The First 41: Halfway Where?

Robin Brownlee
December 28 2013 11:23PM

So, are the Edmonton Oilers actually as lousy as their record at the halfway point of their schedule or have they under-achieved through their first 41 games?

While I didn’t see the Oilers as Western Conference playoff contenders this season, I'm leaning heavily toward the latter when I look at a team that is an underwhelming 13-24-4 for 30 points after reaching the halfway pole by coughing up a 2-0 lead in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Rexall Place Saturday.

Are the Oilers as bad as their record? No. Does that mean this first half has been nothing more than an unlucky aberration and everything will be fine if people just sit back, relax and let things fall into place? Not a chance. I'm not even going to try to blow that brand of sunshine up anybody's backside, and anybody who does should give their head a shake.

The issues are many. Too much of the same thing up front. A defensive group that lacks enough actual NHL defensemen and a true top pairing. Lack of size and grit. Consistency in goal. Not enough veteran leadership . . . blah, blah, blah. GM Craig MacTavish has much work to do. All this we know.

That said, there's no question this group of players, holes and all, didn't come close to playing as well as was reasonably expected under NHL rookie coach Dallas Eakins in the first half. A tough schedule early played a part in that. So did injuries. So have horrid performances by players who have a record of being better.

Are they this bad? No. Are they good enough? No.

In the Second Half

I expected the Oilers to be .500 in terms of points this season. That's not going to happen through 82 games with the terrible start they had, but I expect they'll be at or near .500 in their final 41 games. Even if MacTavish doesn't make a single roster move – he will -- I see the Oilers winning 18-20 games. I see them finishing with 70-74 points.

I know, big deal. Playing .500 in the second half won't be enough to get a playoff spot, making it eight years out of the post-season. If that's your bottom line for reasonable progress four years into the "official" rebuild, I get it. I didn't think a playoff position was a realistic expectation going into the season, but believing the Oilers would stay within hailing distance of the top-eight didn’t seem like too much to ask.

The Oilers went 19-22-7 for 45 points in 48 games last season. They had 74 points from a record of 32-40-10 in 2011-12. I didn't expect to see the Oilers take a step back so far this season. A step, not a leap, ahead? Yes. Back? No, but here we are.

So, back to why I expect the Oilers to be markedly better in the second half than they were in the first . . .

The Who and How

DEVAN DUBNYK: No way Dubnyk struggles in the final 41 games like he did in the first 41, posting a .896 save percentage and 3.24 GAA on the way to a 10-15-2 record. I expect we'll see Dubnyk in the .914 to .920 range -- his season numbers the previous two seasons -- in the second half.

ILYA BRYZGALOV: I was one of the people who thought it was nuts to take a chance on Bryzgalov and his baggage when he was sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. What we've seen so far is a goaltender who can still play and is better than Jason LaBarbera any day of the week.

SAM GAGNER: To understate, it's been a forgettable season for Gagner, who busted his jaw in pre-season, came back too early from surgery and struggled mightily when he did. I'll leave the same old arguments about Gagner to you, but he'll be better in the second half. He can't be worse.

NAIL YAKUPOV: Yakupov's sophomore season has been all over the place, with the overriding theme being how he's been used, or not used, by Eakins. This is a talented kid with holes in his game you expect from a 20-year-old. I don't know how or if he'll pan out long term, but look at his numbers today and tell me with a straight face he won’t be better in the second half.

THE FIT: Facing another year out of the playoffs, fans don't want to hear this, but here's always an adjustment period with a new head coach and we've seen it with Eakins. He needs to get a feel for the players and where they best fit. They need to get a feel for him. Expectations laid out early in the tenure of a new coach get tweaked over time on both sides of the equation. That's not an excuse for the record, but it plays into it.

The Bottom Line

You have to look at who might fall off their pace and performance of the first half, not just who should improve, but in projecting the second half, I don't see anybody who over-achieved to the extent they're destined to drop off the edge of the earth in the final 41 games.

I doubt we'll see a 60-point season from David Perron. He'll likely drop off a bit. Outside Perron, nobody among Edmonton's top-five scorers is scoring at a pace we haven’t seen before. In fact, I expect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who started the season coming off shoulder surgery, to be better.

