There is something wrong with Taylor Hall

Jonathan Willis
January 16 2014 09:05AM

 

According to the general manager Edmonton Oilers, Taylor Hall is coming along nicely as a hockey player. He is making good decisions and playing better than ever this season.

Maybe he's right. But the data emphatically points to something having gone sideways in the game of the Oilers’ best offensive player.

MacTavish

David Staples, in his fantastic interview with Craig MacTavish last week, mentioned to the G.M. that most of the Oilers’ young stars had seen their play slide under Dallas Eakins. MacTavish disagreed, and specifically noted Hall’s play.

“I don’t think it’s accurate in what I’m seeing,” said MacTavish. “When you talk to people that know hockey very well they will tell you that they are seeing structural changes in Taylor Hall. His game is changing.”

MacTavish specifically noted Hall’s play on a goal against Tampa Bay on January 5:

MacTavish described the play as “living to fight another day” – Hall opting for the dump-in rather than trying to beat two players and turning the puck over and favourably compared that style of play to the one employed by Anaheim’s top line.

The Data

Here’s the thing: if Hall’s game has improved, over time we should see that in the results. So, for example, if he’s avoiding the bad high-risk plays he did in years past we should (all else being equal) expect to see that reflected in numbers like his shots against totals. If his two-way play overall is improved, the Oilers should be out-chancing the opposition more frequently than they have in prior years.

But that isn’t what’s happening.

The chart above looks complicated, but it’s really very simple. What we’re looking at is Oilers shot totals with Hall on and off the ice over the last two seasons.

Last year, Edmonton out-shot their opposition by six shots an hour with Hall on the ice. They were out-shot by nearly 10 shots per hour with Hall off the ice; in other words, the Oilers shot differential improved by 16 (a massive, massive number) when Hall stepped on the ice.

This year, it’s a disaster. The Oilers have actually improved significantly with Hall off the ice – instead of getting out-shot by 10 shots per hour, they’re only being out-shot by half that (and yes, that’s pathetic, but it still represents a pretty big improvement). The problem is that suddenly the Oilers are terrible with Hall on the ice. Not only are they allowing 2.5 shots more per hour than they did a year ago, but they’ve gone from generating 36 shots per hour with Hall on the ice down to 27. That’s a massive drop, a 25 percent reduction in shots for.

Well, maybe Hall’s playing tougher minutes. Except that he isn’t; we can go back and look at who Hall is playing and to quote from that linked Tyler Dellow post, “At home, where Eakins has more control over the matchups, Hall seems to be getting matchups as easy or easier than last year.”

Well, is Eakins is starting him less in the offensive zone? Nope; according to Behind the Net 55 percent of Hall’s non-neutral zone shifts were in the offensive zone last season. This year that number is 57 percent.

Hall’s still scoring, but if the shot numbers don’t improve that isn’t going to last.

The chart above shows two statistics. The first is on-ice shooting percentage, and there’s a pretty clear pattern. With Hall on the ice in three of the last four years, the Oilers have done a slightly better job than the NHL average of finishing on their shots, scoring on between 9.0 and 9.5 percent of all shots taken. This year, the total is 11.3 percent.

That means either the Oilers’ top line has evolved into the league’s best finishing line… or it’s riding a streak of goals going in that isn’t going to last.

The second number is “individual points percentage,” which is a fancy way of saying the percentage of goals a player is on the ice for that he gets points on. So a player who is on the ice for 10 goals and picks up nine points, he would have an IPP of 90.0 percent. What we’ve found looking over years of data is that some years a player picks up points on a weirdly high number of the goals scored when he’s on the ice (generally coinciding with a career year) and sometimes doesn’t get those points (generally coinciding with a terrible points year). Over time, though, those totals average out.

Sidney Crosby is the best player in the league at this (big surprise, he’s driving the offence on his line) and generally averages out in the 85 percent range. Taylor Hall topped 90 percent last year and this season is over 100 percent - somehow he has 29 five-on-five points despite only being on the ice for 27 five-on-five goals.

