Bring on the Empty Horses

Many years ago there was a move director from Hungary named Michael Kurtiz. He had a way with words, especially English ones. Curtiz was known for mixing up phrases and not quite getting it right when speaking to English actors.

One day, while on the set of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” Curtiz needed hundreds of horses with no riders to be released at once. “Bring on the Empty Horses!” he screamed, at which time the two stars of the movie (David Niven and Errol Flynn) erupted in laughter. This made the director extremely angry, to the point where he said “You and your stinking language! You think I know fuck nothing? Well, let me tell you, I know fuck all!”

True story. 40 years later, David Niven wrote a book of stories about his experiences over the years. Title: Bring on the Empty Horses.

If Craig MacTavish writes a book about his coaching career, I think it should be called “Cerebral Cortex.” He’ll often talk about telling the scouts to bring him players who think the game, he’ll say things like “it has implications for guys we have on the wing and we’re faced with what kind of tangible element we want to add for the 12th, 13th, 14th forward.” That’s just a small example, but I’ve been reading comments from coaches for decades and most hockey men would have said “we got some guys who do things and we need to decide” or some such.

Awhile back, Craig MacTavish said the following about centermen:

“It’s a big part of the game. If you get dominated up the middle, you don’t have much chance to win, and that includes face-offs. They don’t get a lot of attention by people outside the game, but people inside the game, coaches, know how important they are. To start with the puck is a huge advantage in any situation.”

So, on a day when the two dailies are hinting that Fernie is headed back to the wing and MacT says “Stollie was really good and so was Marty. But with Kyle Brodziak and Marc Pouliot we have the ability to augment that drop off” you know he’s already planning on making the move.

The next few days will probably go in a predictable fashion:

  • Word will leak out that Brodziak is centering the third line.
  • Pouliot will move back into the middle on the 4line
  • Potulny will get sent out.
  • Schremp and Trukhno will battle for a spot that may or may not be available to them.

In the summer, when MacT said “I want Reasoner back for sure” and Kevin Lowe said “we have a lot of bodies right now so we have to see what unfolds” some of us started wondering aloud about that 4line center job. When Jarret Stoll was traded the need became greater.

Now that we’re in training camp and the team is burning daylight, MacT is left to struggle with the issue of which player to put into the middle for right handed end zone draws. I’ll bet you a 2-4 his name is Kyle Brodziak and I’d bet money the decision has already been made.

We await news of the changes, but the information is already available. MacTavish is such a fun coach to observe, I often think one of the reasons the Oilers are so popular is because the coach offers the fan actual information and assumes intelligence is out there.

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56 Responses to "Bring on the Empty Horses"

  1. Slipper says:

    There seems to be a perception that of the Oilers’ young forwards, Brodziak is the standout defensive specialist. I don’t believe this is supported by anything other than people’s hopes.

    By their performance last season their is no signifigant difference between Gagner and Brodziak in terms of either quality of competition (both were on the lower end of the spectrum), or defensive ability, as Brodziak posted the worst goals against per sixty amongst centers on the team.

    So when it comes to replacing Stoll’s and Reasoner minutes and own zone draws, Brodziak is about as viable an option as Gagner is. If someone was to suggest Gagner as a replacement for Stoll’s tough sledding, I’d hope most people would realize that that’s fucking crazy. So logically…

  2. Lowetide says:

    slipper: Where on earth have you read this “defensive specialist” stuff about Brodziak? Certainly not here.

    In terms of FACEOFF performance, let’s put your Brodziak/Gagner comparison to the test. These are last season’s numbers from

    1. Stoll (55.1%) (1229)
    2. Reasoner (52.8%) (906)
    3. Brodziak (51.5%) (297)
    4. Horcoff (50.6%) (963)
    5. Pouliot (47.7%) (44)
    6. Gagner (41.8%) (299)
    7. Cogliano (39.5%) (542)

    When you say “so when it comes to replacing Stoll’s and Reasoner minutes and own zone draws, Brodziak is about as viable as Gagner” then I think we disconnect.

