Stars at Oilers backstory

There's good news and there's good news, I'll let you decide which is which. The one is that I'm back from a rather more productive road trip than the Oilers had, and the other is that there are now officially rocks in my head.

Better still, the hockey gods have finally answered my regular entreaties and delivered me up a pair of tickets for tonight's Dallas at Edmonton game. So this pregame blurb will be rather short, but I'll have a game report in the comments or separate post much later on.

All this should have me in a good mood, and it does. Except for these odd nagging doubts. First and foremost among them is what has happened to our third defence pairing. Guys like Steve Staios and Jason Strudwick (pictured, with puck entering wrong net) are supposed to shore up the back end and give the team steady, solid service. But there is just no way of getting past numbers like these over the past 6 games:

Date - OPP: 24 / 43
11/17 @DET: -1 / -1
11-18 @CBJ: -1 / -1
11-20 vDET: EV / -1
11-26 vLAK: -1 / -1
11-29 @STL: -1 / -1
11-30 @DAL: -1 / -1

Simply put, these guys are getting Owned, every game. Even before this: between them, they've had 15 minus games in the last 9 Oilers games.

Veteran defencemen like Staios and Strudwick aren't necessarily supposed to win you games, but they're not supposed to lose them either. Oilers have lost three of the last four by one goal, all in regulation. Those -1s look like lost standings points to me ... in fact, the difference between a regulation tie and a 1-goal loss is actually more like 1.5 points, assuming an equal distribution of Bettman points.

It's not just on the scoreboard. Over the season, at even strength the Oilers have been outshot 158-78 with Strudwick on the ice, a staggering 2:1 ratio. If you prefer the per/60 metric, make it 38-19 in shots on goal with Strudwick on the ice. Is it any surprise they've been outscored 10-5?

In the past 6 games it has only gotten much, much worse. Oil have been outscored 6-0 with Strudwick on the ice, and outshot 48-15. I haven't done the micromath but at his season's average of 12:37 ES TOI/GP that would be in about 75 minutes of action. Egads.

But wait a minute, you say, these guys kill penalties. True enough: over the last four games, Strudwick was twice on the ice for 2 PP GA, the one-goal losses against Detroit and Dallas. Over those four games, Strudwick has amassed 9:02 SH TOI during which time the opposition has scored those four goals. Again, for those who prefer per 60 metric, that's a cool -26.6 per hour over that short period of time.

Staios is barely better. he's been outshot 176-107 on the season and 43-19 over those 6 games. He's been on for 3 PPGA in 10:40 the last four games, including the ghastly game winner by Modano late in regulation in which Steady Steve seemed to be completely unaware of the concept of passing lanes and was frozen in the ice like a big ol' meteorite.

On the PP, and on offence generally, these two guys are a complete nonentity. When they're out there, the game gets played, badly, in their zone. The team shots differential on the season is -58. Staios is -69 and Strudwick -80; with these guys on the bench, the team is positive. That's insane.

But what's really insane is this. Ladislav Smid continues to rot in the press box with occasional opportunities to ferment up on the wing. Smid has been on the ice for exactly 1 ES GA all season. Yet MacT continues to show faith in his veterans (even though technically Smid is more of a MacT vet than the Oiler newcomer Strudwick is) who are routinely on the ice for an ESGA every game.

The last log on this particular fire is the fact Strudwick was advertised as a swing man, a guy who could move up and play wing when the situation required. If one of these guys needs to play up front for 4 or 5 minutes once in a while, I sure in heck would rather it was Strudwick. Better yet, I'd rather he was shipped direct to the press box for awhile. He has not been helping the hockey club for some weeks now.

Oh well, tonight I get the four-dimensional, live view. Hopefully that view will include a #5 and not a #43, but whoever, it's GOILERS!

Enjoy the game, everybody!


raventalon40 said...

COOL! You're with the Royal Astronomical Society! Great work with the meteorite finds. What kind of tests are they doing at the University?

The fireball associated with the meteorite fall occurred on 2008 November 20 at 5:26.43 MST. It was observed by thousands of people across the prairies, and sparked a range of reactions from delight and wonder to fear and loathing.

As long as no cults organize any mass suicides in Lloydminster, all is well...

Bruce said...

Well it's the day after tomorrow, and that one sure drew a lot of commentary, what?

Oh well, I promised some feedback to the game itself, so here goes. To be honest it was nothing special, just an early December meeting of two struggling teams. Lots of scrambly hockey.

Oilers scored early and just often enough to hold off a late Stars rally. Hemsky got a gift empty-netter and Cogliano an even later ES goal on a fine rush with Gagner and Schremp which looked good on the highlight reels but meant absolutely nothing, other than maybe a little confidence boost for the players involved. It also boosted Cogs' Sh% to 20.0% on the season, even higher than last year's "unsustainable" 18.4%. This is one of those microstats I'm following with interest this season. My own bet -- written down somewhere at the end of last season -- is that with his speed and knack of materializing in socring position he will always be a high percentage shooter. He doesn't waste shots from outside, either, thus a shot rate of under 1.5/GP.

