Thursday, June 30, 2011

UFA Day 2011

A short shopping list for the Oilers to pursue on UFA day.

Tough Guy:
Plan A: Ben Eager (2 years)
Plan B: Darcy Hordichuk (1 year)
Plan C: Zenon Konopka (1 year)

Depth Dman:
Plan A: James Wisniewski (4 years)
Plan B: Sami Salo (1 year)
Plan C: Ian White (2 years)
Plan D: Radek Martinek (1 year)

Depth Goaltender:
Plan A: Anton Khudobin (2 years)
Plan B: Cedric Desjardins (2 years)
Plan C: Mike Brodeur (1 year)

A short list of things I expect the Oilers to target.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Depth Chart June 2011

Just a quick rundown on how the depth chart is shaping up for the Oilers' offseason.
(In my eyes, anyway)

Big Club
Omark Brule

Whitney XXXXXX
Peckham Gilbert
Smid Petry


Trade Bait: (Potentially) Omark, Hemsky, and Brule. Souray to be bought out.

Kyntar Motin

Marincin Teubert
Davidson Plante


Synopsis: The Oilers team has evolved a bit and is starting to take a better shape. The addition of Ryan Smyth helps immensely, gives the team some veteran presence that its been lacking. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was drafted 1st overall by the Oilers and is a wildcard to make the team. If he becomes good enough to make the team out of the gate, he could expedite the process of Hemsky and/or Gagner leaving town. Whitney is still looking for a defense partner, as well as a toughguy/agitator on the 4th line would fill out the forwards nicely. The team in OKC is still looking for a couple of veteran AHL forwards, as well as a veteran AHL DMan and a veteran goaltender to split game with Roy. The additions of Petrell and Tyrvainen help OKC fill some holes and roles.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Edmonton Oilers Draft Rundown 2011

Once again, I find myself torn on this years draft year. Its as if myself and the Oilers have the same structural styles on what to draft where, but on who to draft is where we differ greatly. I think overall they did well, but also feel a lot was left on the table.

Pick #1 - #1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C - WHL - The consensus #1 pick was taken #1. Sublime offensive player that many think will be a perfect compliment to Hall and Eberle. I don't personally think so, I think strength is a big time issue here going forward, but we'll see how it plays out. I had Sean Couturier going in this spot, he went #8.

Pick #2 - #19 Oscar Klefbom D - Sweden - A solid pick. The potential for a top pairing Dman is there with Klefbom, just needs to polish out his defensive game a little more. Can man the point on the PP with the best of them and has a hard accurate shot. I had Joel Armia going here but he ended up going #16 to Buffalo making him null and void.

Pick #3 - #31 David Musil D - WHL - I'm not a big fan of this pick. Just because I thought there was better on the board. Musil, in my mind, will track much like Ladislav Smid has up to this point. Fans will angry when they see he doesn't bring enough offense, or bring enough defense, or bring enough toughness. He just seems to be a tweener in many facets of the game. I had Klefbom going here, but he went at #19, I was also secretly hoping for Boone Jenner at this spot, he went #37.

Pick #4 - #61 Samu Perhonen G - Finland - Big acrobatic goaltender, has a lot of great athletic tools but also has to know that just stopping the puck is his #1 priority. Doesn't have to look fantastic doing it. I'm not sure the Oilers needed to draft a goaltender this year, but since they did, its good that they drafted Perhonen as they can store him in Europe. I think the Oilers have too many other pressing needs to draft a goaltender this high. I had Adam Lowry going here, he went #67.

Pick #5 - #74 Travis Ewanyk C - WHL - If you asked me in March, I would have though this would have been a good pick, until I saw Nugent-Hopkins eat his lunch in the WHL playoffs. Ewanyk is tracking as a checking/energy line C. But if you have a hard time guarding the best in the league, it essentially makes you a Steve Ludzik type C, doesn't it? I guess Ewanyk is a work in progress. I had Zach Yuen going here, he went #119.

