Flames 6, Oilers 4 -- player gradings

I have offered to assist in David Staples' latest project over at Cult of Hockey, namely to grade the Oilers' players on a game-by-game basis. This is a collective effort, I'm just one member of a team of markers.

The scoring system is as follows: 10, perfect game; 9, extraordinary game; 8, great game; 7, good game; 6, above average game; 5, average game; 4, below average game; 3, bad game; 2, terrible game; 1, trade this player or send him to the minors.

This game was different from the Ottawa game and yet in many ways it was the same. Unlike the home contest against the sad sack Sens playing their third game in four nights on a western road trip, this time it was the Oilers who were the tired road team against a rested home favourite. And whereas the Oilers couldn't get the lead against Ottawa, against the Flames they couldn't hold the lead.

However, both games were tied after both the first and second periods, and both games were lost in the third. Both times the Oilers took one penalty in the third, and both times they didn't even come close to killing it. Instead, it killed them.

Having watched the PK unit fritter away two more games with a dreadful 4-for-8 record, I am running out of patience with a group of players who can't kill penalties (or avoid taking unnecessary ones), with a coaching staff that can't seem to teach the skill or the system, and with a management team which continues to sit on its hands while a gaping flaw seriously damages any playoff hopes this squad might have. The Oilers have allowed a league worst 1.17 PPGA/G; 28 clubs are at 1.00 or better, with only defensive lightweight Atlanta even in the same area code in terms of ineptitude. Attention: Management, this is a serious problem.

A not unrelated problem concerns faceoffs, where Oilers rank 27th in the NHL. For the second straight night the Oilers won just 38% of their draws and began far too many plays, including both special teams, without the puck. Again it's a puzzle that this skill is neither being successfully taught or addressed by way of player acquisition.

With that off my chest, on to the player ratings of another New Year's Eve loss in Calgary, an uneven performance in which two lines played well and two did not:

Ladislav Smid - 5: A solid, safe night with 0 GA in 16 minutes of action. Corsi number of -10 suggests play was in the bad end a little too often. Nice to hear Ray Ferraro confirm my observation of Smid's emerging confidence, especially in the area of breakout passes.

Shawn Horcoff - 3: A grisly night for my favourite Oiler. Was officially -3 in 14:07 at EV, was on for 2 more GA in 3:41 SH, while generating 0 GF in 5:20 on the PP. Bottom line, Oilers were outscored 5-0 in the 23 minutes Horcoff was on the ice. A lot of that was against Iginla's line, sure; Jarome himself schooled Horcoff by a similar 5-0 count in the faceoff circle, including all three faceoffs that immediately preceded the three Flames' powerplay goals. Horc finished the night just 8-16, 33% in the circle. His 3 shots on goal all came late with the Oilers down by 2 and shooting from everywhere; he had none with the game on the line. ES Corsi was -8. Had a hit, a takeaway and 2 blocks so was trying hard on the defensive side of the puck, but didn't get it done.

Robert Nilsson - 7: Was the polar opposite of Horcoff, as the Oilers outscored Calgary 4-0 in the 16:24 Nilsson was on the ice. Scored a powerplay goal, otherwise not involved in the scoring other than contributing to the flow of an effective line. Decent night defensively as well. Always seems to play well in his home town. Wish I could say the same of a more of his teammates.

Andrew Cogliano - 4: 2 shots, 2 blocks, 3 hits = a decent effort. Struggled in the circle yet again (2-8, 20%), and his line was badly outshot against medium opposition.

Ethan Moreau - 3: Compiled a spectacularly bad Corsi number of -17 in just 11:20 of EV play, as Calgary attempted 24 shots in that time, Oilers just 7. Was also burned on the decisive PPGA when Iginla outmuscled both him and Cole at the Oiler blueline. Was the second best captain on the ice by a very wide margin.

Steve Staios - 3: -1 in 14:26 at EV, and on for all 3 Calgary PPG in just 4:55 SH. Has struggled badly on the PK all year, both to my eye and statistically.

Erik Cole - 6: Has been Oilers' best player of late. 1-1-2, +2, with a team-leading 6 shots and 3 hits. Alas, like many Oilers, had a tough night on special teams, getting burned for the critical GA in just 1:27 SH TOI, and producing nothing in 5:11 on the PP.

Dustin Penner - 4: Played a much stronger and more involved game than against Ottawa, but didn't get it done. -2.

Dwayne Roloson - 4: Had enough offensive support to at least earn one standings point but didn't get it done. Aucoin's tying goal through his legs was a bit weak, and Boyd's 5-3 goal off a sloppy rebound killed any hope, and eventually stood up as the game winner. Hard to blame him on Iginla's darts, but didn't make the Big save either.

Denis Grebeshkov - 7: High event game to put it mildly. "Gretzbeshkov" was in on every Oiler goal (1-3-4), but was on for one EV GA, one PP GA, and was himself in the box for the game-turning 4-3 goal early in the third. Oilers outshot Calgary 17-10 at EV with Grebs on the ice.

