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Was defense the primary reason for the Oilers disappointing season?

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Old
02-21-2007, 04:09 PM
  #1
D_Oil
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Was defense the primary reason for the Oilers disappointing season?

I KNOW I will catch flack for this, but I think it a reasonable question even if it is against the conventional thinking, so please hear me out. The defense was clearly this teams weakest area heading into the season, but it was not fatal and didn't necessary have to translate to a doomed season.

Perhaps the best comparison is SJ. Their defense this year compared to the oilers is as follows:

Hannen > Smith (similar players, with Hannen being slightly better)
McLaren > Staios (different players, maybe a slight edge to McLaren)
Ehrhoff > Bergeron (Similar skill set, overall edge slightly to Ehrhoff)
Vlasic – Smid (very similar, results favour Vlasic)
Carle << Tjarnqvist (potential vs. experience, Tjarnqvist hands down)
Gorges – Greene (different players but similar experience)
Murray >> Hedja (Hejda, proven a capable top 4)
Davison – Gilbert

Overall, very similar d-corps with not much to choose between them. So how can the Oilers defense be the clear reason for the teams failure, but yet a similar defense allow SJ to challenge Anaheim for the division?

Going into the season both had comparable goaltending, and at this point Roloson’s numbers are slightly better than Toskola's and Nabokov's. Similarly, at the start of the season both teams had upper echelon offenses, with SJ's being better but not by a tremendous amount (don't forget that Chechoo has come back to earth, Bell has been a bust, and bernier has).

So with comparable goaltending, defenses, and a bit of an edge going to SJ's offense; it would seem that on paper the oilers are better than 11 points worse than SJ. To me it has been the oilers substantial injures to key players, and an underachieving offense that are more significant reasons for a disappointing Oilers season than the defensive make-up.

Now, a question I pose to the adamant "anti-young defense" posters on here (whom I think have some validity in their opinions) is how SJ has found away to succeed (in the regular season at least) with a very young defense (4 of 6 being 23 or younger, 3 being essentially rookies)? And furthermore, why can’t an Oilers defense like this year’s or potentially next years with Smid, Greene, Grebeshkov in the top 6 achieve similar results?


Last edited by D_Oil: 02-21-2007 at 04:55 PM.
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Old
02-21-2007, 04:12 PM
  #2
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It's a rich tapestry of flaws and bad luck.

Imbalance everywhere on the roster. Injuries. Young players not stepping up when needed. Key development that was expected from several returning players... not happening. Roloson not being able (nor should he) stand on his head for every game. Roloson starting too many games. Hejda being played too late. Bad PP. Defense problems.

Basically, name a problem and the Oilers have had it this season.

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02-21-2007, 04:13 PM
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dawgbone
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The forwards killed the Oilers this year.

Between too many injuries, and too many passengers, the team just couldn't compete.

It's one thing to a one-dimensional offensive player when you are scoring... it's quite another to be one when you can't score.

Too many forwards on this team have only played well in spurts... and that just isn't good enough.

The defence was servicable enough that it could be compensated for with a quality group of forwards (which the Oilers allegedly had)... the defence has been as expected, the forwards have been significantly worse.

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02-21-2007, 04:15 PM
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^^ what they said.

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02-21-2007, 04:15 PM
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San Jose has a wicked PP and better offense to compensate for a so-so (and young) defense.

But they are 3-6-1 in their last ten and they aren't exactly steamrolling over every team.

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02-21-2007, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgbone View Post
The forwards killed the Oilers this year.

Between too many injuries, and too many passengers, the team just couldn't compete.

It's one thing to a one-dimensional offensive player when you are scoring... it's quite another to be one when you can't score.

Too many forwards on this team have only played well in spurts... and that just isn't good enough.

The defence was servicable enough that it could be compensated for with a quality group of forwards (which the Oilers allegedly had)... the defence has been as expected, the forwards have been significantly worse.

agree.. Defencemen that could move the puck very well in all situations and control the blue line on the PP would have been a band aid to cover up a little of the flaws, but it still boiled down to what you said

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02-21-2007, 04:20 PM
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I would say you might be onto something. Although I don't know SJ players that well. I can only assume they can break out better with passes.

With our collapsing style of defence, we end up keeping a lot of guys to the outside and in the corners. Consequently when the D do get the puck, there is quite a bit of pressure on them already because they're being swarmed/forechecked so bad. The safe play as a d-man in that situation is to rim the puck up the boards or chip it out. In other words, get rid of it and don't cough it up.

