Thoughts on the Oilers: Progress; Heavy Teams; Yakupov Struggling; Omark vs Schremp; International Hockey

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

The month of December has thankfully come to an end for the Oilers. The Oilers won five games out of 15, and went on a six-game losing streak. Taylor Hall has been the lone bright spot on the team, driving the offence. Unfortunately, the team defense continues to weigh down the club.

It’s been a long season, but I think it’s been a vast improvement from last year. There are obviously some major issues, but the team itself is in the first year of it’s second rebuild. A new GM, a new coach and new tactics have to be given some time to see progress. MacTavish has made a ton of moves since coming in and appears to be active in acquiring much needed help. And before critiquing MacTavish, consider the absolute mess that Tambellini left behind.

Heavy Teams

Anytime the Oilers play the likes of St. Louis, Los Angeles or Boston, the discussion of “heavy teams” pops up. It’s a common misconception that size alone can boost a team’s success. The only time size plays an actual role in game outcomes is when it’s used effectively to protect the puck. Possession is critical for success, and size CAN play a factor. But all too often, we see average sized players protect the puck well. Players from a very young age are taught proper skating and body positioning to protect the puck and regain possession. So why size is always trumpeted as the key to success doesn’t make sense to me.

Yakupov Struggling

It’s tough watching the young Russian spend more time on the bench, and recently the pressbox. The guy has a lot of offensive talent, but unfortunately his defensive game is still a  work in progress. Why teams think they can develop guy in the major leagues is beyond me. Eighteen year olds, unless they have some exceptional talent like Ovechkin and Crosby, should spend at least 50 games in the minor leagues before making the jump. A well developed minor league system can develop a player properly and give them time to adjust to the pace of the NHL

As for Yak, it would be easy to suggest that he be sent to the minors. But at this point, considering he had some success last season, it would be beneficial to give him real NHL linemates that can cover for him defensively, rather than pairing him with enforcers.

Omark vs Schremp

I took some heat last week for suggesting that Omark should not be compared to former Oiler Rob Schremp. I just don’t recall Schremp being anything more than a one-dimensional player, whereas Omark has received significant praise for his all-round game.

          Wasting Linus Omark – The Copper and Blue

Schremp’s advanced stats aren’t available, so judging by his boxcar stats alone, nothing stands out. Schremp also had a lot of negative reviews from scouts even before joining the Oilers and has since been a marginal hockey player.

          AHL Prospect Rankings: #8 Rob Schremp – OilersNation

International Hockey

I’m not a follower of junior hockey, but I do keep tabs on which European teams are making progress. It’s a good sign when more countries are improving year to year, as I think the game overall needs to evolve. Hockey will always be limited to a small number of countries, but the more nations involved, the more ideas and tactics can be introduced.

Recommended Links

The State of the Edmonton Oilers: It’s bad but not as bad as it looks – Cult of Hockey

Advanced Stats Crash Course: Possession (Part 1) – FlamesNation

Man of Action – OilersNation

A Look Back at the Oilers 2013 – The Copper and Blue

Thoughts on the Oilers: Winning Streak; Shots on Net; Goaltending; Realistic Expectations

Source: TSN.ca

Source: TSN.ca

Amazing what a three-game winning streak can do. Since the Oilers embarrassing streak of three straight home shutout losses, the team has bounced back scoring 15 goals to defeat the Flames, Blue Jackets and Panthers. In those three wins, the Oilers scored 14 straight goals before allowing one against the Panthers.

Shots, Shots, Shots

The Oilers continue to get more shots on net compared to last season.

The question becomes how good are the shots that the Oilers are taking. Michael Parkatti of Boys on the Bus has been tracking shot quality. His work is well worth reading as shot quality is a critical factor for team success.

The best part about winning is that the Oilers aren’t being mentioned in trade rumors. The majority of the stories being written are about the small things the Oilers are doing well, such as the powerplay and penalty kill.

Goaltending

The other positive of the winning streak is that Devan Dubnyk can continue playing without the chatter of Ilya Bryzgalov taking over. Pretty sure if the Oilers had lost any of the past three games since Bryzgalov joined the Oilers roster, there would be all sorts of content produced about the Russian netminder. I think the signing of Bryzgalov is a good one for the Oilers as they definitely enhanced their tandem. But the additional narratives about Bryzgalov’s character and his run-ins with the media are a bit much. This was quite apparent when he first arrived in Edmonton as very little was asked about his on-ice performance and more about his personality and attitude.

Realistic Expectations

But with all of the positives coming out, there is a harsh reality that the poor start to the season has already cost the team the playoffs. To make the playoffs in the Western Conference, a team would need about 95 points.  For the duration of the season (58 games) the Oilers would need to win games at the same rate as the best teams in the league to make the playoffs. Possible, sure, but the odds are firmly against this roster.

The advanced stats also suggest that the Oilers are headed to their eighth straight year out of the playoffs. Tyler Dellow put together a piece comparing team Corsi rates at the quarter pole of the season and how it’s a fairly clear indication of whether or not a team makes it to the playoffs.

NHL Teams Due to Rise Up, Fall Down Standings – Sportsnet

I can’t say I’m disappointed. My expectation going in to the season was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th place. This was mainly due to the fact the Oilers hired a new coach, started the season with one legit centreman (Boyd Gordon) and that the defense was weak compared to other Western Conference teams.

Recommended Links

Signs of Life – OilersNation

Defense Needed: Apply Within – The Copper and Blue

Of Note: Eakins on Forecheck – mc79hockey

How Devan Dubnyk Got His Groove Back – Oil on Whyte

Get Happy! – Lowetide