 status, expect Raycroft to get some more starts.
(3) NY Islanders
Rick DiPietro has shown to be injury-prone in the past. Whether this is due to Wang protecting his assets or legitimate injuries - who knows eh? All that can be determined is that Joey MacDonald has made it to the NHL and he's making some noise to boot.
In 2 games, McDicks has a .889 SV % and a 3.25 GAA. Yeah, I know: it's not stellar. But neither is Rick DiPietro. Until the Islanders can get their 15 year man in the plans, they're gonna play MacDonald.
Yikes! Auld is already working on making my prediction come true. When I heard that the Senators had signed Auld - my first thought was "watch out Martin Gerber." He didn't perform well in Florida, it's true. But my oh my, he has shown in Vancouver what he can do if he's given a chance to shine.
And shining is what he's doing now. Expect him to take the #1 spot in the rotating door of Senators' goalie tandems.
We love Dwayne Roloson. He took us to the Cup dance in 2005-06 and with a little bit of help from Jussi Markkanen we almost tasted the sweet victory. Darn those 'Canes. That being said, if you go to SportChek or any other place, it would seem that the managers have overstocked #35 jerseys and t-shirts. Coincidence? Hardly! We all know he's making the most money in the crowded crease and we all know that Roli the Goalie is up against the ropes.
We love Dwayne Roloson. But love doesn't win games and it doesn't ease salary cap burdens. Somebody's gonna get cut and I'm gonna bet it's Roloson eventually. It's fine and dandy that we have an experienced duo but when the team is not willing to give you the starting or backup job outright - you know something is up.
We can't blame Roli though: he's a victim of timing. He showed in the latter half of 2007-08 that he's still got the skills to pay the bills. But the stellar play of Garon and the emergence of DesLauriers means that there's not going to be much room for him in the future plans of the team. Hopefully, he gets to wear his Fuhr mask before we say goodbye.
We love Dwayne Roloson. That being said, my future-telling teddy bear says pick DesLauriers over Roloson in the long run.
Ranking of the steadiest goalie tandems in the league
(1) Evgeni Nabokov / Brian Boucher
The Vezina nominee has a reliable backup in Boucher. Boucher has plenty of NHL experience and knowing his role behind Nabokov will mean his brief experiences will be stellar. Ownage will ensue.
(2) Carey Price / Jaroslav Halak
I decided at the last minute to pick the Sharks' tandem over the Habs' tandem. This is due to experience points alone. Price's rise to fame last year was no fluke, and Halak has also regained his form. The Habs have always been skilled at scouting and drafting goaltending prospects and this tandem is the envy of many teams in the league.
(3) Henrik Lundqvist / Stephen Valiquette
The journeyman Valiquette has found his home - backing up Lundqvist, one of the busiest and most skilled goalies in the league. Lundqvist has had some injury problems before, so having a guy who plays well but knows his role on the team is a bonus. Thankfully, it's a good team. And Valiquette isn't a passive contributor to the team's success. He's out there stopping pucks - occasionally. The Rangers are smart enough not to let their goalie get worn down by the regular season grind.
(4) Ryan Miller / Patrick Lalime
Patrick Lalime is making a comeback in Buffalo. The season is young but he's off to a good start backing up Miller. He's already played 2 games and as of this moment is leaguing the league in save percentage (not counting Boucher, who has played only 1 game). Ryan Miller is #2.
(5) Vesa Toskala / Curtis Joseph
There are no questions who is #1 in Leaf-land, but due to the dire situation that is the Maple Leafs' season, expect CuJo to get some respectable playing time. Toskala is human, too.
I've always been a believer of Ty Conklin's. I was mad when he was pulled in favor of Mike Morrison in a shootout against Phoenix a few years back. Then I was mad when Ty and Jason Smith fumbled the winning goal of Game 1 against the 'Canes in the spring of 06. But all the indications are there that this is his time.
Roberto Luongo - Schlumertoluongo: Ty Conklin has already done that whole "I'm a goalie and I'm a captain at the same time" thing. He was captain of his college team. Been there, done that. Goalie captains were SO nineties.
After leaving Edmonton with his career in shambles, he flirted with success in Columbus. It was fleeting. He had a chance in Buffalo. The time wasn't right and Miller was on a roll. He was a force along with Malkin until Fleury took his job back. It's a shame with how well he played in the Winter Classic and all. Could have been the hangover from the better version, the Heritage Classic. Bygones are bygones. For Ty Conklin, the time is now.
This doesn't guarantee that he will take Chris Osgood's job in any way. But what I'm saying is, his chances are infinitismally higher now than they were in Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, or Pittsburgh. No way jose, this means I think Ty Conklin, if he keeps his nose to the grindstone, may actually emerge as Detroit's #1. He is the younger and better half of the Detroit tandem and only time will tell if the gods of hockey will be kind to him - finally.
The team overall - is great. The goalie tandem - not so stellar. There is no clear cut boundary between Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas (one of my favorites). Neither of them have the age advantage (both aged 34), though Fernandez has more experience being in a 1A/1B system whereas Thomas loves calling the shots. Will Thomas retain his job? Or will Fernandez wedge his foot in the door and steal in the neighbourhood of 35-41 games?
What in the name of Jesus H. Christ is going on in Chicago anyway? Doesn't anybody want an overpriced backup who is slightly outplaying the goalie they brought in to replace him? God, the NHL can't appreciate Buhlin walls when they see them.
Let's be honest, so far, Lehtonen has sucked. When are we supposed to see the superman version of the goalie the Thrashers drafted instead of this pretender in his place? So far, he has been outplayed by Johan Hedberg. He hasn't done anything this season to indicate that Hedberg shouldn't get more starts. Could this be bad news in Atlanta?
(5) 3 headed monster (aka 3 way tie between Tampa Bay, Anaheim, and Florida)
On none of these 3 teams have we seen any starters or backups establish themselves. The teams are hanging on by a thread and the goalies have been dragging them down. Avoid these goalies at all costs.
Expect the Nod
Due to start a game soon:
(1) Dwayne Roloson (2) Kevin Weekes (3) Erik Ersberg (4) Danny Sabourin (5) Pekka Rinne