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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#51 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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#52 The Real Scuba Steve
December 28 2013, 11:44PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

So, your call is this team will have fewer than 30 points in the second half. Come back in April and say you told me so.

Yep, I had honesty believe this was the year we were going to playing or close to 500 hockey, but what your saying is pretty much a pipe dream, nice try though>

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#53 Nowuknow
December 29 2013, 02:24AM
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Some say losing is contagious as is winning. But here in the city of Champions has be come too comfortable!!!!

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#54 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 10:18AM
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steveb12344 wrote:

While I agree this team definitely has issues, and need to improve in many places. I'm not sure if it's quite as bad as most of you are making it out to be.

Robin is right. They have been much better in the 2nd quarter of the season than in the first.

That start to the season was disasterous. Now that the goaltending has been stabilized, they have been pretty much an average team as opposed to the AHL team they resembled for about the first month and a half.

Believe it or not they have been playing .500 hockey already for the last 20 games.

Their record over the last 20 is 9-9-2 for 20 points. That is including the 6 game journey through Death Valley.

So I agree with RB that we should see something close to .500 hockey the rest of the way, and should easily surpass the 30 points they got in the first half.

I know this still sucks, and I'm not at all happy with the continuing playoff drought. But I think we need to see how the rest of the season, and offseason play out before writing off MacT and Eakins as failures.

When a team is in as much disarray as this one has been in recent years, you honestly can't expect a new GM, and coach to turn this thing around over night.

For the love of god, 9-9-2 is NOT .500 hockey. The loser point makes .500 impossible to calculate, but if you go 9-9-2 you did not get 50% of the points that were earned in those 20 games.

2. The last 20 games EDM played ten against bottom 14 teams. In the next 41 they will play a far higher percentage against the top sixteen where they have consistently gotten waxed.

3. The first half wasn't just disastrous it was THE WORST FIRST HALF in oilers history. That's not just disaster - it's apocalyptic. They didn't just disappoint they are underperforming expectations worse than any team in the league with the possible exceptions of Ottawa and our managerial role model - NYI.

4. You say the team is in disarray. Shouldn't someone be to blame for that? Weren't they a better roster in your eyes at the beginning of this year than they were at the end of last year? And yet the coaches have Managed to take that better roster and deliver the worst half year record in oilers history. Shouldn't someone be held to account for that?

I think the responsibility for the unprecedented failure of this team so far falls squarely on the GM and manager. And the responsibility for hiring the rookie (and incompetent) GM falls on the incompetent POHO.

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#55 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 09:49AM
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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.

The coaches keep changing, but the results stay the same. Regardless of the validity of your arguments, the results indicate that it's the roster that is the problem, not the coaching.

Also, why mention an untouchable coach like Ken Hitchcock then blame MacT? It was Tambo that missed out on Hitch not MacT.

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#56 Spydyr
December 29 2013, 10:01AM
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Quintana wrote:

With samwise at 5 ft 10 the oilers are going nowhere!!!! Trade him!!!!!

Sam is not wise nor is he 5 ft 10

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#57 gcw_rocks
December 29 2013, 10:14AM
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K_Mart wrote:

The coaches keep changing, but the results stay the same. Regardless of the validity of your arguments, the results indicate that it's the roster that is the problem, not the coaching.

Also, why mention an untouchable coach like Ken Hitchcock then blame MacT? It was Tambo that missed out on Hitch not MacT.

No, but he missed out on Lindy Ruff. Anyone who is taking over a fragile team with a need to improve quickly and then picks Eakins over Ruff is a complete moron.

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#58 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 12:31PM
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Can we please get new assistant coaches simply on principle!! Why is losing so tolerated around here??

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#59 Hockey Problems
December 29 2013, 12:42PM
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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.

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

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#61 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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#62 Rdubb
December 29 2013, 08:00AM
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oilredemption wrote:

As much as I think Eakins is a tool and loathe his coaching ability. He needs to stay for this team have some consistency in the meassage. Eakins is though ruining yaks career as we know it. Top goal scorer from the team last year and isn't played in ot and played 10 minutes a night. He's obviously not gonna be in the game when he's thrown on pp. I haven't once this year seen the excitement or emotion of the player he was last year playing for his team, his coach and his captain. Yak needs to go to OKC now he's not helping this team. Plus side is hemsky is playing well and oddly enough gagner still isn't.

