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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#51 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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#52 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 Seriously
October 06 2013, 05:16PM
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@LinkfromHyrule

WOW!!! Did you bump your head or something???"his best player was out of position?" I'm assuming your talking about Taylor Hall??? If you think he's eakin's best player you obviously have not seen the past 2 games!!! For the record watching the Oilers play this caliber of hockey is getting old!! And I DO follow other sports!!

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#56 NJ
October 07 2013, 12:30AM
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I'm gonna watch a leafs game. There's some big tough hombres on that team. While big tough hombres don't grow on trees, watching a leafs / canadiens game showed me two teams that go hard. We could use a Gallagher on this team to show them how to compete.

To the Yak haters, he threw some hits last night at least... The period I watched I noticed him. Hall has been a give away MACHINE the last couple games. But he'll settle down and be better. The good news is he'll never play centre again. Haha.

Finally, we're just 2 games off of .500 and while this month is likely to be more of the same, keep your chins up. Things get easier and with any luck some of the easier games in the middle of our schedule will set us up or a solid 2 GAME WINNING STREAK to balance out these two losses to start, though the Jets one really is a kick in the coconuts. :/

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#57 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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#58 Wonger
October 06 2013, 07:52PM
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Jets are sending Adam Pardy to AHL! If he has to clear waivers let's pick him up Oil!!!Big, Tough, etc!!!

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#59 Cynic
October 07 2013, 04:41AM
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Don't worry Oiler fans. The new arena will fix everything.

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#60 Vince
October 07 2013, 09:16AM
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How is Steve Smith still an assitant coach with the Oil? The defense is a perpetual letdown with this team and they never seem to improve. The only legitimate number 1 dman in the organization is Nurse but he's likely a couple of years away. The guys there right now just aren't good enough. Ferrence looks like a bad signing early in the season already.

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#61 Johnny Larue
October 06 2013, 07:54PM
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Oilcountry2000 wrote:

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.

Are you delusional ?

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#62 madjam
October 06 2013, 10:18PM
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Is coaching destroying our young stars moving forward ? Hall playing with Smyth and Hemsky ? Yak relegated to 3rd line with plummers ? Eberle with all new players ? J.Schultz ? None are fairing well and reverse development seems to be setting in . How successful has his line combo's been - not very good ? Time to spread the blame ?

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#63 madjam
October 06 2013, 11:36PM
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With 80 games to go and only 3 points out of a playoff spot Oilers start getting their players back for the long drive . This despite blowing a game they should have won against the Jets . Tomorrow starts our first long winning streak ,right ON fans .

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#64 Joy S. Lee
October 07 2013, 10:10AM
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Sorry, I haven't read the comments section yet, but I just wanted to say thanks Jason, you have said exactly what was on my mind, a little better than how I would have said it. I think you've absolutely nailed it. Well, we're in agreement, so of course I think you've nailed it. LOL.

There was a spot in that Vancouver game, as they cycled the puck in our zone, when the Canucks displayed a 'knowing' about how the Oilers were going to defend them. They continually handed the puck 'off' to each other, and each guy would "rag" the puck. In other words, they would go on a round-about ragging, trying to create openings for teammates. Well, you can't do that if someone is knocking you on your ass. You can, if they're not, though. And that says it all. How do you get the puck away from someone who's really good at carrying it? You separate the two, that's how. Well, that hardly happened against the Canucks. And the pinning against the boards? Hardly. As Jason suggested, we hovered, and waited, hoping to steal the puck away. Good luck with that. Chastizing Dubnyk, when we're turning the puck over like a hot potato in our own zone, is not entirely fair. When we get our defense figured out, maybe we can focus more on Dubnyk. But for now, I'm with Struds, this team desperately needs to figure out how to compete in it's own zone. That's job 1.

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#65 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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#66 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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#67 The Last Big Bear
October 06 2013, 09:49PM
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Sounds to me like the team needs more leadership and accountability.

Maybe try giving letters to another four or five guys. That ought to help.

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#68 madjam
October 07 2013, 11:04AM
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Oilers have not gone 0-3 to start a season in 18 years . Laviolette gets fired after 3 losses with Philly . Anxious moments in Oilerland if we lose tonite .

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#69 Hemmercules
October 07 2013, 11:26AM
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madjam wrote:

Oilers have not gone 0-3 to start a season in 18 years . Laviolette gets fired after 3 losses with Philly . Anxious moments in Oilerland if we lose tonite .

I'm pretty sure Eakins has a "free pass" no matter what happens this season. The word Accountability isn't even in the Oilers vocabulary lol.

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#70 outdoorzguy
October 07 2013, 04:02PM
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So there is a coach, with real NHL experience available now. Will the Oilers pull the pin on Eakins after tonights loss? They should. It only took Philly three games. And immediately name Laviolette as coach. We need a coach with some experience. We need a goalie too!! Having a Jr. B goalie will get us nowhere...fast!!

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#71 mlcsellil
October 06 2013, 08:04PM
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I really bought into all the hype and the positive environment it created around the city from the GM coach and players. We were all on board for a great season, that we even paid more to see the games at Rexall. I realize we are down 2 centermen, and have new players and AHL call ups, but where in the hell is there any passion and spirit from these GD players. All I did last night was curse and swear at another effortless game. My expectation, after having 4 days off to practice, (as I'm sure everyone else had the same), was the team was going to put in their best efforts after giving the Jets the game in the home opener. Hopefully when the Nuge hits the ice tomorrow, there will be a heartbeat from the players. We need every point we can get and the earlier we get them, the better shape we'll be in. I'm not sure of the solution, but we all know the problems.

