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 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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#102 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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#103 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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#104 pelhem grenville
December 29 2013, 07:01AM
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...I swear if they don't finish with at least 75 points I'm gonna ...I'm gonna ...well I'm gonna

...off topic Robin... what's the collective sound of 20+ NHL players on this team pulling theirs heads outta their asses?

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#105 Don W
December 29 2013, 10:15AM
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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.

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#106 Robin Brownlee
December 29 2013, 11:28AM
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camdog wrote:

The term .500 hockey no longer exists, so would everybody please stop using this term. In the old, NHL .500 hockey meant you were a good team, today it means absolutely nothing.

Playing .500 hockey meant you were a good team? No.

Percentages used now, by sites like Hockeyreference.com, are defined as follows: "PTS% -- Points percentage (i.e., points divided by maximum points)"

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#107 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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#108 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 06:23PM
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Schultz reminds me of poor mans Ryan Ellis

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#109 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 09:37AM
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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.

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#110 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 10:05AM
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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.

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#111 steveb12344
December 29 2013, 11:03AM
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@Serious Gord

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.

9-9-2 will get you 20 out of a possible 40 points.

In the "Bettman point" NHL that is .500 hockey.

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#112 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 11:36AM
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Mikey wrote:

"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."

While I do agree with you that 9-9-2 is not .500 hockey, I don't agree with your statment of

"50% of the points that were earned in"

What if a team goes 11-9, but 5 of those wins came in OT or a shoot out?

I agree. The otw total is rarely shown so a true calculation of winning percentage is not possible. And it varies from team to team.

The NHL has THE worst points system in professional NA sports. And for a league that talks constantly about attracting new fans - fans who usually have baseball or football as the primary interest - the points system is a barrier to them casually following their team.

Hell even most fans of hockey - journalists included - don't understand it and they constantly misuse the .500 term.

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#113 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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#114 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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#115 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 01:10PM
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boxman wrote:

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.......

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.

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

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pelhem grenville wrote:

...I swear if they don't finish with at least 75 points I'm gonna ...I'm gonna ...well I'm gonna

...off topic Robin... what's the collective sound of 20+ NHL players on this team pulling theirs heads outta their asses?

The sound you seek is ALSO the answer to the biggest question on all of man-kinds mind.

Just WHAT does the fox say?

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#118 steveb12344
December 29 2013, 10:20AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I don't recall a lot of people around here predicting the Oilers would have their worst season since the "official" rebuild began four seasons ago. You can look for those comments on this site but you won't find them.

While a few optimists picked the Oilers to make the playoffs, most people, including me, looked at the roster and the rookie coach and figured this team would finish 9-12 and be slightly better than last season. I had them, as I said, as a .500 team, which doesn't get you in the playoffs.

Good teams can under-achieve and so can bad teams, which is what I think the Oilers did in the first 41 games. Saying I expect them to improve to "at or near" .500 in the second half doesn't suggest in any way I think this is a good team. It's not. It's a mediocre team that has been awful.

Ummm, I'm not sure what you saw in my comments, but I was agreeing with you.

I also said I expect them to be around a .500 team the rest of the way, and obviously a .500 season gets you nowhere near the playoffs.

I said that I see them currently playing as an average team. I said nothing about them being a good team right now.

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#119 blue31
December 29 2013, 10:29AM
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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.

The results stay the same because every year it's one step forward (player development and experience) and one step backwards (new coach, new system). Net result: no forward progress. Your point doesn't make sense. For the most part, players naturally get stronger and smarter as their careers progress. Why is that not happening here?

And perhaps my point about Hitchcock wasn't expressed clearly. I said they could use "a" Hitchcock. Not "the" Hitchcock. Someone like Hitchcock. And for that, my comment about MacT still stands. Sorry for the confusion.

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#120 Mikey
December 29 2013, 10:44AM
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@Serious Gord

"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."

While I do agree with you that 9-9-2 is not .500 hockey, I don't agree with your statment of

"50% of the points that were earned in"

What if a team goes 11-9, but 5 of those wins came in OT or a shoot out?

