The Push

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2013 08:49AM

At this point, it seems all but certain that the 2013-14 season is done for the Oilers. The team is in a hole so deep in a conference so good that clawing back into a playoff spot is going to be an extremely difficult proposition. Given that, does it make sense to start the tank job and go for the best available pick?

Not on your life.

RE-BUILD

Rebuild has gotten to be an ugly word in Edmonton, but the idea is sound. The trouble is that the Oilers have only been able to execute one part of it.

Via dictionary.com:

"Withdrawal or backward motion" pretty much sums up the Edmonton Oilers post-Pronger. But that's only half the battle.

Again from dictionary.com:

Pick a definition; that's the plan now. The Oilers need to construct a better NHL team. They need to establish, increase and/or strengthen their ability to compete with other clubs. They need to mold or form young players into championship-calibre professionals. And on and on it goes.

The Edmonton Oilers are masters of “re-.” They’ve got “re-“ down cold. It’s the whole “build” part of the word that was always going to be much, much more difficult and seems to have the organization flummoxed.

Tossing The Season

That’s why it’s important that general manager Craig MacTavish not toss his hands in the air and say ‘forget it, we’ll move the vets at the deadline and take the pick.’ That portion of the rebuild needs to be over. That’s not to say that pending free agents that aren’t in the plans can’t be let go at the deadline – just that the focus has to be on building the team for next year.

Draft picks are a long-term investment that, if they pay off at all, pay off years down the road. This isn’t a team that needs more draft picks. This isn't a team that needs the highest possible first overall pick this summer.

The lone focus here, with this season already all but over, has to be on making the playoffs next season – and the best way to do that is to do everything possible to make and keep the team competitive this season. Even if that means picking 10th overall rather than in the top-five. 

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Hockey Problems
November 13 2013, 11:21AM
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@Jonathan Willis

What is the best way to tell the team and it's fans that the recent history of the club is unacceptable ?. You punt the "reason" we're in this mess in the first place. If the kids on the team see the ship being run astray with no accountability at the top, how can anybody preach accountability to the players, it seems like lip service. The fact is that the team has been brutal for years and in this, the year we were to see an improvement, we see regression. Clear out the top and send the message that "incompetence" will NOT be tolerated. ANYMORE !!

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#52 Old School G
November 13 2013, 11:30AM
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Since Buffalo's making changes MacT should be calling about Foligno, Ott, and Tallinder, just a few guys that would address team needs right now.

Maybe whoever the Sabres name as GM will forget all about the Vanek offer sheet and deal with us? Both teams badly need to make some changes, both fan bases would welcome it if the deal was fair I'm sure.

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#53 gcw_rocks
November 13 2013, 01:09PM
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In general I agree they should not try and tank this year, but since they are losing so badly it doesn't really matter. What they shouldn't do is give away that 1st round pick for a short term fix on a lost season.

I took a look at how Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, Detroit, San Jose and Pittsburgh spend their cap dollars. What macT needs to do is start addressing gaps. based on those six teams, an ideal budget would look something like this:

Percent $M 1st 25.0% 17.5 2nd 17.0% 11.9 3rd 9.0% 6.3 4th 4.0% 2.8

1st 14.9% 10.4 2nd 9.6% 6.7 3rd 5.3% 3.7

Starter 7.7% 5.4 Back up 1.9% 1.3

Extra roster 2.9% 2.0 (players 21 to 23) Available 3.0% 2.0 (deadline deals)

Total 100% $70.0 (estimated for next yr)

One quick look at how much the Oilers are spending on their 3rd line and their bottom pairing show some major issues. Underspending on the top pairing also stands out.

If the Oilers are going to trade Hemsky, it should be for a two-way 3rd line winger on a value contract that extends into next season or beyond. When you look at the bigger picture, that's probably better for the Oilers than retaining Hemsky and being forced to underspend elsewhere.

It means spending $3.5M on Nick Schultz is crazy. It means Ference contract is going to look horrible in a year or two when he is on the third pairing.

