Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Visnovsky)

There’s a chance that Lubomir Visnovsky will post the best offensive numbers of the MacTavish coaching regime. Since taking over the club in summer 2000, MacT has had some pretty nice offensive talent on the blue.

Among the finest offensive seasons since 2000 are Janne Niinimaa 00-01 (12-34-46), Janne Niinimaa 01-02 (5-39-44) and the top point-getter Chris Pronger 05-06 (12-44-56).

Visnovsky could threaten the Pronger number. He’s a quality point producer and his powerplay numbers (traditionally) are superior to most of the options that have been available to this coach.

Visnovsky’s value on the PP and at EVs is such that one doubts he’ll spend a lot of time on the PK. Last season in Los Angeles, he played 376 PP minutes, which amounted to about 20% of his total TOI:

  • EVs: 16:59
  • PP: 4:35
  • PK: 1:24

This is somewhat different than the chores given to Sheldon Souray when he was healthy last season:

  • EVs: 16:04
  • PP: 4:15
  • PK: 3:59

Souray’s special team minutes were about 33% of his overall and he played a little more per game last season. My bet is that these two will gobble up most of the PP time (when healthy) on the roster, which will impact the scoring totals of Tom Gilbert.

One thing that interests me as they head to camp is the D pairings. Although he’s a lefty, Lubomir Visnovsky apparently prefers RD. If we slot him there, RD becomes Visnovsky, Staios, Gilbert and LD is Grebeshkov, Souray, Strudwick, Smid.

  • Grebeshkov-Visnovsky
  • Souray-Staios
  • Strudwick-Gilbert
  • Smid

We know they’ll be changed a lot in camp and through injury much of the season will see the pairings shuffled, but at first glance this would have been a more logical lineup:

  • Visnovsky-Staios
  • Grebeshkov-Gilbert
  • Souray-Strudwick
  • Smid

Finally, when we arrive at Tom Gilbert we’ll get into this in more detail, but I thought it would be a good idea to post the primary D’s situational numbers here:

5×5 pts/60

  1. Tom Gilbert 0.98
  2. Denis Grebeshkov 0.84
  3. Lubimor Visnovsky 0.80
  4. Sheldon Souray 0.76
  5. Steve Staios 0.65
  6. Ladislav Smid 0.25
  7. Jason Strudwick 0.10

5x4pts/60 (100+ minutes)

  1. Tom Gilbert 3.01
  2. Lubimor Visnovsky 2.77
  3. Joni Pitkanen 2.11
  4. Sheldon Souray 1.72
  5. Denis Grebeshkov 1.26

Talent, opportunity and injury make Visnovsky a strong favorite to lap the field this year when measuring points from the blueline.

Prediction for 08-09: 76gp, 12-38-50 (.658 per game).

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17 Responses to "Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Visnovsky)"

  1. Jonathan says:

    There was a nice interview that Dan Tencer had with Charlie Huddy, and in it Huddy gave Tencer the defense pairings that they were considering running with:

    Souray – Staios
    Visnovsky – Gilbert
    Grebeshkov – Smid

    which suggests to me that at least at evens they’re planning to put Visnovsky on the left side. IIRC, Visnovsky said that the right side was his preference, but then he referred explicitly to on the powerplay.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Interesting. The first pairing is all kinds of experienced but lacks what we might call a puck mover (or at least amongst this group those two aren’t among the top level).

    The second pairing has some holes in terms of battling down low and outmuscling the opponent but once they gain possession it’s a quick out.

    The third pairing gives Smid a terrific opportunity to stay in the black (depending upon quality of opposition).

  3. Ribs says:

    I’m not sure if I read/heard that interview but those were the lines I was expecting.

    I’d try to give the most skating minutes to Visnovsky and Gilbert if possible over Souray and Staios.

    Grebs and Smid toughen up their games or Strudwick fills in while they think about it.

    I likes it.

  4. Lowetide says:

    Based on the back half of the season Grebeshkov is going to play. Unless he steps back or that was a fluke, to my eye the light went on.

  5. Traktor says:

    Why would you run Staios on the 1st line? Don’t you want to play your best players the most minutes? If Steve Staois is our best D, then we are a pathetic hockey team.

    I think Vis is going to get around 40-55 points but have some real worries that he will be able to keep the puck out when the going gets tough.

  6. trader says:

    Lowetide, I realize that certain posters here luv to hate Smid,(only the irrational luv for Pouliot is greater) but come on. Do you really think that Strudwick will play ahead of Smid on a regular basis?

    Is your theory based on Strudwick’s mobility, his foot speed, his great first pass? Let’s face it we will try to hide Studwick out there when we need his toughness.

    Smid is cheap, young, can skate, has size, and appears willing to learn. Is that not what a #6 dman should be in the cap world?

