Runaway Train

















Blind boys and gamblers
They invented the blues
Will pay up in blood
When this marker comes due
To try and get off now
It’s about as insane
As those who wave lanterns
At runaway trains
-Rodney Crowell

The Edmonton Oilers appear to have sold enough tickets this season that keeping up appearances no longer matters. Given the choice of “Steve Staios and…” on the blueline to face the opposition’s best, coach MacT has chosen the combination of Denis Grebeshkov and Tom Gilbert. This is a bit of a re-run from last fall when Ladislav Smid was being used in an elevated fashion (and with predictable results). The coaching staff is also apparently convinced that Dick Tarnstrom isn’t the answer for the short term (and he certainly isn’t the long term solution) so expect him to be dealt if there’s interest.

Quoting a post by momentai in the thread below:

EV GA-per 60mins (by defender)

  1. Tom Gilbert 2.20
  2. Sheldon Souray 2.46
  3. Dick Tarnstrom 2.92
  4. Joni Pitkanen 3.00
  5. Matt Greene 3.21
  6. Steve Staios: 3.31
  7. Denis Grebeshkov 3.84
  8. Ladislav Smid 4.78

Further quoting momentai: It’s a small sample size for Smid thus far but he’s already had 4 ES goals against. The plus side, though, is that he’s even on the season thus far so his ES goals for is equally as high. Grebeshkov after the Anaheim game (where I’ve heard he played solidly) brought his ESGA/60 number down. And Gilbert’s numbers are pretty great all things considered. 7 GA at ES with 191 minutes of ES icetime (second only to Staios at 199:25) giving him the best average on the team. It looks like we may have a keeper on our hands.

A nice analysis by a guy who has posted quality stuff on the various blogs and sites for years. I don’t get the Grebeshkov love-in by the coach, but do agree with momentai that Gilbert looks like a keeper.

My bet is that by February Gilbert is signed to a three year deal by the Oilers, Tarnstrom is in Atlanta, and Denis Grebeshkov is no longer on the top pairing. And what, may I ask, is Steve Staios thinking about all of this? I wonder if that argument was about his future role on the team?

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39 Responses to "Runaway Train"

  1. NBOilerFan says:

    Not sure how much your willing to wager on that bet, LT… but I know I no longer will be betting on anything that Lowe does in the near future. He has thrown me for a loop to often from the start of last season to the present. MacT too for that matter, I really have little to no idea what either are thinking anymore. Perhaps I never did, but I at least like to think I had some idea.

  2. Dennis says:

    Maybe 24 was pissed because whereas he’d always been trusted with taking on the top pairing, now that job had gone to someone else, ie he had the argument with MacT after the game in Cgy and we know that 77/37 were playing against Iginla in that game. Maybe it’s just like in baseball when you telling a guy he’s now hitting 5th instead of 3rd.

    NB, not sure how long you’ve been around but I stopped having faith in Lowe starting with the Pronger trade and that was cemented by his decision on Smyth. Then, once he started throwing around offersheets and picks and wasting money on Souray, well then I was vindicated.

  3. Slipper says:

    Vic mentioned it elsewhere, and it served as a reminder to me, that MacTavish was taking a larger role in player scouting during last season’s playoffs. So the man behind the bench had a hand in player procurement over the off-season.

    There used to be an argument that there was a gap existing between a “MacT player” and the players Lowe seemed to covet. I don’t think that argument can be made any longer.

    What compounds the WTF!!! is how MacTavish has then taken these players for which he was complicit in the Oilers acquiring and misused them. For instance, using Souray as a hard match-up defenseman and on the PK (and paired with Greene for crying out loud).

    These statements about Grebs and Gilbert as the D pair responsible for the Zetterbergs of the NHL is just golden. I don’t know how much longer Rishaug plans on covering hockey in Alberta, but I think it’s just magic how he took the coach at his word on this and presented it as fact in an interview this afternoon with Zetterberg himself. To Z’s credit, when asked how he felt about being hard matched by Grebs and Gilbert, AND if he’d even knew much of them in the first place, he played the game and spewed the required cliches.

