Quinn on the 09-10 Oilers

I’ll admit it, the team sucking more than they’ve ever sucked before this year has also sucked the life out of me as far as talking about them goes. Lowetide’s already addressed the high points of the year: Penner’s mostly playing well, the numbers like him, and Gilbert’s coming out of his funk a bit. I hope that management don’t believe their own spin control though, that this season was hampered by injuries – if anything, it’s been helped, if they’d won 5-10 more games they’d be even worse off than they are now. Let’s be realistic, would Khabi+Souray+Hemsky have added more than that? Even 10 games seems wildly optimistic. That would be just enough to what, place them 27th or so?

But in the 1 April press conference, Quinn said something I haven’t seen picked up elsewhere:

Q: You had a line of guys that were -3 that had a tough night together, so I guess we’re still in a wait and see mode?

A: Well, I think… if it’s based on the merit of one game, certainly two, or all three of those guys could come out, we could play shorthanded and have a better night, maybe. It’s not always going to be based on just merit here . . . It’ll be partly management’s idea on what our future is.

That line was O’Sullivan, Brule, and Potulny, although the players mentioned specifically in the previous question were O’Sullivan and Moreau. Moreau was evens on the night, 11 minutes of even strength icetime and 2 shots, 2:58 of icetime on a penalty kill that actually looked pretty good against Detroit, 2 hits credited and 1 blocked shot. Still, thecaptain has to be feeling some intense pressure, even if he’s not admitting to it.

Quinn’s statement is interesting, in that it seems to me to be a fairly damning indictment of a) one of the more highly-paid players on the roster, and a pending free agent; b) one of the young guys that seems to sometimes fill a couple of holes on the roster; c) another younger guy who’s received a lot of positive press this year; and d) team management and how they’re allowing him to coach. I could write a lot about that line + Moreau, but a lot of it’s been said already. I’ll sum it up by saying that if Potulny’s your answer to “Who can provide the Oilers with secondary scoring next year?”, then next year’s team will be as bad as this one’s. I like the player, but he shouldn’t be playing 10-15 minutes a night, much less feature on the power play.

Quinn went on to say that he felt Linglet’s signing was a positive story for the team, that a guy who grinds it out in the AHL can get a chance. Yes, this is a feel-good story in a year that’s been nearly entirely lacking in them, but so was Scott Ferguson on the blueline. Ferguson at least could be counted on to chip the puck out, more than you can say for anybody on the blue now, but 27 year olds who have never before played in the NHL taking somebody’s roster spot doesn’t say much about the roster you have available. This isn’t management giving a young guy a shot; this is management telling the O’Sullivans and Moreaus of the team that they’re just plain not good enough.

For Quinn, if team management really is telling – or even hinting at – him about who to play and who to sit, you have to wonder why it is they brought him and Tom Renney in, and you also have to wonder what that means for the next few years. Maybe I’m reading too much into a single quote, but I think this is a tell.  Next year should be interesting in the “Chinese Curse” sense of the word.  We Oilers fans don’t need reality television, we get it delivered to us two to four times a week, courtesy NHL Centre Ice.

