A summer of miscalculation; a winter of failure

Jonathan Willis
March 09 2013 11:56AM

The Edmonton Oilers 2013 season did not fall apart during a nine-game road trip. The nine-game road trip was simply the point in the season when a summer of inept management finally caught up to the team.

Forwards

Some of the pain here was an unavoidable part of rebuilding through the draft. Decisions to employ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the team’s top-line forward (an often overlooked weakness entering the season) and to try Nail Yakupov as the second line’s left wing were understandable, perhaps even unavoidable. Nugent-Hopkins’ inexperience means that he would be better suited to a lesser role on a contending team, but he is the best option at the Oilers’ disposal for a top-line job. Yakupov’s left-handed shot, a desire to get him on to a skill line, and the team’s weakness at left wing after Taylor Hall also made a cameo in that position an understandable gamble (particularly given Yakupov’s success in the role in Russia). It is a gamble that has not worked out so far, as the positional change may well have increased the difficulty of Yakupov’s transition to NHL play.

Other errors were unforced. The decisions to re-sign Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk added a pair of 5-on-5 liabilities to a bottom-six group that didn’t need more players incapable of moving the puck in the right direction. The decision not to bring in a second-line left wing to add a capable veteran and force a guy like Ryan Smyth, Magnus Paajarvi or Teemu Hartikainen into a third line role opposite Yakupov on the other wing was another error.

While the root of these problems goes back to the summer, it seems likely the Oilers aren’t even aware of some of them. The decision to spend a fourth-round pick on Mike Brown – fine in his role, but terrible at adding 5-on-5 offence (the Oilers biggest weakness) when plausible options like Simon Gagne (dealt to Philadelphia for a fourth-round pick) or Dustin Penner (in the doghouse and rumoured to be cheap) was understandable but wrong-headed. Brown scores high in areas where Penner has been long-criticized, but in just 15 games in a bad season Penner is within a point of matching Brown’s career-best offensive production. Intangibles do matter – but tangibles matter too, and the fact is that the Oilers went shopping for a fourth-line guy who could punch people even as their team struggled to generate any kind of offence. That is not a criticism of Brown, who I actually like; it is a criticism of a management team that was picking out drapes while the house burned down.

Defence

Justin Schultz personifies both the best and worst of the Oilers’ blue line. On the positive side, he’s a sublimely skilled offensive defenceman, a great fit for the team long-term and was a massive windfall for the Oilers when he chose Edmonton in the summer. On the negative side, the fact that Justin Schultz, rookie pro, is the Oilers’ number one defenceman says everything about the state of the blue line.

It was obvious in the summer that the only prudent course of action was to add another defender – and despite the fact that the best options were signed early, players like Michal Rozsival stayed unsigned until September while Chris Campoli eventually had to relocate to Europe. Ideally, the Oilers would have competed for one of the better options out there; instead they failed even to make a basic insurance signing.

They’re paying for it now. Ryan Whitney’s unsurprising struggles, the inability of Justin Schultz and veteran second-pairing guy Nick Schultz to handle the opposition’s best, along with the ups and downs of a still-young Petry/Smid tandem have been the deserved result of an unwillingness to address a problem visible in the summer months.

Elsewhere

The Oilers made it clear as early as April that they were comfortable with a Devan Dubnyk/Nikolai Khabibulin duo, despite the fact that buying out Khabibulin and bringing in a reliable backup was a viable option. Dubnyk – despite some rough individual outings – has performed well, but Khabibulin unsurprisingly has spent most of the season on injured reserve, which in turn has forced Ralph Krueger to lean heavily on Dubnyk, who has started six games in nine days. The Oilers are already within a point of last place, and are one Dubnyk injury away from being comically overmatched by the NHL as a whole.

The jury is still out on Ralph Krueger, the fourth coach of Steve Tambellini’s run as general manager. I like some of the things he’s done, but at times he’s seemed overmatched and despite his eloquence and the clear loyalty of his players his reluctance to play a line-matching game may be costing the Oilers. Jon Cooper, meanwhile, continues to run the most successful team in the AHL.

