Saturday, August 30, 2008
Poor Radek Dvorak. Not a goal in the spring of 2006.
Guy played an important role though. Wonder why that 2006 club went far - look at the list of guys who could handle the tough sledding:
Horcoff, Smyth, Pisani, Peca, Torres, Moreau, Dvorak, Pronger, Smith, Spacek, Staios
Playing a Detroit team that had three lines that could score the Oilers caught some luck, sure, but they had the horses that could outscore the big boys or hold their own against them. San Jose had Thornton and Cheechoo and they were outplayed by Horcoff and Smyth, Pisani's line took care of Marleau. When Anaheim came in with Selanne and a bunch of pluggers and kids we could all breathe pretty easily.
The Northwest has been bleeding some pretty good players over the past few years and the Oilers were ahead of the curve. Between June 19th 2006 and last year's training camp the Oilers said goodbye to six of the players on that list above. On top of that two Dmen they brought in who showed they could handle the tough stuff - Hejda and Tjarnqvist - came and went. Coming back - Joni Pitkanen and a youth movement. Other then that you had two soft minutes guys who came and went (Sykora and Lupul) and coming in a guy who got murdered playing the easy stuff in a weaker conference - Sheldon Souray - and another soft minutes guy in Penner.
In the comments section of this great post Vic refers to a point I made earlier this summer about this club's D.
Now I am cautiously optimistic about this year's club. I think the NW is good for two, maybe three playoff clubs and likely these teams may be the ones that stay healthy, simple as that. The good news is that the Oilers have clawed their way back into the mix after a season and a half in the dumpster. Even better news is that two of their divison mates look to be in decline and on the other two this looks to be Sakic's swan song and if Gaborik walks the Wild are going to take a fall. So the future is bright. The bad news is that the Oilers aren't the Wings - in no way are they free and clear of the division.
Back to point. 2006/2007 saw the Oilers short Pronger, Spacek, Peca and Dvorak from that list of tough minute guys. Tjarnqvist came in to play with Smith which gave them three guys on the back end rather then four to take on the Iginlas and Sakics of the world. And up front they had Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani, Torres and Moreau. Note there is just one centre there.
The Oilers held their own that autumn and were in first as late as early December iirc. Moreau had gone down early on but Pisani and Torres drove a line with Stoll so up front they had two solid lines. Tjarnqvist went down but Hejda replaced him and did the same job, maybe even better. And then Staios went down. And then that was that. Smith and Hejda and not much else on the back and then Smyth was next to go and then the summer saw Smith traded as well.
So last season the Oilers had Horcoff, Torres, Pisani and Moreau up front who could reasonably be expected to take on the toughies. And Pisani got sick and Moreau went down before a shot was fired in anger. And on the back end they had a whack of threes through fives - Staios, Pitkanen and Souray looked to be the best of them. And a bunch of kids. The results, especially early on, were to be expected but a funny thing happened on the way to Brian Burke picking up Steve Stamkos. Tom Gilbert stepped in early on and took on the tough stuff and survived. Pitkanen, a disappointment in some areas, did the job in his own end. Shootout victories kept them going and then Gagner, Nilsson and Grebeshkov began to make things happen in a positive way. The kids stepped up and they got a number of bounces and they survived.
So going into this season who can handle the tough stuff? The good news is that the Flames said goodbye to Tanguay, Huselius and Nolan and brought in Cammelleri and Bertuzzi. The Wild let Demitra and Rolston go and brought Brunette in. The Avs lost Brunette, Sauer, Finger and Theodore and brought in nobody of note. The Canucks replaced Morrision and Naslund with Demitra and Bernier. Everyone took a step back.
I feel pretty good about running out what the Oilers have against what the Flames have with one exception - as Vic pointed out - game 78 of the season, trying to get to the playoffs, leading by one with two minutes left and Iginla comes over the boards. Who do you send out to stop him? Remember last season when the Avs knocked the Oilers out? Jarret Stoll losing own zone draw after own zone draw. Kids everywhere trying to stop Joe Sakic.
So there's good news and bad news - good news is top through bottom the Oilers have depth up front and on the back end. Even the 2006 club had the old Chinese fire drill going on in their own end when Bergeron and Greene and got out there. This year's club is likely going to have Smid and Visnovsky as their third option at evens to start - pretty solid. And up front they are one player away from having a solid half dozen to run out there - maybe it will be Brodziak or Pouliot or Cogliano down the road but this season its going to get dicey at times. The problem is who gets the Iginlas, Sakics, Datsyuks etc on the back end.
That's the question.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:12 PM