Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why we will not win many games this year

One of the comments in the last game day thread caught my attention.

This is a team that has to be firing on all cylinders every night to have a chance. Its like the older guys (and I exclude Sandy from this bunch) have yet to find their game. Anybody out there have an idea about this?

I said after the first game I didn't think we were going to win too much, which I think was and is the pervading sentiment among people who do not post anonymously. To me, it seems pretty obvious: we've got a lot of players, rookies or otherwise, who have to play above their heads for this team to win.

Hemsky needs to be a 90-point, All Star winger. He certainly might be, but he certainly hasn't been so far.

Penner needs to be a 60-point, legitimate first-line power forward. That probably doesn't happen this year. Might not ever happen, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Souray needs to be a top-pairing defenceman, at least keeping his head above water on even strength and picking up a bunch of points on the powerplay. He's 31, though: 31 is old. People who are 31 are stuck with being what they are for the rest of their lives. At least, if you play in the NHL, that is. If he's ever going to transform, Hot Rod-like, into this kind of player, it won't be four years from now. I don't think he's going to do it now, either, of course, but that's going to be a hard contract to justify if this doesn't happen for at least one season.

(Topical aside: how many of you would be considered grizzled veterans if you were professional hockey players? I'm really curious about the demographics of the Oilogosphere.)

Anyway...Pitkanen needs to be a terrific all-around defenceman, someone who can pick up 50 points while playing 25+ minutes a night. He's more like Janne Niinimaa, right now. But he'll probably be better than Niinimaa. Right now, though, the only thing distinguishing him and Janne Niinimaa is a trip or two to the Black Dog.

Horcoff needs to play the toughest EV minutes, stay even and still produce 60 - 70 points while he helps one player become a first-line winger and another player become an All Star. He just might do this.

Nilsson needs to be a legitimate second-line winger; he's currently in the AHL.

Torres and Stoll need to be legitimate second-liners, too. Combined: 12 G, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts, 1 PPG, -8, 15 PIM.

I could go on for a while. If you exclude the goalies, there are maybe two or three players who we know can play the role we're expecting of them, and that's if their expectations aren't elevated as other people drop off. (Sanderson, Reasoner, maybe Tarnstrom. Moreau hasn't played yet.)

Gagner and especially Cogliano are actually meeting unreal expectations. That's incredible, but it's also lucky. It's hard to blame the other players for not doing the same.


Darien said...

I'm rookie status, but not the rookies they pull in these days. Damn kids need to get off my lawn!

David S said...

Nice thoughts PM.

I'll go out on a limb here by saying that it seems we're a piece (or player) or two away from a cracking season. Sport is funny. The craziest things happen when you least expect them to, and all of a sudden you have the magic back.

It could be that the vets know exactly what you wrote - that they have to collectively excel every game. That's a pretty big pill to swallow. Maybe they're tight as a result. I dunno. But watching this team, it just feels like something's gonna happen and soon. Trade? Revelation? Or maybe just a couple of wins against some easy prey.

dwillms said...

Good post. It seems to me nearly everyone you mentioned is playing one line higher than they would be on a contending team.

The only players I can see possibly meeting the unrealistic expectations would be Hemsky and possibly Pitkanen. Stoll can be a 2nd-line player, but hasn't looked like it coming back from the concussion.

James Mirtle said...

Horcoff's right up there among the league leaders in ice time right now, 11th among forwards I believe.

Those are some big-time minutes for a guy if he's not producing 70+ points. (Not saying that he can't.)

dwillms said...

Right now, Horcoff's 11th in the league in TOI (just over 22 mins/game).

Last season, there were 35 forwards who averaged 20+ mins/game.

Only six of them DIDN'T score 65+ points:

Brian Rolston (31-33-64, 21:16)
Pavol Demitra (25-39-64, 20:38)
David Vyborny (16-48-64, 20:20)
Anze Kopitar (20-41-61, 20:32)
Shane Doan (27-28-55, 20:26)
Shawn Horcoff (16-35-51, 20:49)

another mike w said...

