PLAYERS NEED TO TAKE CHARGE

Jason Gregor
March 17 2014 10:16AM

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It is interesting how winning changes people's perception. Jonathan Toews is applauded as a great leader and is credited with leading the Hawks to two Stanley Cups in four years. It is hard to argue that, however, I notice he gets much more credit for the Hawks than his head coach, Joel Quenneville. I don't have a problem with that, because I believe the players impact the game more than a coach, but if you coach a losing team much more of the blame falls on the coach. Why?

The saying and thought process is you can't fire 23 players, so it is easier to fire the coach when things aren't going well. That is true, but bad hockey teams remain bad regardless of who coaches them. There are cases where firing a coach makes sense, especially if your team has the talent to play better. Quenneville is a perfect example. He replaced Denis Savard and quickly added a bit more structure to a highly talented Chicago team and they succeeded.

Coaching can help, but ultimately no coach wins unless they have good players, and then the good players need to be willing to listen and follow the system he puts in place.

If you are an average team and you replace the coach, usually we see an early spike in success, but then reality sets in and the team goes back to being average. Look at the Winnipeg Jets. They won 9 of the first 11 games Paul Maurice coached. Many suggested he was the difference.

They have won 3 of their next 11 games. I doubt he suddenly became less intelligent during the last 11 games, instead we started to see the real Jets. The better question would be why has Maurice, just like his predecessor Claude Noel, used Andrej Pavelec more than Al Montoya? 

Coaching is important, but if you don't have a skilled, committed group of players it is very difficult to win. We have seen great coaches go to bad teams, and they never had the same success they did when they coached a good group of players. Look at Ken Hitchcock's career.

In eight of the ten years that he began the season as head coach of Dallas and Philadelphia they finished with 100+ points. He was fired during the other two seasons. He was fired 50 games into the 2001/2002 season after a 23-17-6-4 start. Rick Wilson took over and the Stars went 13-11-7-1 the rest of the way. Under Hitchcock the Stars were on pace for 91 points. Wilson had them on an 87-point pace.

In Philly he was fired only 8 games, 1-6-1, into the 2006/2007 season. John Stevens took over and led them to the worst record in the NHL. In the off-season the Flyers added Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and Jason Smith while Braydon Coburn and Mike Richards emerged as key pieces. Coburn was acquired at the traded deadline in 2007 and was a top-three D-man the next year. Richards went from 32 points in 2007 to 75 in 2008. Stevens was behind the bench when the Flyers got back to 100-points, but changing out that many key players made a bigger impact.

Hitchcock wasn't out of work very long as the Blue Jackets hired him a month later. The Jackets went 28-29-5 under Hitchcock that year, then they made the playoffs in 2008, but he was fired 58 games into the next season with a losing record. The Jackets had one good year under Hitchcock, but they didn't improve much after he left, because the players weren't that good.

My point is you need players to win, and those players need to take charge of the team.

BECOMING LEADERS...

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the film Braveheart-1782041

Are Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov ready and prepared to lead this team? If they are, they will need to show more leadership moving forward than we've seen thus far, and they will also need some quality veterans supporting them in their quest to climb out of the basement of the NHL standings.

Pittsburgh drafted Chris Joseph 5th overall in 1987. He was one of the pieces sent to Edmonton in the Paul Coffey trade and he spent parts of 16 seasons in the NHL. I asked Joseph his thoughts on leadership, coaching and more. (My thoughts are in italics.)

Gregor: How much of a difference does it make having veterans at the position that you excel at? Do you need a guy who is similar to your style to learn more about the game in the NHL, or is learning from a veteran of any position beneficial?

Joseph:  I’m not sure that you need a guy that’s your style. Leadership is valuable obviously, but you can have a leader that plays a different style of game. For me, when I first came into the league there were guys like Kevin Lowe, Steve Smith, I’m just talking defencemen, Craig Muni, Charlie Huddy. I don’t know if you would say any of those guys played the same style that I did, but they gave me a lot of valuable insight and made it clear what’s expected of me daily in practice, what’s expected of me in preparation wise, and how my role sort of complemented their role on the ice. So I’m not so sure that you need that exact type of player. I think that it can be beneficial, but good quality leadership is of the utmost importance and whatever form that comes in is, you take what you can get.

