One of the fun games fans can play at home (and I hope GMs play in their offices) is “can we win a championship with X player in Y role?” For the Oilers, more and more of the answers are “yes” and the window of opportunity is coming into view.
No matter what happens down the stretch, this season represents a major step forward for the Oilers. There are problems:
- Steve Tambellini was slow to react in replacing Shawn Horcoff (and Eric Belanger) when injuries impacted center.
- Steve Tambellini didn’t deliver enough help at the deadline.
- Steve Tambellini kept several possible “mistake signings” for the summer–should he re-sign Khabibulin, Whitney or Jones that would be a huge error for this burgeoning team.
Before we ask the “can we win” question, let’s have a look-see at what Ralph Krueger is trying to do:
From what I can see, Krueger is less concerned with matchup and more concerned with getting his really skilled players as many zone starts (offensive opportunities) as he can. That’s fine, except the club’s 3rd and 4th lines are not perfectly set up for their task in this scenario. I’d rate Smyth and Horcoff as capable, and certainly Hemsky if the Oilers choose to put him there. After that, we get Eric Belanger, Lennart Petrell and the rest (Eager, Hordichuk, etc–Mike Brown’s Toronto numbers are reflected here so of no help to the discussion). With that as the backdrop–and understanding matchups are less important to the coach–we get this:
CORSI REL FORWARDS
The results are as expected–top line ripping it up, 4th line looks like a dog. I’d say the two items deserving of notice are Gagner/Hemsky (they should be in the black) and Yakupov (God love this kid he’s damn near at do).
So, when we ask the question “can the Oilers win a championship with X player in Y role” I get the following:
- Taylor Hall as 1line L: Yes. God yes.
- Magnus Paajarvi as 2line L: Jury’s out, but he could fill a lesser role offensively and cover the bet defensively.
- Ryan Smyth as 3line L: No. I don’t think Smyth will be here when they go deep, although his numbers above are respectable.
- Lennart Petrell: NO. No. I love Finns, it pains me to keep writing this.
- Teemu Hartikainen as a top 9 option: I don’t know. Jury’s out–I do think he deserves a one season look, 500 at bats.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as 1line C: Yes, but not yet. He needs to mature. Outstanding talent.
- Sam Gagner as 2line C: Yes. I don’t think he’s going to be the 2-way C his Dad was, but certainly enough skill to deliver on 2line.
- Shawn Horcoff as 3line C: Maybe. The problem is he’s going to erode for a couple more years before everything’s headed in the right direction.
- Eric Belanger: No.
- Anton Lander as 3 or 4line C: I don’t think so, we’ll have to see. No matter how good his checking, you have to hit about the Mendoza line. If he can perform at replacement level–say Rem Murray in his first stint as a Oiler–then he’ll have a career.
- Ales Hemsky as 1line R: Yes. I have zero idea about what the fracture is between 83 and 89, but am confident both can play at a high level.
- Jordan Eberle as 2line R: Yes. He’s not perfect, but he is skilled. The burden of the contract may impact him.
- Nail Yakupov as 1line R: Yes, eventually. I don’t think it’ll be long, either. He’s impossible to take your eyes off of–even just skating around (as he does sometimes).
- Mike Brown as 4line R: These player types don’t really play in the big games, remember BG being so upset? Brown seems to be a good player for his role.
We’ll discuss defensemen tomorrow.
AND IF CALIFORNIA SLIDES INTO THE OCEAN……
Oilers have a 24.6% chance of making the post-season, I’m still onside with their chances of making the second season. They need to win one on the left coast, then come home and go on a run. And it would be nice if Denver could play a full GD game once in a damn while too.
I’m off the charts with the kids this season. Man. You could go a long while without seeing all of the things we’re seeing right now. This must be what seeing the crops sprout is like for farmers, just electric growth–maybe hydroponics?
Did I ever tell you about the time I visited my Grandpa in Maidstone, Saskatchewan and found out he had all the hyrdoponics and was growing…..tomatoes? This was maybe 1982, I drove down in the summer during my holidays and he was so excited. I’m like, you know, there are some “cash” crops you can grow Grandpa but that wasn’t his (or my) thing.
Anyway, I don’t know how much coaching there is to do during Taylor Hall’s eruption, but do think the club has done a nice job with Paajarvi this season and they seem to be giving Yakupov a little more leeway now. That goal he scored the other night was a memorable one–did you see Calgary goalie MacDonald’s incredulous reaction?–but there’s some coaching to do there.
Which leads me to two questions:
- I know Nail was in the OHL for two years, but is there a ‘coaching gap’ between Windsor and Sarnia? Or are these lessons learned in Russia that the Yak needs to iron out on the smaller ice?
- If you’re Magnus Paajarvi, would it have been better to come over after the draft? Are these struggles a result of the smaller ice?
- If concussions are an issue, and more ice reduces concussions, should the NHL consider the bigger ice?
Warren Zevon. What a man. Smoked half of Peru and still had time to chronicle a generation.
LOWETIDE AT HIGH NOON
Team 1260, noon Edmonton time and your comments and questions are welcome below or @Lowetide_ on twitter. Scheduled to appear:
- Tyler Dellow from mc79hockey.
- Evan Daum from the Edmonton Journal
- Jason Strudwick from Team 1260
- Jim Byers, OKC Barons play by play man
- Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus
- Earl Sleek from Battle of California.
We’ll talk Oilers at the deadline, Oil Kings, Barons, 2013 draft and the California trip for the Oilers. Hope you can tune in!