All of this is a long way of saying that Taylor Hall’s great point totals are not to be trusted. The Oilers aren’t generating shots when he’s on the ice. He’s getting away with it because Edmonton is scoring on a high percentage of their shots when he’s on the ice and because he’s picking up points on all of those goals and some other ones besides. History suggests, rather strongly, that these things will not continue.

What to Make of It All

So we find ourselves in a situation where the data we have directly contradicts the statements of the general manager. MacTavish sees Hall’s play as progressing nicely; the data says he’s fallen off a cliff.

Neither of these is to be dismissed lightly.

MacTavish was an excellent coach in Edmonton, something which was dramatically emphasized by what happened to the team when he was replaced by Pat Quinn. He knows much, much more about how players should execute a system than I do, and much, much more than the comments section here knows too.

On the other hand, I’ve lost track of the number of players I’ve seen riding a percentage bubble who have seen their numbers fall dramatically in the years that followed. Jordan Eberle is probably the best recent Oilers example because people will remember the debate following his breakthrough 2011-12 campaign (76 points in 78 games). In the 96 games since he has a total of 74 points, a 63-point pace over 82 games. It’s a fall that was predicted for the same reasons I’ve cited above with Hall.

I hate to disagree with MacTavish, but the data has been awfully reliable in the past and there’s really only one way to interpret it. Something has gone sideways with Hall’s game this season.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#101 Marty62
January 16 2014, 02:19PM
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curcro wrote:

Nothing at all wrong with looking at the performance of a person and seeing if underlying statistics indicate he will continue on his track.

For instance, if you had a sales person who in month A - made $1.2M in sales on 25 clients, then in month B - made $1.4M in sales on 20 clients, then in month C - made $1.2M in sales on 21 clients, and then in month D made $1.5M sales on 14 clients.

Although the figure that matters is consistent and good, there is a trend there that tells me perhaps it may not continue.

Same is with any of the players on the Oilers

You missed my point. I was stating that its fairly obvious that all the Oilers are struggling on both sides of the ice and getting worse. This must seem like Groundhog day for all of them. They don't need guys like yourself and Willis pointing it out at every opportunity. So pack up your calculator and pocket protector and move on please.

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#102 Ol' Jase
January 16 2014, 02:22PM
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@nina russo

How on earth can you possibly cite this as a player getting WORSE?? Are you seriously claiming Taylor Hall is the weak link in offensive production on this team right now??

Again, this is a unit derived stat extrapolated to individual assessment through a suspension of basic logic.

How it is possible to claim Hall is an anchor for anyone that plays with him and cite this as prove is beyond ridiculous.

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#103 S cottV
January 16 2014, 02:49PM
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Advance stats are a factor in determining performance in conjunction with "other" factors. No GM or Coach would ignore these stats to "help" size up players, or groups of players on a given team or opposing team.

Playing the odds is something that you wouldnt want to stray too far away from.

Hall is our dominant player, playing on our first line. How the first line goes, is a major factor in whether or not we win or lose.

Whats been happening is the first line generates most of our GF's but in the process -they generate even more GA's.

Hall gets points but the team loses, beyond acceptable levels. Big deal. What's the use?

The advance stats indicate that maybe he can make some adjustments to his game, in conjunction with his line mates - to maybe even reduces GF's a bit, in order to do things that will significantly reduce GA's.

If the first line goes plus or even, more often than not - this team probably gets to .500 hockey on this issue alone.

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#104 Puck JammeR!
January 16 2014, 02:59PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Points, you mean?

No, the one that results in a mathematical impossibility

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#105 redhot1
January 16 2014, 03:18PM
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So the fans accept advanced stats when Smid was brought up, but disregard them when Hall is mentioned? Rose coloured glasses much?