    There’s little doubt that there is a step off from Stoll and Reasoner to Brodziak and Pouliot, but “fucking crazy” would be asking Sam Gagner to play center between Penner or Moreau and Pisani.

    That’s the role Brodziak will assume, one suspects as early as today. Will he approach Stoll’s numbers? Hell no, I never claimed as much.

    I do believe he is the guy who’ll get the job and can’t imagine a better scenario for player based on coach.

  3. DeBakey says:

    Matheson wrote 756 words about
    the Oiler’s Center situation in today’s paper.

    Not one of them was Pouliot.

  4. Lowetide says:

    I should also mention Brule was 51.3% in 78 faceoffs (or close to that).

  5. Lowetide says:

    debakey: Haven’t read it yet. The MacT quote from my post is courtesy the EDM Sun and I’d think it was a yesterday quote.

  6. DeBakey says:

    Not manually

  7. Slipper says:

    Yeah, I think I misread you here, LT. If you’re only going by faceoff percentage, I guess it does appear to be the best course of action, yet it is still only 300 draws. This is a case of me pushing my own agenda because with Stoll and Reasoner’s departures there is about 1800 minutes of tough sledding leaving town with no heir apparent coming back in return.

    Where on earth have you read this “defensive specialist” stuff about Brodziak? Certainly not here.

    “Not here” in the sense of coming from your mouth Lowetide, but definitely “here” in the sense of being spoken by the community in the comments section. When Brodz and Poo are suggested in these roles (ecspecially in the sense of the replacement minutes for Reasoner and Stoll) I don’t get the sense that most are relating it to their face-off wizardry. Maybe I’m wrong.

    In other news, Paul Newman has passed away, so I’m going to have some hard boiled eggs for lunch and perhaps a caesar sald with dinner.

  8. Lowetide says:

    Paul Newman. Jesus of Cool.

    slipper: I really don’t think many among the blog group feel Brodziak can just slide in and replace Stoll. The evidence from last season suggests he would have struggled mightily in that role.

    Based on my reading of Desjardins numbers, Brodziak:

    1. Played against low level competition one year ago
    2. Played with low level linemates one year ago
    3. 5×5/60 number was 5th best on the team (2.09)
    4. Corsi number (-5.4) was mid-pack on the Oilers.

    The Corsi number may be a little wonky (we’ve discussed it before and some good points were made about reliability this season) and Pouliot does better by most measures, but imo MacT will make his decision and it will be Brodziak.

    Unless they bring in a veteran rh c right at the end of camp but that isn’t the Oilers style. Tambellini could change that, I guess.

  9. B.C.B. says:

    I think that Brodziak will do fine on a defensive line, as long as he has Pisani and another cerebral player. A few less faceoffs won could be a problem- but with moreau and pisani they be able to get the puck back in the defensive zone and move it to the neutral zone.

    What does that do for the fourth line: Can Poo’s passing ability be effective with Huggy Bear and either Brule/schremp/Trukno. Is this line suppose to provide a little offensive or energy and strength? If it is offensive (which I highly doubt) then Schremp or Trukno will make the team, but if it is energy/strength then why would Poo be on the line. I think Lefebvre needs to be considered for the PB position since him and Huggy Bear could be inserted with Brule (as a centre ) to play against the Ducks, Flames, Wild, or Van effectively.

  10. Schitzo says:

    Get a centre get a centre get a centre get a centre get a centre get a centre get a centre.

    (You now all know how I put myself to sleep every night, with all fingers crossed)

  11. Schitzo says:

    b.c.b: It’ll have to be Penner and Pisani on 3rd line, unless you REALLY want to hear the call-in shows howl.

