Did I ever tell you the story of “Jessica?” Jessica is the name of a beauty song by the Allman Brothers Band. It’s an instrumental and people my age will say “No, I don’t remember that song” but as soon as they hear the guitar line they smile and nod. It’s a terrific song, released maybe 1973.
Anyway, in 1973 or thereabouts I was still in school but was making money, enough money to buy stuff. One Saturday my parents were going to Lloyminster shopping and I asked my Mom to pick up the Allman Brothers Band and their album that had Jessica on it.
I remember because it was a Saturday and I spent it picking rocks (have you ever picked rocks?) in a field. Boring work. I got home that night to find my album in a brown paper bag.
It was NOT the Allman Brothers Brothers and Sisters. It was the Mills Brothers Greatest Hits. The difference between the Allman Brothers and the Mills Brothers is about as wide a gap as you could find in the mid-1970s. One was a 40s-50s vocal group (Mills Brothers are excellent by the way, but not when you were hoping for the Allmans) and the other was a rock and roll band who kept losing members at intersections. I don’t know about modern Moms, but Moms of my generation often did stuff like this and then played dumb because they didn’t like the music but after years of angry accusation on my part it appears she really just didn’t know (hey it’s my Mom, what can I say?).
In the spring, we were told Craig MacTavish would be more involved in the player procurement side this summer. Looking at the list of players acquired versus those sent away since G7 SCF, I’m wondering if there’s a disconnect here. I would define a Craig MacTavish type player as someone who is as good without the puck as with it, which is to say great with the leather and the wood. Good range factor, can make the throw from deep short with some zip on it and can chip in on offense too. That kind of guy.
On the team that went to the finals, MacT types were everywhere. In Game 6 of the SCF, here’s the rundown (in EV minutes) by position for the Edmonton Oilers (with career GP):
- Jaroslav Spacek (13:55) (496)
- Steve Staios (13:47) (619)
- Dick Tarnstrom (13:28) (258)
- Chris Pronger (12:44) (802)
- Jason Smith (10:46) (786)
- Matt Greene (9:59) (27)
Pronger and Spacek played huge PP minutes (10 and 8 minutes respectively), Bergeron wasn’t in the lineup that night. Now, let’s do the GP with the current group.
- Steve Staios (677)
- Sheldon Souray (506)
- Dick Tarnstrom (258)
- Joni Pitkanen (206)
- Matt Greene (105)
- Ladislav Smid (77)
The GP comparison season-to-season is interesting (2,988 for the Cup final team to 1,829) and the Cup team was far more sound defensively. The Oilers have plenty of puck moving depth now, with as many as 5/6 on that list able to pass or carry it out (exception: Greene) but there are guys who can be beaten wide (Souray), there are guys who are still learning (Smid, Greene) and there is a lot of duplication on the roster (Tarnstrom, Souray and Pitkanen are good or better PP options). I would have guessed MacT would have liked a Jason Smith type over one of the puck movers for balance (and that may come to be) and at least two veteran and trustworthy pairings. Something like Pitkanen-Staios and Souray-Smith, that kind of thing. More traditional combinations of puck mover with stay at home type. Suspect we’ll find out that the Oilers agreed they could address this during the season (we heard exactly that about 06-07).
- Rem Murray (9:34) (560)
- Mike Peca (9:22) (693)
- Jarret Stoll (9:08) (154)
- Shawn Horcoff (8:51) (347)
Horcoff had 6PP minutes and Peca was over 5 minutes on the PK. Now let’s do GP with this year’s centers:
- Shawn Horcoff (427)
- Marty Reasoner (383)
- Jarret Stoll (205)
- Marc Pouliot (54)
The GP numbers favor the Cup run team 1,754 to 1,069 and I believe the Rem Murray pickup is pretty indicative of MacT’s style. When Pouliot went down with mono it may have sped up the process, but they were extremely likely to add a veteran center at some point (just as they will imo if there’s anything up with Reasoner’s level of play or Stoll’s concussion problems return). The style of play at center is less a question (MacT has had very few one dimensional centers, Comrie and name another one) and if healthy this is actually a pretty nice list.
- Ryan Smyth (9:09) (717)
- Ethan Moreau (9:04) (678)
- Sergei Samsonov (8:40) (533)
- Raffi Torres (7:38) (193)
Smyth played almost 8 minutes on the PP, Torres almost 5 and Samsonov played 4. Moreau was on the PK for 5 minutes that night. Now this year’s:
- Geoff Sanderson (1,063)
- Ethan Moreau (685)
- Raffi Torres (275)
- Dustin Penner (101)
SCF team has 2,121 gp and the current roster has 2,124. Pretty much equal. Which depth chart looks more MacT to you? There isn’t really an EV difference maker at LW, although Raffi has put up solid results for awhile now. Suspect they’re done at LW.
- Radek Dvorak (13:42) (746)
- Todd Harvey (7:11) (671)
- Fernando Pisani (7:09) (191)
- Ales Hemsky (7:02) (211)
Hemsky had 8PP minutes and Pisani was on the PP for 4:41 and PK for 2:40. The current team:
- Ales Hemsky (275)
- Fernando Pisani (268)
- Patrick Thoresen (68)
- Robert Nilsson (57)
SCF team (1,819) towers over current roster (668). The RW portion of the roster has some terrific players. Ales Hemsky is a central part of the team, Pisani’s a MacT type personified, and this Thoresen kid has a clue.
So, the SCF had how many MacT types? Pretty much the entire roster. Some of the end-of-the-roster guys (Harvey, Murray) were late additions and or marginal factors. Still, a veteran blueline plus Horcoff-Peca at center, Smyth and a veteran bunch on LW (with Torres playing like a demon) and Pisani-Dvorak (plus Hemsky) on RW is a lot of depth and line matching options.
Now? Well the two kids who played some last year (Pouliot, Thoresen) both look like MacT types when they start helping their team win, which may have to happen this year if the Oilers are going to get anywhere. The blueline has some veterans MacT isn’t going to be able to handle like he has Smith and Staios over the years, and the situation at LW is crying for Raffi Torres to turn into Ryan Smyth.
I think the Oilers may be planning a return to the checking line days of Marchant-Moreau-Grier. They could use Pouliot at center, maybe Moreau on LW and Pisani on RW, athough Pisani is very good on the Stoll line too. Perhaps Mike Johnson gets signed.
Still, it looks more like the Mills Brothers than the Allmans.