    Though you could sense an air of cynicism between both the reporter and the player during the whole Q & A.

  4. Ducey says:

    The bottom line is that Tarnstrom is only signed for a year. No matter what, he will not be here next year. He is not part of the future.

    If you put this together with Lowe’s “suddenly I had too many defenceman” quote from a while ago, and the fact the Oil are not winning the Stanley Cup this year, they are obviously going to teach the young guys on the job.

    This team is built for the future. If the goal is to have a solid D in 2 or 3 years (which seems to be the outlook for this team) then they need to get the new guys ice time.

    Unless you are convinced Grebs is not an NHL D man in 2-3 years then Tarnstrom shouldn’t be getting Greb’s ice time.

    I really don’t see the issue.

  5. Andy Grabia says:

    Groan. Don’t do this to me, LT. I can’t handle MacT breaking my mind, too.

  6. MikeP says:

    I don’t know, you ask me it looks like Lowe got just enough dmen. Greene just went down, and it looks like another 2-4 weeker from the way his leg twisted.

    I don’t know if you could pay me enough to play on the Oilers blue line – how many man games have they lost in the last year?

  7. godot10 says:

    What is so confusing?

    The Oilers are rebuilding and are in player development mode.

    Any veteran who is unhappy about this can ask to be traded. And fans who like veteran teams, and hate watching player development, and want to win today are going to be unhappy.

    Too bad they signed Souray though. He’ll keep on trying to live up to his contract, and MacT and Huddy are going to have to get him to simplify and do less.

  8. Dennis says:

    Nice work by Rishaugh. That’s as close to insubordination as any reporters’s ever come, as far as I remember.

    Godot, I don’t think anyone’s against player development. But I think a lot of people are against playing Roy over Tarnstrom, unless you believe that Roy winds up to be anything worth fussing over and/or losing points in the ’08 season.

    When you have other options, there’s no need of playing all the kids at the same time.

  9. momentai says:

    I’m not the biggest fan of Greene but it’s going to hurt if he’s gone for an extended period of time. This blueline is thin on its limited experience as it is without Greene’s little tumble.

    It’s two periods in and it looks like Grebeshkov/Gilbert is definitely the pairing du jour for MacT and company. The forward match for Zetterberg seems to be a mixed bag as it seems MacT feels alright with having either Stoll or Horcoff out against that line tonight.

    Considering both Grebs and Gilbert are still even on the night, I’d say that’s quite the accomplishment for that young pair even with Roloson having 24 saves through two periods. Maybe we do have something here? That would be quite reassuring to say the least.

    In regards to the numbers I posted, Smid probably has the most leeway awarded. It’s weird that he was on the ice at ES for 4 GF and 4 GA through two games. He never really struck me as a particular high event dman and I’d bet that he will settle down as the year drags on.

    And I don’t know about Staios, LT. Maybe he’s pissed that he’s no longer the go to guy on defense to take on the hard matchups. Or maybe he’s really excited now that he’s getting a little bit of break to wheel and deal against the lessers.

  10. Pleasure Motors says:

    This team is built for the future. If the goal is to have a solid D in 2 or 3 years (which seems to be the outlook for this team) then they need to get the new guys ice time.

    I would buy that argument a lot more if we weren’t already down two of our (ostensibly, anyway) top d-men. If we were shuffling Grebeshkov, Roy and Tarnstrom through the third pairing, fine, but we’re basically pulling someone who played like a number two d-man when he was asked to. Why not flip Grebs and Roy every game, if you want to get them both ice?

    There is giving the kids experience, and there is being kind of foolish. Unless MacT and Huddy think Grebeshkov and Roy are going to develop into top-four d-men within about a month, I think this is a clear case of the latter.

  11. godot10 says:

    //Why not flip Grebs and Roy every game, if you want to get them both ice?//

    Because Pitkanen and Souray will be back in a few weeks.

