NEW FACES, NEW LEADERSHIP

Jason Gregor
October 02 2013 09:20AM

Jesse Joensuu made a solid first impression in his new Oilers jersey last night. He scored, had five shots, won lots of battles and showed a willingness to go to the tough areas. Dallas Eakins admitted one of his coaching mistakes last night was not using Joensuu more, and if he keeps playing with the type of desire he'll get more icetime.

Joensuu, Ales Hemsky, Boyd Gordon and the 4th played well, while some other struggled, mainly Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk had happy feet on the first goal and lost his net, and then whiffed on Jacob Trouba's long-range knuckler. Dubnyk needs to be better if the Oilers want to win, and more importantly if he wants to remain a starter next season. Goalies will have off nights, however, it will be magnified when it happens on opening night.

The bottom line is Dubnyk can't have many more games like that. He knows it and the Oilers know it. He's proven he can play better, but he needs to do it consistently. He'll be back between the pipes on Saturday, and he just needs to make the routine saves.

Hall made some great plays, but he also made some really bad decisions with the puck. He'll be better, and he better get used to playing a lot of minutes. Hall played 23:30 last night and Eakins said he would have no problem playing a forward 26-27 minutes. He wants his guys to be in great shape, and believes Hall can handle 26 minutes some nights.

THINGS I NOTICED...

  • The best change was the Oilers willingness not to just dump the puck out and lose possession. Often they would turn back, or pass it deep into their own zone. There are certain times you dump and chase, but too often in previous years the Oilers would just hammer it off the glass into the neutral zone, or dump it in when no one was forechecking, and basically give away possession. When Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner return they should be even better at holding onto the puck.
     
  • They got engaged. Joenssu and David Perron didn't back down in scrums. Anton Belov got slashed after the play, and rather than just stand there or skate away he looked straight in the eyes of Andrew Ladd and skated towards him. For far too long we've seen players just back down, and once you do that the other team will keep trying to take advantage of you. Every inch of the ice matters and I thought the Oilers did a much better job of showing a willingness to fight for space.
     
  • Hemsky was flying. I've long been a fan of his ability and skill, so I'm not surprised to see him play like this. He is still one of the few Oilers who can beat defenders one-on-one. It sure would be nice to see him shoot like that more often. His speed makes him dangerous and having him on the PK kept him in the game.
     
  • I understand Smyth will look slow playing with Hall and Hemsky, almost every player would. Smyth was average last night. At times he tried to hard to get the puck to Hall, and then he made some stellar plays like the great pass to Arcobello with a minute remaining. Arcobello couldn't finish. Smyth won't play every shift with Hall and Hemsky, and that makes sense.
     
  • I don't see how anyone couldn't have felt great for Luke Gazdic last night. He scores a goal in his first NHL shift. Skilled players like Mario Lemieux do that, not sluggers like Gazdic, but there he was celebrating 2:21 into his first game. One of the best parts of sports is watching those moments. For good measure he got the best of Chris Thorburn in a fight later on, but he'll never forget that memorable first NHL shift.
     
  • Nail Yakupov never seemed to get in the game. His linemates were flying, so the suggestion that he has to play with Hall is bogus to me. Joensuu and Gordon were around the puck, but I never saw Yakupov match their intensity last night. Eakins did move him to Hall's left wing for a few shifts, but that didn't jumpstart his game. Yakupov plays best when he's mixing it up, but I didn't see that last night. I expect he'll be better in Vancouver.
     
  • Overall I thought the Oilers outplayed the Jets, but some costly turnovers and subpar goaltending cost them. If they can shore up those areas they will be competitive most nights. I really liked their new swarm defence, but most importantly I liked how they didn't just give away possession of the puck by dumping it out of the D zone, or into the offensive zone. They looked to make a direct pass first, and only as a last resort would they dump it out or in. I love this strategy.

THE CAPTAIN SPEAKS

Yesterday on my radio show, I asked Andrew Ference about playing his first game as an Oilers, wearing the "C" and how he will lead his new team.

