Archive for October, 2008

So far it seemed to click after FCP took two penalties to change the momentum in Game 2.  The legs started to move and the momentum followed.  In Game three of the Oilers season, the effort was pretty consistent for the whole affair.  Although the Oilers counted on three PP markers for the victory, they carried enough of the play that it was a solid effort throughout.

Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky (B+)  It looked better tonight.  Understanding where your teammates are is a big part of it.  Cole was using his body effectively and it looks like Hemsky is rushing with speed.  They were a solid part of the power play and rarely spent significant time in their own zone.

Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner (A-) Nilsson looked good, very good.  It would have been better, but them being caught for the first goal against where they were hemmed in their own zone, and were out muscled.  Cogliano was solid and Gagner generated some chances. 

Moreau-Pisani-Penner (B+) Physical, sound defensively, and strong on the PK.  Penner skated better tonight, and they were dangerous five on five.  Although the stats don’t show it, they were good all night.

Pouliot-Brodziak-MacIntyre (B-)

The only thing you ask of your fourth line is don’t get scored against, be a bit physical and generate energy.  The only player on this line I really liked was Brodziak.  MacIntyre played next to none but was a contributing factor on the Moss goal.  With one hit between them, no points and -1 across the board, this line leaves a lot to be desired from the Stortini-Brodziak-Glencross line of last season.

Souray-Visnovsky (A)

What is not to like?  Four points, a great PP, and…oh noes…Souray is hurt.  Well, it was fun for the first three games.  Hopefully Souray isn’t out for any length of time with what was said a knee injury.  I was thinking shoulder would be bad…very bad.  Small consolation.  They were good in their zone, and great in the offensive zone.  This game is what we had been salivating for since the Visnovsky trade.

Gilbert-Grebeshkov (B)

Gilbert has been under performing.  Hopefully he starts progressing soon.  If Souray is out for any length of time he will need to step up.  Grebeshkov is in the Souray and Visnovsky calibre of play right now with Gilbert being one of the worst Oilers.

Staios-Strudwick (B+)

Staios had a slow start to the game but really turned it up in the 2nd half of the game.  Strudwick is still playing a solid simple game and within his comfort zone.  Also took the time to stand up for Visnovsky after the Giordano hit.  Nice work.

Jeff Deslauriers (B)

If not for two softies, it would have been better.  The kid was probably nervous and made some nice saves.  He sure is big in the nets, but is flexible and fast.  But all in all, a win is a win.

The team is 3-0 and the optimism still abounds.  And they have only played 4 or 5 really good periods out of 9.  If Souray is just banged up, then life is good.  If not, then time to reassess.

After watching the first two games, well more accurately the first game and a half, one thing I noticed. They weren’t skating. Hemsky looked like Luc Robitaille in slow motion, the kid line looked more like the Stars Grumpy Old Men (What a great line….wasn’t that Muller, Keane and MacLean?) and Penner’s feet looked more like cement blocks than a guy that was going to be better stronger and faster than last year.

One thing is for certain though, this team will be exciting to watch at both ends. The kids can get hemmed in their own zone pretty easily without the grit to get out sometimes. Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky have zero for chemistry thus far.  Cole being moved to the left wing from his natural right wing is probably a factor, and Hemsky’s very average performance is also a large contributor.  Horcoff seems to be the most advanced on the team as far as performance goes.

So here are your team grades for Game two:

Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky (B-)

If it wasn’t for Horcoff’s goal and Cole and Hemsky getting assists on Visnovsky’s game winner this grade would be worse.  They aren’t a cohesive unit, and there was no sustained pressure.  Hemsky, despite double shifting at times was rarely dangerous and the worst of the three.

Gagner-Cogliano-Nilsson (B-)

Too much time spent hemmed in their own zone, not enough pressure in the offensive zone and poor decision making.  Nilsson looking marginally dangerous, and was backchecking well.  Cogliano was very average, and didn’t utilize his speed much at all.  Gagner although the team leader in SOG, was the worst of the three, but at least was not afraid to put the puck at the net.

