Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking Good


Ten games in and the Oilers are first in the conference and sitting at 6-2-2. A fantastic start and except for the last two games its been bought and paid for. Of course 4-4-2 is a lot different animal than 6-2-2 but then again early on the Oilers had a couple of games where they outchanced the opposition and didn't get the two points so I'm not going to pick nits here. Is this the best team in the conference? No of course not. Are they a playoff team? Unlikely. They've banked a lot of points at home but they are about to hit the road and my guess is they will find it tougher sledding there. Are they better than everyone figured them for? Yes. I figured them to be ~ 25th or so and I had a lot of people say I was mental even for that. A lot of folks have them pegged for last overall, again.

I was trying to find a post I remembered writing this summer where I was trying to figure out how this club could perform. I finally found it

Here's the key passage:


I think the Oilers will likely be in the lottery next year if they are done with their moves. Too many issues from the blueline on back. Now having said that nothing is a sure thing. Nobody saw the Devils in the lottery last summer and two years ago nobody saw the Avs in the playoffs. Teams will collapse and the Oilers may rise above those clubs and because its sport and luck plays a role you never ever know what can happen. But for the Oilers to be a competitive club this season, for them to make the leap they will need, well, everything to go right.

They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Is it possible? Of course. Anything is. Its unlikely, very unlikely really, but its possible.


Now we're looking at a small sample size here but lets look st these one by one:


They will need Dubnyk to become a very good goaltender or for Khabibulin to turn back the clock.

Probably the story so far. Both goalies have been excellent. Khabibulin shuts the door on Washington on Thursday night. One night later Dubnyk stops forty. Anything you can do I can do better.


They will need Sutton to turn the clock back two years and for two or more of Petry, Peckham and Smid to take a big leap forward. Gagner too.

Sutton has been better than expected. Smid has been wonderful. Petry has been in OKC, Peckham in the pressbox and Gagner has just gotten back from his injury.

They will need Whitney and Horcoff and Hemsky to stay healthy. And pretty well anyone else of value.

lol, well Horcoff has been healthy so far.


They will have to fix the special teams especially the PK because they will likely be in the box a lot.

PK has been outstanding. Rolling three pairs of forwards who know what they are doing, very good goaltending and some pretty good work from the D. Its been night and day compared to last year. And the PP has been better, a lot of puck and player movement, none of this standing around shit. Special teams won the day against the Caps. Last year they were brutal.


They need Hall and Eberle and Omark and Paajarvi to improve on their nice starts to their careers. No going sideways. No backsliding. Improvement across the board.

Hall and Eberle have been very good. Paajarvi has struggled offensively and Omark is in the pressbox.

They will need a couple of other kids to step up. Maybe Lander.

Lander has been a reasonable fourth line option, chipping in on the PK. Petrell and Potter aren't kids per se, but both have contributed, especially Potter. Of course the big story here is Ted, who has been terrific, at least at home. The next few weeks will be a test or the kid but his play has sparked the PP and allowed Renney to play Horcoff and Belanger in tougher minute roles. Huge help.

They will need some luck on top of all that.

Shots for and against were pretty well even until the last two games and then they faced one of the best teams in the league and then the Avs in the second night of a back to back. So I'm not too concerned about where they are at. Again, do I think they are a playoff club? I don't think so but we'll have a lot better handle on how good they are in a ocuple of weeks after this tough road trip.

Its funny though eh? Look at that list above. This is what I figured they needed to be respectable and the reality is a lot of what I felt they needed has not come to pass. Omark and Paajarvi have stalled. Whitney, Hemsky and Gagner have all been hurt. Petry and Peckham have done nothing. Of course Potter has come from nowhere, Smyth and Horcoff (and yes Jones) have been doing the heavy lifting and doing it well and Belanger has added to this club as well. Not to mention Gilbert's excellence.

I guess if you're a glass half full type of guy you look at this team and see Whitney and Hemsky coming back and a bunch of guys yet to get untracked and the reality is they could still get better. Sure the goaltending is not going to be all world and there are going to be some tough nights ahead but I would say they are better than any of us figured them to be. They still need a Dman or two, imo, or at least they need Whitney to come back and stay healthy and Potter to keep it up somehow.

But ten games in things are good. Its been fun and for the most part its been bought and paid for, not smoke and mirrors. So lets enjoy it, yeah?

15 comments:

kanadienkyle said...

I am not going to worry about why we are winning and he bounces we get. I would rather enjoy the fact that it's almost November and we are playing meaningful hockey.

Paquette said...

