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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#101 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 10:10PM
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@Reg Dunlop

Eakins did turn kadri into one heck of a hockey player when it was getting pretty close to looking like he was going to go the way of Robbie schremp. I do think Eakins will make a good head coach he is just in way over his head right now coaching several kids who are also way in over their heads.

Hindsight is 20 20 but wouldn't it have been great to have Krueger still the bench boss and Eakins an associate coach then make the change in a couple seasons if Mac t still wanted.

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#102 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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#103 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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#104 Poly
November 13 2013, 01:20PM
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The one thing I'm still unclear about with all this Yak talk the last few days is: How many games has he played in his career?

Haven't really seen that mentioned yet.

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#105 Randaman
November 13 2013, 02:04PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I did that last game. They lost.

So keep it up if you want to have a good %. It's almost like you want to be a weatherman or something. LOL

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#106 Rocket
November 13 2013, 02:18PM
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So this is what it has come to for me. Watching an Oilers game to see Horcoff play. It would have been fun to watch him play against Smid.

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#107 Gregor
November 13 2013, 02:48PM
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Hey Gregor, what you are forgetting is that the reason Stamkos sucked? He had a dink coach named Melrose playing him on the 4th line, remind you of anyone?

Don't forget the details, stats don't tell the whole story.

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#108 The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33
November 13 2013, 02:50PM
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DSF wrote:

Taylor vs. Tyler.

Giddyup.

I hope for some hair pulling!

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#109 Cal Oatway
November 13 2013, 04:16PM
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With Buffalo making big changes within their management team, I suspect the Oilers management are shaking a little harder than yesterday. A lot of people are looking for Lowe's head and MacT, but no one is mentioning a better replacement. Who can turn the Oilers around?

I want the Oilers to be successful NOW with this management and current players. Every one needs to suck it up and work together, support each other and play the system. The Oilers owe it too their fans to at least be competitive consistently on a nightly basis. The Oiler faithful have have suffered long enough and if everyone does not pick it up and improve on their record, the owners will make the changes for them.

Let's Go Oilers !!!

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#110 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 05:18PM
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The oil are due to win one. And Dallas is weak enough to be beaten. 5-3 oil.

If, however the score is the other way, and especially if they get behind early, the fan reaction could be one for the history books - there is a lot of pent-up frustration in oiler nation.

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#111 Cynic
November 13 2013, 05:18PM
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"There is a world of difference between Radulov and Yakupov. It's like comparing Lindros to Lemieux."

Well done missing the point entirely.

Radulov was a high pick from Ruska who undefected when things didn't go his way.

If the Oilers don't handle Yak the way Yak feels is appropriate, he doesn't have to eat it. As soon as his ELC is done, he can go home and make millions.

The World's Worst Hockey Franchise needs Yak more than he needs the team.

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#112 Harlie
November 13 2013, 05:35PM
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Spies Like Us quote seems worthy at this time.

Russian Interregator #2: Every minute you don't tell us why you are here, I cut off a finger.

Emmett Fitz-Hume: Mine or yours?

Russian Interregator #2: Yours.

Emmett Fitz-Hume: Damn!

Emmett Fitz-Hume: [trying to buy time by making something up] All right! All right, I'm an American agent!

Russian Interregator #2: And...?

Emmett Fitz-Hume: And? And... uhh... they... they sent me here t-to assassinate your Premier!

Russian Interregator #2: [to the other interregator] I knew it! Pay up, comrade!

Russian Interregator #1: [unimpressed] Let's cut his fingers off anyway.

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#113 thepeetso
November 13 2013, 06:46PM
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No not Chris Cuthbert wrote:

As long as Chris Cuthbert is not the play by play guy. His voice is like ... chalk squeaking on a blackboard etc etc. I would have to turn off the sound. He is that bad IMHO.

Anything, and I mean anything is better than Mark Lee.

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#114 James
November 13 2013, 08:32PM
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Alsker wrote:

watching Dallas feed, quite decent game so far. Well if you forget Hemmers give away.

You'd be forgetting almost all the games then. We have 8 give aways to Dallas's 1. Ugh! Acro and Hemmer each with 2.

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#115 James
November 13 2013, 09:23PM
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@YFC Prez

This team is clearly missing the "Corey Potter power play".

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#116 James
November 13 2013, 09:31PM
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@Alsker

We have to be one of the worst teams at 5 on 3. It rarely works for us it seems, just like pulling the goalie.

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#117 James
November 13 2013, 09:37PM
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Should I drink more? I can't decide. My heart tells me yes, because it's the only way I can get through the suckitude but my head tells me no on account of I have to work tomorrow and the roads will likely be full of suckitude also.

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#118 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 09:38PM
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Gk1980 wrote:

4 or 5 posts. No puck luck. What have we done to anger the hockey gods?

ITS HORCS FAULT!

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#119 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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#120 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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#121 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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#122 James
November 13 2013, 10:36PM
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Oh just what we need, a penalty shot. Ugh!

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#123 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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#124 Blucifer Copperballs
November 13 2013, 01:55PM
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JG?? no comments about Yakupov's game in the game day predictions? that's taking the easy way out. You're better than that!!

All kidding aside, and if i can indulge in my imagination and a little speculation....

It seems that if Yakupov was so ready to go public, this has been building for some time. Maybe this is the subject of so many of the conversations Eakins has already had with him. And if he has no problems about going public with it, he most likely had no qualms about being vocal about it on the ice, one the bench, and in the locker room, where maybe " i need more minutes so i can help my team" sounds more like " if i had your minutes, i could do a better job than you" Maybe thats why he's been looked off so many passes, and nobody really wants to celebrate a goal with him? Totally made up in my head, but not too far off maybe, if you line things up.

