GDB 20.0: HORCOFF RETURNS

Jason Gregor
November 13 2013 12:43PM

For the past five seasons, when things went wrong for the Oilers you could always fall back to one thing, "Blame Horcoff." It didn't matter what was ailing the Oilers it seemed it was always Horcoff's fault, mainly due to his $5.5 million cap it. If the Oilers top line wasn't scoring, and Horcoff wasn't on it, it was still his fault.

On my radio show it became somewhat of a cult mantra. People would end their texts or emails with Blame Horcoff. Mainly it was a parody of South Park's "Blame Canada," but the odd person believed it to be true.

If Horcoff was still here, he likely would have been blamed for not stopping Nail Yakupov from going public with his frustrations. It was a simpler time for some Oilers fans, because no matter what went wrong you could always blame one guy.

Horcoff is gone, but surprisingly (not at all) the struggles of the Oilers remain.

Horcoff played 796 games as an Oiler, 5th most all-time behind Kevin Lowe (1,037), Ryan Smyth (911), Mark Messier (851) and Glenn Anderson (845).  He is 9th all-time in goals and points, and despite what some feel he was a solid Edmonton Oiler for 12 seasons.

Horcoff is playing just over 14 minutes a game for the Stars, mainly on the third line, switching between wing and centre, and recently he was put on the 2nd unit PP for a net-front presence. Horcoff's game was never flashy, but he earned his icetime over the years. He started out as a 4th line centre, and worked his way up to the top line, and he was the #1 centre and leading point getter amongst forwards when the Oilers went to game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

He was unfairly vilified because his owner and general manager overpaid him. It was never his fault the Daryl Katz and Kevin Lowe signed him to a $33 million contract, but many people expected him to be an elite player after that deal. It never happened, because Horcoff was never an elite scorer. He was a tireless worker, who could produce offensively, but he wasn't going to be a consistent 75-point player.

I never felt bad for Horcoff, and neither did he. He knew the expectations would be raised when he signed that deal, and at the time he signed his six-year contract he felt he could produce. We all believe we are worth what we make. If your boss came into your office today and offered to triple your salary, you'd gladly accept it, and feel that you are worth it.

The Oilers could use a 27-year-old Shawn Horcoff right now. A guy who could produce offensively, 73 points, but knew how to play defence, and actually loved the challenge of going against  the likes of Joe Thornton, Pavel Datsyuk or Ryan Getzlaf. Horcoff wasn't the biggest guy, but his work ethic and smarts allowed him to battle and often shut down the opposition's star players.

The final few seasons of Horcoff's career in Edmonton weren't very good. The team was a consistent bottom-feeder and he missed almost half of two seasons. This summer was the right time for him to leave, but I always felt he was under appreciated as a player due to his final contract with the Oilers.

QUICK COMPARISON....

Yesterday, Nail Yakupov went public with his frustrations about a lack of icetime. Every player wants to play more, so he isn't alone with his thinking, but rarely do players go public about it, especially after only 65 NHL games. Yakupov choose that route and some feel it will cause a rift in the room or with management. Only time will tell if that occurs, but many have compared Yakupov to Steven Stamkos so I did a quick comparison of their first 65 NHL games.

No comparison is completely fair or accurate because the players had different coaches, teammates and other factors. Most notably, Yakupov's first 65 games were interrupted by a six-month summer break. It is difficult to start a season how you ended the previous one, but the comparison does give us some insight into how these two snipers were used.

FIRST 65 GAMES

Stamkos                                                        Yakupov
14-19-33 points                                           19-16-35 points
13:47 TOI/game                                           14:47 TOI/game
2:22 PP TOI/game                                       2:25 PP TOI/game

Yakupov was upset over his icetime in his previous four games. In Yakupov's first 65 games he had 11:45 or less of TOI seven times. In Stamkos' first 65 games he had 22 games with 11:45 or less of TOI.

Stamkos was a healthy scratch three times, while Yakupov has been a healthy scratch twice. Yakupov is -18 in his career while Stamkos was -14 in his first 65 games.

Barry Melrose was fired after only 16 games into Stamkos' rookie season, and his replacement Rick Tocchet didn't automatically start playing Stamkos more. Stamkos earned his icetime, and he gained a lot of momentum in the 2nd half of his season.

