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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#51 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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#52 Hockey fan 1976
November 10 2013, 06:57PM
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Watch all the bipolar fans start talking "playoffs" or " turnaround " because they lead 2-1 and Yuks finally scores. Battle hard CONSISTENTLY every game and we could care less if you lose a lot.

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

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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 Randaman
November 10 2013, 08:49PM
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Two words; Gagner SUCKS!!

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#58 MICHAEL
November 10 2013, 09:02PM
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Hauk15 wrote:

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.

You think that line up of d man is bad? Wait till you add ,Klefbom,Nurse and Marincin in the next 1-2 years.Hold onto your whities because its going to be keystone cops around the Oilers until they gain some experience.

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#59 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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#60 K_Mart
November 11 2013, 08:32AM
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Since we aren't going to make the playoffs this year, what's two more years of crap for Mcdavid. He's potentially a generational player. The kind that only comes around every 10 years or so. Seriously, what's two more years of losing, at this point it's pretty much in our culture to be losers. Darnell Nurse can be our D.Keith, and Mcdavid our Crosby. Nuge can be our veteran Hossa type. Hall, Ebs, and Yak I'm sure can fit in there too.

Still need a goalie though. I have my doubts about Bryz and DD that's foresure. Maybe Bunz or Brossoit can develop, but I really doubt that as well. We really, really need a top 10 goalie. It's the one position that can hide so many mistakes.

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#61 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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#62 120 stitches
November 10 2013, 12:12PM
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I agree with Jay that it will be interesting to see them play 4 lines tonight that can actually play hockey especially on a back to back. All the good teams have 4 lines that can score ---a primary example being the team we are playing tonight. With the lack of size in our current lineup why not try going with a completely skill, speed lineup and just roll the lines. I would even add Omark to that mix as he reminds me of Ray Whitney when Whitney was trying to get established in the NHL. You will recall Whitney was at the Oiler training camp when he was about Omark's age and Lowe let him go for nothing. Just another example of bad player assessment--as was the case with Glencross, Hejda , Brodziak-- other players we desperately could use right now that were given away.

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#63 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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#64 Rob Gilgan
November 10 2013, 12:36PM
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Ever the optimists, in spite of a slow start to the season, Oilers fans are already looking to next year. "It will be great," Oilers fans said, more or less in unison, "Just you wait and see!"

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#65 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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#67 Terrence
November 10 2013, 01:41PM
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You can't fire the players , you have tried firing the coaches and GM's, and the team is still bad. It does not take a detective to figure out the problem is senior management.

Kevin Lowe must be fired or he should resign.

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#68 The Big Dummy
November 10 2013, 01:48PM
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Gordon has been our best C this year. He's the only one to prove that he's an NHL calibre player. He wins faceoffs, is defensibly responsible, and is on his way to a career year. I would give him time in the top 6. Gagner doesn't deserve to be there based on his play the last few games.

Every single game I've watched this year I've noticed the Oilers will have spurts when they just don't skate. Gregor tweeted about how this team doesn't quit (besides the Wings game), but they consistently don't compete for a full 60 minutes. Great start to the game in Philly till the second half of the 1st where we felt we didnt have to move our feet... Bam! 2-0 Philly and the Oilers could never recover. If we just play hard for the whole game, we are bound to find more positives.

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#69 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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#70 Fresh Mess
November 10 2013, 02:56PM
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@Woodguy

Isn't it below you and the other self-styled oilogosphere intelligentsia to post here?

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#72 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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#73 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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#74 Hauk15
November 10 2013, 07:34PM
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Holy Dubnyk is looking like an NHL goaltender tonight!

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

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

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#76 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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#77 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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#78 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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#79 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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#80 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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#81 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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#82 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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#83 LoweBlow
November 10 2013, 10:06PM
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The lost, again.

They looked better tonight, but they still lost.

Brutal turnovers all over the rink.

Brutal defensive zone coverage. They seem to be getting worse in their own end, honestly.

Another loss.....

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#84 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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#85 Brack
November 10 2013, 12:27PM
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@kj

Yes, that's a very salient if not comprehensible point.

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#86 Marshall Law
November 10 2013, 12:36PM
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Could they use a different mix up front? Sure, but let's not focus on that until this team decides to ice an NHL-calibre defensive group.

Jeff Petry is a decent NHL d man. However, he probably isn't a top-3 defenceman on a competitive team.

The problem with this team is that they have Petry (and perhaps Belov) along with a bunch of other players who would be a #5-#7 on any other team. Smid, although popular, was no better than a #5. His departure is a loss but not a significant one.

It doesn't matter how many big forwards are thrown into the mix, until this team has a group of d men that can be considered to be on par with an average NHL team, it won't be successful.

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#87 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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#88 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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#90 Jeffff
November 10 2013, 01:30PM
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Bad Goaltending

No #1 pairing D-men

No heavy 2 way center on top 2 lines.

No big wingers top 2 lines

No 4th line.

Worst record in the NHL since the 2005 lockout.

What has Edmonton done with all their picks and players?

8 years I could have done a better job

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#91 Rick
November 10 2013, 01:36PM
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Jeffff wrote:

Bad Goaltending

No #1 pairing D-men

No heavy 2 way center on top 2 lines.

No big wingers top 2 lines

No 4th line.

Worst record in the NHL since the 2005 lockout.

What has Edmonton done with all their picks and players?

8 years I could have done a better job

Probably 3 cities in the NHL that would put up with this bad product.

Edmonton Toronto Montreal

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#92 bazmagoo
November 10 2013, 01:46PM
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@Jason Gregor

I didn't mention anything about Colorado, that was Rama Lama. I'm basing my opinion on watching the Oilers play. The proof is in the pudding, and so far the results have been pathetic.

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

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#94 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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#95 DSF
November 10 2013, 01:58PM
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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.

And, of course, the Oilers would also need to add great goaltending and excellent depth at centre to be in that conversation.

While I agree that changing the coach at this point would be counter-productive, the way the team has been built with a bunch of scoring wingers and precious little else needs a major overhaul.

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#96 Rod from Viking
November 10 2013, 02:09PM
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joshgladu wrote:

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

They also have the right coach for that team of blue collar players, Sutter would not do well with this team of prima donna's.

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#97 J.P Michaels
November 10 2013, 02:09PM
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If they keep playing like they did they don't score 3 goals tonight. The reason is simple..... they don't shoot the Puck. They just move the Puck back n' forth.

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#98 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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#99 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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#100 Quicksilver ballet
November 10 2013, 03:02PM
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@PutzStew

Thanks Putz, I haven't had a chuckle like this all weekend.

Well played sir.

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