So it’s been a while since I’ve really put out an article that wasn’t just a news item like a signing, or a GDT or something like that. Time for a wrap of a bunch of things going on in the hockey world, and what’s going on in my head. I’ve been pretty busy outside of this blog, so apologies for getting this blog to the point where it is a barren wasteland. Hopefully it’s not too late to revive this thing.
So on to topic 1..
The Mythical Three Scoring Lines
Dallas Eakins talked about how he sees this team as having 3 scoring lines. That’s something the Oilers had recently been trying to attain, but always seemed to fail at doing. It seems like a myth that it could work, and was destined for failure if the Oilers tried. This time around, I think the Oilers have the horses to do it.
Here’s how I see the top 9, should everyone be healthy:
Smyth/Joensuu – Hall – Hemsky
Perron – Nuge – Eberle
Smyth/Joensuu – Gagner – Yakupov
The first thing you’ll notice is I have Taylor Hall at centre. It’s been only pre-season vs. mostly weak teams, but so far I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of him. There’s no doubt he’s the best left wing this team has seen since the glory days, but he might also be the best centre this team has seen since Doug Weight. He gives the team much needed strength and depth at centre and allows this team to go full on power vs. power. It wouldn’t be terrible if he moved back to left wing, but right now I am thinking this experiment will work wonders.
One thing that I think that Eakins can do is ride the hell out of these 3 lines. This would be a bit of a first for the Oilers. Normally their 3rd line sees ice time in the low teens, I believe, and the 4th line somewhere in the very low teens. I’d like to see a balanced attack for once with all three of those lines getting between 17 and 20 minutes a night. The Hall line would get the most minutes and, in a lot of cases, the hardest minutes. This is the first semblance of an NHL line we’ve seen here in a while. Ales Hemsky is a gifted talent, we all know that, but he’s coming into his own now as a more responsible player. Ryan Smyth has always had two-way savvy. These guys make it easier on Hall’s defensive responsibilities as a centreman.
The 2nd line should likely get similar minutes as Hall’s line. They might get an easier go on the zone starts, however, but they should be fed plenty of minutes. David Perron, in my belief, is going to lead this team in scoring this year. I will call it way ahead of time, but I think the Oilers will have won the trade with St. Louis by a landslide. Magnus Paajarvi will be a fine player, but everything I’ve seen so far with Perron tells me that this guy is an NHLer, without a doubt. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I feel, will also surprise people. Devan Dubnyk has already spoken about how much harder his shot is now… funny, considering he is recovering from a bad shoulder. He also mentioned how accurate it is. We already knew the Nuge has plenty of talent… last year was an anomaly as far as his points totals are concerned, since he was fighting shoulder issues. Jordan Eberle should also have a great year, as he’s already off to a great start and picking up where he left off two seasons ago. I had said all along that last season should be ignored because he was having troubles with his shot due to him recovering from a broken finger.
The next line sees Gagner centering Yakupov and possibly Joensuu or Smyth. It’s again a very small sample set against generally weak competition, but I really like what I’ve seen from Joensuu so far. He has good strength and uses his body well to open up ice. He’s not a big hitter, per se, but think Dustin Penner type strength, minus the (alleged) laziness. He is a smart guy in that he knows what will give him success – get the other guys the puck and go hard to the net.
Now we come to the fourth line. Here, we’d have Boyd Gordon.. and… a bunch of nearly useless players. I wouldn’t give them much ice time at all, save for Gordon. Injuries are going to occur, so he can move up into the top 9 when that happens. In other cases, I’d bump him into the top 9 for the odd shift.. have him center for Gagner, as an example.
The key here is that if the Oilers are going to have 3 scoring lines… USE THEM. Every talented offensive player in the game puts up better numbers the more chances they get, and the more ice time they get, the more chances they get. They can all handle nearly 20 minutes of ice time each. I’d say, ideally, the top 9 would get close to 54 minutes of ice time per game (~19:00 for Hall’s line, ~18:00 for Nuge’s line, ~17:00 for Gagner’s line), leaving just half a dozen minutes for the 4th line.
Do you think this scenario could work? I’m not sure it would be a first, but it definitely would be unusual. Until this Oilers team gets a real 4th line, I’d say ride the top 9 hard though.
