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.   

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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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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#1 D
January 05 2014, 11:08PM
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I'm pulling for Gazdic.

Pretty good game tonight and hope they string some wins together.

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#2 David S
January 05 2014, 11:14PM
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Gagner and Yakupov had the rocket skates on tonight. It's probably taken longer than he thought it would after the injury, but Sam is starting to play at the level he's capable of.

It'd be awesome if Eakins kept those two together for the rest of the year. They seem to compliment each other really nicely.

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#3 Retsinnab5
January 05 2014, 11:19PM
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Marincin > Belov

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#4 Retsinnab5
January 05 2014, 11:22PM
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I guess the " Kevin Lowe must go" chant has to wait until next game

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#5 Lawndemon
January 05 2014, 11:22PM
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My 13 year old daughter, who rarely watches hockey with me, made some very astute observations tonight...

- "why is number 14 afraid of the other players?" - "why does number 2 pass to the other team?" - "Taylor Hall (she knows his number) sure works hard... Why don't the other players work that hard?" - "the Oilers goalie looks confused most of the time" - "why aren't the Oilers trying in this period?" (2nd) - "how come the Oilers don't hit very much?"

I also explained the cycle to her and told her to look for the players to set up in a triangle in the scoring zone... Eventually she asked me why the Oilers don't use the triangle play and why do they always try to skate around everyone or pass through the other team's feet.

Yes, they got the win but they were a long way from composed while doing it. Still, a win is a win I guess.

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#7 VK63
January 05 2014, 11:38PM
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If your reference is to "what comes around goes around". I'm not sure karma bothers with the mentally unarmed but perhaps young zack was just served a helping.

I think Gagner is above trolling kassian but who knows. Heat of battle and all that.

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#8 Kr55
January 05 2014, 11:45PM
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Sestito's hit attempt was pretty ridiculous. Only fair that he takes one of his own guys out once in a while when he's lauching himself at people with no regard for the puck.

Pretty good win for the Oilers. Didn't know Lindback was so terrible these days. Tampa better be praying Bishop isn't out long.

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#9 Danger Pay
January 05 2014, 11:54PM
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Lightening Strikes... Bishop in the hand and the Oilers get soft goals that Dubnyk usually gives up. Sorry everyone, just a little upset because this Win effects my play bad for Eckblad season.

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#10 john
January 05 2014, 11:57PM
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Karma is a bitch, did anyone see Canucks game high lights? Canuck player went for a check and hit Kassian face with his skate, that's for breaking Gagner jaws in October and making fun of his face protector in the last game. I hope you read this Kassy (not Classy), you moron, what goes around comes around. If your jaws broke tonight you would know how Gagner felt for a month of pain you caused.

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#11 Fossil
January 06 2014, 12:03AM
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Heads up hockey by Smitty to anticipate the TB play behind the net to set up the winner... Nice! The hockey gods were on our side in the 2nd period with the numerous bad turnovers by the "top line". Two open nets somehow missed by TB should of had them up by 2 going into the 3rd. If the play is not there, don't force it, dump it in. On the positive, it definitely was a good start and finish by our guys.

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#12 master of my domain
January 06 2014, 12:16AM
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john wrote:

Karma is a bitch, did anyone see Canucks game high lights? Canuck player went for a check and hit Kassian face with his skate, that's for breaking Gagner jaws in October and making fun of his face protector in the last game. I hope you read this Kassy (not Classy), you moron, what goes around comes around. If your jaws broke tonight you would know how Gagner felt for a month of pain you caused.

you give him too much credit, Kassian can't read.

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#13 redhot1
January 06 2014, 12:25AM
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All they need is a 15 game win streak then they're right back in the playoff hunt

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#14 Walter Sobchak
January 06 2014, 12:34AM
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David S wrote:

Gagner and Yakupov had the rocket skates on tonight. It's probably taken longer than he thought it would after the injury, but Sam is starting to play at the level he's capable of.

It'd be awesome if Eakins kept those two together for the rest of the year. They seem to compliment each other really nicely.

I agree, however, Eakins seem's to be a moron so who knows?

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#15 DrDave
January 06 2014, 12:34AM
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No GDB article today and the Oil wins... Maybe it's a sign??