Jason Strudwick - 7: The fourth line was the least of Oilers worries on this night. Oilers outshot Calgary 4-0 with Strudwick on the ice. Had a hit, a takeaway, and absolutely no negative events.

Sheldon Souray - 3: Similar night to Horcoff. -2 at EV, 2 GA in 3:43 SH TOI, and 0 GF in 7:04 on the PP. Moreover, was sitting in the box himself for Aucoin's tying goal after taking a silly delay of game penalty with a 150-foot slapshot over the glass. Ugly night all the way around.

Zack Stortini - 7: Like Strudwick had a very solid, safe game on the fourth line. On a night the team Corsi number was -10, Stortini posted a team leading +7 in his 8 minutes, allowing just 1 attempted shot to the Flames against 8 for the good guys. A shot, a couple of hits, and no negative events and no worries. Moved the puck sharply and in the right direction all night.

Kyle Brodziak - 7: Centred that effective fourth line, posting 3 shots, 3 hits, and 3 blocks. His Corsi of +1 indicates he did less well in spot duty on other lines. At 9-9, 50% was the best of the Oilers in the faceoff circle, and was one of the few PKers who didn't get burned for a GA.
Gilbert Brule - 3: Posted an unflattering Corsi of -13 in just 8:45, and took a rockhead tripping penalty off a lost offensive zone faceoff which led to the 2-2 goal. Didn't have much jump, perhaps due to a late-night call-up and all-day flight.

Lubomir Visnovsky - 6: Decent night at EV, scored a goal, a couple of shots, 4 blocks. But like everybody on the first PP unit, didn't get anything done in 6:55.

Tom Gilbert - 6: Had a far more effective game than his regular partner Souray, contributing an assist on a second-unit powerplay goal and another on Cole's meaningless late tally. Wasn't on for a Calgary goal in his 17:21.

Liam Reddox - 3: Tried hard (3 hits), but was outclassed in a match-up against Cammalleri. Oilers were outshot 7-2 with Reddox on the ice, and outscored 2-0. Brutal night for the rejigged "first" line on a night the Oilers badly missed Ales Hemsky.

Sam Gagner - 7: Centred the club's strongest line, posting 0-2-2, +2. Was on the ice for all 4 Oiler goals and just the empty net GA. Took another in a troublesome series of penalties, which happened to be one of the two penalties the Oil actually killed off. This is one team that can't afford bad penalties, though, and Sam needs to nip this trend in the bud.


Jonathan said...

I like it, Bruce. Not the results, obviously, but a very nice job grading.

This fourth line is interesting to watch - Stortini and Brodziak seem to be coming on, and Strudwick's looked worlds better as a forward than a defenseman.

Bruce said...

Jonathan: Thanks. It was a very stratified performance last night, with two lines badly outmatched and the other two playing well. I gave out way more 3's than I normally would, or would like, but we had a few bad performances last night that collectively cost Oilers the hockey game.

MikeP said...

Man you're a hard marker. (Can't speak to the Calgary game since I didn't see it, but...)

Maybe we'll need a ... SomethingCute number... to correct for things at the end of the year. Knock a point off my grades and/or add one to yours. ;)


Bruce said...

Mike: I dunno, your average for the Ottawa game was 5.8 and mine 5.4. I agree with Staples that the actual numbers matter less than the ordering, since we're essentially comparing Oilers to Oilers. Yours and my big discrepancy on the Ottawa game was on Penner, who I very nearly gave a 2 for a brutal performance. In the end I decided on "bad game" over "terrible game".

In the Calgary game where two lines and two defencemen got destroyed the average was still 5.1, which is Staples' definition of an average game. Considering we Lost both games in regulation, I don't think that's overly harsh.

MikeP said...

I guess my reaction is more because I tend to cluster players around 5/6, with the occasional 7/8 and the occasional 4. Dunno if I've given 3 or less. You've got a bigger spread, whereas I'm inclined to think an average player will make mistakes. I don't think most Oilers have usually been individually BAD this year, but they've not been GOOD either, and that's the problem.

I must think more about my grading strategy, although I guess for the balance of the season I'll need to stay the course, just so my own grades will be consistent.

Doogie2K said...

Don't forget Visnovsky also had the giveaway that led directly to one of the Iginla goals (the first, I believe). Hacked the puck up right onto Conroy's stick, and the Oilers didn't see it again until after the goal.

Also, Samwise probably deserved a third assist for skating right in Kipper's face as Vish was making the pass to Nilsson for his goal, which delayed Kipper's reaction just enough to let the goal in. Great game for the Kiddish Line.

Bruce said...

You're right Doogie, I even recall making a comment on the GDT about Lubo getting owned (twice) by Conroy behin d the goal line. Forgot about that in my grading. Subtract 1. (-1 seems about right, doesn't it?)

Doogie2K said...

Seems reasonable to me. Very up and down game for Our Man Vish.