Thursday, November 27, 2008

MacT's Lost the 'Sphere

Craig MacTavish is under fire. He has been since before the Stanley run in '06. Talk radio types have been calling for his head for years. But through it all, he's been steadfastly defended from 2 very distinct corners - Oilers Management and the Oilogosphere. Bloggers tend to love MacT - he's a smart man obviously, a smart coach, and a great quote. When the hoards rant that he ruins young players and can't coach talent, the generally level headed fans in the 'sphere defend. Point to a player that's gone on to have success after leaving MacTavish's side - outside of Cleary, who credits MacT for much of his turnaround. MacTavish took the most talented team he's been given to the Finals in '06 - three series were won on what was largely better game planning than the opposing coach.

Fast forward to 2008. Garon is on the bench, Gagner is killing penalties, Cole and Pisani playing out of position, and now Smid is a forward while last years Coaches Pet sits in the pressbox to watch 2 AHLers and a D-man play the 4th line minutes. I don't know if he's lost the ear of his team, but it appears the Coach has lost the 'Sphere.

Quotes from LT's GDT:
*I can't believe they're playing Strudwick over Smid. That's more senseless a decisionthan Gagner taking a PK shift or Garon not playing - Slipper

*Well you know I think they've quit on the coach. He's lost them. That's honestly how I feel, and anyone reading this blog knows there's a MacT bias. - Lowetide

*If that's the best they can come up with on home ice after 5 days rest, it's time for a change. This formula isn't working.....I can't explain half the stuff he's been doing, to be honest with you. More than half ... and I'm a MacT guy, trying hard to see the logic behind early season experimentation. - Bruce

*I've never been one to throw this out lightly but it honestly looks like a lot of guys have checked out mentally....It might be time for somebody to go and maybe both Peeters and MacT can fly to fuck. - Dennis

MacT's days would seem to be numbered.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So We Didn't Get a D-man in the Pronger Deal?

Laddy Smid moves up to the left wing slot from his normal D position against the Red Wings tonight. Pretty sure this is done to goad people into purchasing the PPV, because I can think of no other reason for it. Wasn't Strudwick advertised as a D-man who can play the wing? Couldn't he add toughness to the wing position? Would it not make more sense to do this little experiment agaisnt someone other than the Red Wings? How the hell is Smid going to win the Norris playing left wing?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


So, what's up with 08 anyway. We've got a new Get Smart movie, a new 90210, and a new Knight Rider (Hasselhoff free thankfully), new AC/DC, Metalica, and Guns N Roses(*more on this later) albums -when was the last time those three bands all released in the same year? We've got an upcoming Friday the 13th remake, and apparently Logan's Run, Conan the Barbarian, Hellraiser, and Death Wish all in the works. Claude Lemieux is attempting a comeback, apparently Henry Burris is the star of a new Blazing Saddles movie, and Dwayne Roloson is the Oilers starting goaltender.

Coming into last season the Oilers had Roloson coming off a fairly strong season on a very weak team as the incumbent starter with Matthieu Garon his newly signed backup. The plan was to have Garon play 25 or so games to rest off Roli - something the coaching staff was never confident enough to let Markanen do the year before. After a few early shaky starts, Garon emerged as the go to guy, buoyed by his unbelievable shootout performances, snatching the starting job from Roli and running with it until he seemed to run out of gas late in the year (we found out later that he had been playing through injury).

Coming into this season, the roles were reversed with JDD thrown in the mix just to make things a little more complicated. Garon was the number 1 with Roli and Deslauries expected to fight it out for the backup role. If Deslauries proved worthy then Roloson would likely be dealt for a bag of pucks at some point in the season if a taker could be found. Now, 20 games in and Roloson has more starts than the other two and shows no signs of giving the job back to Garon yet.

Lots of theories out there as to why this has happened, ranging from illness to injury to MacTavish just liking Roloson more. I don't really buy any of those. I just think Garon has done now in Edmonton what he's done in Montreal and LA in the past. He doesn't inspire confidence in his coaches. I especially don't buy the "likeability" argument. For one, Roloson is a cantankerous old prick so Garon can't be any worse. And two, didn't Garon take Roloson's job last year and get played by MacTavish to the point that it was obvious he was in need of a break? He also didn't look great in that first win of the year as the Oilers starter and came right back for games two and three. I speculated in a post below that his confidence is shot and he's become the victim of the three headed monster in the crease for the Oilers. I don't think he has the mental makeup of a starting goaltender - he's too easily threatened by the competition, and as soon as the "you win you play" tactics started, his game went south. He's got all the physical tools for sure, so why has he never stuck as a starter? I like Garon and hope he rebounds but he needs to get in and have one hell of a game to stick and I'm not sure he's wired that way - Roloson seems to be the exact opposite and I can see why he's succeeding. As for JDD - the poor guy gets the short end of the development stick again - lack of playing time has been what's held him back since turning pro.