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#16 Johe
January 06 2014, 01:26AM
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I'm not a malevolent person by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel exactly zero sympathy for Kassian. Some people DO deserve a good smack in the face.

As for the game, did anyone else find themselves wondering who half of the Tampa players were??? It seems good goaltending goes a long way in making a mediocre team into a very good one.

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#17 Oilerz4life
January 06 2014, 02:01AM
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Kept waiting for Peter Griffin to come into that clip, "Take that Kassian, Roadhouse!" Is that what you call Kassian Karma? Sweet. I could watch that clip over and over.

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#18 MessyEH
January 06 2014, 04:05AM
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Lawndemon wrote:

My 13 year old daughter, who rarely watches hockey with me, made some very astute observations tonight...

- "why is number 14 afraid of the other players?" - "why does number 2 pass to the other team?" - "Taylor Hall (she knows his number) sure works hard... Why don't the other players work that hard?" - "the Oilers goalie looks confused most of the time" - "why aren't the Oilers trying in this period?" (2nd) - "how come the Oilers don't hit very much?"

I also explained the cycle to her and told her to look for the players to set up in a triangle in the scoring zone... Eventually she asked me why the Oilers don't use the triangle play and why do they always try to skate around everyone or pass through the other team's feet.

Yes, they got the win but they were a long way from composed while doing it. Still, a win is a win I guess.

Please have her send a resume to Lowe. She has it figured out better the current bench bosses.

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#19 Newj
January 06 2014, 06:39AM
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JW:As per your article, RNH, although playing well of late, has had a number of poor puck management situations that in some fashion led to goals for the opposition. Those turnovers, whether in our end or in the neutral zone almost always seem to come back to bite us on this team. I noticed Hall did a much better job at not turning over the puck at the oppositions blueline last night. Now if we can get Hemsky to once in awhile dump and chase it but it will be tough to change his ways...I noticed Team Cda Jrs with the same problem...how many times did Pouliot or Eckblad or Reinhart try to cross blueline only to be foiled and have Russians turn it into an odd man rush.

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#20 Spydyr
January 06 2014, 06:52AM
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"I’ve got time for Anton Lander and Will Acton"

Me too, they can have all the time they want where they belong, in the AHL.

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#21 Spydyr
January 06 2014, 06:54AM
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Lawndemon wrote:

My 13 year old daughter, who rarely watches hockey with me, made some very astute observations tonight...

- "why is number 14 afraid of the other players?" - "why does number 2 pass to the other team?" - "Taylor Hall (she knows his number) sure works hard... Why don't the other players work that hard?" - "the Oilers goalie looks confused most of the time" - "why aren't the Oilers trying in this period?" (2nd) - "how come the Oilers don't hit very much?"

I also explained the cycle to her and told her to look for the players to set up in a triangle in the scoring zone... Eventually she asked me why the Oilers don't use the triangle play and why do they always try to skate around everyone or pass through the other team's feet.

Yes, they got the win but they were a long way from composed while doing it. Still, a win is a win I guess.

"why is number 14 afraid of the other players?"

Because two games ago he accidentally threw a hit and got injured.First hit of the year at that.

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#22 steveb12344
January 06 2014, 07:09AM
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Spydyr wrote:

"why is number 14 afraid of the other players?"

Because two games ago he accidentally threw a hit and got injured.First hit of the year at that.

Actually Eberle is on the books for 34 hits in 44 games this year.

This is on pace to crush his career high of 45 hits in 78 games.

If you are going to create a narrative and run with it, at least have your facts resemble something close to reality.

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#23 Spydyr
January 06 2014, 07:16AM
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steveb12344 wrote:

Actually Eberle is on the books for 34 hits in 44 games this year.

This is on pace to crush his career high of 45 hits in 78 games.

If you are going to create a narrative and run with it, at least have your facts resemble something close to reality.

Satire, Google it.

sat·ire ˈsaˌtīr/Submit noun 1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. synonyms: mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn, caricature;

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#24 Harry
January 06 2014, 07:17AM
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Hey Willis,

You dont like Gazdic hey? We'll maybe we should trade him for Nathan Gerbe would that satisfy you constant craving for "skill" on the 4th line?

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#25 Serious Gord
January 06 2014, 07:21AM
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steveb12344 wrote:

Actually Eberle is on the books for 34 hits in 44 games this year.

