Thoughts on Game 7

Wow. What a great series we got to see this week. I don't know anyone who had picked them to win. But if you can force a game 7, anything can happen. Sure, the other guys might have had a couple flashy Russian players, but it really just goes to show you what a determined team can do, especially with a little help from a hot goalie. And really, in retrospect, when a team has as long and storied a history as these guys, it's probably never a good idea to count them out completely.

So, credit where credit is due: Congratulations to Ak Bars Kazan on winning the KHL playoffs and taking home the Gagarin Cup.  I think that Alexei Shevchenko said it best in the opening paragraph to his article on the KHL's english website:

"The final game unfolded as all had expected. Both teams knew full well how the slightest mistake would be punished, and concentrated all their efforts into not gifting their opponents any chances. Experience told in the end. The visitors twice breached Michael Garnett’s defenses, while preventing the hosts from doing the same to Petri Vehanen."
Of course it stands to reason. HC MVD made the fatal error of putting a Canadian in goal. The western decadence he displayed in net and his capitalist laziness made his defenses far too easy to breach. And, just as the USSR gifted East Germany to the west, experience told in the end and HC MVD gifted Ak Bars too many chances. Iilya Nikulin said it best a bit later in the Shevchenko article:
“We just kept battling. Not just for ourselves, but for the injured guys,” he said. “Unity is our strength. We never surrender when the going gets tough. That little bit extra makes Kazan what it is – not a team of one or two players, but a real, united collective.”

Keep battling. Not just for ourselves. Unity is our strength. Never Surrender. A real, united collective. This is why western hockey will ultimately fail. Do not be seduced by the star-driven bourgeois that is the National Hockey League, where working-class players become a commodity unto themselves. It is only through collective determination that a strong new proletarian hockey utopia can emerge. Long live Alexander Medvedev. Long live the KHL.


Comparing the Worst: MGLI, Depth, and the 2008-09 New York Islanders - Part I

2009-10 Edmonton Oilers: 27-47-8, 214 GF/284 GA, 62 PTS
2008-09 New York Islanders: 26-47-9, 201 GF/279 GA, 61 PTS
All year I've been keeping track of Man-Games Lost to Injury and commenting on how they can represent the depth of a team. Thin teams, like the 2008-09 Isles or our favourite bunch of losers, are ravaged by high MGLI numbers. Others, like the 2008-09 Blues or Flyers, manage to shore up the holes and put together decent seasons without the injured players.

The comparison between last year's Islanders and this year's Oilers go a bit deeper...


Rick DiPietro played a pitiful 5 games in 2008-09. Nikolai Khabibulin played 18 this season. Although DiPietro's relationship with his Organization is much different than Khabibulin's, Ricky and Nikky both sport injury-prone histories and noose-like contracts. They were both relied upon to be the cornerstone of the team and they were both sidelined by hardly-surprising injuries (knee and back respectively; both problem areas prior to the seasons).
NYI spent the rest of 08-09 splitting time between Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis, while the JDDD combo replaced the Oilers' 09-10 starter. The similarities are startling when you dig into the goalies' careers.

Joey MacDonald played 17 NHL games prior to the 08-09 season and Danis: only 6 GP. The tenders played a combined 350 games in the AHL and 276 in Junior and NCAA respectively. While much older than the Oilers' tandem, NYI's solution in net was near identical in experience.

ADD was the only Oiler backup with NHL GP, a paltry 10 games at that. In the A, the two put up a combined 236 GP with 342 GP in Junior. So, totaled, each tandem's experience looks like this:

MacDonald/Danis: 23 NHL GP, 350 AHL GP, 276 Jr./NCAA GP
Deslauriers/Dubnyk: 10 NHL GP, 236 AHL GP, 342 Jr. GP

Ugly, isn't it? To drive the point home, let's have a gander at NYI's goaltending situation this season. DiPietro played 8 games (surprise, surprise), but Garth Snow had had the foresight to let Mac and Danis walk, instead signing Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron in the offseason. The duo's combined 895 NHL GP assuredly contributed to the Isles' progression from a -78 Goal Differential in 08-09 to a -36 Goal Diff. in 09-10. Both tenders posting vastly better boxcars than their predecessors with very little change to the roster in front of them.

