February 03 2014 01:12PM
Once again the Oilers find themselves in a battle for the basement of the NHL standings. For the fourth time in the last five seasons the Oilers will spend February, March and April jockeying for draft positioning rather than a spot in the playoffs. Fans are frustrated of watching it, we are fatigued of writing about it, and I'm certain the players are tired of living it, but ultimately it will be up to them to avoid this scenario next season.
You need skill to compete in the NHL, but you also need a strong desire to battle and compete, because every team has skill. It is obvious the Oilers still don't have the winning combination of players to push for a playoff spot, and Craig MacTavish will need to rectify that, but the players who are here can't keep waiting for new recruits to save them.
They need to play smarter, stronger and with more passion on a nightly basis.
Tonight must be about pride. The players know the situation. They know Buffalo is the only team in the NHL below them in the standings, so I'd hope they want to keep it that way. They need to show some pride, some passion, some desire and play like a team that won't accept losing.
I'm sure most of you have seen the highlights of yesterday's Montreal/Winnipeg game. Brandon Gallagher is listed at 5'9, 180 pounds, but did you see him battling with Marc Stuart in front of the Jets net. He didn't give an inch and Stuart, 6'2, 213 pounds, couldn't move him away from the crease. Gallagher refused to give up his space on the ice despite a significant weight and height disadvantage.
And Gallagher does that all over the ice. He plays incredibly hard and ferocious and he refuses to make the game easy for his opponents.
When was the last time you saw an Oiler battle like that?
If the Oilers aren't willing to take a physical pounding now and then to win a battle, then this team is never going to win. The organization will continue firing coaches, bringing in new fringe players and hoping that eventually things will change. I believe it is up to the players, especially the core group, to turn this around.
Gallagher has proven you don't need to be huge to compete. I understand you do need some big, skilled players to counter the size of other teams, but until the Oilers acquire those players this group needs to play with more hunger. They need to instill a higher level of accountability within the dressing room. Winning teams demand a lot of one another, and this team needs to start doing the same.
Tonight is a game they shouldn't lose. They need to approach it like a playoff game, even though the outcome is more about pride than the standings.
If the Oilers lose tonight, they open the door to the possibility of entering the Olympic break on a four-game losing streak and sitting in 30th place. None of the players want that and I'd hope their effort reflects that.
Eakins hinted the D pairings could be switched up, so I'd guess we'll see Ference back with J.Schultz, and N.Schultz move to the right side with Fraser, or possibly have Potter come in for N.Schultz.
I'm surprised Scrivens isn't getting the start. He has a .960 SV% over the past two games, and this is an important game for the team. Why not let Scrivens play tonight? I see him being part of the future much more than I do Bryzgalov so I'd have went with Scrivens and see how he and his teammates responded.
- Up front the Gagner line needs to find the game they had in Vancouver, because since then they've really struggled. When Perron and Yakupov play greasy they play better. They seem to be at their best when they are emotionally invested in the game.
- The Sabres won four of their first 20 games and scored 1.65 goals/game and allowed 3.15 goals/game before hiring Ted Nolan. Since taking over, Nolan has won 11 of 34 games and their offence and defence has improved a bit up to to 1.94goals/game and down to 2.76 goals/game.
The special teams pre-Nolan were: 13.5% for PP and 81.1% for PK.
Special teams with Nolan are: 15.3% for PP and 81.3% for the PK.
- Changing coaches has helped the Jets, they are 8-2 under Paul Maurice, while the Sabres' improvement has been marginal. I firmly believe until you have enough good players the coach won't make that much of an impact. If you look closer at the Jets' games under Maurice they won two games where they were dominated in shots by Chicago and Anaheim. As we've seen in Edmonton, changing coaches doesn't help much if your core group is essentially the same.
- Justin Schultz will play his 98th NHL game tonight. He has been forced to play way more minutes than most other young defenders. People should be more patient regarding his progress.
- Gentleman and Ladies of the Nation...Valentine's Day is fast approaching and you can win a Silver Heart Pendant with a Canadian Diamond centre if you tweet @Oilersnation or @ParisJewellers a story of the worst Valentine's Day gift you've ever given or recieved. Good luck.
- I have no problem with people disagreeing with my opinion or views on the game. Debate is great and usually you can take something from the other side. However, I do take issue when people make boldface lies to try and discredit me. Here is what I tweeted out following the Fraser trade on Friday.
Quick reminder to those worried about losing Hartikainen. Many felt same about Omark...scoring in KHL no guarantee to score in NHL. #Oilers— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 31, 2014
Almost 12 hours after my tweet, close to midnight the CopperandBlue tweeted this out.
For transparency sake this was my reply.
@CopperandBlue you shouldn't drink and tweet. Take an aspirin and sleep it off.— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) February 1, 2014
Like I said, I have no problem if people want to state opposing opinions on topics or disagree with my view, but don't make up stuff and flat out lie to try and disparage someone.
It's immature, unprofessional and ignorant. The ironic part is that the person running their twitter should be well-versed in the Internet. If they were, they could have done a quick search of Oilersnation to see what I wrote about Joensuu. I've never written an article about him, nor have I ever claimed he was the answer to the woes of the Oilers. The only full article dedicated to Joensuu was penned by Jonathan Willis, who used to write for C&B. Here is JW's article. Would the nameless twitter person at CB call that "hanging from his nuts?" I doubt it. I don't care if they don't like me, but I will defend myself to blatant lies.
Here are articles where I have mentioned Joensuu.
This one came after opening night. This came during the preseason. Only mention of him is the final bullet point. Here is a GDB where I mention him under "Quick Hits". You'll notice I'm really pumping his tires.
Tweets like the one above makes their site look childish, which is unfair to a writer like Ryan Batty who blogs there. Batty and I have disagreed on many things over the years, but as you see in this article from him, he doesn't resort to name calling or fabricating things. He digs into the question and comes up with a reasonable and well thought out alternative view. I've read much of his stuff over the years, and he brings up good points and shows you can do so without cutting up the other side's viewpoint.
Note to C&B. Do what you want with your twitter, but don't lie. It makes you look foolish and unprofessional.
Lastly in the tweet they mentioned that Omark produces way more than Joenssu. Omark does, but mainly because he gets PP time and Joensuu doesn't.
To date, Omark has had 1,115:50 of TOI while Joensuu has had 987:13.
If you take away Omark's PP minutes their ES icetime is 961 for Joenssu and 934 for Omark. During those ES minutes Joensuu had 18 points and Omark 22. Not much of a difference.
Their point differential comes from PP time. Omark has 10 PP points in just over 181 minutes of PP time, while Joensuu has 1 point in 25 minutes. If you pro-rate Joenssu's PP time to make it equal to Omark's TOI he'd have close to 8 points. So their production to icetime ratio isn't as wide a gap as earlier suggested. It is always more beneficial to do research instead of making up lies to defend your stance.
It was pointed out to me that I did tweet this out in September. I guess saying it is a stretch Joensuu might be a big, skilled guy to help the top-six is really pumping his tires. Hilarious.
Could Joensuu turn into Franzen? Likely a stretch, but the Oilers desperately need a big body with skill to play with 4, 14, 93, 64, 89 etc— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) September 11, 2013
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers must win this game and their top line carries them to a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With some eastern team's scouts in attendance, Ales Hemsky has a strong game picking up a goal and an assist.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Omark and Yakupov drop the mitts in the 2nd period. In a spirited featherweight tilt both land some good blows, but Yakupov surprises everyone and finishes the scrap with a solid right. After the game he says he asked Luke Gazdic for some tips after the Winnipeg game just in case he had to defend himself in the future. It looks like he is a fast learner.