Ironically enough, in the final 14 games of his rookie season (game 66 to 79) Stamkos scored 9 goals and 13 points. He continued that pace into the next season and he has been the most prolific goal scorer since the beginning of the 2009 season.

I don't see Yakupov emulating Stamkos' success, mainly because it would be extremely difficult, but also because Stamkos skates better than Yakupov. Both are former #1 overall picks, but their games are very different.

I said yesterday I didn't have a major issue with Yakupov saying what he said. He is frustrated, and he willingly made his comments. They weren't done in the heat of the moment after a bad loss. He had 40 hours to think about his plan, and he elected to go through with it.

His agent, Igor Larionov, had two contract disputes in his career, so I can see why he didn't advise his client to stay quiet. Larionov has never been afraid to stand up to management, although he wasn't 20 years old and only 65 games into his NHL career when he made his stance.

I don't think Yakupov's comments will change much. Dallas Eakins isn't going to be pressured into playing him more, considering Yakupov is averaging 15:28/game this season, and I doubt Yakupov is suddenly going to become a great defensive player. For the past year I've stated the Oilers were going to have to deal one of their four kids, and Yakupov's comments might make that decision a little bit easier, but that is about the only impact I feel his comments will make.

When you compare his icetime to young players around the NHL in their first 65 games, he hasn't been treated unfairly. I'm glad he wants to play more. You wouldn't want a guy who was satisfied with his icetime, but his play will earn him more icetime, not venting publicly.

One other quick comparison between Yakupov and the other young Oiler draft picks.

Here is their point totals in their first 65 NHL games.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:  22-34-56 
Taylor Hall: 22-20-42
Jordan Eberle: 18-23-41
Ales Hemsky: 8-29-37
Nail Yakupov: 19-16-35
Sam Gagner: 7-28-35

Hall (18), RNH (17), Eberle (17), Gagner (15) had more icetime in their first 65 games, while Hemsky played 12:20 if you look at TOI. Every situation is different of course, and in the NHL there is no such thing as "fair." But it is interesting to look at how each of them started their NHL career.

LINEUP

Perron-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Arcobello-Yakupov
Joensuu-Gordon-Jones

Ference-Petry
Belov-Larsen
N.Schultz-Potter

Dubnyk

The Oilers sent Taylor Fedun down to OKC and called up Potter. They want a bigger body and a heavy shot on the 2nd PP unit. Fedun had an unreal start to his NHL career, and he will be back, but he needs to get a touch faster. He made a great first impression. Potter might be bigger, but he rarely plays big. He'll be highly motivated to play well, at least he should be, because if he doesn't he likely won't get another one-way NHL contract.

SYSTEM TALK

There has been lots of talk about Eakins system and how it is costing the Oilers games. Eakins tweaked the system after seven games, because the players couldn't play it, however, the current system is not that difficult according to some veterans. 

"It is just about recognition, said Nick Schultz."You have to be looking around; too often we get to puck focused. You need to take a quick look at the puck, but you need to be aware of your position and your man. We have to work away from the puck and have recognition. 

"I think any system in the league, regardless of where you play, is pretty similar. You are either attacking or sitting back and it is just a matter of understanding your position, and where you have to be in all situations on the ice. Whether it is forechecking, coming through the neurtral zone or in the D-zone every player has to know where to go. You have to be aware of what your job is and where you are. You have to be able to rely on one another. I think we are starting to show spurts of that, but we need to be able to do it all the time," Nick Schultz said. 

Schultz played in Minnesota where they won because of their system. They didn't have as much skill as other teams, but they were dedicated and committed to their system. Once the Oilers can rely on one another in every area on the ice, they will win, but the players have to be willing to do it. The system is not the issue. The players need to execute it properly more often.

Captain Andrew Ference said this yesterday on my show about their defensive zone coverage.,

It is unfortunate when you look at the goals we are giving up they are a product of our mistakes more than the other team taking it too us all game and finally breaking through. We have been doing a much better job defensively in D zone coverage lately, clogging up the other teams chances and their time, but as you call them the five-star mistakes are costing us games. 

"Hockey is not complicated; no system is a big math equation. It is just concentration, consistency and it is almost 100% mental. It is just resetting yourself after a good shift, resetting yourself after a bad shift and just not carrying baggage from past games or past weeks or past shifts.

