Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's "Captain" Lou to you

Snark here. I just wanted to post the picture.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

They don't make them like that any more.

Submitted with minimal comment: a fine example of sportswriting as a craft.

This Observer piece on rising rugby union star Danny Cipriani. Best read with a clipped british private-school accent in mind. Or David Attenborough. Sorry: Sir David Attenborough.

The archetypal English player is rugged and fearless, not afraid to mix it up. Their approach is caution first, keep it tight, get the three points in the bag. They prided themselves on being the first nation to embrace professionalism, bringing a new physicality to rugby. Think of the heroes of 2003: Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jonny Wilkinson - is it my imagination or did they, after years of battering, even start to look alike? Their heroic jaws jutting out, expressions glowering and taciturn, their faces like 'a Christmas present from Easter Island', as Philip Larkin memorably described Ted Hughes. Certainly, these are the men whose shadows loom large over the game in England.

The flip side is that you can almost count the number of flamboyant English players on one hand. There was Prince Alexander Obolensky, whose family fled the Russian Revolution in 1917, before settling in Muswell Hill, north London. 'The Prince' made his England debut in 1936 in a 13-0 victory against the All Blacks, the first time New Zealand had been beaten by a home nation; he scored two tries, including one individual effort that covered most of the field and may be the greatest ever scored in England colours. Sadly, he would win just three more caps, and the flying winger died in 1940 at the age of 24, when his Hawker Hurricane crashed in Suffolk. They don't make them like that any more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oilers vs Panthers - Post Game Thoughts

What a boring game. I usually won't say no to free tickets, but from now on will have to re-consider. We ended up leaving at the 2nd intermission.

The highlight of the day was seeing a couple buy two 46 oz popcorn ($4.00) buckets instead of sharing one 86 oz ($5.25) buckets.


- Trukhno has some skill; thinks the game well
- Pouliot did a great job battling in the corners
- Chorney will be ready sooner rather than later
- Strudwick certainly isn't anything more than press-box/7th D material
- Like Smid's game
- Brule certainly hasn't shown much; he'll be spending the season in the AHL.
- No atmosphere whatsoever at Rexall; for all the right reasons

Feel free to add your thoughts.

15 down

The Oilers announced another round of cuts today, sending 15 hopefuls packing

Assigned to Springfield were:

Goaltenders (1): Andrew Perugini

Defence (5): Sebastien Bisaillon, Josef Hrabal, Jake Taylor, Cody Wild, Bryan Young

Forwards (8): Hans Benson (RW), Justin Chwedoruk (RW), Garet Hunt (LW), Bryan Lerg (LW), Colin McDonald (RW), Sean McMorrow (RW), Ryan O’Marra (RW), Geoff Paukovich (LW)

Right winger Jordan Eberle, the Oilers’ first round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was returned to the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

Not many surprises there. O'Marra's looking like a bust. McDonald was my underdog favourite this camp. I hope Paukovich refrains from drilling his cab driver with a shot from behind on his way to YEG.

This blog post is presented in part by LolCats.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stream of Consciousness.....

First Period Stream of Consciousness:

20:00 Game is starting off a little scrambly here. Hodgson wins a draw and has a pass picked off, and from there about 4 or 5 are picked off as the Oilers try to gain the zone.

19:15 Canucks are applying a little bit of pressure now, but Roloson looks sharp as he snags a puck out of the air on a long point shot. I hate John Garret... annoying voice and he brings nothing to the table.

18:45 The biggest problem with the feed for me is it's nearly impossible to make out a lot of the numbers... so I can't put this on mute as badly as I want to. Sorry for any mistakes on names...

18:00 McDonald and Brule work very well together to work a cycle together... nice shot from Grebeshkov and McDonald and Brule both crash the net. Big save by Luongo on McDonald, but a good start for two guys who have to impress.

17:30 It's not too often I haven't heard of an Oiler prospect... but I have no idea who Jake Taylor is. He just broke up a cycle down low though.

17:00 Truhkno just got cranked, and then Grebs did... excellent hustle by both of them to make plays though, and they both bounce up. Garret will make it sound like the hit is the big deal, and it's nice for the Nucks to send a message, but the bigger point is that the Oilers got the puck and kept the play alive. Nilsson just set up Cogs on a good chance as well... sublime pass.

16:30 It took Roloson only 3:30 to get pissy in net. Nice. Garret talking about random bullshit... goalies records? Christ.

