Two areas of concern for the Oilers

Jason Strudwick
October 06 2013 12:02PM

Saturday night’s game in Vancouver against the Canucks was an early season opportunity for the Oilers to show on Hockey Night in Canada that this is a new team. A team poised ready to make the next step and become a playoff team. The game did not leave that impression on Canada or the rest of the NHL.

The Obvious Stuff

It is very early in this NHL season. The Oilers are playing without their two top centers, and as a result they’re pretty green. Mark Arcobello played his third game as an NHL center Saturday, Will Acton his second and Taylor Hall his second this season after briefly playing the position as a rookie. That’s not a lot of experience down the middle for the Oil.

It was obvious Saturday that those three were not ready for the challenge of taking on two of the top centers in the NHL. Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler are very, very good centermen. I don't care if you hate them, you have to respect their ability. Kesler was the best player of the ice. The young Oilers centers will have learned a lot from the game and matching up with those two.

So far this season Dubnyk hasn't played the way he would have wanted. The two long bombs and a couple of weaker goals have gotten him off to a questionable start. To me he looks like he is pressing and not relaxed between the pipes. I think he will get into a groove. He is a solid goalie. Two rough appearances to start this season are not making me think the Oilers should run out and make a move for a goalie. That being said I would give him the night off against the Devils. Let him and goalie coach Fred Chabot clean up a few issues. He will be ready mentally and physically for the game versus the Habs on Thursday.

The centers and the goaltending are the obvious issues. On both post games shows so far I have done these have been hot button topics. They have been issues but I see two areas the Oilers can clear up quickly and they don't involve either the centers or the goalies.

The Less Obvious Stuff

It was obvious this off season that general manager Craig MacTavish wanted a puck-moving group of defensemen. He wanted d-men that would get back quickly to the puck and pass it up to the swift skating group of forwards the Oilers have. It makes sense in theory; it’s better to play in the neutral and offensive zones rather than in your own end. But last night I saw the problem.

As a group the d-men were far too passive in their own zone. A defenceman's first responsibility is to play defence. Far too often last night the ‘D’ were not being aggressive and taking the puck-carrying forward of the Canucks into the wall. Eliminating or pinning the puck carrier in the defensive zone should be job one for this group. It looked to me like they were following this player around, water-skiing or just containing. That doesn't work.

I know some forwards are big and maybe the strength isn't there to man handle the guy. I get it. But then you better figure out a different approach that works. Duncan Keith isn't a giant but he is great at playing angles, using his stick and taking away time and space. These are skills the smaller guys will have to perfect. The Oilers spent too much time in their own zone; it is the job of the ‘D’ to snub out the opposition’s forecheck.

When the d-men did either pin the Canuck forward to the wall or take the puck away, too often the strong side winger was not ready for the pass. When under pressure the d-man will not always be able to make the perfect pass. The winger must be ready to not only handle the pass but make a play with it.

The winger must get his ass on the wall and stick in the middle to show a target. He cannot take his time getting into position. The defenceman has a split second to make a play, he cannot wait for the winger to slowly get into position. Once the pass is made the winger must make a strong play. Most likely the opposition blueliner will pinch down to pressure him. He MUST get the puck out. This is not a situation where fifty/fifty is good enough.

The winger has to get the puck out. He can chip it out or reverse pinch on the defence. It doesn't matter how - what does matter is that is gets done. Early in the game on the road or when the opposition has the full court press on the pressure is relieved by that puck getting out.

There is no doubt that Dubnyk has to be better and that the inexperience at center has been hard on the Oilers. Those are easy fixes. The work on the wall by the wingers and in zone play by the D are two areas that need to be cleaned up. These are habits that playoffs teams have.

If I am Eakins I crack out the old VCR today. I show specific examples of guys not getting the job done Saturday night. You don't do it to embarrass players; you do it so they see with their own eyes what they are missing.

BATTLE OF THE BLADES

I am back at it tonight. Second round of Battle of the Blades. You wouldn't believe the amount of work that makes one routine go. I am really enjoying it and proud to be skating for my charity Inner City Children's Program. You can check it out at iccp.ca or follow them on twitter and @iccpinfo

Take a second to vote for my beautiful partner Violetta and I after the show

Thanks!

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
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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#1 Locksmithluke
October 06 2013, 12:09PM
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Fist... Presumably the exact opposite of where the Oilers may find themselves in the standings if they don't fix a few gaping holes! I'm hoping they do something about Dubnyk to begin with, in my opinion he really isn't a NHL starter. And it also seems to be quite a few others opinion as well. Addressing a week Center and backend position(s) is also a primary objective I would assume. It just doesn't look as if there's enough substance there.