Grading the Players: 2009-12-31 vs CAL

My wife is still hoping for and expecting Oilers wins. I won’t go into my own hopes, but I generally expect the Oil to wind up on the wrong side of the score, but at least the games are generally entertaining, just so long as you don’t like good hockey from your team. That said, the Oilers played a decent half-game last night, but seemed to lose the plot in the second period as the Flames asserted themselves. It was obvious both teams were tired, and in the third, it seemed obvious that the Oilers were exhausted. The compressed schedule is taking its toll, and as far as I’m concerned, NHL players have no place at the Olympics. I’ll cut that rant off there though, as this is supposed to be about the last Battle of Alberta for the 2000s. So, on with the scores! As a reminder, my rubric is here. And a reminder that grades don’t take
Smid, 6: Ladi was pointless, but that’s not what he’s out there for. Only one hit, but that was 10% of his team’s output so hey. He made a few sterling defensive plays, including a goal-line save, and played like the shutdown dman he’s becoming, bending but not breaking (to steal a phrase from Quinn) against the onslaught later in the game. 23:10 of fairly good hockey is a good game.
Horcoff, 6: His line looked decent for the first half of the game, and Horc himself was fairly strong defensively, and his goal nearly sparked a comeback and was a result of good forechecking sense on his part. But his power play time was non-productive and his faceoffs weren’t his usual +50%.
Nilsson, 5: The top line was buzzing as much as any Oilers unit could be said to have been buzzing, and Nilsson was a contributor, not an anchor. His strong play led to the Oilers goal, and he kept the offensive zone giveaways to a minimum. But ultimately he needs to be more productive, and when you lead the team in PP time on an 0-fer special teams, you lose a point.
Cogliano, 4: He wound up with 16:06 of ice, and wasn’t on the ice for a GA, and he was as physical as anybody with 2 credited hits and some snarly play, but. His line didn’t produce much bang offensively, Denis King hasn’t posted any scoring chances yet but I don’t recall his line doing a lot. They were bottled up for extended periods even early in the game, and that’s just not on. He had a 2 on 1 with Moreau about midway through the second period and he just plain fumbled the pass and didn’t get a shot away.
Potulny, 4: Bottled up nearly every time they were on the ice, on the ice for the GA, not the ex-collegian’s best game as an Oiler. At least he got a shot away.
Moreau, 5: TheCaptain didn’t take any penalties, but he also had no hits. 3 shots, although I don’t think any of them scared anybody, and 2 blocked. On the ice for the PPG against, but I don’t think he made any mistakes on the sequence. Overall, a non-eventful game for a player who needs to make things happen to be effective. I’d give him a 4, but 3 shots was at least more than any other Oilers forward had. There was one play in the second behind the Calgary net that I didn’t like at all; he had the puck on his stick and gave it right to the Calgary defender trying to return a pass.
O’Sullivan, 4: 1/3 of the least-effective line, he looked to be using Jarret Stoll’s old supply of sticks up last night, he broke a stick on two one-timers in a row. At least he’s not always on point on the power play any more, but his PP time was still not very effective, thanks in part to at least one of those broken sticks. Hard luck game for a hard luck forward.
Jacques, 3: I like his game when he’s hitting. He wasn’t doing a lot of that last night, he was credited with two hits but wasn’t terribly physical otherwise. Whiffed cleanly on a nice pass from Moreau, he was a boat anchor after starting the night on Horcoff’s line. He looked more like the player from 2007-08 than from October 2009.
Staios, 5: Physical play from #24 is what’s needed, he saw some PP time too as Quinn tried to find the magic formula. Somehow he didn’t limp off the ice all game, maybe his puck magnet broke. He played decently enough.
Penner, 5: Big guy was held pointless, but he was a catalyst on the forecheck and a factor on the backcheck. His presence helped to set up the goal. Still, he needs to produce on the power play, and one shot himself isn’t enough for a guy with 18:13 of icetime.
Stone, 3: I didn’t like his game at all last night. Neither did Quinn, apparently, since even Visnovsky played more than he did. He did have a shot and another blocked, blocked a shot himself, but physically he was pretty much a non-factor. He wasn’t what was wrong with the team last night, but he did reflect the team’s problem. I’m not sure if it was him or Potulny that should have had the Flames players forechecking on the sequence that led to the goal in the second period, but I think it was Stone. They weren’t helped by Souray’s bad play, but if Stone and Potulny had had their poop together earlier, maybe the puck doesn’t go into the corner in the first place.
Grebeshkov, 5: An up and down game for the young Russian. He had some strong play coupled with issues clearing the zone. There was one sequence in the third where he gifted Glencross with the puck, but then made a great play to take the shot away. A major part of the ineffective power play, 3:11 of PP time put him near the team lead. (Souray had 3 more seconds.) Gobbled up 18:20 of even strength time though, and looked ok doing it.
Souray, 4: Sorry Shelley, 6 shots doesn’t make up for the bad play that led to the 1-0 goal. He played not-badly for the most part, but poor PP and that bad play bumped him down. He also wore the goat horns for taking the type of penalty Moreau’s usually excoriated for, and that goal was the game-winner.
Stortini, 4: Part of the generally ineffective Cogliano line at first, he spent a lot of time in his own end. His icetime was cut later in the game too, with the Oilers pressing for the tying goal and his line’s inability to get any forecheck going. Stortini himself wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t a contributor either.
Brule, 5: The most notable part of his game was his faceoff percentage matched his number. He and Horcoff had some good things going early in the game, but he seemed to peter out a bit near the end. He was probably one of the most energetic of the Oilers players though, and for that he gets a 5.
Visnovsky, no grade: He played almost half the first period, but left the ice and came back for a single shift in the second period. Post-game he said he twisted his ankle. One of his shifts was nearly 3 minutes long. Incredible. I liked his game up until he was hurt though, he can really move the puck.
Gilbert, 4: Another ES icetime-gobbler, he took over for Visnovsky. It’s nice to see his defensive game progressing, but he did give the puck away to Nystrom to help kill the comeback late in the third. He’d have a 5 if it wasn’t for 0 shots and 2:41 of PP time.
Gagner, 6: He was helping to make things happen all night, and his setup of Horcoff for the goal was a beauty, even if they were playing 6 on 5. 2 shots and his line was making things happen all night. He even didn’t get taken to school as much in the faceoff circle as he usually did, going 4-5. Maybe a 7 except, you guessed it, power play.
Deslauriers, 8: It’s hard to say which was his best period, the first where he made 15 saves, the second where he made 13 and was beaten due to no help at all from his teammates, or the third where he made 11 but kept the team in there. Neither goal was really his fault, although I wanted to break out the bungee cord a couple of times. He didn’t deserve the L, but what can you do? Really good game by #38, he was far and away the best player on the ice not wearing red and black.