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#106 Taylor Gang
January 16 2014, 03:39PM
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In the top 15 in the league in points on arguably the worst team in the NHL.

Seems to be among the only bright spots if you ask me.

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#107 MessyEH
January 16 2014, 03:46PM
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Willis, Why do you hate Taylor Hall?

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#108 Freewheeling Freddie
January 16 2014, 03:49PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

As wins and losses are the only stat that matters, what do wins and losses tell you about whether David Perron is better off with Hall or with Yakupov. Also, I'm curious about whether Eric Staal or Colin Fraser would be a better addition to the Oilers - and I'm really, really interested in how the wins and losses answer that.

I'll hang up and wait for your wins-and-losses driven answer to those questions.

When free agents are deciding to go to a team, do you think they care about the advanced stats or corsi numbers on another team? No I would think they would care more about a teams wins and losses. Most tier 1 free agents want to go to a team that puts up several W'S. Did'nt Colin Fraser get a Stanley cup ring?

Do you really believe the Hawks and Ducks care about advanced stats? No they care about the W'S

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#109 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 16 2014, 03:51PM
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I think the issue here is that MacT and JW are talking about two different things. MacT is happy to see Hall develope a certain style of play....less toes drags, get it deep when it makes sense too do so, etc etc......he's seeing changes in Halls style of play that he calls improvement and that his experience tells him are important. JW is focused on a specific set or sets of measurable results that his experience tells him are important and that happen to point to some limited ways in which Hall may have regressed.

It may simply be that what MacT views as improvement is different than what JW views as improvement. Or perhaps more accurately, it would indicate that MacT and JW have slightly different value systems.

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#110 DisappointedFan
January 16 2014, 03:53PM
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@redhot1

When you're trying to spray the stats to suggest a player is "turning the wrong corner", when in actuality Willis was incorrectly arguing stats it turns some heads to do a little digging. Example, if you actually go to the site he is using you can find strong supporting evidence that nullifies his claims.

If I did the same on Smid...well let's just say there isn't a whole lot of glaring data to suggest that Smid was anything more than a shot blocking checking defensemen who should never be allowed to hold the puck in his own zone. Was Smid a solid guy, yah he was. But he didn't fit on the new Oilers table and no amount of data scraping is going to change the facts on him.

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#111 GregDonaldson
January 16 2014, 03:53PM
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@Jonathon Willis

Big difference between last season and this season is the fact that Hall's line is playing the opposition's 1st line rather than having whatever line Horcoff was on playing them last season.

Playing better opposition will mean that more chances are given up.

Number sometimes lie...or at the very least, don't tell the whole story ;)

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#112 DisappointedFan
January 16 2014, 03:56PM
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@redhot1

So I guess I should re-iterate for you in case your rose coloured glasses have you asking more questions..no one cares about the stats on Smid because he's no longer an a factor on the Oilers. We just nod and say "Sure..."

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#113 The Swarm
January 16 2014, 03:58PM
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Willis

I haven't read all the comments but one obvious difference is that he played RW exclusively last year versus C and RW this year.

Take the games he played C out of the equation and see what happens.

He was a turnover machine earlier in the year when he was playing C AND trying to execute Eakins brilliant swarm system.

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#114 Oilcan
January 16 2014, 03:59PM
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Is there a stat that has time on attack or time of possession with the puck on the o zone and then a other for other teams time. I feel like the oilers current d gets rolled in the d zone (maybe not giving up a shot) but then the only option is to dump and change. Oilers D blows! (Has this been said this year I can't recall???)

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#115 The Swarm
January 16 2014, 04:00PM
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The Swarm wrote:

Willis

I haven't read all the comments but one obvious difference is that he played RW exclusively last year versus C and RW this year.

Take the games he played C out of the equation and see what happens.

He was a turnover machine earlier in the year when he was playing C AND trying to execute Eakins brilliant swarm system.