So there’s been a lot of talk about whether the Oilers picking up Steve MacIntyre was a good idea. Me, I say it wasn’t a bad idea, not a great idea, but it shouldn’t impact the team much. Will he stop someone from hurting Hall or Nuge or Eberle or anyone else? I don’t think so. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I have a sick need to see the other team suffer if they wrong our team at all. If I were an NHLer, my goal would be to take someone’s (anyone’s) head off on my next shift if someone looked at Taylor Hall the wrong way. Of course, I wouldn’t be a very talented NHLer, so that might be what I’d have to do to stick in the league. Anyways, I digress.
Steve MacIntyre is not an NHLer, we know that. He’s hired muscle. He is going to have to sacrifice some of that 625k he makes and take some suspensions when they are warranted. It might not keep anyone honest, but it’s going to satiate that need many of us (including the players on the hockey team we cheer for) have for getting even when someone wrongs us. Now I realize this is a barbarian attitude, and solves nothing. You can spare me this argument. I have my doubts that Steve MacIntyre can build up a reputation like Dave Semenko or Dave Brown had in what should be a short stint here, but that is beside the point. This is a Sean Connery in Untouchables moment… you put one of ours in the hospital, we put one of yours in the morgue. It’s cliche now, but that’s what it is. This wouldn’t have even been a consideration for me, but for too long, other teams have had no respect for Oilers players, why is our team showing them respect back? Ex., Ladislav Smid invites Sean Avery to dance a few years ago, and Avery declines until Smid turns away… he then sucker punches him as Smid (unfortunately) wasn’t expecting hit. This of course resulted in a concussion to Smid. There is no answer for this kind of stuff.
The first retort the anti-goon folks are going to say is “MacIntyre beating someone up isn’t going to keep Smid safe”. Absolutely right. I don’t doubt that. We can agree that MacIntyre being on the bench doesn’t save Smid. However it’s about pushing back when you’ve had the entire NHL kicking sand in your face for years.
The next argument for the anti-MacIntyre folks is “MacIntyre can’t catch anyone… and no one is going to accept a fight with him” or “players will just turtle”. To the first part of the argument, I was once saying this too, but I think John Scott proved to me, and even Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish (who admitted that after his jumping of Phil Kessel, they were now sold that they needed MacIntyre), that all it takes is a faceoff. You don’t have to catch anyone if they’re already in your reach. Scott’s mistake was he warned Kessel ahead of time, MacIntyre had already gone ballistic one night vs. the Springfield Falcons. This likely isn’t someone with as good a nature as him would want to do often, but I think for the right reasons he’d do it.
The next argument might be “well the Oilers are just going to give up penalties and they could be scored on!”. True, just like how the other teams that have done dirty crap to our players have faced our scary powerplay (it really is fairly scary) and still done the things they’ve done. Look, in the grand scheme of things, one powerplay goal (if it even happens) is NOTHING compared to losing Sam Gagner for 2 months. Zack Kassian breaks Sam Gagner’s jaw, and removes him from the Oilers roster for 2 months? Steve MacIntyre jumps the first Canuck he can get his hands on and has them pissing blood for a week and gives them back with broken ribs from vicious body shots. He might not get his hands on them, but I say give it a shot. It’s worth it. Am I a neanderthal for thinking this? Probably.
The pacifist will remind us of the Bertuzzi incident. I’ll just say, let’s not go all crazy here. You can grab a guy and lay an unholy beating on him without driving his head into the ice and breaking his spine. MacIntyre (or whomever) is going to have to play it smart.
Anyways, back to the John Scott incident… John Scott goes full goon on Kessel, and what happens? The Leafs get 13 games in suspensions. The Sabres? Nada. Way to go, Shanny and co… you just taught GMs/Coaches around the league that it’s open season on star players, so long as you are already on the ice and don’t use your stick.
What’s the point in all of this? Well, we’ve learned that it’s pretty easy to lose games when you don’t have your best players to rely on. That’s all it is.