It means MacT should be looking to trade one of Eberle, Yakupov, or Gagner as the centrepiece for a top pairing defender.

Tanking is not the right choice. Fixing how they manage their cap space is what they should focus on.

Too bad I have no faith in MacT or Howson to fox the problem.

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#54 Todd
November 13 2013, 09:48AM
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Smokey wrote:

Saw yesterday Fedun got sent down and they brought back Potter?

Is this one of those where Potter finished his conditioning stints and he has to come back up, or did they just send a bad message to Fedun. Fedun been so-so defensively, but has contributed to the offence. Anyone got some perspective?

Willis tweeted yesterday how Potter has been very good in OKC. Shot differential was something like -14 with Potter not on the ice, and +65 with him on it. So basically, he earned a shot with great play.

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#55 loweblows
November 13 2013, 10:14AM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

Boys on the bus............. It is sad to think these boys have grown into men that are destroying an organization from the top down!!

really??? as I stated earlier the kids are now young men learning to play in a mans league-if you look at most teams they shelter and groom them in the ahl until they are 21-its sad that the majority of the posters agree that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov are destroying the organization-trash me all you want but it is obvious that your anger outweighs logic, glad you guys aren't in charge

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#56 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:59AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Let's not call it Re-build and call it Re-Deploy...........yea we need to re-deploy our assets to OKC, where they seem to shine and flourish.

Under Nelson, every player played better . We need to convince Yaks to go to OKC and play as many minutes so that he can gain his confidence. He has effectively traded himself, just how do you undo now what has to be a very contentious Coach/Player battle?

I have not seen many players say anything positive about Eakins..........I suspect every is holding back a little but this guy has made a real mess of things. Well at least he has nice hair.

I think he would get more respect if he had a touch of grey.

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#57 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:33AM
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DSF wrote:

I'd be very shocked if Philly would be willing to take on Eberle's $6M cap hit given his production.

And beyond that, their RW depth is Voracek, Simmonds, Downie and Reed.

The Flyers already have a bigger, better version of Eberle in Voracek.

Voracek outscored Eberle 46-37 last season.

Philly inquired on Eberle over the weekend. I believe Tim Pannachio (spelling) tweeted it.

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#58 DSF
November 13 2013, 12:20PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Burke was the vp/GM from what I remember. My point is the head of hockey operations should be the GM.

Whether you want to call them GM/chairman of hockey, or GM/Grand Marshall of hockey operations, or whatever, doesn't really matter to me. But it is ridiculous to have a layer of management above GM WITHIN the hockey operations department.

If these teams were traded on an exchange, they would have market caps of around 200 million. They are small businesses. Having department 'presidents' is ridiculous. This isn't General Electric.

There is no need to have Lowe's position in the organization, other than Katz' desire to avoid firing his buddy when he removed him from the GM's job.

In reality, any GM who operates under a President of Hockey Operations is in effect an assistant GM.

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#59 DSF
November 13 2013, 12:51PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Wow. This is why you don't have credibility. You say that Voracek is better that Eberle because in a 48 game season Voracek out scored him. When it's pointed out that Eberle is beating him this year you say small sample size. How about full sample size: Eberle career PPG .799 Voracek .615

How about this?:

Cap hit:

Voracek $4.25M

Eberle $6M

Teams in the NHL play in a cap environment.

Or how about this?

Voracek Corsi ON - +13.52

Eberle CorsiON - +4.38

Or how about this:

CorsiFor%

Voracek 56.3% (10th best for RW in the NHL)

Eberle 46.3% (60th best for RW in the NHL)

Players that can take on tough competition and not get outscored are worth their weight in gold.

Players that can score but get their heads caved in by the opposition, not so much.

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#60 Rob...
November 13 2013, 01:30PM
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So pathetic. I tuned in to Stauffer this afternoon for the first time in ages. He states in the first segment that Arcobello says he still works on a shift by shift basis. Sounds great, right? Except that in the second segment Stauffer plays the actual interview and yet again he fed Arcobello the answer and got him to parrot it back to him. Shame on you Bob. Could you possibly show more disrespect to your interviewees? Let them answer the flippin questions on their own.