After last game McTavish was saying they weren't playing badly, it was just that they weren't getting the breaks. To me it seems like they aren't gelling, and maybe 5 days off right now is just what they need.

I'm not saying the playoffs are a certainty, or that we'll get the kind of big seasons out of key players we need to even be close. The players are too young and there are lots of potholes ahead -- but they aren't going to lose big every night either.

(also, the journal sez Moreau's out another 2-3 weeks, foot is broken...)

Cam Fraser said...

Not a grizzled veteran, but I'd be on my first UFA contract under the new CBA and have a couple of baby mommas in different Western Conference towns.

Since the very start of this season, whenever someone asks me about the Oilers' chances, I unequivocally state that they will not be making the playoffs this year. I see this year as a year to "gel" and to give the kids a chance to show their stuff. Each game, I'm looking for the positives from our new players (and noting the negatives), but it's pretty tough to get frustrated with a team that is both too young and too new to put together the tough wins. I'm watching for next year, and I'm watching for those beautiful Hemsky moves, daring defenceman rushes, and puck movement on the PP.

I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid, I'm just accepting what this year will be and looking for trends that might carry on into next year, when the Oilers will be grabbing that post-season berth.

Robert said...

I would pretty much be a grizzled veteran. Not Chris Chelios-grizzled, but more like Rob Blake / Doug Weight / Joe Sakic. They are all pretty much the same age as I am.

As for this year, I have never been optimistic about the kids (I can say "kids" due to my age) making the playoffs but I hoped they would still be exciting. All I can say six games in is that at least Gagner and Cogliano have been fun to watch.

Bill said...

I'm so grizzled I'm off the ice and coaching or commentating or selling used cars. I saw Tim Horton in Maple Leaf Gardens before he became a donut. I was alive when the Leafs actually won the Cup!

Where's my oxygen and walker?

IceDragoon said...

Good day.

I know I don't chime in much, but I drop in for a good read a couple of times a week. I retired almost 2 decades ago and am well on my way to 'crotchety'. ;-p

The Oilers have had to play above their capabilities for the past 10 years. Even with FCP, the skaters had to give'r'hell just to make up for the goaltending.

We won't make the playoffs this year without some significant good luck, BUT we do have some young skill getting needed 'at bats' to improve, AND more smarts, so today's mistakes become tomorrow's lessons learned.

That last point has me almost giddy, so I will be patient thru the growing pains this year.


Doogie said...

Let me put it to you this way: I'm older than Andrew Cogliano, and younger than Zach Stortini. Make of that what you will.

I still hold out hope that this will be a bubble team, but realize that they're unlikely to make it. I like to think we'll be like last year's Avs, building up to something very special in the coming years, but I have no evidence for this whatsoever.

LittleFury said...

I'm Rory Fitzpatrick.

sacamano said...

Steve Staois and I were drafted in the same year.

mike from ottawa said...

Oh, I'm a grizzled veteran. And I think I may have lived in enough cities to be considered a grizzled journeyman too. If I were an Oiler, I'd be Craig Muni.

As for the post, am I alone in thinking that this year's team is like a poor man's version of last year's Penguins? The Crosby phenomenon aside, we seem to have a solid stable of very young players who clearly aren't ready for playoff prime time this year, but if they get the icetime and development they need this year they could be scary good for a while down the road.

Or maybe we'll just trade them all.

Black Dog said...

40 in two months but I've always been grizzled, even when I was a rook.

Good post PM - this team as it stands is still trying to gel but they are also not good enough. I think they may score more goals, esp. if the PP ever gets going. As for the D they have done better then I thought at times but they sure are error prone.

Stoll will take time to recover, Raffi is being Raffi, Penner shows some signs and they sure miss Pisani and Moreau.

So it goes. We knew it would be like this. (Although they have had a tough sched so far too).

Anonymous said...

With Frankenstein MacTavish running the team, quite frankly the Oilers won't make the playoffs, and MacTavish should himself be fired for Christmas.

Hell, Lowe even built the team just to suit his stupid coaching philosophy.

