Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Freddy's Back!!

Ralph Krueger (not Freddy) is the Oilers new head coach.  Do I like the call?  Not really.  Do I hate it?  No.  I'm more meh on the whole situation.  First the Oilers let Renney hang out to dry for a month before they fired him.  Second, it took the Oilers a month and a half to hire Krueger.  Normally that would not be a problem but when you promote someone from within your own organization, you would assume it would not take months to accomplish.  Third, Krueger comes with no NHL head coaching experience.  While that is not a prerequisite for a successful NHL coach, I thought it might be the way to go.  Or go after one of those AHL rising stars. 
The Oilers are pimping Krueger's successful stint as the head coach of Team Swiss and in particular, ONE victory over Canada in 2006.  Sure that was an upset but should not be the reason you hire him.  You can say he took a not very talented Swiss team and made them into a quasi-hard team to play against.  It was all defense.  Krueger states he won't coach the Oilers the same way he did with the Swiss because the Oilers have better skilled players.  That is a positive. 

Oilers are pimping his role in the improvement in the Oilers powerplay.  I believe he probably played a role in that but do you not think maybe it was more to do with personnel (such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in particular) than with the coaching? 

Oilers are pimping his motivational skills.  I have no idea if this is accurate or not.  If it is, then he never said anything to anyone last year in terms of team motivation (not including his possible role in improving the powerplay).  Apparently he wrote a successful book in Germany.  Okay?

TSN's Dreger says the young Oilers really like him.  Also he claims to make everyone accountable for their actions.  If true, that is another positive.

I do not believe the Oilers 29th place finish last year is all on Tom Renney.  The Oilers did NOT provide enough NHL players for him.  Did he make mistakes?  Of course (hello Belanger on the powerplay point) but he was not the sole reason for 29th.  He improved the young players immensely.  He did not seem to have much affect on the veterans so maybe Krueger can light a fire under them. 

If Krueger does improve this team, it will not be his victory only.  It will be partly due to Renney, improvement of the young players and partly due to Tambellini giving him better supporting players this year.  Tambellini MUST sign better free agents.  The first test if Justin Schultz.  Can the Oilers with Krueger tempt him to sign here?  Does hiring Krueger help the Oilers case to free agents?  That is a big question and one I'm not sure of yet.

I'm still meh on this hiring but hope to be proved wrong. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Renney goners!

I've been a bad blogger.  I'm going to try to post a little more often.  Today a quickie:  Tom Renney is fired and speaks to the media.  Part of me is fine with firing Renney as I didn't love everything he did with the team.  This includes playing certain players a bit too much (Belanger on the powerplay, Khabibulin in the net too much in the first half and scratching Omark almost every game near the end of the season).  However, on the other hand, he did seem to get quite a bit out of the kids.  Hall and Eberle developed nicely this year with Eberle flirting in the top ten of scoring for a chunk of the year.  He brought Nugent-Hopkins along slowly even though the media and fans were screaming for more ice team, he took his time.  He limited his defensive zone starts and ice time until he was ready to handle more later in the season.  He relied on Horcoff and Smyth for the tough minutes and played them against the best opposition since the kids were not ready.

One thing I despise about the whole process was it took Tambellini over a month to drop the hammer.  Everyone knew he was getting the boot but Tambellini wanted Renney to relax, draw up a plan and come back later to discuss it.  Renney was very classy in his presser and took the high road.  The Oilers need to improve their reputation.

Next up, NHL draft in a month where the Oilers have the first overall pick again.  Please let this be the last time.  All the experts are saying Nail Yakupov is the man to take so therefore the Oilers should take him.  Trading down to take a defenseman would be a stupid move.  Defensemen take forever to develop and the Oilers should be able to find decent options via trade or free agency (hopefully Tambellini/Lowe sign better ones this off-season). 

I'm thinking about doing a podcast with a friend this fall....will let you know if it goes ahead.  I'm thinking it would be fun to discuss the Oilers....we do it all the time anyway so might as well tape it!

Go Oilers

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting ready to say good-bye

I do not remember when I first saw Ales Hemsky play for the Edmonton Oilers.  I do not remember when I became a fan.  I do not remember when he became my favorite Oilers hockey player.  I do remember more magical moments than I can count when Ales Hemsky was on the ice.

I remember game six verses Detroit in 2006 where he won the game with two spectacular tallies which clinched the series, the Oilers first in many years.  I remember that last second goal against Dallas when they missed the open net.  I remember Hemsky going to the tough areas every night and getting crushed from Regehr, Phaneuf, Kronwall, and so on.  I was in the arena on all of those nights and it was electrifying.  It STILL is.

My first year in Edmonton was 2003 and I became a season ticket holder in 2005 just in time for that magnificent run.  Hemsky has been the only player that made me jump out of my seat on a regular basis.  Could he have scored more goals?  Yes.  Could he have shot the puck more?  Absolutely.  However, you really need to appreciate him for who he is and he is a helluva play-maker.

If only he had anyone to pass to for the past decade.  Hemsky has not played with very good players during his Oilers tenure until this year.  He had almost a decade of linemates ranging from Horcoff to Smyth to Jacques to Pederson.  Personally I like and respect both Horcoff and Smyth as players but they have no business on a line with Ales.

