Monday, February 28, 2011

D-Train Departs

But which way is the train traveling?
Dustin Penner was shipped out today, ending his tumultuous three-and-a-half year relationship with the Edmonton Oilers franchise.

The actual deal shakes out to a 1st in 2011 (likely to be bottom 15), Colten Teubert (a 13th overall selection in the 2008 entry draft), and a conditional 3rd rounder (could upgrade to a second based on LAK playoff performance). Teubert played for the World Juniors twice, so he's a guy I've had a small amount of time to view, and from what I do remember, he was definitely a guy who would place extra emphasis on physical play whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Before I dive into the numbers - which I will below - I thought it would be interesting to see what the consensus reaction was from around the internet:

David Staples from The Cult of Hockey:
This trade fails on a number of levels.
* The Oilers have moved their only real power forward-type, and remain stocked with finesse wingers.
* Penner is one Oiler who can actually face tough competition and come out on top.
* The Kings get the best player out of this deal. The Oilers get kind of what they got for Ryan Smyth, a whole lot of kinda, sorta, maybe promising players/picks, but nothing substantial.
* A young and awful team just got younger and more awful.
* Penner had made it clear he wanted to be an Oiler.
Tyler Dellow from
...the trade of Dustin Penner for the Kings’ 2011 first round pick, Colten Teubert and a second/third round pick, depending on conditions, is just another point that underscores the bleakness of existence as an Oilers’ fan at the moment.
Benjamin Massey from
Don’t buy Oilers tickets, don’t buy Oilers merchandise, don’t get NHL GameCentre and watch Oilers game on it. Don’t watch Sportsnet West; stream all your Oiler games illegally. If they start building a downtown arena, burn it to the fucking foundations. If this team goes bankrupt, hopefully Katz will sell and we’ll get somebody in charge who knows what he’s doing.
The reaction from around the blogosphere seems to oscillate from utter, abject disgust to mild dislike. Personally mine would be of mild dislike, as I don't feel that Teubert is a prospect that projects to be a blue-chip NHLer. That said, Penner definitely was having an off season, and with his generally inconsistent play, he would frustrate almost as much as he would play solid two-way hockey. In other words I think the Oilers lost the trade with a gambler's chance of coming out ahead. What are the odds of coming out ahead? I don't know... One in three? One in four?

I think what's more interesting is the overwhelming consensus that Penner is somehow irreplaceable on the Oilers roster. I guess the real question with Dustin Penner is which version are you going to get? Some Penner numbers after the hop.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 62: Battle Of The Bigs

Meet the newest NHL goaltender, 309'8" Cthulhu
In what was likely the tallest combined goaltending height in an NHL game ever (157 inches of raw, sexual goaltender), an unlikely hero emerged. Ben Bishop, the Denver, CO goaltender, shut down the Oilers offence all night - all 39 shots worth - for his first career shutout. There wasn't a tremendous amount of high-quality rubber that Bishop had to stop, but there was a good volume of C+ and B- chances. On the other end of the ice, it seemed like every chance the Blues were getting were in tight and dangerous, and that was combined with a decidedly sub-par effort by our own local Godzilla, Devan Dubnyk. That calmness in net and the quiet mechanics were still on good display here but his rebound control was a little off, and his reflexes a few milliseconds too slow. It's not like he had a lot of help on the night, though.

Coach Tom Renney in his presser said:
We needed to get emotionally attached to the game.
I couldn't agree more, Tommy boy. I have been harping on the fact that the Oilers play a more up-tempo, inspired game when a bit of crimson spray has painted the frozen sheet. They seem to press a little more vigorously when a little old-school Batman onomatopoeia enters the color-guys vocabulary. That didn't really happen until Strudwick sent Cam Janssen some knuckle-grams. Janssen is a noted fist-bopper, but Strudwick actually beaned him pretty good. Considering Strudwick's a washed up 7th Dman, and Janssen is known for his powerful fisticuffs, it was a good result for Struds, and I gave him the edge. Unfortunately it was way too little, way too late.

The CHE line was buzzing again tonight, and I felt like they were probably the most consistent line on the ice. I definitely notice Cogliano being put in a lot of situations where if he makes that one high-skill touch in the offensive zone, Eberle or Hall are going to get a real 5-bell offensive opportunity. This is exactly my fear with Cogliano: he's got good mid-level offensive skill, but when you need to break that mystical goal threshold, he's got to be making touches on the puck at least as good as Hall and Eberle. I don't think he really brings that to the table anywhere nearly as consistently as the other two rookies. Considering Tambo has almost traded him twice, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was the necessary sweetener included in a deal to land a high level prospect. Or perhaps someone wants to do a young Dman with upside for a young forward with upside? He finished the night -2 with 2 shots, and the line as a whole was -6 with 10 shots.

Our top line finished a combined -2 with 10 shots as well, so it wasn't like they weren't creating tonight. It just seemed like everything was just a not quite enough to break that goal threshold. Renney had a strange quote about Penner's play, where he basically said that aside from one game, he could not have asked more from Penner's effort over the last half dozen games. Although I think he's played a couple decent games back-to-back now, he had been bouncing on my shit-list trampoline for a while before that. Previous to his last two, as I had pointed out, he was 0-1-1 -2 with 4 shots in his last 5 games - it was a JFJ'esque stretch. The thing is, when he has been on the last two years, he might as well been created in a Japanese lab with Lindros DNA, that's how good he has looked at times. Whether it was smashing medium sized D down low, and taking it to the net hard or threading it through legs-like-clockwork to a waiting teammate, D-train can be an absolute force when he wants to be. I just can't imagine a universe where he was on all the time. He would seriously have Lindros like numbers, how's that for a magniloquent statement.

