Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Oilers Midpoint Evaluation

Hey hey hey. The Oiler have completed half their regular season and, going in to a new year, I thought it was time to post some sort of midpoint evaluation type thing. I don't give grades and I don't use fancy statistics. Sue me.

Powerplay/Penalty Kill - Perhaps the biggest story of the year. Last season the Oilers were an abysmal 29th/17th in the league. This year they are 7th and 13th. Maybe Craig Simpson is more than just a pretty coiffure. Of course, adding Stoll, Pronger, Bergeron, and a new and improved Hemsky didn't hurt.

Faceoffs - from 11th last year to first this year. Is this important? I dunno - it can't hurt.

5 on 5 - An interesting regression from last year. This year the Oilers are exactly even in goals for/against 5 on 5. Last season they were 9th in the league with a 1.22 ratio. The loss of 5 on 5 strength is almost certainly a result of some questionable goaltending. Thank goodness the powerplay is working.

First Line

Shawn Horcoff
After taking talk-show abuse all preseason about how he could never be a #1 center, Horc has quietly put together a pretty nice season. He still isn't a true #1 - whatever that is - but he has been pretty effective, if inconsistent. Already has a career high in points.

- The Mad Mullet hasn't had to carry the load this year, which is good because I'm not entirely sure he is still capable of it. Has gone missing more than previous seasons. Having said that, he has still had a pretty nice first half and always seems to be around at nut cuttin' time. Is it possible to not love this guy?

Ales Hemsky - Learn how to fake this signature, folks, because the sky is well and truly the limit. 11 goals, 27 assists. He is starting to shoot, can pass like crazy, and finally provides the Oilers with someone who can work the powerplay halfboards without messing his minipad under pressure. He is tougher than people give him credit for too. Another guy with a career high in points already.

Second Line

Jarret Stoll - Remeber when Stevie Y used to have a pretty boy face? Seen him lately? I predict a similar result for Stoll. The breakout player of the year. 14 goals, 26 assists. Consistent as anyone on the team, and has a rocket of a shot. Along with Hemsky and Pronger, Stoll has been largely responsible for the improved powerplay - especially when they put him back on the point. Yet another guy who already has a career high in points.

Raffi Torres - Torres is as streaky as Stoll is consistent. When he is playing well he is tough to miss. Like Pronger, he has been pretty good at picking his spots for the physical play, but is not nearly as effective when he isn't hitting. Mrs. Sac's favourite player.

Radek Dvorak - Injuries have slowed him down, but this facial expression really says it all. Somewhat confused, still sorta happy. This is a guy that I so want to do better. He has all the skills, creates a tonne of quality chances, but just seems to be permanently snake-bitten. It is inexplicable.

Third Line
- MPP, RPM, it doesn't matter. The Oil's third line might be the best in the league.

Mike Peca - The Oilers undisputed MVP. We should be paying him 8, nay 18, million dollars. Meh. He obviously wasn't the first line scoring centre the Brain Trust was hoping he could be, but I'm still extremely happy with his play. He is exactly the kind of guy that the Oilers needed to get them through tight games against elite players. Markus who? Jarmoe who? He is going to be a key in the Oilers first round playoff win.

Fernando Pisani - 10 points in the last 7 games. Unbelievable 5 on 5. Just an absolutely solid, consistent third line outscorer. This is one that the Brain Trust should get credit for - they recognized something that most others didn't.

Ethan Moreau - Moreau is another guy like Dvorak who I keep thinking should be able to breakout. I don't really understand why he doesn't have more goals. By far the hardest working guy out there, has crazy wheels, never gets tired. Still doing pretty well with 8 goals 12 assists from the third line.

Fourth Line

Marty Reasoner - I love him. I think he is one of the underrated keys to the team. Honestly. Entirely overlooked, he makes his linemates better. Having said that, he isn't having his best season.