Moreau-Pisani-Penner (B)

At one point I saw Penner put his head down after a couple slow strides as if he was trying to convince himself to skate hard.  Penner did make a couple nice defensive plays, and it looks as though progress is being made.  Moreau was physical and played well, and Pisani ended up being better in the dot than expected.  They seemed to be the only line that was effective for the first half of the game, and continued in the 2nd half as the rest of the team got their legs.

Pouliot-Brodziak-MacIntyre(Nilsson and Hemsky) (B-)

Generally they were not effective for the first period and a half much like the rest of the team.  MacIntyre was fine for what was asked of him, he played only a few minutes, but that was enough for the Ducks to not take much in liberties.  I am not a Pouliot fan, but he does seem to be developing into a bottom six NHLer.  He and Brodziak did come on in the third period, and it could be possible that MacIntyre being on the line hurt their transition game.  Once Big Mac was on the bench and the third linemate could contribute, the line seemed much more effective.

Souray-Visnovsky (B+)

Both had a goal and one was the game winner.  Defensively five on five there are some concerns, but offensively if these two stay together, points will come.  Souray was even pinching on the rush five on five with a one goal lead.(Not sure if I think that is good or bad).

Gilbert-Grebeshkov (B)

If I grade these separately, Grebeshkov gets and A- and Gilbert a C+.  Gilbert is handling the puck like a grenade and Grebs is calm cool and efficient.  Hopefully Tom Gilbert improves, or we might see Staios back in the top four.

Strudwick-Staios (B-)

Strudwick looks a lot better than I thought he would, but then again, I believe that Smid is a guy that should be playing and developing.  Staios looked slow but reasonably steady.  If he gets his ice limited to some easier minutes, he should be OK.

Mathieu Garon (A-)

Probably should have had Huskins shot but other than that, fast, solid and kept the Oilers in it until their legs were under them.  A very good performance.  Good positionally and his rebound control really impresses me.  Suck on that Bruce Dowbiggen.

Team (B-)

They need to start skating for 60 minutes.  If they do, you can see the difference.  They also look a little disorganized, with several new faces unclear of how to play the system.  That will take time, but it is nice to start 2-0.

Interesting this cap world.  I have only kept a cursory eye on the cuts for all teams, but here are some of the ones that I know of that are surprising.  Bobby Ryan, Karl Alzner, Dustin Boyd, (who has since been recalled), Darren Helm were all demoted for one reason or another besides being NHL players.

As Bob McKenzie menitioned here that for the first time, the rookie’s full cap number would be equated in to the team’s full cap number.   It sure makes a lot more sense to keep a rookie around at $875K than it does $2.875 M.  That being said being a cap casualty because your General Manager is in cap danger has to be disheartening for any young player.

Although Capitals GM George McPhee tried to soften the blow by saying that Alzner would be better off by a couple weeks or a month of top line duty in the AHL, it comes down to money and roster size.  If the caps had room and money, Alzner would stay up.

Darren Helm is another guy that got booted by the cap, and Marian Hossa.

The last and probably oddest that I have seen is Dustin Boyd.  One of the best Flames in preseason, he gets sent down to Quad City because of cap issues, until Rhett Warrener is put on waivers, then on LTIR, just so Boyd can be recalled.

Unlike those, the reverse cap happened to Robbie Schremp.  If there was no salary cap, I am sure that Roloson’s roster spot would have went to the skilled young player through trade.  And finally, Blake Wheeler performed well enough at camp so that a 40 point man in Peter Schaefer ended up on waivers.  Surely his $2.1 million could have ended up elsewhere.  By waiving Schaefer, Boston GM Chiarelli has himself a sparce $300K under the cap.

Oh how times have changed.

Fast forward….

Posted: October 7, 2008 in Uncategorized

It appears that the roster for opening day is pretty much set.

Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky
Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner
Moreau-Pisani-Penner
Pouliot-Brodziak-Stortini
MacIntyre

Much to the chagrin of the Brule and Schremp fans.

Strengths
Speed, skill, scoring

Weaknesses

True shutdown center, faceoffs could be a problem.  Key players are still inexperienced.

What I like about the forward crew is that they are going to score by committee and be a puck possession crew.   I would have liked to see Schremp get his at bats but no one is going to eat Roloson’s salary unless there is something in it for them.  And if a team was inclined to eat a big salary, Khabibulin is a better goaltender than Dwayne Roloson.

