THE SKY DIDN'T FALL...

Jason Gregor
January 23 2013 02:11PM

Not even free beer could brighten the spirits of Oilers fans after sitting through the worst first period of a home opener in franchise history.

The Oilers stunk.

They couldn't play defence.

They rarely had the puck.

They didn't get any saves from their goalie.

They took too many penalties.

The good news is they only lost one game, not the entire season. I couldn't think of a worse scenario for the Oilers and their fans.

The building was electric prior to puck drop. The 50/50 was at $25,000 forty-five minutes before the game even started. Fans were lined up 200 deep to take advantage of 40% of merchandise, and most of them happily stood in line sipping on a free beer or half-price food.

The Oilers were ridding a wave of a confidence after a comeback victory in Vancouver. The stage was set for a great atmosphere, but that changed minutes after the game started.

2:16 in Ales Hemsky takes a holding penalty. 47 seconds later Jeff Petry is off for tripping and then the Sharks took over.

Dan Boyle rips a one-timer on the 5-on-3, then Logan Couture scores their 2nd straight PP goal, and it is 2-0 four and a half minutes into the first period.

The building got really quiet, but it exploded when Nail Yakupov scored his first NHL goal at the 8:25 mark. That was the loudest Rexall has been since the 2006 playoffs. Eight months of frustration mixed in with the excitement of the win in Vancouver led to an extremely loud minute long ovation. It was great, but short-lived.

Less than two minutes later the Oilers got mesmerized by Joe Thornton's stick-handling ability and decided to leave Patrick Marleau wide open in the slot. Marleau had time to check his teeth in the glass, before ripping one past Dubnyk. 55 seconds later he scored his second of the game, another PP marker and the game was over.

The Sharks added two more goals before the period ended, and the fans voiced their displeasure by booing the Oilers.

It was deserved. They looked completely lost in their own end.

I gave the Sharks 12 scoring chances in the first period. Twelve. The Oilers stats crew calculated they gave up 14 in 65 minutes v. Vancouver, but they allowed 12 in 20 minutes last night. Dubnyk wasn't good, but he wasn't any worse than the Oilers D-zone coverage. The Oilers only gave up three scoring chances the rest of the game, but by then it didn't matter. The Sharks were stuffed from feasting on the Oilers defenseless carcass in the first period.

It is one thing to leave a guy wide open on the side boards, but leaving guys wide open in front of the net is inexcusable.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Remember when the Oilers crushed the Chicago Blackhawks by scores of 9-2 and 8-4 last year. You loved it, especially when Sam Gagner tied the Oiler record for most points in a game.

You know what those two blowout wins meant for the Oilers?

Absolutely nothing, other than two points and a great night of fun for the fans. The Oilers didn't make the playoffs, nor did it represent how good they were.

After getting spanked 9-2 the Hawks went 9-2-1 in their next twelve. The blowout loss didn't cripple them, and the Oilers can't afford to let it derail them.

It is only one game, and while some will want to suggest it illustrates every weakness in the organization, it doesn't,

Before the game we knew the Oilers weren't perfect defensively and they lacked size throughout the lineup. Last night's loss, nor the season-opening win in Vancouver changes that.

The good news is that I guarantee season-ticket holders will not have to suffer through the horror of witnessing six goals against in a period again this season. The Oilers will have bad periods, bad games and horrendous shifts again this season, but they will also have periods, games and shifts that lift you out of your seat.

Yesterday sucked, and the timing couldn't have been worse, but the second game of a 48-game season won't make or break the Oilers.

How they respond v. the Kings on Thursday will be important. They can't pout, and they  better grab a clue about how to play defence. If they do that, they'll be competitive.

QUICK HITS

  • The 1976/1977 Montreal Canadiens were the greatest regular season team in the history of the NHL. They went 60-8-12 and won the Stanley Cup. They lost only 8 regular season games all year, but on Wednesday January 12th, 1977 they lost 7-2 to the St.Louis Blues and five days later they lost 7-3 in Boston. Even the great teams get blown out.
     
  • ~Jordan Eberle had another five shots on goal yesterday, but his SH% is now only 10%. Yikes. Of course he does have three points, but that lower SH% is going to be the death of him.~
     
  • The Oilers and Ralph Kreuger are in a tough spot. Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth are his best top-nine forwards when it comes to playing against the opposition's top line, but if Krueger doesn't expose his kids to those situations what happens next year. The Oilers can't have Horcoff play the tough minutes and then contemplate, just an IF at this point, buying him out, with no one on the roster capable of eating those minutes. I suspect you will see Krueger match lines a bit, but the organization needs to let the kids learn the hard way how to defend the top lines. It will be a balancing act all season.
     