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#61 Dog Train
November 13 2013, 03:33PM
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All I can is it's a good thing this is an Olympic year. The Winter Olympics should provide a much needed distraction.

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#62 Roger in Vancouver
November 13 2013, 10:01AM
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@Cubro

I premised this on we have to give something to get something. Please don't get me wrong…i love J. Schultz but we need attitude and size on our d core. If my trades go well have all the offensive flair up front with the balance of (less flair w/ Larsen) and mean big guys defending.

I don't want to off load great young players like Gags, Yak, Schultz but we are to easy "to play against" and nobody fears dip see doodling in our end.

The clincher is i put this in NHL 14 and both Philly and Buff took the trade…and the team is awesome to play with….hahahaha!

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#63 tileguy
November 13 2013, 11:10AM
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No no no, don't start with the 4th line, start by adding tough, gritty hard to play against top 9 a la Burke. That means we have to give up something to get something, "BOLD MOVES". Can you see this team playing playoff hockey when the intensity gets turned up?

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#65 Funky Chicken Shizzle For U
November 13 2013, 11:57AM
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tileguy wrote:

Will we ever know to end the speculation, or just let it fester. More Prep H over here.

More like vaseline - let's just fast forward to April and get this rerun over with...'Team Toe Drag' is still no where near a playoff spot and will make minor trades at deadline, then go on minor winning streak to end season, get a top ten draft pick, and this time replace assistant coaches. The only way to break this cycle is to remove Kevin Lowe. ....and as a feel good move replace Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer.

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#66 Gaz
November 13 2013, 12:23PM
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DSF wrote:

Yep.

Small sample size though.

Couldn't we assume that a single truncated season is a small sample size?

Career stats:

Eberle - 3 seasons, 0.80 ppg, -15 +/- Voracek - 5 seasons, 0.61 ppg, +5 +/-

See what I did there? I provided two stats which tell a different story. Now I have no doubt you'll assert that plus/minus is the superior measure, because it supports your opinion, but I think most any team would trade Voracek for Eberle straight-up. Vice versa? I doubt it.

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#67 Smokey
November 13 2013, 09:08AM
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Saw yesterday Fedun got sent down and they brought back Potter?

Is this one of those where Potter finished his conditioning stints and he has to come back up, or did they just send a bad message to Fedun. Fedun been so-so defensively, but has contributed to the offence. Anyone got some perspective?

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#68 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 09:54AM
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Todd wrote:

Since Willis is doing a grammar lesson in his article... LOOSING is not a word. Losing is.

As Oiler fans we should at least know how to spell LOSING properly.

Just sayin

As a literate person of reasonable intelligence, you should know ending your post with "just sayin" is redundant and unflattering.

just sayin.

it is what it is

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#69 TayLordBalls
November 13 2013, 10:01AM
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just as an individual's power is in the NOW and not tomorrow or yesterday.....

the team is now - not in the past and not in the future.

Oilers players - focus on today and you'll be fine.

As the great Bill Murray said: "What if there is no tomorrow - there wasn't one today."

(Groundhog Day)

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#70 Zarny
November 13 2013, 10:36AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Lafontaine new president of hockey operations in Buffalo (thanks Oilers for bringing this idiotic title into vogue). Regier out. Ted Nolan in as coach.

Hate to break it to you but Kevin Lowe was not the first President of Hockey Operations?

Not even close. The Oilers had no part in bringing that title into vogue.

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#71 Devolution
November 13 2013, 12:35PM
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I really believe this team has the talent, and in fact, coaching to win. They need to play out the season, learn to win and also learn not to lose.

I have never played a high level of hockey, but surely a team needs some games to gel with each other and a new system. This season is gone anyway; give them a chance to put it together with no drama hanging over them.

