Friday, January 26, 2007

That Time of Year Again

It's after the All-Star break, or as I refer to it: Snoozapalooza 2007. It's always boring, but usually the skills competition is fun to watch. However, I was bored out of my mind. I'm beginning to think the All-Star game is completely useless. They need to revamp it up or something. But when your hard-core fan from Canada finds it boring, how are you ever going to get the interst of those casual American fans?

Oilers play San Jose tonight. It's that time of year, where the Oilers find their game and struggle to get into the playoffs. They usually limp into the playoffs (last year) or can be the hottest team down the stretch and miss the playoffs. So get limping boys......

I seriously do not know if this team can put it together. But they have the experience of playoff runs before, so you think the pressure should not get to them. Been there, done that....right? They've had the Sharks number all year and last, so I'm predicting a nice victory for the Oilers. Let's say 4-2, hat trick to Sykora. He's due.

Update: Another horrible game. Oilers lose again 13-0 (okay, 5-1 but does it matter?). Not sure what can fix this team, or what can help this current group of players to actually show up each night and play. Of course it doesn't help when the game is called one-sided. How many hooking penalties did the Oilers take (actually were given, cause sure there was some hooking but on both sides. Guess who got most of the calls? Yup, your Oilers. Almost every game I go to, this is the story).

Yes they need a puck moving defenseman. But I think the issue has more to do with coaching. The current personnel should be able to get the job done. Obviously they need to take some blame. However, watching tonight's game (hell, any Oilers game), you notice something lacking. No passion, no drive....nothing. Not everyone is floating out there. Tonight, Stoll was a one-man show, skating hard and trying to get this team going. If only the rest of the team could get motivated.

So MacT.....what's going on? You can't seem to get this team motivated. Also, the coaching strategy is interesting. Everyone is screaming for a puck-moving d-man, but if you even got one, I'm sure no passes would be made and they'd be ringing it around the boards to get it out. Practically every single time, they ring it around the boards. Again and again. The amount that they do that, it has to be coming from the coach. MAC, IT'S NOT WORKING. It's not only the defensemen, the forwards do it also. MacT, let's try something radical. I know it's cutting edge, but here goes: Pass the puck. Oooooh, don't get freaked out. All the other teams are doing it. I know you're scared, scared of giving up the puck, scared of missing the pass but let's just give it a try. One game, let's make some passes. Or something even crazier: let the d-man skate with the puck out of the zone. I know, this is radical thinking. Bergeron has all this speed, but never uses it. Make him. Light a fire under him.

Okay, once they get it into the offensive zone, they can't sustain the pressure. Where is the forecheck? Where is the physical play? Use the body, turnovers occur and voila, you have a scoring chance. The forwards, other than Stoll (and Horcoff tonight), are just floating out there. Yeah, I'm talking to you again Lupul. Even Sykora and Hemsky are out of sorts. Maybe this is the time to bring out the blender. Yes, during a losing streak, not a winning streak.

It'll be interesting to see what Kevin Lowe can do. I read somewhere that Lowe does a great job with trades, unless he's forced into it. I'm beginning to agree (pronger, weight, comrie). He's being forced here, in a way. But who the hell wants any of our players? Does anyone really want a Lupul right now, with the way he's playing? He's the invisible man. I forget he's on this team practically on a nightly basis. I'm being serious. Half way through the game, I notice #15 is on the ice, and I'm like, oh shit, he's playing. I'd love for Lowe to trade him, but does anyone really want him?

Maybe tonight's game was due to the All-Star break, coming out sluggish. Maybe tomorrow they'll get their legs going and get into the game. It's hard to be optimistic right now. I'm having a hard time seeing them make the playoffs, and that's hard to think about. If anyone can put it together down the stretch, I believe they can. Yup, been there and done that. They know it can be done. They just need some confidence. I hope they find some.....soon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Battle of Alberta

So with two wins in a row, yes let's even call it a winning streak, the Oilers go for number three tonight against the Flames. Which team will show up? The Oilers from the first period of the Ducks game or the Oilers from the second and third periods? Let's hope the latter.

After being pushed around like a bunch of little girls lately, the Oilers finally showed some physical play vs the Ducks. And now they have called up Zack Stortini, and hopefully this time he'll play.

This is something I do not understand about this year's team: their lack of physical play. Last year, they were physical, forechecking hard and this in turn created many scoring chances. This year, the boys are so timid. Jason Smith isn't laying out the opposition much. Even Torres, who we all know can make those big open ice hits, is sitting back. This team seems to be afraid to make a mistake, get out of position and give up a scoring chance. Well, when you play with no intensity or physicality, that is what happens.

