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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Game Day "Wild"

Not sure what many of you think about the Minnesota Wild these days, but regardless of what we think of them, they have become a solid powerhouse in the NHL this year. Something happened to the Wild over the off-season, they became a more well rounded team offensively. This team has it's fans 'going WILD' in excitement about some possible playoff results this year even. The question most people have is...."Can this last?"

The Wild have been winning with good goaltending, defence by committee and timely scoring, Oh, and good coaching. What really gets me about the Edmonton Oilers is the excuses we seem to accept. I get it, that we will experience down times and up times with this young team, but that can only be a reason for so many years in a row. You can't tell me, our defence is incapable of playing a solid defensive game just because they are young. Look at Minnesota and their defence core. Jared Spurgeon, Marek Zidlicky, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Nick Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Greg Zanon...should I continue? You see, there coaching staff has taught them to play a game with average defencemen. I would take the Oilers defence to the Wild's on paper anyday. But right now, today is not THAT day. The reason in my opinion is coaching. I'm sorry for those of you who do not agree with me, but our early season success is more then just luck and catching teams off guard early. The defence bought into the coaching early and the coaching has not been able to adjust our defence as other teams have started to capitalize on our weaknesses. Goaltending confidence comes from solid defensive play. To have solid stellar goaltending but then for the defence to give up chance after chance to be scored on is tough. A goaltenders mind can only stay focused so long with poor defence

As far as the forwards on our team, they need to start making better decisions with the puck, and I am not speaking of the young guys. Too many turnovers in the neutral zone on giveaways are killing this team. The Oilers veterans know better but continue to do so. Granted the defence has had their fair share of giveaways from pinching too much but we already covered some on that already. The guys giving the puck right back are Horcoff, Hemsky, Smyth, Eager and Gagner (but he is improving I might add). How can our veterans not be accountable for these kind of mistakes. On occasion when Hall, RNH or Eberle give up the puck, much is made of it (not often it happens) but the veterans do it almost every game or two. Watch the game tonight, I can almost guarantee you between Horcoff, Hemsky, and Smyth there will be 2-3 giveaways tonight. It happens every game.

Khabby has played well and I expect he will get the start again tonight as the Oilers are desperate to get back into the win column. Also, I have to say, I have been pleased with our PP, but isn't it amazing how much a PP can change when a 18 year old is running your PP? Wonder how many people still think RNH isn't heavy enough or big enough to play in the NHL. (I will cover more on this in another blog under my Prospect Focus). I have been pleased with our PK as well. But think about this team. 2 points better from a year ago with a wonder kid playing at a PPG and 2 other great players in Hall and Eberle playing like All-Stars. Not to mention a much improved PP and PK, yet only 2 points better? Am I missing something here? I said it a few weeks back and will say it again, Tamby and Lowe had no intention of rushing this rebuild on the defence front if no trade was attempted early on. They are ok with building through the draft and waiting til the feel they can get the best return on players at the deadline. Is that ok? Sure, but be prepared for another long season of games being meaningless in a couple months and Oiler fans just looking forwards to glimpses of future success and padding of individual stats for our favourite players.

Before I cover our prospect watch, I should say, as negative as I sound, I do still believe this team is going in the right direction player wise, just not coaching and management wise. And let me be clear, the players we all love to see or are hoping to see on the Oilers in the future have less to do with management and coaching and more to do with amateur scouting. Pro scouting is probably one of our greatest weaknesses and Management treats the casual fan like were stupid. C'mon, don't pay the Oiler fan a compliment and then smack him upside the head in the next moment. My dad was like that and you know what that created? Yep! Hatred for him. Tamby, Lowe and even Katz in my opinion need to be more honest about what our struggles are and accept some blame above the players.

Prospect Focus
So Anton Lander looks to be getting a bit of a push here tonight with some third line time centering Gagner and Jones. I actually like the look of this line and am interested in what will come of their potential tonight. Lander has struggled somewhat in the faceoffok but using Lander as a plug on a fourth line to me is a waste. I would rather Lander play third line here in Edmonton or down in OKC with the Barons on their 1st or 2nd line to improve his offensive game, cause we know he does have some decent offense as well. I would think, should Renney not like this experiment of Lander on the third line very long, we will see Lander heading to OKC for some development soon enough.

Now let's get ready to RUMBLE! Go Oilers!

Gametime 7:30pm CHED630am/Sportsnet-Oilers

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