Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scoring Chances - Games 62-71

This set of ten games may have been the softest part of the schedule that the Oilers will have all season as the majority of the games are against teams that will miss the playoffs and there were no games against the best very best teams in either Conference. The Oilers took advantage of this by playing point-filled .500 hockey with fully six games going to overtime (I like to pretend that they went 7-3-0 instead of 5-1-4). Thanks to Dennis' work on scoring chances here we have an opportunity to see if the Oilers were value for their results.

(For those unfamiliar with the metric a player is awarded a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The results are broken down into three game states, EV (even strength), PP (Power Play) and SH (Short-Handed). The players are organized according to their jersey numbers.)

Games Sixty-two Through Seventy-One, February 28 to March 20:
21=Potulny and 21*=Kotalik

This is the first segment that includes both Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan so I thought I'd start with them. Kotalik is struggling at EV which won't surprise very many observers but the -8 he put up against Chicago is the majority of that shortfall. That said, the Chicago game is the only one played against a top ten team in the league. At least he can score in the shoot-out. O'Sullivan has managed to play the opposition to a tie at EV and has stabilized a top line that had been bleeding badly. To put in perspective how bad things were Shawn Horcoff was -37 in the 8 games between Feb. 21 and Mar. 10. They started coming out of it before O'Sullivan made his way to 1LW, but things are working there now, which is very important.

As was mentioned with Kotalik, both Nilsson (-8) and Gagner (-5) had a terrible game against Chicago (a tremendous pass, a nice breakaway goal and a walk-off shot in the shootout will mask a whole lot of bad). In their other games, both guys played really well. Hopefully yesterday was just a blip but it may also be indicative of the fact that they were playing against some tougher competition in Chicago than they'd had to in the recent past.

The "third" line managed to do quite well in this segment. Cogliano and Pisani have been the pair that's stuck together and they both ended up close to even. The captain only played half of the games, but this is his first segment in the black. Congratulations Ethan.

Marc Pouliot > Liam Reddox (It's sad that Reddox was injured against Chicago but the result will be the Oilers icing their best possible line-up although not against Boogaardville). The only thing worse than Reddox has been the PP. You don't even need ice time to see that those chance numbers are pathetic.

As for the defense, Denis Grebeskov is still looking good even without Visnovsky. He might be the real deal which puts the Oilers in an awkward spot this summer. They really can't afford to pay him what he's worth so contract negotiations could get interesting. If they could somehow convince him to take a one-year deal they'd have a much better idea of what the 2010 cap holds and could then adjust but it sounds like he wants a multi-year contract instead. His situation is the most interesting of the summer. Until then, I'll make sure to enjoy his play.

So were the Oilers full value for their results? Probably not. But it doesn't matter! The Oilers are now in pretty good position for the playoffs and would really need to blow up not to make it... which means that the next time I throw out a ten game review either we'll all be gearing up for round one or it will be after the first ten games of next season.


dstaples said...

If the Oilers need to unload an older guy or Gilbert or Penner -- or if they're able to do so -- they should do it and lock up Grebeshkov, who is a better bet over the next five years than any of them . . .
P.S. Thanks for the update, Scott. Useful info.

Scott said...

You're welcome David.

The situation with Grebeshkov is a doozy. I don't think you can move Penner and sign Grebs because it would shift the budget so heavily to the defenders that it would be difficult to replace Penner on the first line with any kind of quality - the money would already be spent. Depending on how cheaply they can get Grebs done my preference would be to send Staios away and go cheaper on the goalies to come up with about 3.5M. The biggest problem there is that he'll probably want more than that on a longer term deal.

Failing that, they'll either need to move Grebs or move a bigger piece from the blue but there isn't a good option among them. Visnovsky was far and away the best this season so I don't think you can move him. Gilbert is on the cheapest contract and is the lowest risk on injury. Souray would be my pick but then we lose out on his physical play and leadership as well as his scoring, not to mention the fact that he has a no-movement clause so the return would be sub-par. Which brings us back to Grebeshkov. It really is a salary pickle at this stage.

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