TUESDAY TIDBITS...TOUGH STARTS

Jason Gregor
November 12 2013 11:15AM

The Oilers are 4-13-2 (10 points) in their first 19 games, and they are on pace for 43 points. The Oilers will not finish with 43 points. They will improve, but can they improve enough to give you hope that next season will be different?

Here's a quick look at the five worst 20-game starts in Oilers history and where those teams finished.

1993/1994: 3-14-3 (9 pts). They finished 25-45-14 with 64 points and 3rd last in the NHL.
1979/1980: 3-12-5 (11pts). They finished 28-39-11. They finished 6th last, but made the playoffs in the 21-team league.
1990/1991: 5-13-2 (12 pts). They finished 37-37-6 with 80 points and 3rd in the Smyth division.
2010/2011: 5-11-4 (14 pts). They finished 25-45-12 with 62 points and last in the NHL.
1997/1998: 5-10-5 (15 pts). They finished 35-37-10 with 80 points and 7th in the west and beat Colorado in 1st round.

It is very unlikely that the Oilers will finish at or above .500, and we all know the playoffs are a pipe dream. An Oiler victory vs. Dallas on Wednesday ties them for the 3rd worst start in franchise history, so there is no sugar coating this start; it has been horrible.

Oilersnation is fed up. You are sick of losing and I don't think fans were ever this upset at any point during the 2010-2012 seasons.

This year was supposed to be different, mainly because the Oilers management and coaches said it would be. Craig MacTavish has made some solid moves; however, he erred by stating he'd make "Bold" moves. Signing Boyd Gordon, Andrew Ference, Jesse Joensuu, Wil Acton, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Jason LaBarbera and Ryan Hamilton weren't bold. Acquiring David Perron was a solid move, but likely didn't resonate as bold within the fan base.

Dallas Eakins termed his defence the "swarm," and by giving it a name it led fans to believe it was new and innovative. Other teams have used it before, most call it a pressure defence, but after years of watching porous defence the fans were jacked up believing the "swarm" would shut down the opposition.

That hasn't happened.

Once again the Oilers are near the bottom in goals against, dead last in fact, having surrendered a woeful 75 goals in 19 games. The fans have a right to be annoyed, frustrated and down right angry.

The Oilers have to stop selling hope or improvement during the off-season. It hasn't worked for five years, and the morale within Oilersnation is at an all-time low.

WHAT NOW....

  • It is interesting what we want to hear. When MacTavish said he'd make bold moves, he also clearly addressed that his young players would need to work harder, yet all the focus after the press conference was on bold moves. The GM didn't hammer home the point about the young players, or repeat himself, but it was the first time anyone within the organization made a clear challenge/statement towards the younger players.

    Ideally, the Oilers wouldn't have this many young players trying to learn the NHL game at the same time. They'd have the luxury of protecting them with proven veterans, but the Oilers didn't build their team that way. The kids will need to learn the hard way, and it has shown to be a difficult learning curve. Right now MacTavish and company can only hope that all the tough lessons will pay off in the future. Sadly, there is no guarantee that will happen.
     
  • I chuckled when I was called an Oiler apologist because I am not demanding Eakins get fired. Firing the coach after 19 games would be a dumb move. Plain and simple. Losing franchises continue to make change, thus having no continuity. Winning organizations, in any sport, have continuity. Eakins isn't perfect, and he has a lot to learn at the NHL level, but just like the Oilers made a commitment to the young players, they have committed to Eakins. He needs more than 19 games to judge whether he's a good coach or not.

    In the last seven games the Oilers special teams have improved dramatically. The PP is clicking at 31.5% (6 for 19), while the PK is at 91.3% killing off 21 of 23. So we've seen improvement in those areas, but their overall defence still needs a lot of work. Firing Eakins and hiring someone else at this point would be a desperate and ill-advised move.

