GDB 19.0: SURVIVAL

Jason Gregor
November 10 2013 11:14AM

I didn't pick the Oilers to make the playoffs this season, had them 10th, but I don't think anyone expected them to start the season this poorly; 4-12-2 in their first 18 games and tonight a date with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

The Oilers have to play like they did in Tampa Bay or they could easily get blown away in the Windy City.

We could break down the stats. Goals for, goals against, PP, PK or any other stat, but we all know that won't be very flattering for the Oilers.

It would be easy to pile on the Oilers right now, and I've noticed many have. Every goal that goes in is either a major breakdown or bad goaltending. The other team is also paid to play and they are capable of making nice plays. Even if the Oilers were 12-4-2 they'd still be allowing goals.

Hockey is about mistakes, they will happen, but the key is trying to force the opposition to make more. We know that hasn't happened often enough, but that shouldn't be a surprise.

The Oilers aren't built to win more games than they lose. They just aren't.

Yesterday I noticed a debate raging about the Oilers depth, and some were suggesting the Oilers finally have lots of depth in their-top nine. Are they better than they used to be in that department? Yes, but they are a far cry from having lots of proven NHL depth. I'm sorry, but that is true.

The reality is the Oilers won't win consistently until the make up of their top-nine is changed. I and many others have written or said this for the past few years. The Oilers aren't heavy enough, don't have enough grit and they don't have enough consistent skill in their top-nine.

That isn't the player's fault. You can't expect them to suddenly become heavier, or more physical. The one thing they can control is their ability to make smart plays. They need to do that more frequently, but even then I'd only see them as a .500 or so team.

Some people believe the Oilers don't really know what they have in their top-nine because they haven't had all of them healthy at the same time. It is true the forwards are finally healthy, but I defy anyone to tell me why the Oilers don't know what they have up front.

We know what type of player Taylor Hall is. He is their most dominant forward.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still developing his overall game, but he's shown signs of what he can be.

We could describe every player's strength and weaknesses; we've seen them play enough. Marc Arcobello is the only surprise, and thus far he's been a pleasant one. Nail Yakupov has only played 60+ games, but we know where he needs to improve and what skills make him dangerous.

I don't need to see 20 games with a healthy group of forwards to know what the Oilers have. They will show great skill, good speed and creativity, but this team isn't going to win ugly games. They aren't going to overpower you down low. They won't consistently score goals from on top of the crease. They don't have that mixture, and the Oilers need to accept the weaknesses of the group as a whole, and find ways to fix it.

It doesn't mean they don't have good individual players, they do, but collectively as a group this team isn't going to succeed.

The same can be said for their defence.

They don't have any big, physical defencemen. Philadelphia dominated them down low yesterday, strictly by getting good body position. Even if Ladislav Smid was still on the team, the Flyers would have had success. Andrew Ference is now their most physical D-man, and it is unfair to expect him to lead the team in that department. He will battle guys his size, and guys bigger, but the Oilers need some heavy D-man who can stop teams from cycling down low.

WHAT NOW...

 There will be no magical fix for the Oilers. The players have to play smarter and more consistent, and Craig MacTavish has to look for trades that will help balance his lineup; the Oilers need more than just a top-pair D-man.

Until MacTavish tweaks his roster, the leaders need to keep the players unified. It won't be easy, but they owe it to themselves and the fans to compete every shift.

The other teams aren't going to go easy on the Oilers, in fact right now they might look at the Oilers as "point night." After the Detroit loss, Smid said, "Guys think it can't get worse, well it can," and he was correct. It is easy to let negativity overwhelm you. It happens for all of us, and in the case of the Oilers it will be extremely difficult to stay positive and upbeat, but they have to, or the final 64 games might be just as painful, or worse, than the first 18.

LINEUP...

Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Perron-RNH-Eberle
Smyth-Arcobello-Yakupov
Joensuu-Gordon-Jones

It is fair to suggest that Eakins could stick with the same lines for a few games, and hope they find some chemistry. Switching lines often hasn't helped them win. Every NHL coach switches things up when his team is losing, but maybe Eakins should buck that trend and stick with some combinations to see what happens. I'm not sure there is a right answer at this point, but he will keep his top two lines the same to start the game.

Luke Gazdic is out with an injured shoulder.

The same six D-men will play and Devan Dubnyk starts.

QUICK HITS...

  • My wife is the best. She suggested I use Alice Eve in Oilersnation. I'd never seen Alice before, but I would agree.
     
  • The Oilers are said to be one of the leading teams in terms of using analytics, yet they continue to lose and they are one of the softest teams in the league. Is it just a coincidence, or have they gone too far into looking at statistics rather than on-ice play? Using analytics as another tool is smart, but it leads me to some questions.