Last year, guy's like Pronger and to a lesser extent Spacek, were a bit more calm under the storm. Prongs was able to use his body more to get room, protect the puck and make a nice pass. As much as I hate the guy for leaving, I have to admit, he was probably the best in the world at that aspect and therefore playing in our system, he shone even brighter.

The fact we have so many young guys who would instinctively feel that pressure even more only heightens our problems. I have no doubt that guys like Staios and Smith have looked bad at times because of who their partners are and how their affected by their plays.

So from a man to man comparison, sure, there might be comparables. But our defensive styles are most likely quite different along with the puck handling ability of their d-men.

The other factor is our forwards. When you do get the puck on the boards, you generally need to make a body move to protect the puck and not all our guys are big/good enough to do that. It doesn't help that teams are clearly "onto us" as far as our defensive deficiencies, and simply continue to add more pressure which makes it worse and worse.

The answer? Change our defensive style a bit (not sure how, I'm not the coach), or get a copule D-men who can be half as good as Prongs was.

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02-21-2007, 04:22 PM
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dawgbone
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Aside from the Pronger defence of last year, this group compares about as well to any group the Oilers have had the last 7 years or so.

Not great, but enough guys with various skills to make give them a variety of options.

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02-21-2007, 04:25 PM
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgbone View Post
Aside from the Pronger defence of last year, this group compares about as well to any group the Oilers have had the last 7 years or so.

Not great, but enough guys with various skills to make give them a variety of options.
The difference being that MacT has been somewhat forced to switch from playing man-to-man to a zone/collapse style with the new obstruction rules. In that system you need a defenseman capable of staying calm and making a crisp, smart pass to exit the zone so you aren't just dumping the puck out everytime.

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02-21-2007, 04:33 PM
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voxel View Post
San Jose has a wicked PP and better offense to compensate for a so-so (and young) defense.

But they are 3-6-1 in their last ten and they aren't exactly steamrolling over every team.
So true. Someone did the stats and SJ creates all their goal differential on the powerplay and very little at ES.

The Marleau line had a great start. Big Joe and rookies like Pavelski have had decent "middle" seasons. Cheechoo has been their disappointment.

We had slow starts by Horcoff, Pisani, Stoll.

Uneven/dissapointing results by Torres, Lupul, and dropoffs by Sykora.

Moreau gone for most of the season.

There's the difference.

And if SJ doesn't add a little more depth to their D, that back pair might get eaten alive in the playoffs.

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02-21-2007, 04:35 PM
  #11
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We had a defence that needed protection, and an offense that needed to be spoonfed. It was a square peg squeezing into round hole.

Our forwards have decent talent and skill, but losing out two best checkers, low event guys that create turnovers, retrieve the puck, can play shutdown hockey and replacing them with Lupul/Sykora means the less time we have the puck. Which in turn means the more time our weakest link (defense) is being taken advantage of.

SJ are a prime model of how a team like ours SHOULD work. They have a weak but offensive puck moving defense, and their offense plays a puck possession game. they have an effective cycle and great puck support. Their transition game is quick... basicly their weak defense is less a liability than ours based on their gameplan and forwards.

I hoped from Day 1 that MacT would institute a left-wing lock this season, as we needed to play a preemptive defense. Force turnovers in the offensive and neutral zones, limit time spent in our defensive end coverages (or lack thereof).

San Jose is a great example of everything that was wrong with our team this season... (toss into the mix the injuries of course)

add: and yes the powerplays ineptitude was a big factor as well

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02-21-2007, 04:37 PM
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eastcoasteh View Post
I would say you might be onto something. Although I don't know SJ players that well. I can only assume they can break out better with passes.

With our collapsing style of defence, we end up keeping a lot of guys to the outside and in the corners. Consequently when the D do get the puck, there is quite a bit of pressure on them already because they're being swarmed/forechecked so bad. The safe play as a d-man in that situation is to rim the puck up the boards or chip it out. In other words, get rid of it and don't cough it up.

Last year, guy's like Pronger and to a lesser extent Spacek, were a bit more calm under the storm. Prongs was able to use his body more to get room, protect the puck and make a nice pass. As much as I hate the guy for leaving, I have to admit, he was probably the best in the world at that aspect and therefore playing in our system, he shone even brighter.

The fact we have so many young guys who would instinctively feel that pressure even more only heightens our problems. I have no doubt that guys like Staios and Smith have looked bad at times because of who their partners are and how their affected by their plays.

