GDB 8.0: STILL SEARCHING

Jason Gregor
October 17 2013 10:33AM

I grew up watching the Islanders, and then the Oilers, dominate the NHL. For me, these two organizations will always be connected, mainly due to their past greatness, but also because they've both struggled to gain respectability for the past two decades.

The Islanders have made the playoffs six times in the last 20 years, but they haven't won a playoff series since 1993. The Oilers have made the post-season seven times in the last 20 seasons, and they've won five series, three of them in 2006. The past two decades haven't been pretty for two of the most storied franchises in NHL history, and both of them are trying to regain respectability.

The Islanders and Oilers have stockpiled a plethora of high first round picks due to their losing, but neither franchise has found a way to turn those picks into consistent victories.

NYI                                                                                            EDM
Kyle Okposo: 7th overall, 2006                                         Sam Gagner: 6th overall, 2007
Josh Bailey: 9th overall, 2008                                           Jordan Eberle: 22nd overall, 2008
John Tavares: 1st overall, 2009                                        Magnus Paajarvi: 10th overall, 2009
Calvin de Haan: 12th overall, 2009                                  Taylor Hall: 1st overall, 2010     
Nino Niederreiter: 5th overall, 2010                                 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 1st overall, 2011
Ryan Strome: 5th overall, 2011                                         Oscar Klefbom: 19th overall, 2011
Griffin Reinhart: 4th overall, 2012                                     Nail Yakupov: 1st overall, 2012
Ryan Poluck: 15th overall, 2013                                       Darnell Nurse, 7th overall, 2013

Each team has traded away a top pick, Paajarvi for David Perron, Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck and the Islanders made the playoffs four years after taking Tavares first overall. They are making more progress than the Oilers, and if the Oilers are going to match the Islanders success after having the 1st overall pick, they need to make the postseason this year. If they plan on doing that, they must start picking up some wins in October.

The Islanders made the playoffs last season, ending a five-year drought, and there is lots of optimism surrounding the team led by Tavares. Over the past three seasons, including the start of this season, Tavares has been the 10th most productive player in the NHL racking up 202 points in 215 games. 

  Player GP G A PTS EVG PPG SHG S S%
1 Steven Stamkos 218 138 116 254 97 40 1 749 18.4
2 Martin St. Louis 213 77 166 243 66 11 0 566 13.6
3 Henrik Sedin 219 45 184 229 27 17 1 354 12.7
4 Claude Giroux 214 66 153 219 42 20 4 565 11.7
5 Daniel Sedin 208 85 133 218 53 32 0 660 12.9
6 Alex Ovechkin 212 108 107 215 69 39 0 940 11.5
7 Phil Kessel 219 91 115 206 62 28 1 811 11.2
8 Henrik Zetterberg 215 62 144 206 43 17 2 783 7.9
9 Eric Staal 218 77 126 203 48 22 7 733 10.5
10 John Tavares 215 91 111 202 65 26 0 713 12.8
42 Jordan Eberle 202 70 91 161 51 17 2 492 14.2
52 Taylor Hall 178 66 85 151 41 25 0 570 11.6

Notice how only four of the top-ten have been legitimate point-per-game players. It is hard to average a ppg if you are playing the majority of games, so keep that in mind when projecting how many points the top Oilers skaters will produce.

The Islanders have built a decent team.

Their top-six is a mixture of their top picks, Tavares, Okposo and Bailey, Frans Nielsen (drafted 3rd round, 2002) who has developed into one of the best two-way centres in the game, a smart waiver pick up of Michael Grabner (14th overall, 2006 by Canucks) and one of the best free agent signings of the past five years, Matt Moulson.

The Islanders signed Moulson to a one-year, two-way deal at the start of the 2009 season for $575,000. Moulson scored 30 goals that year, and then he signed another one-year deal for $2.4 million and produced 31 goals. He is now in the final year of a three-year deal for $3.1 million/year.

Their bottom six is a mixture of castoffs, reclamation projects, acquired players and draft picks. Clutterbuck, Peter Regin, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald (former Oiler pick) and Brock Nelson, 30th overall pick in 2010.

They aren't household names, but they have a mixture of skill, size and toughness.

The Islanders, similar to the Oilers, don't have a dominant defenceman.

Travis Hamonic is a steady physical defender, with limited offence, who was invited to Team Canada's orientation camp. He plays 24 minutes a night, and faces most of the top lines.

Andrew MacDonald plays 25 minutes a night, and most people likely have never heard of him. He was a 6th round pick in 2006, and he plays with Hamonic. He's a decent puck mover, and he played more minutes than Mark Streit last season.

