Monday, November 28, 2005

Arise Robimus Prime

Took another two week break with this thing, but it's back. After successifying the nickname for Robimus ("Popcorn" is also nice, Randy, but dammit, I'm a Transformers fan), and getting a possible one for MAP (Poutine), both have had fairly standard weeks for how they've been playing. Without further adieu, the update.

Marc-Antoine "Poutine" Pouliot
GP: 20
G: 3
A: 9
Pts: 12

Notes: In what's been a pretty half-assed Hamilton offence of late--four straight games with no more than one goal, though they've scored five and six in their last two games--Pouliot has done alright for himself. He was held pointless, but had six shots (of only 25 Hamilton shots total) in a 3-1 loss to Omaha on Friday the 18th, and has had a point in two of the last three games. He's also been in the starting lineup fairly regularly, though he was overlooked for the shooutout roster in a win last Saturday, which just isn't something you want to see from someone who's supposed to be an offensive talent in your future. On the plus side for Oilers' fans, though, Brad Winchester had three goals and two assists that game. Anyway, I would have thought Pouliot would be doing better at this point, but perhaps he's just a slow starter. Time will tell.

Robbie "Robimus Prime" Schremp
GP: 20
G: 25
A: 39
Pts: 64

Notes: Well, Prime still didn't pass his bastard teammate David Bolland in the points race yet (Bolland has 65), but he's still going strong with 3.2 ppg, and a solid 16 power play goals. He's also plus-8 (Bolland, to use the comparison again, is -3). There was a decent feature on him on the NHL website a little while back, where they compare him to Brett Hull and Jeremy Roenick in his candour, and there's also this quote from Kevin Prendergast:

"I thought Rob was almost there in terms of making the club and he is far too good a player to be back in the OHL."

Well, then, I sure am glad you sent him right back down to the OHL, you bunch of retards. Schremp's success is easier to take when we're doing well, but still, even if he was only a quarter as good in the NHL as he is in the O, he'd be top ten in team scoring. Oh well, there's always next year. Unless we have more one-way contracts, in which case we'll get to watch him tear up the AHL instead.

Andrew "Cogs" Cogliano
GP: 13
G: 7
A: 10
Pts: 17

Notes: He broke his point streak, but he currently sits tied for first among rookies in NCAA hockey with 17 points (though he's first in points per game), second on the team in scoring. He's also leading the team with 4 PPG (the caps mean power play goals). The only real troubling stat is that he's only even on a team that's roundly plus (first in the league in scoring, as a matter of fact), which likely points to some defensive issues. He's playing fairly well over all, though, and Michigan is the number-1 ranked team in the league. Also: new nickname?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Ugly NHLer


Mike has cast his vote for Darren McCarty as ugliest man on the face (ha!) of the planet, and it's pretty tough to disagree. This is an old picture, but McCarty still looks like he was doing sit-ups underneath the team bus. Even his forehead is lopsided. You begin to understand why McCarty plays the way he does when you look at him: the man clearly has nothing to lose.







Steve Smith nominates Igor Ulanov as pretty ugly, too, but I honestly have to disagree. Perhaps it's my latent Russian fetish, but I think Igor has an almost stately quality to him. Throw him in an army uniform and one of those wool caps with the ear flaps, and he's stone-facedly leading tanks through the streets of Prague. Hell, if he'd sneer a bit more, you'd probably willingly salute him. It's a damn shame Tom Clancy has moved on to having Jack Ryan fight other threats, because Ulanov could have a career as "Nondescript Russian thug #2" when he finally decides to stop giving the puck away for good.








Besides, Igor isn't even the ugliest current Oiler. I love Smytty, but there's no denying the guy is ugly. It's even more prominent if you get a side view. You really can't pinpoint one particular thing about him, either; is it the hair, which perpetually looks like Smyth has been showering with car-mechanic sweat? Perhaps. The extended nose that seems to collect sweat like a reservoir pool then drip it off at clockwork-like intervals? Maybe. The gigantic ears hidden by the mechanic-sweat hair? A little. I like to think that Smyth is really just more abstractally ugly than anything; as in, if someone told you to draw ugly, this is fairly close to what you would come up with.






He probably doesn't rank as the ugliest Oiler ever, though. Kelly Buchberger probably could have been a handsome man, had he not spent his career jumping in front of pucks, sticks, fists, skates and anything else hard that was around. I like to think Bucky earned his ugly, though; he was fairly nondescript to begin with, but years of grit and guts turned him into the Frankenugly creature currently working for the Oilers in some capacity. But man, that stuff is better than a medal. Kelly won't have to pull out a glass case from the attic to impress his grandkids, he'll just stare at them until his jaw goes numb and his fake teeth fall out, sending them screaming into the upstairs bedroom, refusing to ever visit Grandpa again.


But I still think none of these guys hold a shattered mirror to the master. It became sort of de rigeur to make fun of Ricci's looks a while back, but Jesus, come on. We could fill an old French palace with pictures of this guy and call it the anti-Louvre. The only thing scarier than picturing Mike Ricci is picturing Mike Ricci with close-cropped hair, which he has now (for a time). This is the nameless terror that haunted the dreams of innocents until it became flesh. To defend Mike, however, I believe it was Yogi Berra who said, "So I'm ugly. I ain't never seen anybody hit with his face." Amen, but we could at least avoid portraiture of any kind.





Of course, why forget Tim Hunter, aside from the obvious? He usually got picked on because of his nose, which is ample, but that's to forget those glassy eyes and that taught, almost-zombie quality to the rest of his face. I think the fact that both he and Ricci played for the Sharks probably puts San Jose in the running for ugliest all-around team of all time. Could you even imagine these two on a line together? They'd have to reinforce the glass.

(I realize making fun of people's looks is a petty bit of grandstanding, but hey, I didn't start it. Besides, they all got to select their wives from the banks of the Sexy River in the hottest part of Attractiveland, so I imagine they've all gotten over it.)

Won on the Kipper!

This Oilers team has some pluck, yet.

I thought we were doomed once Hemsky missed his chance on Kirpusoff. There was a funny camera shot of him looking up at the Scoreboard and grimacing, presumably from seeing it was Iginla up next next to win it. But he didn't!

Despite the Homer Sportsnet colour commentator who insisted rookie Morrison was beaten on every shootout chance (more like 2 out of 4), the goalie pulled out a nice stop on Chuck Kobasew, as well as playing as strong a game as any Oilers goalie has yet this season. Pisani was the unlikely hero, reversing what seems to be a more likely 2003-04 scenario in which we should have let in a last minute goal thanks to a Tommy Salo point shot softie (yes, we're still going on about that sad sack of shit of a goalie).

I don't think any Flame fan would begrudge me for saying the obvious: without Kiprusoff this Calgary team would have lost bigtime. I hate his guts. I want to blow up his house. Or poison his dog. From watching a few games this season, I think the Flames defence is much overrated but that fucking goalie bails 'em out everytime. He's only 15th in Save Percentage but almost everyone in front of him has played half as many games (except for Luongo and Cujo), and he has a league-leading 3 shutouts. Worst yet, he seems to save his best for the Oilers.