It is just focusing on what you are going to do on the next 30-40 second span. It is a tough thing. It is a very easy thing to talk about, but much harder to implement. It is easier the longer you play, because you learned how to do it. But it is hard to learn to do it consistently."  

The Oilers system isn't unique, but the players are still trying to learn to play it consistently. They have improved recently, but when they make a mistake it is usually a major error and results in a goal. They need to become more consistent in their decisions and actions, and when they do, they should have more success. But it won't be easy, it will require every player being willing to commit 100% of the time. 

TONIGHT

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have one home win in six starts. The fans are restless, and the Oilers will finally give them something to cheer about with a 4-3 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Horcoff scores. On a one-timer. Ex-Oilers always score vs. the Oilers. Edmonton-born Vern Fiddler will get an assist on the goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:
Philip Larsen gets in on the "scoring against former team" and he scores a PP goal midway through the second frame. Larsen has five points in five games so far this season and he maintains his point-per-game pace. 

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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#151 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:16PM
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@YFC Prez

Was hoping Assoc. coach was going to be Todd Nelson but Eakins would have been awesome. Freddie(R.Krueger) got the 6 ring bitch slap if you ask me.

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#152 James
November 13 2013, 10:17PM
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@Alsker

Lots of peeps skippin out on the bills? That sucks man. Yeah can't complain about being on a salary. However, we can complain about how terrible this team is. Good god almighty!

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#153 James
November 13 2013, 10:18PM
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Corey Potter, you're doing it wrong. How are we supposed to get the Potter Power Play with you in the damn box?

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#154 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:20PM
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@James

Not complaining, doesn't help anyway. Just happy waking up on the right side of the dirt pile everyday.

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#155 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:20PM
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As bad as the pp has been. At least the pk is coming around.

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#156 James
November 13 2013, 10:23PM
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@Alsker

True enough, hey?

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#157 Gk1980
November 13 2013, 10:23PM
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@Johnnydapunk

Yup

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#158 James
November 13 2013, 10:24PM
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@YFC Prez

Also true. Props for finding the silver lining.

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#159 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:25PM
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I am the a big time gagner supporter and I remember telling everyone they were nuts for thinking that arcobello would ever replace gagner but it's not really looking to far fetched now.

Gagners offence is invisible and arco just made another stellar defensive play.

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#160 Peter
November 13 2013, 10:27PM
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Just got home and looking at the Oilers site. How the hell does Gagner not have a SOG when Ferraro just said he had a chance at the beginning of the game? Who's smoking what here, the stats guys or Ferraro, since I missed it?

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#161 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:33PM
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Smyth has forced three Dallas giveaways in their own zone now on the forecheck. Vets working hard tonight

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#162 Gk1980
November 13 2013, 10:33PM
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At what point does "management" blow this thing up? I don't know what happened this year. Did the team forget how to play defence? Did they forget how to score? How did we get here? Sad.

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#163 James
November 13 2013, 10:34PM
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@Peter

Dunno man, forget about it and join the rest of us in booze soaked misery.

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#164 James
November 13 2013, 10:36PM
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Oh just what we need, a penalty shot. Ugh!

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#165 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:36PM
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Peter wrote:

Just got home and looking at the Oilers site. How the hell does Gagner not have a SOG when Ferraro just said he had a chance at the beginning of the game? Who's smoking what here, the stats guys or Ferraro, since I missed it?

Had a post 2 min in, doesn't count as a shot on net.

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#166 James
November 13 2013, 10:37PM
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Ok, Dubey made me eat crow there. I'll take it.

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#167 James
November 13 2013, 10:38PM
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@Alsker

I thought it had gone off the blocker and then hit the bar. That was my memory, but I could be full of booze so....

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#168 Johnnydapunk
November 13 2013, 10:40PM
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FML....

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#169 James
November 13 2013, 10:40PM
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And there's the empty net that doesn't usually work for us. EFFFFFF!!!!

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#170 RexHolez
November 13 2013, 10:41PM
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I fell sorry for Igor Larionov! It's a shame he never played for the Oilers. He could of been a president of hockey ops, or a G.M instead of a lowly player agent like Lowe should be

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#171 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:42PM
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When's it gonna stop?

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#172 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:42PM
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My liver is not going to survive this season. Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...Fire Lowe...etc. etc.

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#173 James
November 13 2013, 10:43PM
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Asist to Hallsy on the Seguin goal? FML X 100!

