FINDING A SILVER LINING

Robin Brownlee
October 13 2013 05:59PM

I understand that fans of the Edmonton Oilers don't particularly want their ranting and raving about Devan Dubnyk interrupted by a "look on the bright side" item right now. Fair enough.

Dubnyk, after all, has earned much of the criticism and scorn directed his way through his first four appearances this season with a shockingly inept, sieve-like performance – an abysmal .829 save percentage and a hideous goals-against average of 5.43.

Likewise, I completely get it why fans, who've endured seven years out of the playoffs, have been venting since Dubnyk again soiled the sheets in a 6-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, even if much of the venom directed his way is over the top, unreasonable and out of proportion.

"Dubnyk has stunk like ripe limburger so far." This is true. No question about it, and the TV shot at the end of the Toronto game of GM Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe after taking another big whiff of it served as an exclamation mark. "Dubnyk has always sucked and he always will suck." Not true. The second part, we don’t know yet.

There are no excuses for the way Dubnyk has played. He's the reason the Oilers are 1-3-1 and have three of a possible 10 points. He gets no pass and if he doesn't turn things around in a hurry he likely won't get the chance to turn them around at all – at least not as a starter in Edmonton. If Dubnyk doesn't do something, MacTavish must. All of this we know.

THE POSITIVES

All of the above said, and allowing that we're only talking about five games out of 82 going into Monday's game in Washington, the Oilers have been far better in some areas that have been a concern for several seasons. They've addressed some issues. They are doing things right that don't show up in that 1-3-1 record while everybody groans about Dubnyk.

. . . The Oilers have dominated in the face-off circles after being bottom feeders for far too long. Unexpected? You think? Boyd Gordon leads the way at 62.9. Mark Arcobello is next at 60.5, followed by Will Acton at 57.1, Taylor Hall at 52.8 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 50.8. Yes, again it's just five games, but if five games is enough to get in a frenzy about Dubnyk it's enough games to recognize, in context, what's been going right.

. . . After being outshot in all but 11 games last season, the Oilers have outshot their opposition in four of the five games they've played. All told, they've been outshot 150-147, meaning they're about dead-even overall despite being outshot 43-23 against Vancouver.

. . . The Oilers have scored nine goals five-on-five and two more while playing four-on-four, meaning they haven't been getting outclassed at even strength, as was the norm last season under Ralph Krueger. At the same time, the power play is clicking at a 5-for-20 clip.

THE WAY I SEE IT

While fixating on the goaltending the Oilers haven't been getting so far is understandable, the Oilers are playing better hockey under Dallas Eakins than they did under Krueger or Tom Renney. Not perfect hockey, not by a long shot, but better hockey.

If the Oilers keep holding their own on the shot clock and continue winning more face-offs than they lose, chances are we aren't going to see the majority of five-game stretches play out at 1-3-1. That's assuming, of course, Dubnyk or MacTavish address the issue in the blue paint.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Batfink
October 14 2013, 07:56AM
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The Oilers Shot Clock wrote:

We are going to win both games against Sid and Sasha and nobody is going to be able to make heads or tails what it means in regards to the season.

Back to Back wins coming up. Guaranteed.

Round here, we don't say 'guaranteed'. It's too difficult to spell. We say 'book it'!

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#52 Rama Lama
October 13 2013, 09:00PM
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I like the way you distill thing down to the sum of the parts Robin. I too like what Boyd Gordon has done as well as Mark Arcebello. I remember watching him play the one game last year and thinking ........man is this guy ever slow.

This year whole different story and I think it's safe to say nerves played a huge part. I would agree with you on Dubby but the dynamics are so different that I actually feel sorry for him. As a goaltender you are one major position and everything that you do is scrutinized, analyzed, and on public display........no other players can really support you when time are tough.

As far as goaltenders are concerned they either work or they don't. The only thing they can do is hit re-start somewhere else.........too bad for Dubby but we need to move on.

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#53 seanjohn667
October 14 2013, 12:54AM
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Brownly's got it band on. they've improved in a number of ways and the last 2 games were very solid efforts. it's up to Dubey or Mact to get the goaltending up to snuff.

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#54 Old School G
October 14 2013, 07:48AM
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Tommy Salo, Dwayne Roloson, Nikolai Khabibulin and now Devan Dubnyk, we've been cheering for a team with erratic goaltending for over a decade, it's frustrating when they're off but it's also a great thing when they're hot and the boys are rolling. If we can juke and jive in to the playoffs we will be trouble for whoever we face, we have the type of goalie that could steal stretches of games for us if he's on, the erratic goalies always do. Dwayne Roloson has a career .908 SV % with a 2.72 GAA, but he also took us to the Cup Finals.