    Watch the highlights, do you honestly believe that Eakins would coach his players not to cover the guy in front of the net, or that he'd instruct them to leave Kruger wide open in front of the net, and send both D-men to the man on the boards. The players are making some horrible defensive decisions.

    All the best coaching candidates are currently working, so who would you replace him with? Firing the coach might make fans feel better because someone paid the price, but it would only mask the real issue. The team isn't good enough. The mixture isn't right.

    Firing the head coach would tell the players they aren't the issue, again, and it would give another excuse to management. MacTavish didn't build this team, but he's in charge or trying to make it competitive. He'll need some time, but firing the coach will only delay the process.

    Furthermore, firing a coach based on 19 games with bad goaltending would illustrate desperation and a lack of leadership. Unfortunately, the woes of the Oilers are much bigger than one man.
     
  • Ilya Bryzgalov will not start for OKC tonight. He won't play in Edmonton tomorrow, and i dont think wr see him until Tuesday night next week vs. the Blue Jackets.
     
  • My biggest concern with the Ladislav Smid trade was MacTavish's comments that, "we have lots of depth at that position." They have a lot of potential depth, but none of it is proven. This organization needs to realize you won't win on potential. They can't expect Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to come into Edmonton next year and solidify their backend. No NHL team's blueline is built around four young D-men will less than 350 combined NHL games, and that's what Jeff Petry, J.Schultz, Klefbom and Nurse would be next season.
     
  • Tough break, no pun intended, for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos broke his tibia yesterday. I spoke to a doctor who done surgery on tibia's and he said it is virtually impossible that Stamkos could be ready for the Sochi Olympics in three months. The only way he said it was possible would be if Stamkos required no pins or screw to repair the bone, which is unlikely.  Brutal news for Stamkos.
     
  • Stamkos has scored 27% of the Lightning's goals, and they are 0-3 in games that Stamkos or Marty St.Louis don't score a point. Ben Bishop will need to play even better for the Bolts to stay in the playoff hunt. This is the first time Stamkos will miss a game due to an injury. He was a healthy scratch three times as a rookie.
     
  • Sidney Crosby only has one goal and six points in his last nine games. That is a major slump for Crosby.
     
  • Igor Larionov's comments about Nail Yakupov only added fuel to a horrendous 19-game stretch. Larionov stated, "We're willing to make a move. Any team. That happens and that's part of life." First off, Yakupov has no say if the Oilers wanted to trade him, so being open to a move was an interesting choice of words from Larionov. I read that as he'll likely ask the Oilers to trade his client.

    The Oilers don't need any more distractions, and Larionov didn't doing his client any favours by mentioning he's unhappy. Yakupov will be peppered with questions today, and the kid shouldn't be subjected to that. That is on Larionov. If you have an issue, call MacTavish and deal with it quietly. Rookie mistake by Larionov.
     
  • Larionov's comments will make for great water-cooler discussions and debate on the Nation, but I caution people to avoid tales of bad leadership or anything like that. Larionov wants his client to get more icetime, there was no mention of off-ice issues, so let's try to avoid turning TMZ-like and fabricating tales of discord within the dressing room. 
     
  • I'm looking to recognize some of the great amateur coaches in our city. Do you know a coach, team sport or individual sport, who goes above and beyond to makes sports really enjoyable for your son or daughter. If you do, please email me a short paragraph stating all they do for their team. Email it to gregor@tsn1260.ca and they could be named our Elite Sportswear Coach of the Week. I know there are many great volunteer coaches, so don't be shy to send me an email.
     
  • Be sure to vote for our pal Jason Strudwick in Battle of the Blades. If Struds wins the Inner City Children's Program will receive $50,000. That is huge for them and could allow them to open up another school to house 50 kids who need help. Take a moment and vote HERE and vote TODAY. It is an easy "Good deed of the day."