Lubomir Visnovsky is still serviceable at 37 years of age and quarterbacks their powerplay.

Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey, former picks for the Penguins and Kings, are their #4 and #5 defenders while Matt Carkner and Matt Donovan are sharing the #6 slot. Carkner plays when the want a physical presence, while Donovan is used for his offensive capabilities.

Evgeni Nabokov is off to a solid start with a 2.29 GAA and .924 SV%, and he'll start his 6th game tonight.

The Islanders are more competitive than people think, and this will be another difficult game for the Oilers.

LINEUP

Eakins will start the game with the same lines as last game:

Hall-Arcobello-Eberle
Perron-Nugent-Hopkins-Yakupov
Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky
Jones-Acton-Brown/Gazdic

Smid-Petry
Belov-J.Schultz
Ference-N.Schultz

Dubnyk

All eyes will be on Devan Dubnyk. It is unlikely he will continue to struggle as much as he has, 5.43GAA and 0.829 SV%, in his first four games. I'd be surprised if he suddenly was lights out, but you don't go from a .920 SV%, to a 0.829% in one off-season.

Even Jim Carey didn't see his SV% dip 91 points in one season. Carey won the Calder with a 0.913 SV% in 1995, then he dropped to 0.906 in 1996, 0.888 in 1997, 0.893 in 1998, before his final four games in 1999 with the Blues produced a gaudy .829 SV%.

No one can deny Dubnyk is struggling, but it is only four games, and way too early to suggest he find his form from last season.

TSN analyst and former NHL goalie, Jamie Mclennan, broke down Dubnyk's struggles nicely. 

"He is a 6'6" goalie, but he looks small in the net. He is playing too deep in his net. When he was locked in last year, he was limiting the goals through the body and his knees, when he went down, were close to the top of the crease. When a goalie lacks confidence they play deeper in their net. To me it is a combination of confidence (lack of) and positioning. He needs to get back to looking 6'6" in goal and stay at the top of the crease.

QUICK HITS...

  • The Oilers have to be more aggressive on their PK. Their PK vs. the Capitals was the most passive penalty kill I've seen in a long time. They can't allow Tavares, Visnovsky and company to set up so easily. They need to pressure the puck and not give the Islanders time to make plays.
     
  •  The Oilers have given up a PP goal in all seven games, allowing 8 goals on 24 attempts for a putrid 66.7%. In 2009 they allowed a PP goal in eight straight games from February 28th, 2009 to March 17th, 2009, 11 goals on 27 chances. They had another eight-game skid, January 16th to February 04th, 2010 when they allowed 10 goals on 30 attempts. The Oilers finished 27th in PK in 2009 and 29th in 2011. The Oilers have to rectify their PK woes.
     
  • The Islanders have four forwards averaging a PPG thus far. Tavares, Nielsen and Grabner have seven points in six games, while Bailey has six in six. Twenty-one of their combined 27 points have come at ES.
     
  • Sam Gagner told me he was hoping to play before the end of the month. He had surgery on September 24th and was told he'd be out six to eight weeks. Next Tuesday is four weeks since surgery, and he was confident he'd be back earlier than six weeks. Next Tuesday might be a bit early, but if gets clearance from the doctor, he sees him in the next few days, to begin contact drills, Gagner could be back in the lineup when the Oilers return home on October 24th.
     
  • J.Schultz only has 11 shots, while Petry and Belov have 7 each. The Oiler bluelines have to get more shots on goal. Andrew Ference has 14 and he plays less ES and PP time than all three of them.
     
  • The Oilers need to get more traffic to the net, especially on the powerplay. To often J.Schultz or Belov have a good shooting lane, but no one is in front of the net, so they aren't shooting. The Oilers need to funnel more bodies to the net, and the D-men need to put the puck on goal more frequently.
     
  • Ryan Miller is never coming to Edmonton. Never. Stop talking about it. It won't happen. Also if, big if, the Oilers ever trade Yakupov it will be for a top-pairing D-man, not a 33 year-old goalie. If you move Yakupov you need to get a player back who can contribute for at least the next 5-6 years, at least. Any return/rumour that involves something less is purely fabricated.
     
  • I was happy to be asked to take part in SO Dance. I'm teamed up with Special Olympian, Jenny Murray, and we will perform a Swing dance routine tonight. I don't have to wear a tight shirt like Struds, but I'm hoping to have as good of moves as Struddy.  Our goal was to raise $1,500. We are at $1,405. If any of you generous souls would like to help us raise the final $95 that would be great. You can donate here.  

