Frustrated expectations

Jonathan Willis
October 14 2013 10:19PM

 

Things were supposed to be different. With the firing of Steve Tambellini and the installation of an active, competent general manager, the Oilers were supposed to take a step forward in 2013-14. In the early going, it's been more of the same - and so it shouldn't be a surprise that Oilers fans are feeling frustrated.

Brand New Low

There are a few things that I think reasonable people should be able to agree on.

  • Devan Dubnyk has played 143 career NHL games and has a 0.911 save percentage in that span. It's kooky to think that the 0.829 save percentage he's posted over his last four contests represents his true level of ability. We've seen this script before: in short periods of time, goalies go up and down ridiculously. There are those who have never believed in Dubnyk as a regular NHL'er, people who think he lets in soft goals and can't play under pressure and can't move laterally; I may not share those beliefs but I think that even those people would acknowledge that Dubnyk's play this season represents a brand new low. He's shown he isn't this bad; obviously his game's a mess right now but there's little reason to think it will stay that way indefinitely.
  • Jason LaBarbera has a pretty strong career as an NHL backup. He's played 2-1/2 games. The same logic applies to him as does to Dubnyk; whether one really likes him as a backup goalie or not, he's not *this* bad.
  • The 2009-10 Oilers (also known as "the worst team in Oilers history") started the season 6-3-1. They were getting out-shot crazily, but they rode the percentages for a magical 10-game stretch. Good teams sometimes have terrible starts; terrible teams sometimes have good starts. 
  • If this year's edition of the Oilers was getting goaltending, they would be anywhere from three to five points better than they are right now. If this team has six to eight points in its first six games, nobody is slapping the panic button.

Frustration

The other thing I think most reasonable people can agree on is that it's high time for the Oilers to take a step forward. Ideally, they would have done it in 2011-12; they certainly should have made big strides last season. So watching a team that was seen so optimistically in the summer stumble so badly out of the gate is understandably leading to a 'torches and pitchforks' mentality in comment sections and on social media - both venues ideally suited for expressing instant reaction to disappointment.

It's fair for the Oilers' fans to expect more than they've gotten. It's fair to say the team isn't meeting expectations right now. It's even fair to say that the slow start has put the team's ambitions for this season in serious jeopardy - if the club was life and death for the playoffs before, starting out in a big hole could end up being the death blow to those hopes.

But the team's management can't act out of frustration. It's not worth adding a terrible goaltender (I didn't see it, but apparently Sportsnet floated Rick DiPietro's name at the intermission tonight) who won't help anything just because Devan Dubnyk has struggled through four games. If they plan to make a bigger move, they have to count the cost; they can't just rashly go out and ship away Nail Yakupov (as some in the Toronto media have helpfully suggested) to add a player comparable to Devan Dubnyk or Nick Schultz in net or on the blue line. 

Standing pat isn't necessarily the best move here; it may be that there's a trade option out there that won't see the Oilers grossly ripped off to add a mid-range veteran. But it is all but certain that if Edmonton's management makes the knee-jerk move so many are calling for, they will regret it in the morning.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Slanto
October 14 2013, 10:31PM
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Play Yak. Ride it out. We can't become like Canucks fans. Who is the consensus top pick again?

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#2 phreebassist
October 14 2013, 10:31PM
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Anyone who thinks a long term fix to a short term problem with these boys is just silly. Ride out Devan Dubnyk until he has 10 games, Bad times come and go.

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#3 D
October 14 2013, 10:32PM
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Agreed on not making a knee jerk reaction. But also a hope among many fans that the Oilers recognize they likely will not win the Stanley Cup with Dubnyk as their goalie.

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#4 gcw_rocks
October 14 2013, 10:35PM
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I thought hiring Mactavish was a monumentally stupid thing to do. I believed hiring Eakins when there were some pretty high profile veteran coaches on the market this summer was dumb. I have argued that right up to day one of this season that the roster MacT assembled was hugely flawed.

So, the Oilers are pretty much getting the results I expected, but doing so in a spectacularly explosive way.

