Saturday, January 30, 2016

All-Star weekend sucks, right?

A lot of folks, including players, think the NHL All Star Game has turned into a joke. No Sydney, Ovi and Toews are conveniently sick and get game suspensions. Fans vote in a guy who got traded and sent down to the AHL.  Three on three format.  No one really tries. 

Honestly though, the All Star Game has never been a playoff style tough game. Scores have always been high. More dazzle than frazzle. 

Thing is, with the advent of the Heritage Classic game outside in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium back in 2003 in -20C, that set a new tone in fan-oriented fun. With the alumni game and other activities, it's no wonder more and more of these Winter Classics are happening at stadiums around the league. The fans sell it out and they love it.  

They love the atmosphere. And that atmosphere is very different than on TV. The smells, the sounds and cold beer held by a cold hand.  Aahhh.. Eskimo football!  

So who cares if the All Star Game isn't real hockey.  

Who cares if Syd, Ovi, and Captain Serious aren't playing.  There are still lots of fantastic players who are happy to take their place and who appreciate the experience more. 

It's entertainment. 

It's for the fans in attendance. 

It's a nice break from the rock em sock em. 

It's fun. 

Just ask John Scott.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oilers Lineup Value Metric (LVM)

I'm coining a new term called Lineup Value Metric (LVM).

Yesterday, I proposed a way of putting metrics to line combinations as follows, and I think I like it. None of you made any comments, which is surprising, because I like to hear what you think!

Ideal is:
1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 4     = 48
2nd Line (3 x):  3 + 3 + 3     = 27  
3rd Line (2 x):  2 + 2 + 2     = 12
4th Line (1 x):  1 + 1 + 1     =  3
Total point value:               90

Starting line up last night vs. Dallas was:
1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 4     = 48 - 48 =  0
2nd Line (3 x):  1 + (3-1) + 3 = 18 - 27 = -9
3rd Line (2 x):  (2-1) + 1 + 1 =  6 - 12 = -6
4th Line (1 x):  1 + (-1) + 2  =  2 -  3 = -1
Total off ideal lineup:          74 - 90 = -16 or 82.2%

Then I noticed Yak and Klinkhammer switched spots. That was an improvement as Yak scored. So here I'm switching the 2nd line LW and 4th line RW. Yes, it could be argued that Yak is a 2nd liner. With a good centreman he certainly is, so in this case, with Pouliot not even being a centreman, I'll keep Yak at a 2 value.

1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 4     = 48 - 48 =   0
2nd Line (3 x):  2 + (3-1) + 3 = 21 - 27 =  -6
3rd Line (2 x):  (2-1) + 1 + 1 =  6 - 12 =  -6
4th Line (1 x):  1 + (-1) + 1  =  1 -  3 =  -2
Total off ideal lineup:          76 - 90 = -14 or 84.4%

So there was a slight improvement of 2 points with that switch.

On Defense, we would have a system whereby the top defenders should be treated the same as top forwards. But frankly, defense is too important to think the bottom pair is worth far less. With that, I'm going to multiply each line by 4, but start the players with a 4 on 1st line and downward. They'll get a -1 if they're on their off-shot side.

Ideal defense:
1st Pair (4 x):  4 + 4 = 32
2nd Pair (4 x):  3 + 3 = 24
3rd Pair (4 x):  2 + 2 = 16
Total ideal value:       72

In understanding that none of the defenders are true top pairing guys except maybe Sekera and Klefbom (IR), that doesn't play into this as we are dealing with the current lineup as it is, not some fantasy situation.  That said, I will assign the line pair value. For example, Mark Fayne is not a top pairing d-man. 2nd pair at best, so he gets a 2. Schultz is not a 2nd pairing guy but a 3rd, but Nurse barely is.  It could be argued that Davidson is a 2nd pairing guy, but we'll leave him where he is.