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#2 Spydyr
October 06 2013, 12:15PM
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Two areas of concern for the Oilers:

Defense and offense.

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#3 Jay Gray
October 06 2013, 12:15PM
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All great points Struds. The long and short of it is everyone needs to settle the F down, it's two games.

But if this last the first 8 or 9…I'll be officially worried and disappointed.

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#4 Rama Lama
October 06 2013, 12:22PM
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Eakins should make Dubby watch the game he just played...........exactly when did "dropping and flopping", on every shot become a part of Dubby's game.

This reminds me of Tommy Salo.......the king of drop and flop! Stand up Dubby and play your angles. The idea of pucks deflecting causing goals is laughable. If you watch these re-plays Dubby is on the ice before the puck is even shot!

Where is the goaltender coach during the game??

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#5 They're $hittie
October 06 2013, 12:25PM
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Said it before and I will say it again,

Watching one of the best wingers in the game struggle at center really makes you appreciate what RNH and Gagner do for this team.

Dont try to control him at center. UNLEASH him on the wing.

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#6 Rotten Ron
October 06 2013, 12:28PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Eakins should make Dubby watch the game he just played...........exactly when did "dropping and flopping", on every shot become a part of Dubby's game.

This reminds me of Tommy Salo.......the king of drop and flop! Stand up Dubby and play your angles. The idea of pucks deflecting causing goals is laughable. If you watch these re-plays Dubby is on the ice before the puck is even shot!

Where is the goaltender coach during the game??

Bill Ranford was the king of drop and flop. Nobody else will evercome close.

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#7 lucky
October 06 2013, 12:30PM
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And ... "Here Come The Oilers " ... Anybody getting a sense of deja vu here?

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#8 Benhur
October 06 2013, 12:32PM
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Same Old, Same Old...yes that sounds right, exactly my thoughts while watching the game. Last year I started tracking Own Zone Turnovers (OZTs)which is a loss of possession in your own defensive end when the defensive team has possession. It did look like "Old Times" as you and the other commentors stated. Here are the stats for your interest! -Oilers OZTs 41, SAAs due to OZTs 19, GA due to OZTs 3. -Canucks OZTs 13, SAAs due to turnovers 5, GA due to OZTs 0. The Oilers gave up 3 times as many OZTs and 3 goals due to them! Yep, Same Old, Same Old. Who were the bad actors: -5 OZTs - #2, 19, 21 -4 OZTs - #4 -3 OZTs - 15, 57, 83. Of the defenseman Belov was the only one without a OZT. One area of improvement I've seen from last year is 0 OZTs by Dubnyk in the first two (1 1/2 ) games. Last year he was bad.

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#9 Curtis
October 06 2013, 12:43PM
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Jason, your a former player, I have a question?

There are lots of arguments going that weak goals have no effects on the team? I totally disagree with this.

I know the oilers played poorly last night and the game wasn't all Dubby's fault but these weak goals IMO are affecting the rest of the team.

Any insight on this?

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#10 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
October 06 2013, 12:59PM
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Curtis wrote:

Jason, your a former player, I have a question?

There are lots of arguments going that weak goals have no effects on the team? I totally disagree with this.

I know the oilers played poorly last night and the game wasn't all Dubby's fault but these weak goals IMO are affecting the rest of the team.

Any insight on this?

Who said weak goals have no effects on the team?? Of course weak goals have effects on the team!

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#11 oilcity
October 06 2013, 01:00PM
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someone want to let me know why smyth plays...he is such a liabilitu on the ice. I used to have the upmost respect for him but the game has changes alot since he was a rookie...he no longer fits in.....he dosnt block shots, hes always a step behind....its disappointing to watch....fans paying thousands to watch and they play someone like smyth....the oilers will not win games till smyth is out of the line up....

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#12 Craig1981
October 06 2013, 01:00PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

Said it before and I will say it again,

Watching one of the best wingers in the game struggle at center really makes you appreciate what RNH and Gagner do for this team.

Dont try to control him at center. UNLEASH him on the wing.

I'm with you 100% percent. I think you could even relay that to respect for Arcobello. I hear people saying Hall is better then Arcobello and they should send Mark down.

Personally I think, if you move Hall over it massively improves the 1st line as RNH is far better at center than Hall PLUS Hall is far better at wing than Smyth. You upgrade 2 positions significantly instead of just one.

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#13 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
October 06 2013, 01:02PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Two areas of concern for the Oilers:

Defense and offense.

I'll go with compete and winning.

* followed closely by size and grit, in third place coaching and management

But other than that, things are headed in the right direction!

