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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#201 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 08:10PM
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Does Edmonton have the smallest defense in the NHL? Other than Petry, Belov, and N.Schultz they are all in the 180's! Yet we gave away Smid. "sigh"

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#202 James
November 10 2013, 08:10PM
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So cross-checks aren't called now either? I see, alrighty then.

Also, we have no centers who are above 45% on the dot. Le sigh!

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#203 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:10PM
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James wrote:

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.

You are right but I'm pretty sure it is the Hawks that are doing good not the Oilers who are doing crappy.

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#204 Jay
November 10 2013, 08:11PM
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I have tickets to the Dallas game. I'm offering $200 bucks to whoever takes them off my hands

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#205 oilredemption
November 10 2013, 08:11PM
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Bs calls on Schultz and yak! Jj definitely deserved his as mindless as it was. That being 200feet from our net

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#206 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:11PM
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Yak sparks the team!!!

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#207 James
November 10 2013, 08:12PM
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@Spydyr

Ha, touche!

At least N. Schultz got a goal. Too bad we won't bother tying it up.

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#208 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:12PM
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oilredemption wrote:

Bs calls on Schultz and yak! Jj definitely deserved his as mindless as it was. That being 200feet from our net

Hockey Gods made up for the crappy calls.First shorty of the year.

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#209 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:13PM
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Jay wrote:

I have tickets to the Dallas game. I'm offering $200 bucks to whoever takes them off my hands

Channelling Rodney Dangerfield.I love it.

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#210 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 08:14PM
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Jay wrote:

I have tickets to the Dallas game. I'm offering $200 bucks to whoever takes them off my hands

Does it include free parking?

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#211 oilredemption
November 10 2013, 08:14PM
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Ya upped his value from a 7th to 6th

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#212 Dan 1919
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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AND THE DIFFERENCE IN THE GAME IS... Devan Dubnyk let’s a weak wrist shot in from the point. Wow can I not wait for Bryz.

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#213 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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Well on a bight note.I went 5 for 5 on my OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION even though it got 8 trashes.

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#214 Johnnydapunk
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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I'm sure I will be pooped on for saying this but the Oil didn't play that bad. They weren't world beaters obviously, but they weren't embarrassing like they were against the wings last week. Oh well.

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#215 Alsker
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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Gags for the final draw, really, 5-15 tonight, damn good thing MacT locked him up for the next 4 years. At least they played almost half a game(near 30 min with no shot over 2 streches) better than yesterday but....

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#216 James
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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Larsen gets second star? WTF? He was on the ice for 3 goals against. You'd think they'd consider Ebs with his goal and asist or how about all Hawks? LOL

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#217 Tokenhill
November 10 2013, 08:17PM
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gagner for the last face off.... eakins might as well get dybnuk to take the face off....because the result will be the same.

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#218 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:17PM
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I love gagner but whenever there is an important face off he loses it cleanly to the other team. He's been in the league for 6 years now. Will he ever figure out face offs ? I'm loosing faith. Good game from yak and hall. They were flying but another loss. Getting hard to take

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#219 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 08:17PM
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Philip Larsen mine as well play wing. Terrible defensively. But good thing we signed that hulking 5'11 187lbs Ference for the next 3 years and made him captain to "bolster" our defense. F*cking joke.

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#220 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 08:17PM
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deja vu all over again......lots of goals against, softy goal for duby, bad face off %....and i'm sure we'll hear the post game stuff about how we competed and there lots of positives.....lather rinse repeat

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#221 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 08:18PM
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LOL. "And your 2nd star, -3 for the night, Larsen!!!!!

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#222 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 08:19PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

Does it include free parking?

and a beer

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#223 Bloodsweatandoil
November 10 2013, 08:19PM
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Pretty sad...I used to watch Oiler games hoping for the win. Now I watch to see how bad they are going to get beat, or is it to watch how bad they beat themselves from the management to the product on the ice.

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#224 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:20PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

I'm sure I will be pooped on for saying this but the Oil didn't play that bad. They weren't world beaters obviously, but they weren't embarrassing like they were against the wings last week. Oh well.

No,the Hawks just put in enough effort to get the 2 points.

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#225 Primo
November 10 2013, 08:20PM
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Thank goodness the Oiler management and coaches have guaranteed your young guns they will not be traded.

In Calgary we hold everyone accountable. Don't produce you don't play or your gone!

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#226 James
November 10 2013, 08:20PM
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Who are they going to get for the final draw, Nuge? He was even worse on the dot tonight. Gordon was bad too. Acro would have been the best bet at 45%

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#227 Kevin
November 10 2013, 08:20PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

Does it include free parking?

and the paper bag !

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#228 Smokey
November 10 2013, 08:21PM
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What a frustrating game. Oilers play ok for portions of the game, but then leave guys open, don't pick up trailers that come in late. Dubby has got no rebound control, and no confidence. And some one tell me why Gagner is taking faceoffs against Toews, and playing more then Arcobello. Eakins is playing the heck outta him and he's not responding. He's not ready to play that much and his conditioning right now is terrible. Larson and Belov don't look good together defensively. Really could use a shut down guy with both of these guys.

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#229 Batfink
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
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Tokenhill wrote:

gagner for the last face off.... eakins might as well get dybnuk to take the face off....because the result will be the same.

Just going to comment on the same thing. What, Eakins trying to teach Gags a lesson? "This is pressure Sam, I know you won't let me down." Or we could seriously try to win games. Scoreline was flattering to the Oilers, but I'm sure there will be some kind of justification.

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#230 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
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Kevin wrote:

and the paper bag !

...theses days i'd prefer a plastic bag....

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#231 Hockey fan 1976
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
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" lots of positive tonight, I really think we are still in the fight" said every Oilers player after the game. Garbage!!!! -3 and second star? Joke!!

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#232 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
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Kevin wrote:

and the paper bag !

...theses days i'd prefer a plastic bag....

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#233 Rocket
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
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Predictably Bad result but an entertaining game to watch. Dubnyk played well even with his one-soft-goal-every-game. The kids looked alright too. They just got beat by a better team. Oh well, next....

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#234 Batfink
November 10 2013, 08:25PM
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Jay wrote:

I have tickets to the Dallas game. I'm offering $200 bucks to whoever takes them off my hands

Please stop trying to peddle your crap on here, unless you've already been banned by kijiji for malicious selling of oiler games as hockey games.

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#235 kevin
November 10 2013, 08:27PM
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zzzzzzzz wrote:

...theses days i'd prefer a plastic bag....

paper bag, plastic bag, barf bag.....watching this team and thinking of the brain trust behind it all makes me sick to my stomach.

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#236 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:29PM
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@Primo

Beat it flame riff raff. Calgary flames are not a pillar of success and a model of a perfect franchise. It's not looking all that good down there either buddy. Pitts Chicago Detroit Boston are successfull franchises and ones that I would love the oilers to mold into. Not Calgary. Get off you pedestal.

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#237 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:29PM
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Anyone up for a dead pool?When will the Oilers be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs?

I'll take the Ides of March. March 15th.

With thirteen games left in the season.

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#238 Smokey
November 10 2013, 08:30PM
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Dan 1919 wrote:

AND THE DIFFERENCE IN THE GAME IS... Devan Dubnyk let’s a weak wrist shot in from the point. Wow can I not wait for Bryz.

I'll put ten bucks on Bryz letting goals in from the slot like Dubby, he did all last season. Bryz, I think will be better with his rebound control and ability stop guys in tight, and we will see less of the floaters.

I like Philip Larson a ton offensively, but man he's a train wreck in his own zone, and him and Belov are brutal together. I'm still trying to figure out why we gave away Smid, cause with this defence, Bryz is going to have some good one liners after a few games.

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#239 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 08:30PM
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Oilers D best to worst IMO.

1.Petry 2.N.Schultz 3.Belov 4.Ference 5.Fedun 6.Larsen

What do you expect from this crap lol. Petry is good, he has potential to become a legit top pairing dman. Belov is a 2nd pairing guy. Nick is a legit 4th/5th. The rest are AHL quality.

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#240 Daredevil
November 10 2013, 08:31PM
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I wasn't aware the Hawks got new uniforms. I kinda like the new Black and White stripes.

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#241 James
November 10 2013, 08:33PM
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I love how Eakins said the vets didn't cover defensively. Good, maybe they'll be held accountable and that includes the damn captain with his eleventy billion give aways. Also, Larsen needs to be sat down and talked to. Kid was on for almost every goal.

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#242 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:33PM
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Daredevil wrote:

I wasn't aware the Hawks got new uniforms. I kinda like the new Black and White stripes.

So did Gagner he was admiring them in his own zone all night.

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#243 Harry
November 10 2013, 08:38PM
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Dubnyk is absolutely ruining this season for the Oilers. He needs to be takin out back behind Rexall and put down.

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#244 James
November 10 2013, 08:41PM
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Ironically, our 4th line guys are the only ones who aren't in the minus section of +/-. Jones, Acton, Gazdic, Eager, Lander, Pitlick and even worse Grebeshkov are all even or in the + column while Nuge and Hemsky are -12, Yak is -14, Petry -11, Hall -8 and on and on. F*cking said that your 4th line plugs are the only ones not on the ice for the majority of goals against.

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#245 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:41PM
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Well I am out of here.

Tomorrow is just not another long weekend.I hope everyone takes some time tomorrow to reflect on the sacrifices so many brave men and women gave.So we can worry about how lousy the Oilers are instead of having to save the world from tyranny.

Lest we forget.

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#246 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:42PM
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@Spydyr

Amen

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#247 James
November 10 2013, 08:46PM
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@Spydyr

Good call buddy, perspective!

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#248 Randaman
November 10 2013, 08:49PM
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Two words; Gagner SUCKS!!

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#249 He Who Knows
November 10 2013, 08:49PM
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I sure hope Rexall place has empty seats by the thousands when these skirts comeback. The jock sniffer needs to see those empty seats.

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#250 Randaman
November 10 2013, 08:53PM
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Let me qualify that post. On face offs , sucks, on the fifth goal, five feet away staring at his check in front of the net, sucks, speed, sucks, balance, sucks, blind passes in his own zone creating give always, PRICELESS. No trade as a gentle men's agreement? I think NOT.

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