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Oilers Roundtable Discussion, 1/3 of the way through the season - Part II

It's been all about disappointments and Dustin Penner thus far for the Oilers.  Who's has suffered the biggest letdown, and besides Big Pun, who has surprised the group?

Our lineup includes: the prolix Shepso, combining modern western philosophy and hockey at Bringing Back The Glory; Chappy, owner of This is Not a Love Song; HBomb, everyone's favorite bartender in the Oilers' 'sphere;  Dawgbone, the pragmatic commentor that writes too infrequently at After The Green Light; Doogie2k, the go-to guy on physiology working at Still No Name; everyone's favorite antagonist Ender, Doogie's partner in crime at Still No Name; and SumOil, a frequent commenter here and the biggest optimist that any of us know. 

Find the entire series here, tagged 2009 midseason roundtable

The conversation continues after the jump.

3. Who or what has been the biggest disappointment thus far?

Shepso:  I hate to say it, as I called him as the player to watch last time (though I did also pray to the gods for Penner) has been Patrick O’Sullivan. He started off strong and has just disappeared, shootout brilliance not withstanding. He tried really hard and gave great efforts at the start of the season, but the well appears to be dry now. Aside from Patty O, the return of Grebs on Acid hasn’t been fun. I hope he gets it out of his system while he’s on the IR. The Wall really hasn’t been great, but I know he too is trying very hard and has been working with a mostly AHL caliber of defense in front of him so I can’t justify ripping into him just now. I’ll save that for year three of his contract. Finally, Nilsson’s horrific -12 makes him my absolute worst goat of the team thus far.

As far as situational disappointments, I assumed Tom Renney’s PK would be a lot better thus far. I am also really confused about the deployment of Andrew Cogliano. He has speed, he has hands, he has o-zone awareness, yet he has been lugging around dead weight for much of the season. His game is more suited to the wing, yet he is insisting upon playing center while Duff Man was apparently brought in to play the wing. I like 91 centering 18 and 46 a lot more than 13.

Finally, and this is more of a heartbreaker then a disappointment; the flare-up of Fernando’s colitis is just so tragic for one of the best guys to play for this team in a number of years. I know this sentiment has been and will continue to be echoed throughout the blogging community and the city of Edmonton as a whole. Good Luck Fernando, we all miss you and wish you luck and a quick recovery.

Chappy:  He's starting to turn it around, but I'd really like to see a bit more from Shawn Horcoff.

HBomb:  Patrick O'Sullivan would get my vote.  The guy can shoot the puck, but he has no finish whatsoever.   He's like Joffrey Lupul in that he's got a slow release and takes time to get his shot off at full power, but when he does, it's impressive.  Unlike Lupul, however, O'Sullivan's skill-set prevent him from achieving absolute uselessness when he's not scoring.   He's not a lost cause, but at the same time, he's probably very available as a trade asset if Tambellini ever decides to try and improve this hockey club.

Dawgbone:  Without a doubt Shawn Horcoff.  In past years when he wasn't scoring he was at least generating scoring chances and doing a good job at getting the puck going the other way.  This year nothing was going right for him early, and while things have gotten better, he still isn't having much luck (it seems any mistake he makes ends up in the back of the net).  What's really troublesome is that he's not even taking draws anymore.  Hopefully that's just a sign of tightness in his shoulder as opposed to an actual injury.  Another disappointment this year has been Andrew Cogliano.  28 shots in 23 games is not enough, especially with his speed and ability to create his own shot.  His biggest downfall has been missing the net.  Among all forwards who have 20 or more SOG, Cogliano has the worst % of actually getting his shots on net (28 SOG on 39 attempts).  That's defenceman territory.

Doogie2k: Probably Patty O'Lanterns.  I swear, that kid must have an extra NOT gate in the circuitry that decides whether to pass or shoot: so many times, I've seen him pass when he had a lane, or shoot a muffin into the goalie's logo when there's been an open man.  And speaking of muffins to the chest, I've also never seen so many shots directly at the goaltender from an alleged goal-scorer.  Seriously, when was the last time there were so many bad decisions in someone paid that much?  (Oh, wait, I watched Alexei Kovalev in Montreal last year.  Never mind.)

Ender:  Cogliano.  Yes, he's been stapled to Moreau, but with the guy's skill level there's no way he shouldn't have charged up the roster like Gagner has.  Maybe if their roles were reversed their stats would be as well, but Cogliano seems to have more or less given up on a 1st or 2nd line role, which is super disappointing - though it'll likely help with the cap.

Other than that, obviously my biggest disappointment has been seeing a healthy OIlers team for what? 2 games this season?

SumOil: I will like to answer this question as who AND what has been the biggest disappointment. There are many things wrong with this team-lack of intensity, lack of actual NHL players etc..etc..but the two biggest disappointments so far have been

a. Gilbert b. Passive Oilers management.

Tom Gilbert: Gilbert has been one of my favorite oiler in the last 2 seasons. After his 45 point season last year, I expected Gilbert to be an even better defenseman this season. I thought he will get way better defensively while regressing a little in his offesive production. This season has been a disappointment. His offensive game seems non-existent and he hasnt inspired any confidence with his defensive play either. He has regressed so much since last season, that if traded for Stafford at this moment, we will have robbed Buffalo. Gilbert is a good, smart hockey player just entering his prime, and its time he starts playing like one. 

