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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oilers SET to TAKE OFF?

I have been fairly quiet to this point on my opinions on the season when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers. I thought now was the time to come out of the closet and now state my thoughts and opinions despite maybe some unpopular statements I may make.

People who ready my posts, know that I seldom state anything off the wall or give false information. If I hear something, it's usually fairly legitimate and I won't share information I have heard unless it has some inside confirmation.

Here is some things I keep hearing from bloggers, MSM and fans alike.

Yakupov is sinking in the top 6 defensively
I would disagree that Yakupov is sinking defensively. Yes, he has made some errors but no more then Hall or Eberle made in their rookie campaign. The struggle with that second line is Gagner and Hemsky have been weak defensively meaning Yakupov has been trying to stay back some, taking away his offensive prowess. Yakupov is a player that needs to attack on offense and he is not afforded that opportunity with those two players.

While you can look at Corsi, Plus/Minus and other statistical stats you also have to look at the overall body of work and what is happening on each shift he is out on the ice. Just like RNH and others before him, I still argue that stats don't tell the whole truth when dealing with team play. The thing is, you can not move Hemsky or Gagner to 3rd or 4th line work and still have them produce. Yakupov is young, does need to learn more the defensive game so he makes the most sense. He is still learning a new wing in the NHL, learning a new defensive system of play with gapping and still has decent point production. What I will say though, is last game, when Yakupov took over in the third period for Hartikainen on that second line, the Oilers started to really roll. He was flying out there. He isn't sinking, he's learning how to navigate the deep waters of the NHL, all in time my friends.

Paajarvi is barely keeping above water in the NHL with the exception of two games played
While I know Magnus is not the player offensively so many of us thought him to be, he is never a defensive liability. In fact, his game is rounding more into form with each passing game. Sure he may not play at the highest level every game but how many players do? I really like Paajarvi's game and will be disappointed should he be pulled out of this line-up again in place of players less his skill and speed. He is what the oilers need and the team and fans need to be patient with him.

While he will never be a hard as nails tough hombre, he is developing more into the power forward we need to drive to the net on a consistent basis. With Paajarvi on the ice, you will seldom see the puck in his own end, it's usually driving into the offensive zone.

Gagner is rocking it offensively
Yes, while Sam is having a career year, he is also not looking strong defensively. Like the later part of last year, he is getting every opportunity to excel. He is put into situations to best produce and not always having to prove his worth. While I like Gagner's offensive game at times, he is not strong on the cycle, can be knocked off the puck too easy by opposition and defensively has difficulty playing the Center position against larger players with good size. In the meantime I will just continue to watch him perform and enjoy it while I can.

Hemsky is showing Oiler fans and Management his true skill
Granted Ales is looking to have regained his magic touch. On the other hand, with the skill he is surrounded with nowadays, I would be amazed if he was not producing. When you put out more skill on the ice, the other team can't focus in on just Hemsky. I will give him this, he is definitely driving more shots to the net and that has to be a bonus.

My largest frustration with Hemsky is when he takes the puck in, he is very predictable to cycle behind the net and come around to the other half boards before taking a shot or sending off a pass that the opposing team intercepts and puts the Oilers on the defense again. As great a skill he has in passing, he should be able to set up Yakupov for great one-timers but that does not seem to happen often as he carries the puck too much IMO.

Dubynk continuely allows a bad goal or two every game costing the Oilers games
Always interesting how non-Goalies judge goaltending. Until you have played the position it is very difficult to imagine how difficult this is. The greatest goalies, still will let in soft goals once in awhile. Question you need to ask yourself is, 'Does he continually cost us a game with letting in a soft goal?' I hear people saying Dubynk let in a soft goal or two and cost us the game! Really? Did you see those three breakways he stopped? At least 1 or 2 should have been a Goal against him! You can't expect a Goaltender to stop every puck especially when they are high quality chances, which the Oilers are still prone to do in lapses. You critique for a soft goal, then you need to give credit for a save that was incredible.

With the run support that Dubynk has had to this point, he is showing the NHL he is the real deal. The verdict is still out over a longer season but Dubynk has shown great Poise to date. I am not concerned about his game, it continues to improve.

Krueger needs to start line matching even if only at home
He mentioned at season's start he did not want to do much line matching unless games were on the line and a extra 2-3 minutes of line-matching was required to win a game or tie a game. He wants to not overwork his players with such a intense and short season. I think we need to still give him time to show us, if that strategy is working or not. If this team falls out of the playoff race coming back from their 9 game road trip, I would expect, you may see more line-matching. Should they still be in the hunt for  play-off spot, expect more of the same.

The Oilers need bigger and stronger players in their Top 6
Really? And where do you get them from? The Oilers have tried drafting some but with no success, Very few NHL teams have good ones worthy of top 6 time. Most teams covet the same and big power forwards are a risky bunch. Their game can drop off on any given season and maybe pick up the following.  I have no concerns about our 1st line. it's our second line and for me it is at Center.

The Oilers can barely score, this is looking like another year of the same 'big suck'
I actually meant to have this post up before the last game vs the Avalance but as I figured they would start to score sooner or later. It's been weird and crazy they have not. This is the NHL, I don't expect this every night but every 3rd or 4th game this should be the norm of 4 or more goals down the road.

The Oilers are in every game, they are learning more how to stay calm and be patient, they are learning how to keep pressure in the offensive zone with cycling and defensively doing much better in moving that puck out. Biggest problem for me is the amount of dumb penalties they have taken in the offensive zone. Won't 'suck' big time but they are young and still learning, we do need to give them a little room for error's, just not repeated ones.

RNH still is not a #1 Center until he can win face-offs
Nugent-Hopkins currently sits at a 40.7% FO rating. Dave Bolland of the BlackHawks is sitting at 42.6% and is known for his ability to win faceoffs. Hanzel, who some have said would be a good 2nd line center for us is only 42.8%, yet last year some people wanted him to win Faceoffs for us.Sean Couturier is only at 44.2% and the Great Malkin is at 45.2%. Mike Richards is at 45.3% and Stamkos is only at 47%.

My point? RNH is still learning the game and may never be over 50%, Malkin has not, yet few talk about him in the same way. Ryan has really developed and worked on his defensive two-way game this year and few have recognized the work that takes. His FO% will get better but for right now, facing the toughest competition and still growing stronger and bigger each year, Ryan is all right with me.

Where do I think the Oilers will be sitting coming off their 9 game road trip?
Currently the Oilers after 14 games ,are sitting at 20th spot. If the Oilers finished at this spot at season's end, according to my REVS Top 15 NHL Entry Draft Prospect list ,they would be picking 11th Overall. That would give them...Anthony Duclair! Craig Button's list would give them Zachary Fucale. ISS rankings would give Edmonton Curtis Lazar, Hockey Prospectus would see Valeri Nichushkin enter into the fray and Bob McKenzie's list would have Alex Wennberg join the Oilers.    My pick? I like Curtis Lazar and Valeri Nichushkin. I think we will still see the Oilers sitting around 20th place in the league upon their return back to Rexall Place. Anything better would be a healthy sign of growth.

This is a year where we could see some drastic changes to be certain but don't discount a rather big trade still. Every trade still requires a partner and believe me, the Oilers are working hard but do not want to risk the future for a quick fix. Right now it has been about assessment at this point and trying to figure out what they really have in some of their call ups this year and their returning veterans. I predict excitement and frustration as this years continues on. Were getting closer but not their yet.

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