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

GAME DAY PREDICTION: It is hard to predict an Oiler victory, even though they played fairly well in Pittsburgh. They will get closer to a W but come up short losing 4-3 in a SO.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gene Principe will interview Doug Weight at some point during the broadcast. The former Oiler captain is a good quote and current assistant coach and assistant GM of the Islanders. He'll rave about his time in Edmonton, and claim the Islanders have a great young core. Also, Perron will score. He has 3 goals in 4 career games vs. the Islanders.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nick Schultz picks up an assist on the first Oiler goal, leaving Yakupov and Brown as the only skaters without a point**. Yakupov, well aware that he has zeros across the board this year, gives himself a pep talk during the first intermission and plays his best period of the season in the 2nd, by scoring a goal and adding an assist. After the game he says this about cracking his goose eggs before Brown. "Brownie is a great teammate, but I didn't want to listen to Plums talk about everyone on the team having more points than me. Our next game is on CBC and I know he'd bring it up."

** Ryan Jones doesn't have a point, but he's only played one game, so I didn't include him.**

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 Al Davis
October 17 2013, 10:42AM
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They should get Dougy Weight to play goal tonight. Just because he's such a beauty!

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#2 Devolution
October 17 2013, 10:45AM
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Who is the chick with the gigantic eyeball?

Dubnyk will be good tonight and the Oil will start their slow climb back to mediocrity, where they belong. This can't go on much longer, surely.

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#3 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 17 2013, 10:50AM
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The PK needs PK personnel on it. You can't expect guys that never were on the PK to do well. Need to break guys in slowly.

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#4 Quicksilver ballet
October 17 2013, 10:53AM
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Devan doesn't have the quickness/mobility to play at the top of the crease. That's why he's stuck deep in his net all the time. Islanders by a field goal. Tuesday was just a scrimmage/night off for the Penguins, rather than the Oilers playing well.

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#5 Consultant
October 17 2013, 11:02AM
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Thanks for debunking the Miller rumors. Can't stand reading the Miller and Bryz garbage. Bring in a young goalie that dreams of being a #1.

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#6 Sean17
October 17 2013, 11:04AM
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Ya know those commercials to donate money for developing 3rd world countries? I feel like watching both of these organizations is the same as those commercials - promising so much hope but, at the end of the day everybody is still crapping in a bucket...

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#7 Simpsonite
October 17 2013, 11:09AM
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"Brownie is a great teammate, but I didn't want to listen to Plums talk about everyone on the team having more points than me. Our next game is on CBC and I know he'd bring it up."

Plums!?!?!?! That is awesome. He shall forever be known as plums from here on in...

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#8 laughing pug
October 17 2013, 11:09AM
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If I'm not mistaken, it was Travis Hamonic that almost broke Taylor Hall in half on the endboards in junior.

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#9 BaldOldMan
October 17 2013, 11:11AM
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Dubnyk is not the only issue. He is one player on a team of 20 which plays a game any given night. He's the scapegoat. Weak goals, "Yes", bad goalie, "no". Multiple giveaways every game leaving goalies out to dry, definitely yes. There has been to much drama around this team. MacTavish has promised something months ago and hasn't delivered. If he didn't say "Bold moves", we wouldn't expect it.

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#10 Bucknuck
October 17 2013, 11:19AM
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This is the game. You know... the one where they break out and everyone starts feeling silly for being so worried.

I hope.

6-2 Oil win.

Yakupov gets two assists because he's using his linemates.

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#11 Quicksilver ballet
October 17 2013, 11:23AM
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Sean17 wrote:

Ya know those commercials to donate money for developing 3rd world countries? I feel like watching both of these organizations is the same as those commercials - promising so much hope but, at the end of the day everybody is still crapping in a bucket...

lmao.....+1 Sean.

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#12 WONGER
October 17 2013, 11:33AM
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Any trade with Buffalo for Miller/Vanek must include BIG JOHN SCOTT!!!!! Bring him in and the OILERS TOUGHNESS ISSUES ARE SOLVED FOR EVER!!!!!!!

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#13 Danger Pay
October 17 2013, 11:34AM
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Forget all the individual stats and Just Win!

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#14 Craig1981
October 17 2013, 11:36AM
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Edmonton trades Yak to Florida for Miller and Weber!! O'mark called up and scores 40 goals

Oilers fixed

*eyes rolled way back

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#15 GriffCity
October 17 2013, 11:39AM
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Agreed the PK needs to be much better, it was awful against WSH. If they don't tighten up and put a little pressure on the guy with the puck in their end, watch for a through the crease pass to Tavares for a one timer ala Ward against WSH or Malkin vs PIT.