Magnus Paajarvi had another decent game, with 5 shots and a -1 in 14:34 of ice, and it seems like every time I watch him I just can't seem to find any possible way he won't be a great NHLer. His stride is effortless, and while he definitely needs some time to self-tweak his offensive instincts, he cycles the puck fairly well and will be a real Cthulhu to handle after he fills his frame out a little more. He's been fairly cold recently (1-1-2 -2 in his last 10), but Gagner/Omark have also struggled recently, and his small-rink game isn't refined enough right now to create a lot of solo-offence.

All in all, Renney's branding of the Oilers effort as vanilla was a fairly astute judgment, and when you don't play with much gusto versus a team desperate for points AND your goalie has an off night (a lot of junk through the wickets), it's a recipe for a thorough drubbing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 61: Drive It Like You Stole It

The title is also the name of a cool Glitch Mob song
The young Oilers are a team that takes its fanbase on a stolen car ride: brief spurts of exhilarating excitement, separated by long stretches in the slammer of suckitude. Last night was more 'stolen car' than 'slammer of suck' to be sure. The Rooks were moving in straight lines, and my favorite pumpkin-head, Penner, finally got of the snide to eclipse J-F Jacques recent 1 assist in 5 games run. Devan Dubnyk also played a great game, reminding everyone that the kid has serious game, and constantly reminding me that I have looked foolish being a fanboy for Deslauriers. To my credit I was never anti-Dubnyk. I just thought Deslauriers had a lot of untapped potential if he figured out his mechanics a bit better.

But I digress; Even being outshot 39-31 (29-16 after the first two periods), I felt like the Oilers played the Avs fairly evenly after an underwhelming opening frame. This is borne out by the meticulous stats kept by Dennis King over at mc79hockey, which had the Oilers sawing off the scoring chances after getting hustled at evens 3 scoring chances to 9 in the first.

I alluded to the CHE line (I'm pronouncing it in my mind like the Argentine Marxist revolutionary) playing well, and that's kind of an understatement. The trio combined for 2 goals, 3 apples, a combined +6 with 10 shots. Against teams with weakened immune systems (or shoddy goaltending: hello Brian Elliot), the trio can really cause some havoc. They have been refining their cycle game and they all can pretty much do whatever is required in a down-low cycle. All have speed (Eberle can be deceptive in that regard), all of them can handle the puck (Eberle is a patient lil' wizard at times and Hall is improving all the time), and all of them have been opportunistic around the net recently. I'll probably never be sold on Cogliano as a long term scoring line center, but what can I say while they are producing well as a group?

Devan Dubnyk has almost been entirely a positive revelation this season. Not only has he been mechanically quiet in his net, he's also shown a lot of smarts in how he covers cross-crease and behind the net movement. He uses his big frame to cheat a little bit when covering wrap-arounds as he will drop down into a butterfly even as he's moving to cover the opposite side of the net. This might be a no-no for a smaller goaltender, but when you are a precursor to some kind of gigantism disorder, you present a difficult cliff-face to put a puck over. In the end, he got the doo-doo on his face for the Hejdookie goal (big men always seem to have bullets bouncing in off their building-sides), but otherwise his 38 of 39 (.974) performance was a thing of big-man beauty. Not a ton of XXX chances, but certainly he played a smart game and earned his keep.

Vandermeer improved his chances to get shipped out to a contender with a consistent night. Word on the street that the vultures have been circling from at least a half-dozen NHL clubs, and you almost wonder if Vandermeer's team leading 24+ minutes (+1, 1 shot) were a calculated move from upper management to give his value a bit of a boost. It was the most he's played this season,and actually the most ice time he's seen since April 8th, 2008 as a member of Calgary. Regardless, he played the kind of simple, hard-nosed game that could certainly entice a team to slot him into their bottom pairing rotation for a playoff run.

On the flip side, Elliot looked like a pile of garbage formed into a human in the Avs net. His 39th ranked save percentage wasn't going to improve after his .839 night. I mean all you need to know about Elliot is that his page only has 20 likes. Pffsh, I could get 20 likes on my Pokemon Master Collectors page (Water Lizard assemble! or whatever they say). The Anderson swap looked strange to me earlier, and doubly strange after Elliot reminded me he has trouble handling 55 foot wrist shots aimed at his face.

In related good news, Ottawa managed to stop sucking hind-banana for a game and won 5-1, keeping pace with the Oilers recent 4W in 5 surge. That's guilt free winning baby. Come to think of it, that Anderson deal could be a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 60: Fargo

The Minnesota Wild are like the character Marge Gunderson from the movie Fargo. Boring, relentless, and homely: the Wild are a podonk pregnant sheriff with a propensity for hard-work and getting the darn tootin' job done.

The name with the most sizzle on their roster is the glass man Havlat, who is a top forward but definitely outside of the elite group. The rest of the team is the virtual who's who of ultra-pluggers and responsible and grizzled forwards and defencemen. In many senses, because of their roster they probably have little choice but to stack up the neutral zone and pick off the odd straggling Romulan. Even backstopped by an on-point Backstrom it's hard to figure out how a team that's so average could finagle a Stanley Cup except for the old axiom anything can happen.

Regardless, the 53 goal differential between the two teams gives you a pretty good idea that regardless of the Minnesota team's warts, the Oilers are not going to beat a team like that unless they play a sharp, opportunistic game. It's been a while since I've heard the Sportsnet guys trumpet out the fact that the Oilers haven't cashed on a 5 on 3 all year, so I'm not sure if it's over or such a statistical surety they no longer mention it. Tonight gave the Oilers another long 5 on 3 (about 90 seconds), and aside from a single Foster pop-rock, was easily as ineffective as Paris Hilton wearing crotchless panties. The PP had been a lot better recently, potting 5 PPG's in the last 3 games (of course 3 of those by way of a natural Taylor Hall hattie), but it's never too late for the Oilers to establish the worst special teams in their franchise history. It will take a lot more 0-6 nights I figure, but if any team can figure that out it has to be the Edmonton Oilers.

