When I was a young man, I received an education in the truth of “there’s more than one way to win” from crusty baseball men Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver. Herzog’s signature team arrived in 1981 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Herzog’s men played on a fast track (astroturf) and had a spacious outfield. So, Whitey found three guys with CF speed and an ability to get on base and the jackrabbit era of baseball was born (or really re-born, there’s nothing new in baseball). Over in the junior loop, Earl Weaver in Baltimore was using on-base percentage and the three-run homer to get the job done.
I loved both styles of play, and both were successful. Weaver had more success, but a lot of that had to do with a consistent starting rotation (Whitey’s pitchers always had some issue—some were crazy, some didn’t have a fastball, some needed to hurt themselves with electric fans) but both men were effective. They used what they had and married it to their ballpark.
Hockey doesn’t have ballpark effects, but we do have the style of opponent and in the Pacific Division that style is decidedly large and defensive. Make no mistake, there are outstanding skill players (Doughty at the Olympics) but much of the mindset in the division is taking care of the store. Defense. And puck possession. The Oilers have all kinds of young talent and are trying to add useful pieces to that foundation in order to compete next season and in the future.
In acquiring Matt Hendricks, Mark Fraser are the Oilers helping themselves against teams like Los Angeles? Mark Fraser’s Corsi for 5×5 % is 36. Will that improve as the sample gets larger? Will he eventually enter Matt Greene (57.9) territory once the team improves? How many Matt Hendricks types does it take? Could he play on a piss-cutter defensive 4line like Dowd-Devereaux-Laraque 15 years ago?
Are the Oilers going to fail with the Jacks and Kings because they can’t find Marchant-Moreau-Grier?
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, WAYNE CASHMAN?
The list of possible deadline players is concerning. Ales Hemsky can help with possession, we have over a decade’s worth of evidence. Ryan Smyth too—even at his advanced age Smyth’s Corsi for 5×5 % is 47.1, tops among Oiler forwards not currently in the minors. If these men exit while Hendricks and Luke Gazdic enter, how does that improve the Edmonton Oilers?
- Eakins on Hendricks: “He’s preaching all the stuff that we need here. He’s been a good penalty-killer for us, but definitely a guy that’s very vocal. I think a lot of our guys need to be listening to that because he certainly knows what he’s talking about.”
MATT HENDRICKS PLAYER CARD (EXTRA SKATER)
Now, we know the fourth line folks aren’t going to push the river, so the CF REL isn’t a huge surprise. However, does Hendricks bring enough to the game? Is he somewhere between Ethan Moreau and Dan Lacouture? Does the coach believe in him so much we can consider him an own-zone 4line savant? Is that the appeal?
Is this the Hendricks role? Less sheltered 4th line guy who can take own-zone faceoffs? OR is he a 3rd line guy who will take a lot of own-zone faceoffs? The role Edmonton chooses for Hendricks next season tells us a lot about the Oilers in 2014-15. Frankly, I believe Ryan Smyth is better for that role and closer to the Wayne Cashman even at this age.
Keeping Hendricks while trading Smyth is a net loss. I don’t see any other way to frame this situation.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Many Canadians spent at least part of yesterday looking a little like Ms. Harry here, and we’ll discuss the gold medal game among other things today on the Lowdown. 10am, TSN 1260 and scheduled to appear:
- Tyler Dellow, mc79 hockey. We’ll talk Olympics but also about possession players and Smyth/Hendricks, trading Hemsky, etc.
- Travis Yost, Hockeybuzz. Travis will discuss Team USA at the Olympics (or maybe he’ll hang up!) and the Senators at the deadline, plus some NFL.
- Jeff Hauser from Radio Hauser. The NFL combine is on and some of these draft eligibles are kicking out the jams.
- Corey Pronman from ESPN and Hockey Prospectus. I thought the NHL draft was fairly clear 1-6, and then Sam Reinhart went super nova. We’ll talk to Corey about the top five.
10-1260 via text, @Lowetide_ on twitter. Nice to be back!