15:45 And here comes the PP after Burrows gets his stick into Grebs hands. I hate this faceoff rule... just absolutely retarded. Oilers start with Grebs, Gilbert, the kids and Truhkno. I'm really liking the way that Nilsson is seeing the ice early here... he's hitting passing lanes quickly. He'll have a helper tonight. This PP is moving the puck MUCH better than we did last night... hopefully the team takes note that we can't just rely on Souray's bomb, and instead need to use the bomb as a reason to be able to move the puck around a little more.

14:19 ... Brodziak with a weak shot on net and it ends up in the net. Nice start for Jesus Luongo. Potulny may have got a piece of that.... love that he crashed the net there. He's another guy in the mix for that 12th forward spot. Looking at that I'm pretty sure Potulny got it. Good for him. Even if he doesn't get it, it doesn't happen if he doesn't haul ass to the net.

14:00 Does it ever show how young this team is when Brodziak has an A? We left just about everyone back in Edmonton....

13:44 Roloson makes a great stop in tight on Demitra. He looks sharp.

12:37 ... Stortini killing a penalty? And he smokes someone in the defensive zone while on the kill? Awesome for all the wrong reasons. Gotta love the preseason.

12:00 I've never been much of a fan of McDonald, but I like what he's done so far. He's cycling the puck and moving it North in a hurry. These are the types of things MacT is all over, and rightfully so. He's also getting the puck on net whenever he has a chance.... little things like this lead to winning a job instead of riding a bus in the AHL.

11:20 ... #21? Looked like he just had a chance to plaster someone and let up. I'll check on the number in a minute, but you have to make that hit, especially in a preseason game. .. Looks like it was Potulny. Loved his hustle to the net, and he doesn't have to kill the guy there, but unless you're Ales Hemsky you have to throw the body and seperate him from the puck.

11:00 And here we go. Huxley drops 'em with Brown and they're hugging it out. Huxley is Stortini 2.0 apparently.

9:30 Roy takes a penalty because Bernier is a shit and going after Cogliano. Zero issue with that, and it should've been even ups.

9:00 MacT is playing pretty much everyone on the PK early... this is a big tell. You have to be smart and positionally sound to play on the PK. During the regular season, it's a compliment to your game, but during the preseason it's a test. I like it. And as I type this out Roloson makes the world a better place and punches a Canuck in the face. He's having a solid game, I like when he has some fire in him like this because he tends to play better and ends up pissing off the other team and gets them off of their game.

7:15 Cowan last night... Hordichuk tonight? Brutal. Taylor made the right play, Cogliano lost his man for a second (Burrows?) allowing him to make a pass, but given it was on a PK and he didn't want to over commit this is forgivable... and then Young just made a terrible play in front of the net on Hordichuk. Not Roloson's fault... Young has to be better than that.

6:15 Nilsson is buzzing, but his linemates just seem to be invisible thus far... I'm half expecting the blender to be whipped out here. The Oilers are in a funk and a lot of these guys have played together in Springfield so they have experience and a lot of options..... I haven't heard Eberle's name once yet?

5:00 And there he is with a weak shot from a Brodziak pass. Tough not being able to see the numbers.

4:33 Nilsson with another solid pass to set up Cogliano for a scoring chance.....

Luongo doing what he does best - KEEPING IT ONE ONE. Sorry, but that is absolute literary gold. I don't think it was intentional at all, but the way that was implied was just plain awesome.

4:20 ... poor point shot by Taylor. Ripped it into the shinpads when he could've thrown it into the corner where we had 2 guys.

3:20 There's some maturity from Stortini. He blows up a Canuck and draws a penalty and then gets into a fight. The fight itself has been pretty sad... Stort's got the helmet off, and I guess the decision goes to the Canuck, but that's what Stortini needs to do to be effective.

3:00 This game is getting chippy. Can feel the hate. I like it.

2:00 ... great play by Brodziak to split the D and get a good shot on Luongo while drawing the penalty. He's having a heckuva game.

1:37 We're still relying on the point shot too much. We have a lot of skill between the forwards, lets let them make some plays, we don't need to always rely on a rebound or a screen for a PP goal.

1:00 Truhkno makes a nice move to get a shooting lane, but the puck takes a bad bounce on the rebound and gets cleared by Vancouver. Shame.

:12 Truhkno just made another nice play, setting up Potulny in front of the net all alone.

