It's Christmas party season again, and with Christmas party season comes Christmas party banter, some of which might touch upon the Edmonton Oilers, especially if you're at an office shindig. For some, not knowing your Ladislav Smids from your Ales Hemskys might cost you the embarrassment of your colleagues, or worse, your next promotion. For those of you that wisely don't watch every single game, here's a handy cheat sheet on each player:
Shawn Horcoff- Hardest working man in hockey business. In the top 3 per cent of the league: 21st in the league in points, 11th in even strength points, and up until about a month ago web board fans still wanted to trade him for a "real" number one centre like Patrick Marleau.
Jarret Stoll - Great cannon and plenty of hustle, but he busted his noggin last winter and lost a step. It's okay though, he and Craig MacTavish chatted over about it over a cup of coffee. But wait, then he got benched. Up and down year that's been mostly down.
Andrew Cogliano - Speedster slated to be either a one-dimensional fringe player and good prospect this year, but he was too strong on the puck to send down. Think a swarthier, play-making Todd Marchant. A nice surprise.
Marty Reasoner - Seemed poised for to be a decent number 2 centre but broke his leg a few years back and has settled nicely into a checking role. Really smart, seemingly down-to-earth guy, but his ragged skating reminds me of a man drowning.
Sam Gagner - Perhaps the second most talented guy on this team? He's 18 and small, so he has to go into the corners like some sort of rogue elf loaded up on dexterity and guile (is that a D&D attribute?). He's also directly responsible for about 6 of the Oilers shootout wins.
Dustin Penner - Spent the first part of the season looking like Brad Isbister too much. Needs to lay off the Twinkies, use his size more and "get real" as my dad use to say to me when I was 16. To his credit, he's looked better as of late, especially when protecting the puck in the opposing zone. Still way better than Todd Bertuzzi.
Raffi Torres - In dire need of on-site sports psychologist.Total headcase usually scores two goals against Vancouver and then skates around aimlessly for 10-12 games before getting another point, usually against Vancouver. Bonus feature: he injures people
Ethan Moreau - Gritty, perennially injured captian. Last played when Michael Jackson's Dangerous was released.
Geoff Sanderson - Nice pickup for a fourth line checker, although perhaps tradeable. Excels at whizzing around the ice, but it's all perimeter. Has big, bushy eyebrows.
Ales Hemsky - Oddball skilled player: he actually likes going up the middle at full speed, making him the likeliest candidate for a career-ending knee injury. He also rocks. Not a point-a-game player because he sometimes forgets to include his teammates or gets a move ahead of himself and gives up the puck too much.
Fernando Pisani - In a downtown ceremony, Pisani was awarded the skeleton key to every woman's panty drawer after the 2006 playoffs. Best checker on the team, and I think he might have one of the best - and most underrated - wrist shots on the roster. A big factor in the team's recent turnaround.
Kyle Brodziak - Basically a younger, better scoring version of Marty Reasoner.
Robert Nilsson - Punk kid likes to turn over the puck and make plays more complicated than necessary, but he's one of the few Oilers with a quick, decent shot. Really clicks with Sam Gagner. Hard to complain about a kid with an 8-game point streak.
Patrick Thoresen - Small Norse walk-on is a good two-way player that can't seem to score in the NHL. In danger of being shuffled out of the lineup if the Oilers start to lose again.
Zack Stortini - Zack is very nice young man.
Sheldon Souray - Really expensive soap opera star that does some things well (shoot, hit) and some things not so well (staying healthy, carrying the puck, defending one-on-one).
Joni Pitkanen - Gigantic, unfeeling machine that can move the puck. Has a reputation for being a locker room weirdo, albeit a high-scoring weirdo. Top 25 in points for a defenceman in an off year.
Steve Staios - A big ball of scar tissue that the Oilers throw on the ice to block shots. A real heart and soul guy that has surprisingly been on the wrong end of plays this season. At 34, maybe it's time to cut back his 22 minutes a game?
Tom Gilbert - Cornerstone defenceman. Slick and effortless, and gives Oilers fans a warm, fuzzy just-swallowed-some-Tylenol 3s feeling whenever he collects the puck in his own zone. I'm not sure if Gilbert's even been caught pinching on a rush once this season.
Ladislav Smid - Seems tougher this year, which was one of the question marks about him playing in the league. But he also absolutely stinks at stretches, showing no urgency or simplicity with the puck. Still, he's a decent skater and looks good when he gets some open ice. At only 21, there's still plenty of time for him to make the Pronger trade seem a little less one-sided.
Denis Grebeshkov - You'd think a slick Russian with a tinted visor would have more than 4 points. Prone to some of the dumbest turnovers I have ever seen, but has been fairly decent overall facing some quality opposition.
Dick Tarnstrom - He'll never again score 52 points like he did in 2004 with Pittsburgh, but he's a decent passer and more physical than I remember in 2006. Excellent depth defenceman that likes to collect butterflies in the summer (this is unverified and probably untrue).
Dwayne Roloson - His SVP has slipped under .900, but I still think he's a good goalie. When he's playing well, which is most of the time, Roli is a rebound vacuum. Bad goalies are never rebound vacuums. But indeed, this year he has had his share of bad nights and bad goals. Too many of them. As the de jure Number 1 goalie, he deserves some slack and should get some starts to rediscover his form.
Mathieu Garon - Kevin Lowe's best pick-up of the off-season. Garon's reflexes have been ahead of the play on most nights and he's become the shootout goalie of the NHL. Plus, he can do the splits. If he's ever going to emerge as a starter, it's this season -- if he can stay healthy.