Last night's pairings started as:
Sekera + Fayne   = 4 x (4 + 3) = 28 - 32 = -4
Nurse  + Schultz = 4 x (3 + 2) = 20 - 24 = -4
Davidson + Gryba = 4 x (2 + 2) = 16 - 16 =  0
Total off ideal lineup (LVM):    64 - 72 = -8 or 89%

Then when Davidson got injured, that's essentially a (2-1=1) in that spot with other d-men playing extra minutes.  That drops the 3rd pair by -4, making the defense be a -10 late in the 3rd period and the team running on a -14 LVM for forwards and -10 LVM for defense for a total of 76+60-90-72 = -26 LVM or 136/162 = 84%.

With Davidson injured, look to Brad Hunt to step in. That won't change the lineup much, but Hunt is not a 2, but a 1.  The real change will happen when McDavid returns on Feb 2.  I'm going to change a couple things in the ideal metric here:

Purcell is not an ideal 1st line right-winger and is a 2nd line guy at best, so he's a 3 not a 4.  McDavid is ideal and should be a 4 as are Hall and Draisaitl. Hendricks is also a 3rd line guy, Lander shouldn't be in the lineup anymore, but with Nuge out, the lineup should look like this on Groundhog Day.

Hall + Draisaitl + Purcell
Pouliot + McDavid + Eberle
Yakupov + Letestu + Kassian
Hendricks + Lander + Pakarinen

1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 3  = 44 - 48 =  -4
2nd Line (3 x):  3 + 4 + 3  = 30 - 27 =  +3
3rd Line (2 x):  2 + 1 + 2  = 10 - 12 =  -2
4th Line (1 x):  2 + 0 + 1  =  3 -  3 =   0
Total off ideal lineup (LVM): 87 - 90 =  -3 or ironically 97%.

And yes, in the future, McDavid can be a 5.  So can Hall.  I'm thinking of tracking this for every game from now on and compare to results.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oilers man games lost to injury, depth, and line blenders

 #Oilers #OilersNation
We all know the Oilers have had the most man games lost to injury in the league, but it's been mostly top players, especially the second line that has included Eberle, Pouliot, McDavid, Yakupov, and now Nugent-Hopkins, coupled with Oscar Klefbom being out for the rest of the year.

We bloggers like to speculate on the game-day lineups and this year has been one heck of a blender. Let's look at what the forward lineup was supposed to be at the start of the season compared to today.

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov
Korpikoski - Letestu - Purcell
Hendricks - Lander - Klinkhammer/Gazdic

The team has called up Slepyshev, Pakarinen, Khaira, and Yakimov and traded for Kassian who was called up recently.

Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Yakupov - Nugent-Hopkins - Kassian
Hendricks - Letestu - Pakarinen

Injuries to McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins tried Hendricks at centre on the 2nd line, but now McLellan is going to try Pouliot at centre.  I think this is a bad idea.  He's not the fastest on skates and don't think he'll be able to get back in time end to end.

Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Klinkhammer - Pouliot - Eberle
Kassian - Letestu - Pakarinen
Hendricks - Lander - Yakupov

I want to now put some metrics to this.  If we took the Ideal lineup and gave each line and player a point value based on the line value he should be on and position with a -1 one if he's off position on the same line (say a winger playing centre or a winger on his off-wing), we can compare how far off the team is from an ideal situation to the current.

Ideal is:
1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 4     = 48 / 48
2nd Line (3 x):  3 + 3 + 3     = 27 / 27 

3rd Line (2 x):  2 + 2 + 2     = 12 / 12
4th Line (1 x):  1 + 1 + 1     =  3 /  3

Current is:
1st Line (4 x):  4 + 4 + 4     = 48 / 48 (+0)
2nd Line (3 x):  1 + (3-1) + 3 = 18 / 27 (-9)

3rd Line (2 x):  (2-1) + 1 + 1 =  6 / 12 (-6)
4th Line (1 x):  1 + (-1) + 2  =  2 /  3 (-1)
Total off ideal lineup:  -16

I'm going to start with that, because each line total seems to match with goal total comparisons in a way.

