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 Walter Sobchak
October 30 2013, 05:18PM
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Why couldn't this disastrous season happen next year...........The Oilers don't even know how to lose properly!

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#102 Lofty
October 30 2013, 05:33PM
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marla wrote:

Does anybody even know what Eakins system is? based on the 14 games played we havent seen much in regards to 2 way hockey, the PP and PK.

I do know that I hate the D system no matter what name it's given.

1) Why do the Dmen continue to chase players behind the net? As soon as the Oiler Dmen get around the net, the other 4 guys are so mind trucked, they've got no idea who to cover or where to go.

2) Why is it that it seems so difficult for Oil forwards to get past the offensive blue line, and then when it's turned over, the Oil D ushers the opposition past their blue line like the damn secret service? Isn't the idea to keep people out of your zone?

3) Blocking shots is a brave thing to do but I don't think it should be the first option in preventing a scoring chance. Isn't good gap control better? The wingers play so low in their zone that the opposition D are almost always open as an outlet or shot opportunity. As soon as the point gets the puck, the whole "swarm" system turns into a fire drill.

Do elite coaches initiate a perticular system based on a core philosophy or the strengths of the roster they're faced with? I always thought it was best to play man on man when you had fast, shifty skaters? From my eye, the best teams in the league over the last few years, have played a simple zone, trap or man on man system. Do they need to reinvent the wheel to make the playoffs and call the season a success? They sure need to invent something after a 3-9-2 start because the playoffs are not in the picture and it's almost Halloween. Boooo

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#103 Oilers Coffey
October 30 2013, 07:17PM
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Struds you bring up a great point on line matching especially at home. It should be so simple, and a must to control the top lines of the other teams. I am still confused in the swarm defense, it is confusing and there is always a man open in a very dangerous area. The slot area is far too often left wide open. The Oilers lose the board battle and boom it's in the back of the net. It's a LOSING combination.

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#104 Rod from Viking
October 30 2013, 07:28PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Eakins has been out coached in every game,not one or two every game.

Last night continuing to play Gagner's line against Kessel's was it for me.Eakins has to go.The line ended up -4 if I can see they were getting smoked from my sofa and DSF can call it before the game.Why couldn't Eakins?

I have yet to notice any in game adjustments by Eakins.He looks like a deer in the headlights on the bench.It is plain to see he is in over his head.

Not making adjustments seems to be contagious in both of Edmonton's once storied sports franchise's, it is mind numbing to see this over and over. Quite sure we won't have to listen to Mr Monotone again after this weekend and I sure hope Eakins starts coaching instead of what he has been doing.

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#105 Atkins
October 30 2013, 07:51PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Eakins has been out coached in every game,not one or two every game.

Last night continuing to play Gagner's line against Kessel's was it for me.Eakins has to go.The line ended up -4 if I can see they were getting smoked from my sofa and DSF can call it before the game.Why couldn't Eakins?

I have yet to notice any in game adjustments by Eakins.He looks like a deer in the headlights on the bench.It is plain to see he is in over his head.

,,

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#106 LotteryPick
October 30 2013, 09:07PM
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Presumably Bucky and Smith have some teaching responsibilities. After all these years are they not able to identify to Eakins which player wants to learn , does not want to learn , and can't learn . And if those two Oiler bus riders were such great coaches why do we never hear that they are sought after to be head coaches?

And what do they do ? I've asked many times , here and on the radio , what are their responsibilities besides cashing cheques . Seriously, what do they do ? Pk ? PP ? What????

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#107 Dog Train
October 30 2013, 10:35PM
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Other than Gordon, we don't really have any good fits for a checking line. Having Justin Schultz and Belov out there against the opposition's top line makes no sense to me though. They both like to take chances and if you take chances against the wrong opposition, you will pay often.

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#108 BLAKPOO
October 31 2013, 01:37AM
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@Lofty

Nailed it.

It's one thing to implement a new system to new players, but to expect your best players to start killing penalties, play heavy minutes, and do it all with new line mates every few games? It's a wonder we have any points at all.

We need some stability. The constant flow of mediocrity from OKC to EDM and injuries to key players isn't helping either.

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#109 Rob Gilgan
October 31 2013, 06:35AM
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I think he meant out, finished.

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#110 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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