I will also say that suspensions really do nothing to “redeem” a player that’s been hurt. Sam Gagner is out 2 months with his broken jaw. Zack Kassian is going to miss the remainder of pre-season and something like 5 regular season games. Point 1, Zack Kassian is useless to the Canucks, for the most part. They will lose nothing by having him out of the lineup. Point 2, how does Zack Kassian being out of the lineup help the Oilers? They’ll see the Canucks in one game during that suspension. Again, Kassian’s impact on the game (when not being stupid with his stick) is so minimal, that there will be no effect on the outcome of the game with Kassian not being around. Oilers could lose Sam Gagner for 1/3.. ONE THIRD… of the NHL season, if early reports are true. The Canucks lose an inconsequential player for 5 regular season games. And you are still wondering why I want the team to take matters in their own hands?
One last point on this… everyone remembers that great game back in 2008 when Steve MacIntyre destroyed Dustin Brown with a hit, then pounded on Brandon Prust as he desperately fought for his life (I give him major props though for standing up against a guy way bigger than him). Does anyone remember the score before that hit? It was 2-0 for Calgary. How about the score at the end of the game? 3-2 Oilers. Granted, it was only one game.. very small sample set. But even if the score didn’t end how it did, you know fans were grinning ear to ear for once in Edmonton. We gave the Flames a taste of what Hemsky had been having for years, and it felt good. The Oilers scored three goals within 7 minutes of that moment. Do I believe that this was because of that play? I sure do. It was a moment that likely jacked up the whole bench. Do I think it will have that effect all the time, or even most of the time? Definitely not. However, again, it’s all about giving players and fans a sense of “we finally stuck it to them for once” rather than always playing victim. It’s pretty unlikely that MacIntyre is going to catch many (or maybe any) guys like that in his whole career, but let him try. What have we got to lose? A powerplay? Again, in the grand scheme.. this is a drop in the bucket compared to the physical damage a beast like MacIntyre could cause if you take the leash off.
Again, call me a neanderthal.. guilty as charged. To me, that powerplay you give up is completely worth it for the pick up fans and players get when finally they see their team kick some ass for once. I have no doubts that it can be very deflating for players to always get kicked around and never really have an answer too.
Ryan Jones was placed on waivers yesterday and cleared this morning. I want to just say that I think Jones has had a poor camp. In fact, I’d say his poor play extends back to last season, where he came back from the eye injury. It’s disappointing. It’s sad to see, because Jones had been a player that gave his all, on and off the ice. I’m hoping that he either is traded somewhere for a brand new opportunity, or he goes down to OKC, regains his game, and comes back full steam here. He hasn’t been demoted yet. The Oilers are deciding on what to do with him. I believe they have up to 30 days or 10 NHL games to make a decision, before they’ll need to put him on waivers again to send him down. There is some sort of rumor out there that he could be traded. Why would a team not claim him on waivers for free but give up something to trade for him? Good question. Simple answer.. they can’t take on his contract without giving something (likely awful) back in return. That’s one possibility.
Jones deleted his Twitter account yesterday as well, which shocked some people. I can’t help but wonder if he was targeted by “fans” with pretty mean comments. It happens from time to time here (like Dustin Penner being harassed while ordering food somewhere.. Subway?). It shouldn’t happen. As far as I’m considered, if the player is on the team, you do everything as a fan to keep their psyche in check. It’s like a team’s players and their goaltender. Anyone who has played hockey has played hockey with a SHITTY goaltender. Anyone who has played hockey knows that you don’t tell your goaltender he sucks supreme balls.. you tell him “don’t worry buddy, you’ll get them next game”. Why? Because any sport is part psychological. You tell a player they suck, it gets stuck in their head, they think about it all the time.. they make poor decisions. Fans here just don’t get it. Cheer your team on, boo the other team. Figure it out. Besides that impact, Jones put himself out there, being very openly social with fans. It sucks that “@jonesry28″ is no more, likely because some rotten people have chased him off the internet. Yes, players make a lot of money, but I’d love to come scream obscenities at you while you flip fries at your lame as job. No money on earth makes up for being treated like a piece of shit.
I think that’s it for now.. I’ve got some more stuff to talk about, but this post is long enough as is!
I hope you guys haven’t completely abandoned this blog. It can be tough to whip up a long post only to have it fall on deaf ears. Thanks for reading.