Oilers learning how to increase their chances of victory

Jason Strudwick
October 13 2013 11:34AM

It takes time for a team to adopt the style of play a new coach is putting in place. At times the players are stuck between being in the right place and being out of position, it can look like they are frozen. We have seen this for quite a few periods for the Oilers this season. The good news is that it will get better.

Head coach Dallas Eakins will get the bulk of the players understanding what he wants from them and what type of team he expects them to be. There will be some growing pains and frustrating nights as the players learn it but if Eakins sticks to his guns the players will get there.

There will be nights were Eakins will want to get the attention of a player by sitting him out. Yakupov was scratched saturday night in Toronto. No doubt he was upset and embarrassed. He should feel that way, a coach wants him to feel something. It can be a great motivator.

Yakupov's being sat isn't the end of the world; seeing how he responds can be. Will he come out flying, skating, shooting and trying to play a solid game away from the puck or will be pout and feel sorry for himself? I would expect him to be back in the lineup Monday, let’s see how he plays. I fully expect him to come out on a mission.

The challenge isn't learning a system. There are many different systems that can be used for a team. All the players have experience with some form of system so they can figure it out. The hard part is being consistent playing within the system.

Playing a consistent game is key to success for individual players and the group. A coach should know what type of a game he will get from each player every night. He doesn't want to have to guess to know if Player A will have a good game or not. Coaches have a hard time trusting inconsistent players. They do not get a lot of the important ice-time, like the last five minutes of the game or period.

The team must also be consistent in their approach to playing the system. A system is in place to protect you when you are under a lot of pressure from the other team or you are tired. It is the foundation on which successful teams are built. It won't work to play the system when it is convenient or feels right. That leaves too much to chance.

I had a coach who broke down an NHL season into three different types of game scenarios. He said there are twenty games that a team will win. All the bounces will go their way. All players will be firing on all cylinders. The power play gets a lot of opportunities and makes good. Basically these are games when everything goes right and winning the game is a given.

He said there are another twenty games that are guaranteed losses. No matter what a team does they will not win. The other team's goalie blacks out and sets up a brick wall in front of the net. The team is tired. Injuries take some key players out of the line-up. The refs make some tough calls. These games just will not be won.

So that leaves forty games. He said it is in these forty games that playoffs are made and missed. The difference between winning and losing these games is razor thin. Attention to detail is the difference.

Playing the system to perfection is key. Knowing when to cheat offensively and when to be cautious wins and loses games. Strong and consistent goaltending. Winning more face offs then you lose. Getting pucks deep. These and other details add up to increasing the chance of your team winning enough of these forty games to get into the playoffs.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of NHL season left, the panic button should not be pressed just yet. I do think that Saturday night’s game in Toronto was one of the forty games that could go either way. The Oilers got one point, in my opinion a serious playoff team gets two. They need to get to those points.

Dubnyk

Wow! This guy is not getting any love these days. He is taking heat from every direction. There is no doubt that he has not played up to his own expectations. I don't need to look at stats to know how he has struggled. Just watch him in the net, he looks very uncomfortable. He has not found his game so far this season.

Before we run him out of town consider this. Goalies go through funks during a NHL season. Just like skaters they have ups and downs during the year. Could it be that Dubnyk has just started the season in a slump? I am not ready to throw him away just yet. This road trip has come at the right time. He can get away from Edmonton and just focus on his game.

He needs to improve. His play has been subpar. The defensive play in front of him has been helter skelter far too often but that doesn't change the situation Dubnyk, he needs to better.

Thornton and his Rooster?

The comments from Big Joe about what he would do after scoring four goals in a game are classic. I have been laughing about them for the last couple of days. I am glad they came out.

The locker room is a sacred place. When the media comes in they need to respect that. The age old battle of what is on or off the record is one that players and the media are always trying to sort out.

Thornton made the comments beside a big group of reporters, they were not interviewing him. In my opinion that makes it off the record. However when you throw a quote at there like that you never know what will happen with it. Joe should know this and choose his audience better.

A reporter named Botchford decided to run with it. I get it, it got a lot of attention for him. In the short term it looks like a home run. In the long run I think it will affect his ability to get interviews or good quotes.

Every player in the NHL will know that when he is around, nothing is off the record. They will be much more likely to choose their words very carefully and and clam up or cut the interview short.

The gate keepers between the player and the media are public relation people. I know that these people will reduce or cut Botchford's access to players. Their role is to protect the image of the team and the players. They will be watching Botchford like a hawk.