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 Andy7190
November 12 2013, 02:05PM
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For those who love stats... and those who think they are only one part of the evaluation.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/leafs-beat/mirtle-nonis-not-yet-a-believer-in-hockeys-statistical-push/article15384253/

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#54 Bleak Winter
November 12 2013, 02:21PM
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I'm neither here nor there on Eakins... Oilers can't fire him though, they have to ride it out at least a while. Then if coaching really is the problem it has to be bloody obvious to the entire hockey world, because like it or not they are dealing with optics here now.

If you fire any coach in an organization as shoddy as this after only 20 games, in the season following a coach who only got 48 games, how long does the next guy get to turn things around, 10 games? What coach worth a damn would even think about taking that job???

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#56 Ales Hallsky
November 12 2013, 02:22PM
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*My biggest concern with the Ladislav Smid trade was MacTavish's comments that, "we have lots of depth at that position."*

Maybe he meant we have lots of depth in the 5-6 defense position

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#57 Serious Gord
November 12 2013, 02:23PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

"They have Kronwall which helps." You mean Kronwall, a top pairing D-man?

You mean Kronwall the guy who plays the most minutes and has 10 points so far.

I'd say the D is built around him. He is the main guy. He is their best D.

Oh, and what about Ericsson the guy who plays the 2nd most minutes? This is his 6th year in Detroit.

So the four guys you mentioned are #3 - #6 and you say Detroit is built around them? I don't think so.

Yes to all that and the fact that detroit is loaded with veteran forwards who are among the very best 2 way players in the league and thus take a huge load off of the D.

And it also doesn't hurt that the coaching staff may be the best group of defensive tacticians in the game today.

A more interesting hypothetical is how good would the oil D and Oil team D be if they were being coached by the Detroit staff.

My guess would be that the team would be knocking on a playoff spot.

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#58 Oiler Al
November 12 2013, 02:51PM
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Let's not suggest that Oilers dont have "continuity", heck they have continually been loosing for the past 7 years and beyond... now thats continuity !

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#59 Oiler Al
November 12 2013, 02:57PM
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Ales Hallsky wrote:

*My biggest concern with the Ladislav Smid trade was MacTavish's comments that, "we have lots of depth at that position."*

Maybe he meant we have lots of depth in the 5-6 defense position

My guess is that the Smid deal went down on a call from Feaster serching for a replacement for Girodanno. With that opening MacT took the opportunity to move Smid....overpaid and longish term contract for 5-6 D man.Not great at skating, terrible breakout pass, going in the wrong direction most times trying a breakout etc. etc. Was strong shot blocks, and not tough or mean enough .. enough of the bear hugs.

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#60 Smythyyy
November 12 2013, 03:07PM
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Not calling for the Eakin's head or anything but so far there is no evidence to point out and say that he is a better coach than Krueger. If anything, if the team is better on paper this year then Krueger got more with less last year. Just wondering what MacT saw in Eakins that made him think we needed to change coaches at that time.

Don't believe in constant changing of coaches either. But if evidence points out that Eakins is a really flawed coach then why hang on to guy so that we can send a message that 'it's not the coach's fault'; I just don't get that reasoning. If the coach is bad for the team then you need to address is as soon as you can and able. But yeah, I agree he needs more games to show what he can do; it hasn't been trending up though.

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#61 tileguy
November 12 2013, 03:20PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

My guess is that the Smid deal went down on a call from Feaster serching for a replacement for Girodanno. With that opening MacT took the opportunity to move Smid....overpaid and longish term contract for 5-6 D man.Not great at skating, terrible breakout pass, going in the wrong direction most times trying a breakout etc. etc. Was strong shot blocks, and not tough or mean enough .. enough of the bear hugs.

Smid's value at the TD would be much higher, all they did was save money for the year, unless a trade is made.

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#62 Mikey
November 12 2013, 03:47PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

"They have Kronwall which helps." You mean Kronwall, a top pairing D-man?

You mean Kronwall the guy who plays the most minutes and has 10 points so far.

