The Road Gets a Little Bumpier

Jason Strudwick
September 23 2013 09:33AM

Saturday night, in a preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks there was a stupid stick swinging incident involving the Canucks Zack Kassian. The result has really put a dent in the Oilers ability to have a strong start to this season.

Sam Gagner was hit by Kassian's stick in the mouth and by all reports he will miss a yet to be determined number of regular season games thanks to a broken jaw. The timing of this is very frustrating for any player.

All players work very hard in the summer to be fine tuned to get off to a good start. Hours in the gym and on the ice make sure they are ready to go. There is never a good time to be injured but I always felt that getting hurt in preseason was brutal.

The rest of the NHL continues right along and a player injured in exhibition is left behind. It is inevitable that Gagner will lose the fine edge he was worked on all summer. His level of conditioning will be challenged in two ways:

One, I would not expect a lot of training for him while the injury is acute. Two, his calorie and diet intake will be altered. After losing teeth and breaking your jaw would you feel like consuming the necessary calories to maintain your weight and energy levels?

I once took a puck to the mouth the morning after our team's rookie party (great times by the way). The dentist described the state of my mouth like this... "it looks like a grenade went off on your lips." Not what I wanted to hear, especially after a late night. A bunch of teeth were loose and I had to wear a brace across my top row of teeth. I lived on soup and protein shakes for a few weeks. Until I could eat whole foods again I was losing weight faster then Gregor was losing his hair at the age of eighteen.

This isn't good news for Gagner. In time he will get to the level he wants to be but it will not be right away. I know how competitive he is and the high expectations he puts on himself. The longer his down time, the longer it will take for him to get back to playing at his self imposed high level.

For the Oilers, the Gagner injury will leave them without their top two centers to start the season. Due to the Olympic break the Oilers have a full month of games in October. Wins will be harder to come by without both Gagner and Nuge. Take the top two centers off any team and that team will struggle.

As for Zach Kassian this was a very stupid play. I honestly don't understand how his stick could end up hitting Gagner in the face. I feel that a player is always responsible for his stick. Always. I do not think it was by accident that it flew up and hit Gagner in the face. It was on or near the ice and then flies up? Makes no sense to me.

The Consequences

Kassian will probably be suspended. If I am the Oilers why do I care about that? It doesn't bring back Gagner any sooner. One, two, 5, 10 games...doesn't make a difference. Even for the Canucks, at this stage in Kassian's development their team will move on without him.

I think the issue is with the lack of overall toughness in the Oilers lineup. Players like Kassian have no fear in playing the Oilers extra tough. Who outside of Mike Brown can stand up to a guy like Kassian or Andrew Alberts? Both these guys were running around Saturday night in Edmonton like there was no reason to be afraid! They're big guys, but nothing to lose sleep over unless a team like the Oilers doesn't have guys to match up to them with.

I know Edmonton got a lot of power plays against the Canucks Saturday. The plan is to score on those PP attempts frequently enough that the opponent will have to tone down the physical play. I get that, but at some point doesn't the team need to have the ability to stand up for itself?

When is enough enough? And when they get to that point who will be the guy to do it? I really like Brown as a player, he played very well saturday, but it is unfair to ask one undersized guy to fight the whole team's battles. I am not saying go out and bring in a Steve MacIntyre type player, just bring in someone who can play and step up when needed.

Last summer the Canadians signed Brandon Prust to a nice contract. He plays hard and fought most of the team's battles when needed. He did a good job but it is a lonely job if you are the only one doing it and you are undersized. Marc Bergevin saw the need to get him some help. This off season he brought in George Parros to take the pressure off Prust. I guarantee all the Habs are walking taller this season.

I don't care if Kassian gets suspended for one or ten games. I do care how the Oilers respond when they play him again. It is important for the team to not brush this over like nothing happened or it was an accident. The Oiler team can make a statement to not only the Canucks but all the teams in the league with some kind of a response.

Will someone stand up and say enough is enough?