  • It had no bearing on the yesterday's outcome, but Krueger needs to dress some players who can be physical. I suspect we'll see Mark Fistric and one of Ben Eager or Darcy Hordichuk in the lineup v. the Kings. You need someone who is capable of consistently throwing body checks to keep the opposition honest.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
January 23 2013, 02:13PM
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WORST FIST PERIOD EVAAAAA!!

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#2 RexLibris
January 23 2013, 02:19PM
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I thought the Eberle ~ was a typo at first. You sneaky devil.

I'm okay with Krueger sitting Fistric for a few days until he gets up to speed with the Oilers system. It tells me that he wants to put him in the best position to succeed, not trot him out like a new show pony like the Oilers did with Smid many moons ago. The team isn't going to win or lose a 6-3 game based on Mark Fistric, and when he does dress I'll wait with bated breath for him to crush someone (please let it be Baertschi). But if the young man isn't ready, so be it.

Favourite part of last night's game: watching Nail Yakupov so excited about his first goal he couldn't even come up with a celebration routine. Say what you will, this young man is sincere in his emotions.

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#3 greenlingj
January 23 2013, 02:20PM
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WE NEED FISTric

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#4 Darrell
January 23 2013, 02:30PM
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.... My nerves were shot and it took until mid afternoon to peek at ON. I am only one man but there is no place for haters on ON when we are so fragile ....

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#5 oilers2k14
January 23 2013, 02:33PM
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Just happy to see Yakupov and Schultz get their first NHL goals..

Should be a dandy against the Kings.

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#6 Rick
January 23 2013, 02:40PM
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I agree that it is now all about how they respond tomorrow.

However I disagree that yesterday's game should be viewed in the same light as the Chicago game last year.

Of course they aren't going to give up 6 in a period again anytime soon but, unlike the Chicago game, we have been witnessing the Oilers come up short for 6 years. We've seen them do it in spectacular fashion for the last 3.

I think that if we, or more importantly they, see the organization turning the corner then there should be no looking for the bright side, or dismissing it outright as a one off.

That's not to say everyone should be lining up on the high level either but team better damn well take yesterday's lessons seriously because that is what winning teams do.

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#7 Reality Check to the head
January 23 2013, 02:43PM
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First period aside, it was nice to see the kids get some goals very early in the season. Sometimes the pressure to get that first goal can continue to build until you get it. Halls little wrist-er was sweet as well. Very quick and perfectly placed.

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#8 justDOit
January 23 2013, 02:53PM
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I liked Krueger's comment: "Sometimes losing like that is better than losing by one goal. If pain can make this team better, there was enough of it last night." (or something like that). I think that game should be a good wake-up call.

Wake up: Sports Illustrated knows more about swim-suit models than hockey.

Wake up: The only league that can prepare you for playing in the NHL - is the NHL.

Wake up: Rookies are NOT going to be saviours to this club.

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#9 Phixieus666
January 23 2013, 02:55PM
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Last night is the exact reason I don't pay my own money to go to a hockey game that I can watch on TV. Free tickets okay but pay $200 a ticket to watch something that makes me want to kill people, no that's okay. If I want to lose my money and be pissed off at the same time I'll tell my GF to go shopping.

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#10 justDOit
January 23 2013, 02:58PM
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Darrell wrote:

.... My nerves were shot and it took until mid afternoon to peek at ON. I am only one man but there is no place for haters on ON when we are so fragile ....

I was about to post that exact same message. I hope those who regularly launch personal attacks on DSF will see that he can have a heart.

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#11 JitanPren
January 23 2013, 03:00PM
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Darrell wrote:

.... My nerves were shot and it took until mid afternoon to peek at ON. I am only one man but there is no place for haters on ON when we are so fragile ....

I wouldn't worry too much about him. Clyde Frog is doing an excellent job keeping him in his place.

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#12 OilersBrass
January 23 2013, 03:05PM
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I have no idea why Potter is still on this team. He isn't used on the PK or PP, he's had several turn overs in both games, doesn't mark smart decisions with the puck, and he has the worst plus minus out of all the defence.

Fistric couldn't do any worse than Potter right now, and when playing a big strong team like San Jose they need someone like Fistric out there.

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#13 Ducey
January 23 2013, 03:06PM
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City council votes 10-3 to approve the arena deal! Mandel tells the 5 or 6 Oilers in attendance, "this is punishment for giving up 6 goals yesterday. Don't do it again, or you will have to come back".

Just need $114 M from the province now.

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#14 DSF
January 23 2013, 03:14PM
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JitanPren wrote:

I wouldn't worry too much about him. Clyde Frog is doing an excellent job keeping him in his place.

Phhhhhttttt...

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#15 Ducey
January 23 2013, 03:16PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

I have no idea why Potter is still on this team. He isn't used on the PK or PP, he's had several turn overs in both games, doesn't mark smart decisions with the puck, and he has the worst plus minus out of all the defence.

Fistric couldn't do any worse than Potter right now, and when playing a big strong team like San Jose they need someone like Fistric out there.

Yeah, if only Kreuger (the guy who has been watching Fistric and Potter all week) would listen to you (the guy who has never seen Fistric practice or play).

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#16 vetinari
January 23 2013, 03:16PM
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It looked like the Oilers were deploying the defensive tactics from "Blades of Steel" or NHL93 last night(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYikQxz1s_Q).

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#17 justDOit
January 23 2013, 03:17PM
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DSF wrote:

Phhhhhttttt...

Was that the sound of a Dr. Pepper being opened, or the sound of all the air coming out of the Oiler optimism balloon?

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#18 justDOit
January 23 2013, 03:17PM
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Ducey wrote:

Yeah, if only Kreuger (the guy who has been watching Fistric and Potter all week) would listen to you (the guy who has never seen Fistric practice or play).

We need a +10 Props button. Seriously.

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#19 Ryan2
January 23 2013, 03:24PM
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Everyone needs to relax, just as Gregor said in this post. The team was too excited to play and stunk the joint up as a result of it. It happens.

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#20 craiger
January 23 2013, 03:34PM
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Anybody know what happened to Crystal Leriger from the Oilers Link show? I heard she is no longer the host, and would like to know why?

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#21 Phixieus666
January 23 2013, 03:40PM
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Ryan2 wrote:

Everyone needs to relax, just as Gregor said in this post. The team was too excited to play and stunk the joint up as a result of it. It happens.

So let me get this right. Last night was more likely a random event of sh*ttyness as they were all just so excited to be play hockey on home ice and has nothing to do with them actually being a crappy team this year? Meaning the last three years have just been figments of our imagination you being that they finished 30, 30, 29. It not even in the realm of possibility that a team can continue their current trend????

I just messing with you man, I honestly hope they do good but recent history tends to strongly disagree. Just sayin.

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#22 Bonvie
January 23 2013, 03:42PM
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justDOit wrote:

I liked Krueger's comment: "Sometimes losing like that is better than losing by one goal. If pain can make this team better, there was enough of it last night." (or something like that). I think that game should be a good wake-up call.

Wake up: Sports Illustrated knows more about swim-suit models than hockey.

Wake up: The only league that can prepare you for playing in the NHL - is the NHL.

Wake up: Rookies are NOT going to be saviours to this club.

Actually the rookies took over the game in the second and third period when they were able to get back on the ice, as you know for the most part rookies don't play the PK on the Oilers.

All of the key mistakes came from the veterans on Defense. Smid chases behind the net on a 5-3, N. Shultz chases behind the net when he should have been covering either one of the two forwards standing in front of the net. Whitney chases toward the forward turning up the wall when he was already being checked by Yakupov. Petry and I think Whitney playing a two on two and Whitney backs in a bit much so Petry decides hes gonna take Whitney's man leaving his man wide open in front of the net.

Only one goal was all on Dubnyk and that was the first Couture goal. The rest of them were all quality scoring chances it would have been nice to save at least 2 of those other 5 though, as solid number 1 should do.

The only glaring rookie forward mistake I seen resulting in one of the goals was on the PK with Paajarvi and I believe Hartikaanen they got sucked in down low leaving the D man able to walk in and fire at will, but that was well after the wheels fell off.

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#23 TDSM31
January 23 2013, 03:47PM
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I realize Dooby was left hung out to dry on a few but the man plays too far in his net and is too slow...and the body language?? terrible. Can the Oil just not admit they made a mistake in this guy (especially at 14th overall...thanks once again Prendergast) and move on?

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#24 Dave #2
January 23 2013, 03:57PM
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But Bob Stauffer says that Fistric is ready to go !

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#25 justDOit
January 23 2013, 03:58PM
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@Bonvie

In rookies, I'm talking about Yak and Schultz, who are the only two on the team unless Harski still qualifies. My point is that relying on first-year players is a road to disappointment, no matter how much media hype is behind them.

The entire team played better in the latter two periods - whether that was SJ laying off the beatin' stick a bit, or just feeling the effects of the the 2nd game in three nights on the road.

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#26 Walter Sobchak
January 23 2013, 04:00PM
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Positive's from last nights game.