I'd say the D is built around him. He is the main guy. He is their best D.

Oh, and what about Ericsson the guy who plays the 2nd most minutes? This is his 6th year in Detroit.

So the four guys you mentioned are #3 - #6 and you say Detroit is built around them? I don't think so.

Hence why I said not eniterly true. I was not disagreeing with you. I just wanted to point out that there is a team that is similar to the oilers, in this situation.

And as such you put Kronwall on the oilers and what do you get? Two teams with guys in the #2-#6 spot that all have less than 350 games played.

Ericsson has averaged 47 games a year in his 6 years in Detroit. The team is hardly building around him. Maybe him and Ference cancel each other out.

What about Ference? For better or worse he is our Kronwall. Which really shows you how bad our D is.

The oilers obviously need a top pairing D. They have the assets to get one.

Ex. Kronwall for Yak. Dion Phaneuf for Yak.

Those are examples just to show that you don't need to get weber or any other top 5 D guy to make your D. The difference is Detroit as a team is more committed to defense. And are vetran guys who get it. Which is huge.

One last thing, Detroit isn't built around the guys I mentioned. They are building around them, which the oilers are trying to do. Good teams don't rebuild, they are always building or renovating.

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#63 Greasy Goal
November 12 2013, 03:52PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

Grebby was a depth move. IF he turned into anything else it was a bonus & It cost us next to nothing to sign him. How about props for getting anything for the six million dollar man? Cap Space is a new angle that GM's need to deal with, getting a Dman to contend for an NHL spot for Horcoffs massive contract was not as bad as it seems.

And, of course, if all you look for are the bad things then that's what you'll see. What about the Belov signing,the Perron trade, drafting Nurse? We'll see how Bryz does too. MacT had a hand in doing all of these things that benefited a club, a club he did not make bad.

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#64 Rama Lama
November 12 2013, 04:55PM
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@Clarko

I agree on letting this thing ride on for the entire year..........at this stage with our development ( or lack thereof) there is no point in starting over. If we suck the entire season and things go from bad to worse.......DE has to go.

If he can turn things around........then all is good. Given all the changes we made over the summer with personnel, the team should have moved forward, if just a little bit.

In fact we have moved backwards so far it appears like we are in first place.

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#66 joshgladu
November 12 2013, 05:15PM
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oilers on pace to allow 300 goals this year. a complete step backwards. eakins arrogance is going to cost him his coaching career.

and i couldn't be happier. hope he can pump gas back in toronto when this is done

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#67 Mikey
November 12 2013, 05:16PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

You missed the point on Ericsson. He is now a #2. He has developed and earned it.

They didn't have to rush him. And he has played the past three and lockout seasons as a regular. He worked his way up the lineup.

Detroit isn't building around them. They have stars who play the tough minutes and let the kids gain confidence is easier minutes. Oilers do not do this, the team isn't built that way.

They can trade Yakupov, but no guarantee a team will give you a #1 D-man...that is what Kronwall and Phaneuf are on their teams...

There is no accurate comparison to the current Oilers and current Red Wings...

True enough about Ericsson.

But the Wings are using the younger guys in more than just easy minutes. DeKeyser is playing with Kronwall. Smith is on the second paring with Ericsson, up until the later got injuried.

It really all boils down to the oil need one true #1.

And you are most certainly right that there is no guarantee the oilers can get a true #1 with a trade or FA. I think it might be worth looking into an Offer sheet.

Their really is no accurate comparison to any team or player for that matter. All teams (players) are built differently. Just like you can't compare how the oilers rebuild is like Pitt, Chi, NYI, ect. But we still do it any ways, just with a grain of salt.

