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, 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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#51 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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#52 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 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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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 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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