Twenty years from now, I expect we’ll all gather around the Al Gore (I wonder if this blog will still be going) and discuss the 2010-15 Oilers with great fondness. Reason? They have wonderful futures and we’ll likely forget most of the bad times (believe me, it happens).
Early in Bowman’s coaching tenure in St. Louis, (Glenn) Hall had watched Bowman set the psychological tone of his relationship with the team. It was, as (Jimmy Roberts) notes, a team that had many players who were older than him, who had been around the block. Bowman looked to the ceiling with his hands in his pockets and said:
- “There are 20 guys in here who probably have twenty different ways to make out the lineup. I suppose you all have a better way to shuffle this deck and come up with a winning hand. (pause). But let me tell you this, gentlemen: You can’t shuffle deuces and threes.”
(the above passages come from the brilliant book A Life In Hockey: Scotty Bowman).
The Oilers have problems everywhere, but you can make a case that given an entire season, the club could cobble together two magnificent scoring lines from the 7 men named Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner, Perron and Hemsky (and we should add in Arcobello, but more on that later). If that group of seven can post career average (Yakupov doesn’t have a career average but you get the point) numbers the offense should be there (the first 16 games aside).
What then, are we to make of the bottom 6F’s under the MacT watch? The Oilers have been shuffling deuces and threes for years now, is it any better? Bowman’s deuces and threes were minor league veterans and once he owned them (that little speech and measuring out ice time meant Bowman owned their hockey souls) the Blues were a much improved team.
Are the Oilers on the right track? How can they improve the group below the skilled men?
THIRD AND FOURTH LINES (ENTERING LAST NIGHT)
- C Boyd Gordon (237 minutes, 174EV 46PK 17PP)
- C Will Acton (116 minutes, 81EV, 35SH)
- L Ryan Smyth (111 minutes 89EV, 19SH)
- L Ryan Jones (91 minutes 81EV 9SH)
- L Luke Gazdic (80 minutes all at evens)
- L Jesse Joensuu (45 minutes, 39 EV 4PP)
- L Ben Eager (43 minutes, all at evens)
- R Tyler Pitlick (29 minutes, all at evens)
- L Ryan Hamilton (20 minutes, 16 EV, 2 and 2)
- C Anton Lander (14 minutes, 11 EV 3PK)
RESULTS (5×5/60 from btn)
- Will Acton 2.22
- Tyler Pitlick 2.05
- Ryan Smyth 2.00
- Ryan Jones 1.50
- Luke Gazdic 1.50
- Ben Eager 1.40
- Boyd Gordon 0.70
- Jesse Joensuu 0.00
- Anton Lander 0.00
- Ryan Hamilton 0.00
These are all before last night. Anyway, question: do you see a LOCK for the bottom 6F for next season beyond Gordon? The 3rd and 4th line guys are really important–we’re seeing that–and I watched the Expos of my youth give back the edge that was Raines, Dawson, Carter and Parrish by employing terrible secondary talents like Doug Flynn. As much as the Nuge is going to push the river, as much as Hall will do the same, rolling that 4line gives plenty back.
I’d gladly give up the playoffs for a bottom 9 so tight you can bounce a dime off their ass. As it were.
Mark Arcobello. Nice. He’s shooting lights out now–this is beyond anything we could have expected and if Arcobello can do this for 150 games he’s going to be a guy the Oilers can count on. Even a month ago when we discussed him it was more a ‘feel good’ and ‘don’t bet against him’ story. Now?
- MacT at TC: I liked him last year, I was an advocate of giving him an opportunity, especially in our bottom six last year, but he only came up for the one game. It all boils down to your ability to make plays with the puck. When he played with Hall and Eberle in Oklahoma City this year earlier, his production was excellent. It was actually on par with Nuge. I’m not saying that he’s Nuge, but it was on par with Ryan. So I think that we’ll get him to training camp. When we signed him again to a contract I had a conversation with him and told him that he would get a look at training camp. He hasn’t played in an exhibition game or didn’t last year, so we’ll get a look and the rest will be up to him to prove to the coaching staff that he’s got enough game to warrant a bigger look as training camp goes by. I promised him that opportunity and we’re going to give it to him.