  12. Lowetide says:

    From the Thursday game, here are to FO numbers

    Penner 3/4 75%
    Spurgeon 6/9 67%
    Pouliot 2/3 67%
    Brule 3/5 60%
    Brodziak 7/14 50%
    Gagner 2/4 50%
    Cogliano 5/16 31%

    pre-season of course and the other side sent out people with names like Kreps and Sprukts but at least it’s a tell about who they’re looking at in terms of faceoffs.

    One suspects Pouliot will get more work this week.

  13. Lowetide says:

    And Spurgeon is a player of interest too, plus Brule is in that mix I’d suspect.

  14. B.C.B. says:

    Schitzo: I kind of forgot Penner was on the Third line, but I don’t think Brodziak will flourish with Penner as a defensive partner. I haven’t seen much of the pre-season and I’ve heard that Penner played well on the PK, and defensively. But will that be replicated against real NHL first/second lines?

    But my really questions is about Poo on the fourth line. Does that help? Is his good passing ability, complete lack of physical play, and rather average everything else going to work on that line? What do people think about Lefebvre-Brule-Stortini as a fourth line?

  15. Slipper says:

    2,135 face-offs. 1800 even strength minutes.

    The Oilers really need to get a veteran center.

  16. Slipper says:

    MacTavish expecst his 4th line to bang. I mean, he doesn’t insert Stortini into the line-up because of his defensive zone prowess (did anyone see Zack’s 3rd period against the Panthers? Yikes!).

    He likes to throw them over the boards as the puck is going north and torpedoing the other team’s defense in the corners. I don’t believe there is a real expectation of big offensive results.

    This should be considered when discussing who makes that fourth line, and I really can’t envision Poo or Schremp in that role.

  17. namflashback says:

    debakey, I observed that too. If the conversaton was about centres with enough reps at the NHL level, how would MacT not mention Pouliot? He was re-signed by the org, and had nice things said by the coach. Is he already on the way out?

    Pouliot is a RH and would seem to be an option for that. I’m a little more worried about the second option for the LH faceoff.

    And neither Brodziak or Pouliot is a solution for that. We know that MacT.

  18. namflashback says:

    Okay, just read the parallel article in the Sun and MacT specifically mentions Pouliot in that one. Disregard my last post.

    Except the part about the LH draw.

    If the kid line falters at all:

    Penner-Gagner-Nilsson with Penner taking the d-zone draws.

    Seems to be an safer alignment.

  19. trader says:

    Slightly off topic however we are discussing how the lines will shake out…but I haven’t seen alot of chemistry between 26-10-83

    Their time together in my eyes hasn’t been anything special and I just wonder if it’s going to work.

    Don’t get me wrong I think Cole is a beauty player but a line with him, Pisani and one of 51/78/67 at center might be kind of interesting.

    Is it just me or are you guys seeing the same thing?

  20. Lowetide says:

    trader: I still think these lines might be the best use of the roster:


    If not Pouliot, then perhaps Brule or Schremp. The arguments against this in the newspaper seem to have to do with making sure Moreau doesn’t have to play on the 4line which is damn ridiculous.

    You HAVE the damn depth, USE IT!

  21. Ducey says:

    Faceoff proficiency is a learned skill. By the midpoint of the season, the Oilers will have developed a few guys. They always do.

    Faceoffs are only part of the game. This “veteran center” junk ignores the fact that the Oilers still need to develop young players and keep some cap space open. If they are otherwise cup contenders at the deadline and the faceoff is a big problem, they can pick up a Mike Peca/ Marty Reasoner/ Yannic P for cheap then.

    I remember last year when everyone was yelling for Smolinski or Mike Jonhnson to be added at the start of the season. They would have played minutes that were otherwise given to Brodziak, the kid line, Stortini or MAP. The Oilers this year would have been a lot worse off for it.

  22. Bruce says:

    LT: Like that last line-up. Maybe flip Brodziak and Pouliot, as Brodz is more of a banger and Poo more of the cerebral type. Moreover 78-34 and 51-46 were constant companions in last year’s stretch run.