That said, this is a different Oilers team than the one that came up flaccid in that October 15th 3-0 loss. The defence pulled through even with Pronger out with a sore knee, once again blocking twice as many shots as their opponents and generally looking sharp playing and defending the puck in front of their own net. Offensively, the puck possesion was strong in Calgary's end, and players like Hemsky, Smyth and Stoll managed to break up Flames coverage a few times, something I don't think I saw once in their two losses last month. You can tell from watching this game that we have offence coming out of our ass.

Game notes:

* Peca watch: the fourth line looked good out there, despite Peca's minus 1 on the night (still the most overrated stat). It's worth noting that he missed a couple more open nets. Oh well. Interesting paraphrased quote about his bloated salary the other day: "no one complained when I made the league minimum the year I won the Selke." Take your pot shots, but I think he has the right attitude in not letting his salary bother him.

* Laraque gets a gold star for trying to fight Dion Phaneuf. Maybe next time Chris Simon will take him on. He did call Mike Grier a bad name once, but maybe he'll stop short with Big Georges.

* Syvret looked a little Semenov-like out there and was benched in the third.

* Is Darren McCarty the ugliest man in the universe?

* Marc-Andre Bergeron was our number one defenceman, playing 30 minutes.

* Once I used Shawn Horcoff as a punchline to Oilers woes, and I was a skeptic all summer, but I think he's offically good now.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fourth Line Logjam

I too, am guilty of picking on Mike Peca, who despite his defensive and faceoff prowess, is still overpaid at $4 million. But what about the idle bodies that comprise our barely-used fourth line?

Marty Reasoner...................... $650,000
Georges Laraque.................. $1,080,000
Todd Harvey.......................... $528,000
Krys Kolanos.......................... $540,000
Jani Rita ................................$450,000
Brad Winchester .....................$450,000

........................................$3, 698,000

Both Rita and Winchester are on way-contracts, which means they get paid the same if they get sent down to the AHL (Kolanos is, I believe, on a two-way contract). If I understand things correctly, most of 'em could be sent down but be claimed on the way back up through waivers, with the Oilers eating half of the salary. That's a bad thing.

How waivers is determined is entirely separate from one-way/two-way contracts: it's based on years as a pro (years signed by games played) and forgive me for not knowing for sure but Winchester (as per earlier this year) and Rita don't count.

So, uh, my point? We have too many fourth liners and we don't really need all of them.

The Oilers fourth line plays about 6 minutes a game, 5 of them in the first period. At some point I would get rid of three and pick up another veteran defenceman, if it's even possible. Marty is a keeper since he's not truly just a fourth liner; I have a soft spot for Georges and I've noticed Harvey more than the rest in the 20-30 minutes they've all played in October and November. Kolanos hasn't looked terrible but we haven't see much of him. The two guys that should have two-way contracts don't have em. Ugh. Whatta mess.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oilers Gone Wild!

Well, after a downright lacksadaisical game against the Sharks, the Oil "bounce back," as the say, for a high-spirited win over Minnesota. I don't know what people are talking about with the Wild, but this game was at least 37 times more open and free-skating than the San Jose game, and the Wild played an up-tempo, hard style that worked well for Oiler hockey. I could watch them play pretty much any day of the week, especially since I think we can beat them six out of the seven of them.

(To your right at this particular moment are Ethan Moreau, who scored the game-winning goal, Chris Pronger, who got the assist on it, and Raffi Torres, who had a goal and an assist, as did linemate and dynamic duo-er Jarret Stoll, by the way.)

I'm starting to find things like transitions, conjuctions and flow a little annoying, so how about we finish this puppy off in point form?

-Morrison was once again fairly solid. The first two goals were just fantastic passes he had no chance on (Marian Gaborik! Holy shit is he talented!), and the third, while probably stoppable, certainly wasn't an easy save.

-Most people consider Manny Fernandez the better of Minnesota's goalies, but Roloson is no slouch, either. There was a series in the third period were he must have robbed the Oil three or four times in a row.

-Our offence looked hot tonight. We probably could have had two more goals were it not for Roloson, and every line, even the much-maligned fourth, had scoring chances. The powerplay moved the puck well, too, even if it didn't connect.

-Big Georges can't do much else these days, but Jesus did he drop Dan Boogard like he was hot (Boogard's 6'7", by the way). It took them about ten seconds to properly square off, but the first left Georges landed as soon as he grabbed Boogard's jersey hit like a cement hand (yes, it has a double meaning). Kudos to Boogard for even taking Georges on, though. I sort of miss fighting, you know. Not that there should be a lot of it, but one dust-up a game, if legitimate, is a welcome thing.

-Marc-Andre Bergeron isn't a stalwart defensively, but he can drop a big hit every so often, and he caught two Wild players with decent pastings tonight. He played with Pronger most of the night, and he looked great. Cross and Ulanov didn't seem to lose anything, either.

Who are we, anyway? (Goalies, minor leaguers and conclusions)

Alright, so, this probably would have been better if I had managed to get them all in in one game, but hey, some of us have lives, you know. Lives with things to do in them.

Anyway, before two games pass and this shit's not done, the rest of the team.

Goalies

Ty Conklin
1-1-0, 4.4oGAA, .836SV%
Minor stats: 1-2-0,
3.17GAA, .907SV%

Oh, Terrible Ty. With the better-than-adequate play of Morrison, and Jussi clearly sliding into the number one slot, plus pretty unimpressive minor league numbers, we might have seen the last of Conklin. I doubt too many Oiler fans will shed any tears over that. After his performance, it's honestly kind of surprising we thought he could be an everyday starter in this league. I honestly doubt we'll even keep him around as a back-up. I don't even know that it's entirely deserved, I just don't think anyone has any confidence in him at all right now, and this is a team that plays pathetically when they don't have confidence in their goaltending. Only time will tell, I guess, but my money is on the man from Klondike Days not playing another game for us unless somebody goes down.

Jussi Markkanen
9-9-1, 3.00GAA, .895SV%

Well, Juicy has gone and done pretty much exactly what I thought he'd do: taken over as the obvious number one. I really don't think Jussi can be an elite starter in this league, but he can certainly be a solid one. His GAA and save percentage are both in the bottom third of the league, a fact that can't be ignored, but still, he gets the job done for the Oil. I don't think he can steal games, but if we play solid, he's not going to lose us any, either. Basically, I think he's the type of goalie whose stats are pretty much going to reflect the team's overall performance, and it's safe to say that our performance has been spotty at times this year. I have absolutely no qualms about riding Jussi for 50-60 games, and I think he'll only benefit from more nights off if Morrison keeps playing the way he has. Look for his numbers to rise to about middle-of-the-pack levels come January.

Mike Morrison
2-0-0, 1.14GAA, .952SV%

I assume he won't be able to keep these kind of numbers up, but what a pleasant surprise Mike Morrison has been. When the second half of your supposed goalie tandem proves to be as useful at stopping pucks as a laboured simile, you'd tend to panic, but Morrison has looked solid through all four games he's appeared in, and seems more than capable to grab a start every three or four games. He's also got an absolutely ridiculous accent, which I recommend you all check out. Like, seriously, there's Boston, and then there's Baww-sten.