The back end? Will Justin Schultz eliminate some of the glaring errors in his game and be better at picking his spots on the attack? I'd hope so. Will Anton Belov improve in the second half? I'd like to think so. I didn't see anybody on the back end play better than I expected through 41 games.

This team remains several players from being a playoff contender, but my expectation is the Oilers will have a significantly better second half and give everybody, notably MacTavish, a truer picture of what remains to be done than we got in the mess that was the first 41 games.

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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#101 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
December 29 2013, 01:17PM
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K_Mart wrote:

Samwise, Joensuu, Smytty, and All 8 d men are the problem. I believe that Ference, Petry and Jultz can be #4-5-6's on a playoff team, and Belov may be a #7. But Nultz, Potter, Larsen, and Marincin are not NHL caliber d men IMO. Larsen is a great skater, and I have hope for him because he's young, but even if he pans out, he'll never be more than a D Wide man.

This team is 3-4 dmen, and 3 forwards away from being a playoff team, and nothing Eakins does will change that.

This team is AT LEAST 10 players away from being a contender and it's not just positional....it's also character.

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#102 Jay
December 29 2013, 01:19PM
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3 wins in a row!!! Lets start handing out contracts!!!

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#103 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
December 29 2013, 01:21PM
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blue31 wrote:

What button do we press if we don't think Yakupov would even be in this position with Hitchcock as coach?

Under Hitch.....Yak would be cycling between the third and fourth lines and the AHL until he learned the game....then he would be getting Taresenko type minutes and opportunity.

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#104 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 01:21PM
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If this team played in the AHL I wonder if they'd make the playoffs?

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#105 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 01:22PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

I could be wrong on this but I know a lot of people are talking about the Oilers coaching and suggesting that someone like Ruff or Hitchcock or Sutter should have been hired instead of Eakins or whoever. There is a bit of me that wonders if these people would even accept the job as it seems like the Oilers coaching job is a poisoned chalice. I can't think of any head coach that the Oilers hired and fired that has had a successful stint as an NHL head coach after they left. It could be a factor as to why perhaps other coaches were not mentioned. Maybe the Oil were rejected by other candidates.

There is no pressure or anything as an Oil head coach, you just have to first live in the constant shadow of one of the greatest teams put together in hockey history, and you have to turn a team that hasn't been in the playoffs for almost a decade with a bunch of young players who have yet to experience anything close to playoff hockey into a Stanley Cup contender. You also have every move you do and every thought you have dissected in numerous media outlets and by some of the most knowledgable passionate fans in the NHL so everything you do has to be fully explained and questioned. I can't imagine it being very easy.

I'm not the hugest fan of Eakins mind you, and he may have made some "mistakes" but we can't get Krueger back (who I was alright with) and I kindof understand what he is trying to do so may as well give him a season or two to see what happens, what's the worst that could happen, we finish last and get a top three pick, wouldn't be the first time sadly.

Who would have thought that 6Rings and MacT are tied for having the 2nd best coaching record of the Oil, like exactly the same winning percentage which is somehow over .500 (.537)

I hope this didn't come off as knocking anyone or anything, as that wasn't the intention.

I think the reason why no true veteran Unaffiliated coach has not been hired is because Klowe cannot bear having someone who has credentials and gravitas to face him down and do things that Klowe doesn't agree with. (Eg fire the assistants.)

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#106 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 01:23PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Under Hitch.....Yak would be cycling between the third and fourth lines and the AHL until he learned the game....then he would be getting Taresenko type minutes and opportunity.

Or hitch would have taught him how to play a defense system. If Brett hull could do it anyone can.

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#107 Johnnydapunk
December 29 2013, 01:36PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

I think the reason why no true veteran Unaffiliated coach has not been hired is because Klowe cannot bear having someone who has credentials and gravitas to face him down and do things that Klowe doesn't agree with. (Eg fire the assistants.)

That wouldn't shock me in any way actually.

Who is better than 6Rings anyways as no one knows more about winning than he does...