    In theory I prefer Cole on the Pisani line and Penner with Hemmer, but that’s a soft opinion until I see Cole play a game in copper and blue.

  23. Schitzo says:

    Ducey – that’s true, but when Cole, Grebs, and Garon are all question marks beyond this year, and the kids need new deals in 2 years… how long do you play the development game, and when do you say “lets go for it”?

    The team in ’06 didn’t do anything except buy veterans with bubble prospects, and the timing was right on that one :)

  24. Black Dog says:

    Well this is another developmental year, really – adding Cole obviously makes the playoffs a possibility – but I’ve said it before and I will say it now. This team is being built for next season and the two after it. That’s the first window.

    So last year they threw kids against the wall to see who would stick – some did and some (Stoll, Greene, Pitkanen, Torres) were found wanting.

    So this year they need a veteran centre but first they are going to see if Brodziak or Pouliot can show signs of being able to do the job.

    If they do then great, if not it will be plan C, D, E etc.

  25. Dennis says:

    It’s funny that we’re back to 51 vs 78 for the secondary tough pivot min but I guess we always knew we’d be back here if they didn’t bring in a vet.

    If you look at the chem that’s been displayed between 34-78 (that’s sort of anecdotal but I’m sure someone could dig up some stats), plus, 78′s GAON/60, then you’d give him that job because the guy’s always been on the right side of the GA ledger and that hasn’t always been the case with 51.

    But the Oilers seem to like Brodz far more and that’s why I think he’ll get the promotion.

    Even though, based on numbers, I think it should be 78′s job to start.

  26. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I’d really like to know the deal with MacT and Pouliot. It SHOULD have been a very good marriage but we’ve had some info over the years that there’s a disconnect somewhere.

    The latest example of it would be the “Guy Carbonneau” comp by the coach and rejection of same by the player.

    Back in the days before electricity they used to call that “too big for his britches” and I’m wondering if it is down to a simple matter of personality conflict.

  27. Slipper says:

    Whether the aim is to win now or develop now, adding a veteran center benefits both scenarios.

    As a development year, last season was so successful because the Oil had two veteran centers to take the tough sledding and own zone draw so that, in turn, the kids could be weened into the bigs. Throwing first and second year forwards straight into the fire has never been a smart method for development.

    This idea that had the Oil added a vet before last season it would have hurt the development of players like Brodziak, Stortini or Poo is junk and a bit of revisionist history. First, one or even two of those players might not even see this season through. Second, there was a different expectation of Stoll entering last season than what eventually did play out. When it became obvious that his scrambled eggs left him inert in the offensive zone, MacTavish converted Stoll to a mule for the rest of the campaign- the same role people wanted to see a veteran forward added for. This is evidenced by the ice time sheets where it’s clear that off the hop MacT was trying to use Stoll for the cherry minutes and after about a dozen games when it was clear 16 was making hay in that role he began taking the lion’s share of own zone draws and tough mins. This only benefited the like of Gagner and Brodziak lines because it meant they could cut their teeth primarily against the other team’s bottom six’ers.

  28. Lowetide says:

    I’ve never understood it either, slipper. Adding Mike Johnson made a lot of sense one year ago and adding a RH veteran center makes a lot of sense now (as does adding a veteran D to push back the depth chart. Smid needs to be one slot down the depth chart).

    The whole idea that there is some kind of formula where giving kids at bats they haven’t earned has always been a mystery.

    The one exception to that rule is when a team is showcasing a player.

  29. Bruce says:

    Smid needs to be one slot down the depth chart

    LT: You mean:

    [Anybody But Smid]

    You don’t like Ladi in the starting six? I don’t get your antipathy toward this guy.

  30. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: No. I like him fine in the back pairing but he’s going to be playing some top 4 this season and it makes no sense to me.

    Look, I like Smid. ALWAYS have. However, there’s no need to push the guy when this organization has no history of success when fast-tracking defenders under the Lowe-MacT regime. NONE!

