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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#51 LoweBlow
October 17 2013, 05:39PM
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Uh? 8 Sec??

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#52 LoweBlow
October 17 2013, 05:39PM
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Trying to stream the bloody game while in Brazil. WTF just happened???!

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Where does Gagner play when he comes back?

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#54 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 05:48PM
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LoweBlow wrote:

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.

IT'S LIKE YOU KNOW ME!!

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#55 Poolanov
October 17 2013, 05:55PM
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The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33 wrote:

Where does Gagner play when he comes back?

Good question! Imagine Boyd Gordon will center 4th line with spot faceoff duty. Acton to OKC. The rest go in Eakins' Kitchenaid stand mixer. P.S. Don't buy one for Christmas!

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#56 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 06:02PM
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Poolanov wrote:

Good question! Imagine Boyd Gordon will center 4th line with spot faceoff duty. Acton to OKC. The rest go in Eakins' Kitchenaid stand mixer. P.S. Don't buy one for Christmas!

You're probably right.

Arco has what, 7 points in 8 games? Something like that?

No way you can send him back down.

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#57 Alsker
October 17 2013, 06:23PM
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Ok, time for a timely PP goal...great chances on the first 2 now time to just get one!!!

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#58 michael
October 17 2013, 06:23PM
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This game would be done if they could connect on the PP. Work needs to be done on special teams to say the least.

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#59 Craig1981
October 17 2013, 06:30PM
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Now I not only am yelling at Hemsky to shoot, but also for Yak to pass :(

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#60 Clarko
October 17 2013, 06:36PM
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3 goals by the Islanders on players wide open in between the circles 10-15 feet away. D-zone coverage definitely needs some work!

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#61 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
October 17 2013, 07:08PM
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Clarko wrote:

3 goals by the Islanders on players wide open in between the circles 10-15 feet away. D-zone coverage definitely needs some work!

~Dubnyk's save percentage is below .900 and the team is 1-5-1. The Oil should trade every piece from their AHL/Junior depth, Yak, Eberle, Dubnyk (and buyout Hemsky to make cap space) for immediate help. While they're at it, they should fire the new coach and his arrogant haircut. Rabble, rabble, rabble ~

But seriously... I agree. I believe Dubnyk will start looking a lot better once he gets his mojo back and the team improves the PK/blown defensive assignments.

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#62 YFC Prez
October 17 2013, 07:08PM
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Visnovski has been the best d man on either club tonight. *sad face*

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#63 LoweBlow
October 17 2013, 07:16PM
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11 mins into the 3rd , Oil being outshot 12-1

So much for offensive pressure trying to tie the game...

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#64 YFC Prez
October 17 2013, 07:17PM
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Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

~Dubnyk's save percentage is below .900 and the team is 1-5-1. The Oil should trade every piece from their AHL/Junior depth, Yak, Eberle, Dubnyk (and buyout Hemsky to make cap space) for immediate help. While they're at it, they should fire the new coach and his arrogant haircut. Rabble, rabble, rabble ~

But seriously... I agree. I believe Dubnyk will start looking a lot better once he gets his mojo back and the team improves the PK/blown defensive assignments.

I was in the midst of typing a detailed response meticulously explaining how incredibly bone headed your comment was. Then I saw your sarcastic squiggly lines.

I feel a little silly now.

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#65 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
October 17 2013, 07:21PM
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@YFC Prez

Just trying to point out some of the absurdity of the comments I've read over the past week...

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#66 Steve
October 17 2013, 07:21PM
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U mention neither franchise has been able to turn their high picks into wins but yet I'm pretty sure I remember seeing the islanders in the playoffs last yr and if it weren't for vokoun, they gave their fan base the excitement of potentially upsetting the highly favoured pens!! With the exception of 2008 oilers have have had higher picks every year and still have 1 of the worst records. Time to get rid of upper management and get someone who truly cares about the fan base because this is just getting ridiculous

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#67 Monkeyswan
October 17 2013, 07:33PM
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Wow just pathetic, couldn't break out of the zone the entire third period. I haven't seen the captain do one thing to fire this team up. The entire defense looks awful, the forwards look frantic, they cannot even cycle the puck for a moment, puck possession is just handed over every time. I rarely post but I don't see one positive in this game other than our goalie letting in less then 4 goals

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#68 Walter Sobchak
October 17 2013, 07:55PM
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Paging Mr. Katz, Paging Mr. Katz Your team is fully imploding at the seams.

On the lighter side of things, apparently you can hire a monkey to oversee your corporation.

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#69 Mac962
October 17 2013, 08:07PM
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Wow - another no hitter ? Did anyone hit ? what is with you guys. Yes, some good players on this team, but far from a team.

Eakins - you are out of your league, i am sorry. You have as much to learn as Yakapov so perhaps sit yourself for a game or two and let Woody run the bench. You are lost sir, and its so obvious. Bucky ! Smith ! Please go away, you guys know squat.

Done before Halloween never mind Christmas, whoda thunk that.

Go away Oilers and take the Eskimos with you.

We are again the laughing stock of the League. Pathetic.

