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4/22/09

Another lineup

Because I love doing them:

O'Sullivan-Arnott-Hemsky
Cogliano-Horcoff-Gagner
Kotalik-Kopecky-Pisani
Brule-Brodziak-Laperriere
Schremp-Stortini

32.5 mil

Visnovsky-Gilbert
Bouwmeester-Grebeshkov
Smid-Peckham
Random guy

20 mil

Price
Gustavsson

2.5 mil

55 mil.

I think that lineup works; and we have a goalie to trade at the end of the year for new assets.

My coaching roster explained - 1

Not too long ago I listed my preferred coaching lineup to some extent on this blog. Now I'll explain my selections, first up, Steve Ludzik:

Head Coach - Steve Ludzik

Most of you will know him from seeing him on The Score breaking down games or highlights or having hockey discussions. While he is on the flamboyant side; he will not go completely overboard like some hockey personalities we know have a tendency to do. He stays very much within the acceptable range. He seems quite knowledgeable when it comes to the game which is obviously a prerequisite for any coach; but he also seems to be a very positive person in his commentary and thoughts. This is an often overlooked quality that seems to be present in a majority of coaches that excel. I think this quality is certainly an asset we need in a new coach. His approach to analysis is well-rounded in that he not only breaks down individual players and their talents/habits but also the team game and bigger picture items. Many hockey personnel seem to gravitate heavily to one particular part of the wide range of required hockey knowledge; a successful head coach should be balanced in this regard and Ludzik is.

As for experience; he certainly has that. He played nearly 500 NHL games and did alright for himself as well as putting up some very respectable minor league numbers, especially for a smaller player in an era of increasingly larger opponents. He last played professionally in 92-93.

Subsequent to his playing career he became a coach; making it to the position of Head Coach of the Detroit Vipers of the IHL in 96-97. In 3 years at Detroit he'd average over 50 wins and bring 1 championship, 1 finals loss and 1 third round loss to the team.

After his third season with Detroit he was hired on to coach the 99-00 Tampa Bay Lightning. This was Vinny Lecavalier's second season in the league and their 3rd leading scorer was Mike Sillinger. Their starting goalie was Dan Cloutier. Needless to say it was not pretty.

His second season Lecavalier missed significant time and Tampa didn't win too many more games. Brad Richards burst on the scene with 62 points as a rookie. Kevin Weekes and Dan Cloutier couldn't stop a beach ball. He was fired part way through. John Tortorella came in after that...you know the rest.

Going to the Ice Dogs of the OHL, Ludzik led them to their best season in franchise history at the time, coaching Rob Schremp and Patrick O'Sullivan through what were likely some tough times. Unable to agree to a new deal for the coming season, he was replaced with Greg Gilbert. The IceDogs continued to improve led by O'Sullivan, Schremp was moved 3 games into the season.

Ludzik then coached the San Antonio Rampage for parts of 2 seasons; having an excellent finish to 03-04 before a disappointing but unique 04-05 (lockout).

I'm unable to find what exactly happened after the lockout year.

What seems clear from his record though is that there are a number of young players who began taking steps forward under his coaching; and that his teams win not that long after he's been coaching them. He's never had a real chance to coach for an extended period of time. Perhaps we should give him a shot.

I like his style, he has experience with some of our players, he knows Bouwmeester if that happens, he has an aggressive hockey mind and is young but experienced. A lot of potential even if he doesn't necessarily have a sparkling NHL record thus far. Guys who get in as young as he did often take a while to develop the little things. I think he may be ready and I hope management at least considers him.

4/21/09

Targets: Top 5

As we prepare to enter what could be an exciting summer...or may not...there is plenty of possibility in the air. I think it's interesting to look at the list of players available and how they match up with the Oilers' needs, as well as whether the "need" element should be addressed at all. I'm mostly a BPA (best player available) guy no matter what the circumstances. There are very few occasions when I find that this does not serve the team well. With that in mind, my top five players that the Oilers need to be looking at this summer, for various reasons, are as follows:

#1 - Jason Arnott

I think I've already covered this quickly. The reason he is my number one choice is not only that he's an excellent top-level player and leader, but that he also fits a need we have in a BIG way. Playing this guy with Hemsky and O'Sullivan could lead to magic the likes of which we haven't seen in a LONG time.

Likelihood - small. Why would Nashville trade him? He's excellent and has a great contract. So in order to get him, you'd have to blow them away with an offer. I'd do that. Many wouldn't.