    Semenov, Greene, Smid. They’re not good at it. That’s okay, they’re BRILLIANT at finding a Staios or Hejda when needed.

    Smid should play the 3rd pairing and sit when Strudwick plays. 55gp. That kind of thing.

    He’s a very nice young player but he’s not Brad Park or anything.

  31. Bruce says:

    this organization has no history of success when fast-tracking defenders under the Lowe-MacT regime. NONE!

    Grebeshkov? Gilbert?

  32. kinger says:

    Dennis said…
    if you look at the chem that’s been displayed between 34-78 (that’s sort of anecdotal but I’m sure someone could dig up some stats)

    5v5 07-08
    Pouliot with Fernie:
    GA/20: 0.974
    GF/20: 1.299

    Pouliot without Fernie
    GA/20: 0.946
    GF/20: 0.709

    5v5 06-07
    Pouliot with Fernie:
    GA/20: 0.647
    GF/20: 1.294

    Pouliot without Fernie
    GA/20: 0.680
    GF/20: 0.389

    Good eye Dennis.

  33. Lowetide says:

    Grebeshov’s first season with the Oilers? He was 23.

    Gilbert’s first season with the Oilers? He was 23.

    Smid’s first season with the Oilers? He was 20.

    The Blue Jays used to be like this with pitching. Some kid would throw three shutouts in Knoxville and sure as hell he’d be starting in the big leagues.

    Smid’s still a kid, you can see it. He’s got all kinds of ability but he’s just getting started. I’ve always compared him to Tommy Albelin but still wonder what’s the hurry.

  34. spOILer says:


    That’s pretty damn convincing evidence. But it might be that Pisani has similar effects on most players.

    From the other thread:

    Pouliot FO%:

    05-06 55.4% on 56 attempts
    06-07 48.7% on 353 attempts
    07-08 47.7% on 44 attempts

    Brodziak FO%:

    07-08 51.5% on 297
    06-07 52.1% on 48
    05-06 52% on 75

    Sorry, no breakdown for offensive/defensive, or home and away, or QUALCOMP (would be a nice stat for FOs). 8% of Brodz’ FOs came SH in 07-08/, 6% for Poul in his large sample year.

    MacT said today on face offs,

    “It’s a hard ability to dramatically improve on,” he said. “You’ve either got it or you don’t. You can improve through repetition and experience, but it’s hard to bring a 40% faceoff guy up to 55%.”

    FOs are why Brodz will get the first shot.

    Pouliot looks like he can be a 50% guy, but Cogliano OTOH looks doomed to be the suck.

    MAP’s skating and forecheck seems improved this pre-season. He hasn’t appeared as soft to me this camp.

    I say we let the two fight it out and if nothing good comes, then hello deadline rental.

    I think people forget how good Penner was at EVs last year. Second toughest minutes at forward and posted a -4 in his first year at that level after starting with a Cup hangover.

    Still, I think the Oil want to hang onto Cole, they’ve coveted him for awhile. Playing him with Hemsky might be part of the sales job.

  35. Bruce says:

    Smid’s still a kid, you can see it. He’s got all kinds of ability but he’s just getting started. I’ve always compared him to Tommy Albelin but still wonder what’s the hurry.

    LT: Sure he’s a kid, but now he’s a kid with 142 NHL + 95 AHL games under his belt. They have to start increasing his responsibility at some point.

    To me fast-tracking is what they did (by necessity) down the stretch in ’06-07, when Ladi was playing 25 minutes a night. Last year he played a little less TOI, fewer games, third pairing for the most part, a stint in the A. Smart development in my books.

    With the 5 guys ahead of him on the payroll he’s unlikely to play top four minutes in ’08-09 unless he comes on strong enough to flat out take a job. I’d be real happy to see that but don’t really expect it. Yet. But I’m not going to saddle the guy with low expectations, either.