The reader may notice an abundance of links in the piece above; the reason for that is to establish that this isn’t simply looking in hindsight and spotting things that seem obvious now. Many of the mistakes made by the Oilers management group are mistakes that should have been evident long before now, mistakes that could have been avoided with a little foresight and a little action back in June, July and August. The Oilers management group deserves a team with the record this one has.

They also deserve to pay the price of failure, a price they haven’t hesitated to visit upon players, coaches, and lower levels of management within the organization: dismissal.

Update: To be clear, not all of the Oilers' problems were forseeable. For example, the run of injuries at centre, and the shooting percentage struggles of the top line have hurt the team badly, and neither was a predictable problem. With teams as close as they are, my personal belief is that it takes some things going wrong to end up at the bottom of the pile, and that's happened in Edmonton. But those unforseen problems would have had less impact if visible problems had been addressed earlier. JW.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 ed back in canada
March 09 2013, 12:44PM
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This season is shaping up to be a disaster worse than any before. A rebuild that appears to be regressing.

Lowe still cannot assess hockey talent nor understand what he has and what he needs. Tambo is either just a figure head yes man, or equally incompetant.

A wise sports manager once said the most important skill a coach/manager of a sports team needs is the ability to assess talent and understand how to use it. I don't think Lowe or Tambo have this ability.

BTW the quote came from Bud Grant former CFL/NFL coaching great. I know this is showing my age,

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#52 BigE91
March 09 2013, 12:49PM
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a lg dubl dubl wrote:

Id add Eberle and RNH to that list.

Id also be willing to trade Yakupov and this years 1st for Perry.

I'd remove all three and place Justin Schultz on the list. Other than that no one should be safe. Too many players that are too similar. We as fans want it both ways, the players we think are great should stay but go out and get them some help without giving up anything. I'd be choked if Hall or Eberle were moved but to make the improvement needed we have to accept that one or tow of these guys won't be around when this team starts to improve.

There's too many needs to address and by the way they are scoring this season the top 6 can't and shouldn't be safe.

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#53 DevoKnows
March 09 2013, 12:50PM
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"Id add Eberle and RNH to that list."

Be careful, this team needs to get stronger and grittier in the top lines. RNH clearly shows he's very weak and doesn't like the rough going

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#54 Rama Lama
March 09 2013, 12:52PM
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MAC962 wrote:

UNTOUCHABLES. i will go first, feel free to add to the list.

1. Taylor Hall

RNH .......is the full meal deal!

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#56 justDOit
March 09 2013, 12:59PM
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@DSF

Like him or not, the moves he made before this season seem to be the perfect additions to the Leaves (JVR for one). Burkie got screwed over being dismissed before seeing his team play a game.

As for 'untouchables', my list starts with RNH and ends with J Schultz. Wingers may come and go, but those two guys are foundations.

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#57 a lg dubl dubl
March 09 2013, 01:01PM
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DevoKnows wrote:

"Id add Eberle and RNH to that list."

Be careful, this team needs to get stronger and grittier in the top lines. RNH clearly shows he's very weak and doesn't like the rough going

Actually Ive seen RNH take a run at somebody a few times this season, and last year didnt he hit Morrow hard enough to send him to the IR for a few weeks.

Sure he doesnt "go to the dirty areas" but the kid is paid to score.

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#58 Caligula
March 09 2013, 01:06PM
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Any semblance of logic, common sense or accountability at the upper levels of this organization are fading in the rear view mirror.

Katz won't fire Lowe, and Lowe happens to be pretty terrible at constructing a competent hockey team. That seems to be at the foundation of all the problems involving this team.

Replacing Steve with MacT or Howson, or making a bunch of meaningless trades neither addresses or corrects the underlying root issue.

Until Katz can accept reality and relieve Kevin and Steve (and Craig too) of their current duties, this festival of pain and ineptitude will continue unabated.