My favourite part of the period has to go to Garret though.... "How many talented guys can you fit into a lineup?" You know you've been a Canucks fan for too long when...

Second Period:

19:55 Nilsson sets up Cogliano again. He is just absolutely flying out there. Loving it. Between him and Brodziak the Oilers future is shining bright tonight. Nilsson just took a slash now and looks hurt... can I jinx it or what? Hope to see him back on the ice soon...

19:00 Bad break for Brule on a high stick penalty... Roloson bails him out on a Hodgson attempt.

17:10 Gilbert makes a bad pinch... Nilsson gets caught on a 1 on 1 and is burned, and Young is left doing nothing again in no mans land. 2-1 Canucks. The good news of all this is Nilsson must be okay if they sent him right back out for a PK.

16:00 Looks like someone talked to Potulny, as he just did exactly what he should've done in the first... McDonald is driving possession again and throwing everything at the net, but that all started because Potulny separated Brown from the puck. Brule showed some fire there... you can tell guys are doing their best to get noticed.

14:30 Another nice cycle by the kid/Truhkno line. He's passed Schremp tonight by my estimation.

12:45 Brule just came back to break up a scramble... and again his line (Mcdonald/Potulny) move the puck North in a hurry. These guys are gaining all kinds of points for their play tonight.

12:12 Eberle shows up for the first time all game with a couple of nice chances... I like his ability to find the soft ice and get his shot off quickly. The kid has a long way to go, not all 18 year olds are Sam Gagner, but he's a beaut.

11:00 Truhkno's compete is through the roof. He just won a battle to get the puck to Nilsson again... who again set up Cogliano. Absolutely loving his game, he looks like he is here to win a job.

9:52 this is the difference between Nilsson this year and last year. He just turned the puck over on the halfboards fairly weakly.. but then he takes off and forces back pressure to get a turnover.

9:15 Brule having an ice shift here... cycling well and plastered two Canucks. He's a little ball of hate.

7:25 Strudwick makes a nice play to stop one of the Van kids on a rush, moves the puck forward and Roy gets a nice chance. Good play all around.

6:15 Again the Brule line is driving possession... I'm not paying attention to who they're playing, but this line has moved the puck north all night. Just excellent work by a trio of guys trying to crack an NHL roster.

4:30 And you know what? McDonald just rang one off the bar as the Brule line was ONCE AGAIN driving possession. These three along with Truhkno are making life for Rob Schremp and Marc Pouliot a lot more difficult.

4:10 Roloson is definitely having a solid game... big save on Grabner in tight on a 2 on 1.

3:40 I think Cogs is getting a bit frustrated... he had Nilsson open at the blueline and instead tried to dispy doodle. Sign of a young player, but not one we can afford too often given just how many of them we have.

3:05 Gilbert just about had a horrendous turnover, but he saved it at the last second... not loving his game thus far. Been pretty happy with Grebeshkov though, especially on the PP.

2:50 Round two.. Huxley and Brown. There are punches this time! Huxley is giving it to Brown... got him with a few good shots early and landed a few glancing shots at the end.

2:40 This game just can't end fast enough for Young. Victimized on two goals and now he takes a penalty....

1:30 Nilsson and Cogs on the PK again, and almost pull it off.... pass was just a little too far ahead by Cogs or Nilsson is going roof daddy there all day long.

0:10 Brodziak just led a nice rush... his hand eye looks fantastic.

Third Period:

19:45 Again the Oilers are showing nice puck movement on the PP... I really hope that this becomes a trend on all of our PP's, as we'll be a much more dangerous team on the PP if we're moving it around before we hit Souray, at the very least.

18:31 5 on 3... lets see what they do. Please something other than a point shot! 20 seconds to go and Eberle is on the ice and coughs it up at the blueline. Grebeshkov with a horrendous pass to Gilbert as the Canuck comes out of the box to pick it off... but Roli has to bang his stick sooner there. Just some preseason rust that guys like Grebeshkov can afford to have... if it's still there in G7 and G8 when they're 4 or 5 games in, we have a problem, but in G2 when they're 1 in I'm not gonna sweat it...

17:20 Roloson just ROBBED the Canucks on a 2 on 0.... and now the Oilers have two penalties? Never mind, Roli made the save and then gave Hansen a shot as Hansen crashed into him... fine by me. Roli isn't a happy man, and it looks like he means business as he's been very, very, good tonight.