*Anyway, this little tidbit inspired by the post at BoA regarding the new GNR album Chinese Democracy. Since it's release I've heard Paradise City, Civil War, November Rain, Patience, and Sweet Child o' Mine played regularly on various Edmonton radio stations and have yet to hear Chinese Democracy (I actually listened to it on youtube tonight after reading the BoA post)...weird. And has anyone ever made more money off three chords than AC/DC? Their stuff is good but damn, I here the start of one of their songs and think "Oh, AC/DC, turn it up....which one is this?"

Completely random inclusion. I saw the new Double OH Bourne Solace movie last night. reminded me of some other Spy Movie I saw recently. Nice to see the Bond franchise taken from the campy unbelievable stuff and deliver two real entertaining action movies in a row. Daniel Craig was an inspired choice to play Bond. I grew up with Roger Moore's bond, and let's be serious, a Roger Moore punch wouldn't knock my 4 year old daughter down. Since then, Timothy Daulton was doing wheelies in tractor trailers and Remington Steele smirked his way through some decent but heavy on the disbelief factor entries. These last two are the best Bond movies of my generation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seeing Stars

I'm going to go out on a limb here and proclaim JDD as one of the NHL's three stars this week. Going 2-0 while stopping 94 of 97 shots will not always do that for you. But doing it in back to back nights in New Jersey and New York might get a fella noticed. I'm guessing only 2nd star honors though if Dustin Boyd gets to play a few more games on Iggy's line.

Friday, November 7, 2008


This is Mathieu Garon wondering why the pucks along the ice are beating him more this year than last year....hmmm?

What's up with Garon early this season? One thing that I've noticed so far in his games is that Garon seems to be getting pieces of the puck as they go in. As a golatender, that is the worst feeling in the world and a serious confidence shaker. When I'm struggling with my game (as small a game as it is), I find that I get a lot of pieces of the puck - just never enough. It sucks - leaves you with the feeling of "geez I shoulda had that" instead of the "I just got beat cleanly, now shake it off and move on". I'm betting Garon is one frustrated man this day and he's been replaying goals from last nights loss all day in his mind thinking that one more save could have meant a win for his team.

Now, what causes a goalie to get pieces of shots? There's a few reasons:
1. You were in position but just got beat by an unstoppable shot. These ones happen all the time. Physics can tell you the reaction time of a goalie, the speed of his movements, the speeds of shots, etc. Some well placed shots are just physically impossible to stop, no matter how sharp the goalie is. I don't think this is the case with Matthieu.

2. Out of Position and Almost Recovered. These ones are similar to #1, ussually the result of a pretty passing play or fantastic deke where the goalie is momentarily out of position and recovers a split second too late. Again, I don't think this is the case.

3. Illness/Injury Sometimes, being injured or too sick to play is better for a goalie than being 95%. Skaters can play through this stuff a little easier and they can simplify their games a little when something is a little off. Goalies, not so much. Split seconds matter more in this position than any other. Getting little pieces often means for me that I'm a little sore, sick, or tired. I was there, I knew where the shot was going, and, as Maxwell Smart would say, I missed it by that much. This might be the case with Garon - he doesn't seem to cover the bottom of the net as well as he did last season and he may be still feeling the effects of last years season ending injury.