EDIT..LW that is

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#116 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 16 2014, 04:04PM
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Over use or abuse of statistical analysis pains me. However, a select few, and JW is among them, are pretty disciplined with their analytics. It makes his articles interesting and worth reading. Statistics when used properly can add or enhance perspective. Good article. Thanks JW.

I don't see JW raking Hall here, I see him adding perspective to the conversation.

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#117 Jo3128
January 16 2014, 04:05PM
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My husband and I have friendly debates with regards to the Edmonton Oilers at least a few times a week. Lately it's the debate on what's wrong with the Edmonton Oilers and can it be fixed. The one main difference in our approaches is that he is a numbers guy and I tend to be more psychology minded.

With regards to Hall, I agree with some of the comments that the problem may be more with the team then the player. If you look at the psychology of losing it is clear that team effort dissolves into individual efforts when things go down hill. As this is a team game you can't have individuals trying to do it themselves.

We played on a ball team for many years that was by far the worst in the league and I remember how horrible it was to go to the game, try your best and still expect to lose.

I can't say it's the same thing with the oilers, but with players like Hall and Yakopov who play with lots of heart but not as much head, it may eventually feel like they're trying to hold up the team and that's when mistakes such as horrible give-aways happen.

If lots of luck and a few good trades were to happen to the Oilers and a good winning streak comes out of it I bet you anything that the mistakes will go down and team play will resume.

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#118 Oilers89
January 16 2014, 04:12PM
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First off: Willis is not calling Hall a bad player. It is incredible how many people have misinterpreted his message. This article is more of a "Taylor Hall's underlying numbers are off." It is useful.

My explanation for why his numbers are off is the Oiler's poor goaltending (hear me out). Every game I watch it seems as though the opposition is throwing everything on net, and this is most likely because they know that the Oil have weak goaltending. Therefore, they are likely to score by shooting and shooting often.

Combine that with what others have alluded to (that the Oil have been coached into a grind it out on the boards style, and that this style seems to end with the Oil spending an entire shift in the opponents zone without even a shot attempt) and you get a drop off.

I'm guessing Eakins prefers that his team stays in the opponents zone and therefore doesn't want the Oil to take "nothing shots." Which in turn leads back to not wanting the other team firing on your weak goaltending and exposing your lacklustre D corps. It's a defence mechanism.

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#119 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
January 16 2014, 04:15PM
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Please people only use what macT says when judging him. DO NOT go by the actions and results because that is just trivia in the long run.

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#120 Oiler Al
January 16 2014, 04:16PM
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Just put Eberle back on the right wing on this line.The RW are all smurfs, so might as well put the best smurf on the first line.

PS> In the meantime lets run an advance stat on Hemsky and Gagner.See how that looks.

Hall takes the play to OZ, and Gagner arrives on the afternoon bus most often than not.

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#121 DisappointedFan
January 16 2014, 04:19PM
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@Dave

Maybe go look up Willis' stats site and take a tease at the numbers. You'll notice a few things that don't completely correlate with his tunnel visioned analysis on the Hall Effect.

So to come to the conclusion of a correlation between Hall and a drop in quality between last year to this year, or his negative effect on his linemates who apparently have a "higher shots attempted" when not with him but have poor production when not with him kinda goes to show that maybe tunneling in on one stat but avoiding the rest isn't how you write a convincing article, bud. Just goes to show that that this correlation isn't causation for Willis' perceived poor play.

Just a little pointer bud, the high school philosophy crap that you so despise here is what most people around the league, outside our pitchfork crazed city, would recite when someone tries to overanalyze the numbers on the game we so enjoy to watch. So don't go trying to find all the tiny numerical little pitchforks to stoke Hall with when he's leading this team in points.

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#122 Evilas
January 16 2014, 04:25PM
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Any impact on Hall's results from the subtraction of Horcoff?

How has he played since Nuge's return and is back on the wing?