# 2 - Jay Bouwmeester

If he's truly out there and would truly consider coming home for a long time, you simply cannot pass up grabbing one of the best out there for nothing but a cap hit. You could turn around and trade just about anyone on the team for nothing but the cap relief and come out in the positive. He would cement this D for 5+ years, whereas Lubomir and Souray can only do it for maybe 3. It would require change, but you simply cannot overlook it.

Likelihood - also small, but bigger than Arnott. I think they keep Souray and there's nothing wrong with that at all. I also don't see them committing to 3 5+ million dollar defencemen when they already have 5 talented ones to work with. Still, if Souray wants to go, you trade him and give Jay the farm. Done deal.

# 3 - Carey Price

We need a goalie; Montreal has 2. Carey Price has gone from untouchable hero to Montreal's goat. I think it's quite unfair the treatment he's received. The guy is so talented, personable and I'm sure will be an elite goalie for many reasons. I also think it's becoming obvious that he's being run out of town and won't like the pressure they're putting on him to drag an overrated Habs team to a title in its 100th year. Price would appreciate the slowdown in Edmonton and could flourish. He's the guy we need in net.

Likelihood - bigger than it should be quite frankly. I really think his time in Montreal may be halted short. We'd have him for one more year for cheap; then you have to decide. I'd extend the deal early though.

# 4 - Marian Gaborik

I think the injury thing is overblown; and we all know this guy isn't going back to Minnesota. PURE goal scorer and one of the most dynamic guys in the league. You've got to be a bonehead not to at least think of going after this guy.

Likelihood - It's certainly possible. He's a UFA. Edmonton's wanted him since his draft year and had plenty of experience playing against him.

# 5 - Whoever is #2 pick

We have the ammo required to land this pick; and either guy would be a HUGE pick up. Also we have the advantage of Tbay being run by crazies. I hope like crazy it's Tavares...that would be the kinda thing that launches a new era in this town.

Likelihood - Entirely doable. Does it happen? Only if we decide we need to make a splash.

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The next 5 will be my top 5 choices for role-ish players we can add this offseason.

Expect a blog on my coaching choices prior to that though. I'm a little disappointed in the rumblings I've heard on who it could be so far...really hoping we find a way to hit a home run.

4/15/09

Coaching fun

Well, it looks like I've officially got 2 bandwagons to drive this summer. The first of course is for us to acquire Jason Arnott. The second, now that MacTavish is on his merry way, is for my coaching slate. As previously described here:

HC - Steve Ludzik
AC - Rob Daum
AC - Charlie Huddy
AC - ??? (Pearn/Barnaby/someone)

More on why later, but I really think this is a new chance for us.

I didn't particularly dislike Craig MacTavish as a person, but the way he coached made my blood boil. Even when we were winning. I'm glad we'll have a new voice behind the bench next year.

Looking forward to the announcement of the Buchberger firing as well. And Pete Peeters!

4/12/09

The answer is Arnott.

The question of a forward to play with Hemsky has an answer, and it is above as the title of this post.

Arnott has always been an excellent player. Even when he was with us and run out of town. Look at the tapes in '97 against Dallas. He was tremendous. He's won, he's scored, he's led. Ever since.

Down the stretch, he played great after returning from a concussion. If he'd been in the lineup they probably make it in.

33 goals in 65 games and 57 points. Impressive. He's a 50% faceoff man who's 6'5".

He scored 2 and 1 in his first game back from a concussion in NSH's biggest game of the year against CBJ.

He had 1 goal against Chicago on the 7th.

He had 1 and 1 against DET on the 9th.

He had 2 goals against Minnesota on the 10th.

He's capable of playing huge amounts of minutes. He's also a right-handed shot.

This allows us to find a more available left-winger that doesn't have to be a power player (his name is Patrick O'Sullivan btw) and we have a complete and balanced to scoring line. It's difficult to find excellent left wingers period, much less a power player. Playing Horcoff with Hemsky requires a large power left winger to balance out the line. These players are so few and far between at the level we need (even Ryan Smyth was not good enough to fully capitalize) that chasing them is unrealistic. Bigger centers are easier to find.

Please find some way to acquire Jason Arnott. The leap our team would take would be enormous. I don't know how you pry the guy out of Nashville, but find a way. I'd gladly do what would look like an overpay. It'd be worth it in the end.

4/11/09

LMHF Game Report #41

EDMONTON OILERS 5

VS.

CALGARY FLAMES 1
-----------------------------------

Well, it's nice to paste Calgary like that regardless of the circumstances. It's a little upsetting that it had to come NOW, but at least we got to see it I suppose.

Any idea why people leave really early during wins when games are not ending late at night? I don't get it. Stay and enjoy the victory. Especially the last one of the year. Why not?