Daryl Katz, your team is broken. Fix it.

Please.

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#59 JCDavies
March 09 2013, 01:07PM
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Great post Jonathon.

I kind of feel like the organization could've handled their young players better. They are burning through the cheap contract years with nothing to show for it. Their desire to win immediately is definitely impacting their future.

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#60 andrewmk20
March 09 2013, 01:10PM
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@BigE91

HYPE. That's beautiful, I wonder if The Bear composes a song about this acronym.

"We've got hype on our side" "Our fans will always cry" "Spell it Hall, Yakupov, Paarjarvi,and Eberle"

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#61 Spydyr
March 09 2013, 01:11PM
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J.Shultz to the list.

Remove Ebs.

One of the fab five have to go.

Nuge is a center and a monster talent.

Hall has passion drive speed and heart.

Yak has that shot and appears to be a beast on his skates.

Ebs scores big goals and pretty goals.That is all great but he does not hit.Since he got rocked by Johnson he has been shying away form the tough areas on the ice.Defensively no one will confuse him with Datsyuk.

One has to go to fill needs.The entire bottom six outside of PVR and possible Harti and Jones has to go too.Maybe Brown might stay too early to tell. Hemsky and Gagner have to go for some toughness in the top six.

Defensively only Smid Petry and J.Shultz are keepers.

Goaltending total rebuild.A trade is needed.

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#62 andrewmk20
March 09 2013, 01:14PM
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@John Chambers

Agreed as angry as we all are it doesn't make sense to scream about dealing key pieces just out of frustration. The talent is there among the top 6, they just need to fill out the roster with useful depth and add one top 6 with some size and more so a battering ram mentality in the vein of Ladd, Simmonds, etc.

The biggest reason we've noticed the snake-bitten top line is because when they aren't producing no one else is there to pick up the slack. That's not the case when you watch playoff bound teams.

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#63 StuckOutHere
March 09 2013, 01:16PM
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Hall - Gagner - Eberle (Harder mins line)

Hartikainan - RNH - Yakupov (Soft mins line)

Paajarvi - Horcoff - UFA (David Clarkson or Clowe)(Tough mins line, with depth scoring capabilities)

Smyth - Belanger - Jones (expensive 4th line, but shouldn’t bleed too much)

White J. Schultz Sekera Petry Smid Fistric

This is a very doable line up. Is it good enough? And for christ’s sake send next year's lotto pick back down.

Thoughts?

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#64 Mac962
March 09 2013, 01:18PM
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Untouchables- I tend to agree , RNH has magic , it will come. I love Eberle and he is too clutch. Sorry Yak - but i would move you if the price is right. Justin Schultz stays.Smid i would keep, Petry- just another Gilbert,losing him i dont think would ever come back to haunt you.

Dont tell me this has to be done from within, and not the trade. Sorry - There is nothing in OKC that will pull this team out of it. Some good AHLers , thats it. Use your picks and some of the talent this team has and get on the phone.

Of course after Tambo and Lowe are gone. I would rather see MACT run things and hire Lindy Ruff.

What a mess we have here ON. Unreal , i didnt expect the cup this year but i though Ralphs promise of All out or what ever it was would get me through it. Your players are not listening.

Diehard Oil Fan totally sick of this crap. And yeah, we need a goalie. Dub - your are not the man sorry.

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#65 Mark-LW
March 09 2013, 01:18PM
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#fireOilersExecs

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#66 David
March 09 2013, 01:18PM
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Brian Burke would make a good GM, but he does not sound like a yes man so this is a non starter if Lowe is around.

He has a good grasp on how to build a team , look at the USA olympic team very competitive and pushed Canada to the brink in the gold medal game.

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#67 Walter Sobchak
March 09 2013, 01:19PM
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Getting rid of any of the 5 regular kids would be a massive step back, that would be getting into infinity rebuild territory.

Example- NYI......not could, but would have been a championship team had they kept the kids they drafted.

