Yesterday we were talking about adding grit–or truculence–to the Oilers’ top 6 forwards. It came up several times during the radio show and has been the topic of conversation many times on this blog. Often, when we talk about a player’s shortcomings, it is in relation to this magical lack of physical presence–Paajarvi isn’t tough enough, Nuge-Gagner doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of the opposition.
And then we start making a list of players who have truculence. This week, we all spent way too much time on Aaron Volpatti and one or the other of the Sestito boys and for me that’s really the heart of the problem: we’re talking about 4′s and 5′s when the club really needs 10′s and jack’s in the position (if they truly need a physical force and I think that is open for debate–a strong PP kept Detroit’s opposition honest for over a decade).
THAT’S NOT A KNIFE
First, can we agree that having some Coke Machine come out 10 minutes after one of the Oilers has been intimidated serves no use? Okay. So, then can we agree that ‘toughness’ is a lot about reputation? A player like Brad Marchand isn’t big, but no one really thinks he’s a shrinking violet, correct?
Among Oiler regulars up front, there are a few players who show up physically and on the scoreboard:
- Ryan Smyth 30pims (19, 2-5-7)
- Taylor Hall 23pims (18, 4-14-18)
- Ben Eager 23pims (11, 1-1-2)
Okay. So, can we agree that Ben Eager is not a top 6F? So, if the Oilers need someone in the Smyth family or someone in the Taylor Hall family (#1 overall picks are unlikely to be Edmonton property for the rest of my life time) in order to add to the group? Right?
This is Bill Guerin. He could score goals and he could fight and he was an actual NHL player. Bill Guerin’s don’t grow on trees, but that’s the kind of player Edmonton should be adding if there’s a need for a physical presence on the big lines. He could shoot, pass, take a pass–all of the things that contribute to advancing the play into the offensive zone and scoring goals. And, Guerin could throw them too.
I threw that in there since it’s ‘down on Mike Keane’ week and in honor of the win over Dallas the other night. Music! The point of all of this is the following: Eager and Smyth and Petrell and the rest are fine as physical players, and I have no problem with adding a big, strong player who can fight and play it dirty when required by game and circumstance.
Just make sure he can play the game. Bill Guerin yes, Tom Sestito no. MacT knows the difference, and that’s for sure.
Oilers in Minnesota is pretty close to the Oilers in Dallas. The home team in the Wild-Oilers matchup is 26-9 in the last 35 meetings. Edmonton is 5-21 in their last 26 trips into the land of 10,000 lakes. I admit to always having something else planned for these games, because if the Wild get a 1-0 lead the games changes from hockey to the blanket show on ice.
Krueger: “You can’t think about anything personal right now. The way this conference is, you need points. Anything distracting you from that task at hand is dangerous. We all know what’s going on here, and we need to scrap out points really badly. To get three or four points in the next two games is what we’ll be shooting for.”
Man I hope they sit him if there’s any doubt at all. Hall is this team’s best player and the straw that stirs the drink, but one game–even in a shortened season–isn’t worth the risk. A win tonight would be huge though, so one suspects talking Hall out of playing might take Krueger all day. I understand it’s a hammy.
Nail Yakupov: “I wish we had all the injured guys back and healthy as soon as possible. I want our team to win more often and make it to the playoffs. If we can stay healthy, we’re a very good team. We can beat any team in the league. Besides, we have got an excellent coach. He’s great not only as a coach but on a personal level too. I have never met a coach like him. He’s always there for us. You want to go out there and win games just because of him.”
Nail Yakupov is terrific. Just terrific. And that’s a helluva interview btw. And Ralph Krueger has the best reputation among players I can recall for an Oiler coach–certainly since MacT but probably ever. Muckler? Maybe. Slats had a different style so they’re not comparable. The Krewg has the gift.
Radio show from yesterday is here, under Lowetide at High Noon episode 1. Tyler Dellow, Corey Pronman, Jim Byers, Tom Lynne, Guy Flaming and my thanks to each of them. I don’t know about itunes but will check on that and get back to you.
OKC Barons play in Charlotte this afternoon, I’ll update in the thread below. Cheechoo is killing it now (13, 8-10-18) and with a win today would draw into a playoff position in their conference (depending on what happens in the Lake Erie-Chicago game). Either way, coach Nelson has the club heading in a good direction.