Thursday, November 3, 2011
October's Oiler Notes
The Oilers have played October's games and I thought I'd share at least one line on each player:
Tom Gilbert has been exceptional to start this campaign. I've seen 2 or 3 games in which I would describe him as a solid 2nd pairing player who was getting some good bounces, and the rest of the games where he flat out looked like a first pairing guy. His fumbles behind his own blue line, particularly when being fore-checked from the other team (under pressure) have almost dried up. I'm on board with this Tom Gilbert.
Nikolai Khabibulin is playing like Dwayne Roloson circa the '06 run right now. Out of his skull good. Looks like he's getting a better result than he honestly deserves on technical merit, but his effort, concentration and feel for the puck right now are incredible. This is the goalie I hoped we were getting a few years back. I think Khabibulin feels confidence in his conditioning, ability and experience right now and is using the challenge being put forth by Dubynk and the energy of a young and exciting team in front of him to bring the best out of a quality veteran who had a lot to prove coming into the season.
Devan Dubynk looks like he's ready. He could take over this team any day now and run with it. He has confidence from a string of strong performances and the big guy deserves starts. Even with N.K. playing so well right now he should have just under half the starts until something changes.
Corey Potter is able to impact the game in all situations and that is great. It feels a little too early for me to make too many judgments yet on this player but I know I'm rooting for continued play like he has demonstrated so far. At some point, though, we may have to thank Mr. Renney for putting in a good word to management on this one.
Ales Hemsky looked dynamic and as good as ever, when healthy (please get well).
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been like a fairy tale so far. Wow. He strips opponents with a good stick and strong edge work. He makes passing decisions quickly and delivers passes that have eyes. Taylor Hall may or may not be the best player on this team years from now, as it turns out, and that's not a bad thing. Good players pushing good players and helping make other good players better means that even our best players have every opportunity to develop.
Cam Barker uses his reach, size and positioning to defend. He has some foot-speed issues but it only costs him sometimes. He seems to like to get nasty and engage opponents physically. He can move the puck well and has a hard shot. I don't have problem with him as a top 4 defencemen right now.
Andy Sutton has been hard to play against and has also done a good job of keeping his game simple.
Hall has been producing and it looks like he hasn't even quite hit his stride. What a beast.
Eberle has been keeping up with the 1st overalls in terms of his production. His calm movement of the puck on the power play sometimes can be overlooked because of what RNH has been doing.
Paajarvi is playing a defensively sound game that is currently lacking in offensive finish. He is still creating some opportunities but has thus far been unable to find the twine. I'm not that worried yet but if this lasts another ten games I might be.
Lander has been a defensive horse. He looks like he's competent in the face-off circle at this level an effective back-checker and fore-checker. Lander uses his stick and body well to separate the puck from the competition and when he has possession of the puck he usually makes a safe play. He has untapped offensive potential but is earning his time and the trust of his coach at this juncture.
Linus Omark is a puzzle. How do you get everything you want from this player at the same time? He is effective along the boards in the offensive zone and at times makes sublime passes and top tier dekes. He can also be good enough (not necessarily great) in his defensive zone when he has a mind to be. Other times he gives the puck away trying to do too much and has minimal interest in the defensive zone. Even Detroit, no, ESPECIALLY DETROIT would be doing the same thing right now with Linus as is happening here. He needs to pull all the pieces together. If he can, this team could really benefit from having him.
Jeff Petry is close to, but not quite, a regular top 4 defencemen in the NHL. What's stopping him? Himself, really, in my opinion. I think it's nerves and confidence that he needs to build upon so that he can just feel comfortable playing his game. He's that close.
Theo Peckham is a popular player but needs to remember that it is a privilege to play in the best league in the world. A renewed focus from some time off should bring him around. I hope he punishes opposing teams forwards for a long time yet.
Eric Belanger has been a steady defensive center for the Oilers; winning draws, staying on the right side of the puck, making safe plays and utilizing his quick acceleration and good lateral movement to position himself well.
Ladislav Smid is still not going to be on the score sheet much but he is playing the best hockey he may have ever played. Smid's been sound in every aspect of his defensive zone play and so far has able to move the puck up the ice, or to someone else that can (i.e. Gilbert). Smid leads the NHL in blocked shots this season to this point. Great season from Ladi so far.
Ben Eager looks like the solid bottom 6 winger we signed to play for us. Good for all parties.
Lennart Petrell has been as advertised. He plays an effective bottom 6 winger role with smart defensive play and a physical presence. He has speed and size and it looks like a cannon of a shot should he ever find the opportunity to use it. I'm glad we kept this guy on the roster.
Darcy Hordichuk has played the role he was brought in to do but not much else. He has neither disappointed nor impressed (except with maybe a few good big hits).
Sam Gagner is getting a late start to his season but looks ok so far. I'll have a better evaluation after some more games played.
Ryan Smyth is playing like it's 2005-2006 when it's really 6 years later. Good on him and whatever is keeping his motor running. In the conversation as our best forward to start the season.
Ryan Jones has been relatively quiet this season so far but he's doing it the right way: with effective penalty killing and 2-way play. He is overdue for a breakaway but I digress.
It's very difficult to evaluate Whitney based on his small body of work this season and considering it was coming off of injury. His play aside though, I am really concerned about his injuries now.
Shawn Horcoff has been playing a great 2 way game, winning a lot of draws and providing leadership.