Pick #6 - #92 Dillon Simpson D - NCAA - Decent pick here, but a bit of a project. Needs to refine some aspect of his game to give him a leg up. I think he tracks much like Jeff Petry did for the Oilers, be a 4 year NCAA player than a year in the AHL, then hopefully he should be good to go. I had Dylan Wruck going here, he went undrafted.

Pick #7 - #114 Tobias Rieder C - OHL - German sparkplug type player. Has some offensive tools, some defensive tools, but all in all still a project. Projects somewhere between Todd Marchant and Andrew Cogliano. Hockey sense needs to be developed a bit here, he's like a rabid dog with a steak right now. I had Troy Vance going here, he went #135.

Pick #8 - #122 Martin Gernat D - Slovakia - An interesting pick here. Stu MacGregor thinks he caught the big one here, perhaps he did. I hear the word "raw" applied to him, which usually leaves my stomach turning hearing that. Alexai Mikhnov was also raw. Alexei Semenov was raw. JF Jacques was raw. At least here they only burned a 5th rounder so the gamble is minimal. I had tough guy Mitch Eliot going here, he went undrafted.

Pick #9 - #182 Frans Tuohimaa G - Finland - I think 2 Finnish goaltenders in the same draft is a bit overkill, but I think this pick poses as insurance in case the Oilers can't find themselves another goaltender in the offseason or in case Olivier Roy isn't ready to play in OKC. I had Andrej Stastny going here, yet again, another player that went undrafted.

I give this draft an overall B grade. They addressed some D issues, got some size in Musil and Klefbom, surprisingly did not draft a winger at all. Size and strength on forward is still an issue. One thing is certainly showing, the Oilers are loving their Finnish players.

My rundown:
#1 Sean Couturier
#2 Oscar Klefbom
#3 Boone Jenner
#4 Adam Lowry
#5 Zach Yuen
#6 Dylan Wruck
#7 Troy Vance
#8 Mitch Eliot
#9 Andrej Stastny

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Team Building Philosophy

Team Building Philosophies make the hockey world go round. No two are the same, but the best ones usually have more survivability, often imitated, never duplicated. In this post, I'm going to do my best to describe my theory. Its one of those things where you know what it is, but its hard to describe.


When dealing with forwards, the key to creating a line is having a good blend of speed, strength/power, guile, skill, youth, experience, offensive and defensive awareness. The key is having the sum of these parts filtered thoughout the 12 forwards in your lineup, the more things one player brings, the better the sum of the whole will be. I like the scoring lines to have a puck carrier, shooter, net-crasher/puck retriever. Also would like to have 1LH/2RH or 2RH/1LH shooter on the scoring lines, NOT 3 of the same shooting hand. I'm going to try and use the last year Oilers players as an example. I'll break down the lines:

Penner Gagner Hemsky (LINE 1)
Hall Horcoff Eberle (LINE 2)
Paajarvi Cogliano Brule (LINE 3)
MacIntyre Fraser Jones (LINE 4)

Line 1: Hemsky would be the puck carrier, Penner the net crasher. Both are passable at what they do, but both could also be better. The problem in this line is Gagner. He needs to take on an identity of a shooter (work on that shot) and be defensively responsible, essentially a RH version of Horcoff, with once again, more offense. Gagner has some things to work on for this line, as a whole, to become passable.

Line 2: Horcoff would be passable enough on this line if he could generate more offense on this line. When this line is ready to take off, like we are all hoping, Horcoff will have to try mightily to keep up or be an anchor, I'm betting on the latter. Hall and Eberle are projecting well as 2 high offensive wingers, so they will need a good 2 way C to compliment them. If Hall is the puck carrier, Eberle has enough guile to be a net crasher (more stealth like than through power). Horcoff is an ok shooter for this line, like I said above, just needs to be more productive.

Line 3: Oilers seem hellbent on going with 3 scoring lines, mostly due to personnel, but ideally this a line that should have a strong defensive conscience. PKers and players that are just flat out, hard on the puck. Instead the Oilers have Paajarvi (who could be a solid 3rd liner with some experience), Cogliano (scorer turned PKer, the try is there, but the learning curve is steep), and Brule (brutally miscast until he can buy into being a plugger). Horcoff would be a better bet for line 3, due to experience and style of play, but the Oilers are so bereft at center they have no choice but to put Horcoff on Line 2.