The way things stand, I think 2 of the current rookies will last to see real career numbers. The rest, thanks to the Jani Rita factor that is Craig "I've done time don't fuck with me mofo)MacTavish, are going to have their little hearts broken yo-yoing up and down to the AHL.

This team is a disgrace.

LittleFury said...

I really have to wonder about people who think the problem with the Oilers is that they don't have enough raw rookies eating up ice time. Just dumb.


We knew it would be like this. (Although they have had a tough sched so far too).

True, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the team to at least look like they've been on skates before. Saturday's game against Van was a back alley abortion, with Matt Greene holding the rusty coat hanger.

Loxy said...

I'm just about to hit my prime. It's do or die time for me and Raffi.

There is very few Oilers in my age bracket. They are all a few years older or younger.

Wait a second... Think about that, we have no guys who are 27 or 28 this year. We have one skater who is 26, one skater at 29 (and Garon).

mike w said...

I'm Shawn Horcoff.

Although, clearly I'm not him at all. I imagine an NHL Access show feature about my off-ice activities which include water colours and getting drunk with my dad.

Pleasure Motors said...

Saturday's game against Van was a back alley abortion, with Matt Greene holding the rusty coat hanger.

Who in the hell taught him that sprawling on the ice in front of your goaltender was a smart play while you're killing a penalty? He must have done that about eight times on Saturday night, one of them being the one where he ended up taking out Roloson. Stay on your feet, you useless, hulking, brain-dead behemoth, particularly when your team is ALREADY SHORT-HANDED. (PS Can his nickname be "Scapegoat"?)

Also, for the record, I'm Kyle Brodziak. Almost to the day, in fact.

Black Dog said...

Yeah, Greene spent a lot of time on his belly.

Thing is littlefury - a break or two in the first period of the Saturday game and in last Wednesday's game and the Oilers would have been up one or two.

But I also used to coach and one year I had a team and after nearly every game of about our first dozen we looked at the game and said "jeez, we got all the bad breaks, one or two here or there and we would have had the win" By that point we were two and ten.

The better teams generally gets the breaks as a rule - when the Oilers went to the Cup we heard a lot about luck - truth is they worked hard and they were very good.

This team I think puts it together up front but the only guy who belongs in the top pair is Staios and only if he had a Pronger up there with him. He and Pitkanen make a nice 3/4; Tarnstrom and Gilbert or Souray and Greene a good 5/6.

The D remains a problem.

Eyeris said...

As for the post, am I alone in thinking that this year's team is like a poor man's version of last year's Penguins?

I do see some parallels between us and the Kings. There's a crop of youngsters ready to burst out big time. They definitely have the potential. They just need some time to gel and get it together. But for now, basement of the division.

Though I don't know why I call them youngsters. Since I'm pretty much the same age as Hemsky ... except I'm far less skilled.

Oilman said...

I'd be about 2 years from a nice fat Leafs contract.

Darien said...

Yeah, the oil can complain about their defensive corps(e) all day long, but at least they don't score own goals for 6 million/year.

Anonymous said...

During Saturdays game I did learn one thing. Plasma TV's just can't absorb the impact of a remote like the old tubes could.

David S said...

A commenter over at BoA mentioned something about Stauffer's show today. Seems there's some pretty decent trade rumors out there about Shane Doan and Marc Savard. Something's in the wind man. Maybe not this in particular, but something for sure. I just can't see it any other way.

Interesting times.

Darien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jameso said...

I am days older than Dustin Penner, and actually don't feel as old as I thought this experiment would make me feel.

Anonymous said...

Good post PM.

I think this team is a lot closer to being a good team than a lot of people think. We need a few impact veterans to help all the kids gel together. In short, we need Moreau and Pisani...a legitimate top-six veteran would be nice too. Shane Doan is exactly what we need, methinks.


P.S. I'm 27.

macndub said...

People who are 31 are stuck with being what they are for the rest of their lives.

I will leave your URL on my suicide note, PM.

I'm older than Souray, but younger than Hasek. I wish that I had an albatross contract like Souray that keeps me from being fired or traded, but alas.

Mattstro Disastro said...

So Souray neds the power of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership? Then he'll have the touch, he'll have the power?