SAN JOSE a bunch more than 1
I think we've seen a fatal flaw in this season's plan. Regardless of whether you want to win NOW NOW NOW or develop the kids in a year where we might not win a ton but is filled with positivity, tonight the alarm bells should be going off all over.
The problem isn't up front; and despite a lacklustre performance tonight, it is not in goal either.
We knew the D wouldn't be great, but tonight proved that our bottom end D can completely wreck any chance at a positive experience this year. This cannot stand.
Watching Jason Strudwick and Jim Vandermeer on the ice at the same time was like watching a horrendous disaster unfolding in slow motion. I felt so bad for the forwards playing with them because they literally couldn't allow even a dump-in without a great scoring chance being generated. Strudwick should retire immediately as he's clearly gotten even worse than last year. A great example of how bad he was playing, was he had Hall open for what likely was a breakaway, and slammed a 15 foot pass so hard he had no chance to handle it. Genius! I have some sympathy for Vandermeer but he was horrible tonight too. Gave the puck away constantly, didn't finish his hits and generally payed stupidly. Totally unacceptable.
It was also unacceptable that Renney waited so long to break them up. It was evident in the second that this wasn't going to work no matter how much they wanted it to. In so many ways, these guys alone cost us the game tonight. We didn't play great, but any chance we had was obliterated by them as a pair. Get rid of both of them. Call up Shawn Belle immediately and sign a veteran defenceman. This can in no way be a positive season for 91, 14 and 4 if games like this happen even once every few. Having a small faction of the team be SO BAD they just ruin things isn't going to get you anywhere.
Not far behind tonight was one Dustin Penner. I haven't seen him play a game that bad in a long while. I can't decide whether he was being a lazy ass or a stubborn mule tonight. He turned the puck over the whole game long no matter what the situation; he couldn't even take a pass. When he managed possession for more than a fraction of a second, he wouldn't skate anywhere with it, and showed no fire at all until the very end of the game behind the net. I really don't know what's happened to him, but he hasn't given an inspiring performance this year in any way, shape or form.
A lot of our problems tonight flowed from how badly Ryan Whitney played. This was easily the worst game I've seen him play as an Oiler and only got worse as the night went on. A guy who always makes simple passes missed them all. A guy who never gets beat wide got beat wide. He was bad in the corners, bad in the opposition end and bad in his own. With how much we lean on him, there's no hope in a game where he's so bad that we play anywhere near our peak.
The only defenceman who really put forth a decent effort tonight was Smid. On several occasions, he calmly ferried the puck out of trouble and made a solid pass. He at least tried to stir some stuff up with the Sharks and directed shots at the net.
Grebeshkov played...oh wait a minute...we're too good for a cheap dman who can play 20 minutes with minimal crap...
Foster was what he has been this year; got some shots on but not dangerous ones. Got beat wide a few times and didn't really lay any physical play down. I don't like way he's trying to make a difference and don't see it working. He needs to get closer in if he wants to do anything with those shots, and he needs to either defend like Gilbert (positionally) or start hitting people.
Gilbert was medium-ish on the evening. I didn't see any glaring mistake but he needs to step up his offensive play. Now that he's the featured guy, he needs to control the puck, do a bunch of skating and make some great passes. He isn't yet.
Getting back to the forwards, as much as our fourth line played better tonight, I still don't find them very useful. Colin Fraser is utterly useless. He didn't win draws, play well positionally, hit, fight, agitate or provide an offensive contribution. I don't understand why we identified him and got him when there were so many better players on the market with discernible skill sets. That guy playing for Minnesota that wasn't good enough to be an Oiler sure is worse than him...right? right???
Jones isn't going to do anything. He tries to muck and cause trouble but he's not good enough to ride shotgun for anyone which would be his useful spot. On nights like tonight you see how little difference what he does actually makes.
I really think they're misusing Stortini at this stage. He was very good in the preseason but hasn't got to play that type of game yet this year. I'm a little baffled as to how we get this done. Very weird that he was jumped by Mayers like that. As has been the trend, we didn't take advantage of the PP of course...blech.
Cogliano was trying to follow the same script as last game but with less energy. I continue to be baffled by his constant desire to skate the puck to the corner rather than the net, and not getting open for neutral zone passes (his best goal generator). Even more inexplicably, Renney continues to play him on the PP for some crazy reason. He has no PP skill and never has. Get him out of there.
Brule looks stuck. He played a very confused looking game tonight. He played some of the night physical, some trying to play offence, made some ugly passes that were forced and never set up to take his shot. He's winning more faceoffs but still taking less. He's not being used very well at all, either 5-on-5 or PP.
Hall was okay, but just okay. I was hoping he'd get a shift after that stupid non-penalty he got called for so that he could score a goal (he looked angry and focused) but that came too late. He needed to be shifted to a different line for the powerplay so as not to be tied to Cogliano. I think he's shown enough while Penner has stunk, so you need to give him a run with Hemsky for a few games. Being that we've lost 4 straight, there's no real risk to that.
Break up the Gagner line already. If it wasn't obvious enough if should be after tonight. Penner was boat anchor for Gagner and Hemsky (who both looked amped and weren't actually bad), but the combo threw that effort off. If you didn't see Sam's beauty move that should've resulted in a goal in the first (and instead resulted in a penalty against us somehow) then find it somewhere, it was sweet. Hemsky did some very nice things, but was constantly alone with the puck trying to beat 3 sharks with no passing options. For obvious reasons this doesn't work.
Eberle's goal was poetry in motion. He made a lazy Marleau look horrible and finished with the greatest of ease. He's a pleasure to watch. He also made a phenomenal move and pass to Horcoff (who missed for the second game in a row on this kind of set). Eberle just plays solid hockey constantly.
Horcoff and Paajarvi weren't the problem tonight.
Khabibulin wasn't great either. He couldn't provide the big saves tonight, but also got hung out to dry.
As you can see I'm pretty frustrated. I think Renney needs to step in and make some moves; callups, line changes and system modification. The most obvious is the PP, which has been horrible and is largely so because we don't even have powerplay lines. GET SOME FREAKING PP LINES!