  36. Ducey says:

    “This idea that had the Oil added a vet before last season it would have hurt the development of players like Brodziak, Stortini or Poo is junk and a bit of revisionist history.”

    Huh? Your veteran forward would have taken minutes from someone regardless of what was done with Stoll. That means one of the the younger players in the AHL – and not developing in the NHL.

    “The whole idea that there is some kind of formula where giving kids at bats they haven’t earned has always been a mystery”

    I guess its a mysterious as some people’s devotion to veterans.

    Last year people were volunteering to drive Reasoner out of town and Sanderson was riding the pine. Now we need someone like them because he can take faceoffs?

    There is enough veteran support on this team. Let the kids play.

  37. Schitzo says:

    Slipper: I have to agree with Ducey here. Had the Oilers listened to the messageboard crowd, we would have seen

    - Veteran 3C
    - Stoll getting cherry 2C minutes
    - One of the kids on the farm

    And even if Stoll sucks, MacT is too loyal to demote him or have him traded midseason.

    Instead we had
    - Stoll at 2C
    - Muddle with the kids for a while
    - Demote Stoll to 3C
    - Let the kids run wild

    I see what you’re saying that the oilers filled the 3C role anyways last season, but unless Stoll disappeared into a black hole, he would be both useless and stealing a roster spot from one of the kids.

    (Unless you demote Stoll all the way down to 4th line duty and demote Brodziak, Stortini, or never acquire GlenX in the first place)

  38. rickibear says:

    “5v5 07-08
    Pouliot with Fernie:…..”

    It would be nice to see brodziaks stats with fernando.

  39. Bruce says:

    LT: Let’s put it this way: what team has had success fast-tracking their 20-year-old defencemen? It’s not just the Oilers; check out the early careers of Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Burns, Robyn Regehr … it’s normal that these guys get beat up for a couple of years.

  40. Schitzo says:

    Bruce – a terrific point. Which begs the question: why is an organization featuring both Lowe and Huddy so willing to do something that dumb? Was it pure optics because of the Pronger trade? Word from the EIG? I find it hard to believe that Lowe couldn’t find a servicable 6th defenceman to take Smid’s spot in 06-07.

  41. kinger says:


    5v5 07-08
    Brodziak with Fernie:
    GA/20: 1.584
    GF/20: 0.226

    Brodziak without Fernie:
    GA/20: 1.080
    GF/20: 0.997

    Minutes: 88:23

    5v5 06-07
    Brodziak with Fernie:
    GA/20: 0.931
    GF/20: 0.465

    Brodziak without Fernie:
    GA/20: 0.000
    GF/20: 0.000

    Minutes: 42:58

  42. Bruce says:

    Bruce – a terrific point. Which begs the question: why is an organization featuring both Lowe and Huddy so willing to do something that dumb?

    Maybe for the same reason that those other teams were “dumb” enough to play Bouwmeester, Burns, Regehr … it’s an investment in the future.

    Listen, I’m not saying Smid is as good as those guys; sometimes these hotshots pan out and sometimes they don’t. Those guys have been around long enough to have turned the corner, but plenty don’t. In Ladi’s case he’s just arriving at the corner and it’s too soon to know what happens next. But the only way to find out is to give him some ice, bite the bullet, and let him learn.

  43. Schitzo says:

    Bruce – Is getting creamed at age 18 in the NHL really the reason they turn out to be such good defencemen? I suspect that spending a few years in the AHL getting used to dealing with 240 pounders would do just as much good. Plus the parent team doesn’t get killed every time they step on the ice, which is nice.

    I’m trying to think of an example of a defenceman who people would say was left in the AHL too long… it’s a short list.

  44. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: Early push doesn’t equal later success. Some kids develop, some kids drown. Smid’s made it through the storm but he’s going to play top 4 minutes this season and I have no doubt about it.

    Why? Injury and roster makeup.

  45. Schitzo says:

    Lowetide: Is that Souray specifically that you expect to miss time, or just the hand of fate on our top 4?