16:50 ... is Truhkno playing the point? I don't think he is, but he sure seems to be there on the PP a lot. I'm pretty sure Grebs/Gilbert are both out there. Wish I had this on a TV or was there so I could figure this out... the miniature screen is killing me.

15:50 Canuck just got blown up. No idea who by though.... I'm cursing this feed as much as I'm loving it. The Canucks (crappy) broadcasters aren't helping here as they're busy talking about all kinds of useless crap like this day in Canucks history (1980? 1994? Was there anything else? What kind of franchise would actually want to talk about their history when they've never won... ANYTHING!? Christ....)

14:00 Hordichuk just made Grebeshkov look bad.... man a lot of our "vets" are rusty. The important thing with those guys though is to see where they're at for games 7 and 8....

13:30 Truhkno is just forechecking so well tonight. Absolutely falling in love with his game.... he forced a turnover and Nilsson had another solid opportunity.

12:30 Another giveaway by an Oilers D... not sure who it was, couldn't make out the number for my life of me... may have been #43.... Strudwick? If it wasn't him it was Roy. I know you can never have enough defensemen, but I don't think it's teh end of the world if we risk one of these guys on waivers come opening night.....

11:00 Another chance for Brodziak. Guy is just doing everything right. Can't wait to see where he ends up lining up in the roster....

10:30 Truhkno just made ANOTHER play... almost sprung himself on a breakaway by breaking up a pass back to the point. And then he makes another nice play to get Cogliano the puck. Robbie Schremp, meet your worst nightmare; Truhkno is here, and here's to play so far.

9:15 Beer Break.... new rule that tehy don't go to commercial for an icing? I like that. A lot. Bernier being a knob? Not so much.

7:50 As McDonald moves the puck North for the millionth time tonight, the Oilers draw a PP... they have to make this one count.

7:20 Oilers have a nice chance off the rush as Nilsson and Cogs work a nice give and go.. that line really deserves a goal. Hell - so does the Brule line.

3:40 Been a bit distracted... girlfriend got on MSN. Truhkno makes his first mistake of the night for a penalty.

3:20... nervous play by Strudwick as he tries to outright stop a shot with his stick. Haven't liked his game much tonight.

2:30 As usual with MacT teams... we just kick ass on the PK. Always a pleasure to watch his PK, nevermind once he gets his horses....

1:40 Brodziak just made an UNREAL play on the PK to deflect a pass for a one-timer to Salo on the PK. One hand on his stick and he flings it up to deflect the saucer pass. Just a fantastic play to spring a 2 on 2 out of hte zone and get a change.

Game over. Nucks win 2-1.

Game thoughts are pretty simple....

Brodziak, Truhkno and Nilsson were the three best Oilers. Roloson played well, as did Cogliano. Grebeshkov played decently, I liked a lot of what Potulny and McDonald did, and the rest of the D left a lot to be desired... didn't notice a whole lot from the bottom 6, which should be expected given who was there. Hopefully some cuts some quickly so we can start tuning up for the games that matter.

Outside of that:

Is Robbie Schremp feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders or what?


I thought the Canucks were going to be a "fun" team to watch this season? Ha...

Exhibition Game 1: Canucks 4 Oilers 3 (SO)

Above: Memory, all alone in the moonlight...

Some quick niblets from last night's first exhibition game:

Sheldon Souray looked really good. I still expect him to get beat wide at least twice a game, but he was physical and quicker than I remember. Decent point shot, too.

The Big Visnovsky had some ups and downs, strikes and gutters. He can make things happen, but I wonder about his two way play.

Laddy Smid looked bigger and more poised. Skated out of the zone well and made a few good outlet passes. Might be ready to take a step forward.

Penner: didn't notice him much after the first frame (have to check his TOI), but he seems to be gelling nicely with San Fernando and Moreau.

Cole showed great hands on the 2-1 goal, has speed to burn, but seemed a beat out of synch with Horcoff and Hemsky, both of whom seemed a touch off (I had no idea Horcoff had two points until I read the summary this morning). Don't think there's much else that needs to be said about him.

Ganger: Better than Viagra.

Schremp: Hustled and made some crisp passes, but he's running up hill. It's time to shit or get off the pot for Sugartits. I don't think he makes it.

Garon: Up to his old Gumby ways. I'm not worried about goaltending.