    Are the Oilers using them properly?
    Are they relying on them too much?
    Is it too early to see the benefits from them?
    Are they a non-factor, and the issues are mainly with scouting?

    I don't know the answers, but it is something worth looking at. They weren't very good before they started using analytics, so maybe that is the bigger problem. When a team is in the midst of an eight-year losing streak they need to look at every aspect of their organization and try to improve it.
     
  • Speaking of analytics, I'm curious why when Ryan Jones had a bad Corsi rating he was getting ripped, yet now that he is even at Corsi, has two goals in ten games and is +3 no one is suggesting he stay in the lineup?
     
  • Here is a great story on Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan will go into the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow, but it will be bittersweet because of his father's battle with Alzheimers. Shanahan was one of my favourite players, and he's very deserving of us his induction into the HHOF.
     
  • Taylor Hall returned from injury with a new stick, and the half-orange shaft matches the Oilers colours. He has two goals in two games, and he's abandoned the toe drag. I'm sure he will bring it back at some point, but he's focusing on beating guys with his speed. He has 60 points in his last 56 games.
     
  • I usually don't rip on the officials, because they have an extremely tough job and they get it right more than they get it wrong, but that 5 minute major to Anton Belov yesterday was the worst call of the season. He never hit Giroux in the head, so how does he get a match penalty? They worst part was they met for three minutes to come up with that decision.

    You can't reverse the call, I understand that, but at least come out after the game, or today, and admit you made a mistake. MLB admitted Angel Hernandez blew a call in May, and Jim Joyce earned a lot of respect when he came out and admitted he blew the call at first base that ruined Armando Gallaraga's perfect game.

    The Flyers never scored on the match penalty, although it did lead to a weak make up call, and a subsequent four-on-four where Giroux scored, but fans deserve hearing someone from the NHL admit it was a horrendous call.
     
  • If the Oilers deal Ales Hemsky, which seems likely, I hope it isn't just for prospects. You won't improve as an organization if you continually ship out proven NHL players for maybes. Dealing Smid for prospects only made sense if they had another trade happening and needed to clear cap space. MacTavish said he felt they had depth and could move Smid, but they don't have size right now. Klefbom and Nurse will add size when they make the team, but today's lineup is smaller without Smid.
     
  • A reminder to watch the Nation's own Jason Strudwick tonight on Battle of the Blades. If you don't watch it, please vote for him. If Struds wins, the Inner City Children's Program will get $50,000. That will make a major difference for many young kids in Edmonton. You can vote here later tonight or tomorrow.

TONIGHT....

GAME DAY PREDICTION:  The Oilers have played the Hawks tough the past few seasons, but I don't see a miracle happening tonight. Hawks win 5-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall picks up two points. Hall has 15 points in 10 career games vs. the Hawks.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The comment section is filled with positive, up beat comments. Fans decide to pull a George Costanza, and write the opposite of what they feel. Everything in Costanza's life was going wrong....

"Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable. I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but I was perceptive. I always know when someone's uncomfortable at a party. It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat... It's often wrong."

After that riveting speech George decides to do the opposite of everything that is normal for him. Up is down, down is up....Later in the show Costanza is rewarded...

"A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child, and it's all happening because I'm completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgement I've ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion, Elaine, Jerry. This is my religion."  

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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#101 Jay
November 10 2013, 05:33PM
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New page

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#102 RexHolez
November 10 2013, 05:36PM
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I was gonna watch this game, but decided that pulling out my pubes 1 at a time with tweezers sounds more entertaining

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#103 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 05:43PM
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@RexHolez

Probably less painful too.

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#104 Rocket
November 10 2013, 05:54PM
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I'm watching the Chicago feed and the commentators are perplexed as to how The Oilers are up against the salary cap and a horrible team.

I wish the Sportsnet guys would ask questions like that. Maybe management would listen?

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#105 Alsker
November 10 2013, 06:01PM
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Have we had posession outside of our end in the last 5 min? Every Hawk going top shelf, Dubby on his knees for each, lol.

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#106 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 06:04PM
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NO SHOTS in 10 minutes. Adda stay patient for the perfect opportunity!

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#107 Alsker
November 10 2013, 06:07PM
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And I thought yesterdays effort was awful...another couple years of kBlowe and we're going to watching the Oil on OmniTV between replays of cricket matches.

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#108 Alsker
November 10 2013, 06:12PM
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This looks like a training camp game..longshots vs starters..