The really really stupid trade, if it happens, is just going to be the cherry on top.

All hail MacT! Ekblad or Reinhart? Who's your preference?

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#5 Greg
October 14 2013, 10:36PM
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phreebassist wrote:

Anyone who thinks a long term fix to a short term problem with these boys is just silly. Ride out Devan Dubnyk until he has 10 games, Bad times come and go.

the bad times come too often with Dubnyk. lets just move on. its that lets wait and see attitude thats landed un in the crapper for almost a decade. you can wait and see with Hemsky too.

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#6 Lenny
October 14 2013, 10:37PM
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http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog/Ryan-Garner/An-Open-Letter-to-Dallas-Eakins/185/54815#.Uly-UuDRwvE

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#7 VK63
October 14 2013, 10:38PM
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i have decided to take a different approach. I am going with the delusional optimism that smytty uses when he unleashes his clapper or the completely detached from reality impulse that draws taylor hall to try the toe drag....... again.

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#8 Bryan in SK
October 14 2013, 10:39PM
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Dear hockey gods:

Since it is apparent that no matter what, you will not allow the Oilers to win, can you at least please make Toronto go back to the abyss as well? Some of us Oiler fans have to work alongside Leaf zealots, and it's getting to be a little too much to handle. It's bad enough to feel sick to my stomach during my own team's games. It's another thing altogether to want to vomit every time Mr. Maple Leaf just happens to wander by. Just make the Leafs lose so that buddy will crawl back into his crevice, please. Please?

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#9 Slanto
October 14 2013, 10:40PM
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Maybe Bryz likes donairs and water slides. 5 more games of this $&"! And I say offer him 1yr 1 mil and a copy of Al Gore's movie about Global Warming.

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#10 JRock
October 14 2013, 10:43PM
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D wrote:

Agreed on not making a knee jerk reaction. But also a hope among many fans that the Oilers recognize they likely will not win the Stanley Cup with Dubnyk as their goalie.

If the Blackhawks can win a cup with Corey Crawford as their goalie then I see no reason why Dubnyk couldn't win one too, assuming he returns to form. But you're right that 6 games into an 82 game season is far too early to make any dumb moves.

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#11 Greg
October 14 2013, 10:51PM
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i cant believe im saying this but i feel bad for MacT. we all know that it's Lowe who runs this team. much of the heat MacT took when he was here as coach was because of Lowe's inability to provide him with a good team. now MacT is in the line of fire getting it from the fans to do something. but what can he do now. any move now is comply desperate and would only work short term. there is a total imbalance of what it takes to win here. we have two goalies who cant stop a shot, and we're scratching a first overall pick. it's not Nail's fault, he is who he is. A goal scorer who likes to play with the puck.

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#12 Greg
October 14 2013, 10:51PM
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i cant believe im saying this but i feel bad for MacT. we all know that it's Lowe who runs this team. much of the heat MacT took when he was here as coach was because of Lowe's inability to provide him with a good team. now MacT is in the line of fire getting it from the fans to do something. but what can he do now. any move now is comply desperate and would only work short term. there is a total imbalance of what it takes to win here. we have two goalies who cant stop a shot, and we're scratching a first overall pick. it's not Nail's fault, he is who he is. A goal scorer who likes to play with the puck.

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#13 Greg
October 14 2013, 10:51PM
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i cant believe im saying this but i feel bad for MacT. we all know that it's Lowe who runs this team. much of the heat MacT took when he was here as coach was because of Lowe's inability to provide him with a good team. now MacT is in the line of fire getting it from the fans to do something. but what can he do now. any move now is comply desperate and would only work short term. there is a total imbalance of what it takes to win here. we have two goalies who cant stop a shot, and we're scratching a first overall pick. it's not Nail's fault, he is who he is. A goal scorer who likes to play with the puck.

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#14 Goilers
October 14 2013, 10:52PM
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Good article. I think we've already outscored and outchanced as many teams this year than all of last year. The goaltending will level out and the defence will improve as they learn the systems. A bounce or two our way wouldn't hurt either. Pittsburgh is getting thumped tomorrow.