This is on pace to crush his career high of 45 hits in 78 games.

If you are going to create a narrative and run with it, at least have your facts resemble something close to reality.

There are hits and there are HITS. I suspect eberle has very few of the latter.

As for him exceeding his past years stats: hitting is what you do when your team hasn't got the puck. It seems pretty obvious that the lines eberle has been on this year have much worse puck possession numbers than in years past - thus he has had much more 'opportunity' to hit this year.

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#26 Serious Gord
January 06 2014, 07:22AM
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And regarding the game last night: blind squirrels and broken clocks come to mind. If they can get a win or heck even be competitive for a full sixty minutes in the next three then I will begin to take note.

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#27 Spydyr
January 06 2014, 07:28AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

And regarding the game last night: blind squirrels and broken clocks come to mind. If they can get a win or heck even be competitive for a full sixty minutes in the next three then I will begin to take note.

Looking at their opponents for the next three games it will a very short winning streak.

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#28 Tapdog
January 06 2014, 07:34AM
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Spydyr wrote:

"why is number 14 afraid of the other players?"

Because two games ago he accidentally threw a hit and got injured.First hit of the year at that.

Yeah if Eb's could only play a rough an tumble game like Hall????? Funny thing is that he does throw more hits! Weird. Great comment though.

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#29 Serious Gord
January 06 2014, 07:34AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Looking at their opponents for the next three games it will a very short winning streak.

I think chi and pit can both be lured into a track meet game and their sometimes weak goaltending gives the oil a punchers chance. But the oil haven't seemed to be able to get teams to do that - perhaps the coach won't let them.

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#30 Tapdog
January 06 2014, 07:42AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

There are hits and there are HITS. I suspect eberle has very few of the latter.

As for him exceeding his past years stats: hitting is what you do when your team hasn't got the puck. It seems pretty obvious that the lines eberle has been on this year have much worse puck possession numbers than in years past - thus he has had much more 'opportunity' to hit this year.

What are you expecting, Eb's to blow someone up? Then you next comment is "What the hell is he doing, we can't afford to have him injured".

Do you think that Matt Martin, who leads the league in hits (206 in 43 g) makes everyone of them "HITS" as you reference?

All you here about is that the Oil are easy to play against, with hitting not really apart of his game I would be happy with an average of a hit a game. Lets look at Hall? 10 less on the season so far than Eb's. How many have been "HITS"?

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#31 michael
January 06 2014, 07:53AM
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Kassian won't be getting a Get Well card anytime soon from me.

Oilers player 40 minutes and hung on to win against a team above the playoff cut line. Only have done that 3 times this season.

We finally get the teams 2cd string tender.That did not hurt.

DD appears to have relugated back to his old role as backup.Perhaps now that the pressure is off he'll revert to form. More or less.

Listened to Bryz'spost game interview.Sounds like a guy who gaurds his thoughts and words more than he did in Philly. More focused on the game and less on everything else. His head space is where it belongs.

Taylor Halls goal 4x4 was the very definition of lurking in the weeds. Read the play and was rewarded with a goal. Hockey is a lot easier when brain matches body.Fantastic play.

JW. On Tuesday when they announce the Olympic team are the alternates on that list also? The main team plus the in case of injury guys. My though Hall should at least be considered as an alternate.You could make a case based on his recent play.

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#32 K_Mart
January 06 2014, 07:57AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

There are hits and there are HITS. I suspect eberle has very few of the latter.

As for him exceeding his past years stats: hitting is what you do when your team hasn't got the puck. It seems pretty obvious that the lines eberle has been on this year have much worse puck possession numbers than in years past - thus he has had much more 'opportunity' to hit this year.

"Hitting is what you do when you dont have the puck." The Oilers possession game at home is worst in the league and they are 25th in hits at home. This team doesnt hit whether they have the puck or not.

outshot like 40-18 against Sanjose. Also outhit like 26-10. If hits were a metric for possession, we should be at the playoff cut line at least. Toronto on the other hand gets out shot badly almost every night as well but at least they are hitting.

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#33 Serious Gord
January 06 2014, 07:59AM
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Tapdog wrote:

What are you expecting, Eb's to blow someone up? Then you next comment is "What the hell is he doing, we can't afford to have him injured".