The players are not the problem......management inability recognizing what the team requires to help these players is the whole problem.

Putting J.Schultz out there without a proven top pairing defensmen is akin to telling him to go out there and sink or swim.

Having RNH - Eberle - Hall out there to drive the ship is like asking a 16 year old with a brand new license to go drive Hwy 63 to learn how to drive.

Putting Yakupov with Gagner and Hemsky was foolish and extremely short sighted.

Did anybody else feel that the line of Paajarvi - Gagner - Yakupov actually did some good, didn't turn the puck over half as much.

Yakupov should have been teamed with Horcoff - Smyth for the first year.

You can also dump on assistant GM for making that brutal Paajarvi mistake last year, that's an indication of the whole orginization.

Krueger was this management pick, which automatically makes it the wrong pick, based on 10 years of evidence.

What exactly does the pro scouting staff do in this orginization? The Oilers have not made a single news worthy trade.......Brown was already known by Tambellini.

Sorry for the rant!

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#68 Raine
March 09 2013, 01:19PM
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All it takes is a look at the history of Steve Tambellini trades and UFA signings to know he has failed.

http://www.oilogosphere.com/blog/oilers-need-competence-and-leadership-within-management/

5 years of inadequate signings and ineffective trades should be cause for dismissal.

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#69 Shaun Doe
March 09 2013, 01:19PM
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I can't believe how many people are willing to get rid of Eberle already. They kid led the team in scoring two year in a row and despite a down year has played very hard on the puck in past seasons. I wouldn't be suprised to see an injury hindering his game this season. I think I'd rather trade an unknown in Yakupov before I went the trade route with Eberle. Just my two bit though.

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#70 JCDavies
March 09 2013, 01:20PM
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@DSF

"I'd be interested in your take on Brian Burke taking over."

I really like this idea. Brian Burke has a good track record with trades and I feel like this is something the team needs right now. Building through the draft and free agency is great but some players can only be acquired through trades.

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#71 Saytalk
March 09 2013, 01:22PM
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Re Willis on trading core players: yes Quebec traded Nolan for Ozolinsh, but they also traded Sundin for Wendel Clark and traded Lindros for a boatload of players including Forsberg and Ricci. So all three of their first overall picks were traded away to transform a collection of prospects and potential into a cohesive team that could complete at the NHL level. I look at the Oilers roster and I still see a collection of prospects and potential, and to make matters worse, the prospects are all the same type of finesse perimeter player that is heavily discounted during drafts and in trade markets (why do you think Paajarvi and Eberle fell to us in their draft spots anyway?). The Oilers need to find their 2 or 3 foundation players and build around them. The rest are trade fodder ala Sundin, Lindros, Nolan.

You have identified problems in individual roster spots, but no one is talking about the systemic problems that have persisted in this franchise for several years now. The cronyism in the front office has led to incompetence in both pro scouting (who have they found besides Jones?) and in day-to-day management (see Paajarvi call-up from late last year as the worst example). Don't get me started on the over-rated coaches we had during 30, 30 and 29, but now we have an obscure coach whose only NHL experience prior to this year was being the associate coach for a 29th place team (maybe he was here for the second 30, I don't care). WTF is a "gap control" system anyway? Has anyone considered that each one of these prospects should be playing on a line/pairing with a successful veteran that can mentor him and point out required adjustments after every shift? It's like no one in this franchise even has a clue of the most basic elements of developing a player. Low quality coaching, absence of any mentoring, is it any wonder the kids aren't learning how to work hard and win?