Gregor: When you signed with the Oilers you tweeted out a picture (above) of you in an Oilers jersey. Like most young boys in Edmonton, you dreamt about being an Oiler. Did you ever think about being the captain? 

Ference: I don’t know if I ever let my imagination run that wild on the ice out back. I definitely scored a couple of game seven winners out on the tennis court, but being captain never really crossed my mind. That was obviously a great honour, but as I’ve said a few times, and it’s not a cliché, that it (being captain) is trumped just by the chance to put on that jersey tonight. It’s a special thing, I come back and I have a lot of family here that are obviously very excited for me to be back here in town and for myself, this is just a great thing.

I was in this locker room before it looked this nice. I got to hang around guys like [Mark] Messier and [Petr] Klima and just be exposed to that so young and attend so many great games in this rink. For it to all come together now, at this point in my career, I can be fully aware of how lucky that is as a player.

Jason Gregor: You’ve had a lot of season openers, is it important that guys have the enthusiasm for a home opener similar to the excitement you had when you were seven, eight or nine years old and getting ready for that first game?

Ference: Even further than that, it’s important as a hockey player to be excited for all of the games. It’s easy to get yourself up for these ones, or your first playoff game or the big rivalry game, but the next step is realizing how privileged you are to be on the NHL ice every night, it is. I think that it’s easier to understand that the further you get on in your career and not take it for granted. As you see friends and other teammates what they go through and sometimes injuries or sudden retirements or being forced out of the game, suddenly you start to realize how fortunate you are. Obviously you work your ass off to get here, but there is a lot of other stuff that goes into it. Home opener is easy, it’s a blast for everybody, but to continue on and to realize the privilege every night of being in the NHL is what we are trying to achieve.

Gregor: I watched your feature with Ryan Rishaug and you talked a lot about doing more than just being a hockey player. Your younger teammates are coming in at a time when the fans are going to love those guys. Can you pass on that belief to be more than just a player and ensure that not only are they great players, but they become involved in the community?

Ference: I think that living by example is the best way that you can do that. I’ve always believed that you can’t force people into situations and you can’t just sit there and tell someone how they should be. It doesn’t work. People have to be their own people and they learn and they acquire a way of life; they don’t have it forced upon them.

I think that it’s good to lead by example and to show guys this is what you can do, this is what is out there and this is how you can enrich your life by doing it. I think that guys pick up on that and they see that. I think that is an important thing for older guys on the team to do; they lead by example because people will follow and people will emulate what you do.

It’s important for me to be open about it, share with guy and show guys and include them as much as they want to be included, but forcing it on people doesn’t work. I think that hockey players, you’ve been around locker rooms enough, they’re good guys. They really are. I think that sometimes in certain environments you just get locked into a certain way of life just because that is what everyone else is doing. If the leadership dictated that everyone is private and a bit of a recluse, and not really being out there, then that is what the young guys will follow and do. I’m sure that just by example a lot of guys will hopefully start to open up.

Gregor: All of the young players have talked openly about how they are sick of losing. How can you help them become winners?

Ference: I think that everybody has to be their own harshest critic and when you can reach a level where you can hold yourself accountable before the coach has to, before your teammate has to, that’s when you can really start to make progress. If I look at the really good players that I’ve played with, the coach is never on top of them, because he doesn’t have to be. They’re there before anyone else, correcting what needs to be corrected, working on what has to be worked on and so that’s what really good players do.

Talking about it and all is very easy. It’s very easy to say that you’re sick of losing; the next step is proving it night in and night out. It’s a lot of hard work. There are clear examples throughout the league of the most respected guys that are very skilled, but work their asses off. You look at [Sidney] Crosby, you look at [Pavel] Datsyuk, you look at a guy like [Patrice] Bergeron those guys have enough skill to just float through the games and make a lot of money and have a lot of points and be famous. But they choose to put in that extra effort to be winners and to be known as winners. That’s the difference, that’s the choice.

It almost goes back to the last question; you can’t force a player to change, you can’t force them to work as hard as they can. That has to be a personal decision that everyone makes, and everyone chooses to commit themselves.