I have a question, although I agree that the coach NEEDS to stay longer than one season, even @ least 3 so that these young players get to hear the same message day in and day out for a while and get to know one system; question(s) - why in the world would MacT give a rookie coach a 4 (or 5 yr, unsure which it is) contract? There is no reason why a 2yr deal would have worked, and if Eakins was doing an adequate job, extensions could be given, couldn't they? Didn't Renney do a very good job with the young guys when here? I think that he'd have been a great guy to coach these kids right now, plus they'd have had the same message for 3yrs now, don't you think?

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#63 Robin Brownlee
December 29 2013, 08:36AM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

Sorry, Robin. The Oilers are not better than their record; they are their record. Every team has their ups and downs and catches bad streaks. It's wishful thinking to think the Oilers are really a good team if only this temporary phase of bad luck was lifted.

I said exactly the opposite of what you imply.

"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. . . "

If you're going to try to put words in my mouth, I'd appreciate it if they were at least based on what I wrote.

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#64 Quintana
December 29 2013, 09:47AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Trade Gagner to anyone willing to give up their second line center for him. Or package him in a deal for a defenceman. Let Acro sink or swim the rest of the year then fill the 2C hole in the summer.

He just has to go. The team will never win with him as 2C.Full stop.

With samwise at 5 ft 10 the oilers are going nowhere!!!! Trade him!!!!!

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#65 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 10:26AM
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Tyson wrote:

I have lived in Edmonton for the past 10 years so compared to some of you I am a new fan. In my time hear I have heard Oiler fans complain about EVERY coach. I think a new coach is like a first overall pick, you need to give them a little time to develop.

The biggest mistake of this rebuild is that we have switched coaches every year. Wether you like Dallas or not there needs to be development of coach between players and development of the coach learning the NHL.

I remember reading an article on this site showing some of the great coaches and how bad they were early on in their careers. The problem with Oiler fans is we want to fire a coach every season instead of seeing them develop into a great coach right before our eyes.

Actually the biggest mistake was hiring coaches without any formal due diligence process that involves a real methodical interview process:

Look at the list of coaches this team had had:

1. KLOWe - old oiler 2.Mact - old oiler 3. Quinn/Rennie - old friends of tambo (and Klowe apparently) 4.rennie 5.kreuger - hired from within - no external search 6. Eakins - hired from an assistant coach interview. No formal head coach hiring process.

The same hiring method has led to consistent failure. The heavy turnover rate is a symptom - not a cause.

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#66 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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#67 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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#68 The Swarm
December 29 2013, 10:09AM
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Keeping Eakins on account of stability is insanity.

Coaching is all about special teams and the Oilers have regressed so badly this year with largely the same line up. That is on Eakins. Continuing to play 4 or 5 forwards on the PP is nuts. Teams realize that all they have to do is pressure the Oilers points and turnovers will ensue. A peewee coach can see this. We have Petry, Belov and Potter, all with heavy shots who incidentally can also play defence, sitting on the bench and the minute the other team gets the puck, look out - it's an instant scoring chance. The first 30 seconds of the PP at the start of the second period was the most comical display of "hockey" I have ever seen, with Hall flying the zone (from his defensive position) to give up a breakaway and then another brain cramp by Gagner and Shultz to give up another 5 alarm chance in front. All within 30 seconds. Unbelievable really.

The game should have been 8 to 3 and I wouldn't have blamed Bryz at all because the chances the Oilers were giving up were ridiculous.

Fire Eakins and hire a veteran coach that has a clue about special teams and let him introduce a real system over the rest of the season.

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#69 Side Note
December 29 2013, 11:52AM
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Off topic - when did the oil hire a 12 year old girl to play the music at the games? Last nite was horrible.

2nd side note - I wonder where this team would be had they hired Brent Sutter last year when he was up against Ralph?

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#70 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
December 29 2013, 12:51PM
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spliff wrote:

Gagner symbolizes all that is wrong with this organization. Soft to play against, questionable defensive skills, not able to deliver when it counts, too small and unable to play against men and always an excuse when things go wrong.

What is it this year with Samwise? What was it in previous years? Always some F*cking excuse. Remember that Samwise always has a slow start but he will get better. If I sucked at my job for two months a year I would get pink-slipped, and I ain't making 4 bills a year.

The Oilers wasting a top first round draft pick on a 160 pound child who has no business playing in the nhl screams to the hockey world what is wrong with this organization. They picked him when KLowes "plan" was to emulate the Red Wings, and have small fast skilled forwards. Management is too stupid to come up with their own plan, so they try to copy the Red Wings, even though Ken Holland alone has more hockey smarts then the entire Oiler management group. Now that their plan has derailed, what is their plan? Who will they emulate now, the Sharks? What a sh*tshow.

