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 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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#202 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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#203 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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#204 James
November 10 2013, 08:00PM
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@DevoKnows

Larsen?

Also....FFS!!!

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#205 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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#206 Smokey
November 10 2013, 12:53PM
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Jay Gray wrote:

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.

If you remove Jones.

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#207 DSF
November 10 2013, 01:15PM
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Harlie wrote:

Uh oh boys, I hope our uni's don't turn surgical green. I thought Rexall colors were orange and blue?

http://www.rexall.ca/

I can see Michaels licking his lips already, "and Nurse threads the needle like a surgeon!"

That colour scheme is also prominent on renderings of the new arena.

http://sportsbusinesscanada.com/held-hostage/

I'd wager the Oilers will be getting new uniforms when the new arena opens.

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#208 Fresh Mess
November 10 2013, 02:52PM
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OilClog wrote:

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

....and who won the two cups previous to that?

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#209 Woodguy
November 10 2013, 03:30PM
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clyde wrote:

Iginla has had very poor numbers as far as these advanced stats go over the past few years. Yet, a team apparently using them to help develop their roster(Boston) signed him?

In which way did Iginla look poor?

What exactly was BOS's criteria?

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#210 madjam
November 10 2013, 04:58PM
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Oilers get it together tonite and spank Hawks by a score of 8-3 . Team proclaims now we go home , and start piling up the wins playing in our own conference whom they are familiar with and confident they can beat. Katz so happy he offers all the coaches and management another /additional 2 year contract for their hard work and loyalty . The dream is alive ? They have been in the sewer so long , you have to wonder if things don't pick up they might commit sewercide .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

maybe its jack michaels twin brother

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoke too soon.. Dammit

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

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

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

the night is still young

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

In which way did Iginla look poor?

What exactly was BOS's criteria?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#226 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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#227 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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#228 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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#229 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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#230 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:42PM
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Dubnyk is still looking for that rebound.

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#231 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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#232 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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#233 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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#234 zzzzzzzz
November 10 2013, 07:55PM
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how apropos....Kruger gets the winning goal.....

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

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#236 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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#237 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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#238 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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#239 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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#240 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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#241 oilredemption
November 10 2013, 08:14PM
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Ya upped his value from a 7th to 6th

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#242 kj
November 10 2013, 12:24PM
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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.

Kings use advanced stats, well corsi anyways.

Ryab rishaug tsb sharks vs kings 2013 playoffs

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#243 Harlie
November 10 2013, 12:46PM
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Uh oh boys, I hope our uni's don't turn surgical green. I thought Rexall colors were orange and blue?

http://www.rexall.ca/

I can see Michaels licking his lips already, "and Nurse threads the needle like a surgeon!"

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#244 Peter
November 10 2013, 01:11PM
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@Woodguy

Elliott Friedman has mentioned many times the Oilers do lots of analytics. Is he mistaken?

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#245 oilbaron
November 10 2013, 01:52PM
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Is Jujhar Khaira hurt anyone know??

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#246 Johnnydapunk
November 10 2013, 05:28PM
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I will add this small and "rearranging the deck chairs " point that when Bryzgalov Does play for the Oil, if he cracks out and this season uses his all brown Vaughn setup he had last year for the Flyers' outdoor game he watched, he will instantly have my fan approval as that gear looked amazing :-))

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

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

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

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

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

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

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