• Defending Ralph II: Seriously, It Wasn’t That Bad

    by Tyler Dellow • March 17, 2013 • Uncategorized • 6 Comments

    From dawgbone98 at Coppernblue.com on Ralph Krueger against Detroit:

    Generally speaking, when your 4th liner fights you sacrifice the rest of the 4th lines ice time, or at the very least double shift someone to play on that line. Ralph Krueger, rather inexplicably, decided he would rather move Smyth and Petrell up into the lineup, occasionally taking a shift away from guys like Yakupov and Hartikainen.

    Brown fought at 11:46. There wasn’t a whistle after the expiry of his penalty until 19:36. Oilers shifts from Brown’s fight through the end of the period:

    Gagner/Yakupov/Paajarvi
    Horcoff/Hemsky/Hall
    RNH/Eberle/Hartikainen
    Smyth/Petrell/Paajarvi
    Gagner/Yakupov/Hall – Oilers score to make it 2-0
    Horcoff/Hall/Hemsky
    RNH/Eberle/Hartikainen
    Smyth/Petrell/Paajarvi
    Gagner/Yakupov/Hall
    Horcoff/Hall/Hemsky

    Smyth gave Hall a fifteen second breather after Hall’s second shift with Gagner and Yakupov but before the shift that followed immediately with Horcoff/Hemsky. So I’m a little confused by the criticism here. Hartikainen didn’t lose any shifts with Brown in the penalty box – there were ten shifts while Brown was in the penalty box and his line went third and seventh, with him out there both times. Yakupov got all of his three expected shifts on the first, fifth and ninth shift.

    Krueger covered for the loss of Brown by, basically, dropping Paajarvi into the mix with the fourth line guys and then double shifting Hall back to back. Smyth and Petrell weren’t moved up the lineup, unless you count Smyth’s fifteen seconds with Horcoff and Hemsky as being moved up the lineup as opposed to giving Hall a quick breather with a defensively sound player at the end of a period.

    Prior to that, Ralph Krueger sent the 4th line out immediately after an Oilers penalty kill, not knowing that Detroit was going to put out either Datsyuk or Zetterberg.

    With their current setup, the Oilers use eight of their twelve forwards on the PP: Hemsky, Hall, Horcoff and RNH are on unit; Gagner, Yakupov, Eberle and Hartikainen on the other. I know I tend to be a supporter of four forwards on the PP and I understand that a lot of smart people around the web are as well. Like all things in a hockey game, this comes with a cost. The cost is that your eight best offensive forwards, who are generally the guys who you want to run up against the opposition’s best, have now taken a shift in the last two minutes.

    The Oilers basically had two PPs against Detroit – the third was wiped out by a Taylor Hall penalty. Here’s your realistic choice if you’re Krueger at the end of the first one: Hemsky/Hall/Horcoff, on about a minute’s rest or Smyth with Brown and Paajarvi. On the second one, where the 3H line had been on the ice when the penalty was called, your choice was between Gagner/Yakupov (on a minute’s rest) and Paajarvi, or Smyth/Brown/Paajarvi.

    Does Krueger “not know” what Babcock’s going to do? I seriously doubt it. He had to make a choice. It’s possible that he made the wrong choice – I don’t think he did, personally, but if you want to criticize him, you need to acknowledge what his real options were: three F on the PP, playing a tired line against Datsyuk or playing two guys off the fourth line (one of whom, in Smyth, is probably better than fourth line quality) and Paajarvi. I can’t say he’s wrong. At worst, it’s debatable.

    The third period was even more strange. Both Hartikainen and Yakupov sat for a large portion of the 3rd period. Hartikainen got dinged for a boarding call and I don’t think he saw another shift. Yakupov sat from about 3 minutes into the 3rd until just after the Red Wings tied the game. Who took those shifts? Why Mike Brown and Ryan Smyth. I like Ryan Smyth, but he’s not what he was and Krueger has to recognize that. He can’t handle the tough opposition anymore, so if you are going to bump him up you’ve got to do it against 3rd lines.