***Ference has helped Schultz a lot in this way, especially when they were paired together. He spoke to Schultz after every shift, but who is helping the skilled forwards, and are they listening? I wonder if having a veteran in the top-six would help them, but they need to be willing to take the advice and implement it into their game.***

Gregor: Did you have the veteran players tell you what was expected of you in practice and the games more than the coaching staff?

Joseph: Ah… yes. The coaches would tell you what’s expected and then the players would tell you how to get that done. Sometimes there was a bit of a communication gap between players and coaches and if you had a veteran leader there with you, they sort of fill in the gaps if there is something that you’re not comprehending from what the coaches are saying. But mostly the veteran leaders I found led by example. They didn’t have to talk. Mark Messier rarely had to talk, Kevin Lowe for me rarely had to talk, it was what they did day in and day out that really led the way for me.

When I first came in at 18 years old, I thought that I was a hard worker, I thought that I was doing things well and working well and I thought that I gave it my all, but then I came to the Oilers and I saw what Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe and Jari Kurri did every single day, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to start working harder.’

So that’s the sort of leadership that is invaluable to a young player because there is a big jump skill wise moving up to that level, but in your preparation and in your everyday activity there is a huge jump as well.

Gregor: I do think that a lot of players will believe, ‘hey I’m a hard worker, I’m working hard’ but you get to that next level and it’s not just about skill. The best players on the team usually are the hardest workers. How did you suddenly improve your work ethic?

Joseph: Well I don’t think that it suddenly happens. I think you sort of grow into it over time. As a young player you think that you can get away with a lot of stuff, but you realize you can’t. I was the type of player that needed a lot of… ah, I took a lot of chances; offensively I would try to jump in and I pinched lots and I got burnt, but I had the speed to get back at a young age. Now I jump up to the NHL and I don’t have the speed anymore. I still have the speed but everyone else is faster. So you have to learn how to play your position properly and then of course as you get older, you become the veteran and then you actually start losing your speed. Now you’re much wiser, but your body just doesn’t do what it used to do, but your smarts allow you to stay in the game a few more years.

I think that it takes a while and during the progression of a career you learn different roles, but it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s the beauty of good leadership, those guys that I mentioned, and there was a lot more guys that just those guys, but the guys that I mentioned they did it every day.

I remember one time in Philadelphia.  I come off the ice after practice and I’m bagged. I played with Paul Coffey, the guy that I got traded for here, so you come off of the ice in Philly and Paul would look at me and say ‘let’s go jump on the bike’ and the last thing in the world that I want to do is jump on the bike, but I thought, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Paul Coffey ride the bike without me.’

That’s the type of leadership that goes a long way, and that’s the type of thing that you need from the veteran guys for the younger guys.

***I think a main issue in Edmonton is the overall work ethic. The top-six along with Petry and Schultz need to battle harder and more consistently than we've seen thus far. Their consistency hasn't changed whether Renney, Krueger or Eakins was the head coach. This is on the players. They need to work harder away from the puck, and many of them need to be more consistent. Right now Hall is the most consistent, as far as being in the game. Yes, he makes mistakes, but of all the young forwards and D-men he is consistently the most engaged in games.***

Gregor: Chris, do you think that’s a concern in Edmonton where the young skilled guys haven’t had enough veteran leadership in Edmonton?

Joseph: Oh absolutely. Any time that you have a team that’s packed with young guys like they are, you have to go out of your way as an organization to bring in those leaders. Now are those leaders going to be around for the good days ahead? Probably not, but you have to bring them around. And you know, a good example that I see is Ryan Smyth with the Oilers. He’s a hard working guy and you watch him day in and day out, he gives it his all. So for me that’s a good example and the young guys can learn from him. Now you probably need more than just him. I think that Shawn Horcoff was a good leader as well, but you need to bring those guys in.

 I think MacT has tried to do this year, but you have to bring them in now and if that means that they’re not going to be around for the good times, so be it, but you have to teach the young guys the importance of preparation and work ethic and what’s expected on a daily basis. It wouldn’t hurt if they had a veteran skilled forward to show the kids some tips about attacking D-men and such, but having guys who know how to compete and succeed in the league is the most important.

In junior, kids have good games and they have bad games. Sometimes we watch some of these guys and they go lights out for one or two games and then they go in the tank for ten. In the NHL you have to get to that level where you go lights out for ten and you’re maybe off for one or two, so you’ve got to change it up. That’s all preparation and the way that you prepare for games and your daily routines and your work ethic.

