GDB 9.0: IS IT TOO EARLY FOR A MUST WIN

Jason Gregor
October 19 2013 08:05AM

Is game nine of an 82-game season too early for a "must-win" scenario? Mathematically it is, but what about mentally for a team that has lost five straight and has yet to win a game in regulation?

The Oilers haven't played awful, but they also haven't played well enough to win, and you wonder about the psyche of an organization with a young team, a new coach and a new general manager if the losses continue to mount.

One theory suggests you can't make the playoffs in October, but you can miss them. Statistically the odds are against you if you are too far out of the playoff cutline at the end of October, and while many players try to focus only on the next game it is virtually impossible to be unaware of your team's place in the standings.

Elliotte Friedman pointed out that over the last seven full length NHL seasons, only three of 32 teams that were four points out of a playoff position on November 1st managed to play a postseason game. I was curious to see which teams made the comeback.

In 2011, the Boston Bruins were 4-7-0 with eight points, four back of the 8th place Lightning, but finished the season in 2nd place in the Eastern conference. The Bruins went 45-22-4 in their final 71 games.

In 2010, the Buffalo Sabres were 3-7-2 with eight points, four back of 8th place. They went 40-22-8 in their final 70 games to finish in 7th place in the east.

In 2006, the Calgary Flames were 3-7-1 and seven points back of 8th place, but they managed to finish in 8th place. The Flames went 40-22-9 in their final 71 games to make the playoffs.

History shows it will be very difficult for the Oilers to make the postseason, if they aren't close to the playoff cutline in 13 days.

The Oilers are already seven points out of 8th place with six games to play before November 1st. This afternoon's game isn't mathematically a "must-win" game, but in order to stay within four points of the playoff cutline they have to win at least four, likely five, of their next six games.

Some have stated fans need to remain calm and don't panic, however, the statistics paint a different picture. The Oilers need wins, and they need them quickly.

LINEUP

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

Head coach Dallas Eakins switched up his top two lines, by moving Nail Yakupov and David Perron away from their off wings. Eakins moved Yakupov to the left side, because he feels Yakupov can get more pucks to net, now that the puck won't be as exposed to the middle of the ice like it was on his off wing.

It will be interesting to watch and see if that is indeed the case for both Yakupov and Perron.

As I stated yesterday, Marc Arcobello's hockey sense has really impressed me. He's 2nd in the NHL in assists with eight, and despite not having any goals so far he has put himself in great positions to score. If he keeps playing like this it will be hard for Eakins to take him out of the top-six.

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

The final two pairings are a guess. Eakins might keep Belov and J.Schultz together, or he could switch things up. Denis Grebeshkov was recalled from OKC and he could play today. The Oilers didn't have a morning skate, so we won't know who is scratched until the warm up or moments before puck drop.

Dubnyk

He played his best game of the season in New York on Thursday, and if he plays like that today he'll give the Oilers a chance to win.

OUR CRYSTAL BALL

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have to win eventually don't they? They've won two straight in Ottawa, and they will make it three with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Arcobello's surprising start to the season continues as he picks up two more helpers and takes over the NHL lead in assists with ten.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The PK doesn't allow a goal for the first time this season, and to cap off their perfect afternoon of penalty killing Nugent-Hopkins scores a shorthanded goal, on a nifty assist from Arcobello. The shortie comes with Ryan Jones in the penalty box for instigating a fight with Joe Corvo. Neither player had any PIMs prior to the dust up.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

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 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 10:04AM
Mlcselli wrote:

Feeling optimistic. Today the winning streak starts . When the puck drops this afternoon, the Oilers are going to come out flying and give 60 minutes of playing hockey. They will get 50 shots on net. They will have 6 different guys scoring , with Yak scoring twice and Dubby gets the goose egg. Hope come alive today. Let's go Oilers!!!!!!!!!!!!

Most of us don't start drinking until game time.Good for you getting a head start.

#52 Dog Train
October 19 2013, 10:07AM

If we don't start a winning streak right now, we will be in the dust in before Hallowe'en. That would be a new low, even for us. I'm a homer so Oilers win 4-2.

#53 Citizen David
October 19 2013, 10:08AM
Serious Gord wrote:

MacT has also made some colossal mistakes - not getting better goaltending , not moving hemsky - signing rated than trading gagner and quite possibly hiring a rookie coach to coach a rookie team.