So, with the GM's postseason State of the Union, it's clear the Oilers are considering goaltending alternatives. While the Ruskie seems to have wormed his way into Tambellini's good graces (a good look from J-Dub), he's also vowed the Org won't keep its three-headed dog on the chain.

With Khabby in the mix, everyone but Steve is bracing for a shared starter position. Dubnyk should spend the year in OKC rehabilitating his confidence and being the rock in net he's proved himself to be at the AHL level. He'll have buckets more scoring with some high-level prospects entering the system, which should do wonders for Rob Daum and the new farm team. Meanwhile, Nik's backup should be a UFA pick-up with plenty of NHL experience... Martin Biron, maybe? And maybe his backup will be the next Monster.

If Garth. Snow. can recognize an injury-prone franchise goaltender (albeit 3 years after that ridiculous contract) and address the problem of an inexperienced backup tandem, then a similar solution has to be rattling around in TambLowe's near-vacant hivemind. I'm all for Adam Larsson, but letting a blue-chipper like Dubnyk get shelled over and over again is not an appropriate path for a rebuilding team. How the Org treats the goaltending this year will be very telling of how this club will fare in 2010-11.
I'll keep on this comparison over the next couple weeks, addressing the D and the forwards with a focus on team depth and impact of injuries. Stay tuned, true believers.


The Playoffs: When Sports Writers Really Earn Their Keep

Here are the first sentences from the 4 game previews up on TSN.ca today:

Here are some synonyms for the verb "try" that I found on Thesaurus.com:

Aim, aspire, attack, bear down, chip away at, compete, contend, contest, do one's best, drive for, endeavor, essay, exert oneself, go after, go all out, go for, have a crack, have a go, have a shot, have a stab, have a whack, knock oneself out, labor, lift a finger, make a bid, make a pass at, make an attempt, make an effort, propose, put oneself out, risk, seek, shoot for, speculate, strive, struggle, tackle, undertake, venture, vie for, work, wrangle.



The Edmonton Oilers play the Anaheim Ducks at 6:00PM MST today, Sunday, April 11, 2010.

It's the last game on the 2009-10 NHL schedule.

Fitting, as the Oilers are the last place team in the 2009-10 NHL Season. A first for the team.

They also happen to be last in Goals Against, Faceoff%, Man Games Lost to Injury (530), and near the basement in plenty of other columns.

There's no guarantee we'll pick first on June 25, but we've got the biggest ball in the bingo cage. Although it does come down to a coinflip...

Last, at last.

Nowhere to go but up, right?


New Recruits

In addition to Petry, the Org has brought Linus "Chip Shot" Omark and Chris VandeVelde into the fold. LT has a couple of nice pieces about the newbies and I think most heads around the O-Sphere are eager to see the trio's pro careers begin. Omark's signing is probably the most intriguing, as the small man's addition to the pro roster makes the line to the low urinal even longer.

The Oilers have hit the tipping point on vertically challenged skill players, so there's pressure to ship some of them out come the offseason. I figure we'll see Cogs and Creme Brule back for sure, but DuffMan's a longshot and Row-bert appears to be primed for a ticket out of town come Draft Day. Patio Lanterns and his ugly cap hit will probably see out his tenure with the Org, so here's hoping he stays snakebit for another Dive for Five. Anyway, if Omark's Desjardins' prove accurate and his YouTube hits keep coming in OKC, the management might give him a swig of that coveted coffee in 2010-11. So Tambellini best make room for him...

Though with Eberle not getting a sniff from upstairs, maybe we've struck on a revolutionary, controversial new sports theory: player development. Ebs is putting along cheerfully in Springfield, staying on a cockle-warming 1.25 PPG pace for the season and twice being the only Falcon on the scoresheet. The Cardiac Kid will finish out the season in Massachusetts and there was even some talk that he could get a long look for Messier's Worlds club. The arrows are pointing up, up, up with Ebs and it might just stay that way, if the Org sticks to its guns about sheltering our young talent.

Oh, and just in case you thought you'd see an Omark post without that damn shootout goal...

Someone in the Katz Group needs to hire whoever edited this ASAP.