    Sorry, I forgot that he got traded for Pronger so no matter what he does it’s wrong.

  7. Asiaoil says:

    Agree with trader LT – I think this season is when the light goes on for Smid and he starts becoming the top pair shut-down dman I think he has the potential to become. Just think of Chris Phillips first few seasons – entirely unremarkable – the skills were there but a top pair shut-down role takes longer to develop than any other position aside from goaltending (no hiding behind offensive stats). Strudwick is PB material, a fighter and injury insurance….period.

  8. Ribs says:

    Based on the back half of the season Grebeshkov is going to play. Unless he steps back or that was a fluke, to my eye the light went on.

    Grebeshkov got my vote for Most Improved player after last years output. I just can’t see him being played over Souray, Staios, Visnovsky, and to a lesser extent, Gilbert. Gilbert’s contract puts him on the fast track here and I assume Grebs will get the short end of the stick for it.

    So Grebeshkov will likely be the mainstay on the third pairing unless he does take a step back, which is entirely possible in my eyes. There’s just too many guys ahead of him for him to play anywhere else.

  9. Jonathan says:

    Souray – Staios
    Visnovsky – Gilbert
    Grebeshkov – Smid

    Now, again, if I remember right, Huddy talked about matching Gilbert/Visnovsky up with the kid line/first line in offensive situations and Souray/Staios with the 3rd line/1st line in defensive situations, with Marc-Andre Grebeshkov and Smid getting the rest. If I’m reading this right, I think that Gilbert and Visnovsky are going to look very good because they’ll be out when the puck is going the right way, and that Staios and Souray are going to look bad based solely on situational use.

    As for Grebeshkov/Smid/Strudwick, I think Strudwick only plays if there’s an injury, and that he’ll be a great fill-in. Although I think he can handle tougher opponents than Smid, that could change by mid-season and while Smid is clearly no higher than #6 on the organization’s depth chart right now, he’s also clearly no lower than #6 either.

  10. Lowetide says:

    I think the Oilers are going to be serious about the playoffs from the first pitch on opening day. Smid’s a guy I like plenty but there’s still no hurry on him. He’s still only 22 years old for crying out loud, guys.

    Strudwick is most certainly limited in ability but my guess is he takes about 12 seconds to become a favorite of the coaching staff.

  11. Bruce says:

    Agree with Trader, AsiaOil, and Jonathan that Smid is written in the starting line-up in pen. Strudwick is what he is, an ideal #7 who should be capable of parachuting down from the pressbox and into the line-up when necessary … injury, slump, “game time decision”, certain opponents. Given the high attrition rate on blueliners generally, he’ll get his chance soon enough I would think.

    Strudwick’s capability up front should ensure he gets a fair amount of action, but he’s much more a 50 GP guy than an 82 GP sort at this point.

    If you think Smid is ugh-ly offensively (0.25 P/60), check out Strudwick (0.10 P/60). He’s not exactly Twinkletoes on Skates.

  12. Cloned says:

    AO: If the light turns on for Smid, the Oilers will be a very scary team. Having a second option for shut-down D (and Staios/Souray isn’t really the best “first” option anyway) would really give MacT more flexibility with his line matching, especially as the game progresses.

    Having said that, I think things will eventually shake down this way (I’m big on Grebs btw):

    Grebs – Visnovsky
    Souray – Gilbert
    Smid – Staios

    I know things didn’t exactly work out with Souray/Gilbert together last year but Sheldon was also injured for most of the season. Personally I think those d-pairings are solid.

  13. RudyKelly says:

    Lubo always played on the right side in LA until Marc Crawford and Rob Blake came to town. He is serviceable on the left side at even-strength but his value was almost completely neutered on the power play. He couldn’t be creative at all because Blake just fucking sat there like a lump and wouldn’t move. He worked best on the power play with Joe Corvo because he could move and create open lanes for his shot, which is excellent.

    Lubo was awful defensively last season. That can’t really be blamed on anything other than him. The only positive I can give him here is that he was better the year before and should do better as long as he has a partner he can trust.

    I think Lubo will do a lot better than he did last year and will put up something more in line with his career numbers. 55 points or so would be pretty good.

  14. spOILer says:

    Offensively our D looks great. Defensively… not so much.

    We traded two good-sized players in Greene and Joni and got Lubo and Strudwick in return.

    That's an improvement in some ways but at best a sidestep in others. Size-wise it's a definite step back. Jon's reported pairings above match size with lack thereof.

    If Gilbert and Lubo get the easier minutes with L2 & L4, they should do okay, although they're both pretty soft in their own end.

    Who's going to handle the tough mins 5 v 5?

    Problem is neither member of the first pairing can lug the puck. They'll be relying big time on their forwards to come back and help out.

    So it does make sense that they'd be iced with the 1st and 3rd lines as Jon says.

