End of a Losing Streak

Jonathan Willis
January 05 2014 11:05PM

Edmonton brought a nasty four-game losing streak to an end on Sunday by beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning, by a 5-3 score. The Oilers were dominant early, sleep-walked through the second but came through with just enough in the third to secure the win.

Scoring Chances

Thoughts on the Game

  • I’ve made no secret that I don’t think much of Luke Gazdic but if he could string together a few games like the one he had against Tampa Bay I would need to re-think that. It wasn’t just the goal, which was a nice deflection, and it wasn’t drawing a penalty from Eric Brewer (who for some reason wanted to take Gazdic’s head off). For me, the highlight was a nice scoring chance in the second period off a takeaway; we’ve seen precious few signs that Gazdic can be hard on the puck and that was exactly the kind of thing a guy with his combination of size and speed should be doing.
  • The whole fourth line was good, honestly. I’ve got time for Anton Lander and Will Acton has his points, but Mark Arcobello is playing head-and-shoulders above that duo. Honestly, I think he’s too good for the depth minutes but while he’s there he’s making that a useful unit.
  • I also really like the Arcobello/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins penalty-kill duo; they’re super aggressive and so far it seems to be working nicely.
  • Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov have rarely impressed me as a unit but they had lovely chemistry tonight. Gagner’s passing game can be excellent when it’s on and it was on tonight, while Yakupov had his third consecutive really solid game. I don’t know if either guy has turned a corner but if they have it didn’t happen a moment too soon.
  • This is the first in quite a while I thought Edmonton had four useful lines. It’s nice to see.
  • Martin Marincin’s played nicely during his current recall, and he has a chance to play himself into a job here. Andrew Ference has the only safe job on the left side of the defence, with Nick Schultz likely to be a deadline departure and Anton Belov falling off dramatically after a decent start to the year. Marincin’s going to keep getting minutes if he keeps playing well, but the real question is whether he can show enough to play on next year’s team. So far so good.
  • Brad Hunt’s shown some nice things too but I think he’s playing on borrowed time; Corey Potter’s probably the better player right now and Taylor Fedun’s been so dominant in the minors that he almost has to be the next call-up (he was coming off an injury when Hunt was recalled, which likely played into things). Both Hunt and Fedun can and have played either side in the AHL, but Hunt is a natural lefty and Fedun plugs into that right side.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been solid for most of the year, but some poor puck decisions - and giveaways - seem to be creeping into his game the last while. It's so easy to forget that he's only 20 years old, and he's a guy who on most teams would be killing a soft second line job rather than taking the brunt of the opposition's best every night.
  • It's not  game-related exactly, but Zack Kassian took a skate to the face in tonight's Canucks loss to Anaheim. It's never nice to see a guy injured but one wonders whether Sam Gagner might mention it to him when Edmonton plays Vancouver a couple of weeks from now.   

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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 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 11:14AM
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oilfan in calgary wrote:

not only will Gagner not mention it, not one of these wimps will stand up to anybody on any team.

Unless Bryz takes another shot to the head.......I mean another one besides the one he took last night against Tampa Bay........that one didn't count.....it was an *accident*.........................I bet Justin Schultz fights like Alexander Semin .....Palm fisted girly punches..

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#55 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 11:48AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Corsi isn't mentioned even once in the post above.

Scoring chances have a large correlation with Corsi because they are a subset of it (Corsi is the plus/minus of all shots, missed shots and blocked shots with a player on the ice, while Scoring Chances as I count them are shots/missed shots from specific areas of the ice) but they are not the same thing.

Yeah I know.....I was being a little lazy and sarcastic...but just about the CORSI part....I really would like someone to track the other three things.

You are correct with what you posted AND you are the only advanced stats writer on Oilers Nation that doesn't regularly abuse statistics by making inferences that the stats presented don't support and were never intended to support. But that's a story for another day. You keep your analysis pretty succinct and contained and I appreciate it.