But for argument's sake, if we didn't use the line multiplier:
1st Line :  4 + 4 + 4     = 12 / 12 (+0)
2nd Line :  1 + (3-1) + 3 =  6 /  9 (-3)

3rd Line :  (2-1) + 1 + 1 =  3 /  3 (+0)
4th Line :  1 + (-1) + 2  =  2 /  3 (-1)
Total off ideal lineup:  -4

Yeah, I think I like the line multiplier better.  What do you think?  Just trying something new here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

OILERS: Ack ack a dack! Zack stack and the Yak attack are back!


Coyotes are like 217-0-3 versus the Oilers. If the Oil can never tame the Yote trap, then they'll never win the Pacific. Ever.

Five on five the game was duller than a spoon. What do you expect, it was the David Tippet Trap Coyotes. The powerplay, though was good for both teams, but their penalty kill was also not so good.

So with that, why did the Oilers lose last night? 3 things:

1. No Klefbom and he's out indefinitely, so that hurts the PK and the defense will remain one of the worst in the league.

2. No Hendricks as he's out for a 3 game suspension and he's the best PKer. And although he's a winger, he takes d-zone start faceoffs and is 60% on the dot, as well. Very valuable player.

3. Nilsson. .876 SV% is not good. I thought he came out of the net too much, leaving the weak side wide open like the Grand Canyon down the highway.

Image courtesy of the Edmonton Sun
And BREAKING: Zack Kassian has been called up from Bakersfield. Yak returns from his freak injury so now we have the Zack stack and Yak back. (You're welcome.)

Projected lineup for Friday vs. the Sharks:

Hall - Nuge - Purcell
Pouliot - Draisaitl - Eberle <-- that line was good last night
Yakupov - Letestu - Kassian <-- Kassian is a right-shot so this fits. Korpikoski - Lander - Pakarainen

Gazdic sits. Look for him to be put on waivers soon. When Hendricks gets back, I'm making the prediction that Hendricks becomes the 4th line centre and Lander also gets put on waivers.

Then when McDavid returns, it's three scoring lines. Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov Hendricks - Nuge - Eberle Korpikoski - Letestu - Kassian Pakarainen

But that's almost all meaningless when the defense isn't there to get the puck up the ice to these guys. Why? Because the Oilers defense has the least number of total assists in the league.

With Kassian here, that means there's a forward going to be moved in a big trade for defensive help. Purcell, Eberle, or Nugent-Hopkins will be gone.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Oilers' Groundhog Day

McDavid and Klefbom are back on Groundhog Day.  In the movie starring Bill Murray, he repeats the same day over and over.  

Coincidentally, the Oilers essentially repeat the same season over and over, as follows:
  • More losses than wins
  • Near last place or last place in the standings
  • Inexperienced defense
  • Costly turnovers
  • Lack of depth
  • Lack of quality right-shot defensemen
  • Not enough scoring
  • Subpar powerplay
  • New subpar supporting players
  • Lack of toughness
  • Small players
  • One of the youngest teams
  • New coaches
  • Tonnes and tonnes of man games lost, especially for star players like Hall, Nuge, Eberle
  • And of course ... Number One Draft Picks.

And in watching this Florida Panthers game versus the Oilers and seeing Jaromir Jagr score on the Oilers from a defensive mistake has probably been repeated in the last 26 years?

You can't get anymore Groundhog Day than that.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016



Did you see that?  Did you see what I did there?  I took Bon Jovi's popular 80's song and related it to the Oilers marking the halfway point on the season.  Especially that livin' on a prayer part.  That's exactly what we are all doing.  #PrayForMcDavid

Did you also notice Anaheim winning some games and jumping up the standings in the Pacific Division?  Many did not.  If the Oilers had beat them last week, 'tis the Oilers who would be back in that playoff spot.  One goal.  That was it.  That's all it took.  One pass.  One shot.  One save.  One blink.

(Note: the Oilers' schedule continually has them with more games played, so everyone else in the Pacific except Vancouver hasn't hit the halfway mark yet.  But I digress...)

That's how tight this race is.  Is it possible?  It is.  You bet it is.