Even with lesser teammates, Hemsky put up very good numbers.  Since the lockout, he is a 0.92 point per game player.  That ranks 29th of all players.  He is ahead of Rick Nash who sits at 0.89.  Nash has only one +70 point season while Hemsky has two.  Nash gets the edge on games played 438 to 360.  I'm comparing him to Nash simply because both are on the block right now and could be traded at the deadline next week.  They are both wingers but are quite different in playing styles.  Hemsky is a free agent this summer while Nash is locked in until 2018.  Hemsky's cap hit is $4.1m while Nash is $7.8m.  Hemsky is 28 years old while Nash is 27.

Rumors have Hemsky asking for a longer term deal (5 years) at roughly $5.5m.  Hemsky is making $5m this year while his cap hit is $4.1.  So do you consider the asking price to be high?  The amount is reasonable but term may be a bit high if the Oilers are hesitant due to injuries.   Has Hemsky been looked over by the doctors?  Are the shoulders completely healed?  Have you even looked into this???

Hemsky has been quite consistent over his decade-long Oilers career.  This is his FIRST major slump of his entire career but is coming off back-to-back shoulder surgeries.  It has taken him longer than expected to get comfortable again but considering this is his first major slump of his career, he still is putting up 0.56 points per game.  He is not on the first unit powerplay anymore, has not played a lot of minutes with Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins (Horcoff the most), is coming off shoulder surgery, is possibly a bit irritated the kids are getting all the attention (not sure I'm completely sold on that, Hemsky has never been a fame whore), playing the tough minutes and the toughest opposition so the kids can be sheltered....and all of this without a contract offer thus far after a decade of service.

The writing is on the wall.  Listen to most media and television commentators and they all seem to be promoting the party line:  Hemsky is lazy, injury-prone, does not care, is the first off ice in practice and is inconsistent.  When the folks at TSN start running him down, you know he is not long for this Oilers' world.

I think what irritates me the most is that the media cannot think for themselves.  You can disapprove of Hemsky due to the risk on injury but to call him lazy or inconsistent is blatantly untrue.  Until this year, Hemsky has been extremely consistent. Could he be more?  Most Oilers fans believe yes and that includes myself.  He has some mad skills and if he shot the puck more, his numbers would be even better.  But you have to accept the player you have (yes keep coaching him but accept this is, at the minimum, what you are getting). 

I want the Oilers to do their due diligence on this but considering that they had NOT had any contract talks until the last few weeks, I am not confident on that.  In fact, it took some media asking Hemsky point blank if there had been any talks and his reply was none to get the ball rolling.  The Oilers response was that they were talking to his agent about what he was looking for.  Make a god damn contract offer, don't "ASSESS" the situation to death.

This is why I believe the Oilers do not want Hemsky.  No contract offers have been made (as far as I've heard), it's a week until the trade deadline and the Oilers response to Hemsky via their media shills make it fairly evident.  Just do your job, find out if he will take a two or three year deal.  Make some actual contract offers and stop discussing things with his agent.  Give his agent a deal he can take to Hemsky so he can make a choice.  If he truly wants the moon, then it is goodbye to the most exciting Oilers' player of the past twenty years.  Just make sure he will not take a contract with less term.

Another reason why the Oilers do not want Hemsky?  Their eyes are filled with highlight reel goals from the kids.  The kids are being pimped on a daily basis and are promoted as the only future of the Oilers.  They will take the Oilers to the promise land.  They don't need Hemsky to play the tough minutes even though they are getting destroyed with the soft opposition they face already.  The Oilers must feel they do not need any secondary scoring.  The kids are the future.  That is all.  Nothing to see here folks.

The Oilers finished dead last two years in a row and will certainly finish in the bottom three this year.  Getting rid of NHL players is not what this team needs.  There is no one on the Oilers that will replace his points so you will have to get it by trade or free agency where you will overpay.  The Oilers under Tambellini have been HORRIBLE in pro-scouting and the majority of their free agent signings have been completely underwhelming (we're looking at you Sutton, Barker, Belanger, Hordichuk, Eager, Khabibulin just to name a few).  So if you think Hemsky is replaced by someone better during free agency:  either it will not happen because of management incompetence or if it does, it will be a giant overpay.

The Oilers have already resigned Potter and Sutton for next year.  Yes let's resign our current defensemen first before you get to the forward who has been on the team for a decade.  Yes the defense does not need an upgrade.  No need to overpay...oh wait they did for Sutton.

My eyes will be on Hemsky this last week and only Hemsky.  If the Oilers move him (I should say when), I hope he goes to a real contender and hope he returns to Edmonton this season and lights it up.  I NEVER cheer for players once they leave Edmonton (exceptions were Messier and Fuhr) but I will continue to show Hemsky the mad love and respect he deserves and hope he lights up the Oilers every single time.

The Prince of Pardubice has one more week in Oil Country.....just enjoy the show while you can.

Update:  Tencer (via Stauffer) tweeted that Hemsky is now open to a 2-3 year deal.  If that is the case, the Oilers cannot let Hemsky walk.  Hemsky is leaving money and years on the table.  He would easily get a 5 year deal this summer so this says to me he WANTS to be here.  This extension MUST happen.