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#123 Hopeless in Etown
January 16 2014, 05:13PM
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We are about to hit game 50 and this is a all year analyses. Would you be able to look at this in 10 game spans (i.e. has his stats been improving, declining, or stayed the same). It may be used to compare to MacT's comments

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#124 RexHolez
January 16 2014, 05:17PM
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There is somthing wrong with Hall. It's called who cares if we win. the season is over and the team I've been playing on for 4 years sucks

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#125 RexHolez
January 16 2014, 05:20PM
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Plus I hate stat guys like Willis. You argue that shots are the only way to judge how good a player is?? If I was jones I'd put absolutely everything on net from anywhere and I'd become Willis' favorite player

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#126 Kr55
January 16 2014, 05:24PM
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MacT saying Hall's game is actually better and Eakins raving about how Hall's defensive game has improved tells you all you need to know. Hall is being told to do things that don't work in the NHL and doing it so well that it's making him a less effective player. It's just a case of bad coaching. We're becoming the leafs West now without the awesome goaltending and without the easier conference to play in.

Sucks we're stuck with Eakins 3 more years and MacT loves him because his personality is like a mirror image of MacT's.

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#127 Chris
January 16 2014, 05:32PM
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"Lies lies and damn statistics!" Please stop this madness

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#128 LoweBlow
January 16 2014, 05:34PM
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Great article.

I love the counterpoints to MacT, with the data to support it.

In addition, I'd suggest that Hallsy's body language hasn't looked great this year either. Hall and Ebs in particular look quits 'down'. There's obviously a lot going on in that dressing room that we don't know about.

My concern now, can Hall, Ens and Eakins coexist?

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#129 Taylor Gang
January 16 2014, 05:36PM
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No offense Willis, but to suggest something is "wrong" with Hall because he doesn't generate as many shots is absurd. Besides, what point are you proving by writing this article? Even the most casual of fans can simply look up his boxcars and realize he is leading this team in points despite playing in fewer games than second place. In conclusion, take a step back and don't suggest he took a turn for the worse in his development, because from where the hockey world is looking this player is becoming more well rounded every game.

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#130 JASON
January 16 2014, 05:55PM
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Freewheeling Freddie wrote:

When free agents are deciding to go to a team, do you think they care about the advanced stats or corsi numbers on another team? No I would think they would care more about a teams wins and losses. Most tier 1 free agents want to go to a team that puts up several W'S. Did'nt Colin Fraser get a Stanley cup ring?

Do you really believe the Hawks and Ducks care about advanced stats? No they care about the W'S

I would suggest to you, Freddie, that the better teams do CARE about advanced stats. They just don't WORRY about it too much because their #'s are good. Hence the win's.

Oilers advanced stats are not so good. Hence the losses.

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#131 J.R.
January 16 2014, 07:14PM
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Oh yeah, Taylor Hall is a terrible hockey player who is obviously on the rapid decline.

He clearly brings the whole team down. Trade him now if you can (as if any other GM would be stupid enough to take him). We'd be lucky to get a bag of pucks back for a bum like him.

Seriously, the language in this article is over the top bordering on ludicrous. You lost me on this one Mr. Willis.

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#132 JackFromRedDeer
January 16 2014, 07:22PM
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Dumbest article I've read on here. Taylor Hall does nothing but produce.

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#133 J.R.
January 16 2014, 07:24PM
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@JackFromRedDeer

Exactly.

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#134 JackFromRedDeer
January 16 2014, 07:28PM
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J.R. wrote:

Exactly.

That's what he is paid to do. Score. 42 GP 45 PTS. Do you people want Taylor Hall to start playing goalie and defense too? He does his job and he does it damn good!

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#135 J.R.
January 16 2014, 07:35PM
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@JackFromRedDeer

Don't get me started on that useless, no talent Nugent-Hopkins kid.