There were plenty of culprits in tonight's loss. I think my number one goat was Ladislav Smid. There is something about his effort and his downs syndromesque face that seriously make it hard to root against him. I mean the kids got heart, he loves his Edmonton Oilers mates, and I think he geniunely has appreciated the little life he's carved in the barren and desolate landscape known to only as Northen Alberta. According to the original X-Men movie, it is a land of illegal bare knuckle boxing matches, unlimited snow, and burly beer-drinking brutes. But I digress; Ladi is a great guy, it's just a shame he's been a few pepperoni short of a pizza-pop recently. He finished the night with 21+ on the backend, and a -1, but more then that he wasn't very effective. On the Pierre-Marc Bouchard'o'rama goal that sealed the game Smid was mystically attached to Clutterbuck's hip at the Wild blueline with the puck already moving the opposite direction. Forget about Gilbert's fall, Smid should have not pinched in from the neutral zone with such a low percentage puck in front of him. It was a bad judgment call, and certainly was not his only bad one of the night.

I'm sure some Oilers fans are pointed at a the moon, howling their displeasure at his -2, 25+ minute night. He got tap-danced by Havlat for the first goal, and of course looked like a blubbering girl who had a wittle fawl down on the PMB goal. Vandermeer and Peckham managed to blow coverage on the Brodziak game winner (it was not Taylor Hall's coverage as DeBrusk incorrectly ascertained - it was a clear 3 on 3, and Eberle took the left winger). All in all a crap effort by the Dmen both in preventing the triple-X chances the Wild need to win games, but also in moving the puck to our forwards to allow them a chance to actually get the offence on track for a few shifts. Against a team that clogs up the middle and counter punches, it is of utmost importance that you can thread it through the wall of shit the Minnesota Mild throw up.

Some individuals after the hop.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 59: The Natural

On February 17, 2009 Steven Stamkos registered his first career hat trick. It was game 57 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and racked up the 8th, 9th, and 10th goals of the season for Stamkos. Almost two years later to the day, Taylor Hall decided to completely take over the game in greedy-goal-scoring fashion and he too netted a hat trick in his rookie season. It was impressive display by T-Hall - after he pots one its like he's a shark on the ice, and the puck is a bloody giblet of goal-scoring. His whole demeanour intensifies: it's clear he wants the puck, and it's also clear that when he gets the bouncing biscuit, he's going to make shit happen.

Hall's heroics overshadowed the fact that about a minute into the third, things were looking fairly dire for the Oilers. They had generally been outplayed for the first two periods, and coughing up a two-goal lead to a team desperate to make the playoffs did not seem like a winning proposition. That's the beauty of a star player, however. At any time they can take a game over and reverse virtually any form of negative momentum to swing things in their own teams favour.

Both goalies let in a couple of cheesy goals; first Byfugliens knuckle-puck from the point, and then PRV's 5-hole squeaker from the wide right wing. Other then that it was a pretty unremarkable game as far as the backstoppers were concerned. Dubnyk was probably the better of the two goalies, as he made a couple of B grade stops and finished 28-31 for .903. Mason was a bit more maligned, letting in probably 3 of 4 that he'd like back and his .840 was not impressive either (21-25).

Ales Hemsky continued his hot streak with 1-2-3 in 18:29, including a perfect first assist on Hall's second. I can only hope this is inflating his value to the point where we either get some gem of a prospect or he's simply too expensive for another team to acquire. The magic is back in Hemsky for whatever reason; I'm guessing a lot of recent success is simply a fact that he's comfortable in terms of his line-mates, ice-time, and roles on the ice. I'm sure some interested teams are forming saliva-puddles on scouting reports right now.

Following the sentiments of Debrusk during the Sportsnet broadcast, Liam Reddox was playing in beast-mode this afternoon. His waterbug stature allows him to constantly disrupt backend connections as well as puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the first forward touch on the wall since he closes in so fast. I guess the coach agreed with both Louie and I, as Reddox saw some time on the 2nd line after being such an effective part of the fourth line. For a cheap, bottom 6 guy, Reddox has definitely provided everything we could ask for at this point. What's probably most amazing about his effort tonight was the fact that he was very noticeable in only 7 EV minutes.

Finally, in a tiny piece of sad news, the Oilers climbed out of the basement pending the results of the Sens-Leafs game that is currently underway. Like I've stated in the past, there was no way the Oilers could be that bad for that long when they were rolling out a fairly solid set of forwards on a nightly basis. In my opinion drafting second is likely to net a player of roughly the same impact as first, so I won't be worried until NYI starts an ECHL goaltender (they've played 6 goalies so far this year).

Erik Johnson Packs His Bags

Normally I only cover Oilers stuff, but this Erik Johnson/McClement vs. Stewart/Shattenkirk trade is not only a blockbuster, but one that seems to be fairly unbalanced after I dive into the numbers below. Here's the whole deal:

To The Colorado Avalanche

To The St. Louis Blues
The conditions are in regards to the St. Louis draft position this year. If they finish bottom 10 in the league, both picks are in 2012, simple as that. At first squint the deal may look to be fairly balanced, depending on your outlook. On one hand you have what seems to be the best player in the deal heading to the Avs, and the old adage is that whoever gets the best player wins the trade. On the other hand, you might know that Stewart has been something of a revelation in his first 100 games or so, and Shattenkirk is piling up points. I think either team could make a strong case for one side to be getting the better of the deal, but after I examine the numbers after the hop, I don't really think that is the case.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 58: One For The Money, Two For The Show

After a relatively dour and acerbic center section, the Oilers have finally managed to achieve a small modicum of success. Les Habitants are not a team that are in the leagues upper echelon, but they certainly play a consistent enough game to give them full value for their 69 points and are all but assured a berth in the floppy, sloppy east. The Oilers got out-shot, and marginally out-chanced after a strong first period, but in the end, we managed to put away our chances while Montreal flubbed breakaways, cross-crease slam jobs, and a couple of twister sessions in the Oilers crease. I think it's quite likely that if the Habs had potted even one of those grade A chances I'd be back to status quo here, but they didn't and again I get to talk about some positives.

