Experts Look: The Oilers Mid-Season….

The Edmonton Oilers, not exactly the team I’ve always defended, but definetly one of the orther 29 teams I’m am up to date with!

So heres all that Comrie ish, Smith to Smyth captains, Heritage Classic and high playoff hopes, to 12th in the Western conference info are….*What Happened in Games 1 through 41*:

The Oilers started off the year to be a young, a much bigger, strong and still fast team. Coach MacTavish had been working hard to improve the team’s defensive play and special teams play. But instead the Oilers are 13 in goals for, the 4th worst team in allowing goals, 29th on the power play, and the worst team in the league on the penalty kill.

*Ups And Downs*:

The Oilers started the year soft on goals, soft on goaltending, but had some with some light coming from Ty Conklin, a 6 game unbeaten streak in November, Edmonton’s recent 4 game point streak to open the mid season and not to mention the whole Mike Comrie issue which ended with Comrie still have 2.5million dollars in his pocket, a trip to Philly, and a promising defenseman in Woywitka to Edmonton.

*Coaching Grades*:

Head Coach Craig MacTavish: F.

With all the young and promising players infront of him, willing to learn and develop game strategies and team play. MacTavish has fallen behind his on gun in the philosophy “go-and-get” style of play. With the type of character and youth the team has, the Oilers have been asking for discipline and motivation. MacTavish definitely can motivate, but it’s his speeches that he isn’t able to back up, nor does he pick the right time to put these guys in place.

Assistant Craig Simpson: C+.

Simpson was once known for his ability to score 50 goals in a season. He’s been great on helping the young forwards with game smarts and giving a solid strategic way for the team to score goals. But i still think has a way over-rated hockey expert and its DEFENSE the Oilers need. Aint always about offense in this league.

*Player Grades*: #Centers#

Shawn Horcoff: C-.

He has been a good motivate for his team, but still isn’t able to keep the urge or chasing the puck deep out of him. Till he’s gone too deep and out of the play.

Jarret Stoll: D+.

Does show much signs of scoring. But I do like his defensive instincts. Is nothing more then a checking line player.

Marty Reasoner: B.

Very under rated for his checking ability. Was key for the Oilers at the start of the year. But injury problems have kept Reasoner from really impacting the team. He IS the teams’ best penalty killing forward, and is showing signs of a scoring touch.

Jason Chimera: D.

Career checking line center once again. But is still young and needs guidance. But boooy can he skate.

Adam Oates: D.

What the heck were Oiler fans expecting when they signed this guy? He averages 1 shot per-game. Hasn’t been as great as expected on face-offs. And is it me, or should this guys new nic-name in the league be “Tortus”(And NO, he aint ever gonna beat the hair).

#*Left-Wingers*#:

–>Best player–>Mike York: B+.

Mike’s been great offensively. But the reason he didn’t get that A- out of me. Was because hes got 30pts and leads the team in goals and points. But only has 1 PP goal and ZERO game winning goals. But he should get some consideration for his PK work. Which is why he got the +.

Ryan Smyth: B+.

Smyth has been his typical self. Plays hard with heart. But he still lacks on ice intelligence. Which is why his +/- is doing so well. His “go hard to the net” style has been good for Oiler spirits which is why he deserves the “C” he wears on his chest.

Raffi Torres: B.

Fears nothing. He plays like a Darcy Tucker(cept for the cheap stuff). Definitely my favourite player on the Oilers. He’s got most of the skill needed to be a lethal threat in the league. Is an all-round player, who is developing an all-round game.

Ethan Moreau: B.

Ethan started off very early in the year as the Oilers top offensive player. But has extremely cooled off back to his checking form. If only he could improve his timing and puck possession. And would stay out of the box!

*#Right-Wingers#*:

Ales Hemsky: B-.

Hes been the teams 2nd best RW. His point projections has been good for his development, but is still a rather wuss player who can’t play defense. It isn’t very smart of MacTavish to him on a line with Oates and Smyth. But I do like the kids sportsmanship. He actually asks if the players “o-K” after tripping him to the boards.