Minor Leaguers

Danny Syvret
9GP 0G 0A 0Pts -1
Notable Stat: 1 Hit

This isn't alphabetical, nor is Syvret a minor-leaguer, but I forgot him on the defenceman round-up, so he goes here. Syvvie has done a bang-up job when he's been called on. For a guy who was passed over in the draft as many times as he was, he looks just fine up here. I mean, I don't think some more time in the AHL would harm his development, but if we have some room, he might as well play here as a six/seven guy, because he's capable. He's seen some PP time, which might be a bit optimistic, but he looks like he's coming along. One hit in nine games is kind of a surprising stat for a defenceman, though.

Kyle Brodziak
NHL Stats: 7GP 0G 0A 0Pts -2
Minor League Stats: 8GP 1G 1A 2Pts (no +/- available)

Brodziak played fairly well in his time up here, if somewhat unremarkably. I don't think he's ready for day-to-day NHL stuff, but he can probably fill in if there are some injuries. He better pray that there are some injuries if he wants to play in the NHL again this season, because with the pick-up of yet another fourth-liner in Kolanos, he probably won't be back any other way.

Brad Winchester
NHL Stats: 7GP 0G 0A 0Pts -2
Minor League Stats: 10GP 4G 1A 5Pts (no +/-, 26 PIM)

Winchester wasn't spectacular in his time up here, but he certainly was better than certain other players that remain in the NHL today. I'd like to see him around again, and I think that, if we were to say, trade Big Georges, Winchester would probably perform admirably in a sort of lower-line tough guy/power forward role. I hope to see him again, if only because I don't think he's got a full shot yet.

Conclusions

Well, it's safe to say that I don't agree with Cosh's dire predictions, but I'm not buying a car to take place in the parade, either. This is a team that didn't really deserve a seven-game losing streak, but doesn't entirely deserve a seven-game winning one, either.

I actually like our forwards quite a bit; they are not, certainly, an elite group, but they are an effective group, and I think it's safe to say any one of them would be filling a similar role on any other team in the league. As it turns out, we've got one of the top lines in hockey, and I'd say that some combination of Torres, Stoll, Dvorak, Reasoner and Peca is more than capable of putting together a fine second line between them. Our checking line has always been a strength, and continues to be so, and I actually think our fourth line could be better than it has in the past, but it would seem in the new special teams-happy NHL, they're not going to need to be anything more than warm bodies and occasional injury fill-ins.

Speaking of special teams, we certainly seem to have the personnel capable for at least average quality (whether we have the system, of course, is another matter entirely). We've got at least two solid PP quarterbacks in Pronger and Bergeron, three go-to goal guys (Torres, Stoll and Smyth) and a couple of people who can work the half-boards to success (Hemsky and Horcoff). Reasoner seems to find a way to do things in there, too. Our PK, I think, is really a system change away from being in the top-third of the league. All of our defenceman, with the possible exception of Bergeron and Ulanov (though he'll probably shape up), have proven to be above-average in their own end, and we have at least four pairs of forwards ready and able to throw themselves in front of slap shots. If we get more agressive, I don't see a lot of PP goals against.

The weak part is probably the goaltending. I don't think it's bad, but Morrison certainly remains a question mark, and I don't have as much confidence in Jussi without a solid back-up behind him. If they play like they can, and have in spurts, though, it's good enough to get us into the playoffs. They're not going to steal any, but they're not going to lose any, either, and that's an improvement over the last two seasons.

These guys aren't world-beaters. A playoff spot is certainly within their reach, but much past the first round would be cake at this point. We have a lot of pieces in place--we could, I think, use a few upgrades, but we certainly have the necessary components at the moment to be a fine team. Our young players have settled, our few stars are playing as such, and our role players know their role and perform it admirably. I'm optimistic for the rest of the year, and barring a major injury or another streak, I think we'll probably see them in the postseason. Weeeeeeee.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Attacked by a shark metaphor!

Something of a late game recap, thanks to forgetfulness (I hear, in an odd twist, there are pills made from parts of shark brains that are supposed to help that).

Anyway, there isn't much to report, other than the fact that this game could probably be used as an argument against the shootout: really, neither team played well enough to deserve a win. Better to be on the good side of that, I suppose, but yeah, this was pretty much 60 minutes of watching teams trade mistakes. Neither ever got much flow going, and though both goalies were solid, the 1-1 tie was more a result of lacklustre offence than stellar goaltending. That and the fact that Mike Peca quite literally can't put the puck into an empty net. I'm not sure if you saw highlights, but fook, he could have been shooting on a midget guarding the end boards and he would have found a way to miss last night.

Anyway, random notes on the game:

-Mike Morrison still gives up some big, fat rebounds, but other than that he's fairly solid. He didn't have much of a chance on Marleau's goal, and took the percentage play, but got burned on it.

-The Sharks played one of the most agressive PKs I've ever seen, and it almost entirely shut down the Oilers. The key was on the points: there was no way the Oil could have scored a goal like the Sharks', because our d-men didn't have more than five seconds alone before their was a stick in their face. I'd recommend the Oil give it a try; not that using your forwards as target ducks is a bad strategy, per se, just that they might get hurt less if there were less point shots.

-With all the talent the Sharks have, I can't figure why they're not better. They seem quite disinterested, though. They could probably use a sparkplug little yappy guy, who will got out, hit people and run his mouth. At least when people start going after him, it might get a rise out of the rest of them.

-Syvret saw PP time, and he didn't look out of place. I don't know if there should have been room made for him by trading Semenov, but it doesn't really seem like he'll learn very much playing in the A right now. If they wanna platoon him, they have my blessing. You hear that, Lowe? I say it's okay. I know you were waiting.

-I really only think the shootout is the most exciting play in hockey when there's actually something on the line more important than a mid-season yawner. I suppose it was more interesting than the game, sure, but I found hard to care about penalty shots after 65 minutes of boring hockey.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Who are we, anyway? (Defence)

The second part (the first part is underneath) of an in-depth look at the Oilers' roster. I already did the forwards, now it's time for rearguards.

Defence

Marc-Andre Bergeron
19GP 5G 6A 11Pts -1
Notable stat: Why not five goals, which leads the team for defencemen and ties him for sixth in the league?

Bergeron, inexplicably to me, started the season as about our fifth defenceman, but after injuries and solid play, I'd say he slides in at a comfortable fourth, if not better. He's become a lot more solid in his own zone--still no Jason Smith, but not a liability by any stretch--and he still has a hell of an offensive punch. He, as much as anyone on our roster, has picked up on the long bomb (he gets burned once in a while, but that'll happen), and he really knows when to jump into a rush. I don't think he'll ever lead a defensive corps, but I think he can be really solid two-/three-guy, and isn't far off that right now.

Cory Cross
12GP 1G 3A 4Pts Even
Notable stat: 10PIM

Well, after a preseason in which the words "lanky git" came up more than once (that might have just been me, but he was pretty useless), Cross has settled into his role as low-level defenceman. I worry that the knee injury might set him back into this preseason-style hooking and grabbing to regain position, but that was more a mindset and positioning thing than actual footspeed (and presumably he will get the footspeed back soon). Presuming he picks up where he left off, though, he'll be that 5-ish guy we need to play solid defensively, kill a penalty or two, and maybe head man it once in a while.