If they do, there are clear examples of not only the respect that you earn throughout the league, but the hardware that you’ll get to have fun with in the summer.
 

WRAP UP... 

That type of experience and honesty is why Ference was named captain. He'll be a great role model for the young player, and I believe how he conducts himself on and off the ice will have a positive impact on the young stars.

It will be intriguing to watch the players morph from saying they hate losing to showing that they despise it.

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 #ThereGoesTheOilers
October 02 2013, 11:48AM
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Well, we can complain about Petry, but at least we know what we see is what we get with Smid.

Geeze, just scare Scheifele, you're not trying to kill him...

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#52 hockeycrazed
October 02 2013, 11:57AM
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Things I noticed from last night's game : 1) Defenceman still do not take the bodies to the boards enough times, attemting to stick check too often. 2) Too much short passes and back passes in their own end. 3) Should try to shoot more on net, especially during power plays

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#53 madjam
October 02 2013, 01:37PM
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Power play at end of game was disappointing . 3 men fighting for puck , and Hall below goal line by his lonesome , as well, making 4 of us with not a soul in front of net except one Jet . How did they expect to score when they are all behind the net even with possession ? All this , and a 2 man advantage to boot . We had lots of opportunities to add to our score total , but failed to do so - nerves perhaps .

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#54 madjam
October 02 2013, 05:45PM
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For 35 minutes we looked like a team and a contender , the last 25 minutes we started to look like last few seasons - choking/sputtering and finding ways to lose . We need to gel early this season , something we have not seen for many a season , but looks like we might this year . Too bad Dubbie had such a poor game , we deserved better than a loss from how rest of team played . Mistakes are prevalent early season for all teams , but they will diminish more as we gel as a team . If not , then we might have to re-evaluate the building process put in place by Tams . Maybe the young stars are not quite what we hoped they'd be ?

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#55 Oilers Coffey
October 02 2013, 10:19PM
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Dubnyk bad bad bad bad bad game! Smyth was out of gas by the 2nd period, that was obvious; more so than him and Duby say the word "obviously "!!!

Love Ference' compete! Joensuu was very impressive! Yakupov getting benched already, he was clearly disheartened after 64-27-6 were the most dangerous line in the 1St!

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#56 nina russo
October 02 2013, 11:51PM
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SuntanOil wrote:

Only three comments. Firstly I find it humorous how many are jumping all over Hall for the turnovers. I doubt most would know they happened if the broadcast team didn't seem to take delight in highlighting every mistake he made out there. Yeah, he made a few, but if our goalie is not having a bad night, those pucks don't go in and Taylor can learn to correct those mistakes before they hurt the team. I was almost surprised CBC didn't try to pin the fifth goal on him because he was leaning the wrong way on the bench or something.

Riding the theme of the "Taylor Hall as hot garbage" they were espousing all night they couldn't stop gushing about Trouba for half a second to point out that his head-hunting on Hall was wreckless and dangerous, and even though he didn't connect he was obviously targeting Hall's head and also left his feet. In short, this is exactly the kind of hit the league is trying to remove from the game and even though it (fortunately) didn't connect shouldn't matter. Does anyone know if the Oilers are asking the league to look at this?

Finally. the CBC homerism was out in full force last night, stressing that the Oilers and Jets both need work (they do), but prepping the parade route for the Leafs after their feckless effort. Man I hate the Mothercorp

While I completely agree about the CBC and lack of objectivity (re TO), you have to admit this isn't a new criticism of Hall.

Its been three years, yes he is growing, he actually started to pass the puck last year instead of doing it all himself, but he learns by doing, not by watching tape unfortunately, so he commits the same mistakes over and over until he sees a different way of doing things.

There are many coaches (Lindsay Ruff) who don't have patience with that sort of thing. He has to take the responsibility on himself and realize this isn't Jr or the AHL, people will make him pay for his mental lapses at this level.

