What do the Oilers need to do to make this work?
This year, their top-minute PKers (by minutes) are:
Defence: Whitney (3:03 / game), Gilbert (2:56 / game), Smid (1:56 / game), Vandermeer (1:35 / game).
Forwards: Horcoff (2:16 / game), Fraser (1:55 / game), Eberle (1:51 / game), Jones (1:43 / game).
The last time they were a good PKing team was the 2007-08, when their top PKers (by minutes) were:
Defence: Souray (3:59 / game), Staios (3:58 / game), Greene (2:46 / game), Gilbert (2:31 / game).
Forwards: Reasoner (3:10 / game), Stoll (2:53 / game), Moreau (2:48 / game), Horcoff (2:47 / game).
Huge difference in the players we’re using now. Gilbert and Horcoff are the only common denominators between the two. As we all know, Reasoner and Stoll were gone the next year, and since then the PK has tanked horribly. I’m not going to harp on why we should never have traded Stoll and Reasoner (I was never a big fan of trading Stoll, but I was OK with trading either of these guys so long as they were properly replaced), but perhaps the Oilers need to revisit this season and figure out what worked well that year.
Do we have the wrong horses on the PK? There’s a good chance that is the case. Is it the wrong strategy? Perhaps, but I think the Oilers would do themselves a bit of good to compare how this year is going with 2007/08 and previous years.
If it’s the wrong horses, that might not be such a tough thing to solve. The Oilers have been patiently waiting on making a decision on Deslauriers and Dubnyk, but perhaps now is the time, and they could use that extra slot to rotate in a PKer from Oklahoma City. After Sunday’s game, the Barons had allowed only 3 power play goals in 46 penalty kills. Add to that, they had a streak of 35 kills going without a goal (ended in Sunday’s game). Something is going well there, and perhaps we use that to our advantage. Find out what is working down there. Is it the system? Or is it the players (BTW, I do believe that a successful PK strategy / team in the AHL won’t necessarily translate to the NHL.. just saying it’s worth a look). If it’s the players, as much as we’d hate to do it to OKC, maybe we bring a couple up to help out the big club. Liam Reddox always comes to mind, as does Colin McDonald. Jeff Petry and Shawn Belle have also been a fantastic pairing. Perhaps we start questioning the value of Jim Vandermeer here (who in my eyes simply just saved us a buyout on O’Sullivan). With Kurtis Foster out with a groin injury (albeit likely short term), maybe they might want to bring up Shawn Belle and give him a look on a second PK pairing, and also bring Reddox up for some help for the forwards. No combination of forward / defence seem to be currently working with our top PKers.
I’d also suggest riding Smid and Peckham a bit harder short-handed. These guys have done well so far on the PK with lower minutes. Let’s see how they do with more. It might also be time to pull back on the high risk PK as well and start thinking defense first. As exciting as it is to see Jordan Eberle score short-handed goals, he has been on the ice for most goals per minute of icetime for our PKers too. I’m definitely not blaming the failing PK on him though. I’m just saying that perhaps the risk isn’t worth the reward. I know that bashing on Penner is the cool thing to do in Oilerland, but even though he looks like a slug (and can sometimes play like one) he’s also been one of our better PKers over time, although his ice time on the PK is quite limited.
Really, I think the Oilers need to treat the PK quite seriously and take a look at the players being utilized on the PK and see what we have in the system that can help. In addition, it might not be a bad idea to revisit how the Oil are implementing their PK compared to years past.
Of course, it could also be that we’ve got a very different team this year. Lots of new faces. Of our top PKers only Gilbert, Smid and Horcoff have been here more than a year. So perhaps there is some argument for patience. But when have we ever been patient here?