I appreciated Dallas Eakins’ honesty when discussing his time with the Oilers. “We probably got ahead of ourselves systems wise. We should have focused on the fundamentals more,” Eakins said.
He also stated that he should have been more patient. “The thing you forget, and I was guilty of it too, is that you forget the players are 19, or 21 or 23. They are pulling on the jersey and going on the ice and you expect them to play like they are 28 or 29 years old. It just isn’t there yet.”
I agreed with those comments, however, I couldn’t get behind his statement to the fans. “My message to the people here and to the fans is, I can speak freely now, and like it or not you need to be patient.”
I do agree that it takes time to build a winning team. Chicago, for example, made the playoffs once in ten years before they became a serious contender, but they showed PROGRESS during those non-playoff years. They went from 59 points to 65 to 71 and then to 88 point in 2008 and missing the playoffs by three points.
In 2009, they racked up 104 points and won a few rounds in the playoffs.
What progress have the Oilers made?
From 2007 to 2009 they had 71, 88 and 85 points. They weren’t in a rebuild. They tried to re-tool and were at least competitive in 2008 and 2009 missing the playoffs by three and six points. In the summer of 2009 they signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a large contract in the hopes of making the playoffs.
They fell into a rebuild due to numerous injuries to their better players. In January of 2010, they decided to rebuild.
Since then, the organization has had two general managers, three head coaches, one interim head coach, a transition coach and 83 players, 47 of which are no longer in the NHL.
In 2010, they finished 30th with 62 points.
In 2011, they were 30th with 62 points.
In 2012, they finished 29th with 74 points.
In 2013, they finished 24th with 45 points. (shortened season)
In 2014, they finished 28th with 67 points.
In 2015, they are currently 29th with 20 points in 32 games, on pace for 51 points.
Where is the progress? If there was progress I can guarantee you the fans would be ecstatic. They have been remarkably patient. The building was sold out every night, up until this year. The TV numbers were consistently strong.
The issue isn’t about the fan’s patience. The issue is that they don’t have faith in the people running the team, and why should they?
Since Craig MacTavish took over the team has actually gotten worse, points-wise. I know the analytics have improved slightly, but the team is not any closer to winning.
MacTavish actually weakened the centre position. He traded Shawn Horcoff away as a favour to him. This team could desperately use Horcoff right now — a veteran centre who could play top-nine minutes and play a solid two-way game.
I realize people hated his contract, but MacTavish traded him and his $5.5 million cap hit, and this year he replaced that cap space with Nikita Nikitin’s $4.5 million contract. The team isn’t any better.
Craig MacTavish inherited a bad team — there is no debating that — but since he took over we haven’t seen any progress, in fact we’ve seen many of the same mistakes from the previous seven seasons.
The Oilers are rushing another young centre into the NHL. MacTavish felt it was better off to start the season with rookie Leon Draisaitl and undersized Marc Arcobello and his 42 games of NHL experience as two of the team’s four centres.
Why would you enter a season with so little depth or experience at centre? Why did the Oilers feel it was necessary to rush Draisaitl? He hasn’t scored a goal in 15 games. The games get harder as the season goes along, not easier.
Eakins said, “Craig MacTavish took over this job 18-20 months ago. I understand being
out of the playoffs for a long time, but the situation is the situation.
It’s kind of like losing all your money. You don’t get all your money
back the next day, you have to get working again and working at it. You need
to be patient and if anybody is going to find the solution, it’s going
to be Craig MacTavish.
“If a new GM came in here today, you know what he’d say to you? Five
years, five years is what they all say, that’s what I’m
going to need. Craig has been here for 20 months. Everybody breathe, let
him go about his business, show some patience and let him get this
sorted out and let Nelly get it sorted out,” Eakins continued.
Based on the standings he is probably correct that it might take another five years for this team to be a Cup contender, but I’m not sure there is proof yet that MacTavish is the guy to turn the team around. Yes, he has only been on the job for 20 months, but the team has not improved.
They are still too light up front. They are still small down the middle. They are lacking aggression on the backend and consistency in goal. They don’t score enough. They don’t defend well enough.
Asking fans for patience makes sense if they have witnessed some progress, but when you see the same mistakes being repeated it is hard to have faith that the Oilers will improve.
I’d say it is time the organization rewards the fans’ loyalty and patience by improving the on-ice product.
Until the Oilers start climbing up the standings and winning hockey games, it is simply unrealistic to ask the fans for more time.
The only constant throughout this eight and half years of losing has been their patience.
DAY 12…MONTH OF GIVING.
Thank you to G and H Heating for their generous donation and to Bernie for his awesome bid of $5,800 yesterday. That was awesome.
- Five course dinner for 10 people at Chop Steakhouse in their private room.
- Includes wine pairing and Brad German will be around to answer any questions about wine. They will feature their high end wines.
- Steak tour and culinary questions will be answered and
hosted by red seal chef Garrett Jette.
- All of your beverages and food are included.
- My wife Traci and I will join you for dinner.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
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- Davidson: A positive story in a gloomy season
- GDB 29.0: Duck Hunt
- Tough Love Time