Didn't like the deja vu of losing a lead in the last few minutes of the third and I am sick of shootouts. The rubber match is tonight on Sportsnet Pacific.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Method to the Madness.....

Erik Cole is a beauty hockey player. Just is. He's one of those guys that gets it. He drives to the net with wreckless abandon. He gets the puck moving north-south in a hurry. He can finish, both with the puck and with his shoulder. He's a leader in the room and a leader on the ice. Basically...

He's Jarome Iginla-lite.

Now, while I'm not going to focus on the long-term effects or anything like that, it appears that MacT has figured out two very important things early on at this camp, and it's in a direction that I'm not sure anyone saw him taking. He's figured out how to run one of the best power lines in the league with Cole - Horcoff - Hemsky while still having a a third line that can pick up the rest of the slack.

The answer to the question, of course, was the hero from the '06 run. San Fernando. Early at camp he's been moved to center between Moreau and Penner on a line that very few would've thought of... and early returns are that it's working out well. This isn't the first time MacT has tried to move someone to C - I'm sure we all remember the Ryan Smyth "#1 C" experiment a few years ago, but this is a move that looks brilliant early on. Pisani is a guy who can move the puck North-South in a hurry while Penner and Moreau are both strong along the boards... while I don't want Penner (or Moreau, for that matter) running around in our own zone against Iginla or the Sedin's.... the fact is Pisani is a guy who'll break the cycle and get the puck out... and Penner and Moreau are both guys who can muck the game down low and kill the time.

Will it last? Tough to say, shit happens, guys get injured, guys like Brodziak and Pouliot will have to step it up as time goes on, etc. However, for now, I am damn excited by the prospects of a top 9 that starts with the power line, moves to this mucking line and finishes off with some razzle and dazzle from the kids.

The first preseason game is tonight boys.

Keep your head up and buckle up, it's gonna be a fun Winter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

That's what I call marketing

As exciting as it is to talk about the Oilers' rookie camp (read: not exciting at all), here's something better: scantily clad dames.

That's the Dallas Stars "Ice Girls" frolicking about in bikinis and such. They are waiting for your call right now: pick up the phone!

Real training camp countdown: T-minus 32 hours.

(glove tap Four Habs Fans)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Car crash

Hey, anyone read any Oilers blogs lately? Hoo boy. What seems to have started out as a debate over the value of some of the new statistics the Oilogosphere has produced (see: here, here, here, and here) has degenerated into a veritable shit fight at the monkey house. Check out some of the comment threads here, here and here, and try to remember that some of these cats are the same people who deride the folks at HF Oilers for being immature drooling retards, which just goes to show that age and education is no defense against being a total fucking asshole.

Now, I'm no stranger to online pissing contests, but as someone with no dog in this fight beyond my interest in the fortunes of the mighty Oil, I find the whole thing ridiculous even by the gutter standards of internet discourse. So forgive the misuse of this space, and though I know no one has asked and no such advice will be heeded, I thought I'd get this off my chest.

Ain't nobody getting paid for this. For most everyone who writes, reads or comments on the Oil blogs, this is a hobby. The differences seem to be between those for whom following the Oilers is a way to while away the winter hours and an excuse to knock back a few beers and those who, like furries and diaper fetishists, seem to live and die by it. The stats business is a good example. I'm certainly sympathetic to the aims of those who want to push things forward in terms of how the game is analyzed and understood so that shit like "Joffery Lupul is a one-shot scorer" won't be allowed to stand, but a little perspective is needed. I'm sure the stats-heads like to think they are doing the game a service, but I have to wonder what the real world application for some of this stuff is. At best, it's an academic exercise, which is in and of itself worthwhile, but not something to get one's tits in a twist over. A good rule of thumb is: if something someone has written on the internet prompts you to utter a threat against them or their family, you're in too deep. And you probably need some therapy.

Personally, I can take or leave the stats stuff. It's great to have some quantifiable data in hand for winning arguments on the internet, but what matters most is the community, the social aspect, the fact that people from Edmonton to Toronto to Vladivostok and all points in between can be united by their shared love of the game and a team: The Passion That Unites Us All, to borrow a slogan from some minor-league softball team. It's not an exclusive club and it's nobody's personal domain. It's funny as hell to see some of the old-timers complain about the growth of the 'sphere in terms that sound strikingly similar to those used by the gatekeepers in the mainstream media to deride this whole blogging thing back when it started to take off. On the Oilogosphere, there's crap and there's quality and sometimes you have to work through a lot of the latter to get to the former, but that's the price of success. Most of the time, the quality shines through, which is why my posts get three views and Lowetide gets 10 jillion.