Oilers Management: Oilers management has been as passive as a monk this season. They seem to have an excuse for everything and are probably more optimistic about this team's chances of making the playoffs than a certain fan we all know ;). Make a damn move. We need a defensively responsible center who can win face-offs(after Hemsky's injury, we also need a top 6 forward but that can be a start). If not that, make a trade for the sake of making one. This might wake up the players who have gotten too comfortable with their lazy play knowing that their jobs are secure. There are many teams that struggling like the Oilers and will like to trade to send a message to the players. But no our GM wants to wait till 2020 untill the roster gets healthy. If we have learnt one thing in the last 3 years, it is that some one or the other is always injured(flukey one or not) and a definite plan B is a necessity.


4. Who, aside from Dustin Penner, has been the most pleasant surprise?

Shepso:  I’m thrilled about the emergence of the real Dustin Penner. Last year I wrote about the unfortunate mistake that was MacT’s disciplinary strategy and the effect it must have had on DP’s development.  Feel free to read it - I think it was my best work last season. Anyhoo, I am really rather proud of how he has rebounded and think he is the best player on the team by leaps and bounds. However, it is one of the other pieces of the former Heatley puzzle that has been the most pleasant surprise; Ladi Smid +7. That is what we needed from him. He makes great decisions with the puck, he hits, his skating is much better, and he just looks really happy to be on this team right now. That to me is the best news of the year. Quite frankly, the kid has been an absolute gem, and when paired with Lubo, looks capable of being an all-star shutdown defenceman. 

Chappy:  Having seen a lot of rubber in their own end,  I think our goaltending has been our best asset so far.  I think Nikolai Khabibulin has held the team together nicely since his gaffe in game 1.  Should Khabibulin need a break (and I see him needing a few more than he's gotten so far) Deslauriers is showing that he can fill in nicely for 20-25 games.  I'm very impressed at our goaltending tandem.  Here's hoping Khabibulin comes back sooner rather than later from his back flare-up.

HBomb:  Gilbert Brule's showing some promise.   Yes, he's got some warts on his game, but he can finish and his faceoff ability isn't Cogliano-esque.  Before he was hurt, Ryan Stone was the runaway winner in this category.   Did anyone expect him to even make the hockey club?

Dawgbone:  Vishnovsky.  We all knew how good he was before he got hurt, but the question was could he come back from it?  I think that answer is a resounding yes.  Aside from needing some time early in the year to get back into gear, he picked up where he left off last year.  He's been so good that I'm convinced that the Oilers make the playoffs last year if he didn't get hurt.  Another pleasant surprise has been Brule.  I was never a big fan of his, he reminded me a lot of Jani Rita.  Very obvious skills that jumped out, but never in a position to use them.  In the games I saw last year Brule was running around all over the ice and was never in position to make a play.  This year he's been much better at finding lanes and attacking from in front of the puck as opposed to from behind the puck.

Doogie2k: I'm gonna stick with my original answer and say Ladislav Smid.  Sure, playing with Lubomir Visnovsky will do that for you, and yeah, he was my personal Golden Rooster for the most recent Blackhawks game, but in most of the games I've watched, his decision-making has been much better and much calmer, he's been more willing to pinch to keep a play alive, and he's lost his man far less often than in past years.  I know his on-ice SCD/15 year-over-year doesn't seem bear out this improvement at first glance, but considering that as a team, the Oilers have been much worse in the scoring-chance department this year, I'll take the relative stagnation as a sign of improvement.

Ender:  I've been pretty happy with both of the goaltenders, which was the biggest question-mark for me coming in.  From what I've seen they both easily have the skill to make it happen and while they both terrify me while handling the puck, I'm ok with my Penner-esque complaints against them.  I said this about Penner last year and I'll say it about these guys this year - It's great that they can play at the level they do, but when they seem asleep in 1/3-1/2 of their games it pisses me off.  If the results are there regardless, great, but my god I'd feel more confident watching the game if they got off of the Benadryl.

SumOil: There is one player who has has the biggest improvement from for the Oilers and that is Smid. However the player who has surprised me the most is Gilbert Brule. Last season when he was called up,he struggled in the big show. His performance in the A did not inspire much confidence in his play either. During the pre-season there was a lot of talk about him getting Brodziak's role as the 4th line center. Most of us felt that this was more to do with his draft pedigree than him earning his due. However, Brule has been one of those positive contributors this season. He hasn't been able to replace Brodziak as he isnt as defensively reliable, but has consistently provided the team with secondary scoring. Early on, being on a line with Penner did help his stats and when(finally) Penner was promoted to the top line, many of us feared that his scoring will slow down considerably. However, he is third among all forwards in scoring and 2nd in goals. Quoting Bruce McCurdy after Brule's performance against the Sharks:

"Brulé is no Hemsky obviously but I'm starting to think we might have an Actual NHL Player™ on our hands. He's showing some real intensity to go with a nose for the net and a quick release."