**Joseph's assessment was 100% correct. The young, skilled guys have shown glimpses of what they can do, but it isn't often enough. It takes time to learn how to play at the NHL level, but their consistency, more than any other factor surrounding the organization, will play the biggest factor in them improving as a team. Until they learn to be consistent in every aspect of their game, I don't see this team improving.**

Gregor: At what point does having the leadership change over to having the internal drive and how much is it on the young players themselves to become better players regardless of who else is in the room?

Joseph: Well, you know the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?’ So, you know, we have talked, you and I just now about the value of good leadership, but honestly I believe that it still comes down to the player more than the leader.

So you take some of the young guys in the Oilers dressing room, [Nail] Yakupov for example. He's got to want it bad enough that he sees those veterans doing it, but eventually he’s going to have to want to do it for himself. He’s going to have to want to do that extra stuff for himself. I’d have to say that it has to be 95% on the individual young player and maybe 5% on the leader. They can only do so much and they can show them what is expected, but if a player won’t do it, then it’s a moot point, it doesn’t really matter. And I’ve seen lots of that as well too. We’ve all seen it, you ask Struddy [Jason Strudwick]. We’ve all seen guys with loads of talent that don’t want to do it and then their careers sizzle out. Then on the opposite end of the spectrum you see players that maybe don’t have the skills that other ones have, but they work their guts out every day and they make it happen, and they end up carving out a nice long career. The best players work the hardest, and the fringe players who last a long time stay in the game due to their work ethic more than their skill.

WRAP UP

  • Leadership is important for sure, but each player must be better prepared to play and battle. You can't keep expecting the coach or a veteran player to magically instill this into them. It has to come from the players. The reason I said Ference should be captain was because I felt none of the players are ready to be the main leader. They still have to work on motivating themselves to be prepared for the games. It isn't easy, and I still feel this team needs a few more veteran leaders, ideally one who is a top-six forward and one who plays amongst your top-four defenders. It will be difficult to acquire those types of players, but even if MacTavish does, I still think the young players need to do more on a game-by-game basis.

  • He has very good skills, but the thing I like most about Yakupov is when he is engaged in the game he doesn't show fear or hesitation. He isn't afraid to shoot, or stick a guy or jump in a scrum like he did yesterday. As Joseph said earlier, Yakupov, as well as the other young players, needs to be engaged for 8 out of 10 games, not 2 out of 10. Learning how hard you have to compete to succeed in the NHL is the biggest learning curve for most skilled players. The game was easy for them at lower levels, because they were so much better than everyone, but the NHL is filled with players just as good as them, and often they are older, stronger and more experienced. It is a tough lesson, but I'd like to believe the kids are sick of losing and will realize that they have to help themselves become winners. They can't wait for a new coach or a veteran to magically instill a winning attitude inside the dressing room. They need to take charge and do it.

  • The streak is over. Prior to yesterday's 2-1 win the Oilers hadn't won a game where they out shot the opponents since January 10th, when they defeated Pittsburgh in OT. The Oilers out shot the Hurricanes 33-30 yesterday. It was only the 4th time in 2014 that the Oilers had more shots.

  • Last year the Oilers were out shot 32.8 to 26.8 and this year they have improved slightly to 32.4 to 27. Getting more shots won't guarantee you success. Ottawa, Carolina, Islanders, Phoenix, Detroit and New Jersey are out shooting their opponents but none of them are a playoff team.

    Meanwhile, Toronto (6.0), Dallas (4.7), Tampa Bay (2.6), Columbus (2.2), and Colorado (1.9) all give up more shots, but they are poised to make the playoffs.

  • The Oilers are 9-4-3 in their last 16 games and they've been out shot in 14 of the games. Some believe they can't keep winning if they get out shot, but that isn't completely true. The Oilers likely can't keep getting out shot by an average of 9.2 (34.8 to 25.6 during the 16 games) every game, but teams have proven you can win by being out shot by a smaller margin.

  • It was only two games, but Anton Lander looks like a much different player than last year. He is stronger on the puck, looks a bit quicker and most importantly he has confidence with the puck. It is amazing what confidence can do for a player.

  • I'm not saying Eakins gets a free pass, but I'm pointing out it is foolish to believe he is the only reason this team is losing. If you want him fired, fine, but then you better want many of the important players traded, because they are failing in their roles just as much as he is. If your excuse for the players is that they are young and inexperienced, then wouldn't the same theory apply to Eakins? Both the coaching and the players need to be better. Not one or the other.