Man he is such a muppet....

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#108 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 01:46PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

That wouldn't shock me in any way actually.

Who is better than 6Rings anyways as no one knows more about winning than he does...

Man he is such a muppet....

And very thin-skinned...

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#109 Oiler Al
December 29 2013, 01:48PM
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Half the season is gone,, is it not time that the media did an interview with the guy at the top to review how the rebuild has gone?

Six Rings is around, you can see pan shots at games with him hiding in the upper boxes of Rexall.

Lets get his perspective on this team and where he thinks the rebuild will be next year?

I don't mean Stauffer doing the interview either with the in house Kool Aide production.

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#110 a lg dubl dubl
December 29 2013, 02:03PM
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I still want to know what 6rings was cussing about when Jeff "Im really Tom Gilbert" Petry was called for bording. Gave me a chuckle.

Anyways, Shultz jr has to go, and so does Petry, those 2 alone have caused more goals IMO than anybody else.

Is it just me or is Eberle having the worst year of his career (points aside). To me he was one of the most defensive mined forwards the team had, this year it seems like he could give a rats poop about defensive pressure on the opposing player.

It still baffles me that the players, who have been playing the game since the age of 3, cant put in EFFORT for 60min! I don't care what kind of system is in place or if the "swarm" is to hard to comprehend, put in EFFORT!!

Cheers ON!!

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#111 FireKLowe
December 29 2013, 02:04PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Half the season is gone,, is it not time that the media did an interview with the guy at the top to review how the rebuild has gone?

Six Rings is around, you can see pan shots at games with him hiding in the upper boxes of Rexall.

Lets get his perspective on this team and where he thinks the rebuild will be next year?

I don't mean Stauffer doing the interview either with the in house Kool Aide production.

I said many times the Edmonton media with the likes of Willis, Staples, and Matheson will never directly criticize Oilers management and ask tough questions. After that MacT hiring presser and the way the season has gone, Edmonton media has every reason to be tough with Lowe but they won't.

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#112 Huskamania
December 29 2013, 02:09PM
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@Tyson

I really dont think its about fireing the coach , that is the only thing they have done, I want to stick with a coach and get rid of the guy with 5 rings from the 80s and while we are there any players that played in the 80s that are administration

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#113 The Swarm
December 29 2013, 02:16PM
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K_Mart wrote:

"Coaching is all about special teams." ?!?

As much sense as you made through the rest of your post, this statement has me wondering how much you know about coaching at all.

A more accurate statement would have been: "A new coache's largest and most immediate impact will often be seen on special teams, where they have the most control."

But in the grand scheme of things, the coach should end up having a large impact on all aspects of a team, not just special teams.

That being said, Eakins has ruined our special teams and I'm still waiting for him to put them back together.

On the topic of coaching however, I do believe that Steve Smith has shown a consistent inability to develop and teach nhl defensemen over a very large sample size of games. I know picking on an assistant coach is often seen as 'reaching' but what good has he done for our d men EVER?

Maybe Petry's own goal was his doing though.

I didn't realize I needed your editorial input prior to posting. Based on your suggested edits, you obviously got my point. In the future though, should you need to edit my posts, please try and run a spell check first. I do actually know bit about coaching and I certainly know how to spell it.

In case you haven't noticed, with overall scoring down so much in the NHL, special teams are often the deciding factors in games. The Oilers were throughly schooled in this area against the Flyers - to the point where Giroux was actually directing traffic on their PP by pointing to who he was going to pass to. As a huge Oiler fan, it really was embarrassing.

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#114 D-Unit
December 29 2013, 02:43PM
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RexHolez wrote:

Don't be so hard on the poor guy! He's really good in the AHL

First off, I don't care for Justin Schultz. But what should the Oilers do with him, as he will be an RFA at the end of the season.

I see no reason to give him anything more than a qualifying offer, and Capgeek tells me that is $874,125. I don't think he would accept, but I wouldn't mind screwing over his career a bit.

Thoughts?

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#115 Eastern Oil
December 29 2013, 02:51PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Under Hitch.....Yak would be cycling between the third and fourth lines and the AHL until he learned the game....then he would be getting Taresenko type minutes and opportunity.