    I talked about this at length in yesterday’s post and I don’t propose to re-hash it. Suffice it to say, if you go over the game sheets and look at precisely what happened, it’s pretty clear that a series of penalties conspired to rob Yakupov and Hartikainen of ice time in the middle portion of the third, with Brown and Smyth taking their respective spots with about nine minutes to go.

    Krueger carefully avoided Datsyuk and Zetterberg at ES with Smyth/RNH/Eberle after he shortened the bench until the last minute of the game, when they faced them. At that time, Detroit basically had Datsyuk and/or Zetterberg on the ice continuously. So Krueger seems to have done that which dawgbone98 thinks that he ought to have done.

    For some reason, Mike Brown got put up with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi and basically sewered their night possession wise. They went from sawing it off at evens to being a heavy minus.

    In the post linked above, I express some mystification about why Brown replaced Yakupov and that piece of data doesn’t make the decision look any better. If you want to criticize Krueger’s work with the forwards against Detroit, I think the Brown for Yakupov decision is the only serious traction point, which is helped out by the fact that he switched Yakupov for Brown when Edmonton gave up a goal.

    With that being said, let me just toss up a collection of screen shots that I made of Yakupov managing the puck in the defensive zone in the first game against Chicago on the nine game road trip:


    Here’s Yak picking up the puck at the end of a shift, as the Hawks retreat for a change.


    Rather than leave the puck behind the net to change himself or to permit a breakup to be set up, Yak decides to go one on one in a spot where loss of a puck could easily result in a good chance.


    He’s Yak, so of course he beats the guy. But still, there was a chance it wouldn’t have worked.


    With the first man beat and two Hawks closing him down, surely Yak will make the safe pass across the blue line or move it to one of the Oiler forwards.


    Uh, Yak? Any second now with that pass.


    Having been closed down, Yak launches a grenade into the feet of Mark Fistric, who has a hard enough time with passes on the tape.


    Fistric, of course, loses the puck.


    With Patrick Kane now in possession, Yak heads off.

    I’m not point this out to be overly critical of Yakupov – I think he’s the most offensively gifted guy on the Oilers – but only to make the point that he’s 19 and he still makes some defensive zone decisions with the puck that he could get away with in junior, because he was a million times better than everyone else but not in the NHL. While I’m not endorsing Krueger’s decision to bench him for Mike Brown, I can guarantee you that that play would not have unfolded the same with if it had been Brown circling behind the net in Chicago while a change took place.

    In this case, I’m willing to make an exception because the players the coach put out weren’t capable of executing what needed to be done. This loss is on Ralph Krueger’s bench management and the worst part is he didn’t learn a damn thing from it.

    This is obviously an emerging thing with a certain section of fans and Krueger. I kind of succumbed to it on Twitter the other night during the game and there are a ton of OIler fans saying the same thing. Hard evidence of indefensible decisions seems to be awfully thin though. If you look back at the complaints dawgbone98 has with what Krueger did in this game, some of them simply did not occur and others are pretty understandable when you look at the broader context of who he has on the bench and who he’s just used.

    I’m hardly a guy who’s unwilling to criticize the Oilers when they screw up and I’m conscious of the fact that I’m kind of swimming against the current in that smart Oiler fans for whom I have respect disagree with me but I’m not sure how Krueger is expected to run his bench better here. I don’t think he’s been perfect as a coach but I do think that those who want to criticize should consider his options when he makes the decision that they’re criticizing. Playing a burned out Nikolai Khabibulin over Devan Dubnyk is one thing – that’s basically indefensible. The moves he made against Detroit weren’t, even if they worked out.

    I was thinking about why I seem to have a better opinion of Krueger than a lot of Oiler fans. His media availability today kind of summed it up for me:

    The guy’s aware that there’s a lot of randomness and chance in the game – listen to him talking about the mathematics of hockey. As someone who shares that view, I value having a guy like that coaching the team. Obviously, I appreciate the references to Fortuna Dusseldorf and Borussia Dortmund and the reference to Eigentor and Jeff Petry. He comes across as a pretty methodical guy, the sort of guy who thinks a good process will lead to good results. We’ve seen, with Ryan Whitney, that he isn’t going to play a guy on the basis of reputation or contract, which isn’t always the case. Basically, from what I can tell, I like the way that he thinks. A lot of the criticism of him with respect to his forward deployment seems overblown to me, which leads me to think that he may well be a pretty decent coach. It’s just a shame he isn’t working for a team that can give him that ninth forward to help close out games.

