Monday, November 21, 2005

Who are we, anyway? (forwards)

Randy's post in the comments section on Semenov (just scroll down and click on comments, I can't figure out how to link to anything on this damn page) got me to thinking: who are the Oilers, really? I mean, sure, we all know the roster, but do we really know the players on an intimate, but not carnal, level? We've seen a few different sides of this team, and if you're anything like me, usually serious roster examination stops at the end of preseason or so. But dammit, just what kind of a team are we? I'm going to find out, player by player (this also works as a rather nice quarter-season review, if I do say so myself).

I had originally planned to do them all at once, but it proved to be too Herculean. For now, though, let's start with


Radek Dvorak
22GP 3G 9A 12Pts Even
Notable Stat: 60 Shots on Goal, 2nd on the team

You know what name keeps coming to mind for me? Valeri Zelepukin. Like Zellers, Dvorak is a solid if unspectacular two-way forward, good for probably about 40 points and strong defensive play. I think we probably expect more out of him then that, though. As 60 shots attests, he knows how to get open, but he can't really find the net--his 5 per cent success rate is the lowest of any forward with a goal save for Mike Peca. We want him to be a top-line winger, but he's probably best suited on the second. With the play of Torres and Hemsky, though, that does seem to be where he's settling. Oh, yeah, weird fact: of his three goals, two are game-winners. Good sense of timing, anyway.

Todd Harvey
11GP 1G 0A 1Pt Even
Notable Stat: 7:23 min/game

Harvey was picked up to be a reliable fourth-liner, and he's doing his job. I probably would have expected a few more points by now, but an injury and the fact the fourth line rarely sees ice after the second period (plus more special teams stuff) is probably to blame. With his minutes, he's pretty much our most-regular platoon guy (I don't consider Reasoner a platoon guy, and Rita's average is better, but he had delusions of top lines for a while), and he hasn't done anything especially bad with his playing time.

Ales Hemsky
22GP, 5G, 17A, 22Pts -1
Notable Stat: 11 power play assists (team leader)

Hemsky's stepped up to what we thought he could be, and is probably our most-talented, if not best, forward most nights. He's confident with the puck and is solid defensively, too. The way he's playing, he could probably be top line on anyone but Ottawa or Vancouver right now (and maybe Vancouver, if he'd switch to centre). 82-point season, anyone?

Shawn Horcoff
20GP, 4G, 19A, 23Pts 3
Notable Stat: I don't know, 23 points (team leader)

Et tu, Horcoff. Not as flashy, but he's found his ways to score this year. He's probably your Brendan Morrison-type of centre, in that he could probably go from 60 pts to 100, depending on who he's playing with. I don't know if he's making people better, but he's definitely making them work, and that's what you want from your top centre.

Krys Kolanos
3GP 0G, 0A, 0Pts Even
Notable Stat: C'mon...

On the surface, Kolanos seems pretty much like an Everest pick up: he was there. We have a lot like him, but hey, why not get a big, former first-rounder for free? My complaining about his PP time notwithstanding, he looks fairly fine out there. I don't think he could jump up and play second, or even a reliable third, line at this point, but I wouldn't have a problem with him as a more-games-than-average fourth-liner.

Georges Laraque
20GP, 0G, 2A, 2Pts -4
Notable Stat: 28 PIM (Horcoff has 23, Hemsky 20)

Georges already had enough trouble finding people to fight, but now that fighting is as common at NHL games as Venezuelans, Georges is pretty much just an immovable object. He's shown the odd flash of that lug-the-puck-and-score-off-a-scramble thing he used to do, but with only playing about six minutes a game, it's pretty much impossible for Georges to get going. He's still a really valuable intimidator--there's no stat on this, but I'd lay even money that the Oilers' get messed around with the least in the league--but maybe that's a more valuable thing on a team with more stars, and we could do with a pseudo-power forward good for 30 points and 150PIM.

Ethan Moreau
22GP 4G 4A 8Pts 2
Notable Stat: 43 PIM (team leader)

The last remaining member of the greatest checking line the world has ever known (Moreau-Marchant-Grier), Moreau is still the type of guts guy the Oilers have sort of become all about under Lowe and MacT: blocking shots, facewashing, hitting, scoring now and then. It seems as though his delusions of second-linery have been taken over by Fernando, but he's still a pretty much perfect third-line fit for this team.

Mike Peca
18GP 1G 5A 6Pts -2
Notable Stat: 58.4% face-off wins

To pre-empt Matt: yep, we're playing 4 mil for a third-line centre. A really good, totally-shutting-down-the-other-team's-top-guy third-liner, but a third-liner. Peca might get 60 points, but certainly not this year. Had Jarret Stoll not been caught in that nuclear blast, this would probably be a bigger deal, but as is now, Peca fits, though not the way we wanted him to fit. Doesn't change the fact that four of our defencemen are outscoring/tied with him, though.

Fernando Pisani
20GP 4G 2A 6Pts 6
Notable stat: His plus-6 leads the team

Fernando is as Fernando does. He's like Moreau, though not as grizzled. I don't know, again, I would be suspicious of him as anything more than a third-liner, but he hasn't had to be more than that very often, and he's very good at being a third-liner. There was a time I thought that, on a team with more skill, Pisani would just be a very good fourth-liner, but I think I've come around on that: he's quick, he can play in the offensive zone, and he pretty much never makes mistakes. Consistent.

