THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

Robin Brownlee
December 11 2013 09:49PM

It's easy to dismiss the 7-3-1 record the Edmonton Oilers have strung together in their last 11 games because there's no question this has been a soft stretch in the schedule – assuming you can say there's such a thing as soft when you're talking about a team sitting 14th in the Western Conference.

While I'm not of the mind to shrug off this stretch completely, even with the last win coming by way of a 5-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that turned into a nail-biter when it shouldn't have, I'm not putting too much stock in what we've seen, either.

With 50 games to play and an 11-18-3 record, this tidy little roll the Oilers have put together is destined to have the brakes slammed on in a hurry the rest of this month, starting Thursday when the Boston Bruins comes calling at Rexall Place. Up next, it's Boston, Vancouver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Impressive record or not these last 11 games, I've seen way too many lapses in execution and intensity and far too many recurring and glaring mistakes in the defensive zone – mistakes recent opponents haven't always made them pay for – to believe the Oilers have turned any kind of corner.

How many wins do you see in these next four games? I see none.

WHILE I'M AT IT

Soft schedule or not, the Oilers have at least made up a little ground in trying to extract themselves from the Western Conference basement – unless you read the game preview of the Boston-Edmonton tilt by NHL.com staff writer Davis Harper.

Harper writes: "Big story: The top seed in the Eastern Conference will square off against the 15th seed in the West. The Oilers, 2-1-1 on a five-game homestand, will look to end it on a high note . . ."

So, 15th in a 14-team conference? That's really lousy. Freudian slip, of course. Been there. Done that.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

If I asked you to list the goaltenders with the best career save percentages as members of the Oilers (minimum 75 games), where would you put Devan Dubnyk? Without looking it up, would you guess Dubnyk is in the top five? Top 10?

How about first overall? With 164 games as an Oiler in the books, Dubnyk sits first overall with a .910 save percentage after Tuesday's win over the Hurricanes. Dwayne Roloson is next at .909, followed by Tommy Salo at .906, Nikolai Khabibulin at .903 and Curtis Joseph at .902.

How about the guys who backstopped all the Stanley Cups? Different era, of course -- the Oilers scored at a ridiculous pace. Grant Fuhr is eighth at .853, Andy Moog is ninth at .842 and Bill Ranford is seventh at .887.

ONE WHO GOT AWAY

After spending the 2004-05 NHL lockout season covering the Edmonton Road Runners of the AHL, I came away impressed as can be with head coach Geoff Ward, who fronted a staff that included Joe Paterson and Kelly Buchberger. Edmonton's one-year entry in the AHL was a bad team, but it was obvious to me, for what that's worth, Ward was as sharp cookie.

Ward, who worked in Hamilton with Claude Julien, took over as bench boss in Steeltown for two seasons after the Montreal Canadiens hired Julien. He moved west when the Road Runners were hatched, then served as Edmonton's development coach in 2005-06.

Ward left the Oilers and joined Julien in Boston in August of 2007 and he's been there ever since. Pretty good run for a very good man.

AND . . .

So, who will Dallas Eakins match up against Boston's line of Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and David Krejci? No matter which way Eakins goes, I don't see a favorable match for the Oilers.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Bucknuck
December 12 2013, 11:50AM
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The Oilers are a little Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde lately. I figure they will split this four game set up 2-2, and surprise us with their good play, then lay a stink bomb against an 'easy' team.

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#53 Serious Gord
December 12 2013, 11:54AM
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@Cranky young guy

Here's some (sobering) stats for you:

If you look at the oilers record against the teams that are currently in the top 16 in the league in points they are 2 wins and 14 losses (!!).

If they hold to that pattern they will go 3 and 13 between now and Jan 12. And 6-3-1 will be a distant memory...

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#54 French Toast Mafia
December 12 2013, 12:02PM
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Mark Hoosein wrote:

Brownlee,

How many of those mistakes are coaching mistakes? Has anyone asked Eakins why Marincin and J.Schultz were the two D-Men on the ice for OT against Calgary? Has anyone asked him why he stayed with the Gagner-Hall-Yakupov line when they were getting their lunch eaten against Carolina?

Eakins is either stupid, or stupid like a fox, because those are glaring errors in judgement.