    Email Tyler Dellow at mc79hockey@gmail.com

    About Tyler Dellow

    6 Responses to Defending Ralph II: Seriously, It Wasn’t That Bad

    1. Jordan
      March 17, 2013 at

      THANK YOU!

      Not that i had the same evidence you have, but fans reactions are ridiculous. One thing that is perceived suddenly seems to be the only thing they see. I sense a strong relationship between what the fans is looking for and what they see. They want to say Kruger is a bad bench boos they will defend each choice in a bubble without the full context.

      In any case great read

    2. Thiru
      March 17, 2013 at

      Sweet post.

      The funny thing about all this stuff is that it probably would’ve gone unnoticed if not for those two miscues by Petry.

      Also, Brown probably should’ve been the beneficiary of a drawn penalty when the Wings ran that pick play on a 3rd period powerplay. It’s like the refs can still hear all that Steve Yzerman whining from a decade ago.

      • dawgbone
        March 18, 2013 at

        No, I was ragging on Krueger pretty hard for the last 25 minutes of that game, well before Petry was a factor.

    3. dawgbone
      March 18, 2013 at

      A couple of counter points:

      1. The shifts say one thing, I was basing my comments on the TOI from the Brown fight until the end of the 2nd:

      Hall 3:27
      Paajarvi 2:44
      Yakupov 2:25
      Petrell 2:22
      Smyth 2:14
      Horcoff 2:12
      Gagner 2:01
      Hemsky 1:57
      Eberle 1:49
      Nugent-Hopkins 1:48
      Hartikainen 1:40

      Now, in my defense I take game notes and I noted on 2 separate occasions that 37 and 94 were out on the ice, and that these events happened almost 90 seconds apart. Now according to the shift charts, both 37 and 94 were on the ice that entire 90 seconds. I guess that will teach me for not confirming it.

      2. Your portrayal of Yakupov is accurate in that he can be an adventure with the puck, but then ask yourself what Mike Brown does with the puck. If your answer is “I don’t know, he never touches the damn thing”, you win 100 internet points. Yakupov may be a bit of an adventure, but I want him on the ice before Mike Brown in almost all situations.

      3. I’d rather put the Hemsky group back on the ice after a minute rest following a PP shift than put Mike Brown out on the first shift after a PP. We’ve all played the PP at some point in our lives… you can recover after a PP shift in a minute.

      There is no excuse to put Mike Brown on the ice as much as Krueger has been.

      • Tyler Dellow
        March 18, 2013 at

        Re: point 2 – yeah, I don’t disagree really. That being said, I can understand what the coaches worry about with Yak. Those aren’t unreasonable concerns. Krueger seems like a smart guy to me, even if I wish the Oilers brought some more data into things and I bet he figures out Brown pretty quick.

        Re: 3 – fair enough, but I think you’d have a hard time convincing NHL coaches to agree with you. Does anyone run their bench that way, outside of the last ten minutes of the game? It seemed like a pretty conventional move to me – and a defensible one at that.

        • dawgbone
          March 18, 2013 at

          I don’t think it should take this long for anyone to figure out Mike Brown. He doesn’t do anything well aside from throw fast punches and hit guys 5 seconds after they’ve moved the puck. I’d assume he’d have gotten video or something regarding Brown and if not, the Oilers are worse run than I’d imagined.

          I don’t think most teams use 8 forwards on their 2 PP units, which may be why it’s a conventional move… just put 3 guys who didn’t play the PP out on the ice. Unfortunately for the Oilers, that’s now the 4th line. I still think I’d rather take my chances with 3 off the guys off the first PP unit.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *