This morning, I find myself wondering more about the post game scrum than last night’s hockey game. The game featured the Oilers starting slow, then battling back and exchanging chances with a Bruin team that overall had the edge in play.
A 4th period goal for Boston left the home side with an OTL as they head out on a road trip so long and difficult one wonders if the Oilers even get to see the schedule before they laminate it (I’m not one to bitch and moan about scheduling but this thing is a bloody mess).
They were outshot 36-27 and by period the Oilers were 10-15, 5-9 and 12-10. In the OT they were 0-2 on the shot clock.
They had the usual plethora of turnovers, but certainly fewer than on Saturday and through the 3 game losing streak last week. The defense looked much better to my eye, specifically Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios. I also felt that Ladislav Smid won more battles than usual, and overall the team did a pretty good job in the corners, with their sticks in lanes and on the pokecheck (Souray looked Prongeresque in this area).
The Oilers lost this game 1-0 and certainly relied on a splendid night from Dwayne Roloson. Those who believe he’s the odd man odd are plainly wrong, and with the road trip and the mood of the coach I think it’s an open question as to when the rookie gets a start. I suspect they send him out even though it means risking waivers.
All that said, what are we to make of the MacT quotes?
- “I was expecting a lot more. I’ve seen enough now to no longer have those expectations.”
- “We’re trying to be too cute.”
- “We’re not aggressive enough on the attack.”
- “We’re not going to the tough areas to score goals. That’s basically it.”
- “We’ve been looking a long time for easy offence. We’re not getting any.”
With that as a backdrop, I have a few questions of my own:
- If the coach no longer has questions about effort because the team has proven they’re not worthy, doesn’t it fall to the coach to make lineup changes/send people out? The Oilers have all kinds of talent in the minors (Schremp, Trukhno, Potulny) and there’s always the trade route.
- Pure skill plays are the bread and butter of Nilsson, Hemsky and Gagner. Cogliano also fits somewhat into this category and Visnovsky can be counted on this list as well. How many is too many?
- Aggressiveness on the attack? If anything they’re too aggressive on the attack, not mindful enough of what they’re leaving and how quickly it’s coming back. Denis Grebeshkov spent this past week with 5 opponent skaters in his rear view with alarming regularity, how is that not aggressive? If you want crash and bang plays you need crash and bang players. Aside from Ethan Moreau, Erik Cole and perhaps Shawn Horcoff who on this roster would the coach look to? Pouliot? Brodziak? Perhaps. Perhaps those are the players being called out, although their performance looks fine to me and the results appear to be good enough to stay on the major league roster.
- Which of the skill guys does MacT want to see battling in front of the net and along the wall? Skill players like Hemsky and Nilsson are not going to make their living in the corners and along the wall. I will argue vehemently that these two are not wallflowers but it’s also true that time and space are their friends, not push and shove.
The Oilers didn’t score last night but had all kinds of chances. I honestly believe that if they played this game over again with the same number and calibre of chances the Oilers could have scored 4. Look, shit happens. This is a team more skilled than the classic MacT team (the Stanley run) and less experienced. This is a team still getting to know each other, and still waiting for newcomers Visnovsky and Cole to get comfortable and find their game with this group.
The Oilers are 4-3-1. Last season at this time the Oilers were 4-3-1. The Oilers so far have faced a pretty strong schedule and have a tough road trip straight ahead. The only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that the coach is very worried about this road trip and this is his way to light a fire under their ass.
This team is performing as you would expect. The chances are there, the pucks didn’t go in last night. They are chaos going the other way because that’s the roster makeup. If the Oilers wanted a more button down team, they needed to bring back Marty Reasoner, to add a RH veteran center and to add yet another veteran D. Perhaps too they needed to keep Curtis Glencross. But this summer wasn’t about that, it was about skill and Hossa and Visnovsky and (finally some grit) Erik Cole.
The coach’s comments last night do not jive with what we know to be true. Based on roster makeup we can expect the Oilers to give up chances at EVs every game and to create chances at EVs every game. This team needs a strong PP & PK, exceptional goaltending and for their young players to be better in spring than they are today.
All that said, why did the coach make these comments? Why did he throw his team under the bus? Why is he so pissed at a team that has played a tough schedule and is 4-3-1? He’s under pressure from ownership. That’s the new element in the equation, the one thing that wasn’t here last year and before. Ownership has expectations and there is urgency.
Otherwise, Craig MacTavish has lost this team and is grasping at straws, pissing in the wind. I don’t believe that’s the case, so the reasonable conclusion is that MacT is under the gun from ownership already. I don’t think it is wise, but it isn’t my team and my money either.