I can't believe I'm going to say this but, I thought Paajarvi was one of the better players on the team. I think he actually deserves a long look with Horcoff and Smyth.

We know that Whitney can't possible play any worse then he has the last two games. These are his pre-season games, one of the few Oilers who never payed during the lockout, it shows.

The PP still looks good and now has two legit lines that have a chance to score.

A few more games and the Oilers should start to show good chemistry with each other, no pre-season really throws teams in the deep end, it's even more evident with a young developing team.

I would give every team in the NHL another two or three games before you start to see pretenders from contenders.

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#27 justDOit
January 23 2013, 04:04PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

I realize Dooby was left hung out to dry on a few but the man plays too far in his net and is too slow...and the body language?? terrible. Can the Oil just not admit they made a mistake in this guy (especially at 14th overall...thanks once again Prendergast) and move on?

I can only hope that this is sarcasm. If so, you forgot the little winkie face after your comment. ;)

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#28 Johe
January 23 2013, 04:09PM
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craiger wrote:

Anybody know what happened to Crystal Leriger from the Oilers Link show? I heard she is no longer the host, and would like to know why?

Great article Jason. You read my mind.

Some "Oiler" fans are making it sound like the season is already over and we should expect last place again. Seriously? You're better than that! If you want to be a bandwagon jumper, go cheer for the Canucks.

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#29 Johe
January 23 2013, 04:11PM
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^Nice reply Johe. Dummy.

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#30 oilers2k14
January 23 2013, 04:14PM
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craiger wrote:

Anybody know what happened to Crystal Leriger from the Oilers Link show? I heard she is no longer the host, and would like to know why?

Pretty lady but to be honest edmontonians are waayyyy to obsessed with blondes..Brunette and black haired chicks all the way!!

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#31 OilersBrass
January 23 2013, 04:17PM
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Ducey wrote:

Yeah, if only Kreuger (the guy who has been watching Fistric and Potter all week) would listen to you (the guy who has never seen Fistric practice or play).

Is everyone not entitled to an opinion? Forums are made for people to voice their opinions, if you don't like the comment then don't reply being ignorant.

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#32 DieHard
January 23 2013, 04:27PM
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@Walter Sobchak

I was going to make the same observation. I thought Paajarvi had a good game. He should stay up and play on the 4th and PK. Can move up sometimes. He looked good.

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#33 DieHard
January 23 2013, 04:31PM
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When Jones comes back, Petrell should be waived. Nobody will pick him up.

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#34 Lofty
January 23 2013, 04:48PM
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Is anyone else encouraged by the fact the team kept playing after the 1st period? They came out for the next two periods with the attitude that they could still win 7-6. If this was the team from 5 years ago, top players like Penner and POS would have checked out and taken 10-2 at the end of the 2nd just so they could go home.

In the 80's Fuhr would let in 3 or 4 goals and the rest of the team knew Fuhr wouldn't let another puck past him and all they had to do was attack.

It was a character building game for a young team. Better that it happened in the 2nd game rather than the 30th game in a short season. Learn from it now rather than down the stretch when it could create a big mental obstical for young players.

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#35 OILERSORDEATH
January 23 2013, 04:50PM
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Sharks did dominate for 1 period and yes it was really bad. But the Oil took it to em the in the 2nd and 3rd periods and probably should have scored 2-3 more goals I thought. I'll give them a mulligan for the first.

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#36 Ducey
January 23 2013, 04:54PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

Is everyone not entitled to an opinion? Forums are made for people to voice their opinions, if you don't like the comment then don't reply being ignorant.

You are entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to keep it to yourself. But if you want to share it, expect to defend it.

The difference between Fistric and Potter is so marginal that its hardly even mentioning. Before Potter it was MAB or Toby Peterson or Liam Reddox. People seem to have some compulsion to pick on the lowest rung on the ladder and point out if the Oilers would get rid of this guy, and replace him with some random guy they know little about, things would be different.

I guess I have some trouble with that.

Did you notice that last year Potter had the 2nd best Rel Corsi among Oilers Dmen? Maybe he deserves a few games.

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#37 Romanus
January 23 2013, 04:55PM
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Ducey wrote:

Yeah, if only Kreuger (the guy who has been watching Fistric and Potter all week) would listen to you (the guy who has never seen Fistric practice or play).

You beat me to this comment - props.

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#38 Phixieus666
January 23 2013, 04:56PM
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Eager out with a concussion. The team got even smaller today.

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#39 Oilcruzer
January 23 2013, 04:56PM
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Gregor Said:

The good news is they only lost one game, not the entire season. I couldn't think of a worse scenario for the Oilers and their fans.