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#14 Spydyr
October 06 2013, 01:09PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

I'll go with compete and winning.

* followed closely by size and grit, in third place coaching and management

But other than that, things are headed in the right direction!

You are right. I was just trying to make a funny. It is better to laugh than to cry. After this long lots of people are getting fed up with the groundhog day rebuild.

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#15 Craig1981
October 06 2013, 01:09PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Who said weak goals have no effects on the team?? Of course weak goals have effects on the team!

The argument is.....2 equal goalies play a season and face the EXACT same shots and let the EXACT same # of goals in. Goalie #1 lets no soft goals in, but make not insane saves. Goalie #2 make 20 highlight reel saves, but lets 20 soft ones in..........is one better than the other?

I don't think there is an easy answer on this and too would like a little Strudwick or Sutherby insight.

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#16 Big Cap
October 06 2013, 01:15PM
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@Jay Gray

It's Only ONE game. Its only TWO games. Its only the first MONTH. Its only the first HALF. Finally, Its a another rebuild SEASON.

These types of EXCUSES must end.

ENOUGH IS A ENOUGH - There is NO excuse for last night's effort.

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#17 Sean17
October 06 2013, 01:25PM
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What was Yakupov doing on Kesler's goal? That is the video that needs to be watched...

Another area of concern should be fan apathy.... I'm a big fan, went to the home opener, watched last night and already starting to care less and less... I have better things to do for 3 hours - 6 hours if you count driving in from Red Deer. At least I wasn't like the guy beside me who drove from Grande Prairie....

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#18 madjam
October 06 2013, 01:31PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Two areas of concern for the Oilers:

Defense and offense.

You might want to add coaching and management to that list if more results like last night occur very frequently . Did we really expect a green GM and coach to make much difference ? Hope is creeping out the backdoor rapidly .

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#19 Quicksilver ballet
October 06 2013, 01:33PM
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Why play every shift like it's your last, when you're your team has confirmed what you're worth without ever having to do that? It's a little late to hope for better after they're locked in pulling down 6 mill per for the next half dozen years. This losing was our best option management (the last 4 yrs) style is really biting them in the arse now.

Lowe knows how to wreck things, but he's shown he knows diddly squat about rebuilding a team. Good thing Lowe had hall of Fame team mates to put those six rings on his fingers.

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#20 BingBong
October 06 2013, 01:33PM
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Great read; we all know the goaltending has been weak and we lack center experience, but the insight regarding the other areas of concern is interesting. It sounds like more of the same really; we're just not willing/able to compete at the same level as other teams. Eakins better find a way to reach these guys, and fast.

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#21 Jay Gray
October 06 2013, 01:36PM
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Big Cap wrote:

It's Only ONE game. Its only TWO games. Its only the first MONTH. Its only the first HALF. Finally, Its a another rebuild SEASON.

These types of EXCUSES must end.

ENOUGH IS A ENOUGH - There is NO excuse for last night's effort.

I'm totally with you, but I'm not writing the season off at the beginning of October.

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#22 morgie
October 06 2013, 01:40PM
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By god they better start Labarbarra next game

And if he looks good, play him till he doesn't

The team has to stop just giving players a free ride and make them accountable by sitting them, if we have legitimate other options

It's pretty obvious Dubnyk has been poor, and we can't afford to just play him till he finds his game, if he ever will

to just put Dubnyk in again because he's our starter, makes no sense to me, and will just prove that all this talk about accountability is lip service

which frankly has been oilers for most of the rebuild, which isn't really a surprise you could argue since lip service comes from the owner and president for years

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#23 gcw_rocks
October 06 2013, 01:48PM
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I wonder if all the comments MacT made about Dubnyk this summer got into Dubnyk's head. Goalies are a quirky bunch.

Is anyone really surprised this team has sucked out the gate? MacT stubbornly refused to address depth issues at centre. He loaded up on ahl players instead on NHL players at forward, and his answers to the team's defensive woes all came with question marks. Then he added a rookie coach to the mix.

This is exactly what we should have expected.

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#24 etownman
October 06 2013, 01:50PM
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When Dubnyk is in goal, the team plays with less confidence & grips their sticks a little harder! When Labarbera came in & after a skirmish in front of the net in which he controlled the rebound & killed play, it was interesting to see Hemmer skate by him & slap his pads! If Dubnyk could consistently make the routine plays good NHL goalies make we wouldn't be talking so much about him, but he doesn't & it hurts his team a lot!

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#25 sizedoesmatter
October 06 2013, 01:53PM
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Better to lose and find the weaknesses than start 6&0 and think everything is good enough. Still to early to panic

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#26 Harry
October 06 2013, 02:02PM
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Jay Gray wrote:

All great points Struds. The long and short of it is everyone needs to settle the F down, it's two games.