It's kind of funny what happens when a team relaxes a little. Things like saucer passes suddenly become much more prevalent. The thing I think the team could learn from last night is that going forward; they need to play a little more relaxed and more confident. These passes work and we have enough skill guys that we need to use them. I saw more sauce in that game than in the past 15.

PLAYER REPORTS

Deslauriers

Sure Calgary wasn't playing their best and clearly didn't put forth the effort they needed to, but Jeff was excellent. It was a joy to watch a much more conventional and athletic goaltender in net. We have another guy who can stop the puck...who knew...well besides about half the fanbase. His stretch save in the second period was amazing. That was probably the save of the year Oilers-wise. The only goal that got by him was largely Chorney's fault...and he almost stopped that. He suffered some rebound control issues later in the game, but early on was near-perfect. A sheer joy to watch him play.

Chorney

On the positive side, he can really skate with the puck. He was markedly improved since I saw him last. As with all young defencemen, he'll have to learn to make the play as he enters the zone better. One kind of strange thing I noticed is that very seldom does he take one hand off of his stick. This isn't a great thing. If you've ever taken advanced skating lessons, one of the first things that you learn is that there are times and places where you're at a distinct advantage with one hand as opposed to 2. Especially backwards which is obviously pertinent to a defenceman. I think this could have been nerves and will change in a hurry, but it was just odd to notice in an NHL defenceman.

Peckham

Continued his strong play. He's ready, plain and simple. Play him next year.

Grebeshkov-Gilbert

They were okay. Not a lot of demands placed on them last night. Gilbert made some standout defensive plays to break up Flames rushes. Grebeshkov wasn't spectacular, great to hear he may be close to re-signing.

Souray-Staios

Was this Steve Staios' last home game as an Oiler? I doubt it. I'd hope we're better than needing him next year but am not holding out much hope on a team that trusts mediocre vets more than higher-end vets. Steve ideally would be in Strudwick's role next year but he makes too many dollars to justify that on a team with 2 horrendous contracts up front and some big-ticket defencemen. Souray was pretty good. It was lovely to see that perfect blast in the third. It has been forever since we've seen such a simple and beautiful goal like that.

MacIntyre

I wonder if this was his last home game as an Oiler as well. I can't see them needing the guy next year. That shot he took on his goal was something else; amazing that a big guy like him would pick the corner like that. Great that it dribbled in, he deserved it. Good work from him. A little disappointed that he didn't get into anything, but who would in a game like that?

Brodziak

Did some great work and showed some of the really good parts of his game. If you want an example of a simple and excellent play in a corner to show kids, get tape of this one. He made contact, directed the puck, got it back, was aware of the play, then made an excellent pass. So well done. Those kind of plays win games. He was excellent. I hope under a new coach he gets a better kick at generating some offence, because he's entirely capable. Did great work on the O'Sullivan goal too.

Penner

Lazy and uninspired. It happens...new coach...new Penner. Book it. That episode beside the net that got him booed wasn't exactly the greatest thing though...

Moreau-Cogliano-Pisani

They were okay, but quite invisible. I'm intrigued to see what happens with Cogliano going forward. He's clearly not a center. We need his goal scoring off of the wing.

O'Sullivan

I've never seen a guy in an Oilers uniform take so many quality shots and get so few goals. That cannot last long. Patrick made a lot of solid plays and got the puck to the net really well last night. Getting only 1 was nearly unbelievable and a shame. This guy will be excellent for us next year when he settles in with some linemates and is used properly. The lack of icetime and lack of appropriate PP time he was getting hampered his output. I don't think he'll have that problem next year. Such an excellent fundamental hockey player.

Gagner

Solid performance. Sam's come a really long way and was likely our best player over the last 25 games. Great time for him to step up like that. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play next year. I really hope he's still on a second line, but we'll see. O'Sullivan-Gagner-Kotalik wouldn't upset me in the least. Definite 20-20-20 potential there.

Nilsson

The man on the bubble didn't have a spectacular game but also didn't play that much. I don't know whether he'll be back. I really enjoy Nilsson's game and how dynamic he can be, but he has serious consistency and confidence issues that perhaps he shouldn't have after this many years as a pro. It'd be great to have the luxury of giving him another year, but I don't know if we will have room.

Kotalik-Horcoff-Hemsky

Kotalik's goal was nice. He really does fit in on this team and 6 in the last 9 isn't bad at all. I hope we don't pay him like a first-liner and force him onto this line in the offseason. That's not his ideal role and won't make us anywhere near elite. I want to keep him on the team rather badly though. Horcoff had his best offensive game in a really long time. We need to send him down to the Easton factory again. Ales was alright.
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Well I guess that's that. I haven't been this disappointed in a home season since I've been a ticket holder. This should have been a good year. Year-end wrap to come soon. Thanks to everyone who reads and comments! You're the reason I keep at it and I enjoy every second.

