Saturday, December 08, 2007
Well, another ten games gone and this was the most successful and most eventful ten game segment yet. Six and two and two winnable games ended up in a slightly disappointing six and four but if six and four is disappointing then things are beginning to look up. The Oilers clawed their way back into the pack and while they are still amongst the bottom dwellers this team is showing signs of life and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Penner's name won't be mentioned in the same breath as Tom Kurvers.
Wins in regulation, two good beatings laid on Anaheim, terrific goaltending from Garon and Roloson, some fine play by Rourke and Grebeshkov as the third pair, the arrival of Very Good Joni, some solid play from Laddy Smid and continued strong play from Gilbert Gilbert (who got a lot of love on CSN on Wednesday) were among the highlights. Indeed the future with this blueline is starting to look a little brighter and the question is what happens when Tarnstrom and Souray return. (Hint - Tarnstrom gets moved.)
Up front the storyline is all about Shawn Horcoff who is a point out of being in the top twenty in scoring in the league, all the while being the same old Horcoff - that is, he does everything. And if I am Kevin Lowe then I am talking to him about an extension and soon. Yep, now. With Gagner and Cogliano coming the debate, if there really was one, was who to keep - Horc or Stoll. From this corner the answer was always pretty clear and I can't see how anyone other then Stacey's mom would argue otherwise now.
Having said that there are plenty of other things to consider up front besides Horcoff. Gagner's name has begun to pop up on the scoresheet lately along with Nilsson's and one wonders how much of that is to do with their new winger and babysitter. Besides these kids there have been some goals from the backend and so its become Horcoff from Hemsky and scoring by committee otherwise but it seems to be working out as guys like Reasoner, Brodziak and Cogliano chip in here and there.
Penner continues to tease. Two good games in California and then nothing much back home.
The return of Thoresen, finally, who scores in his first game back and of course the best story of them all, the return of Fernando Pisani. Unfortunately the best story about this terrific tale was found in the Globe, courtesy of CP, rather then in any of the local papers, bedazzled as they were by some kid from Nova Scotia.
And as these ten games ended it was ironic that for all of the joking about CSN's over the top story of the Crosby and how he earned ten Grammy nominations, cured cancer and won the war, all while banging the cast of The L Word, the truth is that when he tore the Oilers apart on Wednesday night he impacted the Oilers in the short term and perhaps the longterm as well. To wit:
He exposed questions about MacT's strategy of playing good try no play Zach Stortini against the best player in the league while trying to protect a one goal league. Why not Fernando Pisani? He sent Pisani out for a defensive zone draw late in the second in Stortini's place when Therrien sent out Crosby and Malkin. The Oilers immediately got possession, moved the puck into the Crosbies' zone and spent the entire shift there. And if not Pisani then what about Kyle Brodziak? Or Andrew Cogliano? Other then Sam Gagner there is likely not another player I would have out there rather then Stortini.
And of course the other two thirds of the line that Crosby victimized were scratched against St. Louis. The arguments why this was dumb are many. Torres and Stoll, despite their failings, are still better players then most of the Oilers' forwards and if you are trying to win then they have to dress. They had actually been doing a decent job up until Wednesday despite having to drag around Stortini. MacT risks losing other veterans on the team because of this move. Stoll is still recovering from his concussion and has been getting there lately. If these guys are tradebait as has been surmised, scratching them brings down their value. Etc. Etc. A lot of good arguments made by a lot of people smarter then me against this move.
And I was still onside with it. There aren't many ways a coach can get a player's attention these days. Fact is Stoll and Torres have underperformed this year. Broken record for Torres who is now making decent coin and is no longer a kid. And remember that prior to last November when Stoll did take off he was brutal in October, by his own admission unprepared to play.
On this team they should be right behind Horcoff and Hemsky, along with Penner (of course he's a story for another day), in terms of production and responsibilities. For the first ten games Torres was terrific. Then he went ten games without a point, iirc. Does he do other stuff well? Absolutely. Does he need to be a better player? Yes. Yes he does. And that goes for Stoll too. Neither guy was happy about being benched but I would suspect that for a couple of weeks at least that we see a little more fire from them.
Oh and send Stortini out already. Or put him on the fourth line. Love his try. I really do. But there's no way he brings more to the table then a guy like Thoresen.
Posted by Black Dog at 9:54 AM