But if this last the first 8 or 9…I'll be officially worried and disappointed.

Newsflash!!

Its been 7 yrs not 2 games

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#27 Big Cap
October 06 2013, 02:02PM
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sizedoesmatter wrote:

Better to lose and find the weaknesses than start 6&0 and think everything is good enough. Still to early to panic

Great Point.

Who wants to start a season 6-0?

Wake Up, man!!!

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#28 Cold Hard Truth
October 06 2013, 02:04PM
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Everyone relax!

We need to be more patient. This is a young team. Just think how good we're going to be in a few years when!

MacTavish tried his best this summer to address the holes, it's just that there weren't any players out there. So don't blame him you big meanies, he tried his best!

And if we don't make the playoffs this year, relax. The 2014 draft looks deep. We'll trade Hemsky up in the draft and get a top d-man!

Think of how stacked we'll be when we're cup contenders!

Tired of this? Me too.

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#29 Jay Gray
October 06 2013, 02:08PM
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Harry wrote:

Newsflash!!

Its been 7 yrs not 2 games

I honestly didn't expect the playoffs anytime in the last 7 years like I do this year. And IF they get in, I'll assume they'll just sneak in. If they don't make it this year, it's not the end of the world. They main part of the core is under 22 years old! I'm frustrated, but I think there's quite a few of you that need to settle down, step away from the bridge and learn how to relax.

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#30 oilfly
October 06 2013, 02:12PM
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Hi Struds, by the way...love your show! Watching the game last night reminded me that perhaps Petry & J Shultz need to strengthen their biceps rather than worrying about fitness levels. Their soft clearing passes or little cute chip shots are really totally unfair to the forwards they play with!!!

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#31 EricOG
October 06 2013, 02:12PM
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Another problem here is that for the fourth straight season, the Oilers are breaking rookies and/or newcomers to the league in.

Looks like (once again) they have a lot of non-factors on the active roster. Sound familiar?

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#32 LinkfromHyrule
October 06 2013, 02:14PM
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it's beginning to get a little nauseating reading these comments. There used to be constructive debate and interesting insight, but now it's (for the most part) the same pessimistic commenters posting re-worded versions of the crap they've commented on every other article for the past 3 months.

Eakins is a new coach. His best player was out of position. He was missing his top 2 centers. Dubnyk is inexplicably playing worse than last year. We're two games in. Shut up with the negative crap, it's getting old. Come back if we're half a season in and in last place. Otherwise, go follow another sport.

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#33 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
October 06 2013, 02:22PM
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@LinkfromHyrule

Again, it's not just the last two games that people are complaining about. It's been 7 years of this now and people are finally starting to get fed up with a sub-standard product.

Management is the thing that needs a rebuild now. Keep Eakins but go scorched-earth with everyone else - scouts, trainers, even the medical guys.

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#34 madjam
October 06 2013, 02:24PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Why play every shift like it's your last, when you're your team has confirmed what you're worth without ever having to do that? It's a little late to hope for better after they're locked in pulling down 6 mill per for the next half dozen years. This losing was our best option management (the last 4 yrs) style is really biting them in the arse now.

Lowe knows how to wreck things, but he's shown he knows diddly squat about rebuilding a team. Good thing Lowe had hall of Fame team mates to put those six rings on his fingers.

Now , now , lets not be to hard on Lowe , as he knows how to fill the stands with a team Oiler fans like to enjoy even if they seem to enjoy/prefer a loser hockey team . Mind you , Eskimo attendance is starting to take a big tumble - maybe he should be worried it might spill onto hockey team ?

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#35 madjam
October 06 2013, 02:36PM
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Oilers a huge business and entertainment industry that is well attended . Losing team is not a problem . so long as fans care to buy into the entertainment value they get out of it . How unlikely is that to change ?

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#36 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
October 06 2013, 02:46PM
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Just read on the Oilers site that Hall - Nuge - Ebs practiced together today and are expected to be the 1st line against the Devils. Hallelujah...

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#37 otter2233
October 06 2013, 02:49PM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

Just read on the Oilers site that Hall - Nuge - Ebs practiced together today and are expected to be the 1st line against the Devils. Hallelujah...

And Labarbera gets the start...

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#38 madjam
October 06 2013, 03:01PM
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Guess who is our worst plus minus players ? Hall, Eberle , Yakupov , J.Schultz , Smyth and Hemsky . Should we be concernered ?

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#39 Thinker
October 06 2013, 03:03PM
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The oilers biggest hole is in their chest.