Game Day updates:

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton — Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed public bone) is doubtful. Ales Hemsky (upper body) is questionable. Steve Staios (knee) is out. Jarret Stoll (fractured nose) is out. Raffi Torres (flu) is questionable;

LINEUP UPDATE (11:10 AM): Raffi Torres was ill and did not take the morning skate. He will be a gametime decision. Ales Hemsky is also a gametime decision while Jarret Stoll will not play.

So we could be down a few forwards tonight. Yikes. Looks like Ryan Smyth will have to keep carrying the offensive (although Sykora has been hot against the Flames but needs his little buddy Hemsky).

Eight hours until the puck drops. I'll be at Rexall as usual to cheer on the boys. With three points out of the playoffs and four points behind Calgary, this is another big game. They all are at this point. Oilers have to start winning against their divisional opponents. Oh good news, Iginla finally admitted he's out for at least a month. hahahahhaha. Now only if the Flames would start losing. Actually, they really suck on the road (lost 16 of 22) so let's hope that trend continues!!!

Oilers will win 3-1, with goals by Sykora, Smyth and Horcoff.

update: Oilers lose 4-0.

Some thoughts from tonight:

-bad penalty call on Roli led to goal one (he was apparently in the no-fly zone, ahuh sure)
-horrible second goal, Roli should have had it
-Hemmer and Smid cause third goal
-game over

-Flames are very ladylike. Everyone refused to fight Stortini. What a bunch of pansies.
-Dion Phaneuf should change his name to Celine.
-Stortini gets a 10 min misconduct for doing nothing. Another good call refs.
-Nice to see Smith fight
-Good hip check by Bergeron
-Kipper played fine, not spectacular. Gave up lots of rebounds but the Oilers were NEVER in the right spot to pounce on it

Oilers, please fire Craig Simpson. With Stoll injured and unable to play the point on the powerplay tonight, guess who Simpson put out in his place? Peterson. Who? Yeah exactly. Nice to see Simpson really mixing things up.

While I drove home after the game, I was listening to 630 CHED and their post-Oiler show. A caller mentioned that Ryan Smyth wants $6 - 6.5 million instead of the $5 - 5.5 mill. we've been hearing. Could that possibly be true? I thought Smitty was pushing it at $5 million, but $6 million??? I have one thought on that, if it's true: trade the greedy bastard.

Anyways, in conclusion: It is VERY tough being an Oilers fan right now.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

They let that one slip away

So we lost to Minnesota again and now we're 3 points behind them for the final playoff spot. They owned us last year, winning 6 of 8. Is this going to be more of the same? We're 1-1 so far. That also means we play Minnesota 6 times in the second half the season, including back-to-back games on the road near the end of the season. UGH!! Please change the schedule. All this divisional play is too much. You can't create rivalries. You need to boost the ones that already exist. There are discussions right now about possibly changing the schedule, to make sure everyone plays at least once. I'm on board with that. At the minimum, make sure all Canadian teams play each other. I don't give a shit about seeing Atlanta or Florida, I want the Canadian teams.

Tonight is the Battle of Alberta. I'm not sure what to expect. We saw the Oilers take 5 of 6 points on their road trip, then come home and lose to Minnesota. That was a game they should have won. How many chances did they have? And especially on the powerkill. I've never seen so many short-handed chances. Another game they let slip away.

Oh yes, back to Calgary. So the next week has Edmonton playing Calgary twice, back to Minnesota (zzzzzzzz) and the Pronger-less Ducks coming back to town. These are all must wins, especially our divisional games (which we are 7-8-1 against our divisional rivals. Ouch). This could be the season for real. Win all four, we're good going into the All-Star break. That also gives Lowe time to make a deal.

Everyone has been on Lowe's ass for not making the deals, myself included. But let's step away from his ass for a moment. Everyone knows the Oilers need defense, and that makes the price very steep. We can't give up our future for an unknown present. So that brings us back to the next week. If the Oilers can win 3 of 4 (hopefully the 3 against our division), we're still in the playoff picture so deal away Kevin, deal away. If we can't win, and fall further behind in the standings, is it time to consider becoming sellers and start building for next year? I hate to even think that, I hate to see our team give up, but you need to be realistic.

So I will remain slightly positive, hope the boys realize the gravity of the situation and really push hard tonight. I'm predicting an Oiler victory tonight, 4-1.

update: Ryan Smyth is an All-Star. But we already knew that.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pull it together boys!!

Time is ticking away on the Oilers season. The next two weeks will probably determine whether they make the playoffs or not. They play 7 games, starting with tonight's game in LA. That's 14 points to be had. Tonight is the second game of a three game road trip. Time to start winning on the road. Their record is 6-11-2. Ouch.

So going into tonight's game, they are seven points behind Vancouver (ouch again) but only three points out of the playoffs. It's definitely in reach, but everyone needs to play better (except Smyth). Everyone else.