This team is as bad as its record, and there is not excuse for how bad they are. When half decent teams decide they want to win against the Oil, they turn it up a notch and the Oil instantly look like an AHL team.

Even if MacT is able to make some trades and UFA signings, this team will never be a top team, and will just be like all the other pre-2007 KLowe-MacT teams, scrambling around in the 8 - 11 position in the conference, making the playoffs once every 3-4 years.

I like Brownlee......but I think Spliff has a MUCH better handle on where this team is at. We'll see come April. Well done Spliff.....now pass yourself around please.

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#71 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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#72 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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#73 Ray
December 29 2013, 09:15AM
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Robin....as a side note to your discussion I keyed on ference through most of last nights game....this guy has got game or JAM.... He hits anything and makes you pay....I didn't realize how much of a tyrant he is out there...all our D should watch him and try to emulate him....such tenacity !!!

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#74 Zamboni Driver
December 29 2013, 09:18AM
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Love ya Robin, but I am not buying that the Oil (and specific players) will be better only because they can't be worse.

Sure they can. Or at least stay at the same level of craptastic.

I appreciate the "half full" approach, but most of us are way too jaded to buy it.

Unrelated. Sorta.

I say Yakupov should be in OKC. Thoughts? Can't be worse for his ego than riding the pine. He'd (presumably) get to dominate.

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#75 Big Cap
December 29 2013, 09:27AM
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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.

BINGO!!

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#76 steveb12344
December 29 2013, 09:32AM
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While I agree this team definitely has issues, and need to improve in many places. I'm not sure if it's quite as bad as most of you are making it out to be.

Robin is right. They have been much better in the 2nd quarter of the season than in the first.

That start to the season was disasterous. Now that the goaltending has been stabilized, they have been pretty much an average team as opposed to the AHL team they resembled for about the first month and a half.

Believe it or not they have been playing .500 hockey already for the last 20 games.

Their record over the last 20 is 9-9-2 for 20 points. That is including the 6 game journey through Death Valley.

So I agree with RB that we should see something close to .500 hockey the rest of the way, and should easily surpass the 30 points they got in the first half.

I know this still sucks, and I'm not at all happy with the continuing playoff drought. But I think we need to see how the rest of the season, and offseason play out before writing off MacT and Eakins as failures.

When a team is in as much disarray as this one has been in recent years, you honestly can't expect a new GM, and coach to turn this thing around over night.

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#77 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 10:25AM
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@The Swarm

"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.

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#78 season not played
December 29 2013, 12:19PM
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The 'Real' Ron Burgundy wrote:

Can we all agree to stop calling #89 "Samwise" ? It's definitely not a fitting nickname. "Snowpants" is a much better fit, and if you've never heard it before You'd at least be able to figure out who it refers to.

Agreed. When I see Gagner play the last thing I think of is wise. More like:

no hockey sense unintelligent unaware slow liability outchanced overpaid etc

All more fitting than wise.

And anybody questioning whether or not the Oilers are well coached. Watch the power play. That pretty much says it all.

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#79 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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#80 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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#81 @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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#82 **
December 29 2013, 02:30AM
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David Legwand will be FA at the end of this season. Similar offensive numbers as GAgner, plays on the power play, has size and is old enough (33) that he can be serviceable for at least 2 more years as a stop gap/ veteran presence. He can probably be had for as much as 3.5 million/season. also, he comes from a very defense oriented system.

What do you think nation?

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#83 Hockey fan 1976
December 29 2013, 09:45AM
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Is everyone in denial? Has anyone looked at the second half of the schedule ? http://oilers.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm If the Coilers win 10 games of the next 41 it should be considered a freaking achievement. If only Flames and Buffalo played 2 more games each we might win 4 more.

What a joke Dallas, Mac T and KBlow all are.

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#84 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 10:31AM
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Don W wrote:

So everyone here thinks Yak just deserves to get more ice time. Until he is committed he should be limited to about 10 soft minutes a night. You can tell what kind of game he is going to have almost from the start so if Eakins sees he isn't going I have no problem with him warming the bench. I do hope the assistant coaches are working with him to be better. For a smaller guy he has shown a tenacity at times that makes you wonder why he doesn't play harder all the time.

I do think that the oilers are coming around in many ways. The d zone coverage is generally not atrocious like it was at the beginning of the year (except JSchultz).