Chris Pronger
22GP 1G 11A 12Pts 3
Notable stat: 28:32 min/game (league leader)

In every way but points (which are improving after a slow start), Pronger is exactly what the Oilers traded for. He hits the long pass, he calms things down in his own end, he's jumping up, he's shutting down, and he's playing at least 30 seconds more a night than anyone who isn't a Toronto Maple Leaf. Now, he'd need to score more to get serious Norris consideration, and I actually don't think that, when it comes down to it, he'll be in the top three, but he has definitely played like an elite-level defenceman. I'm actually scared to think about what this team would be like if Eric Brewer where in his shoes. He needs an "A" on.

Dan Smith
7GP 0G 0A 0Pts 1
Notable stat: 7 PIM (there's only one combination to get seven PIMs)

Like his injury-call-up buddy (I don't know if they're actually buddies), Smith played pretty solidly in a limited role. No glaring mistakes, no overly flashy plays, just fine, bang-it-off-the-boards-in-your-end, hold-the-line-on-the-other hockey. I don't think we can rely on him in anything other than a six/seven role, but he seeems to do that fine. Oh, yeah, and it's nice to have a little toughness on you.

Jason Smith
22GP 2G 4A 6Pts Even
Notable stat: 43 Hits (leads team), 66 Blocked Shots (leads league)

Smith is doing what Smith does. I actually really like the pairing of Smith and MAB--Smith's utter tenacity lets Bergeron roam more. And there really isn't a better defensive type on the team (maybe Pronger, but in terms of a purely defensive beast, it's Smith). I am still a bit surprised by the captain thing--not that you change it mid-season, but it seems to me that Smyth and Pronger are the ones leading this team, at least in terms of on-ice play. Nothing against Smith, of course, whose play has been solid, just a thought.

Steve Staios
22GP 1G 9A 10Pts 5
Notable stat: 22:17 min/game

Those 22 minutes make Stevey Stay essentially our second defenceman. I don't know if, in all honesty, that's a role he's suited for. Don't get me wrong, he certainly is a solid defenceman, good both ways, solid on the PK and capable, if forced, of working the PP, too, and rarely making many mistakes. I don't know if he's who you pick behind your stud though. Essentially, someone like him ratcheted up a few skill points would be perfect, but he does work with a somewhat limited palette. You certainly can't complaing about his performance, though; Staios is as reliable as they come, and I think he's played great next to Pronger. He doesn't serve as the second half of an awe-inspiring defensive pair, though.

Igor Ulanov
9GP 1G 1A 2Pts -7
Notable stat: The minus, says I, worst on the team.

Ullie struggled in the beginning of the year, but looked to have sort of settled down when he went out with injury. He still didn't really impress me enough to be considered a regular starter, and I'm curious as to how he'll bounce back after the injury, but if he platoons at six/seven, I don't see why that's a problem. He still even has the potential to do better, I just don't think he will.

That finishes that. I have at least two more to do (goalies and minor-leaguers), and they'll be coming soon.

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

Forwards

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.



Sunday, November 20, 2005

Farewell Semenov

The Oilers have dealt D Alexei Semenov to Florida for a conditional draft pick.

I'm not sure what the "conditional" part might be, but I'm a bit chagrined by the move. Semenov was kind of stuck in neutral for the last two years, but he's still valuable as an asset and I fear we didn't get full value for him in the trade. We have some depth, but the Oilers aren't exactly bursting with defence prospects after Greene, Syvret and Dan Smith (can Smith even be called a prospect? He's more like blueline fodder than anything).

Almost all defencemen are late-bloomers and Semenov's still just 24, and I thought there'd still a chance he'd break out and be a regular player. Maybe I'm the only one who thought he wasn't all that bad, just prone to indecisiveness in moving the puck. Plus, you can never have too many defencemen in the NHL. Meanwhile, we have about 2-3 fourth liners too many, with Kolanos in the mix. Rita should be dropped over the High Level Bridge, this is for certain.

прощайте Alexei!

UPDATE: From Dan Barnes in the Journal:
"It's a seventh-rounder now, a fifth-rounder if the Panthers make the playoffs." I guess we can officially consider this move a salary dump. A 7th Rounder!? We drafted him 36th overall in 1999! The Oilers totally gave up on the guy to save $700,000 bucks. Tis a shame.

Here come the Hawks

Sweet Lord.

Too drunk to really say much. I went drinking and dancing at some place called The Boat here in TO, which kind of sucked because, like all Indie DJs, this one had to play things that were completely undanceable. Something downright Aryan about the whole 60s themed thing: for every odd Smokey Robinson ditty there were 6 or 7 Herman's Hermits or Gerry and the Pacemaker songs. Damn this town, Colby was right. Too many "projects" and themed parties, including the pillow fights and flash mobs. Maybe it's just this town, but I don't ever remember fun being so manufactured and self-conscious. Cute girls, though!

What's this, again? A Hockey blog? Oh yeah. All I can say is that I'm thanking the stars Hemsky didn't get knocked out for the whole season with that Cullimore knee-on-knee. Chicago played a great game and we missed a few chances to take it away from them. Simple as that. Raffi Torres on After Hours: he's gonna have to shave that porn landing strip off of his chin, right away.

Oh, and it would have been nice if one Albertan team could have beaten the fucking Hawks, just for old times sake. Flags at half mast!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bathroom Reading


So, I don't really know how many of you out there read, but the Literary Review of Canada released their list of the 100 most important books in Canadian publishing history, and sandwiched between people like Margaret Atwood, Archie Lampman and Northrop Frye was good ol' Howie Meeker, with his timeless instructions on hockey basics. I actually remember checking this book out of my old elementary school's library on more than one occasion as a youngster, though I honestly can't tell you what basics were found throughout. Nor can I tell you what I was thinking (I also took out a bunch of Garfield books, to put it in perspective).

Anyway, it got me thinking about hockey books in general, in particular the best of them. And, such is my want, I figured I'd list them. Now, I have to admit, I haven't read all that many hockey books, so this is sure to leave out what are likely some important ones, but by all means, feel free to add any I've overlooked/never read.

So, in no particular order, here goes:


Grapes: a Vintage View of Hockey
I'll probably get flamed for this, but I honestly have to say that this is probably one of the best books I've read with hockey as its subject matter. Yeah, yeah, it's just a fairly rambling recollection of his life in hockey, but Cherry had the benefit of not only playing minor league hockey in a time when it was essentially populated with nothing but the borderline (and sometimes outright) crazy, but also coaching what were probably two of the more interesting teams of the late '70s and, of course, being fairly flamboyant the whole time. I suppose we won't actually find out what life is like for a hockey player these days for a good ten or 15 years, but I can't imagine that, with all the conditioning and money and insurance and such, it's half as interesting as it was in Cherry's day. I also sort of like the fact that Cherry doesn't ever bother to get the least bit philosophical about his life; hockey is just a game, after all, and I think it's far better for a laugh and a good story than any deeper message about life.

The Game
Which is probably why I don't hold Ken Dryden's account in as high esteem as everyone else does. But hey, it's still a fine book, and probably the most literate account of anything by an athlete. Dryden saw the game a little differently from presumably most other players out there (and not just in the talented-player way), and it makes the book hold a bit more weight and insight than your typical memoir.