1 January, 2010 | Posted in: Hockey | Comments Closed

Burkie’s Heart

Brian Burke
Normally I don’t have a great deal of respect for Brian Burke. I think he’s an arrogant blowhard, a know-it-all who exemplifies pretty much every single negative stereotype that might come to mind when somebody says “rich white American lawyer.” I don’t like his methods for building teams, I don’t think he deserves quite the stellar reputation that he has, and I really don’t like his attitude towards offer sheets and his otherwise-archaic business practises.
And then there’s this. It’s a bit of a long read, longer than is strictly necessary, but this is still an awesome story. It’s theoretically a story about hockey men, but the sport serves only as a backdrop.
It’s a story about a young man’s suffering in silence and quitting an activity he loves because of his fear of what others involved in the sport would think of him. It’s a story about a bluff, gruff, hard man’s unconditional love for his son; it’s a story about how far we’ve come as a society, yet how far we have yet to go.
Read it without at least blinking hard a few times. I dare you.
(Image cc licensed, source wikimedia. Edit 10 minutes after initial post to add a word.)

24 November, 2009 | Posted in: Hockey | Comments Closed

Grading the Players: Sorry Steve



Man, I called Laddy Smid “Steady Smiddy” and still I forgot #24, The Macedonian Wonder, He With The Wondrous Beak, The Puck Magnet, Stevie Shot Stopper Staios, as a commenter pointed out. I can only claim a stupidity which I hope is temporary, plus I was posting from work in between doing other things.

Sorry Steve, you were wonderful last night.  Grade of 8, 2 assists including one of those “hey guys, watch this, slapshot from above the circle, through those guys, off Penner’s ass, and then, hahah, this will kill you, the GOALIE KNOCKS IT IN!” types.  He was on the ice more than any Oiler not named Sam Gagner.  He was at his puck magnety-best with 5 blocks too.  No horrible mistakes in the offensive zone.  The commenter called him the best Oiler on the ice; I’d say it was close between him and Penner, but since I screwed up, I’ll let Steve beat my man.  This time.

What is it with Quinn playing forwards more than defence anyway?  A few games ago Penner led all Oilers in ice time.

Image credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images.  Please don’t sue me.