Although I agree with your premise, Yakupov would not have been able to head to the AHL as he came out of the CHL and because of his age.

I do think Todd Nelson has done a decent job down there developing players considering what he has had to work with, it would have been interesting to see Yak with a year of work under Nelson.

This could apply to any number of players though: Gagner 6 years ago, JSchultz, Lander 2 years ago. Our skill is present but it's not being handled properly.

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#116 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 02:57PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Half the season is gone,, is it not time that the media did an interview with the guy at the top to review how the rebuild has gone?

Six Rings is around, you can see pan shots at games with him hiding in the upper boxes of Rexall.

Lets get his perspective on this team and where he thinks the rebuild will be next year?

I don't mean Stauffer doing the interview either with the in house Kool Aide production.

Saw him waiting to get on the elevator to the upper suites at the red deer centrium for the Russian exhibition junior game about a month ago. (My friends and I have our pregame muster and drink Caesars point adjacent to there)

I resisted shouting "fire Lowe!!" But it wasn't easy.

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#117 seanjohn
December 29 2013, 03:02PM
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Bloodsweatandoil wrote:

Good blog Robin!

I see the Oilers continuing the same course, win a couple, lose a couple with this current roster and record combined.

In the Spring at trade deadline, I sense that we are going to see the bold moves that will reshape this organization permantly and lay the groundwork for the club in the off season. How can they not? I am thinking that with these moves at trade deadline, it will help improve the record for the season then....

I dont share your optimism for TDL. Hemsky will be the only significant player moved and it will be for futures.

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#118 I tried it at home
December 29 2013, 03:42PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Under Hitch.....Yak would be cycling between the third and fourth lines and the AHL until he learned the game....then he would be getting Taresenko type minutes and opportunity.

And this would be bad.... why?

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#119 Oliveoiler
December 29 2013, 04:25PM
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I;m tired of all this losing again - as I know every Oiler fan is. I'm tired of armchair coaches who know so much better than any in the organization. I'm tired of the calling for heads to roll. Most of all I'm tired of the team saying they KNOW what they are doing wrong, but have no ability to do it right. If you KNOW what has to be done to win and not make us all sick and tired, then PLEASE DO IT. Game after game after game. DO IT RIGHT. End of story. It's not rocket science.

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#120 dv.asteroid
December 29 2013, 04:33PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

That wouldn't shock me in any way actually.

Who is better than 6Rings anyways as no one knows more about winning than he does...

Man he is such a muppet....

Hey...I love the Muppets.

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#121 boxman
December 29 2013, 05:43PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Just calling it how I see it. Do you actually have an argument or is you have just foundationless bile?

And the Groundhog Day syndrome is all on the oilers - every year is another year of failure - with the same guy at the top.

or is you have just foundationless bile? What bile? My argument is you have been saying the same thing year after year and yes we all know management has been a cluster F#*K for many years. The facts are harping endlessly about K Lowe and the boys on the bus gets old. The reality is Mac T is 8 months into his job and must be given a chance to implement change. The reality is to change coaches now would perpetuate the Oilers carousel of failure. The reality is our "stars" are too young to carry the load and are not supported by veterans. So yeah this is frustrating as hell!! You endlessly griping about K Lowe offers zero to a debate and hell yeah it grinds my gears. " the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result" This applies to the Oilers and yes you!

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#122 Hockey fan 1976
December 29 2013, 05:50PM
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I also take exception to his comments on HNIC where he indicated that a sports jersey was comparable to the national flag of our country... Soldiers risk their very lives on a daily basis going to war under our flag... These guys play for the jersey and get paid millions of dollars and pampered along the way... Eakins once again needs to retrieve his foot from his mouth and focus on doing his job. What an idiot!!

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#123 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 06:17PM
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D-Unit wrote:

First off, I don't care for Justin Schultz. But what should the Oilers do with him, as he will be an RFA at the end of the season.

I see no reason to give him anything more than a qualifying offer, and Capgeek tells me that is $874,125. I don't think he would accept, but I wouldn't mind screwing over his career a bit.