  46. Bruce says:

    Schitzo/LT: What should have happened in 2006-07 and what should happen in 2008-09 are two very different questions. Of the young phenoms that are worth their salt, not too many get less ice at 22 than they did at 20.

    My list of examples is far too short to be much more than cherry-picking, but it gives me an idea for a more rigorous test. Need to do some research first though …

  47. Schitzo says:

    Bruce – it’s funny. I want to give you an example of a really high-end defenceman who put in a few years in the AHL, but none come to mind. It seems like the prevailing attitude in the NHL is “he’s close enough, let him sink or swim”.

    Which is funny, because teams are so careful to avoid that with their forwards. (Unless you’re Columbus)

  48. Slipper says:

    Schitz: This is what I’m refering to when I said “revisionist history”.

    When people were calling for some added veteran depth during spring training last season very few of even the most optimistic prospect guys were expecting Sam Gagner to remain with the club. His ability to tread water at the NHL level was a pleasant surprise.

    People also tend to forget that the Oilers went to the youth movement out of necessity. Moreau and Pisani’s injury/illness forced the need to push some kids up the depth chart.

    Even then, the kids were never allowed to “run wild”. They were sheltered extensively all season long, even when they were taking up half the roster slots at forward. MacT leaned heavily on Stoll, Reasoner and Horcoff to eat the tough competition and tough situations so he could put the kids into situations where they were best suited to succeed. Like throwing Brodz-GlenX-Storts out only when the puck was headed north, and swapping them out for a Stoll or Reasoner when the play moved inot the other direction. Or giving Gags and Cogs primarily offensive zone draws against bottom sixer, and with the most experienced defenders available behind them.

    The way you’re supposed to do it. The way Detroit perennially does it. Zetterberg didn’t break inoto the league plaiyng everywhere, running wild and facing the Joe Sakics. He was on a line with Brett Hull, playing behind Yzerman and Maltby/Draper- getting his responsibilities increased incrementally as he prospered in the previous role.

    Or maybe I just read too far into these things and coaches just roll their lines blindly. As it stands now there isn’t much good in letting your young players acquire atrocious +/- and not contribute to winning when other options are available that complement both the players’ need and abilites and those of the teams, aswell.

  49. Coach pb9617 says:

    The hockey world really needs a new phrase for “difficult minutes”. “Tough-sledding” is the hockey fan’s equivalent of “like” to a teenager.

  50. Bruce says:

    Bruce – it’s funny. I want to give you an example of a really high-end defenceman who put in a few years in the AHL, but none come to mind. It seems like the prevailing attitude in the NHL is “he’s close enough, let him sink or swim”.

    Schitzo: Here’s an imperfect example: Brian Campbell.

    Age| NHL GP / ATOI | AHL GP
    20 | 12 GP / 15:48 | 67 GP
    21 | 08 GP / 15:40 | 65 GP
    22 | 29 GP / 15:18 | 45 GP
    23 | 65 GP / 18:40
    24 | 53 GP / 16:02
    25 | (Lockout – Jokerit 44 GP)
    26 | 79 GP / 17:43
    27 | 82 GP / 21:53
    28 | 83 GP/ 25:06

    Now Campbell is not your typical stud (6th round pick) but he was the CHL Player of the Year with the 67s before he broke into the pro ranks with Buffalo/Rochester two years later, so he was clearly an overachiever with upside. It may well be he needed every one of those 177 AHL games as well as the first 200 of his NHL games before he finally became a positive impact player. Or maybe he could have become an impact player earlier if Buffalo had just bit the bullet from the get-go against NHL comp.

    Problem was, once he finally got good his UFA clock was already ticking, and the Sabres really only got a couple good years out of him before he was on his way.

