Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Final Grades - Edmonton

Like the mid-term report card, this one is based both on point production, impact to the team and expectations of performance. Some guys are going to get higher ratings if they played above expectations (Petersen), others will have their ratings lowered by playing below expectations (Lupul).

Ryan Smyth
- Smytty has been Smytty. He's the heart and soul of the team, the goal scoring leader, the guy you want on the ice in every situation. I'm sure MacT wishes he had 23 Smyths out there. Just don't expect him to be in the Oilers jersey much longer. Unfortunately Kevin Lowe proved my skepticism right. The best Oiler all year no longer wears the jersey. A -> :(
Jarret Stoll - not only is he second on the Oilers in terms of points, he's arguably their best all round player. He's been physical, he's been winning faceoffs, he's been setting guys up, he's been scoring, and he's been virtually all alone. Jarret’s performance never really dropped, he was playing well up until his concussion. Unfortunately, you have to be healthy to be an impact, so it’s hurt his overall grade. A -> B+

Jason Smith - Despite having the team's worst +/- for a period of time, Smith has climbed back to a somewhat respectable -3. His situation is similar to Staios, he's a great 2nd grouping defenceman, or a complimentary #2 guy to a very speedy skilled #1 guy (Pronger), but with the Oilers' lack of defensive depth, Smith is called on for too many things too often. Smith still does everything a great captain should: blocks shots, finishes checks, makes simple effective outs. Smith’s biggest weakness is his speed but he’s great at what he does. Despite his style of play, is extremely durable, and he gains points for this attribute alone. B- -> B+

Dwayne Roloson - He was the early season hero much like he was the hero in the playoffs, but Roli has been inconsistent at times. It seems when the team played badly, Roli played well, and when Roli played well, the team played badly. Despite this, he's still over .500, has got a +.900 SV%, and is 6th in the league in saves. He just needs some help. I think what I said earlier rings even truer now than ever, except that Roli has been very consistent. He’s regularly making 30+ saves a night and is often the only reason the Oilers only lose by a goal. Arguably the team MVP. B -> B+

Toby Petersen - Toby doesn't do anything extremely well (despite Craig Simpson's insistence he is a PP QB), but he doesn't do anything really badly either. He is a great utility player, it just so happens he plays on a team that desperately needs him to be more. What can I say about Toby Petersen that he doesn’t say with his play? The guy is all heart, he’d kill himself to help the team, he refuses to ever give up, and he’s accomplishing far more in the majors than his talent level should allow. A total inspiration and a great Masterton nominee. B- -> B+

Toby Petersen in happier times, still doing his thing

Ales Hemsky
- While Hemsky has been in the lineup, he's done what's expected of him, using his sublime speed and skill to mesmerize opposing teams. Unfortunately right now he's playing with a hurt shoulder, and he hasn't been increasing his shot output so he's still unbelievably frustrating at times. I think everything I mentioned in my midterm still rings true. Hemmers has recently been out of the lineup a lot, but he’s one of the few bright spots most games, and is the Oilers’ best offensive weapon. B+ -> B

Fernando Pisani - Despite the huge expectations being a playoff goal scoring leader brings, Fernando has continued to do the things that made him succesful. He makes good defensive plays in both ends of the ice, he buzzes around the net, he's great on the PK (1 SHG), and his smart play has lead to a +9, the best of the team. Although it looks as if Pisani won’t match last year’s goal output, I think he’s played just as well. He’s lost most of his linemates from last season but is one of the few Oilers that looks threatening most nights. Still buzzes around the net. B+ -> B

Patrick Thoresen - The Oiler's newest Norweigan member has been on of their most consistent players. His positional play is outstanding, and he's often involved in good scoring chances. My main gripes are his lack of finish, his lack of speed and sometimes, his lack of compete. I think Thoresen has proven himself to be a competent third line hockey player over the course of the season, despite a 50 game or so scoring drought. He makes himself useful in other ways, which is more than can be said for quite a few players on the team.

Ladislav Smid - No, he is not the Oiler's top defenseman (I think that probably goes to Staios), but he's played about as well as any 20 year old defenseman I've ever seen (save Phaneuf), and for a guy who was borderline on even making the team at season's start, its an impressive feat. I think more than any other player on the team, Smid improved as the season went on. He’s been pretty durable, and usually makes the right play. There are holes in his game no doubt, but he’s well on his way to being a very good defender.


