Monday, December 03, 2007
Its kind of funny really how this latest stretch of play has everyone smiling guiltily like the guy I saw skulking out of the neighbourhood rub'n tug, sorry, "health spa", the other day. The Oilers remain below .500 but they have been playing well and they are ahead of the Flames and sweeping a home and home against the Burkes is nothing to be sneezed at. All of this has been going on with a pretty full sick bay and some underachieving individual play as well which makes it a little more impressive. And three of the last four games have ended in regulation wins. Believe it or not an Oilers win tonight would pull them within five points of Wild on Jack Lemaire and the division lead.
Now I am still a skeptic and a .500 finish to this season would exceed my wildest expectations but truth be told there are some good things going on, especially back on the blueline. It has started and ended with Tom Gilbert this season but its become pretty clear that things have turned around in a big way for Joni Pitkanen. He was very strong at Rexall in the game I saw. He was singled out by MacT as the only guy to stand out in the Avs disaster and he obviously made an impression on the Anaheims in the first game as they tried to run him out of the rink last night. Didn't happen. Add to this the fact that Staios has been solid (interesting how he suddenly has become a whipping boy of sorts now that Smith has gone) and that Smid seems to be slowly finding his way and things look not too bad on the second pair. And Grebeshkov and Rourke are handling the third pair just fine, thank you. With Greene likely a ways away and Roy passed by Rourke for now the decisions upcoming will be when Tarnstrom and Souray return.
Ideally to me Tarnstrom would step in for Smid and bump Laddy down a pair to play with Rourke but I think that Dick is tradebait which is too bad. Fellow is a decent player in my eyes but he is a guy who can be moved pretty easily. Looking at it now one has to wonder again what Lowe was thinking on the Souray signing. Here's a guy who is going to be pulling down 5.4 per for the next five years when they don't need him. They will likely need that cap space when all is said and done though. Dammit. So while in my perfect world Souray would have a two year contract or would be playing for LA instead he will come in and likely get on that second pairing, because you can't pay a guy that coin to play on the third pair, and this will necessitate either moving a perfectly good and cheaper option in Tarnstrom out of here or farming out one of Smid, Grebeskov or Rourke while sending another to the PB.
I don't mind Souray but that contract is what is killing me on this. Ask the Leafs about bad contacts. They already have 42 M committed to next year's squad.
Of course one of the reasons the D have looked good is that both goaltenders have played well over the past couple of weeks - Garon and Roli have been fine as a 1A and 1B combo. It seems like the competition is friendly, so far, and there is no doubt that Garon has proven he can play in the shortterm while Roli has responded well to the push. Good to great goaltending can make all of the difference and one only has to look down Highway 2 to see what a struggling keeper can do to a team with high hopes.
And now up front we have seen Pisani return and as I commented over at Tyler's site I listened to CHED on the interweb last night and it seemed every time Fernando was on the ice I heard him breaking up a Ducks rush or clearing the zone or killing a penalty. I felt like I was in front of a roaring fire with a hot rum and it sounded like the radio guys were there with me as they commented how Fernando just helps win hockey games. Everyone smile and sign now. :) Great story and on top of that Hemsky, Moreau and Sanderson are all returning at some point soon. With Moreau and Pisani returning this team is suddenly looking at three reasonable lines and a babysitter for the kids if they go that way. I woud think that they will keep an extra forward but I would think sadly that Thoresen would be sent down and that maybe Nilsson would join him? Unless they try and buy time and send Gagner to the juniors. Its strange. Stortini has done all that he ever has done and that is improve. Have to admire his try at the very least. Cogliano and Brodziak have done well. Brodziak certainly plays like every game like he may be sent out any minute. Nilsson shows flashes but its that lack of consistency that's killing him.
So, 27-10-83, 14-16-34, 18-19-51, 8-13-89? Stortini in the pressbox until they move Sanderson? Or maybe Moreau babysits the kids?
I'd like to see Gagner go to the juniors and Thoresen playing with Sanderson and Cogliano myself but I have a soft spot for the Norwegian. Can't help it.
Interesting choices coming for Lowe and MacT. Now excuse me while I go chase the cat.
Posted by Black Dog at 7:57 PM