  • The Edmonton Rush have won 10 straight games. The Trappers and Eskimos won 10 straight, and the Oilers record is 9. The Rush could become the first to win 11 this Friday. It is crazy how big of a role one day played in allowing Derek Keenan to build such a dominant team.

  • We sold out the 3rd annual Gregor Charity WSOP tourney in 27 hours last week, so we have added a 2nd day. Rules and entry fee details are here. Winner gets entry to WSOP main event ($11,200 CDN), hotel, flights and spending money. Entries for day two will go on sale this Wednesday at 10 a.m. You can call 780.643.4060. Good luck.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR:

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 @Oilanderp
March 17 2014, 10:38AM
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Let's hope that the players don't have the same tendency as some of the fans: to look around at everyone else for a place to lay blame. Which of the core will be the fist to take the reins and take it in the right direction themselves?

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#2 ubermiguel
March 17 2014, 10:53AM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

Let's hope that the players don't have the same tendency as some of the fans: to look around at everyone else for a place to lay blame. Which of the core will be the fist to take the reins and take it in the right direction themselves?

Exactly why Eakins needs to stay. No more letting the players think a coaching change will help. Five coaches later this team is still terrible, it's time the players looked in the mirror for the problem.

That said MacT does need to hold Eakins accountable for the terrible power play.

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#3 T__Bone88
March 17 2014, 10:56AM
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Right now it would be very short sighted to think that this team would magically become better if the Oilers fired Eakins and brought in a few more veteren players. The problem doesn't lie with Eakins, he was dealt this team and trying to work with it. The drive to become better does need come from the players especially the higher end players. The problem is when you have all your high end players are under the age of 25 and have not had good consistent years it adds up to being a bottom end team. There are only a few players on this team that from game to game you can expect the same results and that needs to change in order to succeed.

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#4 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
March 17 2014, 10:57AM
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Jagr would be the perfect mentor for the skilled young guys, but I don't think any amount of cash could coax him up to the tundra.

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#5 A-Mc
March 17 2014, 11:02AM
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At this rate, we're going to play ourselves right out of Aaron Ekblad territory.

I'm starting to think the Oilers will be acquiring a fresh centerman at this years draft.

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#6 Lochenzo
March 17 2014, 11:03AM
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On coaching, assuming that Eakins is back next year, do you think that it is time to re-implement Eakins' defensive zone pressure system that they had to abandon earlier in the year. I think there is a higher level of attention to detail from the young forwards than there was earlier in the year. So if the team is going to learn a defensive system, now is the time. Proper execution of this sytem will cut down the shot differential.

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#7 Woogie63
March 17 2014, 11:07AM
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Going into the season, we would have had the pick of the coaching world lining up to work with this collection of talented players.

Coming out of the season, people are wondering if we have the right collection of players to even be an average team.

I can't think of two players that improved with this coaching staff. THAT is the shame of a wasted year.

Missing the play-off but showing progress is one thing, BUT this is different... the team is lost, the coaching is not adding value AND I think we have seen the BEST the coaches can provide this young team.

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#8 vetinari
March 17 2014, 11:10AM
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Still have concerns with Eakins but I do agree that the main responsibility falls on the players to get themselves out of this spiral.

I've said for a while now that this team has a leadership void with players between the ages of 26 to 32 who are in their prime and can teach the kids what they need to know while taking some of the heat off of them while they mature.

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#9 Max
March 17 2014, 11:11AM
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Excellent article, perhaps if you have any of the young players' email addresses you could pass this along. The onus IS on them, and as much as I'm not a fan of Eakins (mainly because he shows no emotion either way)he certainly has improved the PK and defensive play. Now hard work on PP, 2-4 good off season signings (veterans) and this time next year could see a whole different outlook for the fans

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#10 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
March 17 2014, 11:15AM
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I want to be optimistic, I really do. But the end of last season (aside from the ten game skid) was the most optimistic I've been about the Oilers in a long time, and we all see how that turned out.

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#11 Admiralmark
March 17 2014, 11:16AM
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The disdain we are seeing from the fans is directly correlated to Eakins language and lack of follow through. And little to do with the win loss record. 1)What happened to the slate being wiped clean and players earning their ice time? What happened to being hels accountable? Arcobello= did everything asked and more and has been better then Gagner yet he's in the minors and we get to watch Gagner crap the bed each game. Yakupov= only player held accountable for his errors. Not Hall, not Eberle, not Gagner... The list goes on. Accountability apparently only applies to Russians.