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#109 James
November 10 2013, 06:14PM
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Whoever runs the Oilers twitter is a complete goof. "Can of corn! Pop fly! Duby's got it! Puck deflects into the air but #40 snags it with the trapper. Still scoreless late 1st."

What the hell does that even mean, can of corn? *facepalm*

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#110 RyanCoke
November 10 2013, 06:19PM
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Right on, 20 minutes in and only down by one. I see improvement

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#111 Seriously
November 10 2013, 06:19PM
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Hemmercules wrote:

The oilers are the best franchise in the NHL. Their management is second to none. Oilers dominate tonight, win 8-2 and proceed to run on a winning streak like no one has ever seen.

BA HAAAAAAAA HAAAAAA!!! now that's some funny s$it!!!!!!

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#112 Smokey
November 10 2013, 06:19PM
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Alsker wrote:

Have we had posession outside of our end in the last 5 min? Every Hawk going top shelf, Dubby on his knees for each, lol.

That's the scouting report on most butterfly goalies. Just Dubby got a bad blocker, and glove.

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#113 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 06:23PM
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Lowe Olcyk Smith Eakins Rodriguez

Sillinger Chabot Acton Mac t

That's right put these gentlemen together and we have been watching one of the biggest loser scams in history. Rebuilding as an excuse for not getting the job done and selling hope to the fan base and not delivering. Fitting how it starts with Lowe and ends with Mac t. Hopefully the real problem is ended by Mac t as well.

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#114 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 06:25PM
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And from now on dubnyks first name is no longer devan. From now on he will be damnit dubnyk. I have to say it at least once every game he plays so why not make it permanent.

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#115 James
November 10 2013, 06:25PM
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@RyanCoke

Haha, sad but true. I can tell whether I should be happy or cry into my beer. Either way, I see more beer as a solution.

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#116 Hockey fan 1976
November 10 2013, 06:29PM
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Wow. This is more like a scrimmage game for the hawks. The fact that is only 1-0 is a victory on its own after that period. 6 shots, 2 of them is last minute of play, and wtf is it with DDumbnuts always on his knees for every shot? Man he's awful.

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#117 Serioisly
November 10 2013, 06:30PM
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madjam wrote:

Oilers get it together tonite and spank Hawks by a score of 8-3 . Team proclaims now we go home , and start piling up the wins playing in our own conference whom they are familiar with and confident they can beat. Katz so happy he offers all the coaches and management another /additional 2 year contract for their hard work and loyalty . The dream is alive ? They have been in the sewer so long , you have to wonder if things don't pick up they might commit sewercide .

Now that must be some kool aid that your drinking!!!!

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#118 James
November 10 2013, 06:35PM
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NUGE! Keep em coming boys. Don't sh*t the bed.

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#119 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 06:36PM
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Nuge makes me happy! Especially when I'm lost in oiler sucktitude.

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#120 ubermiguel
November 10 2013, 06:36PM
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Nuuuuuuuuge!*

*Keeping hope alive.

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#121 James
November 10 2013, 06:39PM
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@YFC Prez

I just texted my buddy using that same word. Ah the trials of an Oiler fan.

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#122 James
November 10 2013, 06:43PM
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Damn you Crawford! How dare you interrupt our probably one chance to not suck even worse.

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#123 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 06:46PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Coaches aren't miracle workers. I don't recall a coach who was considered great not having great players.

It is 18 games. To suggest Eakins is awful based on is premature.

This team isn't built to win right now. Also if they had decent goaltending we all agree they'd be one or two games under .500 which would be about right for the talent they have.

i was just thinking....one of these games id like to see Eakins go apesh*t at a bad call, or go crazy like Patrick Roy and just get booted from a game. id like to see him fight for his guys and show the guys hes got there back and theyre in this together.....just like in hoosiers

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#124 James
November 10 2013, 06:48PM
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Good god this team is doing horribly on faceoffs tonight. No surprise when you have to faceoff against the likes of Toews, Kane and company.

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#125 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 06:48PM
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James wrote:

Whoever runs the Oilers twitter is a complete goof. "Can of corn! Pop fly! Duby's got it! Puck deflects into the air but #40 snags it with the trapper. Still scoreless late 1st."

What the hell does that even mean, can of corn? *facepalm*

maybe its jack michaels twin brother

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#126 James
November 10 2013, 06:50PM
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YAKCITY B*TCHES!!!

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#127 ubermiguel
November 10 2013, 06:51PM
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Yaaaaaaaak!*

*Costanza says this is the game it all turns around!

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#128 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 06:52PM
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I love how yak yells at the hawks fans after scoring. He's been moving his feet lately and working. He deserved that. Yyyyaaaakkkk!!!!