Which stud defencemen would you have out there instead? Which players in the top 6 would you have the coach throw out if you think having Hall (The best player on the team) is terrible coaching?

He has to play the players he has on the team. Would you feel any better having Nuge, Eberle, or Hemsky on the ice?

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#55 Serious Gord
December 12 2013, 12:03PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

President on the business side. It's about spin, not reality. Let's not cloud the issue with the truth.

Doing so would be admitting fans here have been getting almost no bang for their buck for far too long.

Mr. Laforge doing his best Baghdad BOB impression...

In a somewhat related note;

Burke just fired feaster and his assistant.

The discussion around the rebuild in EDM has largely been defense first vs offense first and other related on ice aspects.

That is completely wrongheaded.

A rebuild of any organization hockey or otherwise should always begin at the top. Removing old management first.

Calgary looks to be following that path. Edmonton? Obviously and definitely - NOT.

Ps - how cool would it have been if the oil had fired Lowe and hired Burke?

Robin et al would have all the copy they needed for the day by 11:00 (which is about 15 minutes after most sports journos have rolled out of bed. Though I'm pretty sure robin that your glass repair biz is going great guns these days)

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#56 Serious Gord
December 12 2013, 12:40PM
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OilClog wrote:

How is it easy to dismiss a 7-3-1 record? What it didn't happen? They were playing AHL teams? Couldn't we then just as easy dismiss the first 20games like they didn't happen, since the last 11 games apparently have no weight or meaning why would the first 20?!

Sure it's easy to say, well they weren't playing The cream of the crop, but they won, and beat teams ahead of them in the standings 7 times! Out of 11.

The team is playing better, to suggest the last 11 games can easily be swatted away because the competition wasn't Chicago or the kings every night.

Good grief.

The strength of your opponents matters.

That's why rocky Marciano - who went 49 -0 with 43 KOs is rarey listed as one of the top ten boxers ever.

As per my post above 6-3-1 carries little weight in light of the teams record against above average opponents.

And if the team holds to its past record, by the halfway point in the season the evidence will be overwhelming that Eakins needs to be terminated as coach.

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#57 Zarny
December 12 2013, 12:41PM
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HardBoiledOil wrote:

we have a pile of 1st rounders and 2nd rounders on this team and still can't produce a winning record...

I love how people say "1st rounders" like they come with magical pixie dust from a land of unicorns and rainbows.

A pile of 1st and 2nd rounders really just means young players who make mistakes. How many of those 1st and 2nd rounders have even played 200 games? Very few.

A few high draft picks a contender does not make.

Especially when they are supported by other young players who are prone to making mistakes, a below average blueline with nothing that resembles a top pairing D and a 27 y/o "prospect" in G who may or may not be good enough to make the playoffs.

Phaneuf's game didn't deteriorate from his rookie season. He simply lost Hamrlik covering his butt...just in case MacT was curious about what would help J.Schultz.

We've seen what players like Perron and Gordon add and how much the Oilers miss Horcoff. You see Couture's progress in SJ where he's been sheltered by Thornton, Marleau, Boyle and an actual NHL goaltender.

The kids need to play a better 200 ft game; but the real problem in Edm is pretty much everything supporting the young draft picks is borderline NHL caliber at best.

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#58 Zarny
December 12 2013, 01:18PM
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Make hay while the sun shines. Soft stretch in the schedule so the Oilers should do well and they did. Check.

Bos-Van-Anh-LA...I like it. A good test and it comes at a good time when the Oilers are relatively healthy and on a bit of a roll.

Bos-Anh-LA are big, strong teams. Chara, Lucic, Iginla, Getzlaf, Perry, Carter, Kopitar, Brown. We'll see how the Oilers match-up and I expect we'll see the holes in the roster.

The Oil could go 0-4. On paper they are certainly over-matched. It's not out of the question someone sleeps on Edm though.

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#59 Oiler Al
December 12 2013, 02:33PM
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@Zarny

Zarny... I did the original post on the[Oilers -10 vs Bso. 3 1 st rounders].

Of the 10 Oilers 7, have more than 200 games[ Eberle,Gagner, Gordon,Hall, Hemsky, Perron, Smyth, ]. Nuge -132, Dubnyk -164 and Yak with less.

