Did you know there was a time when songwriters ruled the music industry? Names like George and Ira Gerswhin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart were monsters of entertainment. It was the era of the song, or, rather the musical, and not the singer. Rock and roll killed it, but from the 1920s through about 1950, Broadway and Hollywood musicals had enormous impact on everything. One of the writers above might have two or more versions of the same song on Your Hit Parade, and singers would be featured by the big bands they were a part of, but the band leader—and the song—was the star.
The songwriters, dominant and influential, loved Fred Astaire. Now, Fred Astaire was a talented fellow, but as a singer he lacked the incredible style of Frank Sinatra or the unique sound and inventiveness of Ella Fitzgerald. The songwriters liked bland old Fred Astaire for one reason: He sang the damned song the way it was meant to be heard! True story.
NHL coaches are a lot like those old songwriters from the 1920s and beyond, they love the Fred Astaires of the world. Walk up to the mic, deliver the tune, let the horns and the strings breathe and allow the melody to wash over the assembled crowd. None of this personality stuff, get the hell in there, do the job and get out.
One way for us to look inside the habits of a coach is time on ice. There is no real way to hide it, Todd McLellan gives ice time to those who he feels can help him win. If you are a lead singer, you better be Sinatra, and if you are not, well, will Fred Astaire the singer please stand up?
OILERS FORWARDS BY TIME ON ICE, 2016-17
- Sinatra followed by the rest, I don’t think there is a coach in the league who would be running McDavid below 20 minutes (not even Mike Babcock).
- It is interesting to see that aside from the phenoms (McDavid and Leon), McLellan runs veteran players through most of the heart of the order. Lucic, Nuge, Eberle, but also Mark Letestu and even Benoit Pouliot in his year of hell takes on more of the load.
- The kids get worked in with the 4line vets (Hendricks, Kassian) and even a youngster like Tyler Pitlick—tearing the cover off the ball—is well behind Fred Astaire in TOI. Sing the damned song!
- A lot has been written about Todd McLellan and his roster handling, but Craig MacTavish got stubborn on some unusual people, too. Do you see a Toby Petersen out there on a McLellan power play? And if you say Mark Letestu I will know you never saw Petersen on the power play.
- I think Jesse Puljujarvi could play more, and more often. I also think Anton Slepyshev can help this team, this year, now.
- I think Todd McLellan would be wise to have Peter Chiarelli recall Anton Lander and Anton Slepyshev today. We wait.
OILERS DEFENSE BY TIME ON ICE, 2016-17
- This is an even better example of the Fred Astaire phenomenon. The top 4D are all playing over 20 minutes, and each of them is capable of playing a consistent, reliable game. Even Oscar, who has the yips at times this year, is able to carry that weight of making the right play against top competition.
- Despite outstanding performances, we see the rookie Benning receiving depth minutes and Darnell Nurse getting the same. Even the back row has an Astaire in Eric Gryba. Mark Fayne is an Astaire, but his foot speed and passivity at the blue line have the coach down on his ability. I bet one of the other 29 coaches in the NHL likes him, suspect Fayne plays elsewhere next year in the NHL.
Photo by Rob Ferguson
ERIC RODGERS TOI ESTIMATES FOR CONDORS
I received a wonderful surprise in my mailbox last night, an updated (last night included) Estimated time on ice for the Bakersfield Condors. So, and this is very cool, we can view Gerry Fleming’s work based on Eric’s diligence and brilliance. Let’s have a look. This is TOI per game including all game states (EV, PP and PK).
- This is (as mentioned) the update information and the time on ice includes all game states.
- Two prospects are receiving what we might call substantial minutes, both Jujhar Khaira and Anton Slepyshev taking full advantage of the situation. Khaira has to be ready for an NHL recall at any minute, and Slepyshev is ripping up California since his demotion.
- Anton Lander may not land an NHL job, but he can handle the AHL like ringing a bell.
- We see a somewhat similar split between the phenoms/vets and the prospects/Fred Astaires here too, just as we saw in McLellan’s usage. Based on Eric’s estimates, no prospect (after Slepy and Khaira) is getting more than 11 minutes a night in ice time. The estimate has Mitch Moroz and Greg Chase at a mere seven minutes a night—about equal to Taylor Beck in the NHL.
- I think the Oilers/Fleming like Scott Allen.
- Jordan Oesterle is coming on now. A slow start (and injury) has given way to a strong run here and I wonder if we see a recall. A little more Astaire in his game would probably help, or maybe he has made a step forward in this area.
- Joey Laleggia is also getting a push, but until last night the numbers were not coming along very well. He moved up to LW and things got better (1-1-2) last evening.
- Griffin Reinhart is playing 21 minutes a night according to the estimate and that is exactly what the Oilers will want him to do for the rest of the season.
- Dillon Simpson and David Musil are mining the same part of the roster, interesting to see the TOI totals and the recall list.
- Ben Betker is playing well in his first full AHL season.
An unusual World Juniors for Oilers fans, as the top end talent (McDavid, Puljujarvi) available for the tournament is in the NHL, while trades for Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba impacted the team’s overall eligible list. Added to the fact Tyler Benson and Ethan Bear did not make the team, and we are left with just two names.
Caleb Jones was noticeable in the USA win, very mobile player who reminded me a little of Darnell Nurse is his walkabout sorties. As was the case with Nurse, the Oilers will have to coach some of that out of him. That said, he is very good with the puck, an excellent passer with major league wheels.
Aapeli Rasanen of Finland was less noticeable, but did have two shots and make himself known. More to come from the WJs, and there are a lot of interesting draft eligible players who will be on display today and tonight.