The Oilers were so far down in the basement standings last year, at 82 games, they had 24 wins.  At the halfway mark this year, they are only 7 games away from the same number of wins.  That's how much they've improved--again, despite the injuries...

The injuries curse continues....

Despite the injury curse that continues to plague this team, the Oilers were blessed this year with a new POHO/GM, head coach, assistant coaches, and McDavid.  That encouraged Andrej Sekera to come here and he's definitely our top d-man right now.

However, the Oilers have the most man games lost to injury this year than any other team and have the most important players injured to boot.  Those major injuries included:

Top forwards:
Jordan Eberle (RW) - 13 games
Connor McDavid (C) - 27 games
Nail Yakupov (RW) - 18 games
Benoit Pouliot (LW) - 8 games

Bottom 6 fowards:
Matt Hendricks (LW) - 10 games
Lauri Korpikoski (F) - 8 games
Rob Klinkhammer (F) - 27 games

Oscar Klefbom (LD) - 10 games
Justin Schultz (RD) - 14 games
Brandon Davidson (LD) - 6 games
Griffin Reinhart (LD) - 6 games

There's a few more but those are the major ones.  In total, it's 155 games.  Yikes.  Turrible. So turrible.

It reminds me of when Tom Renney (now seeminly failed Canada Hockey President after the Junior team debacle) was the coach and the Oilers became the OKC Barons with the number of call-ups filling rolls left by NHL player injuries.  It was endless.  It wasn't Renney's fault but he was fired anyway.

The two big injury losses here are McDavid and Klefbom.  Why did I not include Yak?  Well, I don't think he can produce and play as well without McDavid, so Yak's status here depends on McDavid returning--even then, I'm hearing Yak's fluke ankle injury has him out for much longer.  Since Klefbom got injured, the defense was left with a hole so big, you could score even more easily on the Oilers.


That said, good coaching has improved the lot of d-men to improve on their advanced stats and over the last 28 games, the defense is no longer being on the negative side of good chances for and against differentials.

My point in all of this is despite the Oilers being near the bottom of the league again, they are blessed by being in the worst division, allowing them to grab a 3rd place playoff spot.  But this won't happen unless...

Unite McDavid and Eberle please...

Can you imagine if they didn't have all those injuries to good players?  Let's have a quick look at my forward lineup prediction when McDavid returns.

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Hendricks - Letestu - Purcell
Klinkhammer - Lander - Korpikoski

If Yakupov returns, you're looking at three scoring lines (bold highlighted pairs).

Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov
Hendricks - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Klinkhammer - Letestu - Korpikoski


There has been a lot of speculation that newly acquired forward Zack Kassian will get a call up from Bakersfield on another injury.  That's tough to say that will happen sooner than later, but my guess is later.  The only forward that could easily go back down without waivers is Khaira.  Even with Pakarinen still injured, Gazdic is the leftover forward and he'll have to go on waivers, which I'm not sure if he'll clear, but that's okay.  You see, I believe Chiarelli hasn't seen much from Gazdic, and brought in Kassian to potentially fill that gap.  Plus, Khaira is a big guy, can fight, AND has skill.

Hall Star...

Speaking of Hall, there is a really good chance he goes to the All-Star game--we find out tomorrow.  Draisaitl should get to go too, but dumb fans want John Scott.  Although an Edmonton-born guy, and the 3 on 3 thingy seems interesting, the All-Star Game has turned into a total joke--so much so that Jagr doesn't really want to go "to play 3 on 3?"

And speaking of Hall again, on another fun note, I was at the Oilers Signature Event and got Taylor Hall to sign a stick I have already signed by Gretzky and Messier.  He said, "Boy, that sure is big company."  I said, "Yep.  You deserve it."   Also got signatures from Letestu, Khaira, Hendricks, Pouliot, Purcell, and Eberle.  The McDavid line was already full to max of 300 people even before I entered the building from the massive lineups.  So my McDavid jersey will have to wait for his signature.

But how rare is THAT stick?  And yes, it's a Titan.