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 

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
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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#1 Walter Sobchak
November 10 2013, 11:54AM
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OGDP - Oilers lose.

Eakins post game conference, "I really liked our game, I thought we did a lot of the good things well, it's to bad that a couple of little mistakes cost us the game"

Rinse & repeat.

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#2 bazmagoo
November 10 2013, 12:18PM
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The only thing I'm looking forward to this season is the great interviews Bryzgalov is going to give the Edmonton media. Thank you MacT!

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#3 OilClog
November 10 2013, 11:55AM
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DSF wrote:

Anyone who watched last night's Kings-Canucks game will know exactly what Gregor is talking about when he calls for some heaviness in the top 9.

The Canucks came out like gangbusters and, save for Quick, could have been up 2-3 goals early.

But as the game went along, the big, heavy Kings just wore down the Canucks and ended up winning 5-1.

Everyone remembers Chicago beating all these "heavy" teams for another cup last season too.. Just saying

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#4 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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#5 DSF
November 10 2013, 11:49AM
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An outsider view of the Oilers:

"Craig MacTavish stormed onto the scene.

He declared the Edmonton Oilers weren’t going to take it anymore. He promised to be tough. He would be aggressive. He was ready to lift this team from last place to a playoff spot with the greatest of urgency.

“I’m an impatient guy and I bring that impatience to this situation,” MacTavish said the day he was hired, April 15.

“I think we’re at the stage in terms of the cycle of our hockey club right now that we have to do some bold things.

“We have to expose ourself to some semblance of risk to try to move the team forward in a rapid fashion.”

So, what happened?

Five weeks into the NHL season and already the Oilers are thinking about next year. The Oilers, may in fact, be worse under coach Dallas Eakins and the club is stumbling around in last place in the West.

Where are all these “bold” moves MacTavish declared?

The Oilers sent Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy down the road to the Calgary Flames for a couple of prospects Friday and signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year deal. With any luck, he’ll play well and be trade bait at the deadline.

No, folks, these aren’t blockbusters by any stretch. An NHL executive noted they are more like “distractions” to make Edmonton fans think moves are being made.

“It’s kind of like throwing a flare in the other direction,” said the executive."

http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/11/09/where-are-all-the-bold-moves-edmonton-oilers-general-manager-craig-mactavish-promised-when-he-took-over

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#6 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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#7 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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#8 DSF
November 10 2013, 11:32AM
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Anyone who watched last night's Kings-Canucks game will know exactly what Gregor is talking about when he calls for some heaviness in the top 9.

The Canucks came out like gangbusters and, save for Quick, could have been up 2-3 goals early.

But as the game went along, the big, heavy Kings just wore down the Canucks and ended up winning 5-1.

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#9 I Remember the Orange Jerseys
November 10 2013, 11:20AM
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GDP: Chicago wins 7-2.

OGDP: Dubnyk get lit up for 4 in the first, including a softie from center ice.

NSOGDP: Duncan Keith lays out Taylor Hall while Hall is attempting to toe drag the puck across the Chicago blue line. In a fit of rage, Jordan Eberle leaves the bench and lays a beating on Keith in retribution. Unbeknownst to Eberle, one of his skate laces is actually undone when he jumps over the boards.

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#10 Ray
November 10 2013, 01:22PM
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Jason....why is gags playing first line centre??????arcobello has deserved to play there and also is a better playmaker . Gags should be at the most 3rd line!!!!l. He missed a lot of games and should work himself into a position where he deserves to play on top line. Why do the oilers do this? Wasn't Eakins the one who said " we are not going to play players based on salary"?

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#11 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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#12 PutzStew
November 10 2013, 02:46PM
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Ray wrote:

Jason....why is gags playing first line centre??????arcobello has deserved to play there and also is a better playmaker . Gags should be at the most 3rd line!!!!l. He missed a lot of games and should work himself into a position where he deserves to play on top line. Why do the oilers do this? Wasn't Eakins the one who said " we are not going to play players based on salary"?

Why is Lowe the President?

Why is MacT the Gm?

Why is Smith and Bucky assistant coaches?

Why is Smyth still playing?

Why is Howson back in Edmonton?

Is it coming clear yet?

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#13 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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#14 MessyEH!
November 10 2013, 11:51AM
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Oilers lose 9-2 Sammy Gagner winds up a -9 and the universe is righted.

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#15 D
November 10 2013, 11:52AM
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Not a Star Trek fan JG? Alice Eve is hot.

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#17 Cynic
November 10 2013, 01:58PM
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The Oilers are a perennial contender, run by solid hockey men, who accept nothing less than Cup contention every season. The players are all 200-ft players who will one day be enshrined in the HHOF. The owner is a benevolent soul, who not only paid for his own arena, but lives in Edmonton and pays property taxes. The fans are balanced, reasonable, and well-informed about their own team, as well as the rest of the NHL. I love the Oilers.

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#18 Jay Gray
November 10 2013, 11:31AM
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Hall-Gagner-Hemsky

Perron-RNH-Eberle

Smyth-Arcobello-Yakupov

Joensuu-Gordon-Jones

Despite all the doom and gloom that should be tonight's game, I really like this 4th line. This is the 4th line of a contender.

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#19 DSF
November 10 2013, 12:00PM
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OilClog wrote:

Everyone remembers Chicago beating all these "heavy" teams for another cup last season too.. Just saying

Phhttt...

Toews - 6'2" 210

Hossa 6'1" 210

Sharp 6'1" 200

Handzus 6'5" 215

Bickell 6'4" 225

Saad 6'1" 205

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#20 TDSM31
November 10 2013, 10:16PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Explain your opinion that Roy is coaching a great system. What is that based on? His players are playing hard, no doubt, and he's getting off the charts goaltending. I'd say that is more important than his system.He has excellent depth at centre as well. That is key.

I understand wanting MacTavish to do something, but making a move just for the sake of making a move, won't improve them. Firing the coach means they are starting over again. They need to stop doing that. Try to let the players understand a system and play it for two or three years. Of course, the players need to be more competitive on a shift-by-basis as well.

Putting Gagner out to take a crucial draw with 23 seconds left is not players adjusting to a system...that's just bad coaching.

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#21 Woodguy
November 10 2013, 12:06PM
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Why won't Eakins put 4-93-14 back together?

They won the battle most nights against the toughest in the Western Conference last year.

89 is serious defensive liability and Eakins has had 4 at his side since they came back.

A lot of teams like to go power vs power and 89 is seeing the toughest assignments and he simply can't handle them.

The fact that 89 is in his 7th NHL year and you'd rather see 93 in 3rd NHL year out against the tough comp speaks volumes about the make up of this team.

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#22 kale
November 10 2013, 12:08PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

Ya, I really think that 4th line looks good too!

What I don't get is, the whole city (Edm) knows that the Oilers are too small and soft, but Oiler management keep building a soft/small lineup every year! Why?

I know it will never happen, but I would have loved to seen a huge shake up, say a Eberle/Hemsky/Gagne/Petry to Philly for Giroux/Simmonds/Mezeros/Colborn blockbuster. Something like that to really "shake" things up. This may not be a fair trade (I dont follow Oilers or Philly that close) but something along those lines. Holmgrem is definitely the type of manager you want to work with, he loves to take chances.

what do you peeps think?

Seriously? after yesterdays game, do you really think Holmgren saw anything that he wants off the Oilers roster?

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#23 Sean17
November 10 2013, 12:23PM
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Gregor, I got to hand it to you and the other media folks who have to write about this team day in and day out. My GDB blog would have simply been titled : Whatever. And the pic of Alice Eve.

I think 630 Ched needs to ditch the 1.5 hours of pre game - what's left to say! Poor Bob, can't even have donuts anymore too….

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#24 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 11:58AM
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Ya, I really think that 4th line looks good too!

What I don't get is, the whole city (Edm) knows that the Oilers are too small and soft, but Oiler management keep building a soft/small lineup every year! Why?

I know it will never happen, but I would have loved to seen a huge shake up, say a Eberle/Hemsky/Gagne/Petry to Philly for Giroux/Simmonds/Mezeros/Colborn blockbuster. Something like that to really "shake" things up. This may not be a fair trade (I dont follow Oilers or Philly that close) but something along those lines. Holmgrem is definitely the type of manager you want to work with, he loves to take chances.

what do you peeps think?

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#25 joshgladu
November 10 2013, 12:01PM
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fyi the big guys for the kings are good hockey players. they arent just big guys theyre legit skilled at hockey. oilers don't even have enough good players who are average sized yet

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#26 Hemmercules
November 10 2013, 01:47PM
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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.

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#27 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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#28 Alsker
November 10 2013, 09:02PM
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Batfink wrote:

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.

Not trashing you but after 7 years you would thing gags would know WTF pressure is? He's not one of the kids, we sign him to a 4 year extension with NTC attached and he cant play tough,no defensive game,unable to win draws. The poster boy for what is wrong in Oil country. Management is blinded by the positions they hold. Sad, really.

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#29 AdamfromOilfans
November 10 2013, 11:51AM
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The Oilers are clearly NOT using analytics correctly because there's no advanced stat I've seen that says it's wise to ice a fourth line consisting of two face-punchers and a career AHL plug night after night.

Gazdic has been TERRIBLE at hockey, and yet he's played every game until now.

That's not the only problem on the Oilers, but if they were really relying heavily on advanced stats, they'd be trying to make sure that they didn't ice a line that gets no scoring chances and allows many even while playing against the worst players the opposition can throw against them.

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#31 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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#32 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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#33 6 ring circus
November 10 2013, 02:16PM
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After watching this gong show for 8 seasons, Katz continues to let Kevin Lowe be the president of hockey operations.What is Kevin Lowe's record in the past 8 years? Does he not get a performance review,why does he continue to get a free pass, we have had 5 head coaches,1 general manager and 3 first over all picks all under the time he has been the President of hockey operations and we still cant get out of the NHL basement,we cannot attract top end free agents, because they want to play for a winner and we are no were near that,we cannot properly develop the players we have and the players that we do have, play similar styles and are small physically.Yet we are told to be patient, give it time and continue to get the same results,there had to be a plan or system in place on the type of team this was to become, that has obviously failed, its time whoever was in charge (Kevin Lowe) should be fired,a top NHL manager with experience should be brought in from a winning organization to turn this around, only then will Oiler's fans get the results and team that they deserve to watch and support.Is that asking to much?

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#34 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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#35 Brack
November 10 2013, 11:50AM
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"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." Seems pretty clear, advance stats make you soft.

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#37 R-DAWG
November 10 2013, 03:27PM
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I think Dubnyk will stand on his head tonight...7-2 Hawks!

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#38 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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#39 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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#40 I am the Liquor
November 10 2013, 10:46PM
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Just stop going to games people. Money is the only language Daryl Ballard is fluent in. He doesnt give a rats ass about the hockey team. As long as he has his cadre of ex-players to kibitz about the good old days, everything is fine.

I used to feel sorry for Leaf fans back in the seventies and eighties. Now I am living their nightmare.

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#41 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 11:47AM
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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Groundhog day. Oilers lose.Bad defensive zone play.Eakins looks lost on the bench.Dubnyk lets in a softy.Gagner coasts back on the back check.MacT says we are done making moves for now.Or in other words the season is over.Who are we going to draft this year.

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#42 John
November 10 2013, 12:41PM
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Chicago may bring their B game against Edmonton and therefore Edmonton has a chance. But if they decide to play their A game it is over.

Hard to get up for an AHL team

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#43 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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#44 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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#45 outdoorzguy
November 10 2013, 10:36PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Putting Gagner out to take a crucial draw with 23 seconds left is not players adjusting to a system...that's just bad coaching.

Jason Gregor has become the biggest apologist for the Oilers! Even Bob Stauffer will admit there are issues. Start to earn your paycheque and challenge the Oilers and their decisions. This is the problem in Edmonton...nobody will stand up to the team. Reporters refer to players by first name (Rishaug). The media is too comfortable in their role covering this mess. Be a reporter and ask the tough questions. In the last decade only one reporter (John MacKinnon) has had the balls to ask a tough question...and we got the six ring answer!!

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#46 joshgladu
November 10 2013, 11:54AM
Trash it!
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ryan jones gets ripped because he sucks at hockey.

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#48 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 05:43PM
Trash it!
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@RexHolez

Probably less painful too.

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#49 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:25PM
Trash it!
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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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#50 Soccer Steve
November 10 2013, 08:10PM
Trash it!
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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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