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 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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#202 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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#203 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 23 2013, 03:39PM
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Eastern Oil wrote:

@ Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

Well said, and I apologize if I came on too strong. I tried to read through some of the comments and if I missed your explanation that's my fault.

As always, with issues like fighting/truculence, the conversation seems to race to the lowest common denominator. Although I do not mind adding toughness to our lineup, I would have preferred someone with QUITE a bit more ability and/or a real NHL centre.

No worries....I appreciate the clarification......and I agree completely with your comment.....funny thing is.....as much as I like fighting in the game....I care a lot more about winning a Stanley Cup....and having a dedicated enforcer is not the way to go in the long run.........but IMO these things don't occur in a vacuum...it's really dependant on the make up of the team at any given point......for right now MacT is doing what has to be done....I hope and suspect that in Sept 2014 we won't need MacIntyre.

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#204 Gkpoil
September 23 2013, 03:43PM
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GVBlackhawk wrote:

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

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.

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#205 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 23 2013, 03:43PM
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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 must have read Theo Fluerry's book......cause that's what he said worked for him.

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#206 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 23 2013, 03:55PM
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Good blog.......I really enjoyed it...including 90% of Rom's posts....I think the various opinions were well represented......it would be pretty boring if we all agreed about everything.

On to the next article.....

THANKS STRUDS!

We're gonna have a Battle of the Blades party and have a shot every time your butt hits the ice!

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#207 The-End
September 23 2013, 03:58PM
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When someone cheap shots RNH-Eberle-Yakapov and Steve Destroys the culprit or better yet someone of equal skill on the opposition , you very hypocrite's will be the first to stand and applaud. I've been there, seen it and done it.

Your Team , like it or not, just grew 3 inches and put on 20 lbs and grew some nads.

Me

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#208 michael
September 23 2013, 04:01PM
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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.

Eakins has said he wants all of his players to be physical. Yup. Read Finish your checks. Not do a Hall and pick a fight with a nothing player from Columbus and wind up on the IR. Yeah we expect Gagner to drop em with Kassian. Or some other HULK who decides to crack open our skulls like a coconut. Why? Because we ain't gonna do squat about it.

Everybody remembers Messier as an elite player. They forget he had like 30 fights in his first 2 years. He punched his way to respectability.

You all think that is going to happen now? Not a chance. So what is the bitching about getting Smack? As long as teams continue to employ thugs and frankly use intimidation we'll need guys like Smack. Brown is willing but does not put the fear into other teams like a guy like Smack.

He can't skate. He can't score. He can't. Well for once I agree with DSF and I feel that the intangibles that Smack brings onto the ice and off the ice outweigh and override any argument against his role on this team as an enforcer.

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#209 oilersplumber
September 23 2013, 05:51PM
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I wonder how many of you out there are over 50 ? Doubt we would be having this discussion if most of you were and could have seen the Flyers, Bruins, even the Rangers and Canadiens of the day.......I wonder if that was why Slats had a few of his own. You think Wayne would have had the room he had with out them ? Doubtful.........aaah the wisdom that comes with age......

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#210 Reach Advantage
September 23 2013, 05:56PM
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Does having MacIntyre dressed deter Kassian from doing what he did?

I have no idea if it does at the NHL level. At my level it would have, I think. Would it Jason?

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#211 michael
September 23 2013, 05:57PM
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Kassian gets 5 games and he starts talking smack before Smack is even on the plane out of Pittsburgh. You don't think Smack is on the plane on his Twitter account and seeing that and thinking to him self. Which ant should I squash first. NHL does like predetermined fights. Really? The first game that the Oilers vs Nucks play where they are both in the lineup is going to watched as closely as Battle of the Blades when Struds is on.

Adding a cannon to a gun fight puts the odds of us winning the gunfight more so in our favor.

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#212 Reach Advantage
September 23 2013, 06:05PM
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I don't think fear of a fair fight deters too many from doing something dirty. I think what deters someone from doing something dirty, is fear that it is highly likely that they themselves will receive an action that is intended to injure them. They will be forced to evaluate weighing going thru with their intended cheap shot with: a)potential pain of injury b)potential rehab c)potential injury that reduces their ability to play the game at the level they currently do d)potential loss of income due to (c) e)potential loss of career

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#213 GVBlackhawk
September 23 2013, 06:23PM
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oilersplumber wrote:

I wonder how many of you out there are over 50 ? Doubt we would be having this discussion if most of you were and could have seen the Flyers, Bruins, even the Rangers and Canadiens of the day.......I wonder if that was why Slats had a few of his own. You think Wayne would have had the room he had with out them ? Doubtful.........aaah the wisdom that comes with age......

The game has changed a lot since the 1970's and 1980's. You can't get away with the stuff that they did back then.

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#214 The Real Scuba Steve
September 23 2013, 06:24PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

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..

LOL This great entertainment!! you guys are a riot LOL

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#215 Shaun Doe
September 23 2013, 06:55PM
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Hey Struds, was hoping you might have some insight into my question. I was was wondering what sort of conversation, if any, Dave Gagner might have had with Kassian after the game. I know Sam's a big boy and not Canucks property as far as he is concerned professionally, but as a dad he must have been just a bit shook up/pissed by what happened to his boy. Have you ever experienced anything along these lines or heard of any thing like it? Thanks in advance

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#216 Reach Advantage
September 23 2013, 07:03PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Hey at least it may be a stop gap until a Colton Orr type of player comes available.

As for Kassian's comment. He is right, Macyntire's skating ability should be the furthest thing from his mind. Keeping that last tooth in his head however will be.

The only way this works is if Mac goes over the boards, grabs Kassian and pounds the crap out of him regardless of whether Kassian wants to go or not.

Take the instigator penalty, take the suspension. The rest of the league then knows that while it may not happen again, it CAN happen again. You only have to push the button once before people realize that you will if need be.

There is your nuclear deterrent.

Agree

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#217 Thumby
September 23 2013, 07:09PM
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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.

Did anyone see some of this in Nurse's game? I did...why oh why wasn't he drafted 4 years ago...

;D

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#218 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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#219 Randall Shermer
September 23 2013, 08:57PM
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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.

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#220 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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#221 MessyEH!
September 24 2013, 03:21AM
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Now if SMac is aloud to do this the next time an Oilers star is cheap shooted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGAdHcuJOkQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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#222 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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#223 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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#224 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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#225 thebiggestmanintheworld
September 24 2013, 10:33AM
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This is how intimidation is supposed to work in the NHL...

Weise almost elbows Hall in the melon, then Brown needs to take a run at Canuck X.

Kassian swings his stick at Gagner's face, SMac just blindsides Canuck X.

Eventually, Canuck X will go to Weiss and Kassian and tell them to start playing hockey because they're tired of being run themselves.

Does this make sense?

Nobody needs to bring a shiv and gut somebody on the ice.

Like the brush back pitch, eventually the skill guys get tired of playing like this and straighten their own teams out.

It might take a game or two, but respect is eventually born out of intense rivalries such as these.

Take a few penalties and just let the other team know you'll run with them if that how they want to play...

Unfortunately, the Oilers are no where close to compete like that....

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#226 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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#227 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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