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#40 WhattaMike
October 06 2013, 03:14PM
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Hey guys before I may be trashed, but first, I want to say that I wanted Dubnyk pulled after the 2nd Canucks goal, and for sure, by the third one was in...the kid (Dubie)is not in any good groove at all and this now makes him allowing ten goals in less than two games. LaBarbera should have gone in to start the 2nd period at the least.

Then again I saw a very lousy effort from almost the whole team last night. Even yak looks off for some reason.

That being said, the only way Dubnyk works this out (if at all) is that he plays and plays thru it all. But even i dont want this going on more than three games in a row already.

Also, this team has been changed quite a bit and these guys are still learning about each other. Most have only played together for four to six games (exhibition and 2 reg season games). They are also learning of new systems and from a brand new coach/associate coach. This wont be righted overnight....so lets not panic much just yet.

Now, with the top 2 centres gone/Jonesuu injured, Smyth too slow, and with two to three AHL guys,.... this made for a bad show last night and thank goodness RNH is back to get going. Was very happy with the 4th line and Gadzic dealing with Sestito. Too bad the refs favored giving Brown a minor/misconduct when some Canucks should have gotten a couple as well.

I wont panic for three more games at least. great to hear Hall is gonna be back where he belongs. Loved seeing Coach Acton going at it with Torts too.

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#41 gcw_rocks
October 06 2013, 03:17PM
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I wonder if all the comments MacT made about Dubnyk this summer got into Dubnyk's head. Goalies are a quirky bunch.

Is anyone really surprised this team has sucked out the gate? MacT stubbornly refused to address depth issues at centre. He loaded up on ahl players instead on NHL players at forward, and his answers to the team's defensive woes all came with question marks. Then he added a rookie coach to the mix.

This is exactly what we should have expected.

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#42 Serious gord
October 06 2013, 03:41PM
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LinkfromHyrule wrote:

it's beginning to get a little nauseating reading these comments. There used to be constructive debate and interesting insight, but now it's (for the most part) the same pessimistic commenters posting re-worded versions of the crap they've commented on every other article for the past 3 months.

Eakins is a new coach. His best player was out of position. He was missing his top 2 centers. Dubnyk is inexplicably playing worse than last year. We're two games in. Shut up with the negative crap, it's getting old. Come back if we're half a season in and in last place. Otherwise, go follow another sport.

Getting tired of the apologists. None of what you note explains the lousy effort last night.

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#43 Serious Gord
October 06 2013, 03:46PM
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No one seriously thinks labarbera is good enough to be a starting NHL goalie. Putting him in in the next game would be a mistake - what is he loses - putting the team at 0-3 and having dubnyk return after yet another vote of no confidence.

MacT and his enablers (many if whom comment on this site) threw in with dubnyk a long time ago. The entire season hangs in the balance on that decision.

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#44 Lofty
October 06 2013, 04:06PM
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Why did they recall Davidson? Who got hurt?

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#45 Oilcountry2000
October 06 2013, 04:23PM
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We were fed the line that Dubs was our starting goalie last year...He sucked. This year more of the same with a sub par backup. Time to let the two goalies and goaltending coach go and go fishing. What will it take? Who's out there? Maybe Mikka would do us a solid after stoning us for so many years...I'd pay to watch that.

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#46 hockeycrazed
October 06 2013, 04:31PM
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@Cold Hard Truth

Except they've telling the fans that since they drafted Hall 3 years ago, and rebuilding for the past 7 years!!! So what, should we have to wait another 7 years till the prospect from the 2014 crop matures? Well then Hall would be over the hill then, wouldn't he? And so goes the re-building cycles once again.

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#47 TeddyTurnbuckle
October 06 2013, 04:46PM
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If you watch the Kesler goal it's Yakupovs fault the whole way. He let the puck go right by him and he was way out of position. Kesler shot the puck from Yaks point and he was caught making a lazy circle. Yak has skill but he is still a train wreck in his own end.

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#48 TeddyTurnbuckle
October 06 2013, 04:57PM
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Justin Shultz sure looked like he had a hard time getting the puck away from Vancouver. All he does is follow the player around with one hand on the opponents back and the other hand is attempting to poke check from behind. Wouldn't mind seeing a body check from him once in a while.

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#49 Lofty
October 06 2013, 05:10PM
Trash it!
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This may cheer up some of the Horcoff haters:

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/watch-shawn-horcoff-two-minutes-t-video-125221233--nhl.html

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#50 kaz
October 06 2013, 05:11PM
Trash it!
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+1
3
props

Haven't you guys read the secret. ... hurry we need more positive comments!

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