Til next year, the Game Report desk is closed...

4/7/09

LMHF Game Report #40

EDMONTON OILERS 1

VS.

LA KINGS 2
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And so our sad journey comes to an effective end. I know many people will ask where it all went wrong this year; plain and simple it was because THIS happened way too many times. We had nights where every rebound was out of reach, we were always on our back foot when we needed to be on our front, everything just crummy.

Roloson letting in that first goal really stung; but to say we'd ever have gotten that second goal...I really don't know. We could have had about 10 good ones tonight and only got 1 lucky one. That's not acceptable. Not that it was really likely to matter as this is WAY too little WAY too late but we still want to see the team go down gunning.

How you lose 7 of the last 9 now...I really don't know.

You know who was great tonight? Theo Peckham. Man was he ever good. He may have made ONE bad decision tonight. Maybe. Every time the puck came to him he made a solid play. He was on the right side of every man, hit people, got in a fight. The guy was excellent. I hope he's given 20 and 20 against the Flames; he really deserves it. He also got shots through the appropriate lanes from the blue line. If he wasn't stuck with Strudwick I think he may have done some damage offensively. He also had at least 2 excellent pinches. Tonight he was our best defenceman with the season on the line. I don't know whether that says more about him or the other guys.

Gilbert was pretty solid, but Souray and Staios were pedestrian at best, Strudwick was invisible and poor Denis had him self a HORRIBLE first 2 periods. I don't know where that came from. Then he gets robbed by Quick on a beauty.

Our first line was pretty MIA. Sure Kotalik got some shots away, but that was about it. The other too weren't all that great. Especially Horcoff.

The second line was pretty solid but couldn't make anything happen. Third was iffy; Moreau was utterly putrid with the puck at times tonight. He blew 3 dead cold gimmes out there tonight. Cogliano was okay.

Fourth line might have been among the best again which is really sad. I'm not sure how Brodziak missed some of his chances I have no idea. He makes a really smart play and catches the puck in front in the second...then misses???? Penner was alright and didn't get enough ice time. Stortini did well for himself, though not as well as lately.

I have trouble formulating thoughts about this game...perhaps you guys have some more detailed thoughts. All that dominates my mind right now is the stacked up disappointment of a year that should have been a lot of fun and turned into the most frustrating year of my season ticket holding.

Friday versus Calgary could still be fun I suppose...booze may be required.

4/5/09

LMHF Game Report #38

EDMONTON OILERS 5

VS.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS 3
----------------------------

Now? Really??? Are you sure?

I'm always overjoyed to beat the Canucks. That team and its incredibly annoying fans absorb a lot of my wrath in these posts and other writings as well.

It's just that right now, when losing would maybe get us a better pick and winning will get us a whole heap of nothing, it's hard to take that the real team decided to show up tonight.

We started out on the road to beating the Canucks by playing effectively physical and at times downright nasty hockey. This back the Canucks off in a lot of ways and allowed us to proceed through the rest of the game without too many shenanigans.

We finished our offensive chances for a change rather than firing wide or taking stupid shots. Combine this with limiting Vancouver to garbage for 95% of the night and we out quality-chanced them severely. Their good chances wound up in our net, but they hardly had any.

We also didn't panic at any stage of the evening, or immediately quit. These are traits we've shown at many times this year. Thankfully they disappeared tonight and we got to watch a confident team for a change.

So let's talk players...
---------------------------

3 Oilers Stars tonight: Gagner, Hemsky, Souray.

Roloson

I'm so over caring what anyone else says about him...the way most of the media neglects the fact that the Canucks took so many horrid shots; and that most of the rest were created by Roloson himself not controlling rebounds, is unforgivable. Making a large number of saves does not mean you had a good game. If a team took 60 shots at you that were all 80-footers, you should stop 60. If they get 60 breakaways; not so much. Tonight was closer to the first extreme. Burrows got a chance, and scored on an ugly rebound. Wellwood's goal came after multiple chances of varying difficulty to cover the puck. The other goal was just bad. That's not a great game.

Staios

Umm...not so good. He got owned behind the net on Raymond's goal by playing it loose. You also can't let Burrows get behind you like that and get an easy break. Whether that's him or Souray its on I'm not entirely sure, but Staios coulda been there. He wasn't particularly effective anywhere on the ice tonight.

