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. 

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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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#1 Roger in Vancouver
November 13 2013, 09:29AM
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JIm,

My name is Roger from Vancouver. I need you to tell me if these proposals are crazy or if they are feasible. I sent you the proposal last year for Matt Duchene which you reasonably reasoned out…

Here are my proposals:

1. Trade to Philly - Hemsly, Gagner, N. Schultz, 2015 2nd and 3rd for Coburn, B. Schenn, Simmons

as well as

2. To Buffalo - Yakupov and J. Schultz, 2014 1st rd pick for Cody Hodgson and Tyler Meyers.

Lines: Hall RNH SImmons

Schenn Hodgson Ebs

Perron Gordon Joensuu

Smyth Arco Jones

Defense: Coburn Meyers

Ference Larsen

Petry Belov

The only reason i say J Schultz is we need a tougher D. Im liking Larsen and how he is jumping into the play a la J Schultz but still gets back on D.

The second line may relive the magic of the WJC….

Hallsie gets a guy that plays like him with the magician RNH that can feed those two…..

AM I CRAZY JIM???!

Please pass this to Mc T if you approve!

Your devoted and humble fan in Vancouver,

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#2 aburgess@downholebattery.ca
November 13 2013, 09:11AM
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true oiler fans will tough it out-if you look hard enough positives abound-the "kids" are now young men playing in a mans league, if any group of young players are learning at the school of hard knocks its this group-bogdan yakimov, darnell nurse, oscar klefbom, marc olivier roy, jujhar khaira, greg chase, all positives-I truly believe this is our deepest and darkest moment-I argue bull sh*% to anyone who says that a team loses to learn-do you really think RNH or Taylor Hall got to where they are by accepting loss? Mac T has assets to make not only the bold moves but the right moves to bring Stanley back to Jasper Ave! Then all will be well with KLowe(and I will change my moniker!!)-GO OILERS! Bandwagoners off now please!

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#3 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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#4 Ray
November 13 2013, 10:08AM
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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.

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#5 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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#6 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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#7 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 09:33AM
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BUFFALO FIRES THEIR COACH and GM after a crappy start..... PHILLY FIRES THEIR COACH after a crappy star..... and in EDMONTON ??? What do the Oilers do to shake things up??? They trade our grittiest D-man and bring in a goaltender that was absolutely IGNORED BY 29 other teams!!!

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#8 rob
November 13 2013, 12:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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

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!

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#9 Smokey
November 13 2013, 09:01AM
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That's why more then ever its time to get new direction. Katz needs to come outta his cave and change the culture of loosing.

The Yak mess shows how bad it is that Larionov feels compelled to fly to Edmonton to get their ____ straight. Yak getting thrown under a bus. Sure he's sucked and needs to grow a pair, but so does MacT and Klowe.

I would never expect this coming from Klowe or MacT but an apology to the extent of this mess would be nice. Take some ownership. And Eakins needs to stop preaching accountability and start actually showing it. Bench your vets, or play Yak when he screws up.

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#10 Rama Lama
November 13 2013, 10:56AM
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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.

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#11 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:43AM
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sizzay wrote:

Also Eberle is outscoring Voracek this year.

Yep.

Small sample size though.

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#12 oilfan in yyc
November 13 2013, 08:59AM
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Every time I see a picture or shot of the Oilers bench I can't help but think of the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen". Do they really need 3 assistants on the bench giving a multitude of directions?

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#13 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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#14 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:15AM
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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.

Doubtful Phi would trade Sean Couturier for Eberle straight up.

That's the neat part about trades. Both teams have to actually agree.

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#15 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:30AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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

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.

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#17 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 09:02AM
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Boys on the bus............. It is sad to think these boys have grown into men that are destroying an organization from the top down!!