    And with the CBA now having reached its most advanced state — “beginning in 2008-09 and for the duration of the agreement, a player age 27 with four accrued seasons or [regardless of age] with seven accrued seasons will be an unrestricted free agent” — teams that develop a guy slowly stand to lose out on the top of his career arc. There’s good reason to let them finish junior, but time spent in the AHL is on the clock. So I don’t think we will be seeing a reversal of the sink-or-swim trend with these young studs anytime soon.

  51. Dennis says:

    I think optics had a tonne to do why Smid saw so much time in ’07.

    Anyone with a clue was thinking the Oilers got robbed in the Pronger trade and the Oil tried to curry popular opinion by playing the relative hell out of Smid.

  52. Bruce says:

    Dennis: Smid played an absolute tonne down the stretch in ’06-07 (post Smytty trade) when the Oilers were so injured they were using guys like Young and Syvret and Bisaillon and Tobyfuckingpeterson on the blue and were only allowed to dress 5 D for a bunch of games cuz of some cockamamie league rule. Ladi was playing 24 and 25 and 27 minutes a night cuz MacT had no choice. He actually did alright for the brutal situation he was cast in, but like the rest of the overmatched young Oilers he did get his lunch eaten pretty regularly. It’s totally wrong to blame that on optics; you didn’t need a microscope to realize that March the Oilers were one of the worst non-expansion teams in the history of the league.

  53. Vic Ferrari says:

    If faceoffs are so important to MacTavish, why didn’t he use Adam Oates, clearly his best man on the dot, for very many defensive zone draws when he was here? Plus Oates was heralded by MacTavish for his terrific defensive play. What gives?

    If faceoff skills are more natural than taught, why did he profusely credit Adam Oates with improving the faceoff skills of the other Oiler forwards? Why did Smyth go from ‘terrible’ to ‘above average’ on the dot as 03/04 wore on?

    And if faceoffs are so important to MacTavish, why did he not use a centre on the PP for a long stretch in 05/06, that era with the Pronger/Spacek/Hemsky/Samsonov/Smyth top PP unit.

    And generally speaking the opposite is true in terms of faceoff importance, casual fans love the faceoff situation, we both know that; the game stops, the announcers talk, everyone has a think … it’s baseball for a moment.

    Everybody lies, Lain, and they all do it for a reason. So this is probably some public rationalizing of the abandonment of the Pisani-at-centre experiment, and foreshadowing of Brodziak over Pouliot for the Pisani-line gig, at least to start. As well as a way of rationalizing why we won’t see Cogliano out against good players in his own end much any time soon. The more obvious explanation (Cogs is a disaster in his own end right now) can be avoided.

    MacTavish has always talked a tonne of shit, especially in post game pressers. The opposing coach will likely be far more frank, and directly contradict our man Craig. And MacT will almost always give the writers a quote that they can fit into the story they’ve already written, plus a bonus quote for the writers who have already penned an article with the opposite take on things. Bless him, Joanne Ireland and Terry Jones both walk away happy.

  54. Vic Ferrari says:


    Good stuff. Worth pointing out as well that when they were on the ice together for draws last season, Pisani/Pouliot had 21 in their own end, and just 12 in the good end. That’s a hell of a ratio.

    And the underlying numbers, given that context, were terrific. For Pisani/Poulito together: EV+/- 0, EVShots +/- -1, Fenwick +5, Corsi 0.

    Now with this sort of sample size, obviously Corsi will have the overwhelmingly stronger predictive value. And ‘zero’ is nothing to write home about, but it’s still all good, given he context. A whack of good NHLers get shelled playing this sort of ice time.

  55. Dennis says:

    Bruce: Yes, I “remember” that time fondly;)

    I’ll just amend my comments to say that Smid wouldn’t have been playing top 4 min right off the bat if not for the optics of the Pronger move.

    Vic: it seems like everyone looks better with 34 but him and 78 just seem to play well together.

  56. Bruce says:

    I wrote:

    My list of examples is far too short to be much more than cherry-picking, but it gives me an idea for a more rigorous test. Need to do some research first though …

    Now done. See this post.

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