Among the phenoms and the high picks and the guys who we like, how many of them can be called ‘two-way’ forwards? How many are on their way to being useful with or without the puck? How do we measure such things? Is it better to have a possession player—someone who can help keep the puck miles from the river—or is it better to have someone who has calm feet when the snipers are firing from the rooftops and communication is down?
When it comes to evaluating players defensively, you have to treat possession as the ultimate. You can’t punish Gretzky for not back checking if he’s busy dominating 100 miles from his net, and when it comes to modern day hockey CorsiON gives us a complete view of what is happening on the ice at the time said player is out there. It takes all of the minutes, adds the shots for and against, and gives the reader an idea about what is happening when the player is on the ice. It does NOT show bias, because it’s not measuring any event and parsing in search of culprits—it’s a wide brush but also refuses to lay blame in a random or biased fashion.
Let’s use Taylor Hall as an example: I’ve always liked Hall’s game, he pushes the river and has generally been playing against tough opposition while getting a good result.
VOLLMAN SLEDGEHAMME: HALL THE YOUNGER
This is Hall’s rookie Vollman. He’s playing tough competition right out of the box and he had a -2.1 CorsiON. The coach gave him a zone start break but really when you look at this graph it’s clear from the start the world knew what Taylor Hall was—and it was very good.
VOLLMAN SLEDGEHAMMER-HALL THE ELDER
This is Hall today—tough competition, -9.71 CorsiON and they’re getting him the zone starts to this day. Hall’s played center a little this season and he’s also been injured, but to my eye (and to many others who own better trained eyes) Hall is off the pace. There’s no way it’s on one guy, but Hall is a leader and part of the young cluster who are going to deliver this franchise to a better day someday.
I don’t think he’s lazy, and I don’t think he’s trying to get the coach fired. Defense isn’t some impossible concept, it’s positioning, it’s winning battles, it’s thinking the game as opposed to using creativity to wheel offensively.
- It’s too soon to panic. Hall’s 2013-14 season is all of 18 games old at this point, and he’s had to deal with injury, uncertainty as to position, coaching and systems changes, etc. But if the Oilers are going to turn their season around on any sort of a sustainable basis, as the overused cliché goes, “their best players have to be their best players”. And any list of Edmonton Oilers’ best players is surely headed by Taylor Hall.
That’s it in a nutshell. Look at that rookie Sledgehammer. Lordy.
Hall isn’t 40, he isn’t lazy, he’s able to understand concepts like marking his man. He’s not a coach killer, so what’s left? Well, there are a couple of things. Frustration can lead to losing focus, anger at the situation can too, and there’s always that concern in the back of one’s mind that all of this losing breaks the player(s) and curtails career success.
This is a big deal, and reason one I believe this team has to turn north this season, even if it means trading that first round pick for an Ehrhoff defenseman.
The Oilers often make deals on road trips. This goes back forever, one day I’ll track down the first one, but I bet it was a goalie and a November road trip in maybe 1974 or so. They’ve done this forever.
Elliotte Friedman is quickly becoming both news breaker and historian. The item he passed along this week in ’30 Thoughts’ is a very interesting read for Oiler fans.
- I’ve always wondered how close Edmonton came to getting Ben Bishop, currently standing tall in Tampa Bay’s goal. The Lightning got him from the Senators for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick. From what I understand, the Oilers offered a second-rounder, a third-rounder and Ryan Jones. The issue? That second-rounder was Anaheim’s, which turned out to be 56th overall and Ottawa wanted Edmonton’s original spot, which was 37th. It sounds like the deal fell apart when the Albertans wouldn’t do it.
We had most of the deal, but the part we were missing—it was Jones and TWO picks, including the early 2nd—makes the deal far more difficult for Edmonton than our original thoughts. However, it’s still a deal you make IF you feel Devan Dubnyk needed a strong #2 goalie. Craig MacTavish certainly does, and so there must have been a portion of the management group who felt the way. If this is the case, then it’s reasonable to suggest this lack of transaction may have contributed to the change at manager.
The difference in value between the two picks, 37 to 56, is significant. Would you have made the deal? Hindsight suggests it should have been done.
It brings up the concept of losing the battle to win the war, and I think that’s what MacT is probably working through right now. In the interests of all, in the name of getting that damn Sonny & Cher song off the radio when the alarm hits and Bill Murray awakens tomorrow morning to the same day all over again, pull the trigger. The last thing this team needs right now is another bonus baby.
The Ilya Bryzgalov era begins tonight, and his arrival marks the end of the period where Devan Dubnyk can be considered the #1 goaltender into the future. DD can regain that crown, but MacT expressed hesitancy about Dubnyk as #1 in the summer and my guess is that even if Dubnyk returns it’ll be with a strong partner.
For his part, Bryzgalov has nothing to lose. If he plays well, Edmonton will come calling with wads of cash or they trade him for good value at the deadline. If he plays poorly, he’ll be playing with his kids and enjoying his morning coffee at a more leisurely pace.
Another Russian—Denis Grebeshkov—has been recalled for duty, I doubt he plays tonight but he might get some time during the trip. The Oilers sure have a lot of NHL depth defensemen, that’s way better than calling Sebastian Bisaillon from junior.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning on TSN 1260, we hit the airwaves talking hockey and football on the Lowdown. Scheduled to appear:
- David Staples from the Cult of Hockey. David believes the problem is being able to defend. We’ll discuss the reasons behind the disconnect between coach and players.
- Jonathan Garcia, On the Forecheck. We’ll talk Nashville Predators and their season, plus chat about Seth Jones and Shea Weber.
- Neal Coolong, Behind the Steel Curtain. NFL football dominates North American sport today, we talk about the Steelers recovery and their game against the Ravens tonight.
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. Guy’s knowledge of junior and college hockey is exceptional, and we’ll ask about the Subway series, the 2014 entry draft and the value of the 2nd overall pick in the upcoming draft.
10-1260 via text and @Lowetide_ on twitter. See you on the radio at 10!