I know this because I went through a situation like this. A veteran reporter asked a player how his fitness testing went at camp. His real motive was to confirm a rumor going around that a veteran player was out of shape. After the rookie said he did well the reporter asked about the older player. This rookie said that he was out of shape and didn't do very well. The reporter ran with it.

The next day got a little ugly for the rookie and the veteran. The veteran had to field questions about his conditioning and it came up every time he played a subpar game. The rookie had to deal with the rest of the team and captain. The dressing room is sacred, some things just don't leave there. It was a hard lesson for the rookie but one I know he never forgot.

As for that reporter his year got a lot harder. As a team we decided to give him one word answers the rest of the year. "How do you think the team needs to prepare for the game tonight?" "Hard" That was it. He didn't get a good quote the whole year. Do you think his boss was happy about that?

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 michael
October 13 2013, 01:30PM
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Getting another goalie is going to be tough. Trade or sign. The problem lies in dollars available on the cap. Which is not a lot. Then your stuck with DD and Labarbra and ?.

This 3 headed monster will not work but as we have seen already MacT is not afraid to bury contracts on OKC. Eager and Jones.

What a p$%% storm its going to be if DD comes out and cra(& the bed in his next start. The vultures are circling. DD better take a lesson or two from WWE's Undertaker and get off the mat before the count of three.

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#52 Slats
October 13 2013, 01:42PM
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System - I like it for the reason we are getting more quality chances and getting more shots than we are giving up. Need to tweak up the back end which means forwards to recognize "danger" (Eakins quote) better and the D need to know when to not just "do the system" but the basics of "heh cover a man" (eg. See Lupul wonder to slot in final minute)

Yaks - most hate the move and think it's a double standard to Hall but the cases are far different. Hall is producing Yaks is not - it's that simple. For me if Hall is having lots of giveaways in a game then I would not play him in that final minute he needs to earn that time in the game. Period - otherwise you go with who is playing your best d-forward. Hopefully Yaks sees this and he is never in the press box again.

Thornton - agreed - it's totally funny to hear these comments but I bet Mr. Botchford will be writing the "Living Well" column for Shape magazine next year.

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#53 Geitus Maximus
October 13 2013, 02:04PM
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Avatarget wrote:

So far I haven't seen anything from Yak to justify his first overall selection. I sure hope that changes but the results so far are not encouraging. I am not in panic mode about picking him so high yet, but I am mildly concerned. Guy Lafleur got off to a bit of a slow start and then took off and became a superstar and the same could happen with Yak. Hope he gets it together eventually (sooner is better than later but later is better than never at all). I sure hope we didn't blow a number one overall selection on a player who never arrives.

Remember he's just a kid, but a kid who lit it up the last few games last year. He needs someone to feed him the puck as there isnt a better sniper on this team. He's being benched for not following the system, not because he isnt talented. Yak is pure heart, he wont let us down, but lets not pile up on him and tear down his confidence. He's still the youngest guy on the team. And that takes some patience. Yak is not the reason why the Oil are struggling.

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#54 BC BOY
October 13 2013, 02:18PM
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@Smokey

Very true, but Fasth or Elliot don't seem like a improvement on Dubnyk. If we are gonna trade for a goalie I would say it would have to be for one like Lehner or a true #1 like Miller

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#55 Butters
October 13 2013, 02:21PM
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@ Will I agree with everything you said except; "Price and his posts were too much for the Oilers.", Budaj was playing.

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#56 BC BOY
October 13 2013, 05:39PM
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@DSF

REALLY???

YOUR ADVICE????

please tell me more

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#57 Oiler Al
October 13 2013, 05:41PM
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Will wrote:

How is anyone criticizing the new system. We're no longer being outshot, outchanced, outpossessioned. We are winning more faceoffs than losing, we're playing a much more physical game (or at least some players are), and both our top guns and vets are contributing. Not to mention, we're doing better 5 on 5 than we are on special teams. Those were all the criticisms leveled against Krueger that have been fixed by new acquisitions and Eakins. The only reason we haven't won 3 of 5 is because of Dubnyk. The only reason we didn't win four of five, is a combination of Dubnyk and bounces. I think we outplayed Montreal, but they capitalized against our marshmallow goalie whereas Price and his posts were too much for the Oilers.

Not sure what game you watched, or how much, but Price was not in net for Montreal, it was Budjai.

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#58 Cynic
October 13 2013, 05:49PM
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Got up late. Got busy. How many suicides so far?

