Craig MacTavish has been General Manager for the Edmonton Oilers for just a few months, and is in the process of building the team in his own image. The discriminating Oiler fan knows that MacT’s teams have certain traits (great 5×5 and 4×5, poor 5×4) and the overall thrust of a MacT team is competing at even strength. I expect we’ll see that kind of team in Edmonton (with elite talent taking care of the 5×4) by the time this thing gets too far along. The problem currently? The Oilers don’t resemble MacT’s teams at all.
In another brilliant set of articles, Tyler Dellow gives us some historic background on Oilers Corsi (or close) going back to the Ron Low era, and then helps us understand the Eakins season and something disturbing. First article is here and gives us a proxy for the Oilers team Corsi back to the late 1990′s:
Now this is fascinating stuff, because it confirms what the MacT believers have always known—that guy can coach!
- Dellow: This is part of the reason that I believe in MacT. He has ideas about what works. I think his ideas are, generally speaking, correct. (If he happens across this, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the endorsement). There are people out there – Toronto Maple Leafs, I’m talking to you – who seem to have crazy ideas about how to win games. There’s no guarantees in life and fewer in sports but I’d rather bet on a guy who has the right ideas. Particularly when he’s got a roster that already has a bunch of young star calibre players.
This entire paragraph had me nodding in agreement. Two plus two is four, dammit! Always has been! A follow-up article by Dellow (whose retirement from blogging has shockingly produced a watershed) informs us this team is WORSE than last year’s 43.4% Corsi since the Islanders game. It’s a dynamite article, read it during the day (don’t want any nightmares) and have a look at Taylor Hall’s horrible, horrible number after a 49.3 start!
2013 MacT Trades
- Shawn Horcoff to Dallas for Phil Larsen, cap room and a 2016 7th round pick. Horcoff is a regular (14:23 a night) and helping the Stars in a support role. Overpriced but Dallas knew that going in and (correctly) valued him for sound hockey reasons. Oilers received Larsen (8, 1-4-5 -6) who has stepped in and provided offense for both teams during his Oiler time. The pick is nothing, the cap room allowed Edmonton to acquire Boyd Gordon (and should be considered when evaluating the trade) so it’s a trade that delivered enough value to cover what Horcoff provides. I’d love him on this team right now, though.
- Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 2nd round pick for David Perron. This trade looks very good from here, although there’s miles and miles to go. Perron (18, 5-8-13 -4) is absolutely what the Oilers needed for 2line LW and his style of play gives them some nuance they haven’t had for years. Paajarvi has been a healthy-scratch and then was hurt, but it’s important to keep in mind he’s an outstanding young player—AND the 2nd round pick will be in the 30-33 range (that’s a nice community). Still, Perron’s a big bat in the middle of the order and the futures given are exactly the kind of trade Edmonton needs to make right now.
- Mike Brown to San Jose for 4th round pick in 2014. A good trade because Edmonton acquired his replacement via waivers (Gazdic) and it allowed them to have some wiggle room on the 50-mission cap. Brown’s value is clear to NHL teams but not really measurable, so I refer to it as the “#3 catcher” spot on the roster. Getting a 4th round pick for the number 3 catcher is a strong trade.
- Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy to Calgary for Laurent Brossoit and Roman Horak. Strange trade on some levels but I think MacT was trying to make a “Horcoff” type deal to set up a “Perron” type trade. The Oilers save some cap in sending away Ladislav Smid (the Horcoff) and save cap dollars while also acquiring something useful (in this case two items). I agree with speeds and others that Smid may have given more value at the trade deadline, but it’s also true that contracts with term are not the preferred legal tender at that time. For me, the trade doesn’t make sense unless you use that cap money soon (beyond the Bryz pickup) and the Brossoit pickup isn’t a clear cut “adding an impact prospect” move so there’s plenty to criticize in this deal.
2013 MacT Free Agent Acquisitions/Retentions
- Anton Belov: A solid signing, and Belov is looking more and more like the modern Jan Hejda. Sign the man!
- Mark Arcobello: It didn’t seem like a major item at the time, but signing Arcobello was a major early season positive for the Oilers. There was some question about how much he’d play—and there still is—but there’s no doubt his signing was worthwhile.
- Andrew Ference: Ranks 5th among regular defenders in Corsi for % (44) and 4th in time-on-ice overall and even strength (2nd on PK). Ference effectively replaced Smid on the long term roster the night Laddy was dealt, he has performed well as captain but has not been an on-ice value.
- Boyd Gordon: Home run so far, an outstanding addition. I wish we had two more.
- Jason LaBarbera: It hasn’t worked out and it looks dire now. Still, the risk seemed reasonable and the goalie should retain value now or at the deadline.
- Jesse Joensuu: He looked good for 1+ periods but has been injured and ineffective since.