On the positive side of the ledger was my favorite gap-toothed baby-faced assassin, Jordan "Upstairs in a Hurry" Eberle. It was tough to tell from the replay whether he actually did snipe his goal top cheese or simply seven hole on Price, but regardless, his presence of mind to flip it up in tight was classic goal-scorer's instinct. Since coming back from injury on February 4th, he's posted 4-4-8 +2 in 8 games, while averaging about 17 minutes and 2 and a half shots per game. You kind of get the feeling that maybe if Eberle hadn't missed 13 contests from a slimy Kotalik czech, we'd be talking about Eberle as a final ballot Calder guy. As it stands it would take a momentus run of basically PPG play by Eberle to have a shot, which is unlikely on a lousy Oilers team, but still he remains one of the few reasons to watch Oilers hockey.

Hemsky continued his strong play as well, moving about the ice in an economical fashion, and once the Hab's D-core started slowing down he basically had his way with the puck and where it was to be delivered. I've said it a million times, but I will re-iterate: if Tambellini is going to move Hemsky this trade deadline, it needs to be for an overpay. In other words a solid, young roster player, a top prospect, and a 1st rounder. Will teams pony such a package up? I don't think it's too likely, but if a bidding war breaks out, who knows. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, a GM said that Hemsky and Penner are in play, but Tambellini is wanting way too much. I really hope that is the case, as he's been a top 20 scorer since the lockout with a pretty awesome 324 points in 353 games (0.92 ppg) while facing tougher opposition.

Finally, the top performer for the game was the Slovakian Wall (notice I'm upgrading his country with every positive performance). In a twilight zone moment, Khabibulin played nearly as well as he had at the start of the season (remember the 4 zip drubbing at the start with the Eberle ultra-shortie? Talk about a million years ago). There was a lot of buzzing-bee-fucks in the Oilers crease tonight in the form of some midget Canadiens and a couple of larger variety wasps. I'm not sure the Habs goal should have even counted, as Pouliot gave Khabibulin a pretty good jimmy-leg while crashing the crease, essentially jarring the puck free. Anyways, he made a shitload of grade A stops and even though I've basically lost all hope in him becoming any kind of consistent, stalwart goalie (see: approach contract value), he definitely has the ability to pull the old magic out of his ass once and a while. If the Oilers are going to play spoilers, he could have a big part in that with a mini-run of above-average performances.

It was an entertaining hockey game overall, and after swilling from the bottom of the Oilers spit-jug for a dozen games or so, it was refreshing to get a free-flowing balls-to-the-wall game on the ice with minimal interference from the striped jailors. I'll be the first to suggest that with the Hab's D-core that decimated by injury they either need to make some moves or pull another rabbit out of their ass come playoff time, as they do not look to be in a good place to stop even the most anemic offence (see: The Edmonton Oilers).

Individuals after the hop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 57: Oh Me So Chorney

Mam, I find your pantaloons to be both stylish and titillating
After receiving a fairly public tongue lashing from the various parts of the Oilersaurus (think the Transformer made out of 5 little Transformers), it was unsurprising that the Oilers would come out and play a fairly complete game. Not only is there only so much shit that a team can take without getting a little belligerent, there is also only so much abysmal play an NHL team can produce consecutively while playing guys like Eberle, Penner, and Hemsky.

There genuinely was a sense of turning a corner there right before Whitney went down, enough so that the most hardened, jaded fans had to admit there was improvement. Then when Whitney's tendon decided to funky-cold-medina out of its groove in his leg, the Oilers went into a precipitous tailspin, culminating with a 4 zilch whitewashing at the hands of the Ducks. I wrote probably one of my harshest postgame breakdowns as a blogger, perhaps a little over the top, but certainly justifiable and heartfelt. I was getting sick of watching the team that I cheered for. They simply weren't doing enough: they weren't mean enough, couldn't defend well, and ultimately were making Oiler-watching a chore rather than a joy. At the very least I had been hoping for some fire-wagon hockey, instead of was getting the excitement of tapioca pudding in a cafeteria line.

The game tonight was pretty much a script written by Michael Bay - minus 4000 tons of TNT exploding in a slow-motion pyrotechnics display of ludicrousness to obscure the fact that he can't make films. The Oilers had been struggling on PP (really, you exclaim, shocked at this revolutionary piece of information), and potted 2.99 PPG's. The Oilers top line had gone cold, especially Horcoff (0p in his last 5), which produced 5 points and a +3 combined. Khabibulin, on most nights, looked like a bag of whipped crap, but he came though with some HUGE early saves and finished 24 of 25 (.960). Finally the little Chorney that could potted his first NHL humdinger, the game winner, and as far as I'm concerned, the point at which the ice tilted towards Dallas for good.

They outshot, -chanced, and -hit the Brad Richards'less Stars, and after a couple of stone-jobs by the Northern Estonian Wall (yea, he's been that impressive), it really seemed that the Oilers were the better team on the ice. What's probably the most amazing is that a team like Dallas would more or less roll-over when they are balancing their necks on a razor edge of the tough Western competition. One slip and they will be wishing they put Richards on an auction block with a pretty blue ribbon and got the most silver pieces possible. The division is so close right now that Dallas is in a four-way tie for fourth, and only 3 points clear of 9th place. I've seen my share of tight but this is tighter than Mother Theresa's mouth in a forest of cocks*.

*tasteless analogy warning

Some individuals after the hop.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 56: What's Below Rock Bottom?

This duck scoffs at the oil spilled all over him.
You know that time when you were wasted and had to take a shit? You go into the dirty, stinking stall, doff your britches, and right as you start dropping the monkey leg, the nausea you have been fighting off finally overwhelms you. You cross over from the 'it's fine as long as I keep spitting' into vomiting all over yourself.