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#72 @eastcoasteh
March 09 2013, 01:22PM
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Totally agree with you. Although in terms of bad shooting% is that just more a function of not getting to shooting areas (this team must lead the league in % of shots blocked/missed)? It seems when the kids do get in good areas, they try some fancy play that worked in the AHL, but not the big leagues...Anyways, it's pretty obvious what this team needs: - Better D. Our breakouts are atrocious, resulting in now flow for our forwards. Not sure how the team didn't see this coming with Whitney. Pretty obvious by watching him skate that he's a hurting unit and is pretty much done as a top-line NHLer. - A power forward (or two) to play in top-6. These guys don't grow on trees, so this will mean parting with some prospects to get there, but is a necessity to mix things up. - A better gameplan. Why is Coach-K asking his skilled guys to dump it in with little to no chance of retrieval. It's a good strategy if you have a banger or two to go get it, or to ask your bottom-6 guys to do it--at least if you don't get the puck, you wear down the opposition D. But for our current top-6 to do it, the puck comes out as fast as it went in most of the time. I think mgmt needs to identify their core and dump out anyone who can't fill an identifiable support role. Oh, and for all those people bemoaning our lack of PPs the past few games..if you don't have the puck, and never threaten to score, why would the opposition take a penalty on you?

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#73 Rod from Viking
March 09 2013, 01:26PM
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David wrote:

Brian Burke would make a good GM, but he does not sound like a yes man so this is a non starter if Lowe is around.

He has a good grasp on how to build a team , look at the USA olympic team very competitive and pushed Canada to the brink in the gold medal game.

A trip out to the barn would fix who would answer to who.

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#74 Spydyr
March 09 2013, 01:26PM
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Shaun Doe wrote:

I can't believe how many people are willing to get rid of Eberle already. They kid led the team in scoring two year in a row and despite a down year has played very hard on the puck in past seasons. I wouldn't be suprised to see an injury hindering his game this season. I think I'd rather trade an unknown in Yakupov before I went the trade route with Eberle. Just my two bit though.

I for one am not "Willing" to get "rid" of Eberle.

What they have now is not working(obviously). You have to give up a player to get a player.He is my choice from the fab five.Most say Yak.Not me.I see him winning the Rocket Richard trophy one day.

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#75 Fent
March 09 2013, 01:31PM
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The way the game is played these days, your going to have many players going down to serious injuries.

Unless the game changes thinking of untouchables or draft picks is a dream.

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#76 Reagan
March 09 2013, 01:37PM
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A big package needs to be created to bring some real NHL talent in. It may not hurt so much to trade one of the big for hopefuls for a chance to build success.

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#77 Oiler Al
March 09 2013, 01:47PM
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WOW!... THANK YOU JOHNATAN.. Great write up and perspective on the situation, and more so having the fortitude to make the call, unlike many scribes ,honestly, no tire blowing here.

I would not touch 4,14,93,64, or 19, at this point. Certainly not before we see the "draft day positioning". These guys are all young and skilled and need development.. throwing these kids into the fire without vet support is just dumb.Veteran leadership is non existent on this team.. Sorry Smyth and Horcoff are not the answer, neither is Hemsky and Whittney.

Unless there are changes in the ivory tower, not much will happen. I really believe that Lowe has his hands in the pie more than you would want, and Katz is not far off the scene.. !

Yes Tambelini and even Krueger should go, but you have start higher, as these two guys are the front men for the real honcho.

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#78 Gret99zky
March 09 2013, 01:48PM
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When Taylor Hall asks for a trade out of this gong show, I won't blame him one bit.

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#79 DoubleA34
March 09 2013, 01:50PM
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It would be sweet if at the next home game the fans greeted those bums with a "Fire Lowe" chant at the opening puck drop

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#80 DSF
March 09 2013, 01:54PM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

"bring some real NHL talent in"

WTH?

This team is stacked with talent that needs a little seasoning and line support/tinkering.

A bad couple games is not a bad team.

Wasn't it just a month ago that Toronto was the 43 year joke? Did they get a new team in 4 weeks?

The bad is never as bad as it seems... but it could get "badder" by making dumb moves.

Trading the farm is just.... wow.

The team is getting worse....not better.

Toronto has been improving steadily.

As you may recall, you made a bet with me that the Oilers goal differential this season would be much better than last season's -27.