Net Worth: Exploding the Myths of Pro Hockey
This was actually the last hockey-related book I read freely of my own accord (damn you to hell, Dave Bidini!), in about 2001 or 2002, and though it probably didn't hold the weight it would have when it was first released, thanks to about a decade of players clearly winning the money battle and the fact the story had become a bit better known than it was in the early 90s, I'd say it ranks with Moneyball as one of the best examinations of the game within the game that is professional sports. It's apparently quite hard to find (the Strathcona County Library used to have a copy, and probably still does), which is sadder than a retarded puppy with a broken leg, because it's well worth a read.


Peter Puck: Love That Hockey Game!
It doesn't seem right to have a list of hockey books without Brian McFarlane on it, and this is honestly the only one I can remember reading (it might even be the only one I've ever read, come to think of it). It also has Peter Puck, which is fairly awesome. Actually, come to think of it, I'm sort of surprised Peter Puck hasn't ever been brought back. I'm too young to have gotten the full Peter Puck experience, but surely someone out there must be nostalgic for him. Huh? Space Ghost and Harvey Birdman have made comebacks, why not Peter Puck?

The Hockey Sweater
Come on, it might get a little overdone, but that's only because it manages to pretty much perfectly nail the deep-seated loyalty and loathing that come hand-in-hand with sports obsession in a format easy enough for children to understand. I mean, really, haven't we all, at some point or another, wished the entire Maple Leafs roster would get devoured by moths? It also gets the dynamic of your parents (and it's usually moms) almost buying you what you want, but missing out on the important subtleties.

That's obviously not very extensive, and while I've read more hockey books, they've mostly been a collection of mediocre memoirs or fairly unremarkable histories/anecdotes. I've heard good things about The Stick and Money Players by Bruce Dowbiggin, and I've also been recommended to Thunder and Lightning, Phil Esposito's memoir, and Ice Time by Jay Atkinson, but I've never actually bothered to check any of them out for some reason. Probably well worth a read if you get the chance, though.

So, yeah, any books all y'all dig?

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Wild" and "Zany" Oilers' Win!

Edmonton 6 (OT)
Detroit 5


"Jesus Christ," I muttered during the second intermission, throwing a sock across the room.

It was all so unfair. The Oilers were outplaying Detroit all game, winning 60 per cent of the playoffs, blocking twice as many shots, and creating chances but they weren't getting any goals. Then Datsyuk and Johan "Jonathan" Franzen skated up the ice and made Markkanen look a bit silly.

I was expecting a run-of-the-mill-good-try loss to Detroit but was rewarded with an ol' fashioned barnburner, with four straight Oilers goals in the third. So: Whoo! Some quick thoughts before bedtime:

- I thought Ryan Smyth was all about garbage goals and greasing his way around defenders on the boards. Nope, he's a sniper. Third best shooting percentage in the league (30.6%)

- Special Teams success: 3 for 9 on the PP, 1 PK goal and 1 for 3 on Jason Williams giveaways from the point.

- Markkanen has a .899 SV %, which is actually good. I think the league average is around .896 right now, and he's played a lot better than many other Number 1s, so I think we can safely shop for another goalie at a leisurely pace. And perhaps Conklin will get his game back, too. (cough)

- Scoring depth. To the Calgary fan on BoA who scoffed when I mentioned Oilers scoring
depth: we're 11th in the league. You're what? 19th? HhahahaHA! Eat my ass, bitch! Of course a tired, slightly geriatric Detroit defence helped us along, for one night.

- Earlier this year we had a debate whether you'd take 2 or 3 above average players instead of one very, very good player. I still would take the very good player every time. While Hemsky is not a superstar, anytime he's on the ice a chance seems to be created. He's the reason Stoll scored in OT, using his speed and control to get past the defender and eventually feed the puck to the point. It's a team game to be sure, but most teams seem to do well with just front-loading one real scoring line. Even the Oilers only really skate three. The big difference this year is that we have a first line with some real talent (Smyth, Hemsky), with of course a tip of the hat to Horcoff. He's in the team record books now with 4 assist in one period.

- In the business as usual department: Georges Laraque took a dumb penalty late and was benched. Don't mess with a good thing!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Marchant: Waived!

Well, we have the first salary dump trade of the New NHL, with Anaheim shipping Sergei Federov and his $6.01 million contract to Coulmbus for Tyler Wright (remember him?) and seventh defenceman D Francois Beauchemin, both who make less than a million each. Good move by Burke: Federov was never going to be worth his salary, even if he score 35 goals. He's also 36 and full of groin injuries this season.

Doug McLean is also a moron
. The worse this team gets, the closer they inch up to the the salary cap ($37 million and counting). Todd Marchant once had a career year in Edmonton, scoring 20 goals, so McLean signed him to a ridiculous contract. Now to make room for Federov he's waived Marchant and will have to take up half of the bill if any other team picks Marchant up. Duh. Marchant was also popular in the locker room and when I last checked, a hard worker; I can't imagine the team will respond too well after losing a de facto captain in a salary dump.

I'm curious to see who'll pick up Marchant, he's a good player but expenisve after this season's discount of $1.25 million (he's carting around a contract with 3 more years at $2.5 million). Someone will. It just better not be the Oilers... YOU HEAR ME, LOWE!?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

They also call me the Answer


In light of the successful out-figuring of a nickname for Robbie "Robimus Prime" Schremp, I present to you a list of some of the greatest sports nicknames of all time, derived through memory and the internet. It's hardly a scientific list: these are just names that have most always piqued my interest, either because they're unique, clever, or particularly timeless.

If you have others, please add them. Oh, and we still need to figure one out for Pouliot. Perhaps Coshy can do some more sleuthing to drag up an interesting tidbit from MAP's childhood.

Anyway, in no particular order except for alphabetically by nickname:

Allen "The Answer" Iverson
Harry "Apple Cheeks" Lumley (this is, I admit, mostly because I share Lumley's red-faced condition)
Andre "Bad Moon" Rison
Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion
Jerome "The Bus" Bettis
Georges "The Chicoutimi Cucumber" Vezina (Wouldn't it be at least 40 times more awesome if goalies competed for the "Chicoutimi Cucumber" trophy? We should start a petition or something.)
Paul "Daffy" and Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean
Red "The Galloping Ghost" Grange
Larry "Grandmama" Johnson
Moe "Kid Presentable" Syzlak
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Rudolph Walter "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone Jr
Daron "Mookie" Blaylock
Andre "Red Light" Racicot
Walter "Refrigerator" Perry
Charles "The Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley
Willie "Say Hey" Mays (alternatively The Say Hey Kid)
Janne "Spaz" Niinimaa
Bill "Spaceman" Lee
Eddie "Too-Tall" Jones
"Wake Up" Walt McKechnie
And, of course:
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

Bonus fun fact entirely unrelated to hockey, or sports for that matter: Apparently, Attila the Hun, in addition to being known as "The Hun," was also known as "The Scourge of God" by his enemies. I believe I have a new dream, and it is to be called "The Scourge of God" at least once before I depart this mortal coil.