That, my friends, is an analogy of the Oilers play tonight. They tried to take a shit, but ended up vomiting all over themselves. So, what's below rock bottom? The Edmonton Oilers.

Ask yourself this: is it possible the Oilers could be at a worse place after game 56? We have the following 'worst of' categories:

  • Worst points percentage
  • Worst Power Play
  • Worst Penalty Kill
  • Worst Goals against per game
  • Worst faceoff percentage
  • Bonus: Second Worst Goal Differential
 That  is a serious heavyweight list of suck. I couldn't even imagine we'd be quite this bad. I had predicted 12th in the west before the season started, and I could have forseen some dips into the lottery but this is below last years pace, a team that featured Patrick O'Shittycock and Ethan "Mutant-Eye" Moreau. Based on our league worst 0.357 points percentage, we are on pace for an awe-inspiring 59 points. You have to go back to the '06-'07 Philly Flyers to find a team that was that inept (they finished with 56 points, 22-48-12). That Philly team had 101 points the following season.

I mean there is sucking, and then there is getting same-sex raped and then donkey punched. The problem with us sucking SO badly is that we are already supposed to start seeing the turn-around here. The rookies have gotten their feet wet, and the team has been fairly stable for the recent stretch. But my lord have the Oilers been awful since Whitney went down. I do think the problems start in the back end, but also puck possession from faceoffs, and centers who are not performing are serious concerns.

Some people have questioned the safety of Tambellini's job, but I will repeat what I said earlier. I think he is safe regardless of what happens this year, and probably next year as well. If the Oilers are not clearly on a path to a better place, I would hope that the calculated ruthlessness that made Katz into a billionaire will kick in and we will see our soft-spoken leader replaced with an intelligent, callous, and cold-blooded GM. Some who can hone all of this unrefined ore into weapons of mass outscoring.

The team evaluation after the hop.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 55: We Have a Weiner

I imagine this is what a Dustin Penner off-day looks like
I contemplated several titles to properly capture my dissatisfaction at the ineptitude of the Oilers this afternoon, but quickly realized it wasn't going to be possible inside the confines of a single row of sensationalized lettering. I settled for something kitschy when thoughts of a 'The Toilet Bowl' headline picture left me a bit uneasy.

When you go up against a team that sports one of the worst goaltending tandems in the league (Elliot ranks 39th in the league for sv%), and the very worst goal differential, on home ice, well you expect the Oilers might be able to flex that powerful core that many expect to start emerging sometime soon. The kids are well acclimatized, the D and forward lines somewhat stable, and arguably the worst team comes-a-calling; I expected better from this Oilers team. I expect better.

The usual apologist fuckery applies, yes, they got closer to that coveted first place draft choice, and yes, if you are someone who salivates at the thought of moving Pennertration out of town for a couple of picks you are happy to see him at just about a dead-ringer pace for 30 on the year. Otherwise I was not very happy with anyone's game outside of maybe Hemmer and perhaps Vandermeer.

The ref's decided to interject in the games flow quite frequently, and to be honest it doesn't matter which way the sword is swinging, the Oilers still manage to hurt themselves. Case and point, the loss today: whether it was lost momentum on a goal-starved PP or the obvious game changer PK goal against, they both set the table for a rookie mistake finisher.

Adding to my frustration was that dynamic duo on the CBC mic's. I figure if we got to overtime the hyperbolic arc of bullshit being spun for Kovalev by Mark Lee would have reached truly epic proportions:
Mark Lee: And here's The Magnificent Wizard himself, Kovalev, with the puck, a sensational climax of a Hockey Playing God -- Kovalev cuts into the zone with such grace -- UNBELIEVEABLE! HE'S FLOATING IN THE AIR, WHAT MAGNIFICENCE, WHAT SHEER AND UTTER BEAUTY -- MY HEART IS GALLOPING IN MY CHEST, KEVIN, LIKE A GIRL WHO RIDES A MAJESTIC STALLION FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE GLEN FIELDS DURING A LIGHT RAINFALL *cries*
Kevin Weekes: Absolutely, Mark, absolutely.

Every time that cotton-for-nuts ice sculpture touched the puck Mark Lee had to drop out some ludicrous adjective like 'Magnificent' or 'Wonderful'. Yea, his 26 points are really burning up the league. That's 5 million bucks of slacker Russian with 13 goals in 50 games, and his points per 60 of 1.28 is in line with Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester, and Nick Foligno. The only good thing is that his 35+ contract comes off the books after this year, unlike some other Russian who is making a touch less to suck a little more. Speaking of Khabibulin, he apparently set the post-lockout record for consecutive losses by a goaltender (14) with the .833 effort tonight (20 for 24).

Long story short, the Oilers bungled a lengthy 5v3 again, managed a meager output of 18 shots on a replacement level goaltender, turned it over a ton, and simply did not play with enough guts to deserve a different fate.

Individuals after the hop.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 54: Zebras on Parade

I imagine this is what a Tim Horton's drive-through
is like at 2 A.M. on acid
On the right here is a zebra messing shit up. Unfortunately zebra's tend to do that every once and a while, and this culminated in the two 10-minute misconducts given out at the end of the game. According to Tencer: Theo Peckham says he said 4 words to earn the misconduct. Horcoff says the offical refused to explain the calls on Peckham and Cogliano.

Now I've never reffed anything in my life, but I know what I think of professionals not being accountable for how they perform. It's bush-league. If you want to make calls on the ice, be the big man and own up to your decisions - say why, and say it confidently. How do you think players are going to react when the opposing team scores during their sixth consecutive PP, when clearly calls have been missed the other way? Guys like that, who don't give any slack after more or less completely hosing down one team, are not good NHL referees. You need to understand there is a certain give and take in the league while delivering a fair and balanced assessment of the action. In other words, next time they dole out two ten-minute misconducts, I'd hope the offending player would be intimating that they have given the ref's mother the ol' german sausage in the smokehouse. Otherwise put the whistles away, wussies - this isn't ringette.