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#15 Greg
October 14 2013, 10:54PM
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Goilers wrote:

Good article. I think we've already outscored and outchanced as many teams this year than all of last year. The goaltending will level out and the defence will improve as they learn the systems. A bounce or two our way wouldn't hurt either. Pittsburgh is getting thumped tomorrow.

your delusional .

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#16 Woogie63
October 14 2013, 10:59PM
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It is early but given the number of contracts this team has and the lack of cap space, the options are limited.

Here is what I would suggest,

1)MacT needs to spend more time with his new cosch he is struggling with the move up to the NHL.

2) The defense is struggling N Schultz and Smid need competition to push them - bring up the best D man from the AHL sit Shultz.

3) Put Yak back into the line-up on the second line and pp1- he needs to play to grow as a player.

4) Could Jones, Pitlick or Hamilton add a new dimension to the team?

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#17 Woogie63
October 14 2013, 10:59PM
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It is early but given the number of contracts this team has and the lack of cap space, the options are limited.

Here is what I would suggest,

1)MacT needs to spend more time with his new cosch he is struggling with the move up to the NHL.

2) The defense is struggling N Schultz and Smid need competition to push them - bring up the best D man from the AHL sit Shultz.

3) Put Yak back into the line-up on the second line and pp1- he needs to play to grow as a player.

4) Could Jones, Pitlick or Hamilton add a new dimension to the team?

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#18 Goilers
October 14 2013, 11:01PM
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Greg wrote:

your delusional .

Funny your not the first to have mentioned that. Come on in the water is fine.

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#19 Goilers
October 14 2013, 11:01PM
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Greg wrote:

your delusional .

Funny your not the first to have mentioned that. Come on in the water is fine.

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#20 Cynic
October 14 2013, 11:04PM
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Just got back from a 22-year vacation to Mars. I see the Oilers are horrible. Good to know that nothing changed while I was away.

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#21 lenny
October 14 2013, 11:06PM
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JW, the best move Oilers can do now is to FIRE EAKINS, MACT AND K LOWE>

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#22 Walter White
October 14 2013, 11:06PM
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@Greg

I heard you the second time

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#24 mlcsellil
October 14 2013, 11:15PM
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There is little doubt neither goalie has a vote of confidence from the coach, players, management, owner, or us fans. If MacT, (a guy that admits patience is not his strong suit), were to bring in a new goalie, my curiosity from the ON readers is, who do you give up and who do you bring in? I personally have no idea, but I think karma being a boomerang, the guy we let go, is going to do great things on a new team. Any realistic suggestions?

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#25 Cowbell_Feva
October 14 2013, 11:19PM
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How many years, not games, years, has the Devan Dubnyk experience been in operation? 2 or 3 by my count.

You can spit out as many GAA stats and Save% stats as you want, but the fact of the matter is that he lets in a lot of bad goals by NHL standards. Some are ECHL bad. Some are Div 8 beer league bad so far this year.

Take into account the fact that this team has been out of the playoffs by Xmas every year and the statistics mean nothing. How could management not look into a Corey Schneider? To make excuse after excuse for Dubey is getting to be downright Homerism by definition. He isn't a legitimate NHL starter. To compare the Blackhawks team and the Oilers team is just plain stupid. Apples and Oranges.

Whats worse, to me, is that even with decent goaltending, I see a bad defensive corps and soft forwards. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I wouldn't call it knee-jerk, I would say this team hasn't been built to be a contender for many years now, cummulativly becoming what we see on the ice today.

Another long winter ahead if the plan is to "ride it out"

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#26 Butters
October 14 2013, 11:21PM
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We need Gags back. At the very least, he will absorb some of the venom.

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#27 peppran
October 14 2013, 11:23PM
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KLowe knows about winning, and MacT is a bold&impatient guy(Same Sh*t diffrent year)?

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#28 beloch
October 14 2013, 11:23PM
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Just throwing a thought out there...