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#201 GVBlackhawk
September 23 2013, 10:51PM
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Randall Shermer wrote:

The Oilers need to go out and get one or more of the best enforcers in the league, even if they have to give up a little skill to get him. Target the enforcers on the top 6 winning teams of last years' playoffs: Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Detroit, and Ottawa.

I see what you did there.

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#202 Czar
September 24 2013, 09:18AM
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@MessyEH!

This would be perfectly acceptable for any Canuck or Flames game. Thanks for the link.

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#203 Czar
September 24 2013, 09:32AM
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@MessyEH!

You could see the fear in the eyes of the kids on the bench, I'm not fvcking going out there after that! Awesome!!

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#204 Wax Man Riley
September 24 2013, 12:25PM
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Shaun Doe wrote:

Fair enough, I assumed that would be the answer. I just wonder if he gave him a bit of the hairy eye balls or just a simple, "use your head". But he's an employee first, dad second when he's on the clock.

If I remember correctly, Dave Gagner is no longer with the Canucks organization. I will look

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#205 Wax Man Riley
September 24 2013, 12:29PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

If I remember correctly, Dave Gagner is no longer with the Canucks organization. I will look

http://forum.canucks.com/topic/350605-report-dave-gagner-leaves-canucks-to-work-with-orr-hockey-group/

Dave Gagner leaves the Canucks organization to work with Orr Hockey

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#206 The Oilers Shot Clock
September 23 2013, 10:16AM
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@DSF

Brutal

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#207 The Oilers Shot Clock
September 23 2013, 10:19AM
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Lowetide is going to have a bad day. MacT lied to him!

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#208 Zamboni Driver
September 23 2013, 10:42AM
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@DSF

Thank god.

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#209 Czar
September 23 2013, 11:17AM
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@Wanye

Just got my new nation T-shirt! Disappointed I didn't get the personalized note and self portrait you've included in the past but damn that's one nice shirt dude!Can we expect some new designs before Christmas?

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#210 Rama Lama
September 23 2013, 11:21AM
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Ok people, just got off the phone with Mac T.........Steve Mac will be used differently this time.

You see in the past coaches would play him on a fourth line role and expect him to score. Enter Eakins and he will play him only against teams that have a history of running our guys. THe message will be simple, if the other team gets stupid......start running their skill players, forget fighting their heavyweights.

Problem solved.........you fight fire with fire.

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#211 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 23 2013, 11:35AM
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** wrote:

Dude, he actually said the opposite of that: http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/09/23/edmonton-oilers-claim-steve-macintyre-on-waivers/

Who is the "he" here?

Bruce or MacT?

I'm pretty sure Bruce isn't contradicting himself here... not sure what your beef is in contrasting his tweets with his articles.

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#212 Bonvie
September 23 2013, 12:39PM
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DSF wrote:

"Freak accidents and horrible goonery are remarkably ignorant of deterrents."

On that we can agree.

But the failure to respond to physical play has consequences that you cannot and will not ever be able to measure.

And yet you are still trying to use your high school logic classes to refute the knowledge of those with far more insight into the issue at hand.

This was a great moment for the Edmonton Oilers. You don't have that many skilled assets without protection.

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#213 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 23 2013, 12:58PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

So, the argument you agree with is "becoming" but hearing an alternative is "unbecoming"?

I guess those of us who don't agree should leave you to it? Is that more interesting?

Seems like a pretty bland way to run a comments section.

If you are just tired of the circles, I agree with you it is tedious. But the alternative is to stop reading. After all, we are all still on topic.

By unbecoming.....I mean weak.....your comments are normally well thought out and interesting.....I think you you know what I mean ...so ill let it go.....ill move on..

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#214 ed in edmonton
September 23 2013, 01:07PM
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DSF wrote:

Keep trying.

Thing is, Weiss laid a beating on Brown and no one stepped up to challenge Kassian because they would have received a beating too.

Adding a player or two who doesn't hide under a table the during the fight in the bar would make a significant difference whether or not you believe it.

