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 2004Z06
December 12 2013, 10:42AM
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HardBoiledOil wrote:

i'm as pessimistic as anyone, but though i think you won't see a ton of wins from this team against the top teams, to say we will go 0-4 in the next 4 games seems a little harsh judging by how much better the Oilers have played since starting at, what? 4-15? they could easily win a couple of these upcoming games and i hope they do just to prove all the doom and gloomers (and me) wrong!

That is the problem. The perception that the Oilers have played better as of late.

False sense of improvement. This is the same team that started the season. There is only one difference. Goaltending is better.

That is all.

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#52 2004Z06
December 12 2013, 10:43AM
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My only concern over the next 4 games is how many injuries the Oilers sustain.

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#54 @Oilanderp
December 12 2013, 11:23AM
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@Mikey

By calling them the Big Bad Bruins, you fall into their trap. I don't care who the other team is or who they have. You play the same against every team. I don't expect Perron to change his game. You can't go into a game fearfull, otherwise you have already lost. Just look at Montreal vs Boston. Montreal isn't affraid of Boston. And they are no bigger than us.

It's not due to size that the odds are against us. The Oilers are mentally young and still make ridiculously bad 'forcing it' plays with the puck resulting in brutal turnovers. They just aren't very good at the modern style of hockey yet.

I'm hoping like hell something clicks and they do what the coach wants... but I wouldn't bet on it.

I'm hoping Mr. Brownlee is wrong, but if it was my money on the line, i'd lay it down on his side of the table. Just sayin'.

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#55 CellyHard
December 12 2013, 11:24AM
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Well there is way to take the wind right out of your sails. Has this team improved? Yes. Do they still have work to do? yes. Honestly every time i thought this team was going to get destroyed( Chicago and Colorado for examples) they have done the opposite.You just never know what this team will do.

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#56 camdog
December 12 2013, 11:37AM
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madjam wrote:

Oilers not going up for long with our defence and erratic goaltending .

Hmm you must watch a different game then me, I thought since Bryzgalof was signed that our goaltending has been consistent, average however consistent. Our d-man of course have been poor and our forwards are erratic.

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#57 outdoorzguy
December 12 2013, 11:42AM
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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.

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#59 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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#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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