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Turning points of the 2003/04 season, and the HC

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Old
04-22-2004, 12:40 AM
  #1
Oi'll say!
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Turning points of the 2003/04 season, and the HC

The Good:
Signing Ulanov
Trading for Nedved

The Bad:
Comrie's holdout
Reasoner's injury

The iffy:
Signing Oates (not a bad move, not a really big boost)
Heritage Classic (Were we worse than we should have been after it, or just better before?)


IMO the Heritage Classic takes way too much of the heat for our mid-season slumber that cost us a playoff berth.

For starters it coincided with the injury to Marty Reasoner who was a rock for us down the middle for 100 or so games prior to that point. Our situation at center was already bad enough with Ryan Smyth having to start the season there, the Reasoner injury forced the Oates signing (Nov 17th) which wasn't a very big factor at all.

Maybe there really was no "Heritage hangover", just a "Heritage High" leading up to Nov 22nd that netted us a few extra points. After that one pleasant distraction there was nothing else for the team and the fans to concentrate on except for the long road ahead with a motley crew of inexperienced centers.

Moving right along, our first big break imo came with the signing of Igor Ulanov at the midway point of the season, Jan 5. Scoring almost .5 ppg and finishing an impressive team-leading +19, the Oilers were 10 games over .500 with Igor in the lineup.

Finally there was the Nedved trade on March 4th. Petr got 5 Goals and 10 assist in 16 games and the Oilers played .720 hockey over that span.



Looking back it's obvious how our bad luck just came way too early and affected us for far too long. It's amazing how close the Oilers came to making the playoffs when you look at the numbers of their top 3 centers from the previous season:

2002/03
Comrie 69gp, 20-31-51, -18, atoi 17:51
Marchant 77gp, 20-40-60pts, +13, atoi 19:53
Reasoner 70gp, 11-20-31pts, +19, atoi 14:49
-----------------------------------------------
Totals 216gp, 51,91,142pts, +14, 3605 mins or 60 full games - 3/4 of the season

2003/04
Comrie 0gp
Marchant 0gp
Reasoner 17gp, 2-6-8pts, +5, atoi 16:21
-----------------------------------------
277 mins or 4.6 games - 1/18th of the season.

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Old
04-22-2004, 01:40 AM
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oi'll say!
...IMO the Heritage Classic takes way too much of the heat for our mid-season slumber that cost us a playoff berth.
...
I agree. Conklin had been on a hot streak in November up until the HC, and IMO that concealed a lot of the problems. The Oilers hadn't been outchancing the opposition as much after the Reasoner injury ... yet they were getting better results on the back of a hot goalie.

Also, they had a bit of luck on their side during this stretch. Got the lucky bounce when they needed it. 'mudcrutch' pointed out at the time that he thought this was the case ... that the Oilers point totals were a bit flattering considering their goal differential. And as much as he was being a buzz-killer at the time ... it was hard to argue.

Quote:
Finally there was the Nedved trade on March 4th. Petr got 5 Goals and 10 assist in 16 games and the Oilers played .720 hockey over that span.
I agree on the Ulanov thing. And who would have thunk it at the time?!

On the Nedved thing ... I think it was a huge boost to the team emotionally, a real sign that the Oilers mgmt hadn't given up on the season. And a reason for optimism about the organization ... I mean, to see the Oilers acquiring an expensive, talented vet at the deadline, just unheard of!

But really, the Oilers (and Dvorak especially) were a shade worse at 5on5 after his arrival, though better on the PP. They got the breaks in this stretch though ... and that's what streaks are largely made of. They won a few games that they didn't deserve to IMO, and were lucky enough to catch Nabakov on a rare off-night too. The hockey Gods owed the Oilers for some bad luck in mid-season ... and they came through.

Quote:
Looking back it's obvious how our bad luck just came way too early and affected us for far too long.
Ya, probably. Looking at the 16 games after the HC ... you can't really pin it on one thing:
* The goaltending of both Salo and Conklin was sub-par ... but a few other NHL teams were similarly bad during this stretch.
* The PK was just terrible, but surprisingly a few other NHL teams were very nearly as bad at the PK during this stretch.
* The PP was very bad ... though there were a few other teams that had similarly bad PP streaks during this time (VAN was only PP +2 during this same stretch )
* The 5on5 was still above average (EV +2), but not as much as it should have been.
* Some bad luck too I think ... they outchanced the opposition by a healthy margin during that 4-game west-coast trip, but came back with only 4 points to show for it.

Just all seemed to happen at once. Good goaltending could have saved them ... but it didn't happen. Just one of those things.

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04-22-2004, 01:49 AM
  #3
Matts
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As soon as

the Oilers started the seaosn with the Ty/Salo tandem, the team was done. Like it's been said, good goaltending can mask a lot of things. Even average goaltending can cover a little stink. We saw in the TO/Sens series a case where outstanding goaltending can keep a team in a series that has no business being on the same sheet of ice

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04-22-2004, 02:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matts
... We saw in the TO/Sens series a case where outstanding goaltending can keep a team in a series that has no business being on the same sheet of ice
Ya, I really thought that Ottawa was good enough that might be able to win it all, even with average goaltending ... but we know how good Belfour can be when he's hot. A shame for Ottawa.

I've never been impressed with Lalime, they should have switched to Prusek much earlier in the year IMO, Martin left it too late. They started throwing him in for more starts in March ... but by that time it's at least a month too late, if he has a bad start or two ... he doesn't have time to bounce back and win the confidence of his team-mates.

C'est la vie.

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04-22-2004, 07:09 PM
  #5
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Holy cow igor, what a memory you have. I don't really remember anything about the 4 game western road trip etc so I'll take your word for all of that stuff.

Good point about the even strength play with Nedved, he started off doing very well iirc but ended up at +1. Maybe that's a good thing though, the Oil have a few centers who are great at even strength, MacT can focus on getting the ev str matchups he wants for Petr and save him mainly for the pp.

This thread is depressing, there were so many factors conspiring against the Oil (Todd leaving, Comrie holding out, Reasoner's injury) and through all of it they came soooo close. Man, what this team coulda done in the playoffs . I guarantee they wouldn't have rolled over in 5 like StL and Nash did.

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