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#18 Reg Dunlop
November 13 2013, 09:41AM
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I think the concept of 'rebuild' started with local media. The team was woeful and media floated the idea that the oil was intentionally tanking to get higher draft picks to which oil mgmt. said, 'uh...ya, rebuild, that's what we are doing'. This situation is the result of incompetence only. There is no plan.

Regardless, this is pro hockey, always play to win. Even though that concept cost us Monohan last year it earned us Nurse. Go oil.

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#19 Todd
November 13 2013, 09:45AM
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Smokey wrote:

That's why more then ever its time to get new direction. Katz needs to come outta his cave and change the culture of loosing.

The Yak mess shows how bad it is that Larionov feels compelled to fly to Edmonton to get their ____ straight. Yak getting thrown under a bus. Sure he's sucked and needs to grow a pair, but so does MacT and Klowe.

I would never expect this coming from Klowe or MacT but an apology to the extent of this mess would be nice. Take some ownership. And Eakins needs to stop preaching accountability and start actually showing it. Bench your vets, or play Yak when he screws up.

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

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#20 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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#21 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:36AM
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sizzay wrote:

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

If they could move one of their toxic contracts to the Oilers I guess they might consider it but $6M for a second line winger is pretty steep.

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#22 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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#23 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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#24 Big Cap
November 13 2013, 10:05AM
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With Eakins, MacT and Lowe setting the Oiler record for the fastest bombing of a season (beating their own previous record) I hope they continue to manage and play guys like Smyth, Eager, N. Schultz as much as possible while Eakins continues his blowhard views of how the young guys have to "earn it" and "learn the system".

With another season shot, Our young guys and future roster players should be playing in every situation possible. If not now, then when? When we are in the Conference Final??? PS - Nuge will be 35 years by then.

Eakins has been the Biggest bust in the last 10 years, maybe since Jason Bonsignore. He's demolished our once successful PP and PK, and implemented this ridiculous "swarm defense". Tell us again how we will be the most fit team and the most ultra competitive unit in the league for all 60 minutes.

PS - Thank you to both MacT and Lowe for Green Lighting this coaching hire.

PPS - Katz, enjoy the Caribbean. See you in March when you get back to start hitting us season ticket holders up for next years deposit. Plus 6 percent increase, of coarse.

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#25 Bob
November 13 2013, 10:06AM
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TayLordBalls wrote:

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)

I agree. I think they just need to keep there feet moving, get pucks deep, play 110%, take it one game at a time and they'll be fine.

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#26 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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#27 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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#28 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 12:24PM
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@DSF

agreed

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#29 Citizen David
November 13 2013, 01:01PM
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@DSF

I know it takes more than points to win but what I want from 6million first liners the most, what is most important from them, is points. And Eberle delivers.

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#30 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 08:58AM
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Lafontaine new president of hockey operations in Buffalo (thanks Oilers for bringing this idiotic title into vogue). Regier out. Ted Nolan in as coach.

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#31 Shredder
November 13 2013, 09:03AM
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Willis...glad someone said it. It's time we start building real NHL players. All this potential is making me sick. It'd be nice to add Edblad to Nurse and Klefbom and the rest of the dmen, but right now the only guy able to teach them how to play on a night to night basis is Petry, and I think he's still just figuring it out. Smid would have been nice to keep for the young guys. No doubt we needed a goalie prospect, and our goaltending needed an upgrade, but let's focus on real players going forward.

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#32 Smokey
November 13 2013, 09:04AM
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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.

Good on Ted...talk bout full circle.

Wonder if they will bring back Muckler.

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#33 G Money
November 13 2013, 09:19AM
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JW, you've well summarized the Tambo years. He got the 'backward' part right, three #1 picks, yay, but not the 'build' part.

Strategically - and of course, some of this is the gift of hindsight, but lots of it was known beforehand and done poorly or not done at all - I think the template of a 'proper' rebuild would be to fill in the top part of your team with high drafts, the bulk of your team on the cheap through the draft, and sign key veterans at key positions to fill in the rest.