It's been surreal, hasn't it? I was shocked to find myself grinning while watching the past two games. Teeth showing and everything. At first I assumed it was my usual grit, but that n snuck in and replaced the t.

Anyway, can the Oilers keep it up? Of course not. But I wouldn't be surprised too much if they manage to stay in the mix for a while. It seems almost every Christmas we have that optical illusion in the standings showing us the slight possibility of speaking through. That's when the cards start tumbling and Hemsky is out for the season.

Then again, he's out now and the kids are winning so what do I know?

Paquette said...

Thanks auto correct. "Squeaking through"

LittleFury said...

My ears may have deceived me, but I swear to god the RX crowd was chanting "Nuuuuuge" last night against the Blues. Good times!

Black Dog said...

LF - yeah I think that they have been doing so for a few games now.

Loving it for sure, its been a fun month. And as Kyle said we may as well enjoy it.

Having said that the good news is that they have outchanced their opponents in more games than not. And except for the Caps/Avs games they've been right there. So no complaints.

Paquette - well this is the thing too. Hemsky and Whitney have been out and they have still done well. Tough road trip now though.

Clay said...

Good post, BD.

I like that the results are finally jiving with the underlying numbers. They're getting results, and for the most part they're not doing it with absolute smoke-n-mirrors (the other-worldly goaltending aside).

Corey Potter has been a revelation. It's all well and good to have the high draft pick types living up to expectations (or better), but finding guys like this who step up from obscurity to be integral players is really fun to watch. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Paquette said...

That's what she said

Paquette said...

(couldn't resist)

Black Dog said...

Clay - and the additions of Potter and Petrell are ones that a)Tambellini deserves credit for and b)good teams generally make - that is the low cost ones that worst case strengthen your farm team and better than that make the big club better

I've jumped on Tambo plenty in the past (deservedly) but good work on these two.

Bruce said...

@BDHS: What I like about your analysis is you are fair with both criticism and praise, and nobody is above some of each. Good call on Tambellini finding those two 27-year-old needles from the big hay stack. Both have made significant contributions to the team.

Petrell plays a lot on the PK and also defending the lead, which Oilers have done a lot of lately. And Potter just seems too good to be true at this point. Not perfect, but way more beauty spots than warts. :)

Smyth-Horcoff-Jones is a real high-calibre grinder line and they've been sawing off the toughs by stat and by eye. They don't win all their battles, but who does against Gaborik, the Sedins, Ovechkin, &c. They've been huge.

And the second line, the scoring line, has been on fire. Sure they've been fed good opportunities, but the o-zone is where I want my scoring line to start, thank you very much. Mostly they've just started in the neutral zone ... and mostly they've started without the puck. Hasn't seemed to hurt them all that much, those kids are so aggressive on the puck they'll get it back enough times to do some real damage with it.

Your comments about special teams are spot on, and I'll just add that one forward who is central to both units is Horcoff, who to this point is doing a pretty reasonable impersonation of a $5.5-MM hockey player. The other is Smyth, who has helped put a spirit back in this team that has in some ways been missing since the day he left.

Add in that Gilbert and Smid have both played their best stretch of games of their respective careers, and Khabibulin is close to doing the same, and things are roses. For now.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that all of the criticisms the Oilers have endured during the last few years regarding development of players have been misguided. Look at Gilbert, Smid, Dubnyk. The critique of the pro scouting dept. and now we have Petrell, Potter, Jones, Sutton, even Barker. If they stick to their guns I think young players like Samwise, Teddy Peckman, Petry, Lander and PRV will be real NHL players. Watch out, Stanley is coming back to the Chuck...Brian aka Nanaimo Oil

Black Dog said...

Brian - well ... we can say things are going well now but its been five bad years before this and we've just started this one. I agree that the development has been better and there appears to be an actual plan but we can't ignore the past either. Still they do seem on the right track.

Thanks Bruce - I thought Tambo had a decent summer even before Petrell and Potter, the addition of Belanger has been a huge help to Horcoff, the PK, winning draws and while there has been no offence so far at least he's low event the other way too. And Smyth has been outstanding.

As for the kids, hey they may be getting an easy ride but as long as they are doing something with it we cannot complain at all.

Clay said...

@BDHS - agree on both points. Potter and Petrell (and maybe Fedun pre-disaster) are the Charlie Huddy/Randy Gregg types that the team needs.

Clay said...

(And by that, I don't mean defensemen, I mean they're useful players that are aquired in alternate ways, not just draft picks)

Unknown said...

Fuck the past, onward and upward..Brian