2) We were told that win or lose this team would compete and compete hard. I believe Eakins words were even if you beat us you will know and feel you were in a battle. Lol I can't even think of words to describe how absurd those words have turned out to be.

These are only two examples.. The PP alone has shown how little flexibility and imagination Eakins has. Fans may like to scapegoat the coach but this coach has fallen far short of his own stated promises . This has made him look like a man not true to his own words. And that's a death warrant for him with the players AND the fans.

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#12 eastcoastoil
March 17 2014, 11:24AM
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Scott Hartnell?

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#13 David S
March 17 2014, 11:33AM
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There are cases where firing a coach makes sense, especially if your team has the talent to play better.

*Cough* Dallas Eakins *Cough*

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#14 Will
March 17 2014, 11:36AM
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Good or bad, firing Eakins would be the worst thing for this team. Let them for the love of God, have some consistency. Let them start the season knowing a system instead of having to learn a completely new one.

I hope they keep winning down the stretch. Finding a way to actually win with the group they have is going to be so much more valuable than hoping Buffalo passes on a defenceman that could help the team in one or two years. It's nice that they are winning against teams that they should win against, and compete against teams they should compete against.

I still have faith we'll be drafting high since the last ten games for the Oil are all against teams that give them complete fits.

I like the article and the message it had. This team still has a lot of holes. I don't think a number one defender will be solved this off season, but shoring up the middle can definitely be helped. Go after a Legwand (veteran this article was speaking about?) or Stasny draft one of the big centres near the top of the draft and now the Oiler centre depth looks like this: Nuge, Legwand/Stasny, Gordon, Arco, Lander. That's not bad.

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#15 Derian Hatcher
March 17 2014, 11:37AM
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"If your excuse for the players is that they are young and inexperienced, then wouldn't the same theory apply to Eakins?"

The difference here Jason is that teams have no choice but to accept young and inexperienced players selected out of the draft. This does not have to be the case with coaches. That was management's choice and imho, it was the wrong choice. Why have the HC learn along with players when they could have hit the ground running with experience (ie. Sutter, Paul Maurice etc.)?

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#16 Wigswag
March 17 2014, 11:38AM
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Keep Lander on the third line with Gordon and Hendricks. He is a guy that will pickup what they're selling and use it better in the future. Still has potential as 2nd line center (3rd for sure).

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#17 Tony
March 17 2014, 11:45AM
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There are too many moving parts and variables to pin down a definitive standard. Eakins probably has strengths as well as glaring weaknesses. He seems very committed to his own ideas. That apparent inflexibility may work for some players/teams and not for others.

I think you have a valid point about the influence of the coach. Veteran leadership needs to take charge in the dressing room and set the standards for accountability and team cohesiveness. Eakins inexperience has been exposed in the way he is stubbornly fixated on forcing square pegs into round holes. I think Eakins ego may be an issue here. He seems to have a large percentage of Oiler players off-balance. The PP and special teams are examples of that theory. Yak's response to Hendrick's mugging may be one baby-step in that growth process.

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#18 Jacques Strap
March 17 2014, 11:48AM
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Just to switch it up a little, I think the Oilers should fire Eberle and trade Eakins for Shea Weber.

See what I did there?

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#19 Yourmomthinksimhot
March 17 2014, 11:50AM
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Good article Jason,

Personally I really like one of your later bullets. I believe that the success Roy and Cooper are having as rookie coaches on two teams that finished below us last year is telling of Eakins abilities as an NHL coach. I beleive Eakins isn't a good fit, for this team.

Yes I beleive another coach should be fired. I also believe the team should trade Eberle, Gagner and Schultz. Not for the sake of trading them, its because I beleive they could net a good return and I don't like the effort either of them have put in during this trying season.

I understand the argument that Eakins hasn't been given a good roster but a good coach optimizes what they have, and a team like Calgary with AHL level goaltending is ahead of us in the standings. Between that and what Roy/Cooper have done is telling enough to me. He's not the right fit and the culture needs more adjusting. Some coaches just don't fit with soms teams, this seems like one of those scenarios.

I'd be ignorant to think that this would completely fix all that ails the Oilers, but its a start. It's clear what the problem is, and it's going to take a GM who's finally willing to trade one or two of the fab five to fix this. So far based off the trades MacT's done it seems clear he has a plan and hopefully this rebuild breeds better success.

