• P.S.

    by  • November 6, 2013 • Hockey • 10 Comments

    I don’t expect the site will be up for long but there was something in last night’s game that I can’t figure out. Dallas Eakins ran eight forwards down the stretch. I’ve got the changes in the table at left from the second last TV timeout through to Florida’s winning goal. It’s the last one that I want to focus on.

    Smyth replaces Hemsky at left wing. This can’t have been a change that Smyth has made too many times in his career as an Oiler – this is the eighth year that they’ve played on the same team by my quick math and neither’s really been the sort of guy who flops wings. Hemsky’s an RW and Smyth’s an LW. With the Oilers being down so many left wings, Hemsky’s flipped over.

    The first photo here is right after Hemsky’s gone to the bench on a change. Smyth has entered the play.

    The play goes up ice and Eberle goes to the bench. He’s replaced by Gagner, who is presumably playing RW.

    Gagner slides into the RW spot for the breakout and moves it up the wall…

    …to Smyth (?) who is being supported by Boyd Gordon.

    The puck goes down the ice and Gordon puts some pressure on the Panthers. There’s Smyth, inexplicably on the right side of the ice.

    The Panthers come out and Smyth’s still committed on the right side of the ice. The Panthers pass the puck past him and enter the zone. Gagner has now shifted to playing on the left side – that’s him, kind of playing as a sort of third defenceman on the left side.

    The puck goes around and up the left wing side in the Oilers zone – there’s Gagner, challenging the point man while Smyth seems to have wandered an awfully long way across the ice.

    The Oilers defender rims the puck around the boards – nobody is anywhere near it.

    After the Panthers turn it back in, this shot results.

    I’m not entirely certain but I’d be very interested to hear Eakins explain what wing Ryan Smyth thought he was supposed to be playing on this shift. It sure looks to me like he thought he was the right winger. It doesn’t really make any sense that he’d actually be the right winger – Smyth’s spent his career on the left side and it’s better to have one guy out of position (Gagner, shifting from C to RW) instead of two.

    I’m not sure how much this affected the outcome of the play but any time you’ve got people confused about what position they’re supposed to play, it probably shows up in their play. One wonders if Smyth was sort of looking for a shift back to the left side when the puck came back around to the right.

    It may be that the Oilers want to string three guys across the blue line or something like that late. Connoisseurs of Oiler leads blown in the last minute of play will remember the sequence of events in Toronto, where Hemsky seemed to just abandon the offensive zone to sprint back to the defensive zone. Even if you wanted to do something like this, it seems to me like it would still make sense to stick the extra forward on the side you want him defending.

    In any event, a bizarre sequence of events and one that I suspect illustrates the perils of trying to run a short bench down the stretch. Guys get confused as to who they’re replacing and what position they’re supposed to play. It’s a problem that’s not unknown in men’s league hockey – my team managed to pull our goalie and not put anyone on the ice at one point last year – but it’s a very unusual thing to see at the NHL level.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    10 Responses to P.S.

    1. mathew
      November 6, 2013 at

      great insight as always I have no profound comment lol just wanted to say keep up the good work

    2. freeze
      November 6, 2013 at

      Don’t leave us! Keep exposing the Oilers insane moves!

    3. Brad
      November 6, 2013 at

      How come you don’t leave the site up for reference?

    4. Saj
      November 6, 2013 at

      What’s the deal with your site going down? No explanation, or have I missed it somewhere?

    5. bone
      November 6, 2013 at

      If your site goes, it will be missed. I expect that seeing your article on Sportsnet is why this site may go, but seeing the comments on your article, your talent will be wasted there. But hopefully they pay you well as your articles deserve it.

      Best of luck.

    6. Boris
      November 6, 2013 at

      As a reader of yours since 2007, I wish you would keep the archives available. There are a few posts in particular I have found to be pretty much the best starting points when my friends ask me to explain some of the number-driven stuff that helps shape how I watch hockey. However, it’s your work and your priorities are not mine to determine.

      Best of everything, whatever comes – I will definitely miss this site.

      • mathew mcginns
        November 7, 2013 at

        i agree with boris and others when i say your articles are somme of the best on the web hands down

    7. November 7, 2013 at

      Good stuff, Tyler. I looked at this sequence long & hard, too, was also puzzled by the oddball line, although your own data shows the same trio had played 25 seconds together with ~5:30 left.

      My thought was that Smyth-Gagner were LW-C as they had been most of the night, with Gordon filling in for the defensively-weak Yakupov on RW. For sure, Gordon was there on the right wing boards, in fact it was he (laying on the ice in your last screenshot) who inadvertently kicked the puck directly to Upshall for the quick shot that fooled Dubnyk.

      Whether it was Gordon or Gagner nonimally on RW, Smyth was the last guy you’d expect to see way over there, but your sequence repeatedly catches him on the nearside boards, and in all three zones. For sure it was a mighty odd combo to have out there with the game on the line, as was the unfamiliar defence pair of N.Schultz-Petry for that matter. One of those “gut feel” combinations one might expect from Pat Quinn.

      • Tyler Dellow
        November 7, 2013 at

        Playing Gordon on RW instead of Gagner seems nuts – wouldn’t you want the bigger stronger guy down low?

        The whole thing was a bit of a mess. It’s why I don’t really buy Eakins saying he thought he had plenty of guys to see things out – this was a direct result of playing eight guys.

        • November 7, 2013 at

          Well, yeah, it all seems nuts. My take was that Smyth-Gagner had a new winger, but yours that Gagner replaced Eberle directly probably suggests it was Sam who was supposed to play out-of-position for the most important shift of the game. Whatever the “plan” was, it sure seemed like none of the three had much of a clue of where he should be or who he should be covering.

          I wonder if this latest fail with eight forwards down the stretch is the reason that Eakins finally changed the look of his 4th line. Tonight if he happens to be leading late, he can gong Yakupov &/or Omark but have a 4th liner to promote in Smyth & / or Jones who can join the top 9 and act like he’s been there before. That hasn’t been much of an option until now.

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