So from a man to man comparison, sure, there might be comparables. But our defensive styles are most likely quite different along with the puck handling ability of their d-men.

The other factor is our forwards. When you do get the puck on the boards, you generally need to make a body move to protect the puck and not all our guys are big/good enough to do that. It doesn't help that teams are clearly "onto us" as far as our defensive deficiencies, and simply continue to add more pressure which makes it worse and worse.

The answer? Change our defensive style a bit (not sure how, I'm not the coach), or get a copule D-men who can be half as good as Prongs was.
I agree with your synopsis of this teams problems on the defense - puckmoving. I am not sure if it is just system play or the fact that arguably the teams best two puckmovers in Tjarnqvist and Staios have been injured for streches that are the root to the problem (maybe both). But the personnel is similar between SJ and the Oil, so the template Lowe used may have worked, and could work in the future.

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Old
02-21-2007, 04:38 PM
  #13
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i still believe that the sanjose defense is better, plus they have two real # 1 centre's on their team...its no contest...

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02-21-2007, 04:43 PM
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There has to be a statement made about the quality of opposition.

The NW has no "easy" team while SJ does have a couple of lesser teams.
They have:
Anahiem
Dallas
LA
Phx
Who have combined for 241 games and 256 points.

Van
Cgy
Minn
Col
Have combined for 241 games and 277 points.

The Oilers have also struggled within their division more so than SJ. The Oilers have had bad luck in having to face Luongo, Kipper, and Fernandez. The quality of tending in the Pacific is not as stellar. Giggy and Turco are solid but then you had LA's circus of goalies and the inconsistent Cujo.

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Old
02-21-2007, 04:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgbone View Post
The forwards killed the Oilers this year.

Between too many injuries, and too many passengers, the team just couldn't compete.

It's one thing to a one-dimensional offensive player when you are scoring... it's quite another to be one when you can't score.

Too many forwards on this team have only played well in spurts... and that just isn't good enough.

The defence was servicable enough that it could be compensated for with a quality group of forwards (which the Oilers allegedly had)... the defence has been as expected, the forwards have been significantly worse.
I agree 100%. When you have a young defence, you have to come back harder and more often. Some of these forwards only try hard in one direction. Several times a game a d-man gets in trouble and reverses or rings the boards with the puck. It seems like the majority of the time, the opposing forward or d-man is the only one there. I've seen peewee teams support their d-man better than the Oilers have this year.

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02-21-2007, 04:51 PM
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Maybe the team was caught reading its own press clippings. They were billed as the NHLs best offense but they have been anything but that this season.

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02-21-2007, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgbone View Post
Aside from the Pronger defence of last year, this group compares about as well to any group the Oilers have had the last 7 years or so.

Not great, but enough guys with various skills to make give them a variety of options.
Not a great comparison. With Pronger we go to the finals. Without, we've been hard pressed to make the playoffs let alone win a series.

So basically this group has been good enough compared to those that couldn't get it done...

I still think it shows how obvious it is we're missing a piece back there.

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Old
02-21-2007, 05:00 PM
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Personally I think that the blueline has been in the spot light so much that people are simply unwilling to consider anything else.

The injuries that this team has gone through this year have been devastating in my mind.

This year they have already had 118 man games lost due to injury in key positions.
Not talking about the 4th liners or the depth defenceman but legit top 9 forwards, guys that they rely on in a big way to fill specific needs, along with Staios and Tjarnqvist on the blueline.

In all of last year that had 58 man games lost all year in with what I would consider key players.

They have already doubled last years man games lost and the they are clearly still counting with one complete forward line out of the roster.

All things considered, I don't think this team is a bad as the standings suggest. Inexperienced? Yes
Somewhat weak on the backend? Sure
1993 Edmonton Oilers or '74 Washington Capitals? Not by a long shot.

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Old
02-21-2007, 05:22 PM
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I agree a lot with what C&B says above. The injuries to very key players have been devastating. When you couple that with an inexperienced defense, forwards that did not live up to expectations AND A VERY POORLY DESIGNED SYSTEM DESIGNED BY THE COACHING STAFF we got the year we have. We struggled to move the puck out of our end and this was the result of inexperienced D, aggressive forecheck as soon as the opposition saw our flaw and the coaching staff not adjusting to keep the forwards tighter to the D for the breakout pass. How many times did we see the D just shoot it off the boards for an icing call because the forwards were half way down the ice and not supporting the break out.