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#16 tileguy
October 17 2013, 11:49AM
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Maybe Billy Smith is in the arena and can strap em on for us.

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#17 tileguy
October 17 2013, 11:50AM
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tileguy wrote:

Maybe Billy Smith is in the arena and can strap em on for us.

Goaltending and sandpaper.

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#18 Bucknuck
October 17 2013, 11:52AM
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tileguy wrote:

Maybe Billy Smith is in the arena and can strap em on for us.

He was very focused on the "blade" of his stick, just ask Gretzky's ankles.

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#19 Kosmo Kraemer
October 17 2013, 11:57AM
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C'mon guys, replacing Dubnyk after four games is truly impatient, but lets not be stupid. All the teams out there know that the Oilers are looking for a goalie so the price is not going to be cheap, just accept that. Give Dudnyk another four games, hopefully work his way back into the right range of save percentage and call off the lynch mob.

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#20 A-Mc
October 17 2013, 12:11PM
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Gregor predicts a loss, so naturally the Oilers will WIN!

#GOilers ! !!

Oilers win.. hopefully 1-0 so dubnyk can get that GAA down some.

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#22 A-Mc
October 17 2013, 12:23PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Picked them to lose 3-2 in Pitts... #Nailedit

2 out of 3 times it works every time.

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#23 BingBong
October 17 2013, 12:58PM
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TSN says Edmonton is on Miller's "no trade" list, so that's it for that. Don't really know what to expect tonight, but hopefully the Oil give 110%.

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#24 Lochenzo
October 17 2013, 01:00PM
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I'm suddenly very interested in finding out what 'XFO' is!

I'm really excited to watch this game tonight. It was fun to see the Islanders in the playoffs again last year, in part because the Islanders were in the same pickle as the Oil and it was refreshing to see at least one of them make it last year and have a pretty good series against the Pens.

Something I'd like to see a little more from this club is some on ice support for guys that are struggling. We all know who those players are. A few extra words of encouragement or making some adjustments on the ice to help out your teammates. It's not obvious to me that that is happening which means to me that it is not happening enough. Tell Dubnyk that he can square up on the shooter because you've got the pass covered. Simple little things.

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#25 match16
October 17 2013, 01:09PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

The PK needs PK personnel on it. You can't expect guys that never were on the PK to do well. Need to break guys in slowly.

That's what Renney should have done when we were out of the playoffs. Give the kids some experience on the PK, instead he kept playing Belanger like the games mattered.

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#26 Lochenzo
October 17 2013, 01:10PM
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I don't think Ryan Miller was the solution anyways. He's 34. By the time the Oilers are ready to make a run at Stanley, Miller will be 37+, assuming that he re-signs here.

Now, if you're talking about a goalie rental, acquire Miller for the year and then let him walk UFA at the end of the year, that is fine. But you don't give up an asset like Yakupov for a rental.

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#27 JJmorrocco
October 17 2013, 01:21PM
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Gregor -

What impact do you think shot blocking is having on these two goalies? It seems Eakins doesn't have his guys laying down or even dropping to a knee to block a shot. They still block shots but most are standing and create a screen. Could this be why Duby drops early to take away bottom of the net??

Its definately a new culture for Dubnyk, this and the slight changes to his pads / stick all must be playing a role.

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#28 pkam
October 17 2013, 01:22PM
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"It is hard to predict an Oiler victory, even though they played fairly well in Pittsburgh. They will get closer to a W but come up short losing 4-3 in a SO. "

We have Eberle, Perron, RNH, Hemsky, Yakapov. Not sure about Gordon and Acrobello, and I think even J. Schultz had scored one in AHL. With so many shooters, and NYI just lost a SO to Buffalo, yet you still think we can't beat the NYI in a SO? Your predication is not only discouraging, it is depressing. I'll rather you predict us to lose in OT.

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#29 vetinari
October 17 2013, 01:24PM
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The law of averages has to figure into this at some point, no?

Oilers 4 NYI 3

Yak scores his first of the season.

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#30 geoilersgist
October 17 2013, 02:44PM
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I really really hope MacT doesn't do anything crazy and make dumb trade. He needs to ride Dubnyk through this rough patch for at least 10 games.

If after Dubnyk plays 10 games and he still hasn't returned to form then start to panic. Trading for Miller or signing Bryz doesn't seem like a smart move at this point.