And MacT was hired by Lowe. The chain of causality is clear and the blame leads straight to Lowe.

Fire him. It is long overdue and now is about as good a time as any.

Moving Hemsky for peanuts would have been the colossal mistake. Gagner is good, and you're judging a coach after 8 games in which he got really bad goaltending?

#54 Darrell
October 19 2013, 10:12AM
MattL wrote:

Hey Gord, I feel bad for you, I think you take this hockey business more seriously than the rest of us. You know it's just meaningless entertainment, right? I mean, we all pretend it's important all the time, cuz it's fun, but it doesn't have to get you down. You CAN have fun and enjoy it if you want to. Team sucks, doesn't mean you have to be miserable and make everyone else around you miserable too.

What were you like in the 80's, mildly impressed? Reasonably satisfied?

Dude - if you think it's just a game there are plenty of teams out there you can cheer for but the Oilers are not one of them. As someone already mentioned - it's a sickness .... GO OILERS !

#55 NewfoundlandOil
October 19 2013, 10:13AM
Spydyr wrote:

46-63-9-5

So not much different from their night game record then.

#56 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 10:14AM
MattL wrote:

Hey Gord, I feel bad for you, I think you take this hockey business more seriously than the rest of us. You know it's just meaningless entertainment, right? I mean, we all pretend it's important all the time, cuz it's fun, but it doesn't have to get you down. You CAN have fun and enjoy it if you want to. Team sucks, doesn't mean you have to be miserable and make everyone else around you miserable too.

What were you like in the 80's, mildly impressed? Reasonably satisfied?

In the eighties i was euphoric about the greatness of the team and the pure joy that was the type of unregulated hockey that was played league-wide.

But I also cheered knowing that oilers management were \$hit-assed lucky to aquire the team that it did. IMO Sather does not deserve to be in the HOF and the seeds of our teams failings today were sown in the easy success of that era.

As for how hard I am taking it - to me it is a mental exercise - I get to analyze a company/organization and enjoy some hockey while doing it. I don't take it seriously other than knowing that fans can effect change and I hope that in some small way I am part of that process.

#57 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 10:15AM
NewfoundlandOil wrote:

So not much different from their night game record then.

"Rimshot"

That is all time though even through the glory years when their overall record was much better.

#58 BaldOldMan
October 19 2013, 10:16AM

When an Oil fire starts, it burns hot and last as long as there is oil being supplied. You need to cut off the source to contain it. See you later Kevin Lowe. Your oily hands have kept this fire going.

#59 2004Z06
October 19 2013, 10:20AM
Reagan wrote:

This team needs am enigma...

I think you mean enema(sp)

#60 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 10:24AM
Citizen David wrote:

Moving Hemsky for peanuts would have been the colossal mistake. Gagner is good, and you're judging a coach after 8 games in which he got really bad goaltending?

By move hemsky I meant buy him out - tambo - another Lowe hire - made him untradeable.

Gagner - a good player of some market value - has talents that are very much I surplus on the oilers and he too should have been moved sometime ago - and it should have been one of MacT's first acts to trade him. Instead, because MacT brought him into the nhl and he feels affection for him he signs him to a long nt contract making him unmovable surplus.

And as I said re: Eakins ; "quite possibly "

#61 k
October 19 2013, 10:31AM
Serious Gord wrote:

MacT has also made some colossal mistakes - not getting better goaltending , not moving hemsky - signing rated than trading gagner and quite possibly hiring a rookie coach to coach a rookie team.

And MacT was hired by Lowe. The chain of causality is clear and the blame leads straight to Lowe.

Fire him. It is long overdue and now is about as good a time as any.

@ S Gord

Agreed not moving Hemsky, signing Gags and hiring a rookie coach are all mistakes. I would add not buying out Smyth as another.

I was against Smyth re-signing with the Oilers for exactly the same reasons some fans are seeing on a nightly basis. Hard to fathom he was making 5M +

Gagner making 5M+ is equally unsettling, Arcobello is a better fit at 20% of Gagner's salary.

Until these three are gone don't expect anything different from the Oilers

#62 2004Z06
October 19 2013, 10:32AM

Fire Lowe, fire Mac T, fire Eakins.....blah blah blah. Its all I ever read here nowadays.

Put your money where your mouth is, boycott a few games, don't buy the merchandise, start a petition....Do something productive with your angst of shut the hell up!

#63 k
October 19 2013, 10:41AM
2004Z06 wrote:

Fire Lowe, fire Mac T, fire Eakins.....blah blah blah. Its all I ever read here nowadays.

Put your money where your mouth is, boycott a few games, don't buy the merchandise, start a petition....Do something productive with your angst of shut the hell up!

Most Oiler fans don't have the guts

#64 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 10:42AM
2004Z06 wrote:

Fire Lowe, fire Mac T, fire Eakins.....blah blah blah. Its all I ever read here nowadays.

Put your money where your mouth is, boycott a few games, don't buy the merchandise, start a petition....Do something productive with your angst of shut the hell up!

Who are you to tell people how to behave?

Fans are fed up .If people want to vent let them vent.Saying your not happy with the team does no make you less of a fan.It actually shows you care

No one is making you read the vents.

#65 bhlazo
October 19 2013, 10:45AM

I'm an eternal optimist. So I'll say this, *drinks on me for all if the oilers lose 1 out of the next 6.....

*hiccups and slurs thine words

October 19 2013, 10:49AM

Projectionism if 95 points required to make playoffs next year . On our current pace of 3 points in 8 games , I believe we are eliminated Jan. 14/2014 . If we lose next two games in regulation and still have only 3 points and keep that going , I believe we will be officially finished New Years Eve 2013 -this year (Happy New Year ). I wonder how far we might extend the cutoff date ?

#67 bhlazo
October 19 2013, 10:50AM
Darrell wrote:

Dude - if you think it's just a game there are plenty of teams out there you can cheer for but the Oilers are not one of them. As someone already mentioned - it's a sickness .... GO OILERS !

Hi, my name is Rip and I'm an Oilers addict

#68 Chongler
October 19 2013, 10:50AM

The 05/06 Oilers started the season 3-6-1 Granted they had Pronger and Roli but still, it goes to show that nothing is written in stone.

#69 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 10:55AM
Chongler wrote:

The 05/06 Oilers started the season 3-6-1 Granted they had Pronger and Roli but still, it goes to show that nothing is written in stone.

They picked up Rollie later in the year because the goaltending sucked.Sound familiar?

We can only hope Mac-T can find another Rollie.

#70 Hammers
October 19 2013, 10:58AM

Problem is Eakins questioning himself on trip to Ottawa re the Swarm (per his words).Moving Perron & Yak is just Fluff . They have both played off wing there whole carrers but Eakins know's best .I always thought in any sport the best coaches looked at there team then decided style of play or system to use but many like Eakins & Torts ++ have to play My Way . I think McT looked at what he had then decided so I'm wondering if he agrees with coch Eakins .

#71 Johe
October 19 2013, 10:58AM
Spydyr wrote:

They picked up Rollie later in the year because the goaltending sucked.Sound familiar?

We can only hope Mac-T can find another Rollie.

The Oilers found someone better than Roli. His name is Dubnyk. You'll see.

#72 JockSnifferKATZ
October 19 2013, 11:02AM
Smokey wrote:

The first lines a head scratcher. Having one winger outta position, but two? I understand the reasoning, maybe its this backwards thinking that will turn around Yak.

Grebby on the backend could pay dividends or blow up. Schultz Sr. been ok the past bit, and he's an assistant captain. I think he continues to draw in.

Arco has shown he's NHL quality in terms of ability. Been a bright spot, and arguably the Oilers best forward. Hope he gets the assist hatty tonight and takes over the assist lead. I'm fine with him going 0-82 this year. Other the Hertl train in SJ, and Monahan you might have to have Arco in the Calder consideration. I hope this is the year we win the Calder.

You should learn to read. Both Yak and Perron were playing on their off wings. Now they are being switched to play on their "correct" sides. For example, Yak, who is left handed, was playing on the right wing. Now he will be playing on his left wing. Comprehende???

#73 Spoils
October 19 2013, 11:08AM

I am feeling pretty Zen about this. The fact that MacT hasn't traded one of the young stars for Ryan Miller and a bag of pucks, or off loaded Hemsky and missed out on the upside production. The fact that Eakins isn't playing RNH 28min a game still. The fact t that Dubby is back...

So we lose another couple games before Gags comes back...

The levy is going to break.