11 November, 2009 | Posted in: Hockey | Comments Closed

Grading the Players: 2009-11-10 vs OTT

Preamble: David Staples and I (and anybody else we can trick) are continuing our efforts at grading the Oilers on a per-game basis. For reference, the grading system.
Again the lack of a recording device is killing me. I’ve also missed watching any hockey at all for the last week, which is also killing me – gotta get some use from this Centre Ice package. But enough with the whining. Overall, it was a decent-enough effort. The forwards especially looked miniature – this is not to say I’ve swung the other way to “hitting HUR HUR WIN GAME” camp, but when 3/4 of your forward lineup looks like I would next to Dustin Penner, there’s a problem. They were getting outmuscled in the offensive zone, the neutral zone, and the defensive zone. This team can’t get Souray back quickly enough. Cheechoo in particular was a handful, but when isn’t he? Chris Neil and Milan Michalek were also thorns in the Oilers’ side all night.
Smid, 6: Steady Smiddy? A good, physical game from #5. No glaring gaffes, no brilliant plays, although he drove the puck deep at least once. Maybe he thought he should have been the 12th forward after all? At any rate, no complaints with his game, 19:31 of even-strength icetime. Only blight a -1 from being on the ice when Neil scored, but it’s not clear he made a mistake there.
Cogliano, 6: Did somebody teach the boy how to take faceooffs, or is Chris Kelly that bad? 3 shots, his line played well enough, and he was using his speed well in the offensive zone. He’s better now that he’s not just using it to sprint. Got sprung on a beauty breakaway and missed the net, that’s got to hurt. He also got absolutely mugged on a partial, even the Ottawa announcers were wondering how it wasn’t a penalty. I liked one sequence in the Oilers zone where he got muscled off the puck by Michalek, then he backed off a bit and took a run, separating big #9 from the puck nicely. Cogs wheeled and cleared. Smart, smart play.
Potulny, 5: I was surprised to see his ice-time, 18:17. Two shots and a hit, two blocks, mediocre night on the faceoffs. I had him between Reddox and Pisani, and he looked ok there. They got bottled up a few times, but were decent on the forecheck when they got it deep. I think the other two players were the drivers on his line though.
Moreau, 6: But for the Neil goal, I’d have given him a 7. 5 shots and a goal that was the result of dogged offensive zone coverage and some nice hands. But. And there almost always seems to be a but with Thecaptainethanmoreau, n’est-ce pas? I understand not wanting somebody hanging around the front of the net, and it takes a lot of power to stop Chris Neil, but I really didn’t like how he drove the big Senator onto JDD, and the fact that a goal was scored on the play as a result meant a docked mark. Sorry Ethan.
O’Sullivan, 7: gobbled up some icetime as a member of the best forward unit for the Oilers and got an assist on Penner’s goal, making a decent pass back to Staios on the line. Made some things happen, but he looked a bit slow at times.
Penner, 8: best Oiler on the ice most of the time. He was a force down low in the offensive zone in particular, I had 5 pluses next to his number on my sheets. He was at his best in the third and OT periods, forechecking hard and making room for everybody else. His net presence made Leclaire’s life difficult. No Trade Clause indeed.
Pisani, 6: part of a reasonably effective checking unit with Potulny and Reddox, at least at first (I didn’t see if this line stayed together all game, but I think so). They got bottled up a few times, and while Fernie’s reasonably big he still had trouble with the bigger forechecking Ottawa forwards. When he cycled with Reddox he looked pretty good.
Grebeshkov, 6: he wasn’t outmuscled, at least. He made a couple of nice pinches and played a generally safe, effective game. He was on the ice for the Cheechoo goal, but there wasn’t much he could have done about it; similarly he was on for Moreau’s goal, but had little to do with it. Made a nice pass to Brule for his goal.
O’Marra, 4: Probably not the first NHL game many expected for this high first-round draft pick. He played well enough in limited ice time (6:00), although when he was on the ice his line seemed to get bottled up. He had just 33 seconds of icetime in the third period, and none in OT. That said, he didn’t make any glaring errors either – I wouldn’t scream if he’s on the ice again tonight, but he’s definitely the guy to come out for Hemsky if #83′s back.
Strudwick, 5: not many threw him around, but he was slow. Two giveaways to lead the team’s skaters isn’t good though, not when your stock in trade is defensive dman. Reasonable effort though.
Stortini, 5: a bit of an up and down game. He looked slow out there, and while he was certainly willing, he wasn’t able to line anybody up and didn’t seem to be engaging many guys, although he certainly had Neil’s attention for a while. Still, he was a pain in the rear on the forecheck and didn’t give me any heart attacks.
Brule, 6: his goal was a bit of luck, but the fact he charged the net after taking the shot forced the goalie’s hand, and sometimes that’s what it takes to make your luck. 3 shots in 8:10 of icetime is pretty good, and he threw a couple of nice hits. I think he missed his check on Foligno on the 2-2 goal though, and guess who scored? A weak 6.
Visnovsky, 6: I had three plus signs and one minus sign against his name. He made some very nice defensive plays, using his stick well. On the minus side was his play on Cheechoo’s goal. On the one hand, he didn’t have a lot of choice; Staples noted the lack of puck support. On the other hand, you just can’t get stripped of the puck in the corner like that. I’m thinking the better move would have been to reverse it up the right boards or try to ice it – maybe you get a too many men, maybe you put it on a Senator’s stick anyway, but yeah. Still, not a terrible night, just not a great one for #71.
Gilbert, 5: Similar to Visnovsky, not Gilbert’s best night. He was getting pushed off the puck in his own zone and wasn’t creating a lot offensively either.
Reddox, 6: LW on the checking line, when he had the puck in Ottawa’s end he made life miserable and was otherwise zooming around. 5 shots and 3 hits pretty much sums it up for the ginger from Whitby. I’d like to see more production, but considering his size and how outgunned everybody else not wearing #27 seemed, he did well.
Gagner, 6: part of some dangerous chances for the Oilers and centering the best line, he even didn’t give too much away in the faceoff circle. No points, but not through lack of effort, and he was consistently good all night.
Comrie, 5: looked good on the half boards on the power play, but he needs to shoot more. He didn’t see much time in the third, although I would be willing to bet that was because of illness, not a lack of faith from Quinn. He showed well in the first period especially.
Deslauriers, 3: ouch. My instructions after the first period would have been “stay in your crease.” He made multiple mistakes handling the puck behind the net, and on one occasion dithered with it so long the Senators were unlucky not to score – I’m still not sure how he managed to get his stick in the way of the shot, but it didn’t seem like it was from hustle. When he was in his crease he played ok, but he was giving out some massive rebounds. Funnily enough, I wouldn’t say that any of the goals were his fault – Cheechoo’s was a great shot, he had Neil and part of Moreau on him for Neil’s, and Foligno’s was just a tragicomedy. But if he keeps playing like that, the Oilers will be on the wrong side of 6-3 games more often than not. I don’t grade on shootout plays, but he did reasonably well there.