    The Oilers aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup this year. It is more important to figure out whether Roy is a player, than to win a few more games by playing Tarnstrom.

  12. namflashback says:

    Well, now they won’t have to choose. They can have Tarnstrom, Grebs, AND Roy on the ice.

  13. Dennis says:

    I thought that Grebs played a fine game tonight. There were two little fuck-ups but I liked the way he was playing in his own zone and there’s no question the kid can pass. Defensively, he certainly looks as good as Smid.

  14. Pat says:

    ouch. Regardless of his actual level of culpability,apparent relations between Tarnstrom and MacT suggest that we’ve seen the last of former for the next little while. Then again, if Greene is out, maybe not. And Greene’s injury looked bad. I could see it being broken.

  15. Devin says:

    How about those two insane stretch passes by Grebs in the first period? Oiler players can’t score on breakaways so it wouldn’t matter, but, wow! Nice game and I can’t decide whether I like this guy or not. He’s trending upwards no doubt, but I wonder how good Smid would look paired with Tommy G?

    Speaking of Smid I love that spin-reverse move he uses to get past forecheckers. If he learned to actually do something with the puck after he gets free he’d be something else. Last thought: when Moreau returns Sanderson MUST be waived.

  16. Scarlett says:

    Grebs actually did play very good tonight, helleva lot better than Tarnstrom. Let’s throw Dicky under the bus. Am I over-reacting? I don’t care, but being there and watching him cock that play up, I’ll offer to drive the bus.

  17. Matt says:

    So, we still haven’t heard what Staios and MacT were arguing about [ron white voice] In Public [/ron white voice]? Sorry, what do beat reporters exist for again?

  18. Slipper says:

    I think the only reason the 37-77 pairing didn’t get roasted tonight was because the law of averages was working in the Oilers’ favour. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think Dick Tarnstrom is a fantastic defenseman. This isn’t an argument of Dick versus Denis by any means.

    By my eye the Zetterberg line got a sniff almost everytime they were on the ice. The bounces just didn’t fall in their favour at even strength tonight. So MacT comes out looking better than he should considering the Oilers’ were outshot by 20.

    And I don’t buy into the Funnel to the Outside system for a second. MacT once brought that up about the 2006 playoffs, as though he invented a sure fire way to beat the Wings. Giving up your own zone but pressing the action towards the boards sounds awfully like hanging on by the skin of your teeth to me.

  19. Bruce says:

    Didn’t see the game, just saw the highlights.

    1) Lip-reading, Greene said “It’s broken!”

    2) Pouliot should be shot at dawn for that gawd-awful brutal line change with 27 seconds left. To put this in perspective, the winning goal was scored with 25 sceonds left, as Filppula took advantage of a huge lane that suddenly opened up, and Tarnstrom recated poorly. But we used to teach in Tom Thumb hoc key that you don’t change while the other team is rushing up the ice. In the last minute of a tie game, with conservation of the lsoer point paramount, that is worse than a rookie mistake, it is completely unacceptable. What the fuck was the minus-7 fifth-liner doing on the ice in the last minute of a tie game?

  20. Rod says:

    Woah. Slow down the bus. The easy thing to do is to hang the Wings winning goal on Tarnstrom. He did blow a tire no doubt…but there’s definitely someone else at fault, and he didn’t even get a minus on the damn play. Watch the highlights on TSN for a long replay of the goal. Datsyuk carries the puck over his blue line (left wing boards). An Oiler forward coasts to the bench from the red line…the pass goes to Filppula and he races through the space vacated by the Oiler forward…Tarnstrom blows a tire, and we know the rest. Forward making a lazy change was none other than #78. After a 37 second shift, he couldn’t even skate hard to the bench with Datsyuk skating the puck to centre ice. Unbelievable. Yep, Pouliot had a major hand in that goal, but he didn’t get a minus. Penner was the lucky one to jump on the ice as Filppula went wide on Tarnstrom, and he got rewarded with a minus. Sometimes stats just flat out lie.