As for points in the second half I think that with the improved goaltending they will be getting more loser points so will probably be in the 35-40 range.

Yak is committed, he's just not playing well is all. He just needs to keep working and his game will come around. Not at all worried about him. His glaring mistakes are expected from a young guy like him. He'll figure it out.

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#85 blue31
December 29 2013, 10:38AM
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K_Mart wrote:

Yak is committed, he's just not playing well is all. He just needs to keep working and his game will come around. Not at all worried about him. His glaring mistakes are expected from a young guy like him. He'll figure it out.

I think a coach who was more concerrned about his players, and less concerned with fitness, soundbites, the "Swarm," and his hair might go a long way towards helping Yakupov figure this out.

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#86 boxman
December 29 2013, 12:13PM
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Side Note wrote:

Off topic - when did the oil hire a 12 year old girl to play the music at the games? Last nite was horrible.

2nd side note - I wonder where this team would be had they hired Brent Sutter last year when he was up against Ralph?

Screw Sutter, he left Nurse off the world juniors. And while I'm at it serious Gord your ground hog day harping is soul sucking. Have you considered cheering for the flames?!! Sigh.......

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#87 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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#88 oilredemption
December 28 2013, 11:45PM
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Shopping list: the flyers straight up for the oilers

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#89 Nowuknow
December 29 2013, 02:05AM
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Robin, I am in courage by your positive wishes for the back end of record breaking losing season in oilers history. YOU MUST HAVE lots of faiths on this team, but they are what the record indicates or even worst!!! This team always folds when the season is on balance not to mention they have already purchase their golf passes. What left for them is going through the emotions... I am glad, I am tear 3 fun listens or log in here for results only. I find them wasting valuable time in this precious life.....

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#90 pelhem grenville
December 29 2013, 08:10AM
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...I agree with Bob... w.t.f. is up with these guys STILL behind the bench ...smitty and bucky MUST have pictures of Eakins with a goat ...acton? came with Eakins ...he apparently belongs

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#91 Robin Brownlee
December 29 2013, 10:28AM
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@steveb12344

I didn't think you were disagreeing with me.

I used your comment because it echoed much of what I feel. I just reiterated what I said in the main item -- this isn't a good team, it's a so-so team that has under-achieved.

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#92 Cam
December 29 2013, 11:42AM
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Enough well said there regarding underachievement in the first 41. I do believe Nuge has delivered, and playing against the toughest opposition in the league. He's been really good. Can you honestly say you expected Belov to come in and grab the top 4 minutes he has. He makes some mistakes and had a bad game against Calgary...but for being an NHL Rookie he's been quite good. He plays within himself and makes good accurate passes off his redline or skating up.

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#93 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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#94 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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#95 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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#96 Butters
December 29 2013, 12:41AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Just look at the next ten games. Every single one is against a team that is in the top sixteen. And the oils record so far is something like 3-20. Will they be 2-8 in the next ten?

The Oilers had a good record against the NHL lesser lights which is encouraging. They just don't seem to have a lot of games against that type of opposition in the coming months.

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#97 Woogie63
December 29 2013, 09:12AM
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From where I sit this is quality of entertaiment that we can expect for the next FIVE years.

The Chicago/Pittsburg rebuild did not happen the Islander rebuild happen.

We entered up with a rookie GM and rookie Coach that don't have the experience nor are innovative enough to advance the team.

The team has not built a player development system that colleague or undrafted player will trust to get them ready to play in the NHL.

We know the top FA don't consider Edmonton the city, there top destination, we can over pay to get the Gordon, Ferences but we are not going to get the Suter, Webers.

Is there anyone in hockey that believes KLowe just needs two or three more year to turn this team into a consistent playoff performer?

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#98 Buttters
December 29 2013, 10:00AM
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K_Mart wrote:

When I see the Oilers play like they did last night, I wonder how they'll ever win another game. When I see them play the way they did in the first period against St.Louis a few games ago, I think we have it in us to play above .500.

Never have I seen a team that is able to play so well and so poorly all within one game. There are hot streaks and slumps, good games and bad games, but we've managed to take inconsistency to a whole new level. And outside of Hall and perron, every player on this roster is guilty of it. Even Huge to my surprise.

I think it was more about STL waking up then it was about how the Oil played. I think other teams actually play a style which beats the Oilers. Trap, wait for turnovers, cash in on same.

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#99 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 01:08PM
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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.

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

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#100 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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