Do you think that Matt Martin, who leads the league in hits (206 in 43 g) makes everyone of them "HITS" as you reference?

All you here about is that the Oil are easy to play against, with hitting not really apart of his game I would be happy with an average of a hit a game. Lets look at Hall? 10 less on the season so far than Eb's. How many have been "HITS"?

Both hall and eberle (and pretty much everyone else on this team) should play with more edge. Guys like hall and eberle have the kind of vision that if they chose to engage in some predatory hitting from time to time they could do it quite well. And by doing so they might get a bit more time and room to work with.

And I would rather see them take a risk of injury from time to time than be ineffective all of the time.

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#34 RexHolez
January 06 2014, 07:59AM
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Brewer looked average at best but I still don't see why Kevin Lowe was so quick to get rid of him a few years ago. Hes the type of D-man the Oil need!

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#35 Serious Gord
January 06 2014, 08:01AM
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K_Mart wrote:

"Hitting is what you do when you dont have the puck." The Oilers possession game at home is worst in the league and they are 25th in hits at home. This team doesnt hit whether they have the puck or not.

outshot like 40-18 against Sanjose. Also outhit like 26-10. If hits were a metric for possession, we should be at the playoff cut line at least. Toronto on the other hand gets out shot badly almost every night as well but at least they are hitting.

Earlier in the season there were quite a few games where the oil outhit their opponents (and lost of course). I haven't looked at their stats lately. Against San Jose they just looked too scared to hit for fear of what the retaliation would be.

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#36 Spydyr
January 06 2014, 08:02AM
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RexHolez wrote:

Brewer looked average at best but I still don't see why Kevin Lowe was so quick to get rid of him a few years ago. Hes the type of D-man the Oil need!

Pronger. Not a bad return, no?

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#37 S cottV
January 06 2014, 08:51AM
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A win is a win but you sure would like to see the Oilers demonstrate some poise by protecting leads, every now and again. It would be a sign that things are starting to come together. Right now - it's just about a sure bet that an Oiler lead will evaporate.

There should be some adjustment in the way the team plays with a two goal lead. Don't have to fall back into a defensive shell but leaning more to north south play, limiting turnovers and dumping the puck a little more wouldnt hurt.

Dont like whats left of the swarm because Eakins still has his wingers pressing low and leaving the points wide open. When the puck works its way up and then around a bit, the guys get tired and it looks like we are in PK mode.

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#38 Bryzarro World
January 06 2014, 08:53AM
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So JW, you have time for Acton but crap on GasDick.

Already calling for a softer, kinder 4th line?

Glad you're not in charge...

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#39 TKB2677
January 06 2014, 09:01AM
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What exactly is wrong with Gadzic? He's a tough, honest, 4th line winger. Seems to give it what he's got, brings some energy when he is out there He seems to skate pretty well so he can actually lay a body check. He knows his role, doesn't seem to hurt the team and he isn't a "knuckle dragging" tough guy like McIntyre that kills you when you are on the ice.

I thought most 4th lines plays 5-7 mins a night. I thought the role of your 4th line was to be physical, provide some toughness, provide some energy and don't kill your team when they are out there. You don't need an entire line of Gadzic's because ideally you want at least one of them to be able to PK but like it or not, someone has to do some dirty work.

So I don't get the hate for this guy. Your top 9 are the ones that win and lose you games so I don't see what having a tougher guy that can play a little on the 4th line is such a bad thing. Pretty much every other team as someone similar so why is it a bad thing that the Oilers do?

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#40 Rama Lama
January 06 2014, 09:23AM
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" No fan of Gadzic"? Really??????

Yea we don't want big tough hard hitting hockey players because it hurst the feelings of the skilled players.

JW try sitting on the bench for the entire period ( assuming you played the game), and then be asked to contribute to the team. Impossible at best!! When ever Eakins has played four lines properly the skill of the team shows strongly. Whenever Eakins leans on the top two line and overplays them, the play stinks at best.

I hope that Eakins finally figures out that successful teams operate and play better when all four line are utilized. This league is far too good for team that rely on two lines.