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#72 nunyour
November 13 2013, 12:41PM
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The oiler ship is sinking and captain Lowe and his first mate Mact are hiding.

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#73 DSF
November 13 2013, 12:54PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Also since you refuse in Gagner's case to accept his prorated points last season how about this stat Voracek's highest point total 50. Eberle's 76. As well as a 51 point season.

Yes, Eberle is a better scorer but, as you see above there is much more to winning hockey games than scoring.

You should also factor in the season before last when Eberle had an unsustainable shooting percentage which, predictably, has fallen back to earth.

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#74 Citizen David
November 13 2013, 01:00PM
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DSF wrote:

Yes, Eberle is a better scorer but, as you see above there is much more to winning hockey games than scoring.

You should also factor in the season before last when Eberle had an unsustainable shooting percentage which, predictably, has fallen back to earth.

And yet he's till on pace this season for 78 points with a brutal shooting percentage. What happens if it rises?...

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#75 DSF
November 13 2013, 01:32PM
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Thumby wrote:

I usually side with DSF logic but I wonder what Eberle advanced stats would look like with comparable defence men and goaltending as Voracek plays in front of?

Phillies goaltending has been dreadful for years and, without Pronger, their D doesn't scare anyone.

Braden Coburn is pretty good but it's pretty thin after that.

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#76 match16
November 13 2013, 02:24PM
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6 ring circus wrote:

In some organizations they don't allow you to keep making mistakes and have endless excuses,they just get rid of you, never to be heard from again.

Wait, the Oilers are an organization? I thought it was just a club for Lowe and his buddies to hang out?

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#77 Hockey fan 1976
November 13 2013, 06:39PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

Could you save me some of what your taking? The Oilers don't deserve fans like you.

@Mike you have got to be kidding me. Either you are high or really have no concept of how professional sports or any business for that matter works. I could care less that these guys feel bad or have "pressure" and we are so negative and they couldn't take the booos from the crowd. You and the Oilers can both grow a pair. They are professional hockey players making millions and millions per year. You get paid to perform and it's not a popularity contest.

By the way @Mike, in the real world, if you don't perform you get fired. Ou boss doesn't care if your feelings get hurt when you don't meet deadlines and reach quotas. Results and bottom lines is what the real world asks for.

What a joke!!!

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#78 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 09:44AM
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VK63 wrote:

Y u heff 2 be mad?

I know, I know, I need to learn to calm down, lol.

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#79 Burp Snart
November 13 2013, 10:00AM
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@Fresh Mess

If Oil don't get Ekblad, looks like they'll draft another small skilled forward and the futility will go on.

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#80 tileguy
November 13 2013, 10:32AM
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Can't wait for game day predictions that may involve Horc. Somebody start the ball rolling.

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#82 Ray
November 13 2013, 11:10AM
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Ray wrote:

You want to build a team.

Trade for Kulemin this will help Yakupov's growth.

Trade Eberle for Sean Couturier

Begin the process of building a team.

People trash this suggestion because they have no idea how to build a team, All- Star teams don't work.

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#83 oilfan in yyc
November 13 2013, 11:19AM
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loweblows wrote:

really??? as I stated earlier the kids are now young men learning to play in a mans league-if you look at most teams they shelter and groom them in the ahl until they are 21-its sad that the majority of the posters agree that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov are destroying the organization-trash me all you want but it is obvious that your anger outweighs logic, glad you guys aren't in charge

Most organizations don't shelter first overall picks in the AHL until they are 21, first overalls immediately make it to the NHL the majority of the time.

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#84 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 11:28AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

It is undeniable that Lowe has been involved:

Hired and kept tamby (no formal search)

Brought in MacT then fired tamby and replaced him with MacT (no formal search)

Was in the interview of Eakins. Obviously was okay with MacT abrogating the search process and firing Krueger.

All of the above plus became lightning rod with his six rings interview.

So stop hiding behind the equivocation and make a BOLD statement.