Its not enough to simply score more for than you let go in the other way, this is the NHL, and its part of being a Pro. Its why Ebs and the Nuge are farther ahead of him developmentally, and why Yak was able to turn around his season last year.

Hall is way better than he is showing. Time for some tough love.

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#57 j
October 03 2013, 08:16AM
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nina russo wrote:

While I completely agree about the CBC and lack of objectivity (re TO), you have to admit this isn't a new criticism of Hall.

Its been three years, yes he is growing, he actually started to pass the puck last year instead of doing it all himself, but he learns by doing, not by watching tape unfortunately, so he commits the same mistakes over and over until he sees a different way of doing things.

There are many coaches (Lindsay Ruff) who don't have patience with that sort of thing. He has to take the responsibility on himself and realize this isn't Jr or the AHL, people will make him pay for his mental lapses at this level.

Its not enough to simply score more for than you let go in the other way, this is the NHL, and its part of being a Pro. Its why Ebs and the Nuge are farther ahead of him developmentally, and why Yak was able to turn around his season last year.

Hall is way better than he is showing. Time for some tough love.

I do agree however he is playing out of position and, quite frankly, being asked to do more while his teammates recover. You really can't blame the kid for 'regressing' in terms of how he is thinking the game when all he is hearing is how much the team is relying on him for the next month or so. Let's give him a few games to settle in and then we can rehash. I bet if he were on the wing with RNH in the middle we wouldn't be having this dialogue at all.

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#58 Cynic
October 02 2013, 12:55PM
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"One thing that stood out in last nights game is just how small Andrew Ference is. There were numerous occasions last night were he was easily pushed aside by big forwards. Heck he was even just swatted away by Frolik on the winning goal. Easy to be a solid defender in Boston when you are playing with huge forwards and other defense partners but him with J.Schultz is going to be a long year."

Has Oiler fan ever - you know - watched an out-of-market game? The Bruins were only in the Cup finals 2 of the past 3 years. Been on TV a lot lately. It's not like Ference was toiling in obscurity for the Panthers. Or does this city's hockey knowledge all come from reading Matty's dribblings and pouring over Volmann's Sledgehammer Circles?

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#59 Tom
October 02 2013, 02:22PM
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borisnikov wrote:

Really?
At even strength Petry was on the ice for 23 shot attempts for and 14 against.
If you ignore the attempts for, you could come to your conclusion, but why would you do that?
I'm sure your response will make me ask why I bother posting this.

Petry was the second worst player on the ice last night. Shot differential is a reflection of more then just one player on the ice. Petry looked out of position and confused on almost every play. Package him with Dubbey and a prospect and get a top goalie in. I love Dubnyk but at some point, now, he must be held accountable for games like this. It was embarrassing.

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#60 2004Z06
October 02 2013, 02:23PM
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@borisnikov

I think he was referring to Petry's lack of physicality. Last night a jet skated around him with the puck and drove the net. Petry had the inside line and literally just had to lean on the guy to force him to the corner. Instead used his stick unsuccessfully to try the poke check.

Petry doesn't need to try and crush guys, but he is a big guy and needs to use his size more often.

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#61 2004Z06
October 02 2013, 02:32PM
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snaaxx wrote:

Totally agree. I think the biggest plus when rnh and gagner gets back will be the move by Hall to lw and smytty to the pressbox where he belongs. How Smyth was the sixth man on the ice when Dubnyk was pulled was beyond me.

Because until recently he was the only oiler to go to the net! Not a Smitty fan either, but come on guys it was the first game. Give it a rest.

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#62 smiliegirl15
October 02 2013, 03:17PM
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I was at the preseason game against Winnipeg and to me, Yak wasn't really in the play in that game either. He seemed off and after his non performance last night, I wonder if he's hurt? His sophmore slump? Or is he pouting? Come on Yak! You're better than that!!!

I also loved that Joensuu said, oh no you don't!, when the Jet tried to smash Eberle into the glass with his elbow. Love that Joe-Joe!!!