Le GG - I had such high hopes for Georges. The new rules should make him unstopable . . . well, if he hadn't taken over Marchant's hands. Over the last two weeks he has been pretty active and has been able to draw a lot of penalties. I'm not entirely sure that his salary is worth it, though. I wouldn't be suprised to see him packaged outta town. It would be a shame because he is a sentimental favourite in town. At least he has a degree to fall back on . . .

Todd Harvey - A funny guy. I love it when he scores goals. Other than that, he has been pretty average. But he and his molester mustache make me laugh.

Brad Winchester - I dunno, seems ok.


Chris Pronger and his balls - way better than I thought. He is just so solid in the defensive end it is ridiculous. He is also so calm with the puck that we finally have someone to give the wingers time to get up ice for some nice long breakouts. Equally impressive has been his transition from mean, cross-checking SOB to well-positioned, little-penalized, gentleman. I personally think he might have gone a tad too far in that direction, but I'm sure he'll be back for playoffs. Soaks up a tonne of minutes and, as Cosh once noted, shortens every penalty kill to one-minute.

Bergeron - a nice sophmore season. I didn't like his pairing with Pronger at the beginning because he was a bit too deferential, but they seem to be playing prety well together now. Added bonus is that he is actually hitting the net with his canon this year - well, mostly. He scrambles a lot, but that makes him fun to watch.

Jason Smith - I dunno. Okay. Nothing spectacularly good or bad. Now that he can't pull off the facewash in front of the net he isn't as effective. However, he still seems to be able to pull of a physical game without too many penalties

Steve Staois - I dunno. Somewhere between Smith and Cross - probably closer to Smith. Joins Harvey on the All Molester Mustache Team.

Igor Ulanov - Get your memorabilia now, because he is one contract deadline away from retirement. I love him, just love him. I think he is one of the funniest guys on the team. But he needs to join the other retired Oilers behind bench. Still soaks up a fair number of minutes - although I'm always on pins and needles when he is the one looking to clear the puck from the d-zone.

Cory Cross - Was going to be a teacher before he accidently found himself signed to an NHL contract. To his credit, he has spun out that gig for about as long as he could spin it. Yes, he has a great slapper. No, he doesn't ever use it. Early on his positioning was decent enough for him to get away with an incredible lack of mobility. Lately . . . he is better suited to the story time chair.

Matt Greene - He hasn't been around long enough to get any nice photos up on google. But other Matt Greenes have. Matt had a very nice game drawing in for Cross against Chicago. Of course, I probably could have looked better than Cross against Chicago.

Jani Rita - Meh. Who the hell knows anymore? The invisible man (middle in the photo) is gonzo. I don't even care if he becomes a superstar somewhere else. Cut him loose. Maybe his goal against Chicago last night will sucker Millsbury or Slats to give us something for him.

- killed our defense. He was supposed to step in and play on the second pairing. His exit forced Ullie, Cross and Staois to play more than they should. Damn you Semmy.


Jussi Markkanen - I think Jussi is a very solid backup or partner goalie. I really thought he could be more, but I'm not sure he can play any more than 55 games a year. Still, not as horrible as some would make it out.

Ty Conklin
- I may have jumped the gun based on last night's performance. I admit it, I have blinkers. I really want him to do well, but I really don't think he is very good. I hope he proves me wrong.

Random Guys

Mike Morrison - I'm not sure what else he could have done to impress the coaches. Had one and a half tough games, but otherwise was pretty solid. I think he is gone.

Schremp - after watching him in the Russia-USA game, I'm glad we didn't bring him up. Slow, out of position, lazy, and two ridiculously stupid penalties at the end of the game. Of course, the entire US team was pretty exhausted yesterday. That WJC format just kills teams that don't come first in their pool.

Rod Phillips - God knows I love Rod, but the year off really hurt him. Constantly behind the play and searching for names. Still, not many can call a fight like Rod, and not many home town announcers are as tough on the team as he is. Morely is as solid as he has ever been.