Had someone made Kassian pay for his sins I would wager he would have "changed his routine".

Having a guy who "will stand up for his team mates" may make others on the Oil feel better and they then may perform better. If the team is fragile in a "physical confidence" sense then maybe they need something.

Bringing in SMac might be a bit like the Oil bringing in Adam Oates a few years ago. If he can't play he won't be of much use. But the truly effective goons are all have contracts by now and unless the Oil are willing to give up something of value...

Kassian is not so big that,I suspect, he has had some fights in which he has come out second best. And he still plays the way he does. He knows if he changes that part of his game he won't be in the NHL. I'm sure he realizes he will need to answer the bell from time to time and that he will not always come out on top. But he also knows if he isn't willing to accept that he won't be in the NHL.

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#215 pkam
September 23 2013, 02:34PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

You want a deterent. Gagner should get up and two hand crank Kassian in the throat. Yeah Gagner gets suspended. He'd be off injured anyway. But now he gets space. Now he gets left alone.

Or Eakins tells one of the tryouts to run the goalie in the next shift. "Chicken wing elbow as you cross the crease. "

Having a goon on the bench isn't a deterrent, having a couple players who will end your career is.

You think Kassian will stand there an let Gagner crank him in his throat?

The result is probably Gagner get smash at his jaw and end up with a more serious injury and out for even longer.

Just send a goon out the next game and get the Sedins and Kesler and make sure they will be out longer than Gagner. Don't even bother to answer any call to fight.

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#216 GVBlackhawk
September 23 2013, 02:58PM
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Gkpoil wrote:

Yes the object is to score, but you can't if you are laying on the ice with a broken jaw. In a perfect world you don't need the Smacks of the league, but when you have teams that dress the Kassians of the league you need to protect your assets.

No, fighting Kassian would not do any good and no, Smack is not going to score you many goals (if any). But if he goons another teams star in retaliation the message will be sent, 'eye for an eye'.

And responding to an earlier post, if Smack knocks out Kesler or a sister for a month for Kassian's actions.... good. We lose Smack for a while but other team's goons will be aware that their actions against our stars will have serious reprecussions. Remember we play evey team twice now...

So who is going to retaliate when he is serving 10-20 game suspensions?

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#217 Eastern Oil
September 23 2013, 03:19PM
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@ 2004Z06

So I should not be able to criticize a move that makes no sense then?

I understand that good 3rd/4th line centres are not available on a whim, but there is a difference between making an effort to fill the gap and falling off the wagon.

I realize that things might still fall into place with as teams put guys on waivers but the Oilers have been shallow up the middle since last November.

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#218 Rama Lama
September 23 2013, 03:21PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Romolus, no amount of logic will change your opinion, we get that. At lease you stick by your argument, however weak and pathetic.

I would love to play hockey against your family and probably after the second time I run your mother, elbow your brother, and swing my stick at your grandmother breaking her jaw in three places............you will understand that beting the crap out of me will probably not change the outcome of the game, but I will be thinking of the beating I took last game and this may alter the way I play the next game.

Want to give it a try? Or do you perfer to stay buried in the sand?

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#219 MessyEH!
September 23 2013, 03:36PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Romolus, no amount of logic will change your opinion, we get that. At lease you stick by your argument, however weak and pathetic.

I would love to play hockey against your family and probably after the second time I run your mother, elbow your brother, and swing my stick at your grandmother breaking her jaw in three places............you will understand that beting the crap out of me will probably not change the outcome of the game, but I will be thinking of the beating I took last game and this may alter the way I play the next game.

Want to give it a try? Or do you perfer to stay buried in the sand?

If you play that type of game. Your prepared to take a beating. What your not prepared for is someone coming to end your career.

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#220 pkam
September 23 2013, 03:40PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

I didn't think Gags would stand there and let Kassian nail him in the jaw.

Oh right he wasn't expecting it.

If Gagner try to do that, what do you think will happen? I bet it will end up with a fight, wouldn't it?