I for one hope that once things cool off, and he's built some value, he's traded off asap. But if i was shopping, i wouldnt want to bring this drama in right now, and the Oil wouldn't have any power at the table right now anyway.

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#125 Mike Krushelnyski
November 13 2013, 04:15PM
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The one thing I can say for sure about Yakupov's ice time is I won't be watching a second of it! Wake me up for the Olympics.

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#126 Spydyr
November 13 2013, 04:27PM
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The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33 wrote:

The team sucks dude. Everyone knows it. Why is it that every post you put up is about the how badly the Oilers suck. What's the point? Do you really think anyone in Edmonton aside from management think the Oilers are a good team? Show some creativity for once and just start having fun with it or just shut the Horcoff up!

You take this thing way too seriously. You need to get yourself a girl or start sitting on your left hand until it's numb so it feels like someone else is doing it.

end rant...dumba$$!

I tried getting myself a girl but ever time I drove by your sisters corner she was busy.

Relax dude have a drink,Just not anymore kool-aid.

PS I'm married so I hear you about sitting on your hand.

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#127 dave
November 13 2013, 06:41PM
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No not Chris Cuthbert wrote:

As long as Chris Cuthbert is not the play by play guy. His voice is like ... chalk squeaking on a blackboard etc etc. I would have to turn off the sound. He is that bad IMHO.

I like him and Ferraro/Johnson a helluva lot more than the bozos Kevin Quinn and Louie Debrusk. Those guys are sickening... "Like I said Kevin, Oilers just gotta get pucks in deep and move their feet, go to the tough areas and generate some scoring chances." Yuck lol

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#128 oilerman53
November 13 2013, 06:53PM
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Yay we get Gord Miller and Ray Ferarro tonight on TSN. Ray will give a no nonsense scathing review about how much the Oilers stink. I think the boys out together a solid effort and string together a few wins.

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#129 Chaz
November 13 2013, 06:58PM
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If Karma works the way I think it does, then my OGDP is that Horcs pots a game winner late in the third, after a strong 'moral victory but no points' kinda night for the Oil.

At least if it happens we can......blame Horcs. Aaaaaaahhhhhhh.....the good 'ol days.....

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#130 Alsker
November 13 2013, 07:11PM
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Mason Storm wrote:

This is all an elaborate ploy by management too get our minds off the lack of arena talk in the city. When will that be built? 2025?

Missed the date but apparently coincides with our next winning season.

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#131 Rocket
November 13 2013, 07:45PM
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The Oilers better come out strong early or the hometown crowd could get really ugly. Not that I would blame them. If the players are terrible, I hope the crowd boos them off the ice.

Also, I hope The Oilers win...

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#132 Alsker
November 13 2013, 08:00PM
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Rocket wrote:

The Oilers better come out strong early or the hometown crowd could get really ugly. Not that I would blame them. If the players are terrible, I hope the crowd boos them off the ice.

Also, I hope The Oilers win...

wonder if we'll start to see the paper bags? Probably not enough home games yet but by the end of the homestand...

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#133 Harlie
November 13 2013, 08:19PM
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Damn you TSN homers!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put our game on.

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#134 Reg Dunlop
November 13 2013, 08:51PM
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When healthy the oil should be competitive with 2nd tier teams like Dallas. So far tonight they have been. It's a small step in the right direction.

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#135 Alsker
November 13 2013, 09:30PM
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That was PATHETIC!!! Sorry for shouting.

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#136 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 09:58PM
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Holy Moly. I didn't watch the leafs game but just seen a replay of kadri's elbow to whichever wild goalie was playing. That looks pretty ugly. Like a wwf flying elbow smash ala macho man.

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#137 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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#138 Johnnydapunk
November 13 2013, 10:40PM
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FML....

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#139 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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#140 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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#141 A-Mc
November 13 2013, 02:16PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I did that last game. They lost.

But that's ok because then we expect it.

If we expect a loss and a loss is predicted, when we lose - it's ok! but if we WIN!!!! OH BOY! PLAN THE PARADE!

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#142 Alsker
November 13 2013, 02:34PM
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Randaman wrote:

My bad, but not playing the future with Hall and playing the past(Hemsky) is a huge error in my eyes

Ok including your first post with this one I'm assuming you would rather have Yak play with Hall(future w. future) rather than #4+#83 together. Then I agree providing the Gagner experiment at center is not used between them.

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#143 madjam
November 13 2013, 03:35PM
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Dubbie giving white flags to be raised by his defence to show him when they are giving up . All problems stem from our weak backend . If it's bad results will show just that . Go to coppernblue article on our cap and you'll see just what I mean .

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#144 Dog Train
November 13 2013, 03:55PM
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I still hate the Stars. Misery loves company so let's drag them down with us. Corey Potter is back so we're bound to win!

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#145 Mason Storm
November 13 2013, 05:50PM
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This is all an elaborate ploy by management too get our minds off the lack of arena talk in the city. When will that be built? 2025?

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#146 Alsker
November 13 2013, 07:51PM
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Man its eeriely quiet in here, DAMN did I miss the start of the Zombie apocalypse. Got to grab my machete and wait for the as*holes next door to change over....

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#147 James
November 13 2013, 08:30PM
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Oh gee thanks TSN, who needs to watch the first 10 minutes anyway?

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#148 James
November 13 2013, 09:11PM
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@Alsker

Good choice! I'm definitely no stats whiz, that's for sure.

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#149 James
November 13 2013, 09:11PM
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@YFC Prez

Didn't see it, but they did have a video. The Oilers twitter posted it I believe.

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#150 YFC Prez
November 13 2013, 09:20PM
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Throw potter out on the 5 on 3 and blast some damn pucks at lehtonen. I cringe everytime the oil get a 2 man advantage. Simplify it.

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