    Not saying Tarnstrom is blameless, but Pouliot deserves to be under the bus just as much as anyone.

  21. Rod says:

    Bruce beat me to it. :-) Guess I couldn’t get the words out fast enough in this state of disbelief. At least I wasn’t the only one to see the brainless line change.

  22. Bruce says:

    Right on, Rod, and thanks for emphasizing that he lollygagged his way to the bench, hanging Penner out to dry as well as Tarnstrom and Roloson. That wasn’t even a minor league play. Dumbest play I’ve seen all year this side of Downie and Boulerice. Cost Oilers the goddamn hockey game, and like you say, he didn’t even get a minus. But in my books he gets a great big minus-one, and deserves a one-way ticket out of town for a few months to rediscover the goddamn fundamentals. I’m thinking Stockton.

  23. PunjabiOil says:

    You guys are failing to blame Gagner too. Terrible, passive forchecking…he basically allowed Datsyuk to move up to center ice to feed a full speed Fipppula.

    Rollie is to blame too. He didn’t even react until it was in the net.

    But who to blame the most?

    MacT for having those guys on the ice in the final minute.

  24. T. says:

    OH yeah – it was ugly. It’s definitely broken.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSOmgBn3Aqs

  25. Bank Shot says:

    Tarnstrom didn’t blow a tire. He was just in “Holy Fuck!” scramble mode, because he had no idea that there was a forward there until it was too late.

    Stretch passes like that happen all the time throughout the course of a hockey game. Hell, Ryan Smyth used to stand up there by the blue line for a third of the hockey game.

    If Tarnstrom had been paying attention to his surroundings it would have been just another uneventful dump-in, or a case of the skater funnelled into the corner.

  26. Bank Shot says:

    I also though the Oilers(especially Grebs and Gilbert)did a very good job on the Zetterberg line last night.

    I watched about 10 minutes of the Dtroit vs. Vancouver game on Sunday and Zetterberg himself had about 4 quality scoring chances in that span. That whole line had less then that yesterday.

  27. danny says:

    bankshot: It was because of a poor line change. Pouliot decided to change while Detroit were rushing the puck, and exposed the weakside for their breakout… Tarnstrom isnt quick enough to close a guy coming in full speed taking a tape to tape pass… not many NHLers are.

    MacT was pretty disappointed by the change, said wasn’t dicks fault really… the unnerving thing is Pouliot during his interview after the game seemed pleased as punch with his game and oblivious that he caused the DET scoring chance that lost the game.

  28. digger says:

    I guess this adds another log to the “Marc Pouliot is a ****ing headcase” fire, doesn’t it?

    It’s like ever since he wanted people to stop calling him Marc-Antoine, he’s turned into a crackhead.

    And now with JFJ being sent down, don’t be surprised to see the return of Nilsson.

  29. Rube Foster says:

    I didn’t see the whole game, just saw the highlights. Crappy last thirty seconds of play but in the big picture you have to appreciate that the Oilers executed a strong game plan and were competitive with one of the best squads in the NHL. With all the key vets that the Oil have on the shelf you have to be encouraged by the game even while being disappointed in the result.
    I found the post game comments to be very revealing. It just seamed like one of those games where the post game comments showed a lot about the team and may have been more interesting than highlights.
    In the post game media scrum, Tricky Dick looked straight into the camera and took the bullet square on the chin. He essentially said the goal was fully his fault, one of the reporter even tried to give him an out with a comment along the lines of “it was a lucky shot” only to be quickly corrected by the Dickster “No, it was a good shot and the goal was my fault.” I don’t think you could ask for more veteran accountability and character than Dick showed post game and I was pleased to see that he’s bringing this element to the club house.
    Counter to Dicksters comments, MacT firmly and squarely put the blame on a very poor line change (rightly so –thanks Bruce) and made a point of saying the goal was not Tarnstrom’s fault. I find it interesting that MacT appeared to go out of his way to defend Tarnstrom. Dick is a guy who has been the subject of many of our speculations that he’s not one of MacT’s favorites. Now maybe with Greene’s injury MacT realizes he needs Dick more than ever so he didn’t want to hang him out to dry, or Maybe MAcT was just being a stand up guy and placing the blame where it rightfully belonged. But, if MacT ever had an opportunity to blast a player through the media he had a willing and wanting audience last night and bullet that he chose not to shoot.
    I hope Greene wasn’t one of the key components in our wishful thinking “Hossa deal” boy the Hockey Gods are piling on, just when Matt Greene starts to show some signs of life something shitty like this has to happen. Say what you want about Greene’s game, I’ve never heard anyone say that he isn’t a great kid. I hope he can make a full recovery and get back to playing hockey soon.