Avalanche of Not Suck

Get it, it's an Avalanche? Huh? Anyway, though I don't even have cable, much less PPV, the kind folks at U of A's RATT show every televised Oiler game, which means I dusted off the ol' monocle and headed down (or up, I guess) there to take in a moderately solid 5-2 win over the Avs.

I say moderately solid because, despite a really strong third period, that was a game we were probably pretty fortunate to win. I don't know that we were dominated in the first two periods per se, but the Avs sure were the better team on everything but the scoreboard through 40 minutes--the shots were 25 to 14, and I'd swear to God we didn't play more than ten minutes in the Avs end that weren't on the power play.

Man did we ever figure out how to take it to them in the third period, though. We were calm and confident the whole 20 minutes, got a few clutch goals when we needed them, and didn't panic and let them back into the game. Had we played like that the entire time, there would be nothing to do but sit back with a snifter of brandy and bask in the reflective glory of Ales Hemsky. Though I guess it is fairly nice to know that we can score when we're not controlling the game. In any case, some random thoughts to finish it up.

-Sweet potato pie does Hemsky look fabulous. To start with the boring bits, he's definitely turning into one of those talented two-way Europeans, like a Jere Lehtinen or Pavol Demitra: they know what they're doing in the offensive zone, and though they're not overtly physical, they can flat-out shut people down in their own end, too. Hemsky's not quite there yet, but he shows a level head, and rarely makes a bad decision in his own end anymore. On the more exciting side, Torres' goal was unbelievable (I'm sure you've all seen it on highlight reels by now), and Hemsky would have had another pretty assist if Shawn Horcoff would have followed Red Green's advice.

-Mike Morrison looked solid in net, though he might be stealing the "Juicy Rebound" crown from Markkanen sometime soon. Still, though, a couple big kick-outs (one of which resulted in the second goal) aside, he made all the stops he should have made, and at least a couple that probably should have got by him. He looked the way Ty Conklin was supposed to look at the beginning of the season, and based on last night's game, can probably be a solid 20-25-game back-up (maybe even a tandem starter, but let's not get hasty).

-I don't know why the power play works right now, but it works. Although, in the first period, it did also re
veal a very curious bit of Oilerdom that I've never managed to figure out: for the first half of our first power play, Krys Kolanos was playing right wing. Now, why we for some reason think a player so ridiculously untalented he got cut from Phoenix would be a good addition to our power play is beyond me; Principe and Karius muttered something about us needing a "right-hand shot," which seems like a fine idea in principle, but I assume we'd also need that right-hand shot to be able to, you know, use that shot to actually score. But this is just another in the long line of theoretically smart moves the Oilers make, until they realize that just because someone theoretically fits into our lineup, it doesn't mean they actually have any talent or skill (Josh Green, Brad Isbister, Adam Oates, Jiri Dopita...)

-Speaking of the announcing team, Principe and Karius rank as pretty much the worst duo in history. I mean, I thought I hated Millen, but at least he says something, however retarded. Principe commented on ticket packs more than any of the game, and they seemed to trade off the play-by-play based on whoever was talking last when play started. Surely Bob Stauffer is willing to go down on somebody to get the chance to call Oilers games, and I think a team of cross-eyed mimes could probably do a better job on colour commentary.

-Chris Pronger, in addition to helping my pool with his first goal, on the power play, which proved to be the game winner, is showing why he's one of the top defencemen in the league, and should probably be getting an "A" tossed his way in the near future. Peca, though overpaid if he's not scoring, can still shut down opposing forwards like no one's business: I don't think Joe Sakic touched the puck in our end more than five times all night.

Monday, November 14, 2005

ESPN with a side of Schremp


As Chris pointed out, I've spent the last five days in the land they call Disney (yes, I'm 21 years old, and yes, my parents paid for me—some of us never grow up). Anyway, whilst down there, I got to take in some ESPN, specifically their flagship program, SportsCenter. And I have to say, man, is that ever a terrible program. Seriously, I understand that they have a lot of sports to cover, but their typical highlight package is about 15 seconds long, maybe. They show two, maybe three plays (and not the full play, either, just the end result), flash the score and the top players at the bottom of the screen, and it's on to another game. This wasn't just for hockey, either: every single game they showed had about as much information as the Score's ticker, with a flashy visual or two. All so they could get back to having one of their commentators be the fake GM of the Chicago Cubs, or whatever. Canadian networks have their problems, but man, this cock-teasery was worse than not seeing anything at all. ESPN, you get two big Mickey Mouse thumbs down.

Anyway, on to the update. Also, again as Chris said, I swear there will be more than just missed game reviews in the near future. Totally.


Marc-Antoine Pouliot

GP: 14
G: 2
A: 7
Pts: 9

Notes: This was something of a rough week for Pouliot, despite being promoted to the starting lineup. After recording one assist and playing pretty solidly in a 2–1 win over Binghamton (according to any information I could find), he was pretty much invisible in 5–1 and 5–2 wins over Cleveland and Grand Rapids, respectively (he was actually -1 in the second game), with only one shot over the two games. It's a sad day in Hamiltonville.

Robbie Schremp
GP: 14
G: 19
A: 33
Pts: 52

Notes: You know what Schremp needs? A nickname. MAP could probably use one, too, but Schremp's play definitely deserves an affectionate nickname. For now, I'm going to go with "Jumbo," but it seems to me that there have to be better options out there. Anyway, Jumbo had another "big" week, including a five point game against the Erie Otters. He's still four points behind linemate David Bolland for the scoring lead, but he should overtake him this week sometime, given the clip he's going at. Oh, also, he's got 13 powerplay goals (I can't find how many assists, but let's assume he has about the same percentage of assits on the powerplay and call it about 23, giving him, probably, 36 PP points. Probably. Those are the wonders of math, friends). He's also plus eight; Bolland has four more points and is minus two, so I'm assuming Schremp has picked up the defence a little.

Andrew Cogliano
Since he's only in college, I'm only going to update Cogs intermittently, and this isn't one of those weeks, because I'm lazy.

EDIT: Steve Smith is anal-retentive, and he ruined our 1986 Cup run. But he does know his their/there/they're.

Bah!

Okay, so it appears that with Pleasure Motors currently at Disneyland with his family (DORK!) and Mike and I getting swamped at our jobs (OFFICE DORKS!), it looks like we've once again dropped the ball with the game review. Rest assured, this has been but a small barren patch in an otherwise lush glen of captivating journalism and insightful critique, possibly caused by untreated fairy rings. What?

Anyhow, last night. Again, I was working, so I missed everything except the third period (nice post, by the way Mark Bell. You don't deserve happiness) of the Oilers' 3-1 loss to Chicago; as such, all I have to say is this: Oilers, it sucks when you lose. Please play better. Sincerely, me, on behalf of the Covered in Oil Smiletime Gang.

Next time: something you might care about!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I'm a professional hockey player!

Well, that was a game we scarcely deserved to win. I mean, hey, I'll take it, but it's hard to feel good about walking away from two points that you clearly should have gotten anyhow, considering the innate shittiness of our good friends down at the point factory the Columbus Blue Jackets, but to make it so hard on ourselves in the process? Needless, sirs, and far from encouraging.

