December 30 2013 01:55PM
The past eight Oilers seasons have been painful for everyone involved. The players are sick of losing, management and the five head coaches are tired of it, the fans have to give each other a pep talk before every game just to keep watching and even the media is tired of covering the constant losing.
There are some things none of the aforementioned groups can change instantly, like suddenly making the Oilers contenders, however, there are some small things that can and must be changed to make the process more bearable.
We can all agree what needs to change in the near future for the Oilers to become competitive. They need a better blueline, they need more size and experience up front, the players who return next seasons need to be more consistent and competitive on every shift, and the Oilers must add more experience within their assistant coaches.
Ultimately, those moves or decisions will be made by Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins. We will debate, analyze and scrutinize their decisions. That is our job, and it's what fans love to do and that is what makes sports great.
Every fan and media person will have differing opinions on players and how organizations build their teams. That will never change; however, there are some decisions within a pro team that fans can impact. One of them is the music played at their home facility.
The Edmonton Oilers owe it to their loyal fans to make the in-game experience as enjoyable as possible. The product on the ice hasn't been doing it, but the fans can demand and should be treated to a better in-house atmosphere.
The music during Saturday's OT loss to Philadelphia was atrocious.
I watched the game from the stands, and I asked the fans around their thoughts on the horrendous playlist? These fans ranged in age from 20 to 60, yet unanimously they agreed the music is awful. This is not a new problem, but the Oilers either don't feel the fans deserve a better experience or they haven't searched hard enough to find a better DJ.
Late in the third period and leading into OT the DJ played Give Me Some Loving, a Beatles song and Wooly Bully. The Beatles are one of the greatest bands ever, but their beats aren't energizing. I could not believe how bad the song selection was late in a tie hockey game. None of those songs got the building rocking. Seriously, it shouldn't be that hard to find more appropriate songs during key times in the game.
The fans deserve better, and so do the players. I spoke to three different players off the record and when I asked them about the music they said the following:
"It is embarrassing," said the first one.
"Most rinks play heavy, deep, quick paced music, but we rarely do," said the second.
"My friends come to games here and they all mention the music, and not because it is good," said the third.
If the Oilers don't want to listen to the fans, they shouldn't they at least listen to their players?
I know the music isn't the reason the Oilers are losing, and none of the players suggested that, but the Oilers need to look at improving every aspect of their team and in-game experience. Emotion plays a huge factor in hockey, and a better playlist could get the fans more into the game, thus improving the atmosphere and that could ignite the Oilers at certain times in the game.
Regardless of whether it helps the Oilers or not, the fans deserve better. I am a season ticket holder, so I'm not writing this from a media person's perspective. I've been to many other rinks around the NHL and the music and in-game experience is better in those rinks. The music selection in Edmonton if brutal.
I don't expect the management or scouts to listen attentively to media or fan's opinions on players, although getting as much info as possible is never a bad thing, however I do expect the organization to listen to fans when it comes to non-hockey matters.
It is time the Oilers improve the in-game ambiance. It is the least they can do for their loyal fans, and considering the players admit the music is terrible, an improved musical selection might even help the product on the ice.
QUICK HITS...2ND HALF
- The Oilers were 4-15-2 in the first quarter of the season and 9-9-2 in the 2nd quarter. They aren't as bad as they were in the first quarter, but they need to at least maintain a 20 points in 20-game stretch pace the rest of the season. If they pick up 43-46 points in the second half that would be a major improvement, and they need to come close to that to realize the effort and execution necessary to be in the playoff hunt next season.
- Nail Yakupov won't play tomorrow in Phoenix. Yak looked frustrated on Saturday night, and I'm all for sending players a message by putting them in the pressbox, but is Yakupov receiving the message and is it the right one? If they want him to regain his confidence would they be better off sending him to OKC than sitting him in the pressbox?
I understand that all players mature differently, but playing him six to eight minutes a night or sitting him in the pressbox might not be the best way to develop him. Make a tough decision and send him to OKC for a few weeks. In my opinion he needs to play 15-20 minutes a night and regain his confidence.
I know many fans are going to scream they are ruining Yakupov, but the harsh reality is he will need to play himself out of it. Missing a game or two won't hamper his long term development, but they need to find some common ground. If they want him to be better away from the puck, then let him learn to do that in the AHL where it will be easier to learn. That isn't quitting on the player or punishing him, it is about trying to help him become a better player.
- "It was a good conversation... We have a definite plan moving forward," Eakins said this morning about a 45-minute chat he had with Yakupov. He didn't outline what the plan was, but I'm curious to see what it will be. The Oilers don't need to just give Yakupov icetime, but they have to ensure they nurture his development and not ruin his confidence. It is a fine balance, but it is one they have to master. He isn't the first #1 overall pick to be benched or play on the 4th line. Steven Stamkos and Joe Thornton did and both became great players, however, they were 18 and didn't have the option of being sent to the AHL.
Will the plan see Yakupov playing on the 4th line at ES and then getting PP time? That would allow him to see easier competition at ES, but also allow him to maintain some offensive confidence. I doubt he sits out more than one or two games, and when he returns I'll be intrigued to see what "plan" Eakins has come up with for Yakupov.
- I know it is only a few games, but Justin Schultz has been better the past three games. He is making better decisions with the puck, and more importantly he is making better defensive decisions. His positioning has been better and I haven't seen him getting beat one-on-one. It is a small sample size, but he needs to continue his improvement during the 2nd half of the season. He's only played 81 NHL games, so people need to recognize that it takes time for young, offensive D-men to get comfortable in the NHL, however, the Oilers desperately need Schultz to develop into a solid top-three D-man if they want to become a playoff contender in the near future.
- Roman Horak will make his Oiler debut tomorrow night on a line with Gagner and Eberle. Todd Nelson told me he thinks Horak has potential to be a solid 3rd line centre, and potentially a 2nd line forward if he learns to use his speed regularly.
- I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the sponsors who donated packages during Month of Giving, and to all those who bid on packages. This year we raised an amazing $77,150 for the Christmas Bureau, Santas Anonymous, Operation Friendship Senior Society and MS Society during the Month of Giving on my radio show and promoting the packages on the Nation. That is awesome. Thanks again.