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#68 Hangin@Bangin
November 12 2013, 05:38PM
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Gregor,

I don't know if I think your an Oilers apologist but you definitely need to speak the truth a bit more like you did in this article. I have no respect for the Edmonton media that continues to sugarcoat this utter embarassment of an NHL franchise. Now I agree firing Eakins isn't the right move but god help us as fans if 19 games in we are ready to look into the promise of "next" season. At this rate I'll be married and you Gregor will be in a seniors home in West Edmonton by the time this crusty old apple tree has been shaken up enough to bust off that rotten infected apple Lowe. You say that a winning organization requires a sense of continuity. The only continuity I see is bottom feeding year in year out and then lining the streets of Whyte Ave and the seats of Rexall Place to cheer about yet another botched season. We've done the rebuild, been there done that and got the t-shirt. Now that t-shirt stinks of sweat and failure. It's time to hulkamania style tear it off and throw it in the trash, get rid of all these boys on the bus and bring in a real organization and management to save this before the fans uprise and boycott this abomintion.

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#69 Dog Train
November 12 2013, 06:16PM
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Tough to see Stamkos go down with a long-term injury like that. Needless to say the game is better when guys like Crosby and Stamkos are healthy.

As for Eakins, we've fired the coach already. We've fired the GM too. It's time to fire the players. Obviously management selects the players so they should be under lots of scrutiny. Mactavish needs at least another off-season to really make this team his. I'm on board with getting Lowe out of there but that's a broken record.

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#70 Fresh Mess
November 12 2013, 06:21PM
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@Mikey

Mikey says "Ex. Kronwall for Yak. Dion Phaneuf for Yak."

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Neither of those teams would make that trade right now. Especially after the biyatch move of crying to your agent over your 'treatment'.

Fail's treatment has been extremely generous. If Loose lips MacTavish and Eakins backed their talk of running a meritocracy, Yakupthapuck would be in the ECHL right now.

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#71 hockeycrazed
November 12 2013, 06:30PM
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I have a great deal of respect for K Lowe when he was playing, one of the best top 4 D-man of the great Oil team in their glory days, but, Management, not so much, so far anyways. A good parable would be Gretsky, one of the best centres ever on skates, but as a coach, not so much. same goes with the professors I had at U of A, we all knew they were talented, just couldn't teach! Cut him some slacks, you say? I don't think a cut-throat business like the NHL would warrant that; For the past several seasons the Oil had been playing poorly on team defence, and also on goalie positionings, as if they don't have a goaltending coach, I think they really miss having a good coach in that position such as Ron Low. These strategies falls on the shoulders of 'Management team', and coaches. I think if they put the right combination of players on the ice, armed them with a sound scheme, it would go a long way toward success, short of that, they would end up exactly like the current edition of the Oil, ' An off season potential power house' and ' a bust after two weeks... which leads to a re-building team every year....It's a Bill Murray ' Ground Hog day' movie simile!

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#72 **
November 12 2013, 06:57PM
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I agree on not firing Eakins, but what about Smith and Buchberger?, would it do more harm than good right now?. I say if it is about changing the culture, then the 2 reminders of season's past should have been out a while ago.

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#74 spliff
November 12 2013, 09:18PM
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This organization is a complete joke.

As a fan of the Oilers, I feel sorry for the players who have to have their careers ruined playing for such a mediocre organization, that is being run by cronies who justify their positions based on past glory days that happened over 20 years ago.

Honesty, does anyone even care anymore about this sh*tshow irrelevant team? Spector tweeted the other day that when Oiler tickets were offered as a prize at a local sports bar, the patrons booed.

This organization is one of the worst run and performing professional teams in all of professional sports.

WTF did we Oilers fans do to deserve this?

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#75 Mikey
November 12 2013, 10:11PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Mikey says "Ex. Kronwall for Yak. Dion Phaneuf for Yak."

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Neither of those teams would make that trade right now. Especially after the biyatch move of crying to your agent over your 'treatment'.

Fail's treatment has been extremely generous. If Loose lips MacTavish and Eakins backed their talk of running a meritocracy, Yakupthapuck would be in the ECHL right now.