BTW these are the end state lines

(Hall-RNH-Eberle) (Yak-Gagner-Perron) (Joenssu-Arcobello-Hemsky) (Gazdic/Smyth-Gordon-Jones)

#74 Dave
October 19 2013, 11:10AM
JockSnifferKATZ wrote:

You should learn to read. Both Yak and Perron were playing on their off wings. Now they are being switched to play on their "correct" sides. For example, Yak, who is left handed, was playing on the right wing. Now he will be playing on his left wing. Comprehende???

Why would the coach play them on their off wing in the first place ? Just a question. I do not know the answer.

October 19 2013, 11:13AM

Oilers Plummets : PK gone from 9th overall last year to dead last in league . PP gone from 3rd overall 2011-12 , to 8th overall 2012-13 , to 19th overall this year . You think the new GM ,coach and system has anything to do with this ?

#76 K_Mart
October 19 2013, 11:15AM

Gordon, Perron, and Belov all look like great moves by MacT.

Not bringing back Whitney was also a great move. There is still time for him to get something for Hemsky, and waiting was clearly a good move so,CE his value is definitely higher now than it was a month ago.

Signing Gags was lateral, IMO. Hiring Eakins was great, but losing 7 of the first 8 sure makes it look bad. No rash decisions need be made until AT LEAST Nov 1.

#77 Jordan McNugent-Hallkins
October 19 2013, 11:15AM

@Dave

Their sticks would be facing the inside, ie up the middle. Makes it easier for one timers and to get quick shots off. Eakins figures that now they'll have their bodies between defenders and the puck, so maybe that extra distance can help them get pucks deep and to the net.

#78 Smokey
October 19 2013, 11:29AM
Serious Gord wrote:

They have to get from seven points behind to four in six games to even bein the one-in-ten chance category of making the playoffs. And if I understand it - no one has made it in if they wer five or more behind.

That means - as Jason points out winning four or five of the next six games (likely five as there are several teams between is and eighth)

They play OTT MON WAS TOR LA and PHX. Not a weak team in the bunch (arguably)

So we have a slim chance of having a slim chance of making the playoffs.

And if they fail to gain ground in the next six games - the season is as good as over.

What will the fan reaction be?

Apathy - already seeing that. Empty seats - paid for but empty nonetheless - seems likely.

Anger - some of that already too.

Sorrow - some if that on this site to be sure - lots of wallowing in the good old days - pathetic IMO.

Undying love and rooting for them - god knows there is plenty of that in this site - esp by some if the hosts - Lowetide being the poster child. But they have been conspicuously less vocal of late and that is a good sign.

We will know the work has truly turned when Al changes his nickname from a play on the false god that is Lowe to something that does not point the person most to blame for this dark era.

And Katz will know that he has to act when their is loud booing and chants of fire Lowe in much the same way leafs fans chanted fire Wilson. Hopefully by Xmas.

I don't think we will see empty seats. The Oilers have the best fans in the league. What other small market team could live with this garbage for nearly 20 years.

#79 Oiler Al
October 19 2013, 11:31AM

You want to have a chance at beating Anderson, and winning, will have to play bodies around the blue paint on all posessions.You wont beat him too often shooting from 20-40 feet out.Problem is that most nights Oilers don't know where the blue paint is.

#80 Serious gord
October 19 2013, 11:32AM
K_Mart wrote:

Gordon, Perron, and Belov all look like great moves by MacT.

Not bringing back Whitney was also a great move. There is still time for him to get something for Hemsky, and waiting was clearly a good move so,CE his value is definitely higher now than it was a month ago.

Signing Gags was lateral, IMO. Hiring Eakins was great, but losing 7 of the first 8 sure makes it look bad. No rash decisions need be made until AT LEAST Nov 1.

G,P, & B so far have been good moves - not great and not pivotal.

Whitney was already out the door before MacT showed up - so hardly "great"

Hemsky should have been bought out and the funds and roster spot used to address one of the many holes this team has. And hemsky this season has gone cold and has done little to nothing to improve his trade value which is currently negative. Not doing that may be the worst thing MacT has done thusfar with the possible exception of:

Signing gagner. He is surplus goods. He is now untradeable.

Thus with hemsky and gagner now unmovable one of the young stars may be jettisoned to save management. And it will be MacT's fault.

Eakins is - so far - a bad move. The jury is out. But the bush league way that he was hired is a black mark against MacT.