As for Strudwick and Staios, not only did they not bleed their usual goal against, the Oilers carried the play when they were out there. In a game where ES shots were 18-17 Oilers, Strudwick was on for 9 Oilers shots and only 4 against; Staios had an even more impressive 10-3. Go figure. I guess they had to turn around that brutal stretch at some point, but my first impression is it was something of a fluke game. I guess we'll see.

Up front 27-10-83 had an effective night, by far the best Oilers' line. Penner was an impressive +13 in the Corsi dept., with the Oilers attempting 17 ES shots when he was out there, Dallas just 4. Penner also drew the penalty that led to Visnovsky's PP goal, to which he further contributed with a good pass and his massive presence in front of the net. Horcoff had an excellent all-around game as well, while Hemsky had a weird night. To my eye he couldn't do much right all game, put his teammates offside a couple of times, couldn't get his passes to connect, had a couple of giveaways (and I remember all 4 of them!), and when he did burst into the zone as only he can, he seemed to just circle the perimeter without taking the play to the net. Still and all Ales wound up with 2 points, a cheap 2nd assist on Horcoff's early long shot and a cheap empty-netter on a brutal Dallas giveaway. When you can play as poorly as Ales seemed to and still walk away with 2 points, maybe you've arrived!

I kept a close eye on a few players that were new to the Oilers since last I saw a meaningful game live:

#26 Erik Cole -- drew another penalty, which seems to be his biggest contribution to this club. Time and again, he would get the puck only to get easily stripped of it as he tried to accelerate. The Dallas defenders weren't respecting his speed and backing off but going right after him early before he really got the wheels going, and Erik wasn't very effective at protecting the puck. Seemed frustrated.

#43 Jason Strudwick -- Big guy, but painfully slow and lumbering skater who seemed to arrive a split second too late to establish the best position. Played hard, though, and wasn't a liability on this night.

#71 Lubomir Visnovsky -- Small, stocky, skilled, and smart. When things go wrong he can look bad momentarily, but a large percentage of the time he makes it look so easy one can lose sight of how good he is.

#85 Liam Reddox -- played 7:13, every second of it at evens. Took a penalty for goalie interference, otherwise didn't seem to accomplish much. I barely noticed him, truth be told.

#88 Rob Schremp -- Got a solid audition on the Kid Line and played the Robert role well. Nice sharp pass to Pouliot for the eventual game winner, got a wicked shot that forced a fine stop by Turco in the third, and acted as a decoy by driving the net hard on the late Cogliano goal. Played OK defensively, was on for one GA and took an unnecessary penalty, but overall gets a passing grade. Certainly deserves a longer look during the time Nilsson is out.

Now it's right back on the road for yet another back-to-back, the Oilers' EIGHTH of the young season. Three in four nights yet again as well. With the wrap-up game in San Jose against the powerful Sharks, Oilers absolutely need a big effort, and a win, in Los Angeles tonight.

Bruce said...

Raven: Thanks. No cults that I've heard of, other than of crazy astronomers, geologists, and treasure hunters looking for needles in a hayfield. Nonetheless, very exciting times and lots of fun besides.

Ender said...

Do you work at the Space Science Centre as well? (Or Telus World, or whatever they're calling it these days...)

Bruce said...

Hi Ender, and welcome. I never did compliment you on the unpopular but nonetheless largely correct stance you took on a spirited debate on one of the blogs a while back, I was too late to that show to provide much support but you hung in there pretty good and made a point that needed making. Can't recall all the details, just that you took your eye away from the statistical microscope and looked at the big picture.

re: your question, yes, I work there sometimes on contract and sometimes as a volunteer. Last week's road trip was entirely voluntary, and turned out to be one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

Ender said...

Thanks. I know I'm unpopular on some of the blogs, and tend to avoid posting on them because of that. Most of the time my posts are misunderstood, but apparently I just have a knack for making people misunderstand.

The reason I asked about the space science center is because you might actually know my wife. She volunteered there a few years back and I may have even met you one night around a telescope without realizing it (looking at your asteroid pictures - you look familiar). You know Jenn Gelinas?

Bruce said...

Ender: I sure do know Jennifer. Is she old enough to marry now? Lucky you. One of the smartest people it's been my privilege to work with, and a real sweet person besides.

Tell her Bruce says hi, and I hope she married well. :D Come back and see us sometime.

Ender said...

That's funny. Did I meet you a year or two ago at the observatory? The mosquitoes ate me alive that night.

We're in Vancouver right now, as she's started her Pediatric Neurology residency this summer. You'd think the PhD in Neuroscience would be enough, but apparently not. She's working overnight tonight, but I'll promise you this: she'll be super-jealous that you got to go on the meteorite hunt.

Oh, and I like to think she married well ;)