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Oil Observations From Week 1

Derek Zona did a good job breaking down one of the changes that has occurred on the Oilers power play.

Adding to that, the Oilers have done a much better job at moving around when they have 4 forwards on the ice. They aren’t using the 4th forward so much as a replacement for the defenseman, but instead as a rover. Paajarvi and Omark spent a few shifts alternating during a possession, and more recently Eberle and Horcoff have been rotating through on the point when they are on the ice. It creates a bit of a different look both in terms of what hand they shoot (Horcoff is a left and Eberle is a right), but also in terms of who the penalty killer thinks they are covering.

Tom Gilbert has been far more active in terms of jumping into the play than he has been for a couple of seasons now. Under Craig MacTavish, Gilbert was a roamer in the offensive zone, but under Quinn he dialled his game back a lot and he is just now starting to go back to his old ways.

This has been both good and bad. Generally speaking, Gilbert is excellent at picking his spots and getting a scoring chance out of it. He almost never gets caught making a pinch he shouldn’t make. The problem ends up being that when he goes deep into the offensive zone, no one comes back up.

The video picks up the play late, but what happens is Gilbert goes down to the hash marks to pick up a loose puck and get a shot on goal. The Oilers have 2 forwards, Horcoff and Jones, who are in and around the same area and neither gets back in time for Gilbert.


Gilbert has come into the zone to attempt the shot. Horcoff has just made the turn to see Gilbert about to shoot. Jones started to come up then turned towards the net when he saw Gilbert come in.


The puck has deflected into the corner. Gilbert is skating through his shot and both Horcoff and Jones are watching the puck go into the corner.


Both Predator forwards start heading up the ice and both Horcoff and Jones realize they are in trouble. They are both starting from an almost dead stop and the Pedator forwards have a jump on them that neither can recover from.

One of these 2 forwards has to recognize earlier that they have to get back. In this case it’s more on Horcoff, as he could have just kept skating back to the blueline. The only defence for Horcoff is that he was involved in a puck battle and couldn’t see the play develop and had to react to it. Jones saw the whole play materialize and looked to remain in the play offensively (as either an outlet or for a rebound), so it’s very hard to fault him for it. In short, Horcoff reacted late and Jones went to make a play offensively and the forwards couldn’t get anyone back.

The Oilers have new players at both forward and defence and with that comes issues with players being unsure what each other are going to do when covering players in their own end. One place where these issues are the most prevalent are in terms of switching off the man they are covering. Regardless of the system you play, there are areas where the forwards and defensemen will switch off with each other to cover someone. Even when you know where it’s supposed to happen, communication is key.

The Oilers win the draw and end up losing possession of the puck just behind the net. Corey Potter is covering Alex Burrows in the corner and follows him towards the Oilers net where Horcoff is standing (Henrik Sedin was initially his man). They switch coverage assignments, making Horcoff responsible for the front of the net where Burrows is headed. The only problem... neither of them communicated anything. Horcoff ended up being just a half a step slow and it allowed Burrows a lane to free his stick for the tip.


Everything starts out fine for the Oilers. Smyth and Jones both have the points covered and are there for help down low. Sutton and Potter have Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows respectively. Horcoff has floated to the middle while keeping his eye on Henrik Sedin.


The puck gets to Henrik who then moves the puck behind the net. Once the puck starts going around, Smyth has to start heading up to his point man. Burrows gets inside on Potter and begins to drive to the net. Daniel Sedin has space away from Sutton and ends up using the net to create even more distance.


Daniel has almost the entire net between him and Sutton. Burrows is a left hand shot which makes it harder for Horcoff to check his stick. Burrows also has that lane in front of the that Horcoff can’t get in front of.


Daniel uses his space to make a play towards the net. Burrows turns his hips to guard his stick and give Daniel a target in the lane in front of the net.

Even though the delay was brief, the lack of communication prevented Horcoff from jumping into the lane earlier and instead had to react to Burrows. It ends up being worse because Sutton allows Daniel Sedin far too much space around the net and isn’t there to prevent him from attacking the net.

In both situations, the players are trying to react to what another player is doing and it puts them a step behind. The Oiler forwards need to understand that when Gilbert is pinching, someone needs to head back to cover him. You need to sacrifice a bit when your defenseman is pinching in because he is the one making the offensive play. Yes you will take yourself out of position occasionally and possibly miss out on an open net or a rebound, but you are also consistantly preventing something from going the other way. Defensively, better communication is essential for this hockey club. Pointing out a switch or who you are covering are things that take little effort but pay off big time. This will also help the kids out so that they don't end up panicking if they do get lost.