Thoughts?

I'm no Schultz fan bud I'd still give him a little more love than that. I'd be happy with a 4 year 2 million and use him on the power play and 3rd pairing

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#124 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 06:17PM
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boxman wrote:

or is you have just foundationless bile? What bile? My argument is you have been saying the same thing year after year and yes we all know management has been a cluster F#*K for many years. The facts are harping endlessly about K Lowe and the boys on the bus gets old. The reality is Mac T is 8 months into his job and must be given a chance to implement change. The reality is to change coaches now would perpetuate the Oilers carousel of failure. The reality is our "stars" are too young to carry the load and are not supported by veterans. So yeah this is frustrating as hell!! You endlessly griping about K Lowe offers zero to a debate and hell yeah it grinds my gears. " the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result" This applies to the Oilers and yes you!

I have plenty of basis for my bile. You say as much in your comment above. Your beef is that I am being repetitive. My complaints are largely unchanged because management remains unchanged.

As for the immovability of MacT and Eakins:

If Klowe is fired how long before that new POHO cleans house? My guess is that much like mr Burke actions as POHO in cgy one or both would be gone inside of 12 months.

Thus my opinions - part of a chorus of thousands - are the only substantive thing one can do to effect change. That it is now a years-long refrain mane they the plight of the oilers remains unchanged only adds weight to the argument that the only way for this team to truly embark on a successful path to adding engravings on the cup is to relieve Lowe of his position.

And I will add that while the overall demand that Lowe be fired remains the same - the reasons and characters are ever-changing - Horcoff, tambo, Quinn, in the past and hemsky, gagner Eakins today are just a few examples.

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#125 boxman
December 29 2013, 06:23PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

I have plenty of basis for my bile. You say as much in your comment above. Your beef is that I am being repetitive. My complaints are largely unchanged because management remains unchanged.

As for the immovability of MacT and Eakins:

If Klowe is fired how long before that new POHO cleans house? My guess is that much like mr Burke actions as POHO in cgy one or both would be gone inside of 12 months.

Thus my opinions - part of a chorus of thousands - are the only substantive thing one can do to effect change. That it is now a years-long refrain mane they the plight of the oilers remains unchanged only adds weight to the argument that the only way for this team to truly embark on a successful path to adding engravings on the cup is to relieve Lowe of his position.

And I will add that while the overall demand that Lowe be fired remains the same - the reasons and characters are ever-changing - Horcoff, tambo, Quinn, in the past and hemsky, gagner Eakins today are just a few examples.

Your point that if enough people rise up and are heard change may come is possible. That said now is not the time for more change as that will perpetuate the problem.

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#126 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 06:23PM
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Schultz reminds me of poor mans Ryan Ellis

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#127 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 07:15PM
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boxman wrote:

Your point that if enough people rise up and are heard change may come is possible. That said now is not the time for more change as that will perpetuate the problem.

Replacing Klowe would prevent perpetuation. And doing it now is the perfect time - allowing lots of time to search for a replacement before trade deadlines/drafts etc.

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#128 David S
December 29 2013, 07:27PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

I think the reason why no true veteran Unaffiliated coach has not been hired is because Klowe cannot bear having someone who has credentials and gravitas to face him down and do things that Klowe doesn't agree with. (Eg fire the assistants.)

I have a high degree of confidence in believing Katz is the reason why Smith and Bucky are still around.

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#129 David S
December 29 2013, 07:34PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Saw him waiting to get on the elevator to the upper suites at the red deer centrium for the Russian exhibition junior game about a month ago. (My friends and I have our pregame muster and drink Caesars point adjacent to there)

I resisted shouting "fire Lowe!!" But it wasn't easy.

So after years of griping on Stauffer's show and clogging up fan boards with your rhetoric you finally get to say what you think to Lowe in person and cowered like a school girl?

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#130 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 07:50PM
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David S wrote:

I have a high degree of confidence in believing Katz is the reason why Smith and Bucky are still around.

And Lowe and MacT and ....

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#131 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 07:53PM
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David S wrote:

So after years of griping on Stauffer's show and clogging up fan boards with your rhetoric you finally get to say what you think to Lowe in person and cowered like a school girl?

