Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Oilers' very bad week

What's the Oilers' record when wearing these jerseys in the last two years? 1-8?

Ouch. Going by the one reliable measure of a team's worth, the Oilers goal differential in the last week has been 3 GF -14 GA, something even the 1992 Ottawa Senators might cluck their tongues at (I can even see Norm MacIver taking a step back, sucking air between his teeth: "Jesus Christ... dudes"). The powerplay has stalled into a 1 for 16 nosedive, and just like the end of last season the team is still routinely outshoot, 26th in the league for shots for.

While Coach MacTavish finally came out swinging in his post-game comments, Lowetide is right to point out that the Oilers are still a 4-3-1 and have started to improve overall despite the recent losses. For a finesse player that likes the middle part of the ice, Ales Hemsky couldn't be called a floater by any stretch, so it's a relief to see that he's snapped out of his inexplicable torpor in the last couple of games. And pairing him with Robert Nilsson on the first line seems like such an obvious good idea that I guess it's fitting that it never occurred to me. Nilsson has probably been the Oilers best forward early this season and he's one of the few legitimate shooting threats. I expect the Oilers forward top line to perform much better than they have (Erik Cole has been in a statistical netherworld all season) and I expect the goaltending to hold up reasonably well Roloson's game last night gives me hope.

Those are the good things right off the top. But I'm a pessimist by nature (as well as a sensation at cocktail parties), so I'd rather focus on the many troubling aspects to pick apart about this team:

1. The defence is weird. There are lots of intriguing pieces on the back end, but none of them are very well-rounded. Aside from Sheldon Souray and the glitteringly improved Denis Grebeshkov, who both have stood up well, Steve Staios has been okay, although he isn't getting any faster. After that it sometimes feels like a sheer cliff. As impressive as a bench presser as I've seen, the 5'11 Lubomir Visnovsky still has a tough time chasing opponents in his own zone, with the faintest shades on Marc-Andre Bergeron haunting that end of the Oilers ice. Tom Gilbert has taken a big step back from last year, and the puck has had an uncanny way of squirting away from him whenever it gets the chance. Laco Smid hasn't played as much, but you always have to wonder when he's going to hit the ceiling, if he hasn't already. Jason Strudwick has been okay as the 6th or 7th guy, but he shouldn't be playing over 10 minutes a game like he has.

2. The kid line doesn't work. So far. They aren't out there to prevent goals and they also aren't scoring either, so yeah. It doesn't help that Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson are all young, smallish forwards playing on the same line.

3. The fourth line is useless. I hate to go on about a line that traditionally plays 4-5 minutes a game, but Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre are right at that Mendoza Line of effectiveness. There is also too much overlap in regards to their tough guy roles. Kyle Brodziak is simply wasted there.

4. The team is living and mostly dying by the sword. A traditional MacTavish team aggressively forechecks and uses the D to chip the puck towards the net or along the boards to create offence. While this is still somewhat true, the Oilers' forwards have leaned on using their speed to generate a lot of their chances in transition. As great as that is, this "transition" that I speak of is usually a horrific scoring chance gift-wrapped for the opposition. As much as the press talks up the Oilers as a skilled team, there are at least a dozen more actually skilled teams with point-per-game players willing to trade chances with the Oilers.

5. This team has stopped hitting. I think this is what MacTavish is talking about when he criticized the team's perimeter game and lack of aggression. From what I've seen, the Oilers pursue the puck carrier pretty well, but aside from Ethan Moreau and Erik Cole, too many players don't want to bulldoze to the net with the puck or target opposing defenceman for a big check. More chaos, please.

Anyway, that's an admittedly brazen analysis for a guy that has fast-forwarded a good portion of these games in beer-buzzed disgust. But hey, it's hard to not want to scrunch your puckhat over your eyes when the Maple Leafs are looking like the better team these days.



Black Dog said...

For anyone looking to hire Mike, I can vouch that he is indeed a sensation at not only cocktail parties, but any parties.

Bruce said...

the Oilers goal differential in the last week has been 3 GF -14 GA

Quibble mode [on]. Oilers have only been outscored +4/-14 over the last 7 days, so maybe things aren't so bad after all. *eye roll*

This team has stopped hitting. I think this is what MacTavish is talking about when he criticized the team's perimeter game and lack of aggression.

I think he was talking about their unwillingness to take the puck, and their bodies, to the net, as well as the lack of a hitting game. Of course he has buried all of his physical forwards on the third and fourth lines, with the latter consigned to the bench for the most part. This is a team fairly badly out of balance IMO.

Word verification: "yaugh". All it needs is a couple exclamation marks and it's right on topic.

raventalon40 said...

I propose we split up the goon line and spread the offence.


I realise this means MacIntyre and Pouliot will be out of position but we have seen what Cogliano can do on the right wing (as evidenced by his play against Calgary) but our offense will be very spread out and also some of the toughness as each line will have an element of crash and bang (Penner, Stortini/MacIntyre, Pouliot/Brodziak) and we can roll 4 lines and tire out the other team.

As for D, we should just get throw Strudwick on the IR already and call up Peckham for a few games. Alternate Smid and Peckham and see how the team plays.

raventalon40 said...

Alternate line-up options:


Garnet said...

I knew we'd get soft and stop hitting after we dealt Raffi. Snif! I miss that dyed creep.

raventalon40 said...

We should acquire Nichol and Tootoo. Watch them play on Thursday, they're the kind of players that would fit in with the system.

Plus, Tootoo would become a cult hero up here.

Buzzilinear said...

Yeah, hopefully they can turn this sinking ship around starting tonight in Nash. On a side note, I need almost 60 more people to fill out this this survey for an office Christmas party game (Like family feud) we are going to play. There are some hockey questions. I would appreciate if you could post on one of your posts maybe, it only takes people like 2 minutes.



jamestobrien said...

There might be some real life vs. video game symmetry going on here, because I get blasted 9/10 times I use the Oilers in those old jerseys.

Still worth it though.

munjumba said...

Why hasn't anyone figured out that these are the right lines?


Like, seriously.

raventalon40 said...

The bad week is over but the road trip from hell has just begun.