Now with that off my chest (junk, garbage referees) I turn to the actual game. It was mostly a life-choked affair, the Oilers basically buoyed by the occasional burst of crowd noise and the odd bit of momentum from a bit of Hall dash or Paajarvi swagger or an Omarkian reverse-rag-doll. Chicago looked like a team that was in the playoff race, and desperately needed the two points.  By the end of the game the Oilers managed to turn it on and brought the shot total close, 24-26, but truly it was way too late, and Eberle's goal was nothing but some shuffling statistics and an already fading memory.

There were a couple of shifts (coinciding with stalled momentum due to Oilers killing penalties) where the Hawks obliterated the power on power matchup that I have been lamenting about. You'd think that a line with Horc, Hemmer, and Penner could at least give as good as they were getting, but for the first half of the game they were getting steam-rolled by Toews and Sharp. They were sutured up in their own zone, and couldn't even consistently clear the puck. In my opinion the big three are playing like the season is lost. You can see it in their compete level, it is a notch below anybody who is on a team desperate for points. Regardless of Penner producing some goals recently, this has been a brutal stretch for Hemsky and Horcoff especially. Horcoff is making a lot of fat dollars but when is the last time you saw him a) bring the puck over the opposing blue line, b) make a good pass in the offensive zone, or c) record a scoring chance? I honestly can't remember.

One other thing I noticed quite distinctly was the lack of smash-and-grab on the Oilers side tonight. There was very little physical engagement on the ice, and like I've pointed out a half-dozen times, the Oilers seem to go best when they get mad, get steamed, want blood. It might be more pronounced on a young team, when emotional highs can supercharge quads to give (the impossible) 110%. I think subconsciously all of the Oilers fans who are crying out for more team toughness have been conditioned to improved outcomes due to fisticuffs and in-game body-slams. That's why guys like Zorg are infintely more valuable than the JFJ's. Getting his furry yap running, and engaging the opposing middleweight in a polish hug-dance at least got some of the emotions up on the ice. I need to ask, who is going to be that guy in the forward ranks? Do we have one? Landeskog?

I thought the rookies played OK tonight: Dubnyk made a couple of great saves early to keep the game well in control, and after the Oilers settled down (and weren't killing penalties), the HOPE group did it's best to attempt to wrest the two-point meal away from the Hawk's talons. Each rook held the spotlight for a couple good chances in the game, and they remain the primary reason to tune into another broadcast of the Oilers getting spanked by a lineup of good or bad teams.

Individuals after the hop.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Falling Star of Zach Bogosian

In this picture, Bogosian has Edmonton on his mind
Normally I wouldn't address rumours regarding player swaps, but when the Prince of Puns speaks, I have no choice but to step into the fray.

Here's what Principe said:
Lots of talk about Zach Bogosian to Edm and last night two scouts from Atlanta drove to Nashville, in a mild snowstorm, to watch the game
For a guy who generally tows the company line, for him to flat out drop a juicy rumour at least means something along this lines has probably been discussed. This started a thread on HFBoards that extrapolated on the offer to indicate it was likely Penner or Hemsky moving the other way to an offensively challenged Atlanta. From a pure performance perspective, this trade makes sense: Byfuglien and Enstrom are generating a ton from the back end, and there is no question one of Penner or Hemsky could impact their offence, perhaps enough to secure a playoff spot. The vast majority of the posters were all for it from Edmonton's perspective, but I tend to take a more cautious approach. My first impression was HELL YEA considering a chance to get a 3rd OA pick who had a sparkling rookie season before his leg break seemed like a great opportunity. Of course, the Gods of Corsi demanded I wear the Sacrificial Robes, climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius and swear undying fealty before such a transaction could take place. So I did:

Zach Bogosian

Born Jul 15 1990 -- Massena, NY
Height 6.02 -- Weight 197 -- Shoots R

Selected by Atlanta Thrashers round 1 #3 overall 2008 NHL Entry Draft

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2006-07 Peterborough Petes OHL 67 7 26 33 63 ----------
2007-08 Peterborough Petes OHL 60 11 50 61 72 5 0 3 3 8
2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 47 9 10 19 47 ----------
2008-09 Chicago Wolves AHL 5 1 0 1 0 ----------
2009-10 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 81 10 13 23 61 ----------
2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 45 4 7 11 21

NHL Totals
173 23 30 53 129

TOI/60 17.37 3rd
Corsi Rel QoC 0.575 1st
Corsi Rel QoT -1.422 5th
G/60 0.23 3rd
P/60 0.54 5th
+-ON/60 -1.15 6th
Corsi On -15.66 6th
Corsi Off -5.33 1st
Corsi Rel -10.3 6th
Sh% 6.55 5th
Sv% 922 3rd
Ozone% 43.5 6th

Analysis after the hop.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 53: Tower of Power

The above is Devan Dubnyk if he was turned into a medieval painting of Babel. He can be a cloud-scraping, marvel of a man when the opponent isn't handed gimme goals and flagrant rebounds from misplayed pucks. On a night where the Oilers clearly entered a visitor rink with little opening pep, his strong play was the lifeline the Oilers needed after dropping something like 20 of the last 24. The interesting thing about Dubnyk's night was my impression that his effort tonight was no better or worse than what he has been regularly delivering for the Edmonton Oilers. This is probably the best sign for Dubnyk: he can get shutouts without playing the best hockey of his career, something that seemed to be a little more necessary for a guy like Deslauriers (who I continue to have a soft spot for).

Two other guys in particular stood out to me in the victory, playing almost carbon copy games: Teddy Peckman and Jimmy "Bones" Vandermeer.