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#174 coolcanuck1
November 13 2013, 10:43PM
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Too bad this isn't the Connor McDavid draft year! But hey, with another lottery pick this year, and if Eakins remains coach, maybe we'll have a chance for #1 pick in 2015!! Something to look forward to!

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#175 Shaun Doe
November 13 2013, 10:43PM
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Figures the one night we get goaltending we can't put a puck in the net...

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#176 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:44PM
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I feel like a dead horse being repeatedly beaten with 6 rings.

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#177 BingBong
November 13 2013, 10:44PM
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3 straight shutouts at home?!? That's not even believable. Unreal. This is now the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

Just saw the Kadri hit; that forearm looked nasty.

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#178 Alsker
November 13 2013, 10:46PM
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RexHolez wrote:

I fell sorry for Igor Larionov! It's a shame he never played for the Oilers. He could of been a president of hockey ops, or a G.M instead of a lowly player agent like Lowe should be

Can you imagine, Lowe would sign multiple deals for the same guy and then want time to figure out who was willing to up the ante....he would last 1 maybe 2 contracts and no one would want him as an agent.

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#179 James
November 13 2013, 10:46PM
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Well that was real disappointing as per usual. Peace out everyone. Be safe on the roads tomorrow morning!

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#180 Step Daddy J
November 13 2013, 10:51PM
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@coolcanuck1

I think New Jersey or Florida will get Connar in 2015 .

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#181 Step Daddy J
November 13 2013, 10:52PM
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coolcanuck1 wrote:

Too bad this isn't the Connor McDavid draft year! But hey, with another lottery pick this year, and if Eakins remains coach, maybe we'll have a chance for #1 pick in 2015!! Something to look forward to!

I think New Jersey or Florida will get Connar in 2015

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#182 Hauk15
November 13 2013, 10:53PM
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NHL 14, where I go to see the Oilers win a hockey game.

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#183 Quintana
November 13 2013, 10:54PM
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I can't believe Eakins still has a job.What a joke.....

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#184 coolcanuck1
November 13 2013, 10:54PM
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@Step Daddy J

Oilers will, other teams you mention have better goalies & defence

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#185 TDSM31
November 13 2013, 10:56PM
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Gagner out on the ice again for last minute when we need a goal. This coach for the Oilers...not too bright.

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#186 Alsker
November 13 2013, 11:03PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Gagner out on the ice again for last minute when we need a goal. This coach for the Oilers...not too bright.

What do you want him to do, MacT signed him for 4 years and said he is most valuable. Honestly I think Eakins is sticking it in "kBlowehards" face, he's useless. Really think Hall whiffed on the pass Seguin picked off. 3 straight plays to gags ended in off the end of his stick, off his skate, whiffed pass. Thats where Hall was passing, wonder if he realized it was gags and tried to stop not wanting to waste any time off the clock giving it to him. IMHO.

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#187 Alsker
November 13 2013, 11:17PM
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BingBong wrote:

3 straight shutouts at home?!? That's not even believable. Unreal. This is now the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

Just saw the Kadri hit; that forearm looked nasty.

Went to Oilkings games when they were the only Oil in town. Talent wise this is far from the worst, organizationally(big word for how many beers Ive had) definitely. This changes only from the top down. We need enthusiasm, ambition, and an understanding of what it takes to win. Old 6 rings has none of these. If there is an alumni full of spit and vinegar bring him in, or get someone completely new. The status que DOES NOT WORK. Ok before someone thinks I'm NAS that is all. Good night and be safe.

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#188 Slyers
November 13 2013, 11:19PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Gagner out on the ice again for last minute when we need a goal. This coach for the Oilers...not too bright.

Like I said in a earlier post Sam is like Teflon none of his mistakes stick to him. He can play like crap defensively, not win a face off, miss assignments(not too bad tonight) and get prime ice time 5/3, last min ice you name it...it's a FREAKING NIGHTMARE MYSTERY, rapped up in an enigma!!!!!

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#189 Slats
November 13 2013, 11:20PM
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Another nice fairly safe and pretty game by the Oilers. Two great chances early but did you notice how every oiler player peels off to the corner no one willing to stop, get dirty, for a rebound goal. Pretty very pretty.