He was there in a different capacity (hockey canada). To shout at him under those circumstances would be just as egregious as if I had shouted at him while he was Xmas shopping in the mall. Now if he was in the rexall place during a game...

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#132 Woogie63
December 29 2013, 07:54PM
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Would the Flames trade Hartley for Eakins straight up?

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#133 Ed in PV
December 29 2013, 08:28PM
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David S wrote:

I have a high degree of confidence in believing Katz is the reason why Smith and Bucky are still around.

God I hope you are mistaken. If the owner is making decisions about coaching selections, then all hope is lost.

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#134 tileguy
December 29 2013, 08:38PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

But there could be as many as 30 points given out between both teams. Thus .500 is a gibberish term.

Theoretically 9-9-2 could mean 20 points for us and 31 points for them, not even close to 500 hockey. Total gibberish. A bold move would be to hand out 3 points for a regulation win or 2 & 1 points for overtime, yes yes, like soccer.

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#135 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 08:52PM
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tileguy wrote:

Theoretically 9-9-2 could mean 20 points for us and 31 points for them, not even close to 500 hockey. Total gibberish. A bold move would be to hand out 3 points for a regulation win or 2 & 1 points for overtime, yes yes, like soccer.

I agree 100%.

The nhl - or rather the current NHL establishment fears that that would reduce parity and make the race for the playoffs less close. But late season come from behind streaks would also be more likely.

And fighting for a regulation win would have a real reward.

I suspect and hope that the 3-2-1 will become a reality once bettman retires.

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#136 D-Unit
December 29 2013, 09:38PM
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@Serious Gord

I wouldn't mind the 3-2-1 system. Right now it's stupid how some games are 2 point games and others are worth three. Every game should have the same amount of points up for grabs.

But, I would rather see no loser points, and at the same time get rid of the shoot out. Also don't mess with other overtime ideas, none of the 3 on 3 or other pointless business that I hear rumblings about. Only change maybe extend it to 10 minutes. But I would be happy with the 5 mins and ties a possibility.

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#137 dougtheslug
December 29 2013, 09:40PM
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Just looked at the schedule. Other than Winnipeg (away on Jan 18) and Nashville (home Jan 26) I can't see another game in January we can win. Realistically looking at 2-13 over the next 15 games. Thank God I'm going away for a while (although still will be unlikely to resist NHL gamecenter. Damn)

Happy New Year, ON. Always next year!

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#138 Oiler Al
December 29 2013, 09:53PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

And Lowe and MacT and ....

I would not doubt for one second that Katz,has his fingers in this MUD PIE, in a big way.Maybe not the same way as Jerry Jones, but still.How else can you explain the existence of Lowe, Bucky, and Smith to name a few.

Other Operation would have turfed these clowns based on the performance over the past years.

Your either sleeping with someone, or your the best of pals in the whole world.

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#139 The Swarm
December 29 2013, 10:16PM
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blue31 wrote:

As a previous poster said, Dallas Eakins is in way over his head. He is stubborn and headstrong enough to truly believe that he is the smartest guy in the room, and believes he is destined to revolutionize the game of hockey with his brilliance and creativity. I wonder if he's required have a special license for all that awesomeness?

From his "fitness" mantra to goofy unproven systems. From confusing player deployment to bizarre on-ice decisions. Dallas Eakins should be coaching a minor league team of Bad News Bears instead of ruining the careers of promising young elite athletes.

It doesn't appear that he has any sensitivity or feel for the talent that the Oilers have. Just a "my way or the highway" bullheadedness, and it's obvious that no-one is buying in. Where would this team be sitting in terms of points (and player development) with a Ken Hitchkock at the helm?

MacT messed up bigtime with this decision.

Literally took the words right out of my mouth. He's a absolute disaster and must go. In the meantime, Eakins, get over yourself. Despite what you think, you don't have a monopoly on brains. I honestly think a cardboard cut out could do as good if not a better job than Eakins over the first 41 games.