4. Confidence. I think goaltending compares very well with golf from a mental standpoint. Make a bad shot in golf and if you can't stop thinking about it things tend to snowball until ultimately your ball, several clubs, and the guy in your foursome who giggles, all end up in the lake. Bad performances in goal can often lead to others. Soft goals lead to bad decisions around the net. You think pass too much and lose an angle. You play too deep in your net, you play the shooter too aggressively. Not ussually the mark of an NHL starting goalie - ussually back ups and beer leaguers. Is anyone convinced Garon is started material yet? I think this is what's wrong. I think Matthieu is scared to lose and is not performing well as the middle head in the Oilers three headed netminding monster. Prior to the start of last nights game TSN showed a shot of Garon in the dressing room. The dude looked scared shitless - honestly. It gave me a bad feeling. I don't like this one bit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Resistence is Futile

I'm an avid reader of the Oilogosphere. I'm addicted and I admit it. The ideas and analysis and humor amongst the blogs and the comments are really second to none when it comes to entertaining reading for an Oilers fan. The one thing I'm bothered with though is the "groupthink" mentality of the originators of the sphere and their resistence to allowing the ideas of others take hold - to the point of it being comical. Now the boys don't like the groupthink lable at all....almost as much as Vic doesn't like "HF Clowns" with IQ's under 180 who have a hard time grasping the simplicity of Pearson's product moment coefficient - it's obvious no?

Anyways, I've been getting ready to move into a new (temporary) house while our new (permanent) house is under construction so I've been doing more reading than posting (read: Arguing about stupid shit on the internet) - but I read a gem of a post the other day, pretty much the culmination of a years worth of conversation, and it made me laugh. Actually it made me roll my eyes and shake my head. I didn't comment that day because I didn't want to be childish and petty - but after much soul searching I've realised I'm a pretty childish and petty person, so, It went something like this**:

HF Clown: We got Souray!

Sphere: Souray Sucks

Bruce: Actually, Souray is pretty reliable at what he does.

Dennis: Souray is a boat anchor.

Bruce: Souray has been playing really well this year - physical, putting up points, calmly breaking up plays.

Dennis: If we could get rid of him and pick up McLaren off waivers we'd be so much better.

HF Clown: Nobody wants McLaren - that's why he's on waivers.

Bruce: Another nice game from Souray tonight.

Dennis: Nobody in Edmonton ever watched Souray play while he was in Montreal - he's a third pairing guy and he sucks at that. I focused on him for years.

Bruce: Another nice game by Souray tonight.

LT: Souray is actually doing more than I thought he could.

Dennis: But he's an asshole - I've got a friend of a friends cousin that said so. He kicks puppies.

Vic: I don't know dennis, you're own data shows Souray to be playing pretty well - I'm impressed so far.

Dennis: Me too Vic - Souray's been playing great. And, he licks puppies.

**actual comments may vary - but you get my drift.

Monday, November 3, 2008


A debate has sparked up again over at Lowetides site regarding the usefulness of defenders - this time spurred on by the Smid post. Smid has played his way back into the Oilers regular lineup after being bumped off the opening day roster by vetern Jason Strudwick - a journeyman who was expected to be the Oilers #7. But an early injury to Strudwick just a few games in game gave young Smid another shot and he's been making the most of it. Aside from a fluke goal handed to Colorado by a lazy linesman, Smid has been the ultimate shutdown defender since his return, teams cannot score while Ladi's on the ice. It's been pointed out in the comments at LT's site that Smid has been the beneficiary of some stellar goal tending while he's on the ice (.981 SP is not too shabby as Bubbles would say). But at what point does goal tending effect defensive play, or be buoyed by good defense? The stats guys are always quick to point to save percentage while a fella is on the ice and say "he's been the beneficiary of an unsustainable goaltending streak". Fair enough - I doubt that Roli and Garon and Deslaurier will continue to stop 98 shots out of every 100 behind Smid. But could the hot goaltending streak be more attributed to the defenders on the ice and not be in spite of it?

I've always been a proponent of shot quality, I don't think it should be ignored when crunching numbers. In fact, I think the numbers - as neat as they can be - mean a whole lot less without the context of quality. And quality doesn't just mean location of the shot. Shot quality includes location, puck speed, player speed, player lateral movement, screens, even game situation. No two shots in a game situation are created equally and to track shot quality throughout a game is near impossible. Some shots should be stopped 100% of the time, some shots are impossible to stop, and there are a whole lotta in betweens. Now, just as some players are better at getting a goalie to freeze or move in the opposite direction of a shot, there are defenders that are better at directing shots wide or keeping the play to the outside where shots come from less dangerous positions and less dangerous situations.

So where is the effect greater? Does a goalie drag out the 4x6 sheet when a certain player is on the ice because he has to or because he can? It's a real catch 22. A conundrum if you will. A delima even. You get my drift. As a goaltender myself, I'd take the outside shots with clear looks everytime. It helps my SP go up, it keeps the defenders numbers in the black. Both players benefit - mutually advantageous if you will.