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#55 DSF
October 13 2013, 07:17PM
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@Woodguy

So much twaddle.

The Oilers next opponent is the Washington Capitals who are basically tied for 2nd in the league in SF/G with 34.

Following that game, they go into Pittsburgh and will face a team that has a +5 shot differential.

They won't be "outshooting" anyone by the conclusion of those two games.

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#56 DSF
October 13 2013, 07:31PM
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Woodguy wrote:

No question playing back to back against WAS and PIT won't be easy.

The whole road trip isn't easy.

Every team they play made the playoffs last year.

Mind you, it was in the East so it doesn't *really* count, but point stands.

Its not twaddle DSF, its the sound of the hoofbeats of the the apocalypse coming for your middling Canucks.

The Oilers will pass them in the next year or two and the Dys will sink into mediocre purgatory still without a cup in the history of the franchise.

Oh well, maybe they can retire the crowd's number again or some player who wouldn't make the 2nd line on the Oilers again.

So you got that to look forward to while Oilers just keep getting better and better and better....

They aren't getting better.

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#57 DSF
October 13 2013, 08:31PM
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Woodguy wrote:

Here are the standing at roughly the same point last year:

http://shrpsports.com/nhl/stand.php?link=Y&season=2012&divcnf=cnf&month=Oct&date=19

Here's the final standings.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?season=20112012&type=CON

Don't resemble each other very much at all do they?

Coming to conclusion based on standings of 4-5 games is foolish at best, and just dumb at worst.

(hat tip to Jonathon, took that from a tweet of his today)

And yet you can come to the conclusion that the Oilers are better based on those same 4-5 games.

As you say, foolish at best and just dumb at the worst.

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#58 Dave
October 13 2013, 09:12PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

What kind of comeback was that?I'm stating facts since I played the game as well as coached and I don't care were someone works but I probably could buy what ever company you do work for or are you even employed.

I am gainfully employed, thanks for asking. That being said, I find it highly unlikely that I would work for any company you could afford to buy.

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#59 Serious Gord
October 13 2013, 09:39PM
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Just scanned washingtons shots f/a - they are to the positive for Washington yet wash only has two points after five games. In their last game - a 5-1 loss to Colorado they outshot the Avs 41-28 (!!).

Holtby and neuvirth are a train wreck it would seem...

Should be an interesting - high scoring game tomorrow.

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#60 Mikey
October 13 2013, 09:42PM
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DSF wrote:

Neither a goal differential of -131 nor a save percentage of .800 "make sense".

But neither support Woodguy's assertion that the Oilers are getting better either.

There is no evidence to support that claim other than Corsi which could change in a heartbeat.

In other news, the Oilers' best player, Taylor Hall, has a Corsi ON on of +0.69....12th best on the team.

In the meantime, the Canucks best player, Henrik Sedin, has a Corsi ON of +30.11.

Does that tell you anything at all?

Yep tells me one of two things. Hall is not on the same level as Henrik. Or could be small sample size. What's Crosby at right now? Or Hertl?

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#61 LOIL99
October 13 2013, 09:51PM
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Dubie has been bad but is not the only problem. This team has been a turnover factory working overtime so far this season with Hall being the worst offender. I hope that the players on the team are taking responsibility for what they need to improve on and not just blaming this all on Dubie in their minds.

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#62 God
October 14 2013, 08:42AM
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I'm wondering, has the equipment change seriously affected Dubnyk? He seems to have lost ALL confidence even before the season's start.

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#63 tbfm
October 14 2013, 09:41AM
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I think they should give Bachman a shot (although Bryzgalov is looking good right about now).

I know his stats aren't the best but he looked good in pre-season play and I can't see him playing worse than Dubnyk has been lately, and Labarbera didn't look much better either when he played against NJ (despite the win).

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#64 Thumby
October 14 2013, 09:58AM
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Old School G wrote:

Do we gamble on a young athletic prospect goaltender, like an Eddie Lack in Vancouver? Or move one of our forwards for a proven goaltender? Are Mike Smith or Ryan Miller any better? These are all more athletic type goalies, how do we get one of them and are they any better than Dubby?

How could they be worse?

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#65 Will
October 14 2013, 10:44AM
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Racki wrote:

Dear resident Oilers critic..