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#63 nina russo
October 02 2013, 11:57PM
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china town man wrote:

Losing the first game isn't a bad thing At least now the oilers are not to high on them selves,today therefore the coach has more say then the player's Agree to disagree ? Go oilers go !!! Vancouver off we go

That was two stinkers in a row ....

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#64 Rob...
October 03 2013, 10:00AM
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@nina russo

"Its not enough to simply score more for than you let go in the other way"

I'll take a team full of that sort of player please.

To put it another way... I don't care how much of a train-wreck of a player you are if you are consistently on the ice for more goals-for than goals-against.

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#65 Panda
October 03 2013, 10:56AM
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I am a diehard Oilers fan, but I have to say I am happy we lost.

In recent years, we would win the opening night. To make it worse, for a few years, we have a winning streak going right off the bat. Of course, as a fan, I want to see us win EVERY GAME. 82-0 is a dream for any fan, but we all know it is impossible. The Oilers have so many faults and still many holes to fill, and even this season, there are still question marks all over the ice for our team. We have matured and became a way better team verses recent years, and a few acquisition like Joensuu and Gazdic has made our team tougher, but it isn't enough to make us a contender or a power house. In recent years, we would win our opener, hopes up for fans, and the team is confident and believe they can go far. A few games later, the luck runs out, the bounces go the other way and boom! we go on a losing streak. The reason why I said I am glad we lost right off the bat, is so that our team can address our problems early. In recent years, when you win the opener and the few games afterwards, you DO NOT want to change anything. You want to keep playing the way you did, or else people will question why you made changes when everything is going your way. I think we are better off to lose right off the bat, and it is a bonus to have 4 days off, and this 3 games in 9 days schedule will help us address all the problems we need to fix before the schedule get more hectic! I am sure in a few years, when we finally become a powerful winning team, we can then start the season with a win and on a good note……

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#66 Batfink
October 02 2013, 10:04AM
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JAG-041 wrote:

The swarm defence at one point I noticed really broke down when J Schultz got tripped up behind the Oiler net and no penalty was called. After that moment until the next whistle it was chaos in the Oiler zone. It really shows how volatile a style it is, and I think that's why I love it so much!

I agree, it might just be it's only weakness, perhaps save you need to be supremely fit to keep it up! If the opposing team get away with a few picks (read interference calls), then it does expose us.

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#67 2004Z06
October 02 2013, 02:26PM
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#ThereGoesTheOilers wrote:

Well, we can complain about Petry, but at least we know what we see is what we get with Smid.

Geeze, just scare Scheifele, you're not trying to kill him...

Yeah that hit was pretty bad.

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#68 Harry
October 03 2013, 09:58PM
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Panda wrote:

I am a diehard Oilers fan, but I have to say I am happy we lost.

In recent years, we would win the opening night. To make it worse, for a few years, we have a winning streak going right off the bat. Of course, as a fan, I want to see us win EVERY GAME. 82-0 is a dream for any fan, but we all know it is impossible. The Oilers have so many faults and still many holes to fill, and even this season, there are still question marks all over the ice for our team. We have matured and became a way better team verses recent years, and a few acquisition like Joensuu and Gazdic has made our team tougher, but it isn't enough to make us a contender or a power house. In recent years, we would win our opener, hopes up for fans, and the team is confident and believe they can go far. A few games later, the luck runs out, the bounces go the other way and boom! we go on a losing streak. The reason why I said I am glad we lost right off the bat, is so that our team can address our problems early. In recent years, when you win the opener and the few games afterwards, you DO NOT want to change anything. You want to keep playing the way you did, or else people will question why you made changes when everything is going your way. I think we are better off to lose right off the bat, and it is a bonus to have 4 days off, and this 3 games in 9 days schedule will help us address all the problems we need to fix before the schedule get more hectic! I am sure in a few years, when we finally become a powerful winning team, we can then start the season with a win and on a good note……

Do you honestly think at this level teams dont work on their shortcomings after a game that they win?

Get real. If Dubnyk were able to shut the door and the Oil won 4-2 or 4-3 im pretty sure Eakins would have adressed their failts just as easily.

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