Marc-Antione Pouliot - Listening to Lowetide you would think Pouliot was supposed to be the second coming of Hemsky, but lets face it, thats never going to happen. Pouliot needs to make the major league jump soon or its not going to happen at all. Timing is everything, and I will say that after his second call-up, Pouliot has looked like a bonefied NHLer. His PK ability has been a pleasant surprise, as has his willingness to bang along the boards. Looks like he will be a respectable set-up man with a solid career, but if MacT works his magic, Pouliot could end up even better than that. C- -> B-

Jussi Markannen - Jussi started the season a bit soft but has picked up his game a bit in the few games he's played lately. Showed he still has some magic left when he beat Carolina again in December, and I think he should be played more often. Has a .500 record which is not bad for a backup. I think Jussi is still a top notch backup, I still think he didn’t see enough ice time (though down the stretch it didn’t really matter either way. Nothing spectacular here, but not a disappointment either. B -> B-

Jan Hejda - The most unfortunate thing about Hejda is that he wasn't pulled up from the minors earlier. He's pretty good in the defensive zone, 1-1, is pretty good in breakouts as well. Made a really nice play to pinch in from the point on his first goal in the NHL, an OT GW. Now the most unfortunate thing about Hejda is that he’s not playing, period. Hard to grade on such a short performance but the team was better with him in the lineup. B+ -> B-

Marc-Andre Bergeron - To be fair, MA should really be playing about 12-14 minutes a night, but he's been forced into much more of a top 4 role. Bergeron plays very consistently, in that he consistently gives the puck away in the defensive zone. Bergeron is tied for 2nd in Oilers PPGs with Stoll (first is Smyth, obviously). Well it seems the ‘real’ problem was shipped out, and I think since he’s been gone Oilers fans (for the most part) have realized he was more of a scapegoat then anything. Since leaving he’s 17pts +4 on the Islanders. He’s been –2 over the last two games but without a real goalie the Islanders are all in deep trouble. B- -> Scapegoat

Steve Staios - In past seasons, Staios has been voted by his teammates as the Oiler's MVP. He's a great leader on this team who does anything to help the team win. Unfortunately his shortcomings are being exposed - Staois is not a strong skater and sometimes he simply tries to do too much. Despite this, he's a great #4 defenseman, and the team is desperately awaiting his return. After being an ironman for a large part of his career, Staios’ season has been a disaster in terms of injuries (not to mention everything else). When he came back it became apparent how much better the team was with him. The Oilers’ best defenceman when playing.

Zach Stortini – The Zach Attack was called up from the AHL and told by MacTavish not to fight. Instead, he was asked to prove the rest of his game was up to NHL calibre. It is. While Stortini will never be accused of having too much talent, there is much to like about his game. He’s a bully, he goes hard to the net, and he was featured on Coach’s Corner because he was still blocking shots with minutes to go in a 5-1 loss. NR -> B-

Sean Horcoff - Big expectations coming into this season, Horc has been snakebitten in terms of points, and he (whether through miscommunication or something else) has been making an awful lot of mistakes in the defensive zone. Will need to transform into the player he was last year if this team is to have any success. After being united with Hemsky and Smyth, Horcoff’s point total really improved. He’s simply looked better at all aspects of the game and I think his only problem now is that he’s pretty much all alone. I do wonder though if he’ll ever get to that 77 point range ever again. C+ -> B-


Daniel Tjarnqvist - He's gotten #1 defenceman ice time, to benched, to hurt. Tjarnqvist has at times been the hero, and at times the goat. But in my opinion, this is a better team with Tjarnqvist playing than when he's not. I had pretty low expectations from the beginning of the year, and he has definately exceeded them. His groin problems have created a big question mark for the Oilers. I think it would be a big gamble to keep him around, but I think for what little time he played, he played well. B ->C+

Raffi Torres - Keeping up his physical presence every night is an unfair request to make, but he needs to bring it more often than he does, because when Torres hits, good things happen. Is not consistent enough in any part of his game. To his credit, he's a + 7. Raffi has been as productive as anyone over the past 10 games, which is to say he’s stone cold. In terms of his play, if he was hoping for raise when his next contract is signed, then I hope Lowe is prepared to sit him until he comes to his senses. B- -> C+