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#129 RyanCoke
November 10 2013, 06:53PM
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See improvement... we up 2-1 now. If this were like before we would be down by 2 or 3 in the first. Now we ahead instead instead as of it being a tie game

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#130 Alsker
November 10 2013, 06:55PM
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Emotion, from us, finally. Crawfords ready blow, stick him stick him stick him.

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#131 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 06:55PM
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@RyanCoke

No matter how bad this oilers team gets they always seem to show up for the hawks.

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#132 Hockey fan 1976
November 10 2013, 06:57PM
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Watch all the bipolar fans start talking "playoffs" or " turnaround " because they lead 2-1 and Yuks finally scores. Battle hard CONSISTENTLY every game and we could care less if you lose a lot.

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James wrote:

Whoever runs the Oilers twitter is a complete goof. "Can of corn! Pop fly! Duby's got it! Puck deflects into the air but #40 snags it with the trapper. Still scoreless late 1st."

What the hell does that even mean, can of corn? *facepalm*

Can of corn: baseball for routine fly ball. This was after the puck went straight up and DD used his awesome glove to grab it. Nicest glove save I've seen him make in ages

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#134 James
November 10 2013, 06:59PM
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@YFC Prez

It is pretty weird that way. Maybe they thought the Flyers stunk so bad they didn't need to try...to bad they were wrong.

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#135 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 07:02PM
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@James

Or maybe the hawks just don't show up because they're playing the oilers.

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#136 James
November 10 2013, 07:06PM
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@YFC Prez

Also that.

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#137 Seriously
November 10 2013, 07:08PM
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Mark it on your calendar.... HOLY S$IT Dubie makes a good save...

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#138 Seriously
November 10 2013, 07:10PM
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Spoke too soon.. Dammit

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#139 Johnnydapunk
November 10 2013, 07:12PM
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Seriously wrote:

Spoke too soon.. Dammit

Was thinking the exact same thing, though I think it is a bit too late for Dubnyk to be trying to put on a shot stopping show...

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#140 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 07:12PM
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Seriously wrote:

Mark it on your calendar.... HOLY S$IT Dubie makes a good save...

the night is still young

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#141 Clyde
November 10 2013, 07:12PM
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Woodguy wrote:

In which way did Iginla look poor?

What exactly was BOS's criteria?

Go check out behind the net. He has struggled the past few years. Boston may have felt their system fit his style though.

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#142 GK1980
November 10 2013, 07:12PM
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What the hell with the giveaways!!!!!!! Jesus! Boys are beating themselves.

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#143 GK1980
November 10 2013, 07:14PM
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Gagne! They need to keep things simple. They freak out in their own zone and wipe the puck up the middle. This is a good team they just need to keep their $%#% simple. Calm the f$&k down.

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#144 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 07:14PM
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Is it normal for a fan to see a tied game and automatically default to " oh they just lost". Years of losing have killed my faith. I'm just waiting for the hawks to score , dubnyk to his credit is hanging in there.

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#145 James
November 10 2013, 07:16PM
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Turnovers, hot and fresh in those last few minutes. Good grief!

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#146 D-Unit
November 10 2013, 07:17PM
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Nice play 36, nothing like losing your stick then being a spectator while the pass goes by you for a goal. Accountability should mean that's his last shift.....tonight or in the NHL...ever.

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#147 Alsker
November 10 2013, 07:20PM
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D-Unit wrote:

Nice play 36, nothing like losing your stick then being a spectator while the pass goes by you for a goal. Accountability should mean that's his last shift.....tonight or in the NHL...ever.

OK..you do realize Shaw was Ebersqueees guy and he let him go, of course you do. Wanye Gretz will visit you in your dreams for ending his beloved #14's career ala Freddie K style.

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#148 Undead
November 10 2013, 07:24PM
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Has this team been the worst franchise in history of professional sport? I mean you kinda gotta admire just how pathetic this team has been for so long. You could randomly select a name from the phone book, put them in charge, and I'm certain they would have better results!! It's truly remarkable that not even the assistant coaches have changed let alone the brainless trust

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#149 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:25PM
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GK1980 wrote:

Gagne! They need to keep things simple. They freak out in their own zone and wipe the puck up the middle. This is a good team they just need to keep their $%#% simple. Calm the f$&k down.

I'm not really big on spelling but my God man he has been on the team for seven years.His name is Gagner.

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#150 Harlie
November 10 2013, 07:28PM
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RexHolez wrote:

I was gonna watch this game, but decided that pulling out my pubes 1 at a time with tweezers sounds more entertaining

Judging by the maturity of your post you'll be tuning in by the end of the first shift.

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