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#136 s2H
January 16 2014, 08:19PM
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Willis your articles always blow, but this has to be the worst one I've had the misfortune of reading yet. Hall's the best player on this team, period.

here's some stats;

Hall is 15th in league scoring in te NHL Willis is the 15th best "writer" on oilers nation

go home

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#137 Ol' Jase
January 16 2014, 09:14PM
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So I'm guessing any follow up to the notion the the data provide in article may been erroneous is not on the table.

It was worth a try.

It would also be safe to assume that you won't be following up with your "look, everyone's worse with Hall than without him" comment by maybe posting Hall's individual S% with those said players as line mates to provide proper context? Or maybe their individual offensive production with or without Hall?

I think we can safely assume the answer, and the reason behind it...

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#138 Freewheeling Freddie
January 16 2014, 09:18PM
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JASON wrote:

I would suggest to you, Freddie, that the better teams do CARE about advanced stats. They just don't WORRY about it too much because their #'s are good. Hence the win's.

Oilers advanced stats are not so good. Hence the losses.

Better teams are only concerned with the playoffs .Once a team reaches 16 wins they hoist the cup not a corsi number or advanced stat.Believe me when the oilers make the playoffs nobody will care about advanced stats.

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#139 Chris.
January 16 2014, 10:21PM
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Hall is becoming frustrated... you can see it in his body language and it is reflected in his play.

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#140 Kent Wilson
January 16 2014, 10:29PM
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Feel free to argue or disagree all you want folks, but the ban hammer is going to come out for those issuing personal attacks at the writers of this site.

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#141 Mike Krushelnyski
January 16 2014, 10:57PM
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@Kent Wilson

The writer of this one looks like a giant baby

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#142 Taylor Gang
January 17 2014, 12:03AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Feel free to argue or disagree all you want folks, but the ban hammer is going to come out for those issuing personal attacks at the writers of this site.

Lowe is that you?

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#143 EasyOil
January 17 2014, 12:36AM
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Wow, a lot of misunderstanding going on in the room tonight.

Willis is of course not saying "Taylor Hall blows and should be traded". Take a step back, breathe, and re-read the article. He's saying that his usually brilliant underlying numbers have taken a huge fall this season, and asking why that is? And in conjunction with that, he's surmising that perhaps some of Hall's offence is the product of inflated percentages. Willis is basing this on similar instances with countless other players, a method that has proven time and time and time again to be correct.

Is it foolproof? No, and JW never claimed it was. It's just another way of measuring a player, and it generally works - if you choose to understand it. If you don't, then don't worry yourself about commenting, you look dumb. It's fine to not care for advanced stats, but don't berate those that do simply because they like to see more data on WHY a player/team is playing the way they are.

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#144 Willis must go too
January 17 2014, 02:46AM
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It's time for this troll writer to go too. Go hate on another team.

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#145 Marc
January 17 2014, 07:43AM
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Here is the news flash. The Oilers have had horrible D for years. They haven't developed one bonafide NHL D man and haven't traded for one, other than ones they ran out of town after a year or two. Instead, they traded their bigger tougher D. Fistric, Smid. Did nothing on goal tending over the summer. Brought in a smaller local D man (Ferrence). Brought in a new coach. Tinkered around the edges and did nothing to fix the 50 foot hole in the Titanic. The back end. And surprise, surprise. Having a softer D has only made us worse. Having inadequate goal tending hasn't helped either. But MacT thought the problem was with the coaching? Yeah.....there is no brain trust here. I'm glad he has his MBA. Maybe he should get a job in finance or marketing, take all his old Oiler buddies like Lowe, Buchberger, Acton, Smith.....all of them. And leave. Go manage a team with Gretzky. He couldn't run one either.

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#146 You know nothing
January 18 2014, 12:02AM
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J.R. wrote:

Don't get me started on that useless, no talent Nugent-Hopkins kid.

Please stop talking. You're embarrassing yourself. Go watch curling or something.

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