Ummm... I could. The Oilers could have Calgary's team.

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#40 yawto
January 23 2013, 05:00PM
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Humility can be a great thing and I believe it will be for this team. I would actually say that this game could be a blessing in disguise for the Oilers. If they would have won 5 straight in the fashion they beat the nucks then this team would have thought they were better than they are.

This loss should let them know they are better than that but only with a proper effort. It may be early but last nights loss could be what actually makes this a playoff team. You learn more from your failures than your success. Hopefully the Oilers do too.

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#41 justDOit
January 23 2013, 05:04PM
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Phixieus666 wrote:

Eager out with a concussion. The team got even smaller today.

There a pub in Toronto where Kassian will never have to take his wallet out.

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#42 madjam
January 23 2013, 05:05PM
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Paajarvi , J.Schultz and to a small degree Yakupov and Hatekainen are a welcome addition at this stage . J.Schultz looks like the only defenceman our club should go forward with . We need grit badly on defence . Whitney looks finished . No grit down middle either , and we should look to replace Horcoff and Belanger with some grit down the middle . Even Gagner is replaceable with someone with more size and grit.

Until we upsize we will be prey to the bigger clubs that have some talent .

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#43 Rick
January 23 2013, 05:12PM
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@Ducey

It's possible the Potter is picked on, not because he is the lowest rung on the ladder but, because he perfectly represents what has ailed this team for a long time.

He is a bad player that has been brought in to play at a position of weakness on the team.

This approach could be defended by those who choose to when the Oilers were intentionally building the worst team in the league.

Now that the Oilers are supposed to be turning the corner, these types of decisions should be tougher to accept.

If Fistric shows as poorly as Potter then he will be a target as well.

The difference between the two is that most people saw that Potter wasn't an answer to any question was asking as far back as last January. Where as right now no one really knows what Fistric does or doesn't do for this team.

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#44 justDOit
January 23 2013, 05:14PM
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@madjam

Gee - and Tambi just missed the opportunity to pick up JFJ from Pitts for future considerations. Chaulk one up for Stevie Y...

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#45 justDOit
January 23 2013, 05:17PM
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@Rick

Until the team plays as a team, it's impossible to say that player x is bad, while player y is a def upgrade. It's like trying to decide which stock to sell on Nov 1, 1929.

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#46 Rama Lama
January 23 2013, 05:42PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

I have no idea why Potter is still on this team. He isn't used on the PK or PP, he's had several turn overs in both games, doesn't mark smart decisions with the puck, and he has the worst plus minus out of all the defence.

Fistric couldn't do any worse than Potter right now, and when playing a big strong team like San Jose they need someone like Fistric out there.

I suspect you will be singing a different tune after watching him play........he is a beast of a hitter that moves slower than a wounded turtle!

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#47 Puritania
January 23 2013, 05:51PM
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Johe wrote:

Great article Jason. You read my mind.

Some "Oiler" fans are making it sound like the season is already over and we should expect last place again. Seriously? You're better than that! If you want to be a bandwagon jumper, go cheer for the Canucks.

You meant to put the parentheses on 'fans' not 'Oilers'. While yes it is absolutely too early to write the season off, I don't see how thinking a team is terrible makes you any less of a fan or a bandwagon fan. If they stopped watching or caring about the team you'd be on the money. Fans are allowed to be wary of their team without being labelled with unsavory labels.

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#48 DSF
January 23 2013, 06:06PM
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Puritania wrote:

You meant to put the parentheses on 'fans' not 'Oilers'. While yes it is absolutely too early to write the season off, I don't see how thinking a team is terrible makes you any less of a fan or a bandwagon fan. If they stopped watching or caring about the team you'd be on the money. Fans are allowed to be wary of their team without being labelled with unsavory labels.

No.

You need to be an unbridled fan boy.

Critical thinking is not allowed.

If you try and measure the Oilers against their opponents, you must be a Canucks fan.

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#49 Spydyr
January 23 2013, 06:18PM
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The game exposed the weaknesses with this team .Most here know them

1) Goaltending......Dubs needs another young goalie to push him.Not an old man or a career minor league player.

2) A top 4-Dman.Whitney is done washed up kaput.

3)Grit in the top six.The team has way to many small,skilled ,soft forwards.

Nuge, Yak, Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner,

Someone has to go.You need toughness to win especially in the playoffs.

I say see ya later Samboni.

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#50 jeanshorts
January 23 2013, 06:30PM
Trash it!
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Cheers
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Come on Gregor, how can you say things like this? I mean the Kings, Rangers, Wings, Flyers and Canucks would NEVER start a season poorly like this!!

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