Line 4: Right types of players, just not enough to make up the sum of the whole. Ideally one would like to have a PK Center and 2 Jackhammer wingers. The Oilers have that but in Fraser and MacIntyre, they are too low grade to make an impact in other parts of the game. Jones, on the other hand, is a 4th liner ready to graduate to the 3rd line.

The rotation:

Ideally, when breaking in rookies, they should be breaking into the 2nd of 4th lines. Skilled scorers on the 2nd line, role players on the 4th line. Ideally you would like not to break in more than 2 rookies on a line, have one vet to look out for the kids. 1st and 3rd lines should be veterans. Players that are doing a lot of the heavy lifting for your hockey team. Injuries do happen, so moving players around is quite common, but if you have a strong base, its just a matter of slotting pieces in and out at that point.


The defense should have a makeup of 6 strong, physical, puck-moving, skating, shooting and defensively responsible. Ideally, you would like to have 4 PKers and 4 PPers, meaning 2 of the Dmen will have to do both, likely being your 2 best defensemen. Lets have a look at the Oilers defense pairings:

Whitney Gilbert (Pairing 1)
Smid Foster (Pairing 2)
Peckham Vandermeer (Pairing 3)

Pairing 1: Gilbert had an off year by everyone's standards, but I still think he is a good complement for Whitney. Whitney was having an outstanding year until he got hurt, Gilbert on the other hand was pretty mediocre. But Gilbert can both play on the PP and the PK and do both fairly well, which makes him a commodity. Gilbert needs to find a way to get more shots through on the PP and be quicker/better with his reads while dishing out the puck.

Pairing 2: This pairing just doesn't have enough to be a #2 pairing. Not enough offense, not enough defense, not enough PP, not enough PK, not enough puck-moving, not enough strength, just lacking all around. It was a pairing that was destined to give up more than what they get. Need a better 3 and 4 if you want a better team.

Pairing 3: Peckham and Vandermeer are 2 lead foots. Having one is OK, having 2 is overkill, having a waterbug type Dman partner would be more ideal for both of these guys. They are both tough as nails though.

The rotation:

If you want to break in rookie(s), its best to do it on the 3rd pair. No more than one, if you are breaking in 2 rookies on the D at once, you are likely in for a long year. The Oilers broke in Peckham officially last year, gave Petry a look to get him acclimatized to the NHL. Petry is the player you would like to break in on the 3rd pairing next year. Injuries go hand in hand with Dmen, so going through 10-11 Dmen a year is pretty standard, the key is, they just need constant feeding and reps. Like in a case with Petry, get him to learn defense before offense, once he gets that down pat, then teach him offence/PP situations. The key is, keep feeding him, but don't give him too much until he grasps what he is initially learning.

The Power Play:

The Power Play is a fickle creature. The key to the PP is doing something before your opponent has time to react to it. Quick passes, quick thoughts, quick shots. Going back to the top of the page, ideally you would like to have 3LH/2RH or 3RH/2LH shots on the PP, just so you can set up your one-timer options all over the ice. the one-timer is a great weapon, one that a lot of teams use, but one I don't feel teams use enough. Having players that can pass and shoot the puck all over the ice certainly comes in handy here. The example (I'll try to describe it, because it probably won't show up well here):

Eberle Horcoff

Foster Hall

The style I have setup here is an umbrella style PP, one wher Hall sets up on the half boards, playing pitch and catch with Foster or Eberle. The flow can go back and forth. the only place where a one-timer option isn't present is going from Hall to Smid, but it can quickly go back to Hall for a one-timer option again. The key to a PP like this is quick reads and quick puck movement. Another key is to have someone (predetermined) attack the middle. If Hall has the puck on the half boards and the PKers back off of him, it is imperative that he attacks the box. Someone needs to attack the box to keep the PKers honest.

Gagner Penner

Hemsky Whitney

Essentially the same tactic as above, just from the opposite side of the ice.