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#56 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 11:54AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Luke Gazdic has, prior to this game, been useless offensively. I've lost track of the number of times the fourth line starts a cycle and it dies prematurely when the puck scoots to Gazdic's section of the ice and he can't gain possession of the puck.

He's also been worse than useless defensively. No player on the team makes more turnovers relative to possession of the puck and he has this ugly tendency of standing around and watching as opposition players crash the net.

He's big and he's fast, and even if he doesn't have hands he needs to be hard on the puck in both zones and at least capable of consistently making simple chip-outs in the defensive zone.

I know there's a portion of the fanbase that sees "6'4"" and "5 minutes for fighting" and immediately excuses everything else the player does. I'm not part of that segment.

Last night, Gazdic did exactly what a big, fast player should do - not just hit a guy on the forecheck after the puck is gone but also make it difficult for the opposition to retain possession. Until he does it consistently he's considerably less than the sum of his parts.

I'm a big Gadzik supporter.....and I agree with everything you said here.

I don't know his age and I wonder if the skills and habits that you reference could still be coached into him?

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#57 bumblebpete
January 06 2014, 11:59AM
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@Jonathan Willis

JW Can you look into why your videos fire up on their own. It's highly annoying!

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#58 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 12:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Luke Gazdic has, prior to this game, been useless offensively. I've lost track of the number of times the fourth line starts a cycle and it dies prematurely when the puck scoots to Gazdic's section of the ice and he can't gain possession of the puck.

He's also been worse than useless defensively. No player on the team makes more turnovers relative to possession of the puck and he has this ugly tendency of standing around and watching as opposition players crash the net.

He's big and he's fast, and even if he doesn't have hands he needs to be hard on the puck in both zones and at least capable of consistently making simple chip-outs in the defensive zone.

I know there's a portion of the fanbase that sees "6'4"" and "5 minutes for fighting" and immediately excuses everything else the player does. I'm not part of that segment.

Last night, Gazdic did exactly what a big, fast player should do - not just hit a guy on the forecheck after the puck is gone but also make it difficult for the opposition to retain possession. Until he does it consistently he's considerably less than the sum of his parts.

JW.....if a team were looking for a player like the better version of Gazdic that you describe here, are there any analytics or statistics that might be relevant in assessing the performance of players of this type?

Let's call them Role Player Stats.

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#59 FireKLowe
January 06 2014, 12:52PM
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If anyone's interested, David Staples posted an article on the EJ today analyzing the Oilers' winning percentage against the rest of the league while under Katz's ownership. Very eye-opening to say the least. See this is the type of stuff we like to see more of from the reporters. Here's the link:

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/01/06/the-edmonton-oilers-have-been-the-nhls-worst-team-in-the-daryl-katz-ownership-era/

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#60 6 ring circus
January 06 2014, 01:18PM
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@FireKLowe

There's a fire Kevin Lowe page on facebook,bumper stickers are being made and if more media gets on board, Katz would have to be pretty stupid just to ignore everything that's happening.

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#61 Rick Stroppel
January 06 2014, 01:47PM
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COULD THEY PUT AN INTERNATIONAL SIZED ICE SURFACE IN THE NEW EDMONTON ARENA?

Please don't laugh. Reading various people bemoaning the lack of Oilers "team toughness", and watching the WJHC on TV got me thinking about this. Maybe the NHL has a rule against it. What if Katz went to Betman and said "we have treated the loyal and passionate fans of Edmonton to eight years of crap hockey, now we would like to reward them with something new and different and special, can we get an exemption from this rule?". What good reason would Betman have to deny him?

It seems the current manifestation of this team (small and skilled) would be tailor-made for this. And the normal "home field advantage" would be magnified. It might be a selling point for international star players and prospects. In my opinion, hockey is evolving into a "world sport" like soccer and basketball, where stars from all over the world have no problems migrating to the best professional leagues.