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#70 Chaz
October 17 2013, 08:27PM
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Kevin Lowe must Go. Only full accountability right to the top will rid this franchise of their losing culture. Take his 6 rings with him! Embarrassed yet again to be an Oilers fan. It's getting old....

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#71 Spydyr
October 17 2013, 08:28PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

You're probably right.

Arco has what, 7 points in 8 games? Something like that?

No way you can send him back down.

This is everything that is wrong with Oiler fans.Arco has 7 points in 8 games. So what? He brings nothing except points same as Gagner.It takes complete players to win in the NHL. Something the Oilers are sorely lacking.Don't get me started on the goaltending

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#72 Spydyr
October 17 2013, 08:54PM
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Mac962 wrote:

Wow - another no hitter ? Did anyone hit ? what is with you guys. Yes, some good players on this team, but far from a team.

Eakins - you are out of your league, i am sorry. You have as much to learn as Yakapov so perhaps sit yourself for a game or two and let Woody run the bench. You are lost sir, and its so obvious. Bucky ! Smith ! Please go away, you guys know squat.

Done before Halloween never mind Christmas, whoda thunk that.

Go away Oilers and take the Eskimos with you.

We are again the laughing stock of the League. Pathetic.

September 18 2013, 09:01AM

Once again for the people that can't comprehend I said "UNLESS". I hope Eakins is the best coach in the history of the game and wins five Cups here. The team's recent record with coaches suggest otherwise. Every team sells hope this time of year.After the last seven years I will hold off on calling Eakins the second coming of Scotty Bowman.Until he does something like say win his first NHL game!

It got trashed.

Imagine that.

At least he has won his first NHL game now ,one.

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#73 Reg Dunlop
October 17 2013, 09:19PM
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In Ottawa, afternoon game. Guaranteed loss, the oil NEVER win matinees. In Montreal next, after the kids party it up at local strip clubs, guaranteed loss. First game back home after a long roadie the oil NEVER win. Back on the road, 2 more losses in Phoenix and LA. Back home for losses to Leafs and Wings. 1 win in the first 14 games.

Now for the bright side. The oil got 1 point on the roadie, that's 1 more than I thought they would get. Also, as my Winnipeg relatives assure me, having a NHL team is always better than not having one. Thanks ever so much Mr. Katz.

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#74 Spydyr
October 17 2013, 09:23PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

In Ottawa, afternoon game. Guaranteed loss, the oil NEVER win matinees. In Montreal next, after the kids party it up at local strip clubs, guaranteed loss. First game back home after a long roadie the oil NEVER win. Back on the road, 2 more losses in Phoenix and LA. Back home for losses to Leafs and Wings. 1 win in the first 14 games.

Now for the bright side. The oil got 1 point on the roadie, that's 1 more than I thought they would get. Also, as my Winnipeg relatives assure me, having a NHL team is always better than not having one. Thanks ever so much Mr. Katz.

The Oilers would not have won the Calder Cup the last seven years.

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#75 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 09:58PM
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Spydyr wrote:

This is everything that is wrong with Oiler fans.Arco has 7 points in 8 games. So what? He brings nothing except points same as Gagner.It takes complete players to win in the NHL. Something the Oilers are sorely lacking.Don't get me started on the goaltending

Like a 60% FO?

Like being +5 on a terrible team?

PPG player?

2nd on team in hits?

The kid is getting a shot and giving 100% every night. You're not going to win the cup with Arco as your 2C, but while he's here, maybe a bit of that rubs off on the "core."

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#76 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 10:01PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

In Ottawa, afternoon game. Guaranteed loss, the oil NEVER win matinees. In Montreal next, after the kids party it up at local strip clubs, guaranteed loss. First game back home after a long roadie the oil NEVER win. Back on the road, 2 more losses in Phoenix and LA. Back home for losses to Leafs and Wings. 1 win in the first 14 games.

Now for the bright side. The oil got 1 point on the roadie, that's 1 more than I thought they would get. Also, as my Winnipeg relatives assure me, having a NHL team is always better than not having one. Thanks ever so much Mr. Katz.

But, how can it be better when it always feels like this!?!?!?!! :-{

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#77 Wax Man Riley
October 17 2013, 10:01PM
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Spydyr wrote:

The Oilers would not have won the Calder Cup the last seven years.

Runner up, maybe?

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#78 Walter Sobchak
October 18 2013, 09:50AM
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For a team desperate for wins that was one of the most disinterested group of players I have ever seen!

Looks like the players have fully embraced whatever the hell Eakins is doing.

As for Arcobelo being a full time NHL player with an AHL shot, I have to remind myself that while I really like a feel good story and love that he producing, Dave Lumley scored over 70 points and had the second longest consecutive Oilers goal scoring streak......he played with Wayner.

A few years later he was shipped out.

On the bright side we get to hear and look forward too "Now Gagner is back, we can move him to RW keep Arcobelo in the middle and trade Yakupov for washed up UFA goalies and back up goalies"

While I'm on aroll here, I might as well do the next Obvouise Game Day Blog.

Eakins post game interview after yet another Oiler loss.

I really liked our compete out there but they played a really good strong comminuted team, we felt like we had two points, it's progressing, we need to tweak a few things, but boy I liked our effort out there,"

To use a phrase for DSF

Book it.

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