October 26 2010 09:51AM
Three weeks in and we're already on the third Battle Of Alberta. Yeah I don't get it either.
The Oilers have come crashing back down to earth since their convincing victory over the Flames to start the season. Edmonton has been outshot and outchanced in just about ever contest since, including a 6-1 curb-stomping on home ice to the same mediocre Sharks clubbed that ambled through the Dome on Sunday.
Part of the reason is Tom Renney has spent a lot of time not managing his bench so far this year. Sure, some players play more than others, but that's pretty much been the extent of his decision making. Like Quinn before him, Renney has been rolling four lines more or less without reference to match-ups, resulting in some less than pleasant results for some of the weaker skaters.
What's curious is that Renney was much more a tactician in his New York Ranger days (remember when NYR fans were chanting "MVP! MVP!" for Jagr a few years back? That had a lot to do with the way Renney was using him.), meaning the EDM coach is likely resigned to a lost season and feels he might as well put the whole roster through the wringer to see what he has in each player. Im sure "getting the kids their at-bats" is a part of the equation too. Growing pains for future gains and all that.
We're not quite 10 games in yet, so judging anything statistically comes with a giant "small sample" caveat. That said, the Oilers underlying possession numbers are starting to settle out how I anticipated. Specifically, the entire team is underwater. Kids in key positions and a blueline as suspect as a police line-up will do that. If Edmonton fans are looking for consolation, at least Eberle and Hall are near the front of the line I guess.
Of course, with the game one embarrassment firmly in mind, the Flames can't afford to take the Oil lightly this evening. Calgary played like the walking dead on opening night and the Oilers have enough talent and verve in their young legs to take advantage if the boys don't come to work with things in order. On the other hand, there's plenty of recent evidence that the club is figuring things out recently and since Renney probably won't be working too hard to get Hemsky et al out against the Flames better players with regularity, this is a 'W' the Flames should have in the bag.