Souray

Better than Staios certainly, though defensively I would argue he was a little suspect. I liked that he played a meaner game than the average as it set the tone for the game. He did a fine job outside his own blue line however. Souray is much more effective shooting and moving a puck from the left side of the zone than the right. I really have no idea why the coaches haven't seen this sooner. He did a fine job of sneaking down the boards and getting the puck to the net for Kotalik's goal. He was in the right position for the right pass and taking the right shot on his goal. Really effective offensive night; these are the games he makes the difference in.

Grebeshkov

I don't know what it is about his play in front of the net lately, but his timely and well-executed reach for the puck that Gagner had shot was a simple and effective use of good hockey sense, timing and a tad of skill. Defensively he was really solid outside of the Wellwood goal where he for some reason dove into the crease instead of taking care of Wellwood's loose stick. His goalie had created a scramble so it's kind of understandable but still he needs to be more disciplined than that.

Gilbert

Nearly invisible I thought, in a good way.

Peckham

Continues to improve. Glad to see he held up with more minutes tonight. I like that he's confident enough to play with the puck on the opposition blue line. Once he speeds up his release we're going to have a very effective and balanced defender. He will be like Matt Greene with less penalties and actual puck skills. Money. #6 next year easy unless we go HUGE on D in the summertime. Better skater than advertised too.

Strudwick

Blah, but that's a lot better than bad.

Stortini

Took care of his physical business and continued his decent play with the puck. I have this odd thought that playing him with Hemsky for a couple shifts a game may be something interesting to watch though I don't know who you want at C; maybe Penner to be honest.

Brodziak

Solid game and won more faceoffs than he lost. That's pretty well his job. Could have been a little better in the offensive zone though; he usually is.

Penner

Certainly underplayed tonight. He didn't really get a chance to get into the game and was therefore pretty invisible.

Moreau-Cogliano-Pisani

Fernando was still pretty ineffective offensively. I suppose they played alright, but not up to their potential by any stretch. Ethan took one of the penalties that annoys me most in the NHL; the "if it breaks it counts, if it doesn't it didn't happen" rule. So silly. But at least it didn't cost them the game. Cogliano didn't do too much and continues to be miscast. He needs to be used sparingly as an offensive weapon.

Nilsson

Robert makes Sam play better somehow. He's always at his best with Nilsson. Robert didn't do anything too exceptional tonight and indeed gave the puck away a couple times in rather easy places in the offensive zone, but he's still moving around a lot more than earlier in the year which is certainly an attribute he has when playing well.

Gagner

Awesome. Simply an awesome performance. His goal was great because not only did he outplay 4 Vancouver defenders, but Luongo was beat 10 feet before the goal happened. Everyone knew what was coming and anyone with a hockey eye could see that Sam was going to score. It was like the pitcher who yells "high fastball" at the batter and proceeds to blow it by him like it is nothing. A true thing of hockey beauty. Sam was creating trouble in front, following up on the play after dishing to Hemsky on Souray's goal. Very smart play that was. His other assist was more the product of a smart decision and a solid shot that got a little "lucky" but was also a fundamentally solid place to put the puck. Sam was moving and creating all evening, and won us this game. Impressive. I'm just wondering how the fact that he seems to play so well with Nilsson will affect what management does with #12. One thing's for sure; Gagner is for real.

O'Sullivan

It was nice that he got a point, and I love the way he drives the net, but he's got to start finishing off some of his chances. He's got a great shot but seems to be taking it ineffectively from not the greatest spots. He's also more versatile than we're giving him credit for and we haven't learned how to use him yet.

Kotalik

He's earning his keep on this team and certainly making a case to keep him this offseason. His goal was a product of good positioning an finishing well. I'm continually more impressed by his ability to get off a quality shot from nearly any pass and in varying positions. The guy has an absolutely monster release on everything. I still like him better playing on either the second or third line, but he's certainly useful since he settled in.

Horcoff

Better game from him; he did good work before Kotalik's goal and drove the net purposefully to help create it. He was unspectacular in the offensive zone but was not asked to lug the puck so much in the high defensive and neutral zones which helped us a lot. He needs to be allowed to be a positional player.

Hemsky

If you can't see that Hemsky had an amazing game tonight then I can't help you. He won almost every battle in the corners and went in like an angry bull; he created offence constantly, drew at least 2 penalties, distributed the puck like a master, kept his legs moving, scored an empty net goal that required work, focus and talent as well as risk-taking in terms of the fact that he could have got absolutely hammered making that play. The guy was absolutely huge tonight and made an all world choice or play on nearly every shift. No one can do this every night, but this is more of what I expect we'll see next year quite frequently. He challenged Gagner for best Oiler but wasn't quite as productive.
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I can't cheer for us to lose...I just can't Tonight felt good at a game for the first time in a while now. Too bad it's way too late.