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#41 Lochenzo
January 06 2014, 09:34AM
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Arcobello reminds me of Mark Lamb. Does the little things right. Not a star player in his own right, but doesn't look out of place playing with star wingers.

Sam Gagner actually looked like Sam Gagner to me last night. I know there's been a lot of chatter about trading Sam and that's not unexpected. If the right trade came along ie. a veteran Dman that can play the right side (maybe Byfuglien), I'd do it. Arco would be a great replacement in the #2 centre hole. But is Arco a legit #2 guy on a Stanley Cup contender? That's the question that needs to be answered, because who else is there in the organization that could step up?

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#42 pkam
January 06 2014, 09:35AM
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RexHolez wrote:

Brewer looked average at best but I still don't see why Kevin Lowe was so quick to get rid of him a few years ago. Hes the type of D-man the Oil need!

Are you serious?

In our previous conversation, you are willing to trade Hall/RNH + Eberle + Klefbom + 1st rounder + a prospect for Weber, but here you question why Lowe traded Brewer + 2 insignificant players for Pronger?

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#43 Randaman
January 06 2014, 09:40AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Earlier in the season there were quite a few games where the oil outhit their opponents (and lost of course). I haven't looked at their stats lately. Against San Jose they just looked too scared to hit for fear of what the retaliation would be.

Pretty easy to be scared of an opponent when the coach says what he did before the game. One win against a back-up goalie doesn't get anybody off the hook in my books. Don't get me wrong, I saw some good things last night but the next 4 or 5 look pretty tough. The boo birds will be back soon.

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#44 Lowe Expectations
January 06 2014, 10:09AM
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Be thankful the schedule has more balance ie more games against eastern conference teams. What would the record be if they had to play 65 games against the west this year.

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#45 Rod from Viking
January 06 2014, 10:19AM
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I sure hope "Sad Sack Zack "Kassian is back for the game in Edmonton on the 21st so Gazdik can do a # on him.

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#46 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 10:53AM
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S cottV wrote:

A win is a win but you sure would like to see the Oilers demonstrate some poise by protecting leads, every now and again. It would be a sign that things are starting to come together. Right now - it's just about a sure bet that an Oiler lead will evaporate.

There should be some adjustment in the way the team plays with a two goal lead. Don't have to fall back into a defensive shell but leaning more to north south play, limiting turnovers and dumping the puck a little more wouldnt hurt.

Dont like whats left of the swarm because Eakins still has his wingers pressing low and leaving the points wide open. When the puck works its way up and then around a bit, the guys get tired and it looks like we are in PK mode.

Why practice protecting a lead when you barely ever have one.

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#47 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 10:58AM
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Lochenzo wrote:

Arcobello reminds me of Mark Lamb. Does the little things right. Not a star player in his own right, but doesn't look out of place playing with star wingers.

Sam Gagner actually looked like Sam Gagner to me last night. I know there's been a lot of chatter about trading Sam and that's not unexpected. If the right trade came along ie. a veteran Dman that can play the right side (maybe Byfuglien), I'd do it. Arco would be a great replacement in the #2 centre hole. But is Arco a legit #2 guy on a Stanley Cup contender? That's the question that needs to be answered, because who else is there in the organization that could step up?

All good points Lochenzo....but the Oilers are SO far away from being a contender, I wouldn't worry too much in the short term about Arco being a legit #2 guy ....... Especially when Gagner is not a legit #2 guy on a contender.

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#48 Tapdog
January 06 2014, 11:00AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Both hall and eberle (and pretty much everyone else on this team) should play with more edge. Guys like hall and eberle have the kind of vision that if they chose to engage in some predatory hitting from time to time they could do it quite well. And by doing so they might get a bit more time and room to work with.

And I would rather see them take a risk of injury from time to time than be ineffective all of the time.

I have no problem with these guys finding their "inner Kenny Linseman" but I would rather they do so without injury.

This team has enough issues!

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#49 oilfan in calgary
January 06 2014, 11:02AM
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not only will Gagner not mention it, not one of these wimps will stand up to anybody on any team.

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#50 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
January 06 2014, 11:06AM
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To heck with CORSI.....I'd like some meaningful stats like, which of these three things happens more in a game, 1) Gagner falls down. 2) Taylor Hall looses an edge 3) Oilers Dman fails to hold the puck in at the blueline.

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