Yak will get it eventually don't trade him either.

Oil sneak in a win 4-1. 3 goals in the first period 1 of them belongs to Yak Yak City.

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#31 David S
October 17 2013, 02:54PM
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WONGER wrote:

Any trade with Buffalo for Miller/Vanek must include BIG JOHN SCOTT!!!!! Bring him in and the OILERS TOUGHNESS ISSUES ARE SOLVED FOR EVER!!!!!!!

OH GOD!

*facepalm*

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#32 Spydyr
October 17 2013, 03:27PM
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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eakins looks worried/uncomfortable on the bench.

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#34 vetinari
October 17 2013, 03:42PM
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It seems appropriate to crib some immortal words from the great Winston Churchill (with some minor changes):

"We shall compete from end to end. We shall fight in the neutral zone and cause turnovers, we shall finish our checks, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the offensive zone, we shall defend our goal crease, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight for position in front of their goalie, we shall fight around the half boards, we shall fight on the open ice, and on special teams; we shall never surrender!"

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#35 tileguy
October 17 2013, 04:01PM
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NSOGDP - Hemsky will score shorthanded and assist on 3 goals tonight, giving him the points lead on his was to another 70 pt year. MacT will sign him for 3 more years at $3M per and the trade Hemsky crowd will fade away for ever.

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#36 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 04:03PM
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WONGER wrote:

Any trade with Buffalo for Miller/Vanek must include BIG JOHN SCOTT!!!!! Bring him in and the OILERS TOUGHNESS ISSUES ARE SOLVED FOR EVER!!!!!!!

The ritalin is on the counter next to your phone.

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#37 Taylor Gang
October 17 2013, 04:19PM
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Gregor

Do you think that Hemsky is outplaying even the best of our stars so far this season? He seems to be making a case to stay on the team for this year...

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#38 Serious Gord
October 17 2013, 04:38PM
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The isles are the more complete, more mature team - the should beat the oil both in scoring and in physical play. But I think luck and a regression to the norm for dubnyk has the oil squeak out a 4-3 win.

That said the NYI have lost two games in a row to weaker opponents and may be fired up tonight. I'm interested to watch Tavares play - last time I watched him in the playoffs he was easily one if the top ten best players in the league.

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#39 Dog Train
October 17 2013, 04:42PM
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The Oilers need a few wins to end this road trip before returning to Edmonton. Regardless of who plays goal going forward, Dubnyk is in net tonight and he needs to play well. The Islanders have skill but they are also a very hard working team. We will need to play well to win tonight.

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#40 DOUG WAIT!
October 17 2013, 04:44PM
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I want a golie and I am drunk, so get a golie

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#41 Sidney Frosby
October 17 2013, 04:45PM
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Are we ever gonna see Eager in place of Brown? I think he would bring more energy and speed on the fore-check then Brown.

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#42 Sidney Frosby
October 17 2013, 04:45PM
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Are we ever gonna see Eager in place of Brown? I think he would bring more energy and speed on the fore-check then Brown.

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#43 Taylor Kids in the Hall
October 17 2013, 04:50PM
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Al Davis wrote:

They should get Dougy Weight to play goal tonight. Just because he's such a beauty!

Good one Weird Al! Put Dougy Weight in net... Your as smart as the drunk guy

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#44 number99
October 17 2013, 05:11PM
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Taylor Kids in the Hall wrote:

Good one Weird Al! Put Dougy Weight in net... Your as smart as the drunk guy

Whoooaa there son, is that a "Your" instead of "You're"?

You are going to have to come with me to the station........

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#45 God
October 17 2013, 05:12PM
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I'd sell my own mother for a bloody win tonight...

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#46 God
October 17 2013, 05:15PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

The ritalin is on the counter next to your phone.

Best reply I've seen in a long time. You, sir, have won the internet for the day.

Someone get this man a double scotch, neat.

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#47 Serious Gord
October 17 2013, 05:15PM
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Don't get drunk - drink this:

https://www.blantonsbourbon.com/gold

Three fingers, room temp, just a few drops of spring water. The euphoria of its flavor will make forget the atrocity on the ice.

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#48 Alsker
October 17 2013, 05:35PM
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Nice!!!!

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#49 Alsker
October 17 2013, 05:36PM
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2 in 8 seconds...lol...

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#50 Harlie
October 17 2013, 05:38PM
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DOUG WAIT! wrote:

I want a golie and I am drunk, so get a golie

Wow, DK has went from drunk texting Stauff to trolling the net. I like it.

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