Thoresen was recalled from the farm team and Pouliot and Jacques were sent down (finally, a brain is working in MacT). In two games for the farm team, Thoresen had a goal and three assists. Irreverent Oiler Fans talked about this move as a precursor to upcoming trades. We all hope so.

So if trades are to be had, who is coming and who is going? Rumors have been swirling over a possible Torres/Lupul for Pitkanen. Quite a steep price for a defenseman who is having a horrible year with the Flyers. I know very little about this player. Is he a good defenseman? Is he a defensive or offensive kind of D-man? Is is only having a bad year because the Flyers suck so much, it's contagious to all the teammates??

So other trades? I never thought I would say this, but what about Smitty?? He's a free agent after this season, and is not resigned yet. How hard is Kevin Lowe trying to resign him? Is Smitty demanding too much? Do you mortage your team and its future for him? A few months ago I would say hell yes. Now, I'm not so sure. He was offered a good deal before the season started ($4 mill a year for 3 years). He obviously turned it down, but what happened? Why didn't Smitty keep negotiating. He could have countered with his own offer, and got this done. It makes me think he doesn't want to be here. If that's the case, we must trade him before the deadline if he can't be resigned. We'll get some good prospects and probably a first round draft pick (maybe even a player who is NHL ready now?).

Trade deadline is February 27th. So the Oilers have two courses of action: trade now to keep in the playoff race. Trade later to rebuild for next year. Both could possibly happen. We all hope it's the first option and only the first. The last three games, sure two losses (in OT and the shootout) but the team played better. It's a start.

So let's be optimistic for our boys. The playoffs are within reach, put it together Oilers!!!

update: Oilers win 2-1 in OT with rookie Hedja scoring the winning goal. Good victory for the boys. They outchanced LA and dominated the game. Too bad they couldn't snag a few more goals but that 2 points puts us one point out of the playoffs (1 pt behind Minnesota, and tied with Colorado).

Friday, January 05, 2007

More of the same

Did that really happen? What a bloody goal. Hemsky is amazing, but even more amazing was how stupid Dallas is. That's what you get for your showboating Patrik Stefan.

Well you can't be completely happy about Thursday's game with Dallas. First, the Oilers blow a 4-1 lead. They played the first half of the game great. I think all the fans were thinking, hmmm after a nice win over Florida and a 4-1 lead over Dallas, is our team finally back? Umm, no. No, no, and no. Yes they gutted it out, played until the end and tied the game up only to lose in the horrible shootout.

Memo to Gary Bettman: GET RID OF THE SHOOTOUT. I hate it so much. It's so wrong to end a game with the shootout. Maybe I could get on board with it if the overtime lasted longer. 5 minutes is not very long. At least make it 10 or even better, a whole 20 min period. Then go to the shootout.

The Oilers are about to take the ice in Vancouver, and I am not sure what to think. What team will show up, and will they stay around for the whole game?? Let's just hope they don't get embarrassed. I'm assuming Jussi starts tonight (update: Roloson is in net. MacT, what the hell are you thinking? You have a goalie, not playing his best. He's a bit aged, and yet you have him playing on back-to-back nights. Roli needs more rest. This speaks volumes, you don't trust Jussi. You need to give him more starts).

Smid is out; nothing serious but probably out for at least a week. Maybe this is a good thing, and gives the kid some rest. I love the kid, but he's a rookie and has been playing some serious veteran minutes. So it could be a good thing.

Oh yes, Oilers claimed Petr Nedved off waivers this week. Surprise! Kevin Lowe makes a deal finally, but wait, it's not for a defenseman?? He's watching the same team we are, right? Cause this team needs help ASAP. With picking up Nedved, he's stocking up on forwards and maybe it's Horcoff that will be going.

So Petr returns to Edmonton, minus one supermodel. For those living under a rock, Nedved played for Edmonton down the homestretch in 2004 and almost single-handedly dragged Edmonton into the playoffs. After the season, he decided to leave for sunny Phoenix since his supermodel wife did not want to live here (that sounds familiar, does it not?). Well the marriage is kaput and Petr is back in Edmonton after being offered up to everyone, like a cheap whore. After a third time on waivers, we finally claimed him (rumor was Ottawa was going to take him, but after we nabbed him, they traded for Mike Comrie. Ugh good one Ottawa).

So with Petr having the worst year of his career, Lowe jumped at the chance to snag him (for a damn good deal, about $600,000). He scored a powerplay goal versus Dallas, so a good start. But is this the answer to our woes? Is this the answer to anyone's woes?? Ummm probably not. We'll see if he can revive his career, cause it's on life-support right now.

On a positive note, Canada won GOLD at the World Junior Championships today, smacking Russia around with a 4-2 win. Way to go boys!!!