Pro-rated over 82 games, the Oiler's goal differential this season is on pace for -58.

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#81 Butters
March 09 2013, 01:57PM
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Also, a lot of the good clubs seem to find some gems after the 1st round of the draft. I haven't seen much of that here lately. I thought Omark might have been one, oops.

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#82 Oilfred
March 09 2013, 02:08PM
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a lg dubl dubl wrote:

Id add Eberle and RNH to that list.

Id also be willing to trade Yakupov and this years 1st for Perry.

Wow that's crazy!

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#83 Oilfred
March 09 2013, 02:16PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

RE: Untouchables

It's important not to do much to the young core right now, I think - except in moves that bring in equally young players at a position of need (for example, Colorado dealt a 23-year old Owen Nolan to S.J. for a 23-year old Sandis Ozolinsh before they won their first Cup).

If the team starts moving the Yakupovs, Eberles, RNH's, etc. for veterans they're going to turn into the Islanders - a team that dealt guys like Luongo, Chara, Bertuzzi, Jokinen, Brewer, McCabe and others the instant they started struggling.

This all day long.

The key is not to overreact. Zona had an acticle at the begining of the season about how much luck would play in this season.

We are not a contending team, but the hardest part are almost all here, we need to be patient. the Going for it now is folly.

Having said that unless there was a secret plan to suck our way to another top pick in a great draft year . . . wait with all this evidense is there anyway that could not have been the plan?

Lowe is an evil genious. This team will not be a contender until the new building is up.

Sad but true.

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#84 Oilfred
March 09 2013, 02:22PM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

"bring some real NHL talent in"

WTH?

This team is stacked with talent that needs a little seasoning and line support/tinkering.

A bad couple games is not a bad team.

Wasn't it just a month ago that Toronto was the 43 year joke? Did they get a new team in 4 weeks?

The bad is never as bad as it seems... but it could get "badder" by making dumb moves.

Trading the farm is just.... wow.

Badly needed voice of reason!

Thank you sir.

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#85 DSF
March 09 2013, 02:24PM
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John Chambers wrote:

I think it was 'run the team into the toilet' to be precise.

Thing is - the Oilers have lots of good pieces. The raw materials are almost all there. Problem is theres nobody competent to assemble it all together.

And that's exactly what Burke is best at.

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#86 Gerard
March 09 2013, 02:24PM
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At least last year they tried. And we're actually exciting to watch. Now it's bore you to indifference last place hockey. Good job Lowe and tambi guess they really like jones or mackinnon.

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#87 Gerald R. Ford
March 09 2013, 02:27PM
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Burke.

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#88 John Chambers
March 09 2013, 02:34PM
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@DSF

What's amazing is that KLowe had a pretty good record as GM up until 5 years ago, or about the time of the Souray contract. He made good deals on both Pronger trades, brought in vets for the Cup run, believed in the value of experienced goaltending .... But suffered from Prendergast's terrible drafting.

That's what makes this all so puzzling - we had a champagne team on a beer budget and now that the marquee talent has arrived there's no more accountability. It's bizarre.

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#89 Gret99zky
March 09 2013, 02:37PM
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Funny thing is...

The Oilers will draft in the top 3 and pick a smallish forward and then ask him to play out of his natural position.

We already see Yak on LW instead of his natural RW and there's talk of moving Hall to C even though he is a natural and dominant winger.

Draft McKinnon and ask him to play D.

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#90 Reagan
March 09 2013, 02:39PM
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Oilcruzer you clearly need to remove your Kool-aid cooler glasses off. To expect this team to make any progress in the near future, it requires to move prospects to get NHL talent to play here. Are you so blind to realize it will take another two to three seasons before this team becomes competitive. It was a clear indication from the Detroit game that our so called vetrans had given up hope. Could Belanger and Smyth skate any quicker to get off the ice. It sucks buy one of the door may have to be moved. Hence the Oilers draft choices never did address their needs in the first place. Did they get bigger? No. Did they get a big talented center? No. It makes me want to pull my hair out. They opted for the small crafty wingers. I love Taylor hall to pieces but the odd crash and old charging hall would be nice once in a while, instead of these ridiculous cute plays. Once again looking out of the playoffs.

