So today TSN had their NHL Preview. There was some good stuff on there, but here is a good chunk of the Oilers-related analysis which featured opinions from Ray Ferraro (RF), Pierre McGuire (PM) and Craig MacTavish (CM). Here is the majority of the discussion:
PM: Well first of all they go to the Stanley Cup Final with Craig MacTavish as the coach and Ales Hemsky gets rewarded with a 6-year deal worth $24M dollars. When you pay a player like that, that means to the player: “you have to be a star”. Well, Ales Hemsky has never scored more than 23 goals in one season – he did that last year. He’s never scored more than 80 points in a season, his career high is 77. If he’s going to be a star player, he’s gotta raise the level of his game and make everyone else around him better, like Khabibulin will get the chance to.
PM continues on about how Khabibulin will face a lot of shots this year.
RF points to the issue of faceoffs being the cause for the rise in shots against
RF: Shawn Horcoff, unfortunately after him, Mac didn’t have a lot of options. He had to take 1800 faceoffs. I mean his arms are going to fall off at the end of the season. Somebody has to win another faceoff, or at least not lose them cleanly. Twenty-fifth in the league in faceoffs, it has really been a hindrance for them, it hurts their penalty kill, it hurts their powerplay and their all-around game where they want to play a puck possession game, often starts with them not having the puck.
CM: We did have some good stretches at certain points of the year last year. But I think our one underlying failure last year was our penalty kill. And now with Kelly Buchberger running the penalty kill, a very passionate guy, he’s going to inject and infuse a lot of energy in the penalty kill. Tom Renney is there as well, he coached the Rangers last year – they had the best penalty kill in hockey. When you put those guys together, a little bit of change in philosophy, I think there’s going to be a breath of fresh air for everybody. I think the penalty kill could improve, but I think with the faceoff inability in the faceoff circle is going to be a challenge for them. But if they can improve their penalty kill, this is a playoff team.
RF: They’re going to have to be harder on the puck as well. One thing that was pretty apparent last year was with a group of cookie cutter forwards, guys that are pretty much all the same size, if they didn’t have the puck it was very difficult to get it back. Pat Quinn told me about a couple of guys named Dave Keon and Igor Larionov – two pretty small players that found a way to battle. He said “it’s not always about your physical stature, it’s about your your head.” If you really want to battle for it, you can use body position and get the puck back. The Oilers must do a better job of that this year.
Duthie reveals that the TSN Analysts rank Oilers as 11th, and comments to MacTavish about how he’s mentioned that he (MacT) thinks the Oilers are a playoff team.
CM: I said this last year at the start of the year to make it in the playoffs. We didn’t put it together, and I think a lot of people are reading into last year. But I think the fundamentals are still in place for the Oilers to have a good year. They’ve got a lot of developing young players. The defence is really solid. The addition of the goaltender, although Dwayne Roloson was real good last year for the Edmonton Oilers. But with the emergence of some these young guys and the development of Sam Gagner, Cogs and Gilbert, this team has the ability to get in the playoffs.
PM: This has been the organizational mantra for years. With all due respect, one of the reasons you (MacTavish) are sitting here right now: those young players let you down. They have never stepped up and developed to the level that they were supposed to develop at. And that’s one of the things if you’re a young player there, one of the reasons he’s sitting there, you guys didn’t step up and play the way you’re capable of. If they’re going to make the playoffs, they’re going to have to deliver, those young guys.
RF: One strength they do have is they have a whole whack of puck movers on the blue line. One thing as the season goes forward, they may look if there’s some problems up front – too small or not enough production – you may move one of those puck movers for a big power forward.
CM: (interrupts before Duthie can cut to commercial) That’s a tall order for young players to deliver that at this stage of their career and the veterans have to step up and that’s what makes a team powerful. They’ve got to play together and it’s not an accurate order to put that on the young guys of the Edmonton Oilers, but there’s lots of game there.
Not too much here that wasn’t know, but it was actually refreshing to hear MacTavish basically scold McGuire for his expectations on the young kids, and as well interesting to hear that he felt the penalty kill was in very good hands.