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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#102 Johnnydapunk
November 10 2013, 03:16PM
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I think in a weird way the Oil are almost a "victim" of their terrible playing. I mean yeah they had 3 number one picks in a row but the problem with that is you pick the highest scoring player (essentially give or take) that is available for the draft year, these players were the stars of their respective teams, and players that are needed to make a team well (character players, big hitters, even goalies) were passed up and if they picked up a different type of player instead of the stars of the year, everyone would have eaten them alive.

If you look at all star teams, they are offensive heavy, with little structure and even less defending. That's what the Oil currently have ( of course all the players aren't all stars but you get the gist of what I'm saying)

I think the solution is to slowly get the balance of players back to a team that wins.

The Oil needs more Hunters, Lumleys, and weird to say it, MacTavishes, like grinders and plugs.

I don't think MacT is doing that terrible of a job in his first year back, there are aspects of the Oil that were addressed (face offs) and stuff that I think he tried to do and failed so far (goaltending) but I never had any expectations so I'm not overtly worked up.

Though 6Rings bites my ass like there is no tomorrow and I will be happy to see that smug muppet gone.

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#103 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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#104 TheSeer
November 10 2013, 03:51PM
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4-13-2

Book it. It ain't getting better Kids.

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#105 MessyEH!
November 10 2013, 03:58PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Great question. Eakins suggested Gagner's play last year earned him the benefit of the doubt. He wants to give Gagner some time to get back in game shape/speed.

Many other teams do give guys benefit of the doubt. If Gagner is still struggling in a few games then Eakins has no choice but to make a move. If he doesn't, then he will be contradicting himself as you pointed out.

Macrobello was playing so well before Gags came back. Was a superior center by eye and stats. Now Sammy Snow pants is back and has taken Macrobello's position. Where is the accountability in that?

I feel Gagner is exposed a lot less when on the wing. His FO% stinks. His Defensive work needs more work (after 7 years this guy may never get it)

It is a real damn shame.

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#106 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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#107 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 05:09PM
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R-DAWG wrote:

I think Dubnyk will stand on his head tonight...7-2 Hawks!

Great line but I have to ask.By standing on his head do you mean only two weak goals tonight?

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#108 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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#109 Lofty
November 10 2013, 05:32PM
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Sammy D wrote:

Hemsky is a late scratch. Trade coming?

Edit -

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

No, this is his mid-season injury that makes him un-trade-able for the rest of the season.

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#110 Alsker
November 10 2013, 06:01PM
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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.

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#111 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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#112 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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#113 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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#114 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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#115 James
November 10 2013, 06:50PM
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YAKCITY B*TCHES!!!

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#116 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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#117 Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!
November 10 2013, 06:59PM
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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*

Can of corn: baseball for routine fly ball. This was after the puck went straight up and DD used his awesome glove to grab it. Nicest glove save I've seen him make in ages

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#118 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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#119 GK1980
November 10 2013, 07:14PM
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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.

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#120 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:25PM
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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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#121 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:30PM
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New Page

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#122 James
November 10 2013, 07:31PM
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@Spydyr

It amazes me how many people still get that wrong after almost a decade. It's not that hard, really it isn't, it's not like you're spelling Paarjarvi or something.

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#123 James
November 10 2013, 07:32PM
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@James

Aaaand, fail on my own part, but at least I know that. Paajarvi, stupid extra r.

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#124 Spydyr
November 10 2013, 07:36PM
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Hauk15 wrote:

Holy Dubnyk is looking like an NHL goaltender tonight!

They finally brought someone in to push him.He seems to need a push quite a lot.

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#125 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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#126 Alsker
November 10 2013, 07:53PM
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We have had 2 stretches of more than 10 min with no shots, if they'd f^ckin play a full game I wouldnt drink so much.

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#127 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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#128 DevoKnows
November 10 2013, 07:56PM
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Faack, 36 AGAIN!!!! Ya, I definitely see why Smid was expendable with the great play of Lawson!!!! BRUTAL!!!!

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

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#130 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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#131 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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#132 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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#133 James
November 10 2013, 08:16PM
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Larsen gets second star? WTF? He was on the ice for 3 goals against. You'd think they'd consider Ebs with his goal and asist or how about all Hawks? LOL

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

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

Good call buddy, perspective!

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#138 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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#139 James
November 10 2013, 09:10PM
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@Alsker

He's actually only signed for 3 years. But yeah, he needs to learn how to backcheck.

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#140 Clarko
November 10 2013, 10:49PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

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!!

Did you even read the article?? It is full of criticism of the Oilers team and its current makeup of players...

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#141 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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#142 D
November 10 2013, 11:52AM
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Not a Star Trek fan JG? Alice Eve is hot.

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#143 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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#144 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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#145 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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#146 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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#147 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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#148 Alsker
November 10 2013, 12:52PM
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We better be ready from the get go, the hawks played last nite and are going to want to break us early. A couple quick ones and this could have their fans chanting "we want 10, we want 10" before the end of the second. Not what I want to hear or see but after yesterday.....

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#149 MessyEH!
November 10 2013, 01:05PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I'm not totally buying the argument you are laying down here Jason........that being it's totally a heaviness issue with the team.

Look at Colorado, they were worse than the Oilers last year, made no significant player additions ( except for what they drafted) got a new coach ..........and are tearing up the league. Yes they have larger defensemen than we do but presumably they are slower as well.

So why is Colorado doing so well and we are not? Might I suggest the following:

We covet speed way too much.......we are so fast our players are constantly in front of the play and always seem to be skating past the puck.

We do not covet size enough.......should be drafting the best size /skill combination instead of speed/skill combination.

Drafting from the basic principle of back end first........start with goaltending, then defense and finally forwards.

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??

Management........what's to say here except we have "six rings" and he knows how to win!

I agree with most of what you said. Except I would never draft a goalie in the 1st two rounds.

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#150 Peter
November 10 2013, 01:11PM
Trash it!
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Cheers
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@Woodguy

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

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