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#72 oilmyoil
October 06 2013, 10:57PM
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Dave Cement Co. wrote:

No more call ups, drafts or trades for players unless they are 6'3" or bigger, 220lbs or heavier and bad competitive bad a$$es!!! Let's start trading, cutting, running out of town the stick checking fairies and DAFODILS that know make up at least half this Gutless team!!! ENOUGH is ENOUGH!!!

My thoughts exactly

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#73 madjam
October 07 2013, 05:35AM
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Second game against Canucks , Eakins got out coached and never made adjustments till to late to salvage game in third . Sometimes same game plans don't work out as expected against same teams as they adjust. Torts made adjustment from exhibition season and caught us flat footed . Made us look far worse than what we are . First game we blew , however with subpar goaltending as much as anything . Does not mean we are a contender , yet. but it was only one bad game and result . We need need coaches and players on their games not getting flat footed by other teams game plan .

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#74 CaptainLander
October 07 2013, 07:23AM
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Almost time to give Bryz a call?

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#75 Serious Gord
October 07 2013, 11:44AM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Oilers lineup for tonight posted on Copper and Blue

Hall. Nuge. Ebbs

Perron. Gordon. Hemsky

Hamilton. Arcobello. Yak

Gadzic. Acton. Brown

Petry. Smid

Ference. J Schultz

Belov. Schultz

Lebarbera

Out. Ryan Smyth, Joeensu

Smyth out - here's hoping he calls a retirement presser before the team heads east.

The only thing missing from that line up to make it the best the oil can put forward is gagner. If they stink they have no excuses.

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#76 TDSM31
October 07 2013, 12:02PM
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DSF wrote:

If the Flames get above average goaltending, they will be competitive.

A hard working bunch that shows up every shift.

If the Oil had below average goaltending, they would be competitive. Right now we have an ECHL goalie as our starter.

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#77 nick
October 07 2013, 08:59PM
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@outdoorzguy

I agree this Eakins thing was a HUGE mistake. He's a minor league coach with a big mouth and nothing to back it up. This organization is in huge trouble now. Signed a completely raw coach to a 4 year contract. who does that??

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#78 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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#79 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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#80 madjam
October 06 2013, 02:24PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. 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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#81 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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#82 kaz
October 06 2013, 05:11PM
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Haven't you guys read the secret. ... hurry we need more positive comments!

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#83 TeddyTurnbuckle
October 06 2013, 05:11PM
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Oilers recalled Brandon Davidson today. Weird. I can't see him playing up with the Oilers yet.

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#84 Sidney Frosby
October 07 2013, 11:43AM
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Petry + a draft pick to Anaheim for Hiller...and possibly Fistric ( we need some hitting back on the D!)

Oilers need to at least try and save the season...

Or maybe STL wants to move one of their goalies to make room for Allen.

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#85 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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#86 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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#87 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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#88 dv.asteroid
October 06 2013, 07:46PM
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I'll not relinquish hope until I see this line combo... I feel it will be manic...hoppy-hall&yak

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#89 Freewheeling Freddie
October 06 2013, 10:28PM
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Relax people , by the end of October the Oilers might be out of the playoff race. How does Frederick Chabot still have a goalie coach job? Devan it has been nice having you here, unfortunately your contract is up after this year. That is if you last that long. The guy is 6ft6 and flops all over the ice Maybe try being a stand up goalie. Not rocket science. Go A'S Go

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#90 Hemmercules
October 07 2013, 11:41AM
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@Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

I almost want to cry when I think about 7 years out of the playoffs and that is the team they are icing at this point.

Has Hemsky played with the same two forwards for more than 3 games in a row in his entire career ?? lol

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#91 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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#92 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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#93 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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#94 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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#95 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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#96 Lofty
October 06 2013, 05:10PM
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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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#97 steelymac
October 07 2013, 07:55AM
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Pouzar99 wrote:

I think it is time the players felt a little heat from a fan base that has given new meaning to the term loyal. There is only one thing that team supporters cannot and will not tolerate and that is an unwillingness to compete hard, which was on display throughout Saturday's disgraceful performance. I can remember very few occasions in which I was angrier or more upset with the players.

I will keep going to the games. I will keep rooting for the team, but I am fed up with excuses. In practical terms we have our whole team except Gagner. We should win the next two games by outplaying and outworking our opponents. We can't keep firing coaches year after year. It is on the players from now on.

Pouzar don't excpect 4 points a night from RNH to start .

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#98 madjam
October 07 2013, 11:55AM
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Coppernblue has Joensuu, FERENCE and SMYTH out with Grebs in apparently . What is going on ?

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

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#100 Poopsie
October 06 2013, 06:45PM
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Sidney frosby wrote:

When is Glenn Andersna and Grant Fuhr gonna be hired by the Oilers.... Seem like they just bring in the old teammates on Katz dollar to hang out and think they know what they are doing....

K-Lowe and Mac-t have made great great decisions.....Can't wait for Grebeshkov to be in the line up and show the rest how it's done.... Laugh my ass off.

Comment 24 inLowetide sums this MESS up perfectly!!!

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