So Brule, Schremp will both be in the minors to start the season.  I would have to say that Schremp though is losing his position not to Marc Pouliot or Steve McIntyre, but to Jeff Deslauriers.

The fact that the Oilers were one of the worst five on five scoring teams in the league last year was disconcerting scoring only .86 goals for each goal scored against them at even strength.  Coupled with the 21st ranked powerplay, there is some room for improvement.

Just due to experience and the addition of Eric Cole makes this team a better five on five team.  The team should be closer if not to par on five on five.  The powerplay has numerous options with Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky and the kid line and intermittent use of Penner’s big body on the PP.

Again, looking at the weaknesses, when Horcoff has played three of the final five minutes in a 2-1 game and there is an own zone face off, Kyle Brodziak is your best option.  If I were Marc Pouliot, I would see the writing on the wall and become a faceoff specialist and watch tapes of Doug Jarvis on every off day.  That may be the only way he has a long NHL career.

I am still unsettled with the lines.  If the team could make a deal for a good third line shutdown center while moving out either Penner or Pisani, I think the team would be better off.  Last year the Oilers had three centres in the top 50 face off men in the NHL. (Horcoff, Stoll, and Reasoner.  Maybe that is why MacT wanted Marty back, along with him being great in the room.)  So the Oilers will either find someone within or get killed in the circle consistently.  Hopefully that isn’t a major problem going forward.

Due to lack of time, I am going to give a few general predictions on the forward group.

Hemsky and Horcoff will both flirt with being PPG players.

Cole will lead the team in goals this year.

Robbie Schremp will play 30 games this year and become a regular next season.  He will dominate with Brule in the AHL this year.

Brodziak and Stortini will continue with their chemistry, while Pouliot will struggle at times to fit in.

MacT will eventually give up on the Pisani at center experiment, and may end up moving Pisani to the fourth line.  Pisani, Pouliot, Stortini, with Brodziak moving up between Moreau and Penner.

With that, opening night is October 12….five days till puck drop!!

Ad-minister the defense….

Posted: October 4, 2008 in Uncategorized

These are two players that pose an interesting dynamic when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers defense, Mathieu Roy and Denis Grebeshkov.  Both are signed on for one year deals and because of the depth of the Oilers blueline over the long term, I would suggest that both are less than 50-50 to be Oilers next season, and Roy could possibly be on waivers very shortly. 

The depth of the Oilers blueline has seven players on one way contracts.  Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Steve Staios, Denis Grebeshkov, Jason Strudwick and the afforementioned Roy.  Add in Ladislav Smid and you have eight NHL calibre players on the Oilers back end.  Well, personally I have had zero faith in Mathieu Roy to be an NHL player, and am shocked he has a one way deal.

It is pretty easy to peg the depth chart of the blueline.  We know who is going to make the team, and although the team has given glowing reviews to Taylor Chorney, he will get top minutes in Springfield, allowing the team to determine his readiness by next offseason.  That might signal what the team will do with Denis Grebeshkov for next season.  If Chorney struggles, which I doubt, that could mean a decent contract for Grebs upcoming.  We shall see.   Here is a look at what I see this season for the Oilers blueline.

Souray-Staios

Visnovsky-Gilbert

Smid-Grebeshkov

Strudwick

What the defense will provide is a quick puck moving group that should prove to be good at headmanning the puck to the quick forwards. 

STRENGTHS

Well, offense from the back end should be solid.  Souray and Visnovsky are as good a top pairing for the PP as any team in the league.  Gilbert is a fine second pairing PP player and I expect Grebeshkov or Staios to be the fourth. 

WEAKNESSES

The one thing I don’t see is that veteran shut down defenseman.  Smid might ultimately be that player, but Staios is too long in tooth. (I thought he had a poor game last night versus Calgary) and Grebeshkov isn’t refined enough to take over that role.  I do expect a few games of giving up that late goal when trying to hold on to the lead.

OVERALL

This is a fine top six and has good depth.  If they can hold tight in the tight games, the Oilers should be looking to be solidly in the playoffs.  If things don’t hold, then the fight for playoffs will be long and arduous.