Theo played 23 minutes tonight (I imagine close to a season high), including over 5 on the PK which thwarted all of the Preds feeble attempts. Peckham also He-Man slammed Spaling to the ice with a few minutes left in the game to put a exclamation point on the postgame headline. Spaling made a kind of squishy-popping noise when his body pancaked into the ice, his flippers dangling from violence-shocked fingers - it was like an icecream van running into a cement truck.

Vandermeer played one of his best games as an Edmonton Oiler, going +2 with an apple (initially credited with the goal by eventually given to Eberle). He was giving stiff-arm jolts all over the ice (or as I like to say fisting dudes), I probably counted a half dozen forearm shivers that nuked unsuspecting Predator players. Aside from a brutal third period giveaway, he was full-marks for delivering a board-rattling, tongue-biting performance.

This was of course a product of the increased ice time the entire D core played when Gilbert missed the entire third period. The Sportsnet replay showed Gagner's knee slam into the top of a prone Gilbert's helmet. If I had to speculate on an injury, I would say minor concussion, but it's probably just as likely it was a precautionary thing. Let's hope so, as the last thing we need is our last big minutes Dman to go down with a concussion. That is unless you think the Oilers need help in securing the first overall draft pick.

edit: Joanne Ireland just confirmed it was a precautionary thing, and he is expected to have no lingering problems.

In terms of the offence up front, I think the Omark/Gagner/PRV line did a great job in generating momentum in the game - they were essentially the first positive shift in the entire game for the Oilers, and they really worked hard in both ends of the ice. I could be wrong, but tonight I saw as much tenacity with Omark on the wrong side of the puck tonight as we were used to seeing with him in the opponents zone. He's never going to be an elite defensive player (how many 5'9 guys have ever won the Selke? A lot of 5'11 guys it looks like) but if he sinks his bulldogs jaws into the defensive side of the game I figure he can at least saw it off with middling opposition. To be honest, I think he really needs to be more tenacious defensively if he wants to secure a top 6 role in the future. A good step tonight, as I'm sure the coaching staff has been preaching this exact message to him.

If the Gagner line provided the spark, the Cogliano line started the fire burning. The line finished with 2 goals and three apples, and a combined +6 with 8 shots. Eberle made a couple of beauty plays including a backhand dangle that led to a post and a near goal on the ricochet. His tip goal was classic Eberle, great hands in the right spot. Hall only had one shot, but he looked confident carrying the puck and seemed to defer more to his linemates in this game. Cogliano had been spotty offensively most of the season but he certainly has made a run at salvaging a season that was in danger of being a total disaster. Good for him, as earlier in the season I had mentally purchased him a one-way ticket to wherever-the-fuck after his generally dismal first half.

Maybe the best news in all of this is even with the Oilers win we are still dead last; the NYI's, NJD's, and TML's had done enough winning recently to allow us exactly a one point cushion to remain in the basement after a win. Let's hope this trend continues so that we can win without an ounce of guilt.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 52: F**k

Yo, I've got a book on my head -- and the Oilers suck
As an Oilers fan, most of us have steeled ourselves from such a humiliating collapse by virtue of any loss brings us closer to a moment when our favorite big-boned scout walks up to a microphone and makes another can't-miss-selection in the 2012 draft (with our first overall pick, we select Adam Larsson). Even then, bullshit like the end of tonight's game will still sting any fan. We managed to blow a lead with something like 6 minutes left in the third, and then promptly cough up the winner to Huselius, a guy for which I basically have zero respect as a complete hockey player. To add insult to injury, our Heavy Lifter Squad, Horcoff, Hemsky, and DTrain, were the primary culprits on the CBJ go-ahead goal. You just can't give up a clean two on one with 4 minutes left in a tie game. I think even the local wino road hockey league would have more sense then that.

I'm an Oilers fan who has been tempered in the glorious white-hot fires of ineptitude that only 5 losing seasons could produce. But even my stamina for suck is starting to wane. How many more losses can a fan absorb? What depths of utter insanity are we willing to plumb with our eyes until we are quoting Macbeth lines while painting the walls in arterial blood-spray? I will have to admit I eyed my cheese grater when the Oilers shagged the dog on the 2 minute 5v3. Maybe you could try shooting the puck a little, eh? Pretty sure that's how the little black cake gets your scoring point in the hockey goal.

People that think last place overall is a forgone conclusion, well normally I'd say 'you crazy, Jimmy McCrackins', but the Oilers seem to have embraced the suck. At this point if it takes someone getting bottom raped by Strudwick in between periods to generate a win, the Oilers should look into it. I mean, the Oilers are going to lose a bunch more games this year, right? But we need SOMETHING to go right. Some brightness so we don't roll into next season and have a bunch of kids that look like they've been through the ass-end of Hockey-Vietnam. NYI and NJD have given us a little breathing room to actually win some games, and as a fan it would be nice to just see one blow-the-oppositions-frilly-panties-off game. When was the last time we saw the Oilers generate one of those? November?

The game itself was alright. The action was decent, and Khabibulin was sharp in the opening to allow the Oilers normally dormant offence to get in gear and pump a few past Steve "Jim Carey" Mason. After that it was the predictable Oilers shit-show we've all come to know and love: get bent over on special teams, and make 'lets-drill-holes-in-our-forehead' dumb mental errors that lead to scoring chances that every team from Albuquerque to Zimbabwe could cash on. I like the fact that Renney has finally started using 4 forwards on the PP (see my prediction this was going down here, 4th paragraph). I would love to see some statistical analysis that showed that power plays with four forwards scored more, but even if there is no proof just the fact that we are getting a different look might pay dividends when the Oilers score their next power-play goal in 2013. I'm not sure I loved Omark on the point since he brings no threat of shooting. I think it might be interesting to run Hallsie up high similar to TBay's monster PP has Stamkos on the left side of an umbrella formation.