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#140 Alsker
December 30 2013, 12:43AM
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dougtheslug wrote:

Just looked at the schedule. Other than Winnipeg (away on Jan 18) and Nashville (home Jan 26) I can't see another game in January we can win. Realistically looking at 2-13 over the next 15 games. Thank God I'm going away for a while (although still will be unlikely to resist NHL gamecenter. Damn)

Happy New Year, ON. Always next year!

I was just doing the same thing and maybe we get one of the Phoenix games but outside of that if we can grab 8-9 points we'll be lucky. Hope we're wrong but I doubt it.

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#141 @Oilanderp
December 30 2013, 01:27AM
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This site has gradually become mouth-breather central. The comments section is usually a whining cesspool of wasteful negativity. I feel sorry for the writers here, not that they need or ask for it. What a waste of their talents.

Even a year ago this site was still a great place to come to. Now it has been reduced to a stinking corner of the undernet where small yappy dogs come to relieve themselves on top of each other.

What a shame.

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#142 camdog
December 30 2013, 07:57AM
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@@Oilanderp

Not too long ago a sacred Oiler jersey was thrown on the ice at Rexal. Right now the odds are 50-50 that another jersey will hit the ice before the end of the season. It isn't just this site that is full of negativity directed at the Oilers organization. Morale hasn't been this Lowe in e-town since the days of Pocklington trying to move the team out of town.

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#143 K_Mart
December 30 2013, 09:04AM
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Hockey Problems wrote:

Justin Schultz couldn't play a lick of defense if the game was played on a Popsicle.

If he was only stronger. He is 24 yrs old and plays with the strength of a 15 yr old. I have seen zero improvement from this player and yet he is constantly on the ice. How do u give the same player (Couturier) 2 chances on the same SH shift? How do u constantly get out positioned in front of your own net? Why are you always in the rush before the forwards and yet last man back into your zone defensively? The only player I see "having to earn ice time" is Yak. Hey coach... How about put up or shut up ! If you made "all" the players on the team earn their ice time, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

While you're theory sounds great, you can't bench the whole team.

Hall and Perron, and maybe Nuge, are the only players who consistently play to win. Even Ebs has been guilty many times this year of not really showing up.

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#144 Cowbell_Feva
December 30 2013, 09:08AM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

This site has gradually become mouth-breather central. The comments section is usually a whining cesspool of wasteful negativity. I feel sorry for the writers here, not that they need or ask for it. What a waste of their talents.

Even a year ago this site was still a great place to come to. Now it has been reduced to a stinking corner of the undernet where small yappy dogs come to relieve themselves on top of each other.

What a shame.

Just slightly hypocritical, no??

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#145 Dave
December 30 2013, 09:34AM
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Eakins picking Gagner for the shootout reminded me of the rookie coach we had last year. Well sort of ... but having a rookie coach was not a great idea. I presume or hope that he will get better.

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#146 K_Mart
December 30 2013, 09:43AM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

This site has gradually become mouth-breather central. The comments section is usually a whining cesspool of wasteful negativity. I feel sorry for the writers here, not that they need or ask for it. What a waste of their talents.

Even a year ago this site was still a great place to come to. Now it has been reduced to a stinking corner of the undernet where small yappy dogs come to relieve themselves on top of each other.

What a shame.

So true. A better set of fans wouldn't be so constantly negative. However, being able to stay positive for 7/8 years out of the playoffs is pretty good. And so is selling out the building the whole time.

But in light of your comment, here are some positives.

Hall has truly elevated his game, and while he can't single handedly make this team a playoff team, he's often been the main reason we are even in some games. His big turnovers are still in his game, but they occur with far less frequency.

Perron was such a steal of a deal, man did we fleece STL.

Bryz is infinitely better than LABarbara and slightly better than Dubnyk. At first I figured there was ZERO chance of him resigning with us because if he plays awful we won't sign him, and if he plays wel he will sign with second else, but he seems to really get along with the boys so who knows.

9-9-2 in the second 20(including a 6 game skid against the best teams). I expect better than this, but it is a big step forward from the first 20 games.

Gordon, amazing pick up. I don't even want to think about what our GAA would be without him. Often been our best player when nobody else shows up.