Baseball fields are not uniform and teams "tailor" their rosters accordingly. "New" Yankee Stadium is asymeterical and has funky angles like "old" Yankee Stadium.

You couldn't do this in an American arena because the vast majority also host NBA teams. An NBA court fits pretty nicely into the footprint. With an international sized rink, you would have too many rows at ground level, way back from the court.

PS: You can call my idea stupid if you like, but please explain WHY. Don't be like the people who ridiculed the outdoor game before it happened. BTW, the Oilers braintrust has never really received the credit they deserved for coming up with that concept.

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#62 RexHolez
January 06 2014, 02:48PM
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Too bad our guys don't shoot the puck on net everytime they hit the red line, our corsi numbers would be so much better

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#63 David S
January 06 2014, 04:17PM
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Rick Stroppel wrote:

COULD THEY PUT AN INTERNATIONAL SIZED ICE SURFACE IN THE NEW EDMONTON ARENA?

Please don't laugh. Reading various people bemoaning the lack of Oilers "team toughness", and watching the WJHC on TV got me thinking about this. Maybe the NHL has a rule against it. What if Katz went to Betman and said "we have treated the loyal and passionate fans of Edmonton to eight years of crap hockey, now we would like to reward them with something new and different and special, can we get an exemption from this rule?". What good reason would Betman have to deny him?

It seems the current manifestation of this team (small and skilled) would be tailor-made for this. And the normal "home field advantage" would be magnified. It might be a selling point for international star players and prospects. In my opinion, hockey is evolving into a "world sport" like soccer and basketball, where stars from all over the world have no problems migrating to the best professional leagues.

Baseball fields are not uniform and teams "tailor" their rosters accordingly. "New" Yankee Stadium is asymeterical and has funky angles like "old" Yankee Stadium.

You couldn't do this in an American arena because the vast majority also host NBA teams. An NBA court fits pretty nicely into the footprint. With an international sized rink, you would have too many rows at ground level, way back from the court.

PS: You can call my idea stupid if you like, but please explain WHY. Don't be like the people who ridiculed the outdoor game before it happened. BTW, the Oilers braintrust has never really received the credit they deserved for coming up with that concept.

Yeah I don't know about that. What would stop teams Like LA or St Louis from making their arenas into MMA rings? Or Montreal from building a rink that tilts downward toward the opposition in periods 1&3?

Anyways, I have to agree with you about the original outdoor classic here. People might string you up for saying it but Pat Laforge and his team knocked it out of the park that time.

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#64 Harry
January 06 2014, 04:18PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Luke Gazdic has, prior to this game, been useless offensively. I've lost track of the number of times the fourth line starts a cycle and it dies prematurely when the puck scoots to Gazdic's section of the ice and he can't gain possession of the puck.

He's also been worse than useless defensively. No player on the team makes more turnovers relative to possession of the puck and he has this ugly tendency of standing around and watching as opposition players crash the net.

He's big and he's fast, and even if he doesn't have hands he needs to be hard on the puck in both zones and at least capable of consistently making simple chip-outs in the defensive zone.

I know there's a portion of the fanbase that sees "6'4"" and "5 minutes for fighting" and immediately excuses everything else the player does. I'm not part of that segment.

Last night, Gazdic did exactly what a big, fast player should do - not just hit a guy on the forecheck after the puck is gone but also make it difficult for the opposition to retain possession. Until he does it consistently he's considerably less than the sum of his parts.

Well said. Im pulling for him for sure

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#65 Rod from Viking
January 06 2014, 06:16PM
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I like Luke Gazdic , when Gary Roberts says there is a player there I believe him, he has speed, is a good team mate, knows when to fight and at 24 he could become a quite serviceable player. I hope he gets a chance working with new assistants to improve his game, and if he keeps playing with Arco and Jones that will help. Vancouver put Sestito in front of the net on the powerplay, maybe the Oilers should try it.

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