The real point here is that we're still a few days shy of training camp in what rightly or wrongly is one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. As such, it'll be nice to read and talk about actual hockey again and fuck the rest.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Erik Cole

"Bank Shot" did some research, and raised a good point over at Lowetide's (link to the right). How much was the "Southeast" division a factor in Erik Cole's overall performance?


Erik Cole posted 24 points in 28 games against Southeast division foes; 27 point in 45 games against all other NHL teams.

It's been well documented goaltending and defense was a considerable issue in the SE division last season.

Erik Cole did some other things quite well; he was physical, drew penalties (tied for 2nd most in the league), and shot the puck 216 times, which would have lead the Oilers last season (Leader: Dustin Penner, 201 SOG).

On the contrary, Cole’s numbers have fallen since 2005-2006 season; since the lockout, he has missed 20, 11, and 9 games respectively since the lockout. He turns 30 in November.

I don't think there is doubt that Erik Cole will help this team win hockey games. At the same time, Erik Cole may not provide full value in his next contract. I acknowledge it's prudent for General Manager, sorry, President of Hockey Operations, Kevin Lowe, to play out the season before deciding whether or not to bring Katz suitcases to the negotiation table.

However, this begs answers to the following questions: Why did Kevin Lowe pursue a player who he has doubts about, and is one year away from unrestricted free agency? Especially given the fact Joni Pitkanen kept his head above water with a EV +/- rating of zero playing difficult opposition. Was Erik Cole the best value in the trade market? Was it the good trade?

David Caruso is investigating.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fightin' words

Over at OilersNation, Robin Brownlee asks a few questions about the Oilers’ quest for an enforcer.
  • Is willing but much-maligned Zack Stortini enough of a deterrent to prevent ruffians from taking liberties with Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson if he can get some back-up from newly acquired Jason Strudwick or veterans Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau?
  • Would a tag-team of Stortini, who dropped the gloves 23 times last season, and J.F. Jacques do the trick if Jacques can overcome wrist and back injuries and finally deliver the physical and fistic contributions expected of him?
  • Is there an NHL-calibre enforcer in the bent-nosed bunch of minor-leaguers the Oilers have invited to camp who’d be ready and willing to throw down for 500-large on 30 or 40 nights this season?
Fortunately, I have the answers to all of the above. Actually it’s really a single, all-purpose answer:

Who gives a shit?

To my mind, there’s no better example to be found of the parting of ways between conventional wisdom and reality that exists in sports than the value placed on enforcers in the NHL. Having a tough guy to protect teammates and settle scores is regarded as essential by everyone from armchair GMs up to, well, actual GMs (as evidenced by the Oilers’ pursuit of fan favourite and league heavyweight champ Georges Laraque). The idea, sayeth the gospel, is that tough guys not only punish evildoers for their transgressions, but also act to deter the cheap shot artists of the league from taking liberties with star players. If the Oilers had a tough guy, the reasoning goes, Ales Hemsky would never again have to worry about Robyn Regher using Hemsky’s face to apply Turtle Wax to the dasher boards at the end of the rink.

Advocates of the nuclear deterrent theory point to the fact that, since Laraque’s departure, the Oilers have been racked by injuries to key players (Moreau, Souray, Horcoff and Hemsky all missed time last year and, at one point late in the season, the entire 2007 team was in ICU at the U of A hospital). Problem is, correlation is not causation. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see how the assertion that tough guys prevent injuries is actually baseless.

Below is a (small, shitty)table that compares the official man games lost to injury (MGL) totals (via James Mirtle) with HockeyFights.com’s rankings of total fighting majors by team (FM). For ease of comparison, I’ve clustered the top, middle and bottom thirds of the man games lost together to see how they correlated with fighting majors.

Squint and you can see that four teams in the top 10 in FM were in the bottom of the pile in MGL. But four other leading FM teams were among the league leaders in MGL, with the pugilistic Canucks just missing the cut in that regard. Overall, in this sample, there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between how often a team fights and the number of severe injuries they incur.