You have two goalies whose career stats indicate they are decent, but both are as cold and smelly as a dead rhino's arse right now. One or the other should shake off their funk eventually but, in the meantime, the Oilers will lose games.

Why not call up Olivier Roy or one of the other goalies in the system? Yes, he'll probably get lit up too, but giving him a cup of coffee is relatively low-risk and the potential payoff is high if he manages to impress. There's also a chance that a youngster might spark some compete in the veteran net-minders. It's a logical step to take before doing something more drastic, like signing a FA or trading for a tender.

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#29 Serious Gord
October 14 2013, 11:23PM
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You are correct - it is not time to panic.

But this team certainly is not constructed - from the GM on down - properly to take this team well into the playoffs.

Weak goaltending Weak defense Very weak physically on top two lines

And - at the very least - questionable coaching and scouting.

All of these issues and others have, at their genesis, one person.

Kevin Lowe.

The owner of this team owes it to its fans - the true lifeblood of any sports organization - to terminate Kevin lowes employment as president of hockey ops forthwith.

And then begin an exhaustive professional search process to find his replacement before the start of the second round of the playoffs. The fans have suffered under the false, multi-ringed god for far too long.

Firing Klowe would not be sign of panic. Instead it would be a signal to all involved that no one is unaccountable, that no one can rest on their rings of gold, pictures of Stanley cup victories with other teams, and things that suffice as laurels in the modern sports world, that no one will be permitted to impede the resolute march to another Ingraving session with the Stanley cup.

Fire Klowe now when his departure will have minimal practical impact in the short term and monumental psychological impact both now and in long term as it sends the signal that the old boys network is well and truly being routed.

(Now watch Katz replace Lowe with messier who will promptly split the pres of hockey ops office between van and NYC)

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#30 Butters
October 14 2013, 11:24PM
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@Cowbell_Feva "How could management not look into a Corey Schneider?" They did. YVR wouldn't take our 1st round pick. They wanted more for trading him within their division and opted for NJ's later pick.

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#31 madjam
October 14 2013, 11:25PM
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Devon and Jason from much same mold -not reliable enough to even be a nonfactor goalie . Neither looks capable of stealing a game or making enough big saves to keep us in them . Had hoped Dubbie might have improved over last two seasons , but that now looks unlikely . We simply need more consistency and stellar play from both of them , and we are not getting it .

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#32 Smokey
October 14 2013, 11:26PM
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@gcw_rocks

Eakins is not the problem. He obviously can't make goalies stop pucks, and that is the problem. MacT I agree with you on. I don't care how articulate someone is if they can build a winner by filling necessary holes.. Billicheck from the Patriots is a brilliant man, but he won't woo you with any catch phrases, or bold comments like MacT. MacT can talk, but its apparent the subtle changes needed to build a winner is not something he was able to do despite the talk or even realize he needed to do. I don't blame him for the goalies, I thought Labarbara was average and applauded the move. The bold move whether I like it or not would of been getting Bernier or Schneider or even Kubodin. I thought the hire was assbackwards. The fans rode this guy outta town cause he stunk. I saw 30 comments on facebook applauding the move when he quit only to the same are believing the guys the answer, and I'm like WAAA!

This team needs either Dubby to wake up or roll the dice on a goalie with track record. I am no fan of Space Cadet or Propecia Man, but I think you gotta take a flyer on another goalie, cause this is going to get outta hand fast. They have lost 5 points at least because of shaky tending. I don't wanna look at top five picks this year.

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#33 Smokey
October 14 2013, 11:32PM
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beloch wrote:

Just throwing a thought out there...

You have two goalies whose career stats indicate they are decent, but both are as cold and smelly as a dead rhino's arse right now. One or the other should shake off their funk eventually but, in the meantime, the Oilers will lose games.

Why not call up Olivier Roy or one of the other goalies in the system? Yes, he'll probably get lit up too, but giving him a cup of coffee is relatively low-risk and the potential payoff is high if he manages to impress. There's also a chance that a youngster might spark some compete in the veteran net-minders. It's a logical step to take before doing something more drastic, like signing a FA or trading for a tender.

