Sunday, December 30

State of the Oilers Address: Suckin'

Wild 5, Oil 4 (OT)

I hope Wash is refreshed and ready to assume the mantle as HS, HS's lead Oiler correspondent, because I may never post again. Leave me the fuck alone, Greener (just getting it out of the way now)!

The Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoffs last night. Yes they were, go check again. But, putting a new twist on an old trick, the blame for last night's collapse has to go to MacT. This is not a lame "fire MacT" post, like you're likely to read on any number of Oiler blogs on any given day. I'm a big MacT fan. I think the guy has an attention to detail that 90% of the coaches in this league don't, and he can teach the game. But he's got to take some of the blame for last night.

I don't want to talk about the ref's, or the phantom penalty in overtime (apparently you can't touch Gaborik). I don't want to talk about the Penner disallowed goal (it was the right call), or the Backstrom save on Brodziak. Neither were plays that cost you a game that you're leading by three goals. Momentum is an imaginary, self-induced phenomenon. I hate when players talk about a big play giving the other team momentum. It's a fucking head game. If you want to stop momentum or take momentum back, then DO IT - with your actions on the ice. What the fuck? Some supernatural force blows into the arena, and then everybody on the bench turns to each other and says "Oh geez boys, let's just hold the fort here until this momentum dies down." Stop fucking thinking about it and PLAY HOCKEY!

But back to MacT. The game was played at a very high tempo last night, and the Wild have four lines that can skate. At 4-1, the Oilers were still rolling four lines. As soon as Rolston scored to make it 4-2 (late in the 2nd), MacT, knowing his team had blown leads in three straight games, played it cautious and shortened his bench. With Pitkanen leaving the game, the Oilers were short a defensemen and now going with 9 forwards. The pace was frenetic in the third period, with very few whistles, and the Oilers just couldn't match the Wild. Frankly, they looked tired and a step slow. After a Christmas break they shouldn't have been, and none of the ice-time totals were too out of whack, with the exception of Souray playing 28 minutes and change. The fourth line of Nilsson (4:00 of ice time), Thoresen (4:25), and Stortini (2:52) did not play badly. In fact, Nilsson made a couple of nice plays on the backcheck. So why the benching? And why the hell is Stortini dressed when Sanderson is healthy? The guy is an average AHL player and brings NOTHING to the table. He played 2:52 last night! Why is he dressed if he's not going to play? Are you telling me that adding Sanderson to that line wouldn't have given them a different dimension, and a reliable veteran that could have enabled them to contribute more.

I know you want your best players playing more minutes, and that the horrible defensive zone coverage (like the 4th goal, where all five Wild players went to the net!) was also to blame for the loss, but this is a team with a flawed and unbalanced roster. In a game like that, against a great skating team, Zack Stortini (who CAN'T SKATE) should be in a suit. Did MacT not read the lineup card? Boogaard wasn't dressed, and Todd Fedoruk is still sorting out whether he needs to wear a visor to protect the metal plates in his face. The only thing that guy is fighting is Hemochromatosis.

Where is this team going? Are we trying to win now and make the playoffs, or are we trying to develop our young players? If it's the former, then last night's lineup is curious. If it's the latter, then MacT's decisions were just as curious. It seems the team is stuck between mindsets.

Oh, yeah. Welcome back "Chopper".

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