Edmonton - Detroit Post-Game: Ol' Yellow Pants is Back

Kudos to Mr. Derek Zona for rustling up this enlightened bit of citizen journalism from our friends at HFBoards, or as I like to call it the septic tank of hockey fandom:

Khabi was great, again.

Now, if you think that Nikolai Khabibulin was a plus player for the Oilers tonight, I'm sorry, but you need to go back to selling outboard motors or something. I don't mean to pick on HFBoards (well, I do), but the Khabibulin fetish in this fandom is reaching unacceptable proportions. He allowed five goals, four of which had some odour on them and one of which (here's looking at you, Jonathan Ericsson) ought to have been stopped by an American league goaltender, to say nothing of an NHL one. Yet Khabibulin continues to receive nothing but praise except when he overtly gives the game away, as he did in the first contest against Calgary.

Oh, sure, he had a couple good games during the hot streak there, but you didn't fool me, Maginot Line! I'm wise to your tricks. I saw Bill Ranford coax an entire NHL career out of one playoff run. Four million bucks could have a couple of NHL players instead of an overpriced, very average pensioner. But no, Steve Tambellini had to be the guy who buys a new car while his child support payments are in arrears, and we're paying the price.

Our NHL players were very good today. Horpensky, reunited, killed like April Wine in the eighties. Grebeshkov and Gilbert, our decent defensemen, very nearly sawed off despite being in a hell of a pickle as our last good pairing. It was lovely. If we had more guys like that, maybe we'd be getting somewhere.

No, don't get me wrong, friends. I may have reserved my lede paragraphs for anti-Russian vitriol, but Khabibulin was far from this team's biggest problem tonight. Actually, this team was the biggest problem.


I cannot dare to sum up the Oilers' decrepitude better than the Corsi numbers, dredged up by Bruce in the game day thread. Ethan Moreau was -14 in eight and a half minutes. Nilsson, Gagner, and Cogliano combined for -33. Jason Strudwick and Theo Peckham combined for -30, and it's saying something when Jason Strudwick doesn't look like the worst player on his defensive pairing.

What a shambles. What a complete and utter travesty that game was. Jean-Francois Jacques banged in his goal and generally wasn't much of a detriment for his fifteen minutes of ice time, but he (and his linemate Gilbert Brule) were the Oilers only non-Horpensky forwards who didn't make me want to take hemlock. And Pat Quinn thundered obliviously through it all. There's something to be said for rolling lines, but the only way Andrew Cogliano should have been off the bench for seventeen minutes was if it was on fire.

Skeptics will argue that we can't possibly play Horpensky sixty minutes a night. To which my reply is "could it really get any worse?"

Ah, right. Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, and Dustin Penner, the Oilers three stars of the game. How were they? Brilliant, of course. It was the same old story, with Penner and Hemsky dancing like gods and the centre simply doing what he could. It reminded me of the debut of Gagpensky, in fact; perhaps the best solution is to just rotate centres through Penner and Hemsky and see what happens (Rob Schremp would have averaged a hat trick per game if we still had him).

I almost think Hemsky and Penner were put on this team to mock us. The Oilers are so utterly, utterly, completely awful at forward except for those two guys who seem to be from a future where hockey players have become indestructible cyborgs. We fall into the pits of despair and then that duo drags us out and throws us, cursing and crying, into the light of their genius. Then the Kid Line climbs over the boards and our misery returns tenfold for we know what we are missing.

In this scenario, Ethan Moreau is some combination of the Devil, lumps in a new jug of milk from the shady convenience store, and Hitler.

The Copper & Blue Reverse Three Stars (or: The Only Part of That Game Horpensky Won't Dominate):

18th Star: D Theo Peckham. Well, look who's back! I like Theo Peckham as a prospect. He's got a plus shot, he hits hard, he skates surprisingly well. I was high on him when we drafted him from the Owen Sound Attack and I've had no cause to revise that opinion - well, until this most recent callup. This team hasn't got enough legitimate players to give Peckham the shielding he needs, but it's still startling the extent to which he's become roadkill. He's making Jason Strudwick look like the responsible player. Taylor Chorney is not only outplaying Peckham but doing so decisively, while last year in Springfield Peckham dominated Chorney in every possible category.

Is it just the pressure getting to Peckham? This is certainly more responsibility than he should have on his plate with his level of experience. But at the same time, Peckham is getting worked over so badly we're going to find him in Whyte Avenue with a chalk outline around him.

What this team needs is Souray and Visnovsky back, then we can work Peckham in slowly. Fifteen minutes a night, dregs competition. Let him get his sea legs and let him find the game. This shock therapy thing isn't working, but for want of warm bodies I suppose the Oilers don't have much of a choice.

19th Star: G Nikolai Khabibulin. Stank. Do I have to go over this again? He is an average goaltender making elite goaltender money with a term that will almost certainly see him become a below-average goaltender. With the money we spent on him, we could have plucked up two terrific journeyman forwards off of the free agency heap and still had enough to bring in Craig Anderson or Martin Biron, and we'd be three or four games above .500 right now. One move screwed this team six ways from Sunday because our GM wanted a magic bullet.

20th Star: LW Ethan Moreau: Like any good mediocre author, I'm going to recycle an old joke of mine from Twitter, in response to a jibe from Matt Fenwick about how Jarome Iginla is an "iconic captain".

"If Ethan Moreau is an icon, that icon is 'Recycle Bin'."

12:06 ice time, EV-1, Corsi -14, and every time the Oilers lose he publicly blames every player on the team except him and his buddies whenever a microphone is stuffed in his face. And this man is our captain. How can that locker room put up with this?

Season-to-Date Standings:

16 points: Jason Strudwick

11 points: Mike Comrie, Nikolai Khabibulin

9 points: Ethan Moreau

8 points: Denis Grebeshkov

6 points: Jean-Francois Jacques

5 points: Patrick O'Sullivan

4 points: Theo Peckham

3 points: Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Stone

1 point: Tom Gilbert, Ales Hemsky

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