Out-finished?

Jason Strudwick
October 30 2013 10:38AM

After the four to nothing loss to the Maple Leafs Tuesday night, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said his team was simply "out-finished." There is no doubt that James Reimer played a solid game for the Leafs but I know there was more to this loss then the Oilers being "out-finished".

If Dallas Eakins wants to simply chalk this one up to that reason the Oilers will continue to play a very high-risk style with no guaranteed results going forward. Scary thought. These types of teams are happy to play a track meet type of game with lots of chances both for and against. The Oilers will just have to hope they score more goals then the other team. They will also need to go out and find the greatest goalie of all time because he will be under siege and expected to make huge saves nightly to give his team's chance to out gun the opposition.

This has never and will never be a recipe for success in the NHL. It is a lot of fun to watch for fans, it is exciting hockey but no real long-term success will be the result.

The good news about this comment of being "out-finished" is that it is most likely not what Eakins really thinks about the game. He is trying to protect his club after a very poor start to the season. In my experience most often coaches say one thing to the media and another to their team. I am guessing that Eakins sees a fragile team and realizes there is no need for him to beat them up in the press. I get it and agree with him.

Risky Business

Matching lines is a great way for a coach to tip the balance of a game in his team's favor. It isn't easy to get the match ups you want on the road but at home, with last change, it becomes a whole lot easier.

Again last night Eakins seemed to want to have his first line of Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov out again the top line of the Leafs. Oh boy. He also seems to like having Justin Schultz and Anton Belov on the ice with Gagner’s line. Oh no.

Having the J. Schultz pairing on the ice with your top offensive line makes sense from a pure offensive firepower point of view. When those five get skating and are on the attack their creativity is a lot of fun to watch and can produce goals.

The dark side of that combo is what we saw on the first two goals from last night. On the first goal, Belov pinches down, Yakupov is the high man and should back him up. Yakupov doesn't back him up which results in a two on one for the Leafs two most dangerous players. Goal! Barely a minute into the game.

On the second Leafs goal, the same five Oilers are out there against the top line for the leafs. The Oilers have a good offensive rush going up the ice. Belov stays back because J Schultz jumps in and has a great chance to score but Reimer comes up with a big save.

When a d-man jumps into the play, one of the forward needs to stay back a little to be in a position to defend. No one hangs back. Quickly the two most dangerous Leafs, Kessel and Van Reimsdyk, turn the puck up ice for a full ice two versus one. Goal!

The day may come when these five Oilers can match other teams top line both offensively and defensively, that day is not upon us. One school of thought could be that Eakins is putting these match ups together so that these young players can learn tough lessons now. Maybe Eakins wants them to learn under fire.

I can see the reasoning behind this approach long-term, if the players learn the lessons. In the short term these match ups will make it very hard for the Oilers to win games. To many nights this season opponents’ top lines are having a field days against the Oilers. If the Oilers specialty teams continue to struggle and opponents’ top lines produce points the wins will not come for the Oilers. The second to fourth lines can't score that many.

I would suggest a slight change in approach to Eakins. No more Anyon Belov and Justin Schultz on the ice at the same time as the top line. Yakupov and J. Schultz are two extremely offensive minded skaters. The issue is they create far too many offensive chances for opponents and having them on the ice at the same time doesn't work at this point in their development.

The other way at looking at Eakins choice in line match ups is it could be he is uncomfortable with matching any if his other lines up with opponents top lines. This is the scarier thought for me. If he feels his best option is a young group of forwards then this team needs help.

To me Boyd Gordan is a no-brainer to match against top lines. But who should be his wingers? Who does Eakins trust to get the job done? Who has the skating ability, defensive awareness and physical requirements to challenge a top line?

If you are having a tough time answering that question just think how Eakins feels.

The Leafs have a great line that can do this. David Clarkson, Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland, three veteran players from winning organizations. I am not a huge Raymond fan but he fills his role on that line. A line like this would go a long way to helping the clear match up issues the Oilers are having.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#101 Rob Gilgan
October 31 2013, 06:35AM
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I think he meant out, finished.

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#102 Rdubb
October 31 2013, 07:54AM
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My thought is that Eakins should put his so-called 3rd line out against the leafs top line... And, there should be no-way that Yakapov should be playing with the top line or against the other teams top lines...Eberle & RNH were + players (I do believe Eberle was a +7 or +9 in the weeks leading up to the past few games) and then, Eakins puts Yak on their line, and Eberle goes -3 & -4 in two games. Want to make a guess @ the main reason? RNH was poor on the +/- to start the year, but started turning that around, again, until the past few games, want to guess the reason? Nail brings down the guys he plays with because, as he said, "he plays one way & won't change the way he plays" (I may not be exact, but you get the jest of it), & after that comment, what did the Russian scout say "if Yakapov cannot play the coaches system than he won't be playing in the Olympics" (again, you get the jest)... It is my opinion, even though Nail has the ability to score a lot and big goals, that he is a "cancer" to this team, with the way he plays & his total unwillingness to play any sort of team system... MacT NEEDS to make a bold move, & Nail NEEDS to be the corner piece

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#103 rob
October 30 2013, 11:36AM
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Been an oiler fan sice 82,will always be an oier fan(although it hurts)but when will there be some changes?They need to change up the balance of this team and I am sick and tired of listening to give them time to learn,injuries,new coach ect.first 5 years I bought into but now its getting old and something has to give!Please santa bring us a #1 goalie,a true #1 defenceman and a bit of grit up front(also let hall stay healthy!)