The Penalty Kill:

The PK is for the heady, the gutsy and the courageous. Its simply put, wanting the puck more the other guy. Its easier to destroy than create, and thats a PKers philosophy. Ideally, one would like to have speed, body position, shot blocking, good sticks in lanes and shooting helps. Speed back the other teams defenseman from pinching in at will, they at least have to think about things. Nothing like scoring on the PK to quash the other team's hopes. Here's a look at some pairings:

Cogliano Jones

Peckham Vandermeer

Cogliano is the speed factor here, problem is he's a player that was learning on the job, so his ability to read plays was lacking. Jones' natural guile and gutsyness made the transition a little easier for him. I think he has the making of a solid PKer, contrary to some popular belief. I believe one speed factor forward and one gutsy with guile makes for a good tandem, you'd would also like someone who excels in faceoffs as well. Cogliano, still learning on the job. Dmen on the PK, essentially fight tooth and nail for pucks, win loose puck battles, pitch and bail players out of the slot, good body position is crucial. For Dmen the PK is essentially a tong war.

Paajarvi Fraser

Whitney Gilbert

How the Dmen win the puck battles might be different but the setup is essentially the same.


If you have a defense and center corps as lacking as the one the Oilers employed over the last year, they might want to consider a more athletic style goaltender. Getting side to side is pretty crucial as it seems to happen a lot to this team. Essentially you just want a goaltender who will stop more pucks than the guy at the other end, but goaltending is one of those things that if you don't have it, you are desperately looking for it. If your team has solid defense, than you want a guy thats going to stop the first shot consistantly, but if your defense is pourous, than you want a goaltender that will make some spectacular saves, but the acrobatic ones usually give up more than their fair share of uglies. It all comes with the territory.

That's all I've got for now, I may add to this post as more things arise. 'Til the next time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Open Window, Closed Window

Every year around this time, the draft hype starts to become insufferable, to the point where the winner of the Stanley Cup seems to be a non-factor, like it doesn't even matter. Read scouting reports, re-read scouting reports, check for opinions, scouring the www for highlights that seem to be slipping from your mind. Its all part fo the draft junky's regiment.

The Edmonton Oiler fans seem to have annointed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the next savior of Oilerville. I have nothing against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he is a damn, fine player and anyone who drafts him should be thrilled to have him. The questions I have about the "Nuge" and the Oilers are:
1) Timing - How long are the Oilers going to have to wait for him to make it to the show? The Oilers are grossly thin at center, so him making the team in terms of competition, the road is clear and a number 1 center spot is his to be had from day 1. How long will it take for him to make an impact is more of a question? Hall's and Eberle's clocks are ticking, how long are they going to wait for their #1 C to emerge? The only way the Oilers are getting a #1 C is by drafting him, so thought of deals or UFAs are far out of my mind, teams just aren't giving those away and are likely to overpay for one. With the "Nuge", the Oilers are going to have to win on speed and guile, because they will lack braun. In today's NHL you need a little bit of evertything, braun will likely be lacking for some time.

2) Fans - It seems the fans are torn in terms of "win now or win later". The Oilers have a chance to jump the curb a bit and pick Couturier at #1, but this pick has a very large chance to make or break the rebuild. The question is do the Oilers want to be better more quickly or wait? Its a tough call because there are no guarantees either way. Couturier is more NHL ready while Nugent-Hopkins has higher upside potential. The Oilers will have to find themselves if they draft the "Nuge" while Couturier is more plug and play. The Nuge, Hall and Eberle are going to have to find some ornery trees to play with if they want some room to operate.

The biggest misconception the Oiler fans seem to have is "pick the best player and we'll be fine". That's not entirely true. Teams that truly are awful and have nothing to build around would be well served to pick the best player and make them their "centerpiece", "cornerstone", and build around that player. But what if your team is already in the process of being built and has players that are cornerstones? Do you throw another one on the BBQ and procure volume? or do you address needs? especially ones that can play right away?

Oiler fans, in general, seem to think a new window is opening, but in fact, the clock is ticking and the window is wide open and starting to close. The kids are ready, the centerpieces are there, time to start filling holes properly.