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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#151 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:30PM
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New Page

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#152 James
November 10 2013, 07:31PM
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@Spydyr

It amazes me how many people still get that wrong after almost a decade. It's not that hard, really it isn't, it's not like you're spelling Paarjarvi or something.

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#153 James
November 10 2013, 07:32PM
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@James

Aaaand, fail on my own part, but at least I know that. Paajarvi, stupid extra r.

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#154 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:33PM
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@James

Paajarvi is easy PRV.What's up with the new page stuff?

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#155 Alsker
November 10 2013, 07:34PM
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@Spydyr

Agreed, wuz going to mention it but we were sucking at the time.

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#156 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 07:34PM
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Holy Dubnyk is looking like an NHL goaltender tonight!

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#157 James
November 10 2013, 07:35PM
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Tha f*ck Hemsky? Way to drop pass and give it away.

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#158 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 07:36PM
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James wrote:

Aaaand, fail on my own part, but at least I know that. Paajarvi, stupid extra r.

create an account dude. When you're logged on you have the luxury of an edit button and can fix those.

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#159 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:36PM
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Hauk15 wrote:

Holy Dubnyk is looking like an NHL goaltender tonight!

They finally brought someone in to push him.He seems to need a push quite a lot.

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#160 James
November 10 2013, 07:36PM
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@Spydyr

Not sure, all kinds of weird.

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#161 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 07:37PM
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James wrote:

Tha f*ck Hemsky? Way to drop pass and give it away.

Yeah they are trying for a highlight reel instead of just getting it on net!

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#162 James
November 10 2013, 07:37PM
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@YFC Prez

I probably should, but like this team, my gumption comes and goes.

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#163 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 07:38PM
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Spydyr wrote:

They finally brought someone in to push him.He seems to need a push quite a lot.

This ^ Unless Dubnyk's job is in jeopardy he sucks.

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#164 James
November 10 2013, 07:38PM
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@Hauk15

I know right? Who wants to just shoot on the rush, that's boring. *eyeroll*

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#165 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:38PM
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James wrote:

Tha f*ck Hemsky? Way to drop pass and give it away.

That and 5 million is why no one else wants him.

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#166 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:40PM
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YFC Prez wrote:

This ^ Unless Dubnyk's job is in jeopardy he sucks.

Well he is the big easy.

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#167 James
November 10 2013, 07:41PM
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@Spydyr

I was praying that rumour was true. Sadly it wasn't since MacT seems to think standing pat is an awesome thing to do what with the "no imminent moves" and all.

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#168 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:42PM
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Dubnyk is still looking for that rebound.

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#169 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 07:43PM
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I need this win for $hit talking rights. I got a lot of friends and family who jumped on the Chicago bandwagon a couple years back. Get your heads outta your asses OIL!

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#170 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:45PM
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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.

Bummer, 36 is the victim on 3rd goal too. Havin a bad game!

I heard, still. No shots for Oil in 3rd, Hawks "rampin" it up a bit!

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#171 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:45PM
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James wrote:

I was praying that rumour was true. Sadly it wasn't since MacT seems to think standing pat is an awesome thing to do what with the "no imminent moves" and all.

I know.Then why in the world did they trade Smid.To Calgary of all places.You know he is going to show up every game the rest of his career against us.

I guess MacT thinks you don't need and grit on your back end.Just puck movers.

Why would you want a guy on your team that stands up for his teammates?

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#172 James
November 10 2013, 07:47PM
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@Spydyr

It doesn't make much sense. We should be past the point of stocking up on prospects. We need capable NHLers at this point. I know he thinks Nurse and Klefbom will come up, but Nurse will be awhile. We need help now FFS!

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#173 Rocket
November 10 2013, 07:49PM
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I can't tell if The Oilers are actually playing well or if The Blackhawks are just giving 60% effort to try and rest a bit. You know, play The Oilers and take the night off.

*Crys into beer*

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#174 Alsker
November 10 2013, 07:50PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

Bummer, 36 is the victim on 3rd goal too. Havin a bad game!

I heard, still. No shots for Oil in 3rd, Hawks "rampin" it up a bit!

3 assists on the night, ya bad game.

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#175 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:50PM
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Rocket wrote:

I can't tell if The Oilers are actually playing well or if The Blackhawks are just giving 60% effort to try and rest a bit. You know, play The Oilers and take the night off.

*Crys into beer*

Don't worry the Hawks will play just well enough to win.

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#176 Alsker
November 10 2013, 07:53PM
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We have had 2 stretches of more than 10 min with no shots, if they'd f^ckin play a full game I wouldnt drink so much.

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#177 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 07:55PM
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3 assists aside. That was larsens guy. That wasn't horrible coverage that was no coverage. Kid may be sent back down for that

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#178 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 07:55PM
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how apropos....Kruger gets the winning goal.....

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#179 James
November 10 2013, 07:55PM
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Ugh, eff!!!

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#180 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 07:56PM
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Belov and Larsen both chasing the same guy! Dallas Eakins swarm defense at its finest, 4-3 CHI.

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#181 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:56PM
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Faack, 36 AGAIN!!!! Ya, I definitely see why Smid was expendable with the great play of Lawson!!!! BRUTAL!!!!

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#182 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:56PM
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Gagner had a real good view on a couple Hawks goals tonight. Hey Gagner here is something my Peewee coach taught me.As a centre in your own end either help out the d-man in the corner or take the open man in front.Your welcome.

Oh i just checked.He is also 28% on the dot tonight.

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#183 James
November 10 2013, 07:57PM
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Ference leading the game in give aways with 4, brutal.

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#184 Quintana
November 10 2013, 07:58PM
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So dubbie best game of the season? Brutal.

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#185 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:59PM
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Hahaha, Sportsnet just posted on TV, "Career Game For 36, Lostagain"

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#186 Rocket
November 10 2013, 08:00PM
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Even the Chicago colour guy thought that was a bad call on Shultz.

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#187 Alsker
November 10 2013, 08:00PM
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YFC Prez wrote:

3 assists aside. That was larsens guy. That wasn't horrible coverage that was no coverage. Kid may be sent back down for that

How about all 3 forwards watching the puck with their brains in neutral...just saying..aaaaagh another mystery call mr.ref

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#188 James
November 10 2013, 08:00PM
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@DevoKnows

Larsen?

Also....FFS!!!

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#189 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:00PM
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And there it is Dubnyk's soft goal of the game(™)

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#190 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:01PM
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Remember when Michel therein called out the pens for being the worst softest team in the nhl to the media. It's time someone calls out these guys from the coaching staff. Defence is brutal from everywhere. They are squandering a very solid performance by their goalie who is busting his but

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#191 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 08:01PM
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Sweet, another drought is over. Way to Duncan Keith!

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#192 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:01PM
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Never mind Dammit dubnyk

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#193 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:02PM
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YFC Prez wrote:

Remember when Michel therein called out the pens for being the worst softest team in the nhl to the media. It's time someone calls out these guys from the coaching staff. Defence is brutal from everywhere. They are squandering a very solid performance by their goalie who is busting his but

Who is going to call them out? The GM who traded what little grit he had on defence? For prospects to Calgary!

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#194 James
November 10 2013, 08:02PM
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@Spydyr

They're all doing crappy on the dot, Nuge is at 27% and Gordon is only at 45%. Sure, we don't need to make trades MacT, don't worry about it.

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#195 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 08:03PM
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What the f*ck was Schultz called for? A clean shoulder to shoulder hit? "Edmonton number 15 two minutes for a clean hit"

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#196 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:03PM
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He plays his butt off then erases his great play with that garbage. Dubnyk is like cloutier the second.

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#197 Hockey fan 1976
November 10 2013, 08:04PM
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Post game comments from players tonight : " you know not the result we wanted but lots of positives tonight. Larsen with a career game and who cares he was on the ice for most of the goals scored, Dubby played well, and seems to be back to himself slowly , I think we are still in the fight" hahahahah what a joke.

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#198 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:04PM
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Hauk15 wrote:

What the f*ck was Schultz called for? A clean shoulder to shoulder hit? "Edmonton number 15 two minutes for a clean hit"

Two minutes for looking so good......One for us oldtimers.

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#199 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:09PM
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Good thing we have that tough guy Yak to send a message.

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#200 Soccer Steve
November 10 2013, 08:10PM
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Woah woah woah there Yakupov. Not too much emotion now. We play with our heads down in a sulk in Edmonton.

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