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#59 Mikey
October 13 2013, 09:17PM
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madjam wrote:

We do not have the personnel to run the system effectively , bottom line . Every team figures they have the best system . Our system would have to rely on stellar goaltending every nite . Benching smyth and yak already is not the answer . Carlyle basically said the same thing about benching people to early in the season ! The system will get better ? It may indeed get worse as we have found out over last 3 seasons . We won with Kreuger's system with less personnel some assume ,for over half a season , same cannot be said for new coach Eakins . We are better all claim , then why are we worse results wise than last season ! sounds like more dope hope to me .

Comparing Krueger systems Eakins system is selective sampling. What if the oilers started last season going 1-9 like they did at one point last year, but still finished at the same place they did?

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#60 Mikey
October 13 2013, 09:31PM
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Noelpm wrote:

Everyone is looking for Goalie options right now. Admittedly I still believe it is too early; however, what is the chance we could get on the phone with the St. Louis Blues in regards to Brian Elliot. What would we have to give up for him? Halak looks back in form and Jake Allen is poised to be their 'next' franchise goalie.

They would want a top prospect. Probably a scoring forward, but might take a D. Maybe a second and a med tier prospect. It's to early for them to trade Elliot tho.

I should point out that I don't like Elliot, and I wouldn't personally trade for him. Just what I think they would ask for him. Or more what the oilers would have to pay to get him.

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#61 Avatarget
October 13 2013, 10:10PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Using your logic, you would bench RNH, Hall, Eberle, Schultz and everyone else who has made mistakes.

Call it what you want but benching is over rated.......I can see it for veteran players just so they get rest but not for players who are trying to find their game. I think that the only thing Yukapov can be blamed for is trying too hard ......and trying to figure out where he need to be playing this new retarded system Eakins has developed for this team.

So far this system looks really good.......at losing games.

I never said I thought he should be benched. I said I was mildly concerned about his performance so far considering he is a first overall pick. He just doesn't seem to produce much or do much to have a positive impact on the game...at least not with the frequency one could expect of a number 1 selection. Hopefully he comes around and realizes his potential. The Oilers organization and fans have a lot invested in this young man.

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#62 TonyT
October 13 2013, 10:52PM
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Before you spelling hawks catch me. Edit: type

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#63 Dog Train
October 13 2013, 11:06PM
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My biggest concern is that we have lost quite a few of those 40 games that could go either way. The Winnipeg and Toronto games for sure fall in that category. The Montreal game was there for the taking as well. If we keep playing like this, we should be in enough games. Still, close doesn't count for much in this league.

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#64 john
October 14 2013, 01:21AM
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Dubnyk has to play better. He's not focused in the games, he's not anticipate the next shot coming at him. He's not prepared to come across to make a cross ice pass. He gives too many rebounds. He does not come out to cut angles. He goes down too early, look at Kadri goal Saturday. He ducked below the cross bar, Kadri shot went in below the cross bar. What's up with that? Oilers scored 5 goals, that should win games on most nights. Team defense has to be better also, too many giveaways and it's not even Christmas yet. Players has to watch for the open guys coming to the net. Not watching the guy with the puck and everybody chase after him. It's gonna be a long season, now goaltending is not there later it would be scoring goals and then team defense. It's seems like something is missing each game and then they lose the game. Each game counts, first 20 games to get some wins. Because it will be so hard to win in the last 20 games of the season when teams try to make playoffs. I m sick of watching the team not giving 100% efforts to win games. We have been losing for so long. Look at the Avs and Flames, both were below the Oilers last year. Now they are both unbeaten in regulation games. If that's not motivating enough then what's the point playing the games boys?

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#65 Rob...
October 14 2013, 09:07AM
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BC BOY wrote:

REALLY???

YOUR ADVICE????

please tell me more

It's simple... DSF is an aging call girl with too much time on her hands.

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#66 Cody
October 14 2013, 12:08PM
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Funny John mentions YCP in regards to Thorton's comments, seems they weren't too bothered by it: https://twitter.com/YouCanPlayTeam/status/388400256565538816

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#67 ubermiguel
October 14 2013, 12:42PM
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Thornton's comments struck me as funny but unprofessional. I can't imagine top-end Captains like Sakic or Yzerman saying something like that especially with reporters in the room.

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#68 KozyMel
October 19 2013, 09:22PM
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ubermiguel wrote:

Thornton's comments struck me as funny but unprofessional. I can't imagine top-end Captains like Sakic or Yzerman saying something like that especially with reporters in the room.

No, you can't imagine it because no low-life reporter ever quoted them off the record.

I've spent enough time in dressing rooms as a player and coach to know that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".

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