Boston. 1 st. on current roster, are Iginla , Rask, and Hamilton.Most of their star players are 2 nd and 3 rd rounders, including Chara and Bergeron etc.

The point is that Boston although a vet team, choose at different route than picking unicorns and pixie dust to buld their team., and not have Bob Mckenzie make the picks for you.

Bottom line, is Oilers have be hinding behind the the "REBUILD Schtick" for 7 years.

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#60 GoofyGoon69
December 12 2013, 04:11PM
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French Toast Mafia wrote:

Which stud defencemen would you have out there instead? Which players in the top 6 would you have the coach throw out if you think having Hall (The best player on the team) is terrible coaching?

He has to play the players he has on the team. Would you feel any better having Nuge, Eberle, or Hemsky on the ice?

People blame the coaching too hard. They don't realize that Oilers just doesn't have enough defensive talents. The coach doesn't have a choice

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#61 Rod from Viking
December 12 2013, 04:38PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

To me this explains the entire state of the Oiler organization... I saw Team President Pat Laforge on the news and he was discussing the empty seats that have been starting to show up in the building. He didn't think it was because of the product on the ice, he believed people are not going to the games because of the weather. Really?? Talk about having your head up your patooty. If this is the vision and foresight the team leadership has it totally explains why it is where its at. This is northern Alberta Mr. Laforge, not Palm Springs. We live with weather. My god he's such a visionary.

I have met Patrick Laforge a couple of times and had a meeting with him after our arena burnt down, I was very surprised by his comments, he is a real straight shooter and either he really believes what he said or has been mixing something in his kool aid. I am a tier 1.5 fan since I share my tickets but the seats are empty because you can't give them away except to charity because how poor the effort has been on most nights for the last 7 years.

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#62 camdog
December 12 2013, 04:56PM
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GoofyGoon69 wrote:

People blame the coaching too hard. They don't realize that Oilers just doesn't have enough defensive talents. The coach doesn't have a choice

Today (or was it yesterday) Eakins said that he was forced to change his coaching style because the players just weren't ready to play his system, a system that Craig Mactavish endorsed when he hired him. Now I am not a systems guy, but it looks like they have reverted back to a Krueger/Renney system. Does anybody know if this is correct?

Seems to me like the previous 2 GM's fired 2 coaches because they wanted the team to play a system that they were unable to play due to their lack of talent or work ethic. Looks to me like we have now had multiple GM's that are unable to honestly judge the talent on this team. And I don't buy the it's mact's first year on the job, he was with the organisation all of last year, he had plenty of time to analyze this teams stengths and weaknesses.

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#63 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
December 12 2013, 05:42PM
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@Cranky young guy

Not CRANKY enough....try harder!

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#64 oilers forlife
December 13 2013, 12:26AM
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EDIT: Insert drunken, incoherent rambling about "Fire Kevin Lowe!" petition here . . .

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#65 aceglfr
December 13 2013, 01:43PM
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Is it paper bag time being an Oilers fan? More than anything its embarasing when the opposing fan already knows the game is won because Dubnyk is starting. My Boston friend says watch this its going to be a goal and sure enough its a goal. I don't know why he didn't even move to save it, I could have jumped over the seats and got to the net and saved it. Maybe we are after another high draft pick and to start with another goalie might cause a win. Why does every other no name goalie always have a spectacular game against us and we have to suffer with a swiss cheese, 4' 2'' (on his knees), glacial reactions, half blind goalie. Hope I am not being too hard on him but saying he played well after a 5-0 beating isn't working either.

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#66 aceglfr
December 13 2013, 01:43PM
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Is it paper bag time being an Oilers fan? More than anything its embarasing when the opposing fan already knows the game is won because Dubnyk is starting. My Boston friend says watch this its going to be a goal and sure enough its a goal. I don't know why he didn't even move to save it, I could have jumped over the seats and got to the net and saved it. Maybe we are after another high draft pick and to start with another goalie might cause a win. Why does every other no name goalie always have a spectacular game against us and we have to suffer with a swiss cheese, 4' 2'' (on his knees), glacial reactions, half blind goalie. Hope I am not being too hard on him but saying he played well after a 5-0 beating isn't working either.

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