- Will Acton: I can’t really say if he’s been any good, Acton plays with the B wingers on the 4line and they’re not good at all.
- Ryan Hamilton: Big man appears to have major speed issues, looked big and slow (and then injured) in Edmonton.
- Ryan Jones: He’s playing about 10 minutes a night and needs to be more of a factor offensively.
- Richard Bachman: He had one major moment in the first quarter, and that’s about what you’d expect from a depth signing.
- Brad Hunt: Non-factor.
- Denis Grebeshkov: He wasn’t close to ready, we may hear more from him before season’s end.
- Linus Omark: Played well in OKC hasn’t shown a thing in the NHL.
- Steve MacIntyre: Injured early, I think the Oilers made a massive mistake by hiring an enforcer when they needed to add a center in reaction to the Gagner injury.
- Luke Gazdic: I actually have no complaints. He didn’t cost a thing, plays 5 minutes, can fight, the players clearly like him.
- Ilyz Bryzgalov: We’re about to find out.
For me, the overriding positives of the Perron and Gordon additions trump the Smid disappointment. There are other positives and negatives, but those are the major stories from the summer/fall transactions so far in the 2013-14 season. The same sound mind who produced those rolling 50′s on the Corsi gun is in charge of this team—I remain positive about this team’s long term future. Now, let’s figure out what coach is doing and fix it!
The hiring of Dallas Eakins as head coach was always going to be the big move this summer, MacTavish clearly felt the young man brought a lot of elements that were missing and must have seen something of himself in terms of philosophy. The current Oilers are not the run and gun fun bunch of last season, and the hard lessons of playing away from the puck look similar to the Hemsky-era tutoring a decade earlier. “It’s what you leave” has replaced counting sheep at night for these young men, and the progress has been slowed by inconsistent goaltending and defense, by injuries and by a rookie coach.
Except, if Dellow’s theory above is correct, the hard lessons may have been replaced and the current game plan has a losing end. That’s a big hairy monster in the closet, ladies. Dallas Eakins swarm may have to return before this team turns north.
The first twenty games were a disaster, the second stanza has begun 1-1. However, the Oilers need to fix what ails them in the shot differential or we’re going to be talking about a 10-30-4 team in the new year. The swarm—embrace it!
TIME ON ICE
Ralph Krueger coached the team last season, let’s have a look at how much he ran his front line players:
- Sam Gagner 19:24
- Jordan Eberle 18:59
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 18:51
- Taylor Hall 18:37
- Shawn Horcoff 16:51
- Ales Hemsky 15:42
And now Dallas Eakins:
- Jordan Eberle 21:31
- Taylor Hall 21:21
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 20:58
- David Perron 19:54
- Sam Gagner 18:29
- Ales Hemsky 17:11
So Eakins is running his 1line about 2 minutes more and his 2line about 2 minutes more than Krueger. I like the idea in theory, but nothing seems to rhyme this year. For me, part of the problem is the 4line, and I don’t recall MacT having a useless 4line really ever. Do you? I mean, even his rather one dimensional guys (like Stortini) could be counted on for low event play when they were on the ice. Maybe I’m misremembering. Cleaning up that 4line (and adding more penalty killers) is one of the keys to turning this rig around.
- Jeff Petry 21:54 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Justin Schultz 21:26 (plenty of PP, no PK)
- Ladislav Smid 20:19 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Nick Schultz 18:37 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Ryan Whitney 18:28 (plenty of PP, no PK)
- Corey Potter 17:27 (a little of both)
- Mark Fistric 15:20 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Jeff Petry 22:21 (plenty of PK, some PP)
- Justin Schultz 22:01 (plenty of PP, no PK)
- Phil Larsen 21:16 (plenty of PP, no PK)
- Andrew Ference 20:37 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Anton Belov 19:38 (some of both)
- Ladislav Smid 17:53 (plenty of PK, no PP)
- Nick Schultz 16:22 (plenty of PK, no PP)
Both coach’s valued Petry and both of them used Justin Schultz heavily and in the same roles. Krueger ran his stay-at-home more every night of the year (by a couple of minutes) and Eakins seems to want puck movers beyond any other skill (so far at the expense of grit and physical play). I’m sure both men would have loved a complete defenseman to throw out there in any situation.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
- Tyler Dellow from mc79 hockey. We’ll talk about Dellow’s articles above, the Oilers win Saturday night, Eakins as coach and MacT as GM through 21.
- Andrew Bucholtz from 55-yard line. Two great football games yesterday, and the big one in Regina this weekend.
- Scott Cullen from tsn. Can the Oilers afford to trade off assets, or do they need to push for wins?
- Travis Yost from Hockeybuzz. Ugly Ottawa. Attendance, performance, it’s a mess.
10-126 via text or @Lowetide_ on twitter.