Overall, I like the way we are headed. Clearly playoff bound and I'm betting with home ice.


Jarmoe who? That is a stumper, alright. Myllys, maybe?

I loved Ferraro talking about Peca's "beautiful pass" to Pisani last night. Heh. Wake me up when he makes one in some direction besides the one he's facing when he receives the puck. (Or alternatively, one where his lower hand moves up from "faceoff position" on his stick - I think the only time that hand moves is when he has to reach further to hook someone.)

It has been so long since I've seen his name in the paper, it is no wonder I didn't spell it correctly.

Besides, Peca's $285,000/point doesn't look so bad compared with Iggy's $218,750/point -- especially since Peca: a) isn't supposed to lead the league in scoring, and, b) actually does other useful stuff.

What are these things that Peca's been doing that Iginla hasn't? Name one. And who was that who won the faceoff right to Huselius for the Flames winning goal on Saturday?

(In case you were too engrossed in your canasta game to notice, it was 'Jarmoe').

By the way, great depiction of Conklin. A plain-old, alive and standing up goat wouldn't quite capture the spirit of the thing, I gather?

Yep, Conky is either dead or is on his way to market.

Georges Laraque had been good this year. No colossal screw-ups, but nothing out of the ordinary, although it's not his fault, what with the playing time he's been getting.

Also, one thing I noticed on the ESPN recap of the Edmonton-Chicago game, every player on the Oilers played more than ten minutes, something that hasn't happened in a long time.

This whole entry is pure genius. Even the "Jarmoe" business, which I am adopting immediately.

I understand why Ryan Smyth doesn't convert fans of other teams, but I pity them. He is the pure spirit of hockey coupled with a thousand watts of Wordsworthian innocence. Hating him would be like hating a pitcher of Tang or a Tonka truck. Given a decent shot he could easily unite the nations of the Middle East.

The point about Hemsky's toughness is well observed. There's nothing quite like seeing him tie a defence in knots and then start suddenly dishing out punishment. The only emotional analogue for Oilers fans is watching BG go on one of his rare Incredible Hulk sprees.

Moreau is having a lot of cheese flung at him for "failing to break out". He doesn't score much, but it seems to me like pretty much all his goals come in the 59th minute of close games. Get him deep into a playoff series and he is going to carve his legend in twenty-foot letters, hopefully on the base of the Calgary Tower.

Peca is Italian for peace [WARNING: fact probably not true], and appropriately enough Edmontonians have mostly made their peace with Mikey. I suspect we will eventually learn that he gave Stoll some weird secret to winning faceoffs.

Well, you've at least given the producers of some more material to work with.

Like Cosh said, it's hard not to like Smyth. He's what every team could use and what every fan wants to cheer for. He's a lot like Iginla, but runs over other teams' goalies instead of fighting their d-men. Smyth is Captain Canada, Iggy the Face of Hockey. Then again, Smyth sure does have a face for hockey, and Iggy could very well be Canada's captain. Whatever.

And I'm pretty sure Peca is Italian for "sucks". I kid, of course. Peca is actually Portuguese. Peca = A unit of value used in the trade in slaves passing from West Africa through the Cape Verde Islands to the New World, 16th–18th centuries. Also called a boa peça, peça da India or, in Spanish, pieza de India (“piece of India”). One peça was the value of a male or female slave in good health between 15 and 25 years of age. Slaves between 8 and 15 years old, or 25 to 35, were valued at 2⁄3 peça. Slaves younger or older than these groups, and those who were sick, were worth even less. The peça was used in assessing tariffs and establishing quotas.

Right now, he's probably 1⁄3 peça.

Boy we have some good readers/commenters on this site.

That's a heck of an entry jhuck.

You're right about Ethan. He leads the team in game winning goals, shorthanded goals, shorthanded points. All of which more than makes up for the fact that he also leads the team in penalty minutes.

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