Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Circus is back in town

Well, well--according to the Journal, Tricky Ty is finally healed up and ready to go, and naturally, he's hoping to actually start playing goal again. It leaves us in a pretty interesting position: obviously, if you just take a look at the year's performance up to this point, Conklin is easily the worst of the three goalies in our rotation, so to speak: Markkanen is 10-9-2 with a 3.09 GAA and .891 Sv%, Morrison is 4-1-0, 1.76 and .924, and Conklin, in only four games, is 1-1-0 with a 4.40 and an absolutely terrible .836.

It's not really that cut and dry, though. The article calls Markkanen the number one, but that's debateable, in my mind. Among goalies who could reasonably be considered starters, he's very middle-of-the-road: his GAA is 16th (20th if you include both goalies on tandem-starter teams, like Anaheim, LA, Minnesota and New York), and his SV% is 20th, 26th if you include tandems. He's played fine for us, but those aren't the type of numbers that make you a clear-cut number one if there's someone capable behind you. This is exacerbated by the fact MacT seems more than willing to to grab whoever's hot and nail their legs to the goalposts--I don't have the inclination to look up stats on this, but I can't imagine it's too often you start a supposed back-up three games in a row unless your starter is hurt. Morrison, though unproven, has put up sparkling numbers the whole year, including preaseason, and without an obvious number one, I don't think you can readily discount him.

Nor can you really totally discount Conklin. Sure, his peformance thus far has been ungodly, but he has shown that he can play, and he wouldn't be the only goalie in the league to get off to a rough start before rounding off into form--Biron was atrocious his first few games, but has been fine since (4-0-0, 2.27GAA, .904SV% in his last five), and even Kiprusoff had a rough start to the year before getting back into form (2.81, .898 in October, 1.77, .925 in November). If we had an obvious starter option, it would be pretty easy to just let Conklin waste away in Hamilton, but past performance might dictate he gets another shot. You can't forget we're paying him $1 mil, either, which of course shouldn't factor into personnel decisions, but inevitably will. I think just as strong a case could be made for never letting Conklin see an Oiler crease again, mind you, but I don't think you can just say one or the other without considering the other option.

For what it's worth, I think we should probably stick with Markkanen and Morrison (perhaps we can call them MM, or 2000, or M2K, or something). I think it's fair to say that my early optimism about Markkanen was probably a bit of stretch--he can probably be a regular starter in the league, but I think in an ideal world, he's a tandem guy at best, and probably just a really solid back-up. He can play well enough to give us the chance to win every night, though, and would likely look stronger behind a stronger team--in other words, by no means does the goalie situation need addressing with him in net, but he'd hardly be your top choice as a goalie. Morrison, I think, definitely deserves a shot. You can call him inexperienced, but dammit, all goalies are inexperienced at some point in their career, and most starters don't come highly touted to begin with. I've always thought the Oilers tended to be a little excessively cautious with young goalies, but given the situation, I don't see how you justify it to your fans or Morrison that he should be playing in the ECHL. True, you run the very real risk of the bubble popping and getting stuck with a goalie who shouldn't even be a backup, but you also have the possibility that a solid number one just happened to be ready when you needed him. Conklin doesn't have an impressive enough history to overcome his poor performance so far this year, at least not with the way Morrison has played (assuming, of course, that Markkanen is firmly planted in one of the two goalie slots, which seems fair to me), and as such, I say go with the potential. Thoughts?


Robert Cleave said...

If you keep M and M, how do you get Conklin's trade value up? If you keep them, Conklin has to be moved, but until he plays a few games in the bigs, he isn't worth as much as he might have been in early October. Jussi or MM almost need a case of the flu, so to speak, so Conklin can get in. You're probably right that Conklin should be odd man out, but if he gets back in and plays decently, he'll likely stay.

mike w said...

As much as I want to believe in Conks, I'm thinking we're seeing the downward arc of his career. He ain't young (30) and doesn't seem to have any real answers for his poor play, which is just as troubling. I can't help but think back to a chilling thing in the Globe earlier this year, from some anonymous scout who gave Markannen a pass but said he didn't think Conks was "a true NHL goalie." Ouch.

Morrison has been steady, but he hasn't been stellar and even a bit lucky. Kinda like Cam Ward in Carolina early this season.