    But I'm not a believer that Staios can handle top pairing comp, nor has he proven that his TOI should be much beyond 20 mins for any extended period.

    I love the guy's heart and battle, the simple plays he makes, but he can be over-matched especially on the road and he tends to flounder with lots of minutes.

    Maybe we'd be better to keep the PP pair together, move Smid beside Gilbert and see if they can handle top comp at EVs and save Grebs and Staios for mopping up, special teams, and special situations? Unfortunately, they were a nightmare together last year IIRC, and they're two smaller guys… I don't know.

    Maybe we should run with 7 D during games?. Short the 4th line and double pump Cole while Hemmer doubles up on PP time.

    This looks like it's going to be a tough year defensively, again. A healthy Souray this time round should help, but it seems we need someone to step up and become a difference-maker, or another trade.

    With likely another year of Souray and Staios to come, the D doesn't look all that great next year either.

    Smid needs to become shutdown, Theo needs to become Smid, and Lubo can't backslide due to age for this D to have any hope of surviving the wars.

    We still probably have the worst D in the Div, maybe tied with COL. We have depth and offense, but can they hold back the hemophilia?

    We need some gunslinger to be our top pair Shutdown Kid.

    I call 12-35-47 over 73gp for Lubo, with a ton of points on the PP. Pretty much what LT has. Boxcar, the whole D might all look good. But they might also be minus infinity.

  15. Jonathan says:

    But I’m not a believer that Staios can handle top pairing comp, nor has he proven that his TOI should be much beyond 20 mins for any extended period.

    I love the guy’s heart and battle, the simple plays he makes, but he can be over-matched especially on the road and he tends to flounder with lots of minutes.

    Yeah, Staios has looked more and more like he’s drowning in the deep end in a tough minutes role. That said, he’s also been babysitting during that time, so my real concern on that pairing is Souray. Additionally, foot speed isn’t a plus for either of those guys.

    Maybe we’d be better to keep the PP pair together, move Smid beside Gilbert and see if they can handle top comp at EVs and save Grebs and Staios for mopping up, special teams, and special situations? Unfortunately, they were a nightmare together last year IIRC, and they’re two smaller guys… I don’t know.

    My preferred pairings:

    Grebeshkov – Gilbert
    Souray – Staios
    Smid – Visnovsky

    with Souray and Staios staying largely in the same role, Gilbert and Grebeshkov being used in offensive situations, and Smid + Visnovsky getting mop-up duty.

    There isn’t a combination of two players on this team that are a legit shutdown option, IMO, but Staios/Souray is about as close as it gets.

    This is the biggest weakness on the Oilers entering the season.

  16. Dennis says:

    Souray’s money would be better spent on a bonafide defender; the Oilers don’t need him on the PP now that they have Gilbert and Lubo to man those points.

    Fuck, you could even go nuts and give Hemsky, Nilsson or Gagner one of the PP points and try and make the PP go nuclear.

    The problem with the D is you’d like to spilt it into pairs of passers/defenders but unless you trust one of the movers to play with – Gulp – Souray, this isn’t gonna happen. Of course, 24 isn’t a bad passer and I’d say he’s better than Souray but he’s not really the kind of guy you want starting the play, either.

    When you look at all three areas in which to employ the D, EV and PP and PK, the Oilers are loaded for bear on the PP but are suspect on the PK and are shaky at EV.

    Last year we saw a great first half from 77 and then a great second half from 37 and I think that this year we’ll need very good full seasons from both.

    You can’t count on Smid until he actually does it, Staios could be on the decline, Souray is Souray and even though he’s played on shitty teams, you have to watch and hope that Lubo isn’t entering his backend at a fast rate as well.

  17. PDO says:

    Dennis… on the decline, really? I can’t agree with that..

    We lost Greener and Stoll, but last year they were two of our worst PK’ers… in fact, of guys who saw at least 1:00 a game on the PK, only Grebeshkov was worse.

    On the backend Staios and Souray are legit options, and Tommy Gilbert had a pretty good run on the PK last year as well. One more D to slide in there would be nice, so hopefully the light bulb goes on for one of Grebeshkov or Smid and we’ll be sitting alright. It should also be noted that Visnovsky had the 3rd best GAA on the PK in LA, so he’s likely a legitimate option there as well, so long as there’s someone big on the ice to take care of the front of the net and box out the Bertuzzi’s and Smyth’s.

    Up front we’ve still got Horcoff-Fernando-Moreau and Brodziak who had a very good year there as well. Reasoner will certainly be missed, but this coaching staff has excelled at teaching kids to play the PK, and I have no doubt we’ll see a lot more of Cogliano there, and Pouliot should make an appearance too…

    The PK likely won’t be top 5, but it should still be in the top half of the season.

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