What is the chance Gagner win a fight with a guy about 3" taller and 20 lbs heavier, not to mention he has a broker jaw? And what do you think Kassian will target if they really get into a fight? Oh right, he is such a gentleman that he will stay away from Gagner's jaw because he knows his jaw is probably broken with all the teeth on the ice.

Remember what Chara target Crosby when they tangled up in front of the net in the last playoff series?

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#221 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 23 2013, 03:47PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Romolus, no amount of logic will change your opinion, we get that. At lease you stick by your argument, however weak and pathetic.

I would love to play hockey against your family and probably after the second time I run your mother, elbow your brother, and swing my stick at your grandmother breaking her jaw in three places............you will understand that beting the crap out of me will probably not change the outcome of the game, but I will be thinking of the beating I took last game and this may alter the way I play the next game.

Want to give it a try? Or do you perfer to stay buried in the sand?

Noted for posterity.

This is still a hockey blog right?

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#222 GVBlackhawk
September 23 2013, 03:58PM
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Gkpoil wrote:

Hopefully someone else steps up. Once the precedent is set, other teams will think twice. Coaches will not give their goons the green light to go after our stars if they know that Eakins will allow one of his players to seek retribution.

The oil had to do something and Smack is the best/ most viable option we have right now.

If he doesn't pan out, put him on waivers.

I agree that the Oilers had to do something. But I think that they needed to find a stop-gap center, not a guy who is going to play 2 minutes per night and fight the other team's goon.

Nothing could have prevented what happened to Sam Gagner. This is a knee-jerk reaction to a dumb play by an idiotic player.

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#223 David S
September 23 2013, 05:01PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

You want a deterent. Gagner should get up and two hand crank Kassian in the throat. Yeah Gagner gets suspended. He'd be off injured anyway. But now he gets space. Now he gets left alone.

Or Eakins tells one of the tryouts to run the goalie in the next shift. "Chicken wing elbow as you cross the crease. "

Having a goon on the bench isn't a deterrent, having a couple players who will end your career is.

What the Oilers didn't mention is that due to the impact from Kassian's being so powerful it broke Gagner's jaw it's very likely Sam also suffered a concussion in the process. He was probably half lights-out on the way to the bench, on top of being in agonizing pain.

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#224 michael
September 23 2013, 08:00PM
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Wife and I watched the Battle of the Blades season preview last night. Your in tough Studs. I would rather fight Smack than try to compete against those other 7 teams.

What Charity are competing for Struds?

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#225 Shaun Doe
September 23 2013, 08:08PM
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@Jason Strudwick

Fair enough, I assumed that would be the answer. I just wonder if he gave him a bit of the hairy eye balls or just a simple, "use your head". But he's an employee first, dad second when he's on the clock.

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#226 The Oilers Shot Clock
September 24 2013, 09:13AM
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The deterrent needs to come from the league. Simple as that. Suspensions obviously dont work as we have had decades on top of decades of hockey to prove it.The same can be said of Goons.The respect between players is near non existent and it stems from a lot of different reasons. I read Zonas article of an eye for an eye and while I disagree with the concept, I do agree with the idea. The league needs to punish more effectively. Id like to see suspensions combined with draft picks awarded to the victimized team. The severity could dictate the quality of pick,and ofcourse it would only apply to repeat offenders or extremely brazen acts of violence. Suspensions alone are not enough because there's a pretty good chance that the suspended player will hardly be missed and there's also a pretty good bet that the player injured is the better player between the two. Its almost not in a teams best interest to discourage it. Taking away a 3rd round pick would sting, and teams would start holding their own guys accountable.....Rant over,maybe Im just upset it came to hiring MacIntyre.

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#227 Rama Lama
September 24 2013, 11:07AM
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I wonder why Gretzky always wanted two or three tough guys on his team?? It was'nt so they could manage Gretzky's fashion requirements.

For all those people who think a goon plays no part........ask the greatest player in the world how he feels about this......it's all there on the record.

Only a fool goes into a battle unarmed and expects to win the war.

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