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#91 Reagan
March 09 2013, 02:40PM
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Yakupov playing out of position and buried on the third line also drive me nuts!

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#92 DSF
March 09 2013, 02:46PM
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John Chambers wrote:

What's amazing is that KLowe had a pretty good record as GM up until 5 years ago, or about the time of the Souray contract. He made good deals on both Pronger trades, brought in vets for the Cup run, believed in the value of experienced goaltending .... But suffered from Prendergast's terrible drafting.

That's what makes this all so puzzling - we had a champagne team on a beer budget and now that the marquee talent has arrived there's no more accountability. It's bizarre.

Really, it's been about 7 years.

The wheels started to fall of when he re-signed Pisani, Moreau etc, to vastly inflated contracts and then just kept doing more of the same with Horcoff and Khabibulin.

Signing Hemsky, Hall and Eberle to inflated deals before necessary indicates he's learned nothing from his earlier mistakes.

There isn't another organization in hockey that would allow that kind of track record to go unpunished.

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#93 Dmac
March 09 2013, 02:56PM
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This team simply put is lacking leadership and acountability! From Players, Coaches and Managment. This team needs personel in all areas that simply don't tolerate loosing. The product on the ice shows this weakness. Please tell me who on this team will hold their team mates acountable .

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#94 106 and 106
March 09 2013, 03:06PM
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Nice piece JW,

There was another article saying that Katz' will have to make the ultimate decision, and that no change in management would come (at least) until after the draft...

I know that the management does care, and are being irresponsible ("assessing") with looking at needs, but at what stage (if any), does Katz' have to make a decision to let the VP of Hockey Operations cease to exist as a title and find a General Manager who will.... generally manage?

I mean, there's no pressure on him as a businessman, right? He is still turning a buck right now, but a culture of losing is eventually going to turn the milk sour, and all the momentum from Schultz' signing here, new arena, etc. will mean nothing again.

We'll just be another cold, dark, pressure-packed hockey city.

Thanks!

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#95 FastOil
March 09 2013, 03:12PM
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"takes some things going wrong to end up at the bottom of the pile, and that's happened in Edmonton."

I agree somewhat, but I think you're letting them off too easily.

One season of misfortune is one thing, but if you've had 6, decision making is at the root of the problem.

Relying on chronically injured, aging players to fill key roles, over working young players who then have injury problems, good teams don't do these things. This last issue comes from the first and thinking unskilled hockey players contribute anything to a team's success.

Howson comes up now, and it would be a devastating mistake to bring him back. He bungled colossally in CBJ. Went for coke machines, let a shooting centre play with a shooting winger so they both underachieved, and managed people poorly.

Holding on to Nash until he spoke out meant he kept him to get what he wanted back, and ended up getting less in the end. That is having no feel for a situation and losing out because of it. It may also show weak negotiating skills.

A better GM would have dealt him for less than he wanted but got more than Howson did because he could read the tea leaves, or was at least looking in the cup in the first place. Perhaps the owners were interfering, again a good manager would successfully explain the situation as it was changing. I'd bet money Howson could have traded Nash for Hemsky and Edmonton's first and probably more, kept Carter and had a good first line when Hemsky was playing.

On the bright side the fixes for the Oilers aren't tricky, except maybe the first pairing D.

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#96 jooks
March 09 2013, 03:14PM
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@JW

Hmmm...I'd argue that the lack of depth at centre WAS a foreseeable problem. Belanger was barely treading water as 4C last year while Lander fell off a cliff in his NHL stint. His time in the AHL since has been passable but not particularly encouraging that he'd be a good 4th line centre this year. So since he's the first call-up option I'd say mgmt's refusal to add a better option was definitely a lack of foresight.