Way to take what I said way way out of context. Fail.

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#76 Quicksilver ballet
November 12 2013, 10:36PM
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Greasy Goal wrote:

Grebby was a depth move. IF he turned into anything else it was a bonus & It cost us next to nothing to sign him. How about props for getting anything for the six million dollar man? Cap Space is a new angle that GM's need to deal with, getting a Dman to contend for an NHL spot for Horcoffs massive contract was not as bad as it seems.

And, of course, if all you look for are the bad things then that's what you'll see. What about the Belov signing,the Perron trade, drafting Nurse? We'll see how Bryz does too. MacT had a hand in doing all of these things that benefited a club, a club he did not make bad.

4-14-2 says otherwise. Lets no abuse the term benefit.

I'm sure Belov will be out of here asap, saying thanks but no thanks to the Oilers this coming summer. Perron was the same scenario as the Smid deal, salary dump by the Blues plain and simple. A castoff from the St. Louis Blues is arguably the Oilers best player.

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#77 GK1980
November 13 2013, 06:12AM
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@Ted

Exactly! Everyone assumes year kids would be super stars including management. Try we're not aggressive in obtaining legit NHL talent for the last four years and this is where we are at today. These kids are not a guarantee. This is the real issue in my opinion.

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#78 seanjohn667
November 13 2013, 08:07AM
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the only way I have confidence in next year is 1. this .250 record lineup miraculously plays at least .500 the rest of the way, which is doubtful. 2. a REAL trade or two is/are made to address team needs. I have yet to this happen in 4 years. (i suppose Perron for Paajarvi was a good one. but I mean one of these freaking dangling wonderkids for a real a top pairing D or something like that)

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#79 Jeff
November 13 2013, 09:02AM
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“I chuckled when I was called an Oiler apologist because I am not demanding Eakins get fired. Firing the coach after 19 games would be a dumb move. Plain and simple. Losing franchises continue to make change, thus having no continuity. Winning organizations, in any sport, have continuity. Eakins isn't perfect, and he has a lot to learn at the NHL level, but just like the Oilers made a commitment to the young players, they have committed to Eakins. He needs more than 19 games to judge whether he's a good coach or not.” I chuckled when I read this portion of your article... I understand we have gone through coaches over the past 5 years, however.... and a big However, Ralph Krueger was able to produce a result, get buy in, and gave hope to the oilersnation of the potential of the team. Tom Renney was the sacrificial lamb, someone had to go, and unfortunately he paid the price instead of the GM which followed. The Pat Quinn area was confusing,,,, unknown of what the mentality was there. No continuity was provided by the organization and I believe that the coach is equally to share in the result so if we want to blame the players for not playing hard enough, we need to blame the coach for not coaching hard enough. “Watch the highlights, do you honestly believe that Eakins would coach his players not to cover the guy in front of the net, or that he'd instruct them to leave Kruger wide open in front of the net, and send both D-men to the man on the boards. The players are making some horrible defensive decisions.” Not at all, I believe the coach is trying to make a defensive tactic work when he should be exploring other options... MacT, during the run in the playoffs, made changes including the Trap that was not played during regular season... he adapted. If we do not have the defensive pieces to play in the manner in which the coach would like to coach his team, perhaps the coach should adapt his methods. As we have seen, it is hard to change 23 players over night. “Firing the head coach would tell the players they aren't the issue, again, and it would give another excuse to management. MacTavish didn't build this team, but he's in charge or trying to make it competitive. He'll need some time, but firing the coach will only delay the process.” I disagree with this statement, my concern is what happens when elite players begin resenting the coaching mentality, organization that will not point the finger in the right direction and begin to demand out of Edmonton. This is the Rock and the Hard Place, the bigger question is, do we have key players that will develop into a winning organization or do we have a key coach that will develop into a winning organization... Yak’s recent outburst.

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