Horrendous 5 on 3 - High slot could have parked a Semi trailer there was so much room. Where was Jonensuu on the 5 on 3 or for any PP in front of the net the guy is a beast. 5 forwards can someone tell me any great PP that used 5 frickin fwds???

HALL SHOOT THE PUCK AT END OF GAME FROM HIGH SLOT - WTF.

good job Dubey (1 minor hiccup). . .nickel lining on this one

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#190 dobiezeke
November 13 2013, 11:23PM
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Make Joey the PP coach...god knows he has seen more success in his career than the clowns on the bench.

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#191 Oilersman
November 13 2013, 11:28PM
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Ok, I'm officially ready. I told myself and all my friends that there is no way that we can part with our young talent. Let them go, get something, salvage some pride. I am ready to let go. Go Oil:(

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#192 dobiezeke
November 13 2013, 11:32PM
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Slats wrote:

Another nice fairly safe and pretty game by the Oilers. Two great chances early but did you notice how every oiler player peels off to the corner no one willing to stop, get dirty, for a rebound goal. Pretty very pretty.

Horrendous 5 on 3 - High slot could have parked a Semi trailer there was so much room. Where was Jonensuu on the 5 on 3 or for any PP in front of the net the guy is a beast. 5 forwards can someone tell me any great PP that used 5 frickin fwds???

HALL SHOOT THE PUCK AT END OF GAME FROM HIGH SLOT - WTF.

good job Dubey (1 minor hiccup). . .nickel lining on this one

Hall has a five cent brain...he believes he sees lanes on the ice that never exist.

Eakins has shat the bed with his support of the PP. Did he watch how Dallas clogged the front of the net?

Classic Oiler hockey - dump the puck in and watch how a good team walks it out of their end untouched.

Eberle playing like he was traded last week.

Yakupov continues to play like someone who has never watched hockey. 90 second shifts do nothing for your argument. The opposition is the team wearing the away uniforms - quit giving them the puck.

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#193 GK1980
November 14 2013, 07:35AM
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@BingBong

3 straight shutouts at home?!? That's not even believable. Unreal. This is now the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

Just saw the Kadri hit; that forearm looked nasty.

Can a team forfeit a season and if so, do they forfeit their draft picks? I also have tickets for tomorrow nights game against San Jose, gurantee lose night. Can I get my money back for these?

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#194 Mike Krushelnyski
November 14 2013, 08:15AM
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Don't Mark Cuban, Charles Wang, Mr. Burns, the Shelbyville power plant owner and other owners laugh at Daryl Katz when they're sitting aroud the Crazy Billionaire's Club for having such a sh!tbag sports team?

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#195 Gerald R. Ford
November 14 2013, 08:30AM
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@GK1980

Worst OILERS team? They're getting close enough to smell the '74-'75 Capitals now! That team, adjusted for an 82 game schedule, would have recorded 22 points. The Oilers are on pace for 41. Assuming they even stay on their current stellar pace, and don't get worse.

The 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers, by season's end, might be included in the same conversation as the worst team in the history of the National Hockey League.

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#196 2004Z06
November 14 2013, 08:45AM
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GK1980 wrote:

3 straight shutouts at home?!? That's not even believable. Unreal. This is now the worst Oilers team in franchise history.

Just saw the Kadri hit; that forearm looked nasty.

Can a team forfeit a season and if so, do they forfeit their draft picks? I also have tickets for tomorrow nights game against San Jose, gurantee lose night. Can I get my money back for these?

I would strongly suggest every ticket holder call the Oilers office and ask for refunds. After all, you paid to see an NHL team and this is clearly not one.

If you purchase a product that is defective, do you not get your money refunded?

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#197 Mike Berger
November 14 2013, 10:19AM
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I agree with some of the articles here but it is to bad the only one that can fire Lowe is Katz and now we have Messier as an advisor to Lowe. As for the coach tell me what was wrong with Tom Renny?

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#198 MessyEH!
November 14 2013, 02:45PM
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Gerald R. Ford wrote:

Worst OILERS team? They're getting close enough to smell the '74-'75 Capitals now! That team, adjusted for an 82 game schedule, would have recorded 22 points. The Oilers are on pace for 41. Assuming they even stay on their current stellar pace, and don't get worse.

The 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers, by season's end, might be included in the same conversation as the worst team in the history of the National Hockey League.

No loser points then either.

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