Sunday, December 18, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 32: Merry Christmas, We Suck

All I want for Christmas is a capable D-core
Unfortunately my post-game heading is spiked with some vitriol as I'm again forced to spin another yarn about how the Oilers couldn't get the job done. We are 2-7-1 in our last 10, and we are losing traction on yet another season. Granted there were a lot of moron 'analysts' who pegged the Oilers at 29th overall or so, but it especially stings after the stingy strong hockey we opened the season with. I could still rue calling them morons I suppose, but at least we will have a shot at Yakupov then -- high draft picks are like hemorrhoid cream on the ass of a team taking a burning shit.

On the flipside was a team that does not look especially like a team that is a western conference heavyweight. CBC had a graphic that showed some ridiculously daunting goal-drought statistics. Over the last month, Havlat, Thornton, and Marleau had combined for something like 3 goals before coming into tonight (they each potted one). Thornton has never been a huge goal scorer -- pass first mentality if there ever was one -- but he's on pace for 14 goals this year. That would be his lowest total in the NHL since he was a rookie and potted 3 in 55 (clearly playing a player at 18 who is not ready for the NHL does not 'ruin' him -- wheres the evidence?).

As far as the outing tonight, the Oilers basically played the Sharks even aside from a few lulls where our 4th line got totally outclassed (Hordichuk is not going to help Renney stay employed). The kid line had a number of dangerous shifts and Eberle's goal was absolutely magical. That was a world class goal and unfortunately it was wasted in an Oilers effort that basically had three major defensive gaffes. Each gaffe gave up a premium scoring chance: 2 goals that had a 1000% chance of going in, and another where Khabi went against Jumbo Joe 1v1 and lost. The first goal would have made me mad during one of my division 8 ball hockey games. Any time there is a clear cut 2v0, someone has to have really fucked up.

I thought Khabibulin basically played a solid game, with only the Thornton goal being stoppable, and it was still a bang bang play with Khabi left out to dry. He maintains a top-level save percentage, and I still think he actually has played his best hockey since coming to us as a dubious ST signing. Gagner and Hemsky both looked like lost sheeples out there, and Hemsky especially is seemingly melting before our very eyes. His best asset is passing and I can't be the only one that has noticed how poorly he has been passing the puck recently. He rarely seems to be making saucer passes, and while he's normally good for 10 tap in helpers a season (pro-rated, he's not exactly made of stainless steel here), I think we've seen maybe one this year. Rumours of him being on the block are heating up and I can't help but wonder if maybe the time to trade him is now, while he still has much of his value (a tad less because of a slow start to his season). It would break my heart, but at the end of the day it's a business, and Hemsky remains a commodity that you know some teams will be very interested in (Kaberle got traded to Montreal, typical shit move by their shitty GM, and yet Jacques Martin gets fired). On a mildly smile-inducing side-note, PRV went pointless and scored a shootout winner in the Barons 3-2 shoot-out win in his AHL debut. Pony power.

So now we really need to ask ourselves, is this Oilers team awful again? Well I'll give you one statistic that should at least give you a tiny bit of Christmas-miracle hope. The Oilers are currently 24th in the league by points (it's still pretty bunched up though), and yet they are 13th by goal differential. Granted they have earned much of that positive differential when they climbed to as high as second in the league, but regardless, there are plenty of teams in the playoff picture that are at least on a level field with the Oil drop when it comes to GD. In the East, for instance, there are three teams currently above the playoff cut with negative goal differentials. While goal differential isn't exactly the same as team performance, it is pretty close, and by the end of the season sorting by goal differential or points invariably leads to two very similarly ordered lists. I think the correlation between GD and Points is something like 0.85 -- but don't quote me, look it up.

The primary weakness this current batch-load of blue has is the basic inability to dominate stretches of hockey offensively, and the bottom 4 defenders. Until Tambo gets serious about bringing in some elite defensive help (Ryan Suter would sure look good in Oilers silks), and figures out a way to pick FA players that won't rob Katz blind, I suspect we will have plenty of more downs before we have an ascent into the stratosphere of the league.

A few individuals after the hop, and then quotes from Oilers as they try to explain why this team can't buy a fucking win.

Taylor Hall - Might have been the best forward on the ice for the Oilers, and he had a lot of jump and good legs for most of the game that really helped the Oilers get their game on track after coming out flat to start each of the periods. Hallsie also happens to be possibly the wrong guy to play the down low spot on the PP as he's consistently making passes that make me assault nearby couch cushions with frustration. I actually think he might be an interesting choice on the right point. He is 5th in the league with 6PP goals, so maybe I'm just being greedy, but it also brings up the fact that Hallsie only has 3 goals at 5 on 5. He still has another gear that he has not quite switched on this year. An encouraging game from him though, and his shoulder looks fine.

Tom Gilbert - Is the reason that the Oilers still remain respectable in most games. He's an Oiler that is truly contributing to both sides of the ice, and he's worked himself up to a -1 plus/minus (he was worst on the team for a bit there). One thing I continue to enjoy is GIlby's propensity to engage in a but of rough stuff with opposing players. He used to be positively prima-donna with opposing forwards in the corners, but he has found his stinky-fist technique and god only knows virtually every successful top-flight Dman in the league practices that martial art in one form or another (cyborg Lidstrom does not count). He played under 21 tonight, but it was another solid effort from Tommy boy.

Jeff Petry - The kid still oozes tons of top pairing potential, but he continues to make brutal giveaways virtually every game. It's not like he's doing it dozens of times a period -- I've mentioned he makes about one bad one per game consistently -- but as his role has increased, it's certainly noticeable that he's still not totally smooth under pressure. Like most young defenceman, once the enemies running on their knife boots get close by, he is making some shady passes and gives it away by attempting a bit too much. It would also be nice if we got to see his 100+ shot put to work a bit more often. He had 2 shots in just over 20 minutes of ice, and was a minus one.

Ryan Whitney - He was a little bit better this game. A little bit. I have not totally given up hope that he can get closer to his pre-injury form, but he's going to run out of runway pretty soon here. God knows we need a stable, big-body, smooth-skating, laser-passing Dman. If it's not Whitney, it better be somebody soon, or we will start squandering the ELCs of all of our top rookies/sophomores.

Ales Hemsky - What is wrong with this guy? His mental game is the real problem right now: he's not making good reads or moving into good spots to cause damage. I'm not sure if its a health thing of a confidence thing, but I want the old Hemsky back NOW. He brought much joy to my heart and we absolutely NEED him to start scoring so teams are forced to put less heat against our kids. 11 points in 21 games is just not going to cut it. Twitter right now is abuzz with rumours of his imminent trade. My objections against it are slowly wilting. Only Hemmer can save Hemmer now...

Ryan Smyth - His hot streak certainly couldn't last forever: he's too old, and was outperforming previous performance too much for it to continue. That said, he's actually been a bit underwhelming recently, and the offence has almost completely dried up for mop-top. I think a lot of his previous success was due to his linemates (full marks for Smytty to take advantage of a good situation though), and we should probably expect offence out of Smyth that is more in line with the kind of production he had in Tupac-Shakur-land.

"It was a different feeling than the last couple of games. But we still gave up too many shots and took too many penalties." - Ryan Jones
"We played hard and deserved better. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come." – Coach Renney
"We did a lot of good things this game. I think an effort like this again in a couple nights will be favourable for us." - Taylor Hall
Comon Santa, just put one Ryan Suter and a playoff berth beneath my tree and I'll be happy...


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