Olivier Roy will, never be a NHL goalie. Too small and too many flaws. Backman has NHL experience and be worth a call-up.

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#34 6 ring circus
October 14 2013, 11:34PM
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Damm rights I am Frustrated!!! I am sick and tired of this garbage year after year,our billionaire owner seems to not hold anyone accountable on his management team about this mess we are in.We have been out of the playoffs for 7 years and if this keeps up we will be at 8 years.As a long time season ticket holder I want accountability and improvement, I've had enough of this Circus.Katz can start showing he cares about the Oiler's and start by firing his buddies K Lowe and Buchberger.

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#35 Smokey
October 14 2013, 11:36PM
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lenny wrote:

JW, the best move Oilers can do now is to FIRE EAKINS, MACT AND K LOWE>

Eakins is fine. He's not the problem. Kevin Lowe and MacT should be gone, but as long as they stay away from Katz's wife they'll be in saddle.

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#36 Marshall Law
October 14 2013, 11:43PM
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Perhaps playing Hall and Nuge until they vomit isn't the best strategy.

On a related note, while I can appreciate that viable alternatives may not be available, playing Justin Schultz more than 20 minutes a night isn't helping this team solve its goaltending issue. Although he adds all kinds of positives to the PP, it's hard not to see that he's becoming a bit of a liability at evens...

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#37 K_Mart
October 14 2013, 11:48PM
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we've outchanced the opposition in all but one game so far. i'm not worried yet.... ... yet.

If we hit the 20 game mark and Dubnyk is still posting sub .910 nbrs on a daily basis, THEN i'll be worried. Until then, i'll close all doors to the panic button. Dubnyk just needs to fix his head, that's what I think is screwing him right now.

And as we all know...

There is plenty to be said about the mental side of the game, and if there's a great example of how it can affect an athlete's play, it's Tiger Woods. Wife catches him cheating, leaves him... so does his game. It's taken him forever just to get back his world no.1 ranking and still hasn't won a major.

While I don't think anything like this has happened to Dubnyk, the possibility is there. Like I said, if he's still playing like a DUD after 20 games, maybe i'll worry. But until then, I'm not panicking.

SIDENOTE: I wonder if Dubnyk freaked out when he saw the Oil try and get Schneider. Hope not.

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#38 DrDave
October 14 2013, 11:48PM
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Lowe should've been fired before he was promoted and definitely after his "we have 2 types of fans" comment.

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#39 K_Mart
October 14 2013, 11:50PM
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Marshall Law wrote:

Perhaps playing Hall and Nuge until they vomit isn't the best strategy.

On a related note, while I can appreciate that viable alternatives may not be available, playing Justin Schultz more than 20 minutes a night isn't helping this team solve its goaltending issue. Although he adds all kinds of positives to the PP, it's hard not to see that he's becoming a bit of a liability at evens...

Agreed, he picks some extremely bad moments to jump into the rush. Especially on LAICH's goal tonight. That was horrid.

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#40 hurricanes fan
October 14 2013, 11:52PM
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Boy o boy, the oilers sure suck!

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#41 Muji
October 14 2013, 11:53PM
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- Play Yak
- Be better defensively (forwards, defence, and goaltending)

That's it. We're not far off. Gotta keep positive. Keep pushing.

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#42 Vincheese
October 15 2013, 12:03AM
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Why not pick up Biron from Waivers?

Yeah, he's stunk the few minutes he's played this year, but at least it gives us another option in net. Surely one of the three could catch some confidence.

I'd pull the trigger on picking up both Biron for ovious reasons, and also Asham for some grit if possbible--provided cap/# of contracts problem is OK in doing so.

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#43 lolhockey
October 15 2013, 12:04AM
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When Katz finally decides to fire Lowe and then immediately hire Messier, I won't know whether I should laugh or cry.