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#97 Butters
March 09 2013, 03:16PM
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It's official, Oilers are last in the WC. Do we pick Jones/MacKinnon/Drouin/Barkov or other?

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#98 RexLibris
March 09 2013, 03:18PM
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Terrific article, Jonathan. Sobering, somewhat upsetting over the likelihood of repeating these mistakes this summer, but all the same, a very good piece.

As upset as I am about management right now, it isn't limited to Lowe and Tamebellini. Morey Gare and the professional scouting staff and Rick Olcyk as head "capologist" are also drawing my ire.

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#99 Oilfred
March 09 2013, 03:31PM
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David S wrote:

[Sorry in advance guys but I'm gonna piss a few people off with this one.]

Who in their right mind would have expected our "top line" to have a shooting percentage anywhere near sustainably decent when the entire trio is younger than alot of guys on the Oil Kings? They're one dimensional, therefore easy to strategize against and not nearly mature enough to handle the constant pounding that line is subjected to nightly going up against opposing top lines. As it stands right now they're getting the crap kicked out of them and as a result both Hall and Nuge may now be playing injured.

This whole narrative of "Management is incompetent! - FIRE THEM ALL!" sounds pretty good and is alot of fun (I tweeted the exact thing last night). It's also a handy tool that allows bloggers and keyboard GM's to pat themselves on the back having somehow mystically gleaned team weaknesses last summer that guys who actually get paid to do so "apparently" missed.

Right.

Our company works with the same firm the Oilers use - Darkhorse at the U of A. They (the Oilers) are heavy into analytics. I don't work with the Darkhorse team directly, but their forward looking situation projection and analysis is uncannily accurate. You think you're good at parsing stats? These guys are freaking Jedi masters by comparison.

It's more than a little likely management knew full well this team wasn't going anywhere all along. In fact, I'd bet some serious cash they counted on it. Think about it. Part-timers and blog heroes can figure out there's massive holes in the lineup and guys who've been intimately involved in the sport for decades can't? You really believe that? C'mon. One key piece goes down, the whole team goes to sh!t and not a thing is done to rectify the situation? *SHOCKER*

Look, I don't know the real plan any more than any of you guys. But my guess is when Horcoff went down the team was presented with a golden opportunity to go for another high pick, which will be used in combination with existing high-value assets (i.e. Gagner, Hemsky) to fill in the missing pieces. On top of which we have scads of cap room. Chances are the current bottom six, half our D and at least one goalie will not be here next year.

The Oilers will be damn busy the next six months. Book it. With respect to Tambellini, he's a patsy and would have been fired by now if he wasn't doing EXACTLY what Lowe and Katz wanted. To that end my money is on MacT taking over the GM reigns in the very near future.

You know who I feel really bad for? The players. Check out the latest post-game interviews on the team site. That's the first time I've seen Ladi Smid with not a whiff of positivity. He looks absolutely defeated. I don't want to think everybody else feels like. They're in the midst of a full-on tank job. They know it and there's jack they can do about it.

Wonder why the team looks completely unmotivated alot of the time? They're being asked to play far above their abilities and get the living hell kicked out of them doing so. That is simply not a sustainable state of mind for any athlete.

This

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#100 David S
March 09 2013, 03:43PM
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steve wrote:

Krueger coaches to defend not to play offense as he did while he was the Swiss head coach. Get off this bull crap about the offense will come, this guys is sinking the offensive players. How does Eberle/Hall/Schultz all have well over a PPG average in the AHL and come to Edmonton and suddenly lose the offense???? Krueger goes, and so does the guy who hired 4 coaches in his tenure. Otherwise if they dont clean up management, this team is doomed and I will not be watching this junk.

Uhhh...because the AHL is a league far below the NHL, despite the propaganda and rhetoric to the contrary. Hall, Ebs and Nuuuge must have felt like Globetrotters down there. They weren't getting hammered every shift, every night. Must have been like a paid holiday for them.

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