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#104 K_Mart
October 30 2013, 12:20PM
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Strudwick, you said that these are tough lessons that the kids are learning under fire. This is true, and it hurts to watch, but it is a necessary evil I believe.

So long as Gordon, or Ference, or Perron are out there the other forwards are just going to keep ignoring the other 2/3's of the ice and trusting those guys to cover the defensive side of the rink, Eakins needs to show our young stars how important it is to play a 200ft game against the opposition's top lines. If they are always given easy matchups and a defensive blue line or defensive line mate, they will never learn.

We learned a couple important things last night: 1) Our top guys can keep the other teams top guys pinned in their own end for long periods of time. 2) Our top guys have no regard for defense and are trusting that someone on their line will do that job for them. No sir, Eakins will continue to force them to do it on a game by game basis until they get it.

Tough times are ahead right now, but I'm hoping they will be better for it. Hope Hall can become as defensively responsible as Toews one day. They're roughly the same size, Hall has more offensive upside, and has all the physical tools required to be a 200ft player.

Another year of missing the playoffs foresure, but for once our kids are being treated like adults and not babied.

once they learn how to bring structure to every game, then and only then will this team bring playoffs back to Edmonton. Right now that is still a distant thought.

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#105 Serious Gord
October 30 2013, 12:27PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I urge you to stay and keep us bookmarked.

Every second Wednesday starting next month we will pick the name of a random poster here and put it in a hat toward a grand prize draw at the end of the season for a brand new 1990 26-inch Zenith television (unopened and still in the original crate in my garage).

Bet you stick around now, eh? Eh?

Robin, I've got the smithstonian institution on line one...

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#106 Romanus
October 30 2013, 02:07PM
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Cynic wrote:

There's a tiebreaker for last place?

yes. To see who gets more balls into the lottery.

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#107 Douglemmer
October 30 2013, 02:21PM
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@James

The media still called Horcoff the number one centre when he won the NHL's Green Jacket a few years ago!! +/- aside, he has still been a bright spot. A little early for a plus 2 offensive player (Mark Arcobello or Ryan Jones)to be our #1 centre.

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#108 hallthetime
October 30 2013, 03:37PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

I'm most likely gonna be trashed heavily for saying this, but since the Oil made the playoffs last in 2005-06 season, they have been above .500 in October (January last year) every year with the exception of the 2007-08 season and the 2010-11 season where they were 3 games and 1 game below .500 respectively. In 2011-12 they started 7-2-2 and finished 29th. Perhaps I am just in denial that this may be another horror show of a season but I look at the stats and see that a good start in October means little at the end of the season. I still have a tiny tiny flicker of hope that I don't have to watch the games with my head in my hands.

all-aboard !

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#109 pkam
October 30 2013, 02:17PM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

Now, I think Eakins only has one option for a tough minutes line:

Perron - Gordon - Hemsky

These are the only established veterans on the team with enough skill and experience to play this role consistently.

When the team is healthy you can add:

Hall - RNH - Eberle

as they showed last season they can push the river the right way.

If Eakins wants to win games, he needs to shelter Yakupov, and probably Gagner, amongst his forward group. The thing is, Gagner and Yakupov should absolutely feast on soft minutes so even if the Gordon line saws off against the opposition, the Hall line and the soft minutes line should come out ahead against the rest.

Under that scenario, you could run Schultz Jr, with the Hall line because Hall and RNH generally have the defensive awareness to know when they have to cover (and the coaches should be drilling that into the line).

I just don't get what Eakins is trying to do. He is making me long for Krueger.

So you have two lines of Perron-Gordon-Hemsky and Hall-RNH-Eberle.

Are you going to put Yakupov and Gagner in 2 different lines so one of them will end up in the 4th line, or put them both in the same line? If you put both of them in the same line, who is the other forward left in our roster who is capable to shelter them? Smyth, Jones, or Joensuu?

If you want to split them into two different lines, but don't want to put any of them in the 4th line (which makes zero sense), you either have to break up one or both of your dream lines, or find another strong defensive forward to shelter them.

Every piece of the puzzle looks good, but they just couldn't fit together.

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#110 TM8Trent
October 30 2013, 04:58PM
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@Clarko

Playoffs?

http://youtu.be/Qwq7BYOnDrM

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