If you can take a few moments to pull your head out of your butt to read this, this might explain the situation here better:

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/10/13/tencer-goaltending-has-cost-the-edmonton-oilers-3-points/

Outshot the other team in all but one game, 3rd in faceoffs, 12th best in shots against, top 10 in goals for, yet dead last in goals against.

There may be the odd time where the defensive group falls apart on Dubnyk (happens to every team), but I'd be more inclined to say that the puck is the size of a marble to him right now. While I hate to pin games on one guy, he has cost the Oilers at least a couple of the games.

Currently the stats and the eye both say the Oilers are a better team so far, but goaltending has severely let them down. I didn't think they played as well as they should have vs. Vancouver and I wasn't too happy with their early play vs. Montreal (much better battle level in the 3rd though), but the other games have shown a different Oilers team.

One thing is certain though, 5 games does not tell the story enough (good or bad). It's unknown if they are a better team for the long term or not, but to say they're not an improved team because of the goal differential is ignorance... putting blinders on and not seeing the whole picture. The goal differential sadly rests a little more on one guy's shoulders than it should. Dubnyk is a boat anchor pulling this team down right now despite its rather honest effort to be a good team.

This.

Also, I like how our team against Van was judged as a poor effort and therefore more indicative of how our team actually stacks up, when in fact it was game two on the year, and our one two centers were Hall and Arcebello. And they were still learning our new system. Yes, with those two as our one two centers, I suppose that is a good sample of how they will play.

I agree with everything Brownlee says here. And I also agree with Racki, that what that really shines a light on is just how bad Dubnyk has been. Because all our other crappy stats from last year have improved dramatically. The only area of concern for me right now is our turnovers, and our pk, but that's not what's costing games.

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#66 nunyour
October 14 2013, 12:17PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Fair question, but we won't have the answer to that until this team makes the playoffs, will we?

Dubnyk's numbers until his first four games this season have been quite good when you consider the bunch he's played behind. This team is better than the groups of the past couple of years yet Dubnyk is struggling now. That's thrown the spotlight squarely on him.

MacT already looked elsewhere this off-season and there's no reason to think he's not doing the same now.

He has a weak defence in front of him,but that has nothing to do with the 40 foot softies.

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#67 TM8Trent
October 14 2013, 12:42PM
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Old School G wrote:

Do we gamble on a young athletic prospect goaltender, like an Eddie Lack in Vancouver? Or move one of our forwards for a proven goaltender? Are Mike Smith or Ryan Miller any better? These are all more athletic type goalies, how do we get one of them and are they any better than Dubby?

At this point & maybe for now, just give Bachman a shot? He's the athletic / reflex tender type of goalie I'm thinking of.

This is pulled from JW at the Journal published on July 6th:

The following are Bachman’s career numbers in the last four leagues he played in:

- WCHA: 70 games played, 0.922 save percentage

- ECHL: 35 games played, 0.910 save percentage

- AHL: 84 games played, 0.920 save percentage

- NHL: 32 games played, 0.901 save percentage

Though not outstanding, those are respectable numbers. I do get that his NHL SV% is below Dubnyks, yet I think we all agree that Dubnyk has consistently let in those bad goals at what seems the worst possible times. You can see it just sucks the life right out of the team. Even if his pure SV% numbers are better than Bachman's he just doesn't seem to very often make that big save needed to inspire his teammates when the game is on the line.

We all know hockey is a highly emotional game and each game has it's nuance & feel. When your tender makes one of those jaw-dropping type saves at the right time it changes the complexion of the game.

I don't know if Bachman is the answer, but he's the athletic type of goalie I'm talking about.

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#68 Dave
October 13 2013, 08:26PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I was not allowed to put in a sub par performance at my job when my first or any children were born and I sure as hell wasn't making $3.75 million. No goalie coach would tell him to not be square to the shooter, sit on your knees and wave your stick in the air, he is having one hell of a time handling the pressure of a #1 in Edmonton.

Who's waving their stick in the air now. Do you need a hug? LOLL Please send your hurt feelings report in right away. First come first serve, just like at 7-11. You know the drill.

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#69 Rod from Viking
October 13 2013, 08:37PM
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Dave wrote:

Who's waving their stick in the air now. Do you need a hug? LOLL Please send your hurt feelings report in right away. First come first serve, just like at 7-11. You know the drill.

What kind of comeback was that?I'm stating facts since I played the game as well as coached and I don't care were someone works but I probably could buy what ever company you do work for or are you even employed.