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#85 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 11:51AM
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JW,

Fedun's demotion in favour of Potter would also be consistent with Katz ordering management to reduce payroll. Fedun is oon a two way contract. Potter is on a one way NHL deal.

Seven hundred grand savings is nothing to sneeze at when you are talking about your own money.

Another year with no playoff revenue, I wouldn't blame Katz for cutting the budget. Spending to the cap sure didn't bring results.

Although choosing Smid to dump salary is still perplexing to me. Terrible trade.

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#86 Cold Hard Truth
November 13 2013, 12:11PM
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@Jonathan Willis

So the only case you can envisage Lowe being fired is if it is somehow proved that he forced Tambellini to make poor moves?

Will Lowe ever be accountable for anything?

Here's a separate question for you Jonathan:

Do you think MacTavish would have been hired if he was not personally close with Kevin Lowe and Daryl Katz?

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#87 forsoothed
November 13 2013, 01:30PM
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We may want to be past "rebuild" and it may be silly to be in a "rebuild" at this point in time, but the Oilers just traded a legit NHL D for prospects with no one to immediately fill his shoes... that's a rebuild and we're still in the middle of it.

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#88 Mike
November 13 2013, 02:33PM
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I'm so tired of all the negative articles and the "seasons over" comments. Has anyone read the secret. Negative begets negative that's why this thing with yak is front and center, the teams record the booing at games all of it is killing this teams mojo. They asked smid what's wrong with the team yesterday and him not being an oiler he could of said anything you know what he said? Classy guy says "I have no idea" and he is right. What's their record when the outshoot opponents? Or what's there record when they score 4 or more goals? The answers to these questions don't make sense. Everyone needs to back off the amount of pressure the fans/media is creating on these players is ridiculous. Eakins said the other day I'm seeing vets make mistakes they normally wouldn't. That's pressure. They couldn't wait to go on the road last week cuz the fans were howling for blood. Yes they sucked that det game and deserved it but look at the record. As fans do we want to see the record improve or turn into the same haters that all us fans have been beating back with a stick over the years. How many times have you heard a van fan or any fan say the oilers suck over the years? Now instead of defending the team what we now agree? This is the worst I have seen the oilers record but the best hockey numbers wise I have seen them produce over some years. It's not entirely a personnel thing. It is bad stinkin luck that has accumulated over years and when you come out of such a rotten time sometimes the bad luck doesn't want to let go it wants to drag u back down. Us supporting our time to the fullest and them winning will change things for good but the more negativity we add to this fire the more harder it's gonna burn. Let's stay positive people they still have a slim chance and what a story that would be if they came sliding in at 8th when the seasons done. Let's cheer for a 50-20-12 finish.....it's still possible

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#89 MessyEH!
November 13 2013, 03:45PM
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@Mike

Could you save me some of what your taking? The Oilers don't deserve fans like you.

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#90 madjam
November 13 2013, 04:28PM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

In general I agree they should not try and tank this year, but since they are losing so badly it doesn't really matter. What they shouldn't do is give away that 1st round pick for a short term fix on a lost season.

I took a look at how Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, Detroit, San Jose and Pittsburgh spend their cap dollars. What macT needs to do is start addressing gaps. based on those six teams, an ideal budget would look something like this:

Percent $M 1st 25.0% 17.5 2nd 17.0% 11.9 3rd 9.0% 6.3 4th 4.0% 2.8

1st 14.9% 10.4 2nd 9.6% 6.7 3rd 5.3% 3.7

Starter 7.7% 5.4 Back up 1.9% 1.3

Extra roster 2.9% 2.0 (players 21 to 23) Available 3.0% 2.0 (deadline deals)

Total 100% $70.0 (estimated for next yr)

One quick look at how much the Oilers are spending on their 3rd line and their bottom pairing show some major issues. Underspending on the top pairing also stands out.

If the Oilers are going to trade Hemsky, it should be for a two-way 3rd line winger on a value contract that extends into next season or beyond. When you look at the bigger picture, that's probably better for the Oilers than retaining Hemsky and being forced to underspend elsewhere.