  30. Bruce says:

    No surprise that both Ireland and Barnes laid the whole thing on Tarnstrom this morning in the Edmonton Journal. Take you’re pick: a) they weren’t watching, b) they don’t understand hockey, or c) once again they’re greasing the skids for Oilers management as they prepare to ship another veteran down the road. None of the three answers is acceptable in my view.

    I watched the play first time on SportsCentre, and before I knew the result of the play (or the game), I was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!” at Pouliot. I couldn’t believe it so I backed it up and watched it a bunch of times on my DVR, and I just couldn’t/can’t get over what a terrible decision it was. It seemed like the kid couldn’t wait to get off the ice, didn’t want to be out there, didn’t know what to do, and his brain froze. Suddenly there was Tarnstrom with no weak side help against a guy at full speed and obviously a little skill.

    danny’s comment about Pouliot being oblivious to it in the post-game is indeed unnerving if not downright unprofessional, do you have a clip or a transcript? If nothing else he should’ve been crushed by the loss.

    MacT did the right thing re: Tarnstrom, and he resisted the temptation to name Pouliot and just blamed a bad change. No mention of Gagner either, but he did single out Torres for staying out too long. I’m sure Raffi will appreciate that.

    Whatever, it seems the oddest combination of guys to have out there in the last minute of a tie game — have they even played together before? — and I have to put a lot of that on the coach. And to be fair, on the fact that he doesn’t have Moreau and Pisani to turn to in such situations.

    So this morning I read that JFJ is going down and MAP is presumably staying put, and once again I am completely baffled by this organization.

  31. Master Lok says:

    Do you get the Grebs love-in a bit more now LT?

    I think MacT said it best (I heard this on a radio interview) where he described Greb’s defensive problems as occuring in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone – but both were improving. That in his own zone – Grebs was pretty solid.

  32. Rod says:

    Bruce: Exact scenario as me. Saw the clip, and was wondering what the hell the forward was doing. Had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Sure enough, there was 78 coasting to the bench, opening that side of the ice for Filppula to streak though. Couldn’t believe it. Stupidity on that play was bad enough (this was a completely elementary thing to screw up). Throw in lazy and indifferent, and I was incensed. 30 seconds left in a tie game and the kid doesn’t care whether his team gets to OT.

    Does MP have to clear waivers? That’s the only explanation I can think of as to why MP didn’t get a ticket out of town after that play.

    As for the shift times, here’s each player with the game time their shift had started prior to the goal:
    Gagner – 19:04
    Penner – 19:33 (thanks to Pouliot)
    Pouliot – 18:56 – 19:33
    Staios – 19:00
    Tarnstrom – 19:17
    Torres – 18:31

    The goal was scored at 19:35, so obviously Torres was caught out there just over a minute. Not good, but not directly responsible for the goal. Unlike 78.

  33. Rod says:

    master lok: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Grebs is solid in his own end. 4on4 in LA Saturday, Gilbert was corralling a loose puck in the corner to the right of Roli. Grebs vacates the front of the net to join Gilbert. By the time Gilbert attempt to move the puck, Grebs is only a few feet away from Gilbert. Puck bounces to the front of the net, and boom, Nagy scores.