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#70 Mikey
October 13 2013, 08:51PM
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Rod from Viking wrote:

I was not allowed to put in a sub par performance at my job when my first or any children were born and I sure as hell wasn't making $3.75 million. No goalie coach would tell him to not be square to the shooter, sit on your knees and wave your stick in the air, he is having one hell of a time handling the pressure of a #1 in Edmonton.

Sigh, why bring up money. Money is not a motivator for most people. And for the most part he has been square to the shooter, it's everything else about the attempted save he has blown.

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#71 madjam
October 13 2013, 11:12PM
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Every time you try to be optimistic you take a look at the standings and wonder what for ? Reality sucks ?

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#72 Cynic
October 14 2013, 03:30AM
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I haven't heard too much lately about whether the Oilers are out-Corsing their opponenets. I thought that was the silver lining for Oiler fan. Pretending that stuff other than final score mattered.

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#73 Serious Gord
October 13 2013, 07:11PM
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Woodguy wrote:

Certainly thusfar he hasn't gotten as much out of the young guns - Hall Eberle and shultz than krueger did in the early going last year - whether that is be cause of the coach is, i grant you, hard to say, but they certainly haven't improved their play under eakins.

I disagree with this.

The results of the first 5 games is that except for the VAN game, this team is outshooting the opponents.

That was a fundamental problem with this team for years, and finally a coach is fixing it. The dividends are coming.

If they have average goaltending this team looks like one that can rattle off 7/10 wins a couple times this year.

Also, Hall had a real slow start last year and is at a point/game clip early on, even after struggling at C for a couple games.

To be sure some things have been better this season than in the last, but where it counts - points - they are dead last in the west. Therefore the status quo trajectory is highly unsatisfactory. And doing the same things with the same people isn't likely to change it.

Results of the games sure, but the results of the play (outshooting, scoring a ton more 5v5)has improved immensely.

Outshooting and scoring well at even strength always end up showing well in the points column.

Some crappy goaltending has let them down.

This team could easily be 4-1 and should be 3-2 and these conversations aren't even happening.

After watching this team sink slower into the abyss over the last 7 years I can finally watch this team and *know* they have a chance to win every night.

If they can just get some average goaltending.

Yes the TEAM of skaters is playing better, but hall despite more points in the early going has made far more errors/turnovers than last year and eberle and Shultz are playing much worse than they were early on last season.

Yes the team of skaters is playing somewhat better than last year - certainly under some stats (I wonder what the turnover stats were last year compared to this year?) but that positive is more than counterbalanced by poorer goaltending. Thus my point stands - the status quo will result in far too few points. Something has to change.

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#74 Serious Gord
October 13 2013, 07:31PM
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Go pour yourself a stiff one (three fingers of something brown would be my recommendation) and take a look at the pacific standings.

Now that we have a bit of data on what our competition is looking like this year try and isolate the three teams we are going to put behind us to get into the playoffs. If Calgary is not a complete mirage, there is not one team IMO that we can confidently say the oil can out-point.

At the very least the pacific may have the best hockey of all the divisions...

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#75 DSF
October 13 2013, 09:01PM
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G Money wrote:

Yeah we get it, Drops Steaming Fudge.

The only statistics and sample sizes that count are the ones that support your point. But you're "objective".

A projected goal differential of -131 makes sense, a reversion away from a sv % of .800 does not.

A negative Corsi matters if the Oilers are winning, but a positive Corsi doesn't if they're losing.

As you say, "Good grief".

You may have minimal understanding of hockey or stats, but I will give you this - your ability to selectively (mis)quote them, and incessantly long-term troll this and other related boards is superlative. Unparalleled, actually.

Neither a goal differential of -131 nor a save percentage of .800 "make sense".

But neither support Woodguy's assertion that the Oilers are getting better either.

There is no evidence to support that claim other than Corsi which could change in a heartbeat.

In other news, the Oilers' best player, Taylor Hall, has a Corsi ON on of +0.69....12th best on the team.

In the meantime, the Canucks best player, Henrik Sedin, has a Corsi ON of +30.11.

Does that tell you anything at all?

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#76 DSF
October 13 2013, 09:55PM
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G Money wrote:

Yes, there a couple of straightforward processes you can use to help interpret the statistics in front of you.

They are called "observation" and "analysis".

We can for example "observe" that the Oilers, even as they have too many giveaways and abysmal goaltending, have been better in the overall flow of the game (in 4 of their 5 games so far) at preventing chances and creating chances, both over last year and over the other team. The Corsi indicates that this observation (even in a small sample) is supportable.

