When Daryl Katz took control of the Oilers after the Edmonton Investors Group had passed away, Shawn Horcoff was overjoyed and wanted to speak with the new owner (he had judiciously avoided the previous owners, fearing that if they saw him he would surely be traded). So Katz's men called for Horcoff, gave him a large contract, and then let him speak. Horcoff said, "Thank you most kindly. I can only hope this is a sign of things to come! You see, our previous owners would never spend money, and would always trade players away. They could sustain a competitive team, but our best players were always leaving town. If you lighten your grip on your wallet, and let us retain our best players the people here will love you and would build you an arena without hesitation!" Katz answered, "You can go now. Come back in two years, and I will give you my answer." So Horcoff left, new contract in hand and content that all would be well.
Then Katz consulted with Lowe and MacTavish, the advisors who had served under the previous owners and asked him, "How do you think I should answer this request?" So Lowe said, "If you hold on to the best players that this team has and add more good players to them, the people will no doubt love and serve you, just as Horcoff said. I have added Visnovsky and Cole already, and..." "And now we just need a center to replace Stoll!" MacTavish screamed glaring at his longtime partner.
But Katz rejected the answer given to him by the old advisors and looked to a new man for advice. He asked him, "What do you think? How should I answer this request?" Tambellini replied, "The culture here is rotten. You need to make Lowe nothing but a figurehead immediately, and I'll make sure to sabotage MacTavish. I won't get him that center, and I'll get rid of Cole for less than nothing, and then we can ditch that coach and bring in some men I know well. As for Horcoff and the people, if they think old Cal was hard on them, they're in for a big surprise! We need to rebuild! The old owners sold players? We'll sell even more! They sold out of poverty? We'll sell by design! If it was perilous to connect emotionally to players before, we will make it downright impossible! And then BAM! Stanley Cup."
Nashville Predators (32-23-8) @ Edmonton Oilers (20-35-8)
Rexall Place, 7:30 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet West
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
Slumps at any time are terrible, but they're especially terrible when it looks like you've got a playoff spot locked up if you can just manage mediocrity the rest of the way. The last time these two teams met, the Predators were looking very good, ten games above fake .500 and fourth in the Western Conference, it looked like they could coast home with average play (a point percentage of about .550). But they then lost to the Oilers, and went 4-4-1 over their next nine, which leaves them only nine games above fake .500 and sitting ninth (by points percentage) in the West. The playoff race is extremely tight, and a poor ten-game stretch now leaves the Predators vulnerable.
Edmonton Oilers (20-35-8):
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Jones - Gagner - Omark
Jacques - Brule - Reddox
Smid - Gilbert
Vandermeer - Foster
Petiot - Strudwick
Nashville Predators (32-23-8)
Wilson - Legwand - Hornqvist
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Erat
Spaling - Smithson - Ward
Tootoo - Geoffrion - Halischuk
Suter - Weber
Klein - Blum
Franson - O'Brien
By the Numbers:
- Richard Petiot was called up by the Oilers and he's earned it. He performed well in camp, and the last time I looked at Quality of Competition for the Barons, Petiot was looking good, +6 at even strength, second on the team in EV points, and near the top of the list in terms of the quality of his opponents. Here's hoping he shows well during his time in Edmonton.
- The Predators are one of four NHL teams without a twenty-goal scorer at this time. The other three teams are the Phoenix Coyotes, the Ottawa Senators, and the Florida Panthers. It's interesting that two of those teams are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, while the other two are cellar-dwellers in the East.
- Jerred Smithson is taking on a big defensive role with the Predators this season. He leads the team in short-handed ice time (2:56 per game), and he's got one of the most difficult EV end-zone faceoff ratios in the entire league (66.4% of his end-zone draws have been in the defensive zone). The impetus for this usage would seem to be his faceoff prowess - he's taken more draws than anyone else on the team (791) despite playing only 14:49 per game, which places him ninth among Predator forwards. This would seem to imply that he's taking a lot of FOGO shifts, which helps to explain his poor (though by no means dreadful) Corsi rate. And I can see why. His overall faceoff percentage is already strong (56.5%), but as a guy who plays the PK but not the PP, his EV FO% is even better (58.1%). And here's the key. The Predators know that they've got a valuable player here, so have given him a new two-year contract starting next season for $800,000 per year.
- Mike Fisher has been playing huge minutes since arriving from Ottawa. It's only been eight games, but his 18:41 per game is the most on the team, but his performance in those minutes has probably been a little bit less than desired - a minus four rating while the team accumulates a losing record (3-4-1 since the trade) probably isn't what the Predators had in mind.
- Four first round picks were moved at the deadline this season, compared to just one last season and two in 2009 (although one of the two was a 2010 first rounder). The last time at least that many picks were moved at or around the deadline was in 2007 when seven different first round picks were moved in the month of February. I don't know how good an indicator that is about draft quality, but I'd say it's a small down arrow for the mid-range of this year's draft class.