Marty Reasoner
19GP 4G 5A 9Pts -3
Notable stat: 13:44min/game

Just call him Rover, I guess. He's done most anything except by goal this year, and seems to pretty much find time wherever we need him (although, it certainly also seems that MacT is trying to make time for him, too). It's hard to say just where he fits in best--he's definitely better than fourth line (his 13:44 is far and away the best of anyone who's seen time there), and he's not really a checking-line guy (he can play it, but he seems to have more skill), but the play of so many others doesn't warrant him top-two line stuff, either. I don't know, it's an okay problem to have I guess, and it's nice to think that he could step in anywhere in case of injury.

Jani Rita
13GP 2G 0A 2Pts Even
Notable stat: 10 shots

We've ragged on him, but when you think about it, somebody has to play fourth line, and if you're platooning them anyway, why not have at least one or two minimum-wage potentialites? I still would have liked to see what Scremp would have done, but meh. I would shed no tears if he left, but on the plus side, he doesn't seem to screw up too much. On the minus side, that's probably more because he doesn't do much of anything (seriously, 10 shots for a supposed offensive guy). But hey, we can't just have nobody on the ice for seven minutes a game. Yay Rita!

Ryan Smyth
16GP 11G 9A 20Pts 4
Notable Stat: 26.2% shooting (team leader)

It's not right to call Smyth a surprise, but he certainly doesn't seem like the same kind of Ryan Smyth. That probably has something to do with the fact he's got a clearly defined role this year (no centre experiments!), but it's more than that: he's scoring pretty goals, making pretty passes, playing calm and wise, but still hard. I don't know, maybe he's just matured, but I definitely think of Smyth as a different player now. Maybe it's just the fact that he's creating his own chances now, whereas before he always struck me as just a finisher. Whatever it is, he's our best forward from game-to-game, and I don't think it's a coincidence he was hurt when we started the streak.

Jarret Stoll
22GP 7G 12A 19Pts -4
Notable Stat: 6 PPG, 62.7% face-off win, 83 shots (all lead team)

Holy hand-cannon, PPGman! You know, the book on Stoll, even coming out of junior, was that he was a solid, checking leader-type. Nothing flashy, third-line material, grow up to wear a "C" one day. Well, he added that friggin' knock-out shot and some solid offensive sense, and now he's second-lining it. I'm not sure why it happened (somebody, maybe Mirtle, pointed out a while back that people who played AHL last year are tearing it up--Spezza, Mike Richards, others I forget--so maybe that's it), but he looks great, and he's been consistent. As Chris! pointed out over beers a while back, it definitely looks like we got the better part of the Stoll/Lombardi draft-trade thing.

Raffi Torres
22GP 10G 5A 15Pts -3
Notable stat: 10 goals leads team

He looks like somebody you'd expect to see fighting outside the Armoury, or in an Internet porn .mpg that has the word "plow" in its title, but he can score. He's definitely a sniper, though: he's just in the right place at the right time, and puts it home. It's not a bad thing, of course, it's just that he needs people to set him up, or he's going to be a lot less effective. We have that this year, though, so we do okay.

Alright, that's it for forwards. Defenceman, goalies, minor-leaguers and conclusions later today or tomorrow.


Matt said...

Excellent stuff. I'll disagree with your (and Chris!'s) conclusion about the Stoll/Lombardi thing, though. We haven't seen what Lombardi can do by a long shot.

(Data point: presently Kobasew and Reinprecht are on the Flames #1 line with Iginla. Every time Lombardi and Reinprecht have dressed for the same games, Lombardi has been the superior player.)

I still think the Flames will come out of that whole dealy on top, and that's not to take anything away from Stoll at all: the rest of your take on him seems exactly right.

Colby Cosh said...

Maybe it's the way you organized or wrote it, but this left me feeeling kind of dismal. It's almost like Dvorak and Hemsky are the only guys listed here who are clearly, clearly not third-line players at this point in their careers. I can see why you class Horcoff with Brendan Morrison, but the claim for now still sets off my hard-sell radar.

It's worth noting that Hemsky, as great as he looks out there, was leading the league in giveaways at the end of last week. Admittedly it's a stat dominated by guys who hog the puck until the entire opposing team gets frustrated and freaks out: the GAs are more than worth it if you're spending five at a time to create one goal. But you probably don't really want to be leading the league, either.

Moreau's guts are getting too much attention this year, and his frequent unwise punitions not enough. I don't accept lack of ice time as an excuse for Big Georges not to create the chaos he is capable of. And I do wish we could find a way to make D-vo come alive the way he did playing with Nedved. (Sykora...?)

Colby Cosh said...

Plus you're really missing out on a chance to match up Who songs to individual players--"The Ox" for Laraque, "The Kids Are Alright" for Schremp and Pouliot, "Did You Steal My Money" for Peca, "Why Did I Fall For That" for Conklin...

Steve said...

Ooh! Ooh!

Dan Smith - "Anytime You Want Me"
Shawn Horcoff - "Bargain"
Igor Ulanov - "This Song is Over"
Ethan Moreau - "Mary-Anne With the Shaky Hands"
Kyle Brodziak - "Substitute"
Jani Rita - "I Can't Explain"

A lot of these are actually interchangeable. And it's probably a bad sign that I can't find anybody to whom to assign "Success Story".

If only Mironov was still here. . . then we'd have a Boris the Spider!

Garnet said...

Syvret -- "I'm a Boy" (or "Who Are You")
Cross -- "I Can't Reach You"

Any good candidates for "Call Me Lightning"?