As an Oiler fan, we can "observe" that historically goaltenders have extremely high week to week variability in save percentage, we can "analyze" their long-term performance, and as a result we can conclude (a reasonable outcome from observation and analysis) that we can almost certainly expect the goaltending to improve.

We can also "observe" and "analyze" the giveaways and the defensive lapses, and conclude that it *may be* to some extent the whole "new system new players" narrative, which means that there is reason to expect it might improve but it is not nearly as certain as the goaltending.

Corsi can indeed change in a heartbeat, but your assertion that there is "no evidence" of improvement is demonstrably false. Again, we fall back on that new-to-you concept called "analysis".

The five game stretch the Oilers have put up from a Corsi perspective is better than *any* five game stretch they had last year. If you care to see the actual math, Parkatti has an analysis (that word again!) showing the statistical likelihood that this would happen if the Oilers had not improved at all from last year is very low (it is a single digit percentage). So the math, while not conclusive, even as a small sample supports the observation (that word again!) of improvement.

We can also "observe" that Taylor Hall struggled playing a new position for two games, then still seemed off for a game in his natural position, and (not coincidentally since RNH came back), observe that he seems to be back to his old self.

We can then use a concept in "analysis" called a "trend", where we can see Taylor Hall's Corsi was an abysmal 43% in both his first two games, then jumped to 48% on his return to left wing, then was a solid 54% and then a stellar 61% in his last game.

What that analysis (!) tells me is that my observation (!) that Taylor Hall is once again the best player on the Oilers is reasonable. We can also conclude from this combination of analysis and observation that we can expect Hall's Corsi to improve dramatically from here.

I hope that you have found this primer on "observation" and "analysis" useful. I look forward to your attempting to try them for the first time.

And as long as you work hard, I'm here to help you if you struggle, buddy. Like Taylor Hall, trying a new position like "being objective" can be tough.

Observation and analysis which ignores actual results is not all that useful.

Get back to me after the Washington and Pittsburgh games and we can compare notes.

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#77 DSF
October 13 2013, 09:57PM
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Mikey wrote:

Yep tells me one of two things. Hall is not on the same level as Henrik. Or could be small sample size. What's Crosby at right now? Or Hertl?

Crosby - +28.38

Hertl - + 45.61

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#78 Harry
October 13 2013, 10:48PM
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If the Avs can pickup Varlamov the Canucks - Lu leafs - Bernier Devils - Schnieder Ils - Nabokov TB - Bishop ect ect ect

why the hell cant we get a goalie!!!!!

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#79 BC BOY
October 14 2013, 12:21AM
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G wrote:

Aren't our STARS going to be burned out by the second half of the season at this pace?

No probably not, unless your team has incredible depth its hard for any team to win under those circumstances

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#80 Old School G
October 14 2013, 09:48AM
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TM8Trent wrote:

I wonder if part of the issue with Dubnyk is simply the type of goalie he is for the type of system and the type of team the Oilers are. MacT values puck-movers on the back end first and foremost, and a speed-first mentality when it comes to the forward group. You know, Oiler hockey -> Scoring on the rush, and attacking as the focus.

Combining this with the swarm defensive system Eakins is utilizing and you're going to give up a fair number of odd man rushes & open shooters; 2 on 1's and 3 on 2's.. It's simply inevitable.

Dubnyk is obviously not an athletic, reflex goalie. He's a big man & positional goalie who (tries) to have the shooter hit him. I don't know if these things jive too well. Is he really capable of making those incredible athletic saves needed when you're giving up good/great scoring chances? Those are the kind of saves this team is missing right now. I hate to bring up the 80's here but... Fuhr-like.

You look at offensive teams like Chicago & Pittsburgh and when they are/were successful it seems to me the tenders - Crawford, Fleury are more athletic & reflex goalie types, not the big positional guys like Dubnyk (& Labarbera).

Thoughts?

Do we gamble on a young athletic prospect goaltender, like an Eddie Lack in Vancouver? Or move one of our forwards for a proven goaltender? Are Mike Smith or Ryan Miller any better? These are all more athletic type goalies, how do we get one of them and are they any better than Dubby?

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#81 Old School G
October 14 2013, 10:35AM
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@Thumby

Fair enough, I would roll the dice on Eddie Lack, maybe he's the next big Scandinavian tender to come along, who knows right? Either way it's worth trying to work a deal out.

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#82 Spydyr
October 14 2013, 01:11PM
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Just throwing this out there. What if Yak has been a healthy scratch because a trade is in the works for say a stud defensmen.

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