#81 Gkpoil
October 19 2013, 11:34AM
Johe wrote:

The Oilers found someone better than Roli. His name is Dubnyk. You'll see.

Nice!!

Dubnyk is Markkanen caliber

#82 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 11:37AM
Smokey wrote:

I don't think we will see empty seats. The Oilers have the best fans in the league. What other small market team could live with this garbage for nearly 20 years.

Seasons tickets are almost entirely corporate-owned or written off by the small business / self-employed owners. The secondary market in these tickets has been drying up for a couple of years now. At some point giving them away could even be difficult. The northern Alberta area is one the strongest hockey markets in the world - making the reservoir for demand prodigious.

Will it decline to the point that they cannot be given away?

We shall see, but oiler management would be hard pressed to do a better job at emptying the building if they tried.

#83 Smokey
October 19 2013, 11:42AM
JockSnifferKATZ wrote:

You should learn to read. Both Yak and Perron were playing on their off wings. Now they are being switched to play on their "correct" sides. For example, Yak, who is left handed, was playing on the right wing. Now he will be playing on his left wing. Comprehende???

I should to learn read. And you should learn what its like not being an ass. My bad. Chill

#84 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 11:42AM
Johe wrote:

The Oilers found someone better than Roli. His name is Dubnyk. You'll see.

Silly me , guess I was not paying attention the last nine years.Dubnyk was drafted in 2004 and is still not very good.

#85 Smokey
October 19 2013, 11:56AM

Serious Gord,

I'm not arguing with you bout your comment, but if your correct, how is it that we have the 4th highest cost of season tickets. Is that because of corporate buying is making up for the dwindling regular Joes.

I am curious as to where you got your information.

#87 Wonger
October 19 2013, 12:11PM

Look Denise Garbagekov is starting! Just what the Oil need- ANIOTHER STICK CHECKING DAFODIL FAIRY!!!

#88 Soyder
October 19 2013, 12:13PM

@Wonger

Put him with J Schultz and you have 2 stick checking DAFODIL fairies back there!!

#89 Smokey
October 19 2013, 12:15PM
Jason Gregor wrote:

In the article you'll see that Calgary made playoffs after being 7 points back at end of October. Very rare, but it happened once in last 7 years.

Gregor gets lucky about once every seven years also!!!

#90 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 12:15PM
Jason Gregor wrote:

In the article you'll see that Calgary made playoffs after being 7 points back at end of October. Very rare, but it happened once in last 7 years.

Thx for the info.

#91 Spydyr
October 19 2013, 12:18PM
Wonger wrote:

Look Denise Garbagekov is starting! Just what the Oil need- ANIOTHER STICK CHECKING DAFODIL FAIRY!!!

Too funny.Pat Quinn is that you?

#92 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 12:19PM

Wicked hot chick sitting right behind Eakins...

#93 YFC Prez
October 19 2013, 12:22PM

I don't really miss Krueger. But I do miss his power play. No where near as good this season.

#94 Pat Quinn
October 19 2013, 12:26PM
Spydyr wrote:

Too funny.Pat Quinn is that you?

Just because I live in Vancouver and hae more Chins than Vancouver phone book doesn't mean I call myself the Wonger! Ottawa has BIG FUNCTIONAL TOUGHNESS throughout their line up!!! How did you know???

#95 Jimmie
October 19 2013, 12:28PM
Serious Gord wrote:

Wicked hot chick sitting right behind Eakins...

Gregor's girlfriend???

#96 Smokey
October 19 2013, 12:34PM

Is it just me, but does Nuge look just a little like Butthead if he had braces? Nice goal there by the way.

Grebby's +2 so far. Never would've guessed that.

#98 Smokey
October 19 2013, 12:51PM

Braindead penalty for Smyth. Should of left it alone. Was obvious Person was pushed. Oilers penalty kill is too damn passive once again. Ottawa's puck movement is good, but not great, and Dubby's had to look good.

#99 Serious Gord
October 19 2013, 12:52PM
The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33 wrote:

Grebby's +2 so far. Never would've guessed that.

Small sample size...

Lousy corsi.

#100 Smokey
October 19 2013, 12:52PM
The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33 wrote:

Grebby's +2 so far. Never would've guessed that.

There's time for him to throw a grenade up the middle. He usually doesn't disappoint.