    I’ll accept that he’s learning and improving (unlike a certain chaos defenseman from last season). Just saying it’s quite a stretch to assert that he’s solid in his own end.

  34. Dennis says:

    Yeah, no doubt that 78 fucked up on that play and no question that I’m disappointed that he wasn’t complicit in the postgame interviews. I think it’s pretty telling, though, that MacT didn’t drive the bus over 23 in the postgame and that 78 stays up while 22 goes down. Of course, 22 made an inexplicable icing play in the first period that had to be seen to be believed. He was about one stride away from centre but just threw it in for the icing. It was the sort of play that Gator would make every now and then but nobody would mention. In any case, I think JFJ had two shifts after that play.

    BTW, we still have waivers on 78 so if he’s not going down after a gaffe like that, he’s pretty much in the ’08 plans, I can imagine. As for why he was out there that late, he found himself on a shift with 27-89 and they had a scoring chance so MacT put them out as the 2nd PP unit and they had yet another scoring chance. On a night where even the HST line didn’t look great, I guess MacT was going with a line that had a little jam.

    78 started off with a poor giveaway in the first period and his night ended in a total fuck-up, but in between he made a nice power move to get off a backhand in the second period and also almost scored on a nice give-and-go with 27. He was hands down one of the best forwards when it came to creating chances.

    That being said, it wasn’t that hard to stand out for the Oilers last night. I’m all for the keeping the puck to the outside when we’re defending, but the Oilers have to learn to dump and chase on offense and pound the Rafalski-Chelios-Lebda crowd. For fucksakes, even Lidstrom looked a bit skittish on a dump last night, to the point where Hemsky stripped him.

  35. PDO says:

    So..

    How on earth is there no mention here of Grebeshkov fucking around with the puck, on a PK, in his own end, and then turning it over before Zetterberg’s PP goal?

    I was all but ready to lynch the guy after that… it’s just one of those unforgivable sins unless you go and block the next shot and/or clear the puck out. Instead he was stupid with the puck, coughed it up, and before we knew it was in the back of the net.

  36. therealdeal says:

    I saw the Pouliot to the bench incident, but honestly it was an even strength set up for the d-man – in the NHL the defenceman HAS to win that battle. If you can’t win that one then you shouldn’t be in the NHL.

    Tarnstrom fell a bit which is a bit of a fluke and then that’s all she wrote.

    Btw, Grebeshkov was horrible against LA on Saturday night. Bad pinching, poor defensive zone coverage, poor decision making all around. Greene was on for like 3 goals and I couldn’t believe it but he wasn’t really responsible for any of them.

  37. oilerdiehard says:

    One might argue it is a small sample size for all the guys. With Grebs being second behind Smid in the smaller sample size category.

    Grebs has been excellent the last couple games facing tough opposition. So we will see if he can keep up the good play or not. If he can that would be huge for us.

    PDO you may have had a point earlier but if you can watch Grebs after the last two games and still rip him apart and say nothing postive. Then you are going to do it no matter what he does.

  38. RiversQ says:

    Rod said…
    master lok: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Grebs is solid in his own end. 4on4 in LA Saturday, Gilbert was corralling a loose puck in the corner to the right of Roli. Grebs vacates the front of the net to join Gilbert. By the time Gilbert attempt to move the puck, Grebs is only a few feet away from Gilbert. Puck bounces to the front of the net, and boom, Nagy scores.

    That was brutal.

    In Grebs’ defense, how could he have known that Gilbert would turn that puck over so cheaply in such a bad spot? That was an incredibly dumb move from a young kid that hasn’t made many of them.

    Let’s put it this way – that was a well-earned minus for the both of them.

  39. Master Lok says:

    Rod: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Grebs is solid in his own end.

    Clarification: Sorry that’s what MacT said about Grebs – not I.

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