For those who missed Edmonton's sleepy and unnecessarily fortunate 3-1 free-skate in Columbus last night, well, that's pretty much the game story right there. The Oilers were outshot until the third period (and embarrassingly so in the first, by a margin of 13-2), handing the Jackets' woeful power play unit four chances in the opening frame and basically playing like they really couldn't care less. And really, it's not hard to imagine why; without Rick Nash, the Jackets suck. I know that. You know that. Even my mom, for some reason, knows that. And if hockey games were fictional royalty, last night's game would be the Crown Prince of Who The Fuck Cares Castle, Hertfordshire-on-Strathwick.

The point of this meandering jibber-jabber? Well, we got two of them, but it easily could have gone the other way. The ridiculously underrated David Vyborny and rookie slackass Nikolai Zherdev looked dangerous all night, and Jody Shelley (who, amazingly, saw time on both the PP and PK for the Jackets) got his name mentioned more by the announcers than 75 per cent of the far more talented Oilers squad. Frankly, we got swarmed last night, and we have only the once-again sharp play of Jussi "13 Straight Starts" Markkanen to thank for the W. Well, and Smyth and Horcoff, too, I guess, as their tandem work down low in the right corner produced both Smith's and Pisani's goals.

And although I haven't seen it mentioned as a point of interest, it looks like Laraque was a healthy scratch last night, despite the fact that I thought he'd been playing some pretty decent hockey of late. But then again, I've missed the last two games on account of the fact that I've been putting in long hours these days (and I'm also not one of those fancy New York millionaires who wears a top hat and monocle to bed and who can afford PPV games, so for all I know he beat up Charlie Huddy in front of his kids during practice before the Dallas game—which, despite my monocle-free status, I would pay exactly one hundred Canadian dollars to see). I presume this was done so Mr. Jani Rita could once again skate around not contributing in any meaningful way, all the while wondering what the hell he could have ever possibly have done to deserve the look he's getting in Edmonton right now. If so, whatever. I worry that the only reason Rita hasn't been sent down to the AHL is that Lowe has been tricked into thinking he's worth something as trade bait. This, of course, is retarded. Will someone snap him up if we try to clear him through waivers? Oh, probably (hey, it's happened to far less intriguing players). But that doesn't mean that he's worth something. Would I grab a loonie that was falling out of the sky right in front of my face? Sure, but I wouldn't run into traffic for that same... loonie.... Did that make sense? Ah, who cares. Not me, that's who.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Legend of the Blue Suit

A Game Review? What's a Game Review? Oilers loss? What Oilers loss?

Quick, look over here! The latest installment of Gone but Not Forgotten, the ongoing thumbs up to Oilers past.

This week's episode: "Legend of the Blue Suit" starring ex-Oilers grinder Kevin McClelland:

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
1984-85 Edmonton Oilers NHL 62 8 15 23 205
1985-86 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 11 25 36 266
1986-87 Edmonton Oilers NHL 72 12 13 25 238
1987-88 Edmonton Oilers NHL 74 10 6 16 281
1988-89 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 6 14 20 161
1989-90 Edmonton Oilers NHL 10 1 1 2 13

I guess he's coaching in Memphis of the CHL now.This is based on a particularly dull interview from "Once a Leaf" I saw on TV earlier this year. So dull, in fact, I had to get it down on paper!

Monday, November 7, 2005

Schrempdate

He finished straightening his friend's tie, then ran his fingers down his powerful chest, a chest he had longed to get lost in for so long. It had been weeks since they were last in the same city, and would be weeks more until they got a chance to see each other again.

He pulled lightly on the tie, half pulling his partner towards him, until Robbie's hand pressed lightly against his chest. He cocked that half-smile Marc loved so much, and shook his head.

"I know," said Marc, defeated. "You have a game."

They both looked down at Marc's hand, still on the tie. He dropped it, and brushed the hair away from his eyes, blinking away tears.

"Well, go on, superstar."

Robbie put his hands, those hands that would record a goal and two assists in two hours time, on Marc's shoulder, then turned without saying a word. He picked up his suit jacket, and headed towards the door, Marc's eyes heartbreakingly glued to his cocky swagger. The door closed heavily, and Marc fell agonizingly onto the hotel bed, choking on his melancholy. It would be another night of frozen dinner and sports highlights, alone.

The update:

Marc-Antoine Pouliot
GP: 11
G:2
A:6
Pts: 8

Notes: It's been a few weeks, and by all accounts Poliout has done okay for himself. Only one goal, in a 7-6 win against Syracuse (miraculously, Conklin was not in goal for Hamilton for that game), but he's had four assists in his last three games, and has lead his team in shots on several occasions, including five in a 4-2 loss to Hershey. The only sore spot seems to be his defence: he's been a minus player in four of the last seven games, including being -1 in a 6-5 loss to Toronto where he had two assists, and wasn't once better than even. Aside from that, though, he sits in the top-20 of AHL rookies for scoring, and has a regular spot on the PP. Not bad, I guess.

Robbie Schremp
GP: 12
G: 15
A: 30
P: 45

Notes: After being named OHL Player of the Month for October, Schremp has slowed down a bit, but he's still second in the league in scoring, despite having played five less games than league leader/teammate David Bolland. The Knights lead the league with a ridiculous power play percentage of 33.8, and also have 111 goals total, another league best. Unfortunately, apparently none of their players ever go to school. But man can they play hockey.

EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE: ANDREW COGLIANO!!!
GP: 9
G: 7
A: 8
Pts: 15

Notes: Cogliano scored three goals and added three assists against Notre Dame this week, and won the CCHA Rookie of the Week award for his troubles. He's currently second in team scoring (also first in the league for rookie, or "freshman" scoring), and is tied for first on the team with four powerplay goals. Interesting fact: he was held scoreless in his first three games, meaning he's scored all 15 points on his current six-game point streak. Diggity damn.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

I LIKE MY HELMET.

Oilers 7
A Bunch of Hobos who Found Some Blues Jerseys in the Dumpster Behind the Savvis Centre 2


Well, It's been nigh on two weeks since the Oilers found that bottle of magical fairy potion that adorned then with the powers of not sucking shit, and I've gotta say, there's doesn't look to be much to complain about these days in Browntown. Horcoff and Smyth are back in the lineup and tearing it up; Chris Pronger is dominating games the way he should; thanks to an elbow to the face, Mike Peca has some time to mull over whether he's capable of accepting the role Edmonton needs him to play; and Ty "Joaquin Gage" Conklin is in the minors where he belonged all along.... oh yeah, and it turns out Jarret Stoll is the greatest hockey player in Canadian history now, apparently. Add it all up, and it equals five straight wins with 26 goals for and a scant 10 against, and a powerplay that, despite Craig Simpson's palsied mumblings, has gone eight for 29 (28%) in the same span. In other words, welcome to Wintown, Alberta, population WHOO!

Really, I don't think there's much to say about Edmonton's 7-2 dry-humpering of the Blues last night other than holy shit does St. Louis look back without Weight and Tkachuk. Legitimately unthreatening. And while Patrick Lalime was sincerely terrible in net, we did score some pretty little goals (in particular on that first 3 on 2. Yikes.) Yep, when the Oilers are playing well, it's almost scary how complete our team can look. Also scary, however: how good we looked without Peca in the lineup. Torres-Stoll-Dvorak were on a rampage last night, and Kyle Brodziak is getting more comfortable every day. I know we're stuck with him all year no matter what happens, but I'll be interested to see how Peca's return affects team chemistry. I could totally see it going either way.

