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 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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#52 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#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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