The guy is having a great rookie season in the NHL (16, 2-10-12) and I don’t think they’re going to be able to keep him out of the top 9F even when Hall and Joensuu return. So, why try? The list of bottom 6F’s above doesn’t exactly shine, so let’s write Arcobello in for next season.
TOP 9F 2014-15
- Gordon-healthy Joensuu or other-Arcobello
Look good? Bad? Indifferent? You can move Gagner to RW and Arcobello to 2line C if you wish, I believe that’s jumping the gun by quite a bit (Gagner is coming off injury and looks sluggish, but he’s had 6 scoring seasons in the NHL and a safe bet for offense again this season).
The problem (imo) is that if you’re going to run a top 9 like the one above, you’d need a legit 4line, not the one they’re running this season. A 4line like the Dowd-Devereaux-Laraque line or any Reasoner-on-Oiler line, and you could run that 9.
Arcobello could be a value contract on next year’s roster, and if you need to change over some of the roster Joensuu can be moved out (although the glimpse seemed impressive). They have small men on every line, but there’s all kinds of passing and scoring skill there. I’d love to throw Hemsky there but can’t imagine it comes together.
Maybe the Oilers can use Acton-Joensuu-Pitlick as 4line? We have lots of time to talk about it, but one thing has changed drastically: Mark Arcobello is in the conversation for 2014-15.
Three of my favorite players are struggling, and last night they were all on the same line. Ryan Smyth has an excuse–this was his first game back–and Sam Gagner is coming back too (now three games in) so there’s some slack there as well. Our man Nail is really fighting it, but he looked more involved (in a good way last night). I saw him as having calmer feet than recent days, he made a nice pass to Ryan Smyth after grabbing an errant pass, and he was getting himself open (in terrible shooting positions) on the PP. It isn’t going to get instantly better, but he seemed to be allowing the game to develop in front of him as opposed to forcing everything last night (to my eye).
Linus Omark has been recalled, I’m not sure if there’s an injury (Jones? Eberle?) or the club plans a small trade today (something’s brewing, my Oiler spidey senses are tingling). Yakupov is -13 this morning, they may want to give him another look from the gondola.
Anyway, Omark. He’s going to be playing the Lightning (Omark is their favorite player) if all things go according to Hoyle and he has some things that can help this team. Far from a perfect player, used wisely (soft minutes, offensive zone start) he can help do the chores on the toughest thing in hockey–goal scoring. I might plunk him onto that 2line with Gagner and Smyth to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle (Gagner was gifted with Omark in previous seasons). Eakins could put him on the 1line if Hemsky doesn’t want to play there, but to my eye 83 did very good things with Nuge-Eberle last night.
If Omark does play tomorrow night, he’ll be the 8th Oilers draft since 2007 to play on the big club this season:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 14, 4-8-12
- Jordan Eberle 16, 3-8-11
- Taylor Hall 9, 3-5-8
- Nail Yakupov 14, 1-2-3
- Tyler Pitlick 3, 1-0-1
- Sam Gagner 3, 0-0-0
- Anton Lander 1, 0-0-0
We’re 16 games in, and this group has scored 12 goals. I would say it’s borderline impossible for this to continue, there’s too much firepower on this list.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
- Michael Parkatti from Boys on the Bus. We’ll talk about last night’s game (joy!) and about Michael’s recent look into shot distances and what they might tell us about scoring chances/shot quality.
- Nathan Dempsey from The Hockey Program. We’ll talk about playing defense at all levels.
- Rob Vollman from Hockey Prospectus. Injuries and their impact, and why some teams that should be doing well are not doing well.
- Alan Hull from Copper and Blue. Oiler win, Dubnyk’s season, Omark’s arrival and use, what to do about that 2nd line.
Calls, questions, emails welcome at @Lowetide on twitter and 10-1260 via text. See you on the radio!