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#44 #YakCityGettingScrewedOverByCoach&Mgmty
October 15 2013, 12:07AM
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Greg wrote:

your delusional .

Agreed. JW is delusional too. He sure has a hard on for the goalies. Keeps repeating himself in every write-up. Find some other angle to write another story on the slumping Oilers, pleasse.

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#45 David S
October 15 2013, 12:12AM
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You have a team with the core young talent learning their fourth "system" in as many years. The guys are totally twisted up right now and it shows. They're slow, mechanical and uncertain of themselves. We see it as bad plays and stupid mistakes. This includes the D-men and the "swarm defense".

It'll get better.

Speaking of which, while being very aggressive the swarm defense gives up five-bell chances for our opposition if not executed perfectly. This puts incredible pressure on the goalie at the best of times.

Eakins will either perfect the system or adapt a new version.

Then you had a training camp with too may goalies during a year when new equipment comes in. Labarbera and Dubnyk had not nearly enough time to work the kinks out with the new pads and shallow nets.

No other goalie except our two roster players should have touched the pre-season ice.

THEN we had our top two C out from the get-go. You know many teams that would have success with this scenario? Can you name me one team in the NHL that could absorb that? Now we have RNH back but Gagner is still out, which is still TOTALLY screwing up the lines. Yakupov can't perform with the dregs he's been paired with because Eakins has to spread out what talent he has to be competitive. Watch him flourish with Gagner and our fortunes improve.

Like it or not, we were screwed from game 1 down our 1-2 C's.

Finally, our goalie situation. It was far from ideal and we all knew it. From the sounds of it MacT was working on getting Schneider but the Canucks weren't going to deal unless MacT was prepared to get raped. No surprise there. Schneider would have made us a world better and Vancouver knew it. And for the love of god guys. Just because you didn't hear a rumor on the internet doesn't mean MacT wasn't working his ass off. You'd be surprised to know that not everything makes it onto rumor sites.

Maybe ten percent of what you think you know is public knowledge. SHOCKER!

All this and we have to deal with a season opening schedule from hell. Fact is, fully stacked with Gagner and RNH we'd still be in tough.

So on top of all this we get the goalie situation. Sh!t happens I guess. But for a few breaks and league average goaltending we'd probably have 5-6 points right now.

The sad reality is that we'll have to wait until Gagner gets back and up to speed before we'll see what this team is really capable of. It'll take that long to learn yet another new system and sort out the dubious lines we're seeing now.

I hate to say the obvious here but... Suck it up buttercups.

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#46 **
October 15 2013, 12:18AM
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I think the time to replace Dubnyk has passed. The decision was made in the summer to keep him (albeit it might have been the default decision, since the trades didn't materialize) and now they have to ride him out. There is no goaltender out there that truly guarantees an solid step up on Dubnyk who would come to Edmonton without gutting an important piece of the team. The best solution right now would be to add at least one solid top 3 defenceman. That trade would be easier to make because the team has a suprlus of defensive prospects and Hemsky has shown he's in top form to contribute offensively. His defensive game still sucks (-7 I think so far) but on a team needing offense (the predators maybe) a trade could happen.

The team is stuck with Dubnyk at least until January.

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#47 mlcsellil
October 15 2013, 12:28AM
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When is the press conference? Sure like to know what's going on. What is the bold move? NewGoalie? New Defenceman? New Hockey Operations President (oh please) ? Are we trading picks and prospects for our new-comers? GM likes public speaking, and he has an audience dying to know what we are paying for.

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#48 Bobkov
October 15 2013, 01:09AM
Trash it!
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Didn't know Tambo was still running things. He came from Vancouver, it's his fault!

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#49 Kuri_is_my_Coffey
October 15 2013, 01:13AM
Trash it!
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Just chill folks!!! Its less than 10 games in and we have no Gags and RNH is still getting into game shape. Dubs' game will improve, we'll make the playoffs as a low seed and then proceed to demolish the competition.

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#50 KleptoKlown
October 15 2013, 01:15AM
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At least Yaks had a good game...oh wait.

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