Ideally, the veterans are in place when the team - i.e. the lottery picks have matured - is ready to contend.

The Oilers have the #1 picks alright, but the rest of the depth was never developed.

This requires some measure of optimization in timing too. Defenseman develop slowest, so you want a pile of them in the system right at the start of your rebuild process so they're maturing when you finally contend. The Oilers have that, but started too late and now those guys won't be properly ready to help until years from now.

To summarize:

- Rebuild means trade away veterans for as many prospects and picks as possible, tank, and collect lottery picks for say five years to build the cheap(ish) high end skill that is otherwise way too expensive to buy or trade for

- Draft a ton of defenders with mid/late picks early in the rebuild so some are ready to go when the rebuild finishes

- Draft a ton of high-risk skill with late picks later in the rebuild to fill out the rest of your roster

- Sign veterans to add stability and depth to your roster late in the rebuild

- The only part Tambo got right was the tanking part. And here we are today.

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#34 tileguy
November 13 2013, 09:28AM
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I can't stop (weeping, chuckling) over the angst season ticket holders are going through.Tanking the season in November. What a joke this organization has become.

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#35 Lowe Expectations
November 13 2013, 09:30AM
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Being a fan is like being an addict. We are all waiting for that great high but all we get is the cheap crap. And like real addiction, feeling bad is better than feeling nothing at all. Damn I wish I didn't care so much.

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#36 madjam
November 13 2013, 09:38AM
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Get on Mact's case for the scrimping of cap money on back end ! Until that vastly improves we will remain a cellar dweller and forwards won't be able to progress properly .

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#37 VK63
November 13 2013, 09:40AM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

BUFFALO FIRES THEIR COACH and GM after a crappy start..... PHILLY FIRES THEIR COACH after a crappy star..... and in EDMONTON ??? What do the Oilers do to shake things up??? They trade our grittiest D-man and bring in a goaltender that was absolutely IGNORED BY 29 other teams!!!

Y u heff 2 be mad?

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#38 Cubro
November 13 2013, 09:44AM
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@Roger in Vancouver

I don't mind this but really? Larsen over Schultz? He was - 3 vs Chicago in a game in which he had three points. 2 of those goals he left guys all alone in the slot. I think Schultz has better offensive flair and is already better than Larsen defensively.

I think yak gagner nschultz+ a third rounder gets that deal done

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#39 Bob
November 13 2013, 09:57AM
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Another time I rebuilt an old bike

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#40 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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#41 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 10:20AM
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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.

Regeir apparently was/is best friends with the owner. Many in buffalo didn't think it was possible that he wild be fired.

Katz take note.

And Jonathan, part if he building should include firing the POHO, do you agree?

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#42 Pat
November 13 2013, 10:20AM
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@Quintana

Six rings to rule them all.

If only Samwise could take Lowe to Mordor.

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#43 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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#44 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:58AM
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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.

He hired Tambellini and kept him in that position for 5 years while the franchise spiralled into disaster.

That's all on Lowe

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#45 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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#46 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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#47 Citizen David
November 13 2013, 12:58PM
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DSF wrote:

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.

I have no problem paying a 70+ point first line right winger 6 million. It would be nice it it were more of a bargain but it's fine with me. 4.25 is not what I'd call a great deal for what Voracek does. 40 something's points and good defensively. 2nd-3rd liner.

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#48 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 09:04AM
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oilfan in yyc wrote:

Every time I see a picture or shot of the Oilers bench I can't help but think of the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen". Do they really need 3 assistants on the bench giving a multitude of directions?

It's what the Oilers are good at: adding unending layers of coaches, VP's, directors, advisors, consultants, and presidents to the hockey operations department. They are innovators in superfluous corporate bloat.

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#49 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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#50 Bob
November 13 2013, 10:02AM
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I re-shingled it and I fixed the door on it. I put new windows in it too. It took me all afternoon but it was a nice day.

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