Arcobello. Skates well, hits hard, and makes plays. Great surprise, breathing down gagner's neck for the 2C spot.

While Ebs hasnt looked himself, he's still managing to produce and will likely finish with 65-70 points.

Hemsky. Leads the team in takeaways. Primarily due to backchecking. His play has been great IMO. His minutes have been varied but he's still going to produce 40-50 pts.

Dubnyk looks like his game is back on track.

Belov is finally shooting(god he needs a goal).

The injury problem isn't so bad right now.

Nuge looks slightly improved in all areas of his game comparedto last year. I think ffaceoffs are starting to improve over the last 7-10 games as well for him.

Nurse is captain of the first place team in the OHL. He plays the toughest QualComp in the ENTIRE LEAGUE, he's a ppg, he's big, and he's mean as hell on the ice. Sutter and Canada likely won't even beat the Czechs without him... oh wait.

Last but not least, at the Philly game on Saturday I noticed something about the play of the players and how it was affected positively and negatively by the fans. In the third period for some reason the fans all decided to help the team with a good old fashioned 'Let's go oilers!' Chant, and I'll be damned if it didn't work. For those brief moments, the team sped up and huge chances were generated. You might think the 6th man shouldn't make a difference to a pro, but I swear to you it does. If you don't think the crowd can have a major impact on the outcome of the game go to a seahawks game. I know the players havent earned it, but part of the fun is that the fans can feel like part of the team, and right now we aren't doing our job. I'd like to see the fans just say F You to the opposing team. Maybe our players don't show up every night but I'll be damned if I don't do everything I can to fire up our boys and heckle the crap out of the opposition. Mr.Katz, lower your $1287 beer prices, it's time people started getting kicked out for cheering too loudly again.

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#147 S cottV
December 30 2013, 10:26AM
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The position the Oilers find themselves in - after 41 games is a disaster, almost a lost year toward development into a playoff contender.

This team should be .500 with some degree of hope to make the playoffs, that would have driven performance above .500 for the remainder of the year. Hope and staying alive in the hunt are powerful motivators that are lost to Eakins and I really dont think he has the leadership skills to otherwise rally this group.

Eakins seriously underestimated the situation at hand from the get go. He bit off too much change too soon, sacrificing short term results in the process. Worse - his "Eakins hockey vision" became a trial and error mess, that has surely eroded player group confidence in him.

Under the circumstances, I think .500 hockey will be a stretch for the remaining half of the season. It will be hard for Eakins to hold this one together.

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#148 Fresh Mess
December 30 2013, 12:40PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

I agree 100%.

The nhl - or rather the current NHL establishment fears that that would reduce parity and make the race for the playoffs less close. But late season come from behind streaks would also be more likely.

And fighting for a regulation win would have a real reward.

I suspect and hope that the 3-2-1 will become a reality once bettman retires.

How about just eliminate the loser point altogether ?

The loser point was brought in because there were too many regular season games ending in ties. The thinking was that teams would quit being so defensive in OT and actually go for the win if they were assured of getting at least one point.

But then the shootout was brought in. All regular season games now end with a winner, so why even bother with the loser point?

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#149 K_Mart
December 31 2013, 01:43PM
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The Swarm wrote:

I didn't realize I needed your editorial input prior to posting. Based on your suggested edits, you obviously got my point. In the future though, should you need to edit my posts, please try and run a spell check first. I do actually know bit about coaching and I certainly know how to spell it.

In case you haven't noticed, with overall scoring down so much in the NHL, special teams are often the deciding factors in games. The Oilers were throughly schooled in this area against the Flyers - to the point where Giroux was actually directing traffic on their PP by pointing to who he was going to pass to. As a huge Oiler fan, it really was embarrassing.

*Coach's... so sorry.

For you to say coaching is all about special teams is just plain wrong. That was really all I was saying.

And it's "know a bit" not "know bit". Spelling mistakes happen, not a reflection on anyone's knowledge. Not yours, not mine. Hell, even the writers on this page are guilty of grammar problems on every article. It doesn't change how much I value their opinion.

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