PRV continued his solid play of late, cashing two gimmes from seeing eye passes by the Linus "Bulldog" Omark, and in some strange trickery of the eye he seemingly has grown two inches on the ice. I'm certain he was listed at 6'1 in the draft but now every place I check has him listed at 6'3. He's still young enough to experience a little growth, but I really feel like he's had a spurt here. Is it possible that subconsciously my mind could interpret the subtle differences of a couple pixels on a TV and determine a growth spurt has taken place? Maybe he's just playing bigger these days.

I can say one thing without a doubt. This will be Tambellini's last losing season. Yea, I think you get my drift.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 51: Tough Luck

This is what 4 wins in the last 23 games looks like
As the saying goes, you make your own luck. Poker is a perfect example of this, as anyone who plays will know. Given an individual hand (or play in hockey), just about anything can happen that will lead to ultimate glory, or gory ruin. What all the good players instinctively understand is that you cannot always get the coin flips and die rolls and free throws to go your way, no matter how good you are. What separates the good poker player from the bad, and the good hockey teams from the bad is the concept of making your own luck.

My interpretation is that means placing yourself in favourable positions by control of your own actions so that even though you lose some of the coin flips, you often win in the long run as good and bad luck evens out but good and bad positions do not. This is something that is more or less represented by shots on goal in hockey, and this is something that the Oilers have been doing a lot better recently: out-shooting opponents.

Take the game tonight against the Blues, for example. It was a game that the Oilers had the majority of the puck possession, out-shot (32-26) and out-chanced the Blues, yet lost by 2. In fact, the Oilers have outshot 6 of their last 8 opponents, and tied another in shots. This is a team that is starting to drive 5v5 offence more consistently than they have at any time during the whole season. Of course outshooting your opponent is a lot like being a good poker player. All it does is put you in a good position to win. It doesn't mean that the bounces will go your way. In the Oilers case, in that same stretch of having as many or more shots as their opponent 7 times, they have lost 7 times.

I think in general the Oilers played a decent game against St. Louis. They carried most of the play 5v5, and had predictably useless special teams efforts. There was plenty of solid, gritty play, and for a desperate team like St. Louis to look equal (or worse) to the NHL bottom dwelling Oilers is a testament to the Oilers recent improvements or a grim epitaph for the St Louis season. Can you imagine a team like St. Louis winning a Stanley Cup this season? In what strange galaxy could that ever happen? They should probably worry about all of that season ticket money they will have to give back if they miss the playoffs (some marketing genius is going to get fired - out of a cannon).

If you are the poker player, or the Oilers, you cannot get frustrated. Everybody swallows a spider while sleeping once and a while (or insert your own non-traditional 'everyone has bad luck sometimes' analogy). Control what you can control, and realistically the Oilers should start winning a few games here and there. Just as an aside, you will notice that of the top ten teams in the league, 8 of them are outshooters (only Dallas, 8th, and the Rangers, 10th, do not outshoot their opponents). On the other side of the spectrum, 4 of the bottom 5 teams and 6 of the bottom 10 teams get outshot on average.

Of course most of the walking bean-counters already knew that, but the point is the Oilers keep on playing like this and we might make the race for dead last a little more interesting.

Thoughts on individuals after the hop.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Evaluating HOPE: Defence

So the Oilers lost another game where they out shot their opponent, and played well enough to deserve perhaps a different fate. Regardless, I don't know how many ways I can say 'losing is good and bad' so instead of focusing on the postgame, I decided to take a statistical look at the defence of our four promising forwards. I am of course referring to Hall, Omark, Paajarvi, and Eberle.

And yes, I stole this from the previous HOPE article.

Defending Rates

There are a couple ways you can break a forwards defence down, but considering the discrepancies in total amounts of games, I will use rate statistics (so get out your secret decoder rings kiddies).

The first chart contains the even strength defence rates, in other words, based on ice time (TOI/60) how many goals against they give up (GAON/60), their plus/minus per 60 minutes of ice (+-ON/60), their offence zone start rates (Ozone%), their quality of competition (Qcomp), along with the team save percentage (Sv%), and their rank on the team (among forwards with at least 10 games):

Name TOI/60 GAON/60Rank+-ON/60RankOzone%QcompRank Sv%
HALL 15.29 3.1111th -0.82 11th 52.10.066 1st 899
OMARK 12.19 3.69 15th -1.72 16th 58.5 -0.011 11th 860
PAAJARVI 13.15 2.58 7th -0.10 6th 52.7 0.013 8th 918
EBERLE 14.16 3.18 12th -0.71 10th 48.2 0.065 2nd 901

Some interesting stuff here:
  • Hall and Eberle are facing the toughest competition (already covered in the previous article), and are doing OK considering.
  • Paajarvii's playing the best defence of the four based on pure numbers. He is facing third liners mostly, so it's possible we would see the same defensive rates for Hall and Eberle were their assignments switched.
  • Omark's defensive numbers are awful. Dead last in every category. On the entire team, only Strudwick and Chorney have a worse +-ON/60. He is absolutely bleeding goals against at 5v5, so perhaps the goaltending behind him isn't helping much. Alternatively he's such a liability that he's putting the goaltender into bad situations; in such a small sample size this is certainly possible. Let's not forget he was second worst +/- on his team even while scoring the second most goals for Dynamo last season.
  • Eberle has some of the tougher zone starts on the team - not really sure why there is such a discrepancy between him and Hall, except that perhaps since Eberle has been out Hall has been perhaps getting easier zone starts. All things considered Eberle has been a beastly player 5v5.
  • Among forwards who play at least 10 minutes per game, Paajarvi is ranked third in GAON/60 and +-ON/60 (moving past scrubs like Fraser, JFJ, Stortini, and Smak). Ahead is only Horcoff and Reddox. Like I've said before, he has the makings of a Selke type forward.
  • Linus Omark? WTF? 
Penalty kill after the hop and a quick revisit of the advanced stats.