After two difficult seasons, Kevin Lowe and his disciples took another early vacation to Florida. While they were there, some people brought him a blind fool who was begging for a job. Lowe took the blind man off the resort and led him to Regina; there he placed his hands on the blind man's eyes to heal him saying, "What do you see?" The man replied, "I see people, but they all look like giant pylons except for that one little player. My first order of business will be adding more pylon-type players! Chemistry is important! This is what I've come here to see!"
A year later, Lowe and his disciples were again vacationing early when the blind fool returned begging for a job (he seemed to have forgotten he'd already been hired). Lowe again took the blind man off the resort, but this time led him to Sweden; he laid hands on him again and said, "What do you see?" The man replied, "I see people, but they're wearing funny uniforms with many advertisements; most times the advertisements are easy to see, but one of the players is too fast and the advertisements are a blur when he skates by. My first order of business will be convincing the league to allow advertisements on uniforms! Making money is important! I'll add many slow players in preparation! This is what I've come here to see!"
Half a year later, things were going very poorly indeed, so Lowe and his disciples decided to take an extended vacation in Florida after their mid-season meetings, and for yet a third time the blind fool returned begging for a job (even Lowe was dumbfounded by his obtuseness). So Lowe again took the blind man off the resort, this time leading him to Windsor; he laid hands on him again, and this time the man stared at the ice intently for a few seconds and his sight was restored. "Clarity! Clarity! Clarity!" He couldn't stop screaming it. "You took me to Regina to see the little player! Clarity! And to Sweden to see the fast player! Clarity! And now I'm here in Windsor to see the man with no fear! Clarity! Clarity! It's all so clear!" Lowe smiled and sent the man to Edmonton, saying, "This year, don't even think about an early vacation to Florida."
Florida Panthers (0-0-0) @ Edmonton Oilers (1-0-0)
Rexall Place, 6:00 p.m. MDT
Television: Sportsnet Edmonton
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
No team had a worse shot ratio than the Panthers last season; they were outshot by an average of 5.7 shots per game, the third worst season in that category since the lockout. The Panthers responded to that in the offseason by losing one of their best defenders (Keith Ballard), one of their best forwards (Nathan Horton), and a pretty nice utility forward (Dominic Moore). Those players were not adequately replaced in the offseason (their big additions were Dennis Wideman, Chris Higgins, and Steve Bernier). In my preseason predictions I picked the Oilers to finish dead last for a second consecutive season, but the Panthers were right there in 29th and could easily overtake them. For the Oilers, at least there's some hope for the future with young players like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, and Gilbert Brule in the lineup up front. The Panthers have Michael Frolik, Dmitri Kulikov and... that's about it for young talent under twenty-five in the NHL. This will probably be a long season in Florida.
Edmonton Oilers (1-0-0):
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Paajarvi - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Fraser - Stortini
Smid - Gilbert
Whitney - Foster
Vandermeer - Peckham
Florida Panthers (0-0-0)
Booth - Weiss - Reinprecht
Stillman - Frolik - Dvorak
Higgins - Olesz - Bernier
Hordichuk - Matthias -Santorelli
Allen - Wideman
Kulikov - McCabe
Garrison - Weaver
By the Numbers:
- The six Panthers' defenders in the lineup for tonight's game have played a combined 2,340 career regular season games. The six Oilers' defenders dressed for the game have played a combined 1,533 career regular season games. Bryan McCabe leads for the Panthers with 1,068, while Jim Vandermeer leads for the Oilers with only 375.
- Michael Frolik spent much of last season on the Panthers' top line, and he did very well. Despite taking on some of the toughest competition on the team (4th among thirteen forwards) at only 21 years old, Frolik managed the best Corsi rating among forwards (-3.52/60), scored the most EV goals on the team (16), and was one of only four Panthers to play in all 82 games. His two most common linemates last season were Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss. When they were on the ice with Frolik and the score tied, Horton's Corsi% was 49.6%, and Weiss' was 51.0%. When they were on the ice without Frolik and the score tied, Horton's Corsi% was 44.2%, and Weiss' was 45.6%. The kid is a player.
- In the Oilers' opening contest against the Calgary Flames Tom Renney didn't seem too interested in matching lines, and for much of the game ran his forward lines on a 1-2-3-4 loop with his defenders following the same system. And it shows in the play-by-play. No one player was on the ice for at least half of Jarome Iginla's ice time, but all six defenders played at least three EV minutes against Jarome Iginla, as did all of the top nine forwards. The defender who played the most against Iginla was Theo Peckham (over six minutes), and the forward who played the most against Iginla was Taylor Hall (about five and a half minutes).
- The Panthers poor shot differential last season came from being bad at all facets of the game (except goaltending). Their Corsi % with the score tied (44.8%) was the third worst in the league, but being bad certainly wasn't limited to even strength. Their power play efficiency (14.2%) was the second worst in the NHL, and their penalty kill efficiency (79.4%) was also in the bottom ten. The only other team in the bottom ten in all three of those categories was the New York Islanders (admit it, you thought it was going to be the Oilers).
- One of the big questions coming into the season for the Oilers was just who was going to kill penalties. In the opener against Calgary five defensemen and six forwards got at least one minute of ice time. The defensemen were Tom Gilbert (4:08), Ryan Whitney (3:47), Theo Peckham (2:46), Ladislav Smid (2:41), and Jim Vandermeer (1:50). The forwards were Shawn Horcoff (3:10), Ryan Jones (2:42), Colin Fraser (2:40), Jordan Eberle (2:13), Ales Hemsky (2:02), and Sam Gagner (1:38). The biggest surprises for me are Kurtis Foster and Andrew Cogliano being exluded, and Ales Hemsky being included.