It was nearly the perfect storm of everything that could go wrong did and this is why I am positive about next season. It cant happen again. Plus our D at least got a bit more experienced. I am sure that the forwards will get it together better than they did, especially if we can avoid the injuries. The D is better for the crucible they have lived through. We are seriously 1-2 players away from being a contender for years to come. We have the depth to either make trades to fill these holes or sign FA's.

Now those holes! We dont need a Pronger, we need a guy who can eat huge minutes. As soon as you insert that D-man, all the other D will get better because they are not playing above their abilities. The other player we need is, well actually not a player, we need a real powerplay coach. As a player I loved Simpson but he is not cutting it as a coach. Our PP is so predictable. (not as bad as it was in the Carter days but...) We have one of the best PK in the league yet our PP is atrocious...

Finally, look at our bench in D men or the centers that have been talked about. This team has the assets. Lets not be idiots and try to tweak at high cost to play one round of the post season. Lets be patient and this team is built to win in the very near future.

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Old
02-21-2007, 05:25 PM
  #20
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the problem is the powerplay...we did not replace chris pronger in that area

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02-21-2007, 05:29 PM
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The key to our season was December. If you think we need 93 points to make the playoffs, that is a 0.567 record.

I break it down like this:
Game 1 to game 31 (vs Minnesota) we were 0.580 - on pace for playoffs
Game 32 to game 38 (vs Calgary) we were 0.143 - well below pace required
Game 39 to game 60 we have been 0.545 - slightly below pace required

That was too big of a slide considering we haven't had a really prolonged winning streak this year. If you want to know why we are out, look at those string of games first.

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02-21-2007, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
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It's a rich tapestry of flaws and bad luck.

Imbalance everywhere on the roster. Injuries. Young players not stepping up when needed. Key development that was expected from several returning players... not happening. Roloson not being able (nor should he) stand on his head for every game. Roloson starting too many games. Hejda being played too late. Bad PP. Defense problems.

Basically, name a problem and the Oilers have had it this season.
pretty much, i mean how the hell did anyone know that the offence was gonna have a severe meltdown like this?? I think its a mixture of underachieving, a curse and injuries.

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02-21-2007, 05:41 PM
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No, it was a combination of forwards under performing and key injuries. Believe it or not, I think Tjarnqvist going down REALLY hurt this team.

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Old
02-21-2007, 05:44 PM
  #24
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Prototypical rebuild year.

Too many players playing their in their first year.

Hejda, Smid, Greene, Roy, Gilbert, Thoreson, Mikhnov, Stortini, Pouliot, Jacques.

Thats 10 rookies, 3 regular defensemen, an entire forward line. Add to that the play of other young players (Beregron, Lupul, Torres, Stoll, and Hemsky,) and injuries to veterans - and you have a recipe for exactly what we see.

Horrible inconsistency.

Not really a shock, looking at the roster.

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02-21-2007, 05:48 PM
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Our problem is an inability to get control of the puck in our end. When we do get it we either are not in position to receive a pass or we make a poor pass (see our giveaway stats). Either way there is no flow to our offense. We have no one outside of Hemsky who can do anything off the rush (even Hemsky is struggling). No one with puck skills like Thornton, no one with a combination speed and puckskills like Michalek, Pavlski and Marleau. Horcoff might be in the same ballpark, but not Sykora, definitely not Lupul or Torres. Stoll, SMyth gets theres from the PP and hard work. Pisani, reasoner and Moreau form hardwork. We have few forwards that can carry the puck and crate offense

Our young guns haven't met or exceeded expectations as have Bernier (stats wise, not commitment) and Clowe (way exceeded!). Only one player has failed to meet expectations - Mark Bell. We have one Stoll. Everyone else - Lupul, Horc (no longer a young gun), Torres - stinks.

Because we had Pronger and Spacek as #1 & 2 - giving Staios and Smith #3 &4 icetime, instead of #1 &2 - we spent less time and energy getting out of our zone. This year we don't generate any offense becuase bythe time we get it out, we're so tired from chasing, we have to dump it in and change lest we get caughtout there tired. I think it was against Calgary one time that we dumped the puck and changed everytime we touched it. Can't score when you're dumping and changing. Because we spent less time chasing in our end, we wasted less puck possession opportunities.

The other item missing from our game - transition offense - turnovers we convert into scoring chances when theothe team is tired. Pronger and Spacek were great at this. This year its non-existent. If our D men get it they take too long moving it to forwards. Its also another symptom of the puck being in our end too much.

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