A FEW CRUSTY BITCHES AND A HANDFUL OF RAG TAGS

Number 11 is Mark Messier. Of all the factors that have turned the Oilers around in the last few weeks, none has been more important than Mark’s decision to apply himself. The reckless abandon of the early months had now turned into a controlled fury on the ice, and in many games he has been the Oilers most exciting player.

He kills penalties and adds zest to the powerplay. Although he has been converted from centre to left wing on Matti (Hagman’s) line (with Glenn Anderson), Sather still sends him out for crucial faceoffs. It is a favorite play for Sather to send him out with veteran center Stan Weir, then have Stan deliberately mix it up with the opposing center, get waved off and then hand the faceoff duties to the kid.

No one knows for sure what has turned Messier around, although it appears more than coincidence that he began his new dedicated approach at about the same time as his cousin (Donny Murdoch) was banished to the minors. So many of the other youngsters take their moods from him that there are those who believe he will one day be the captain of the Oilers.

Peter Gzowski, “The Game of Our Lives” McLelland and Stewart 1981.

The Oilers find themselves trying to answer a question they’ve had since trading Messier: where are the big men who can play with skill and play the role of enforcer? They’ve had that player only a precious few times since Messier (the last one was Guerin in my opinion).

 azorcan

The Oilers now have their two best natural centers hurt (Nuge, Gags) and their best player out of position to replace them. Him. It’s confusing. There’s talk that Jordan Eberle might step in and play center during the first month of the season, and, incredibly, I’m not prepared to call this ridiculous. A depth chart with Ebs in the middle make a lot of sense artistically:

  • Hall-Smyth-Hemsky
  • Eberle-Perron-Yakupov
  • Gordon-Joenssu-Jones
  • Acton-R Hamilton-Brown
  • Lander, Omark

I’m actually okay with the lines this way, and would like to point out that C has a lot of talent considering Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner aren’t in the lineup. This team has so much talent it’s silly. I’ll have a GDT up at 5pm today, and it’ll be heavy on the Omark because he could be important.

GangsOfNewYork_1

I don’t like injuries to the Oilers best players any more than the next guy, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to agree with a major portion of the fanbase about the importance of enforcers. Enforcers don’t work, they really don’t. If you’re talking about “John Ferguson Montreal Canadiens winger” enforcer then I have all kinds of time for it, because he played a regular shift and protected Jean Beliveau (Beliveau was no shrinking violet btw).

If you’re talking “Steve MacIntyre Edmonton Oilers winger” then I don’t believe that’s helping win hockey games or keeping the best players from getting run/injured. Enforcers are used to “react” to events, or “set the tone” or “change momentum” and they also don’t do any of those things. But what they really don’t do is stop “next time” and that’s what you want as a hockey club. John Scott may have created havoc (Randy Carlyle made a major tactical error and David Clarkson lost the ability to reason) but he sure as hell didn’t help his team for next time.

Let me ask you something: do you think Cal Clutterbuck worries about Steve MacIntyre? What about Taylor Hall? What about taking another stupid penalty and getting his team in a goals against hole? Cal Clutterbuck never worries about Steve MacIntyre because they’re never on the ice together–and when they are, for those few seconds–all he has to do is laugh and taunt until the moment ends or MacIntyre does something stupid and gets his team in a goals against hole.

The modern enforcer issue baffles me, and the smart coaches don’t use one. Why? Roster spots are too important, and the worst actual hockey player in the system is still 25 miles better as a player than an enforcer. The rules have changed, the word is out, the solution is clear: score powerplay goals. And if one of your skill players goes a half bubble off plumb on Cal Clutterbuck one night?

Look shocked, stare at the clock and wait until the moment passes.

enforcer  Oilers

 

A couple of things about the Gagner injury: looks like 6-8 weeks (he got a “break” in that he doesn’t have to have his mouth wired shut) to recover and that takes us to November. I suspect the Oilers have had a timeline in mind for RNH (assuming he found his way to the doctor’s office since TC began) and we may hear about it today or tomorrow.

Another item: I have been a little surprised in the reaction toward MacT. Center is an issue now because the top two centermen are hurt–that’s a major issue for any team–but am also surprised that few have been critical of management in regard to addressing center. It’s the one spot on the roster that was thin going in and there was already the #1C hurt. I’m a MacT guy but for me a TC invite for one of the available centers would have been good business. I suspect we’ll see someone airlifted in this week via trade or waiver.

Finally, the enforcer issue as described by McKenzie above. This is an excellent test for new management: they’ve spent the summer talking about possession stats, and now they are apparently in pursuit of a “super heavyweight” addition. I think we’ll see the club acquire a big hockey player who can also fight and be a physical element, and not an enforcer strictly.

There’s been iron in the words of MacT and Eakins all summer long. They’ve backed them up with actions so far, I have no  reason to expect anything different today. We wait.

LOWDOWN AT LOWETIDE

GangsOfNewYork_126

Busy morning on the show, 10am on Team 1260. Scheduled to appear:

  • Tyler Dellow from mc79 hockey. We’ll talk Gagner injury, Kassian suspension and blocking shots.
  • Eric Rodgers will talk OKC Barons. New players like Oscar Klefbom on their way south.
  • Rob Vollman from ESPN and Hockey Prospectus. We’ll talk Gagner injury, expectations for the season and biggest off-season moves.
  • Kirk Luedeke from Redline Report and New England Hockey Journal. Bruins, Eastern Conference and possible Calder winners.

10-1260 via text and Lowetide_ on twitter.

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203 Responses to "A FEW CRUSTY BITCHES AND A HANDFUL OF RAG TAGS"

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  1. hunter1909 says:

    Clarence Oveur,

    Nothing personal.

    I’m happily shocked to hear both MacT and Dallas Eakins running the Oilers exactly the way I want them to.

    The fact that the overwhelming majority of outstanding, far more hockey savvy minds around here 100% stand opposed to everything like this, makes me LOL.

    It’s the irony.

    I hold no ill will toward any of them. They’re more shocked than I am, and need our understanding at this difficult time.

  2. stevezie says:

    hunter1909: I’m sure you know more about hockey than both the GM and head coach of the NHL Oilers.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    You’re right Hunter, second guessing of management is totally out of place here. I know it had been difficult for you to admit that better minds than ours thought up Horcoff’s contract, but I’m behind you 100% in realizing that professionals have their jobs for a reason and just because one of us might not be able to understand the value of a guy like Horcoff, that doesn’t make us right.

  3. FastOil says:

    stevezie:

    hunter1909: I’m sure you know more about hockey than both the GM and head coach of the NHL Oilers.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    That is not a strong rebuttal – who doesn’t? They suck, lose and get injured and repeatedly make obviously wrong decisions. They pay big money to people who choose more poorly than the advice that is freely available here 24/7. This is Blackberry, pick your failing venture.

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