The only silver lining is that if Markkanen improves a bit and gets his SV% past .900 we'll be good enough. There's plenty of higher profile Number Ones doing worse (Theodore, Nabakov and of course, Khabibulan with .876).

Otherwise, I'm thinking only a trade will do.

Steve said...


That is all.

Anonymous said...

Conky or Juicy, pick your poison. Both suck out loud. I have to listen to the Coilers on radio because I'm overseas and I know if Juicy is in net I'll tune in to find us down 2-0 three minutes into the game. What's with letting the first shot in every game? Conky should be given a job handing out corndogs at the Ex and Juicy sent back to whatever ice floe in Swedwayland he crawled off of.

Go with Mr Mojo 'Risin and get on with it. Do we really need to pull last week's defensive player of the league and put in arguably the 2 worst goalies in the league? This is the height of MacTool's coaching intellect?


Chris! said...

Huh? The two worst goalies in the league? I don't know if that's even worth responding to...

mike w said...

I think that was Darryl Duke, the Oilers disgruntled ex-Fitness Coach.

Chris said...

Even in the game they lost, Morrison played well enough that he deserves another chance to show what he has. Unforunately for Ty, he had a chance to show what he could do and he blew it. Markannen has put in a yeoman's effort, solid but unexceptional. He's stolen maybe one game for us, that I recall against either Columbus or Nashville earlier in the season. But most of the time he's neither the cause or solution to the team's problems. That said I think Morrison has at least demonstrated that he has the potential to be an exceptional goaltender, how concistently he can perform is something that remains to be seen. Although I'd argue that an experiment we would do well to engage in.

mike w said...

"Right wing Radek Dvorak was placed on the NHL Injured Reserve list after suffering a groin strain in practice on Monday, Goaltender Ty Conklin has been assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment and the Oilers have recalled defenceman Matt Greene from the Iowa Stars (AHL)."

Chris said...

That's good news in any case, interesting that they brought up Matt Greene not Syvrat this time around. And we're dealing with a third AHL club now? I really hope the Oil get their act together and get their own rather than buying up AHL timeshares like this did this time around.

I wonder if we could trade Conklin for a second or third round draft pick. Tampa has been struggling in goal, they might be willing to part with something and give Conks a second chance.

Anonymous said...

Let me explain it to you,

Conky save % = .836
Juicy save % = .891
Mojo 'Risin save % = .924

Juicy is 28th in the league, Conky doesn't even make the top 44 goalies. Mojo would be between the Rangers Lundquist .926 and Vokoun .923. Mr. Mojo Risin is one of the best in the league, 4th or 5th, and the other 2 jokers are among the worst, hence;

"Do we really need to pull last week's defensive player of the league and put in arguably the 2 worst goalies in the league?"

The best riposte to my comment is that Juicy is only 28th, but isn't that damning him with faint praise? I repectfully stick by my point, Morrison=good, our other goalies=bad.

Btw, doesn't it bother anyone else that Juicy and Conky have this horrible habit of letting in the first couple shots of the game? Don't ya think that it's a little disheartenning for the rest of the players to know that they'll start every game down at least 1-0?

And no, I'm not some other Duke. I'm the Big Duke, showing 'em how it's done and making it look easy.


mike w said...

Dear Straight Shootin' Duke,

You won't get me defending Conks, but the only the I can say about Morrison is he's only played 7 games, 7 games in which the Oilers D played pretty well. No one thinks he shouldn't get more time to play but he's far from a sure bet at this point.

Neither is Markannen, but this "28th" business is kind of splitting hairs when most goalies' SV% are separated by hundreths of a decimals. If he were to get a couple shutouts the HF Boarders would suddenly start comparing him to the Kipper and maybe even map out a Jasper Ave parade route. God, how I hate some fans.

Clearly, Mike "George Plimpton" Morrison is gonna get some starts, so I think we're okay for now. But I wouldn't stop sniffing for Number Ones if I'm Kevin Lowe.

Or another defenceman.

Anonymous said...

You're right of course. Mojo is untested over the long haul, and stats can mean anything you want them too. I guess I'm just frustrated by the Coilers seeming to start games in the hole from weak goaltending. I watched Salo sour his last season here (and possibly cost us a playoff spot). Mojo just seems like a ray of hope and I figure ride him till he proves he can't do it.