Friday, October 31, 2008
MacT and the Oilers have them, as they stumble along in the midst of a losing streak whose length is yet to be determined.
Everyone knew that this opening fifteen games would be a challenge but a speedy start masked problems, both foreseen and not so much. Ironically now the team is playing better but has nothing to show for it and as is the case with offensive slumps things seem to be getting worse rather then better. The sticks are getting squeezed and there's not much a coach can do about it except to encourage players to go to the net hard. Except for Souray not a single player is producing up to par offensively so its not as if he can move Hemsky or Gagner to another line to kickstart a slumping teammate.
This team is flawed but other then the Red Wings, the Sharks and the Habs, every team has flaws in the new capped NHL. Big money given to one player means finding an outperformer elsewhere. Gone are the days where solid and trusty veterans could be found to fill out the bottom D pair, the third and fourth lines, the spot of the backup goaltender. Nearly every team now has holes somewhere, lack of depth, a kid or journeyman or two playing when a few years back they would be in junior or the minors. So the Oilers are no different then anybody else. Their D has three guys who are pretty green and the three vets all have their flaws. They don't have a bigtime stopper between the pipes. A little more size and experience up front would be nice.
There is however, no doubt, that this team has underperformed, as a whole and as individuals for the most part. And grumbling has begun about the coach.
While Jim Matheson may opine that the last two years this team had a legitimate playoff shot the truth is that both years were sacrificed to development. That's fine but a third straight year out of the playoffs for a team that can and has spent money would likely mean the end of MacT's tenure. He has a number of veterans in the lineup now and a whole lot of guys who have produced in the NHL. I think the only time during his time in Edmonton when he may have been in trouble was when the club struggled to make the playoffs in 2006. I think if this club doesn't get some results on the board soon that he may find himself in the soup.
The problem for MacT is that a lot of the problems this team has been having can be laid at his feet. Its one thing if a guy is slumping. Its another when the following problems are part of the mix:
The three headed goaltending situation. How much of this is management and how much is MacT is open for discussion but he should really be telling Tambellini that JDD has to be sent down. When Pisani was hurt they were left with no options up front but to play MacIntyre against the Avs in the second part of a BTB. Unnecessary and untenable. What I know about goaltending is very little but I do know that they need as much work as possible to stay sharp. Rotating two guys is difficult enough. Rotating three is ridiculous. They need to send JDD out and get another option up front. As I said this may be management but MacT has to get control of the situation here.
The Pisani experiment. Enough is enough. Send him to the wing and give Pouliot a shot at this position. Kid can win draws and it would be nice to see him play with a couple of veterans on his flanks which leads us to ...
The fourth line. Last year a strength after the arrival of Glencross its now a nonfactor. Stortini is an absolute cipher (some might say so what/told you so) and Brodziak hasn't a point. Moreau replicates Glencross' skill set for the most part. Send him, Brodziak and Stortini over the boards. While I will admit that the arrival of MacIntyre seems to have meant a lot less in the way of abuse for the Oilers the fact is the guy is not an NHL player, far from it, and everytime he steps on the ice its a lost shift for the club.
Special teams. The PP has never been a MacT strength and it cost the Oilers a Cup in 2006 as far as I am concerned. After a run last spring which saw players and the puck moving quickly and creatively they have gotten back to the old pass around the perimeter to tee it up for the D routine. Poor poor stuff. And on top of this the PK has been shoddy at times as they try and break in Penner and Gagner. I'd be rolling out Pisani, Horcoff, Moreau and three of Brodziak, Pouliot, Cole or Cogliano myself. The first two have played some in that role and Cogliano and Cole have the wheels.
Throw in a lot of poor starts to games, a general lack of intensity and a lack of accountability for mistakes and I can understand why a lot of people are pointing fingers at the coach. If Grebeshkov makes another backpass to nobody like he did against the Canucks the other night then he should sit in the pressbox. A soft play or turnover should end up with someone nailed to the bench. Its up to MacT to take control of this situation.
I like MacT, I do. The folks who don't give him credit for anything are way offbase. He had a brilliant run in 2006, he does a nice job developing kids and he can get a lot out of a little but presently this team is running in place and that just won't do. The underlying numbers suggest that its more of a case of bad luck then anything right now but I'm thinking that Daryl Katz may not care so much about the underlying numbers, not when he sees Ron Wilson whipping a team of scrubs into shape in Toronto.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:47 PM