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#121 blue31
December 29 2013, 11:48AM
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Every team playing .500 hockey is exactly the parity that the league is striving for. Discourage excellence. Reward failure. Make everyone equally miserable.

Check some of the other teams forums. Other than a couple at the top, most fans are pretty snarly at their teams inconsistent win one / lose one records. That is the reality of NHL parity.

Sometimes I yearn for the old days when we were an underdog because of financial realities and team location. And, as fans, we knew it. Beating the Rangers or the Leafs was a big event. And losing wasn't as maddening.

Equality mixed with entitlement. Oil and water.

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#122 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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#123 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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#124 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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#125 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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#126 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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#127 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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#128 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 10:12AM
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Buttters wrote:

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.

The Blues aren't nearly as prone to inconsistency as we are, which leads me to believe the ridiculous turn around in play was more oilers sucking than it was STL waking up.

At the top end of this roster's play their lies a bubble team, call me a raving optimist, but that is what I believe.

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#129 Bloodsweatandoil
December 29 2013, 10:58AM
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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....

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#130 camdog
December 29 2013, 11:11AM
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The term .500 hockey no longer exists, so would everybody please stop using this term. In the old, NHL .500 hockey meant you were a good team, today it means absolutely nothing.

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#131 D-Unit
December 29 2013, 12:20PM
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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.

Not that I think Eakins is a great coach or even will be one some day, or that he is or ever will be on a level of a Hitchcock, but I do have a question.

Do you think Hitchcock would not have a "My way or the highway" approach? Or really any proven Stanley Cup winning coach?

Things would be better with him at the Head Coach spot, but I don't think it would be a huge difference in terms of standings.

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#132 RexHolez
December 29 2013, 12:28PM
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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?

And traded for bishop

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#133 Rama Lama
December 29 2013, 12:44PM
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After watching the world juniors I think it's safe to say that any defenceman playing on Canada, USA, Russia, Latvia, Upper Rubber Boot, ..........is better than anyone of our defencemen.

Our issue is in spite of knowing this Mac T and company only added Ference and Larsen ( the two smallest defencemen he could find) to improve our fortunes. I'm no genuis but I suspect they knew all along that adding Ference and Larsen would do nothing except look like they were doing something??

It's now patently obvious that this team was assembled for another run at a top end draft choice. I would be very happy to add Ekblad to our stable and it appears that is where we are headed.

Time for another rebuild, retool, re-engineer.......call it what you will but it's happening right in front of our eyes.

I truly believe that the best way to get another top draft choice is to let Eakins continue his ways with our team.

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#134 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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#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 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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#137 steveb12344
December 29 2013, 11:00AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

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.

Oh, ok. My bad.

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#138 Johnnydapunk
December 29 2013, 12:25PM
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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.

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#139 Serious Gord
December 29 2013, 01:13PM
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steveb12344 wrote:

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.

9-9-2 will get you 20 out of a possible 40 points.

In the "Bettman point" NHL that is .500 hockey.

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

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#140 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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#141 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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#142 K_Mart
December 29 2013, 09:43AM
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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.

You are absolutely right. We are a bad team, that happened to play horrid hockey for the first twenty games. But we did manage to play just bad hockey the following20 for a 9-9-2 record.

I was expecting a 36-38-8 record this year and don't feel it was even a very high expectation.

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#143 jybute
December 29 2013, 12:31PM
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@Nowuknow

Bryz?? Is that you??

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#144 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
December 29 2013, 01:13PM
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steveb12344 wrote:

That is what you get when the core of your team is a bunch of kids playing in the best MEN'S league in the world.

Nobody (myself included) wants to hear it right now, but the truth is they are just not quite ready yet.

On the plus side, just imagine how good they will be when they do learn how to bring their A game consistently, and learn how to win in this league.

You say the "on the plus side" part like it is an inevitability, which it is not.

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#145 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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#146 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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#147 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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#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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