January 16 2014 11:25PM
It is time for the Oilers to stop the distractions.
They need to stop believing that a consistent rotation of head coaches, 4th liners and 3rd pairing defenders will help them become a winner. The organization and some pundits also need to stop expecting goalies to cover up all the weaknesses in front of them.
It hasn't worked so far, and it won't work moving forward.
I doubt any organization, and some of its media, bloggers and fans, spends more time focusing and worrying about the fringe positions than Edmonton.
The 4th liners and 3rd pairing D-men will not change the fortunes of the Oilers. They might make a small impact, but until the players who play the most minutes improve, this team will not be close to the playoffs.
The Oilers need to stop worrying about the 4th line so much. It has been a revolving door for the past four seasons, and the changes have not improved the team. Why? Because teams that win rely on their top three lines and top-four defenders to succeed.
Let's look at the revolving door of 4th liners. ( I didn't include guys who played fewer than 10 games)
2010/2011: Brule, Fraser, Stortini, Jacques,O'Marra and MacIntyre
2011/2012: Eager, Hordichuk, Petrell and Lander.
2012/2013: Eager, Brown, Petrell, Smithson, Vande Velde, Hartikainen and Lander.
2013/2014: Joensuu, Acton, Gazdic, Lander and Jones.
Now compare the top-nine forwards during the same span.
2010/2011: Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, Horcoff, Paajarvi, Jones, Cogliano, Penner, Omark, Reddox, .
2011/2012: Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, Horcoff, Paajarvi, Jones, Nugent-Hopkins,Smyth, Belanger, Hartikainen.
2012/2013: Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, Horcoff, Paajarvi, Jones, Nugent-Hopkins,Smyth, Belanger, Yakupov.
2013/2014: Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, Gordon, Perron, Nugent-Hopkins,Smyth, Yakupov, Arcobello.
The Oilers have also made numerous changes on their blueline, mainly within their bottom three:
I ranked the D-men based on minutes played and only used players who dressed 20+ games.
2010/2011: Whitney, Gilbert, Petry, Smid, Peckham, Vandermeer, Foster, Strudwick.
2011/2012: Gilbert, Whitney, Petry, Smid, Potter, Barker, Peckham, Sutton, Tuebert.
2012/2013: Petry, J.Schultz, Smid, Whitney, N.Schultz, Peckham, Potter, Fistric.
2013/2014: J.Schultz, Petry, Ference, Larsen, Belov, N.Schultz, (Marincin, Potter have played 12 games).
Basically they replaced Gilbert with J.Schultz last season and Whitney with Ference to start this season. They moved Smid with the hope that Belov would play top-four minutes, but so far that hasn't worked.
The 3rd pairing has been a constant rotation of players, and none of the replacements are making any sort of impact. It is safe to say they need to try and acquire better fringe players, however, I seriously doubt any player who comes here in that role will have much success.
I included GS (games started) and their SV% and GAA.
2010/2011: GS SV% GAA
Khabibulin 46 .890 3.40
Dubnyk 33 .916 2.71
2011/2012: GS SV% GAA
Dubnyk 42 .914 2.67
Khabibulin 40 .910 2.65
2012/2013: GS SV% GAA
Dubnyk 37 .920 2.57
Khabibulin 11 .923 2.54
2013/2014: GS SV% GAA
Dubnyk 29 .894 3.36
Bryzgalov 13 .902 3.27
Labarbera (4) and Bachman (3) started a few games, but outside of Bachman standing on his head in LA one night they didn't make an impact. Scrivens only played one game, so it is too early to tell how he'll play.
Dubnyk had three seasons between .914 and .920 prior to struggling this season. If anyone believes he was the main issue they weren't paying attention. Check out Jonathan Quick's numbers last year in LA...He had a .902 SV%, but the team managed to win, because they had excellent top-nine forwards and top-four D-men.
Good teams don't rely on their goalie to win them every game. Of course Dubnyk let in a few softies, but they were magnified way more than they would be on a good team, because the good teams can overcome a bad goal.
The Edmonton Oilers need to improve their skilled positions. The players who play the most minutes need to be better.
Stop changing head coaches every summer. That isn't helping. Stop the endless rotation of 4th liners, expecting that they will somehow make a big enough impact to help you win games. In reality, they might impact 3 of 4 games all season, and the organization needs to recognize this.
The constant change of coaches and fringe players is distracting the organization from the real problem. They need to improve the guys who play the most minutes, the players who have the greatest chance of impacting the game. Stop blaming the guys who play 8 minutes a night.
The Oilers can keep changing goalies, fourth liners and the bottom pairing defenders, but it won't make a difference.
Stop talking about the Corsi of the 4th line and blaming them for the woes of the Oilers. They aren't the problem, and while I know it is easy to say to point to their 39-42% rating, but the fact is no 4th line in hockey makes that much of a difference.
Colin Fraser's numbers were awful in Edmonton, but in LA suddenly he can play his role and they win a Cup with him. People ripped on Mike Brown because he didn't add anything in Edmonton, yet he plays in San Jose and no one talks about him. Why, because their best players control the game. His Corsi is a bit better in San Jose, but not great, yet the Sharks somehow manage to overcome that. Amazing what can happen when your best players control the game.
It is time the Oilers organization looks in the mirror and realizes that their plan is not working. Have the courage to take a step back, realize the error of your ways and alter accordingly. They need to support their young players and insulate them with veterans who can play significant minutes and help them succeed.
Until that happens this team will not improve.