It means spending $3.5M on Nick Schultz is crazy. It means Ference contract is going to look horrible in a year or two when he is on the third pairing.

It means MacT should be looking to trade one of Eberle, Yakupov, or Gagner as the centrepiece for a top pairing defender.

Tanking is not the right choice. Fixing how they manage their cap space is what they should focus on.

Too bad I have no faith in MacT or Howson to fox the problem.

Well said , and your analysis breakdown on coppernblue was a gem .

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#91 RealFakeDiesel
November 13 2013, 09:38AM
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Even if we get on a hot streak. Its not like we'll be drafting 30th overall

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#92 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 13 2013, 11:11AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

Even if Lowe isnt making the Oiler decisions (Although he travel with mact and mess on a scouting/trade mission so apparently he is heavily involved in the day to day) He is the man responsible for the Hockey operations and the Hockey operations have been a catastrophe. Tambo's sins were basically not being a friend of Katz

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#93 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:14AM
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Ray wrote:

People trash this suggestion because they have no idea how to build a team, All- Star teams don't work.

I actually think that is a good post.

Kulemin - 6'1 225lbs on the LW adding some scoring and size to our top 9. Plays 2 ways.

Couturier may not put up 80 points per year, but if he gets to 60 points and stops pucks from going in, sign me up.

I would attempt to acquire both.

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#94 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 11:31AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

And that's a fair point.

I said it at the time and 100 times since: the Khabibulin signing alone should have been a fireable offence given what it said about management's approach.

Even more egregious was not getting Niemi when they had the chance.

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#95 tileguy
November 13 2013, 11:36AM
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Simmonds and Subban, now the team would have teeth.

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#96 Jed
November 13 2013, 11:55AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd be reasonably shocked if Philadelphia wasn't willing to part with Couturier+ for Eberle.

Don't forget Scott Laughton in the philly organization who could replace Sean Couturier.

I think Philly would me more than interested

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#97 madjam
November 13 2013, 12:06PM
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When you spend only 8% of budget on top two defence when $10% is minimum , and 5% on goaltending when 6% is minimum - your backend sucks slough water like our Oilers do . Can hardly expect forwards to make up for all of that over site , now can we . We need to trade for backend pronto , not other forwards which will do little to fix our major problems on back end . Results show exactly that, as goals against keep mounting inordinately.

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#98 Alsker
November 13 2013, 12:34PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

JW,

Fedun's demotion in favour of Potter would also be consistent with Katz ordering management to reduce payroll. Fedun is oon a two way contract. Potter is on a one way NHL deal.

Seven hundred grand savings is nothing to sneeze at when you are talking about your own money.

Another year with no playoff revenue, I wouldn't blame Katz for cutting the budget. Spending to the cap sure didn't bring results.

Although choosing Smid to dump salary is still perplexing to me. Terrible trade.

I'm with you, money can't buy love or a winning hockey team. As for Smid if there would have been another deal in place where $ needed to be shed, whatever. With MacT stating its for cap help next year than he's either an idiot or Smid crossed the line on something. With all our matinees so far this season its fitting that this is such a soap opera.

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#99 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 01:06PM
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rob wrote:

hey J.W,how about the fans give the oil a standing O tonight and cheer through out the game,lets see if we can kick start our team instead of leaving it to our incompetent managment team!lets make these guys feel like someone is behind them and turn this year around,I know they dont deserve it but lets rock the hell out of rexall tonight!

Wow!

Cheering failure. That ought to work...

I'm sure It will really send a message to management that we think they are incompetent.

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#100 DSF
November 13 2013, 01:28PM
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Citizen David wrote:

And yet he's till on pace this season for 78 points with a brutal shooting percentage. What happens if it rises?...

He's on pace for a 64 point season.

And the Oilers have played 14 of their 19 games against weaker EC opponents.

In the 8 games against WC opponents, Eberle has scored 1G and 2A.

We''ll have to see how that works out as the season progresses.

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