Marty Reasoner - This has been an on and off year for Reasoner. After playing a beauty game against Chicago in late Novevember, Reasoner followed it up with two -2 games in a row. His -12 is simply not good enough from a guy who should be a defensive specialist. He's ranked 11th in the league in faceoff percentage though. Reasoner never really found a way to elevate his game and has been hurt down the stretch. Did score a goal against Detroit in a key game down the stretch. C+ -> C

Mathieu Roy - Roy has played pretty well in almost all areas of the game; Outlet passes, in zone coverage, pinch decisions. But his 1-1 play has been extremely questionable, and thats sort of an important skill set for a defenseman in the NHL. Roy didn’t really play much after the halfway point, even as a callup he was way down on the depth chart. Will have to make significant off-season improvements to make the team in September. B- -> C

C -

Petr Sykora - His early season success has been marred by his quarter season disappearing act. Now that his best friend Hemsky is playing hurt, I don't expect his team point lead will last. Sykora moonlights as a magician, the great Houdini, but unfortunately he’s brought his vanishing act to the ice on many many nights. A lot of Oilers fans seem interested in keeping him around, but unless he comes very cheap I see no reason to. The kids are as good or better most nights. B – -> C-

Matt Greene - For all intents and purposes Matt Greene is a rookie defenceman who at this time is actually the veteran on his pairing. Sure, Greene is slow, sometimes makes bad puck decisions, and is a weak skater, but he brings toughness and pretty good pose for his experience. Think of him as a young Jason Smith. Many Oiler fans have correctly identified either a regression or plateau in Matt Greene’s game. He still makes a lot of bad decisions, he’s not strong with the puck, and he’s still not a good skater. The clock is ticking on his NHL career, but he’s probably serviceable as a spare or number 7 defenceman. B- -> C-


Jean-Francois Jacques - 19 games, 0 points, -9, 11 shots. Thats just unnacceptable. Really amazing that a player could play 37 games and still not have a single point. Some of the problem now is that there aren’t many points to go around on this goal-starved team, but Jacques needs to find a way. Is probably better than his statistics indicate, and could be a good energy guy one day.

Brad Winchester - For a period of time in late November-early December, Brad Winchester was the best player on this team. Unfortunately he has not been able to consistently deliver the package he should - Size, toughness, intimidation, and a drive towards the net. Lowetide has indicated that he thinks Winchester is done with this team, and I would tend to agree. To a large degree, Winchester’s play regressed and he was never able to regain the spark that made him such a fun player to watch earlier in the season. C+ -> D-

Joffrey Lupul - Fairly or not, Lupul will be compared to Pronger, but Lupul is no Pronger. He's been soft on the puck, he tends not to make good plays at either end, and he's got the 2nd worst +/- on the team, despite often playing with Ryan Smyth. He is tied for 3rd in terms of goals on the team though. There are no words to describe what a disappointment Lupul has been in every area of the game. He can’t deke, he can’t shoot, and he gets knocked off the puck as if he has the strength of a 12 year old girl (and actually, that’s an insult to some 12 year old girls, check out the Chinese National O-lifting team, they would eat Joffrey ALIVE). A total waste of space and watching him gets more infuriating every game. C- -> F

Kevin Lowe getting tricked

Petr Nedved - Nedved's only been here a short time, so his report will be short. His point production has increased here and he gave Smith some innovative help on the backcheck. However, his +/- has only gotten worse, and his physical game has been laughably bad. He’s gone, he’s forgotten. Enough said. C- -> F

Ethan Moreau - The Oilers miss this heart and soul defensive specialist immensly. Although he sometimes reminds me of Todd Marchant in the way he squanders opportunities, no Oiler is as effective on the forecheck, and his physicality is sorely missed. Seems as if he will not return. He gets an I for incomplete.

To tell you the truth, I’d love to give grades to callups like Syvret, Young, Gilbert, Bisallion, Brodziak and Nilsson, but I just haven’t seen enough of them to warrant a fair evaluation. Gilbert looks like a bonefied NHL defender who could be good at both ends of the rink. Nilsson looks like he has some flash and he did ‘play his ass off’ while he was up. Syvret I think can do everything except be big enough.

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