Radek Dvroak: B.

The teams best RW. Though he should in my opinion be put on the 2nd line where him and Smyth can do some real damage like they did in the playoffs. Is 2nd on the team in shots.

Brad Isbister: D+.

He isn’t going to be the next “Big E” or Todd Bertuzzi. Isn’t creative at all offensively. He likes to score the odd “garbage-goal” but will never excel in it like an Andrechuk, because an Andrechuck may be big but is still “sneaky”. The last thing Isbister is… Bradster is a mixture of many things, but isn’t doing the right ones. At this stage in his career. He should focus on DEFENSE FIRST. And not on trying to be the best player in the NHL to do, what ever it is he’s “dreaming” about….

Fernando Pisani: C.

I like his style. Just a little more offense is needed, which he seems to be doing. He’s been getting some real good chances of late, but is definitely a keeper for the future in Edmonton.

Georges Laraque: F.

He’s in Edmonton for one thing. To FIGHT. And he’s barely doing that like he use to. Instead, he’s running his own radio station. WOW, I guess there is a problem in being known as the best fighter in the NHL. Cause no ones going to fight you….

#*DEFENSE*#

Jason Smyth: B+.

IS an all-round defensemen and is the teams BEST defenseman. May not have the “amazing” offensive tools but is timely with what he has. Definitely a leader by example with his terrific on-ice play.

Steve Staois: A-.

Even though on other experts he should be a B+ or B. Staois is the highest ranked Oiler on my sheet for his heart. This guy will do anything to play. Even if it costs him 3 slappers. 2 on the knee and 1 on the chest. His positioning is terrific, as is his leadership. If there’s one defensemen in the league who wouldn’t stew against a Kovalchuk-Thornton-Bertuzzi line, is definitely Staois!

Eric Brewer: F.

What is going on with Brewer. This guy was expected to be one of the best defensemen this year. But he’s flopped big-time. His positioning at time has been reliable, but where is the offense?

Cory Cross: C.

Cross has been reliable for the Oilers. But has invisible in the ending of December. There’s nothing much to say about Cross because he is very smart, strong, big, and a good skater. He isn’t going to developed any skills soon at his age, so must stay focused on positioning.

Marc-Andre Bergeron: C+

Is a pleasant surprise for the Oilers. He hasn’t been good at all in handling tough forwards, but is doing what the Oilers desperately need from the blue-line. Which is an offensively minded rear-guard. His skills could use a good push for improvement.

Scott Ferguson: C-.

I love the way this guy fights! But he has been taking some bad penalties as of late. He hasn’t been very good positionally.

*#Goaltenders*#

Tom Salo: F.

Salo has sucked ever since that flop at the Olympics. He got beaten out of that position by the Leafs AHL league starter! He shouldn’t be the starter for the Oilers any more. They would be better with Conklin in net. Maybe not by much, but atleast better. Chants of “CUJO” are more deserving in Edmonton then they are in Chicago!

Ty Conklin: B-.

He’s a little too old to be considered the “future” for the Oilers. And is definitely not a starter. He has Bob Essensa written all over him. Has been the better goaltender of the two.

*Changes That MUST Happen*:

-Fire MacTavish. And hire Ted Nolan. He will bring what Mac-T already does, if not more toughness and intelligence. Paul Maurice would also be a huge upgrade.

-Acquire a smart offensive defenseman. Bryan Berard would be a terrific fit.

-Trade Isbister. He won’t be going anywhere in his career. Trade him while his stock for the defenseman needed, while his stock is high.

-Acquire a starter. Lets see Cujo back in Edmonton. Lowe must find away to work out the money in that one.

*What to expect in Games 42 to 82?*

The Oilers will repeat the 2001-2002 campaign. I expect a strong push to get fans motivated for next year, but it won’t be enough. Not unless a Cujo experienced goaltender comes into town. York will lead the team in points, Smith will leave via free agency and the Oilers will have a new starting goalie.

And for Edmonton’s sake’ I’m hoping it isn’t Tommy Salo or Ty Conklin….

P.C.