Anyhow, I'll leave you all now with some poignant observations proffered by one TSN post-game thread participant named petew, who kind of sounds like he's recovering from a long, severe fever, but sums it all up nicely nonetheless, I think.

Oilers are this good? After losing 7 straight? Now this? MacT is suddenly a genius? Are the Oil for real? Will they remain unbeaten? Will they win the Stanley Cup? Oiler fans love it? ETown is loving it. With the Eskimos and Oilers, there is no stopping them both. Both teams can, and may do it. Watch. Is this real????
Man, it's true: if the Oilers and Eskimos could only set aside their differences and learn to work together, nothing in this world could stop them from, uh... winning the Grey Cup and then melting it down and drinking it out of the Stanley Cup, I guess?

Inane Sports Blather

Ah, I wish I was a sports journalist. Slovenly fan-boyish and often lazy, they seem to be given a free ride by their newspaper brethren just because they cover sports. Plus, they probably get free hot dogs at games. Not to sound like a prick, but anyone (including its author, Bucky Gleason) could have written this bit of "news" from the, um, Buffalo News:


Michael Peca has not played well in his first season in Edmonton, and already rumors are percolating that he's on the trading block. Peca had just one goal and four points in his first 10 games and has done little to justify his $3.99 million salary.

The Oilers, who had lost seven straight, are looking for help knowing Peca isn't suited for the top line. He was shipped out of Long Island to make room under the salary cap for Miroslav Satan and Alexei Zhitnik. The Oilers hailed him as one of their top acquisitions, along with defenseman Chris Pronger.

"He's been very average," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "The time of feeling his way into the situation here is over. We need more intensity from him and a better performance."


Rumours? Where? From who? Do you know anything for sure? Some Google, a little cut and paste, and a sip of morning coffee and you have half a column written right there. Arrgh! Lowe is not Mike Milbury and he's not gonna trade Mike Peca. Hell, compare him to Sather. To trade Peca is to admit to failure, which is something most GMs are smart enough to avoid. Just listen to Lowe talk about Conklin these days and you'll get the idea.

PS: Chris is currently on a couch, digesting the Oilers high-carb victory over the lowly Blues. He'll have a little thing we call a "Game Report" updated soon...

Friday, November 4, 2005

A Costly Victory (double entendre, read on)


Edmonton 4 (OT)
Detroit 3

Pay per View TV: A chance to see your favourite players naked, behind the scenes, perhaps even with low angle shots of Chris Pronger's balls.

So maybe some things are best left behind the dressing room door, but the Oilers came out of Joe Louis with their fourth-straight win, looking less and less like the team that got kick-dropped by Colorado in a 7-1 loss.

It was another in what is becoming a typical Oilers win: good aggressive cycling down low and along the boards, sound defensive play, a bunch of blocked shots, a powerplay goal tossed in and, um, Chris Pronger. The blocked shots is particularly impressive, partly because I know MacT is big on BS drills, but also because on a given night it's often the one thing the Oilers do extremely well. Most teams Wednesday night had around 10-11 blocked shots (Florida, being the lowest at 3); the Oilers had 23, including 4 from Pronger.

It's amazing how the things roll along when you're winning. Horcoff and Torres probably didn't deserve to score their goals, Detroit's PP almost beat us like its beat 9 other teams straight, and Stoll didn't hurt us with his 5 missed shots. Plus, Shananhan hit the post with 5 minutes left. Markkanen, I'm happy to point out, was the best goalie on the ice.

On a sour note: we've lost two defencemen. Bergeron got a puck on the hand, hopefully nothing freaky like Mike York's compound fractured digit last year, but it doesn't look good though based on the way he left the ice. Cory Cross reportedly has a sprained MCL, which, if true, could mean he's gone for weeks. This alone has to explain why MAcT put Semenov out there in the last minute of the game...or does it? Either way, yikes. I guess we better get Syvret, Dan Smith or possibly Greene on a plane for tomorrow's game in St. Louis.

Anyway, Covered In Oil readers, for old time's sake, I hope you screamed "OILELRRZZ" into a stranger's face on a ETS bus for me tonight. And stay with us and our meagre posts... our sad blog reporters may have been up to their asses in work this week, but our foam puckhats are screwed on tighter than ever.

Game Rating: 7 1/2 Christian LaFlammes out of 10 Pat Hughses.

Also, memo to Kevin Lowe: hope you got a good look at Marty Biron in that 10-4 blowout loss to Ottawa. Looked very Salo-esque, I must say.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Hemsky brings his bloody gameface

Blowing the dust off of this blog (afterall, it's been 3 days) and let's see what we have here...

Aha! An Oilers rout!

Edmonton 5
Columbus 1

First off: Whooo!!! [ Quick trot up and down Whyte Ave ]

Hemsky, once a shy debutante, has blossomed into an Oilers gamebreaker with a nose for the net. Hemsky is much stronger on the puck this year, and while some may want to explain that as part of getting older and gaining some size, I think the real turnaround came when he got some teeth knocked out between seasons. Crazy theory, yes. Using photographic forensic evidence however, I've got him losing a chiclet before his coming-of-age at the World Championships last year, which neatly coincides with his improved play. The new rules help, but he's playing somewhat fearlessly, narrowly escaping big open ice checks every game, using his body to contain the puck on rushes and even playing the PK for MacT, blocking the odd shot. To see him shooting top shelf (shooting!) with a trickle of blood on his cheek is to know he's become the player Oilers fans hoped he would be. Losing a tooth and forever marring Hemsky's Tiger Beat babyface seemed to do the trick: perhaps we can curbstomp the teeth out of Semenov to get more grit in his play?

(Of course, tough talk aside, I'm such a pussy that I'd probably cry if I got a puck in the mush)

The Oilers completely dominated the Blue Jackets in this game, and if there were a puck possession stat I'd just use that for the headline. The Oilers have been pretty good all year at controlling the puck (even if they weren't scoring) and the defence seems to have adjusted to the new rules, using their stick and body positioning to keep pucks away from the net. If you takeaway the early season rust of Cross and Ulanov, most obstruction penalties come from the hands of of our backchecking forwards. Chris Pronger, if you didn't love him already, has only taken two minors all season.

The Blue Jackets defence, on the other hand, looked hapless. When they weren't giving the puck away, they were beaten to the puck most of the time. In one play, Smyth made the Blue Jackets' $5 million player look slow, slightly retarded, and sad. And I'm not sure where Richardson was on that last Hemsky goal.

The fourth line also rocked the house. Laraque seems to only play well when the Oilers win, and win by a lot. I'm not sure if it's just ice time either. He actually skated and anticipated the play down low real well, although I still get scared watching him "backcheck" in our own end. Todd Harvey sure makes it a lot easier to forget Rita or Winchester.

Anyway, it's 4:00 AM here. If my post reads poorly, blame it on fatigue...a happy, sated Oilers-just-won fatigue.

PS: Looks like Peca bit off half of his tongue on the questionable Nash hit. Hope he's ok.