Granted, this is a simplistic analysis using a rather small sample size and missing out on a helluva lot of variables. But let’s appeal to common sense here: of the myriad major Oilers’ injuries over the past couple of years, how could reasonably have been prevented or deterred by an enforcer? I can think of two: Moreau fucking up his shoulder trying to slap Danny Markov in ‘06 and Souray blowing out his pitching arm in a tilt against the Canucks' Byron Ritchie last year. Theoretically, an enforcer would have prevented these two injuries by taking the burden of scrapping off Moreau and Souray’s shoulders (get it? get it?). But with 33 and 29 career NHL fights respectively, neither Souray nor Moreau are, for lack of a better term, pussies. Both are gritty players who are regarded as leaders on the ice: probably not the kind of guys who will outsource their dirty work on the off chance of a freak (or, in Souray’s case, entirely predictable) injury. Which brings me to another point: outside of the extremely rare one-sided beating or any fight in which Todd Fedoruk is a combatant, most hockey fights end with no harm done to either pugilist. Given the relatively low level of risk involved, it’s hard to see how fighting is any kind of deterrent, particularly for those players whose job description includes regular blows to the head followed five minute stays in the box.

This is nicely illustrated by the photo above. That’s Derek Boogaard about to drop some sweet science on Le GG himself. The same Derek Boogaard who, since rampaging through the Oilers roster a couple of seasons back, has had Oiler fans waking up in a cold sweat whenever a game with Minnesota draws nigh. The Boogeyman is 6’7” and 271 lbs. His career fight card reads like a who’s who of NHL enforcers, with Laraque, Shelley, Godard, Parros and Brashear all making appearances. Clearly, having an enforcer of your own is not going to deter a guy like that because fighting the other team’s enforcer is Boogaard’s entire raison d’etre. It’d take an I.E.D. to stop that motherfucker. That said, Boogaard’s status as both heavyweight and wrecking ball make him an aberration. What about cheap shot artists like the aforementioned Robyn Regehr: surely he would pass up the chance to cripple Sam Ganger if he knew the Oilers had a true tough guy giving the stinkeye from the end of the bench, right?

Well, no. Just as heavyweights tend to fight other heavyweights, punks like Regehr tend not to fight at all (RR had three fights last year against titans like Jason chimera and Dustin Penner). They hit and run. If they do fight, it’s with players in their weightclass. If outmatched, they hang on, or turtle: no harm done. And certainly no compelling reason to pass up the chance to murder another team’s star player.

To sum up so far:

  • The correlation between an enforcer and team injuries is weak at best, non-existent at worst
  • Guys who are paid, in whole or in part, to fight aren’t going to change their style of play because of the possibility of getting into a fight.
  • Guys who are paid to take liberties with others won’t fight an enforcer, thus enforcers carry no value as a deterrent.

So what’s left? Why are guys like Ales Hemsky and Kevin Prendergast, fellas whose knowledge of the game (hopefully) greatly eclipses my own, still grumbling about the need for an enforcer? The only answer that makes any sense is that the importance of an tough guy has become part of the culture of the game, a treasured myth that, while completely lacking in any supporting evidence, is nonetheless repeated, circulated and passed on through the generations as cant (see also: Europeans are pansies, “big goals”). These are things we believe to be true, though all the evidence before our eyes tells us otherwise: enforcers are important. Tough guys prevent injuries. They help teams win.

As “just-so” stories go, that’s all well and good. But when a team like the Oilers with literally more NHL-ready prospects than they know what to do withstarts talking about giving up a roster spot and cap space to some meathead whose job is to act as the human equivalent to those obnoxious Jumbotron exhortations (“Make some NOOOOOOISE!!!), well, it perturbs me.

I’ll close this off with a relevant quote from Mirtle, who did his own analysis of NHL enforcers last year:
At best, they're not a liability. At worst, they cripple their team, allowing somewhere in the neighbourhood of two goals per 60 minutes more than the rest of their team while generating almost zero offence or shots on goal.

If I'm a coach or GM, isn't there a better option at the bottom of the roster?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

An Uneventful August

August was a slow month at PunjabiOil & Company. A mere 6 entries (0.20 Posts/30). Sometimes, there just isn't any value added discussion to be brought forward. Unless, of course, you are Lowetide - the Wayne Gretzky of the Oilogosphere.

Hopefully, September will change. I will be limited in number of posts for the next few months, but I'm sure you will see great 'value-added' discussion from blog co-owners in PDO, LittleFury, and prospect AsiaOil.

With that said, I leave you with this: