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 Dyckster
November 10 2013, 03:09PM
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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.

Just a thought, I know Roy is getting unreal goaltending, but there is the possibility his system is forcing the shots from non-dangerous areas thus inflating the team's save %. We may not be giving Colorado's coaching enough credit.

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#103 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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#104 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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#105 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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#106 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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#107 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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#108 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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#109 James
November 10 2013, 08:46PM
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@Spydyr

Good call buddy, perspective!

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#110 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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#111 outdoorzguy
November 10 2013, 10:13PM
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Craig MacTavish Scott Howson Kelly Buchberger Steve Smith And of course Kevin Lowe All clearly connected to the horrendous last decade of this team. Time for a change? Of course. I hope the seats are empty at the next home game. I hope the fans boo the team the minute they take the ice and don't stop. I hope the fans chant for Kevin Lowe to be fired during the entire game. He is clearly a puppet of buddy Katz, but as long as he holds the position of Director of Hockey Operations all of this crap falls on his shoulders This team continually gets a pass from fans, from media (where else do reporters refer to players by their first name?) because we need hockey. But this isn't hockey. The only thing that matters is wins. Al Davis said it best "Just win baby". This team can't do that in its current state. Shake it up "Bold Moves" and take your six rings out the door with you! Stand up for what you deserve Edmonton. How do you think a real professional sports city would put up with a decade of sub-mediocre performance. "The City of Champions" my ass.

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#112 Rama Lama
November 10 2013, 01:12PM
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@MessyEH!

So what you are saying is that the most important position in Hockey......bar none, is not worthy of a first round draft choice? That's not bold!

I really don't care in which round we draft them, but if there is an extremely gifted goaltender, let's get him before the other 30 teams do?

Fair enough?

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#113 bazmagoo
November 10 2013, 01:15PM
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@Rama Lama

"Coaching........I find it incredulous that some how Dallas Eakins and his systems have not come under more scrutiny?? Why are Patrick Roy's systems producing so mightily given the similarities in our player profile? Why were our speciality teams to much better last year ? Our players have gained experience, we have brought in additional skill and grit, but continue to go in reverse??"

Personally I think the sooner Eakins goes, the better. Anyone who watches the Oilers should be able to recognize they have taken a step back this season. Considering they have improved personnel (Perron, Ference, Belov, Arcobello, Gordon) this should not be happening. Our PP and PK are pathetic.

Eakins excuse for the Swarm system not working a few weeks back, "I thought the players could play basic defense, I guess I was wrong". Sounds like a guy trying to pass the buck for it's poor performance to me.

Hate to blame the coach, but it's much easier to rid yourself of one coaching contract as opposed to 23 players. He's lost the room, doesn't have the coaching acumen needed at the highest level, and is throwing his players under the bus. Time to go Dallas, wonder how long it takes the Oiler "brain" trust to figure it out.

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#115 PutzStew
November 10 2013, 02:27PM
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Brack wrote:

"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.

LOL. That what I was thinking. A team is made up of Lowetides, Willis, Staples, and Co. No wonder they are a bunch of sissies. (:

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#116 PutzStew
November 10 2013, 02:44PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Look at COL goalies numbers and compare them to Edmonton. A goalie makes any defensive system look better.

Also do you know that Colorado gives up almost 2 shots more per game than Edmonton. The "system" argument is nice to say, but has little truth to it. Colorado doesn't play spectacular defence.

Giguere has a .970 SV% in five games. Varlamov is .933. And their GAA is 2.10 for Varlamov and 1.00 for Giguere.

You believe those are sustainable numbers? Roy hasn't put in this magical system. His goalies are playing unreal.

Also look at Col top-nine.

They had Downie until moved him for Talbot. They have Parenteau, bigger body. They have Landeskog. They have Jamie McGinn.

They have Paul Stastny who has become a solid two-way centre.

They have Ryan O'Reilly who is very good two-way player.

Their mixture of players is much different than Edmonton.

I think you forgot one main thing.

Team Work.

Those guys are playing for each other (Including Sakic and Roy). The Oilers aren't playing for anyone right now. They are just collecting a paycheck.

Workers tend to be very useless when they are just collecting a pay check.

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#117 Quicksilver ballet
November 10 2013, 02:53PM
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YYYESSSSS!

I'm so confident about this evenings outcome, i'll just get this over with now.

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#118 kale
November 10 2013, 03:15PM
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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.

True coaches are not miracle workers but I really do not get the logic that says that since we have had 5 coaches the coaching is not the problem. That is nonsensical. Hypothetically you put in five AHL goalies all who collectively have a 6 GA average, do you then say the goal tending is not the problem because we have put five goalies in and they all achieve the same results? When Eakins on home ice refuses to properly match lines because he believes his best should play against the other teams best and emass a minus 4, the coaching is a problem. He directly influences the teams chance of success. Eakins says they have to learn to play against the best unless they show they cant. At what point do they show they cant, when they are minus 3? minus 4? minus 5?

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#119 Jzed
November 10 2013, 04:18PM
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I still think patience is a virtue. That being said, who low bridged Pitlick in Phoenix? I feel rage needs to be expressed by the team, a bath of blood to bond this group forever. Instruct your team to throw low hits, all game long. Especially against Phoenix, but for now, against everyone you play. Clear the bench, become men and make all the other teams hate us. Get Eakins to threaten the opposing coach and scream donut jabs at the refs as the crowd throws beer on them.... Whew, almost as good as a good BM. Go Oilers

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#120 Sammy D
November 10 2013, 05:22PM
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Hemsky is a late scratch. Trade coming?

Edit -

Guess you can't trust the Oilers official twitter account. He is in

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#121 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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#122 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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#123 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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#124 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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#125 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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#126 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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#127 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 08:01PM
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Sweet, another drought is over. Way to Duncan Keith!

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

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#129 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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#130 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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#131 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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#132 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 08:19PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

Does it include free parking?

and a beer

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#133 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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#134 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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#135 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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#136 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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#137 YFC Prez
November 10 2013, 08:42PM
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@Spydyr

Amen

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#138 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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#139 outdoorzguy
November 10 2013, 11:09PM
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@Clarko

My comments were based on this quote,

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.

Let's wait another two or three years. That'll bring it to 15 years of crap! I don't know much about hockey but I know the coach is the problem.

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#140 Jesse
November 10 2013, 12:34PM
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Oilers need players like Sean Couturier they need to start looking for players like him.

Trade your #1 in 2014 for him. Something

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#141 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
November 10 2013, 12:39PM
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Just keep it close boys

We ain't gonna win this one

The reverse is true*.

* I Hope

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#142 A-Mc
November 10 2013, 01:55PM
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@bazmagoo

I've seen a difference in the team for the better. I think the team is playing harder and is doing some good things. That being said, special teams have suffered since the Eakins hiring but already they are getting better again; it just took some time for players to adjust.

Personally I think the oilers are worse this year based on a total goaltending fail. The rest of the team makes mistakes for sure but they did that last year as well. This year, goaltending has failed and that's why we are 4-12-2 instead of 6-10-2 or 7-9-2 like we would have been last year.

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#143 andrewmk20
November 10 2013, 02:15PM
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@Jason Gregor

Agreed on that. I've long felt the Oilers drafted the better players in recent drafts but the Avalanche has drafted the better team.

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#144 Cold Hard Truth
November 10 2013, 05:06PM
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MacTavish and Lowe are starting to find that the nostalgia isn't what it use to be.

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#145 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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#146 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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#147 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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#148 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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#149 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 08:20PM
Trash it!
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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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#150 Rocket
November 10 2013, 08:23PM
Trash it!
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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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