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#20 Lochenzo
March 17 2014, 11:50AM
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@Wigswag

I like that idea. But I'm torn as to whether Lander should go back to OKC to help them get into the playoffs. Lander's the captain of that team. That's excellent experience for him and the rest of the Barons if they can make it.

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#21 Dark horse
March 17 2014, 11:51AM
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This teams an emberassment to the city

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#22 The Real Scuba Steve
March 17 2014, 11:51AM
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A-Mc wrote:

At this rate, we're going to play ourselves right out of Aaron Ekblad territory.

I'm starting to think the Oilers will be acquiring a fresh centerman at this years draft.

That's good, time for the old boys club to start do their jobs and start making some smart moves instead of lottery picks every year. There are players playing for jobs next year? so should management staff. It's not all the players fault.

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#23 freelancer
March 17 2014, 11:58AM
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If Ekblad is off the table one has to think that Draisaitl is our next move. If we did pick him and he makes a good show he may be able to start the year on the third line. Bring in a Bolland, Grabovski, or Legwand and our centre depth doesn't look awful. RNH Legwand Draisatl Gordon Lander

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#24 Rod from Viking
March 17 2014, 12:01PM
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Watched the latest edition of "Oil Change" last night, I along with most people associate this with the infi-build that it seems has been going on here and wonder what the federal and provincial governments would subsidize this seemingly unneeded series. This year I have to admit they have done a far better job with it and I have found it interesting,I really like the insight on the prospects and the OKC coaching staff. Coach Nelson made the comment that everyone including the coaches and players are committed to making it to the NHL, it was clear to me that he is ready to make that move and it would be great if he was brought up as an assistant next year and maybe Derek Laxdal would take over the reins in OKC. It seems that this organization has it right with both the Oil Kings and OKC with player development and by promoting them it will allow purging others out of the Oiler ranks.

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#25 Rama Lama
March 17 2014, 12:43PM
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I'm not sure why you feel so compelled to defend Eakins......what is he a baby that can't defend his position.

I have never had anything good to say about Eakins because he has demonstrated that he has NO control of this team..........they have tuned him out.

Jason please answer the following questions:

If it's the players responsibility to lead this team, then who have you singled out???

If these players are not getting it done, why does Eakins not bench them??

Why has Eakins only singled out Yaks........is he the only problem according to you?

Why has the team not taken to any of Eakins systems? BTW, what system is he rolling out now?

If Eakins is not the problem according to you........just what is your rationale that he is a good coach?

We all know that you think it's as simple as the players not getting it done......if that is the case, Eakins can bench them, call up replacements, or play them way down the line!!

Your obsession for defending Eakins is NOT resonating with the pundits or the fans. We all know that you wrote this article because Craig Button called out Eakins for being a dud.

I respect your opinion, but agree to disagree on this file.

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#26 Old Timer
March 17 2014, 12:44PM
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I think they need to keep Eakins for another year but I would like to see a very experienced associate coach hired to mentor him or perhaps replace him if there is no great improvement next season.

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#27 Ed in Edmonton
March 17 2014, 12:47PM
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Thanks for the interesting article.

I don't think there is any question that in hockey, and in most professional sports, the players make a coach.

My biggest concern about Eakins in the lack of growth from virtually all of the Oil's young players this year. Looking at Oilers 25 and under who were here both last year and this year:

Eberle - regressed Gagner - big regression but there are extenuating circumstances Hall - about the same, maybe a bit less prone to the big give away. RNH - regressed Yak - regressed Schultz - marginal improvement.

Does this tell us something?

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#28 Rod from Viking
March 17 2014, 12:51PM
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@Rama Lama

Too bad I can only prop this once, #25 comment excellent.

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#29 wintoon
March 17 2014, 12:58PM
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Good article. Contrary to what most Oiler fans imply, the burden for an underperforming season does not lie solely with the coach and his staff. Given the results in the last 20 or so games, it is obvious some progress is being made. Does this mean we have turned the corner and are now play off contenders? No, but at least we are heading toward that first goal.

Hopefully the Oilers will draft a solid #1C or #2C in June. This give the team a more solid base upon which to develop, much the same as having better goal tending has improved the confidence and the results this year.

Sa for the man crush on Ekblad, I have no doubt he will be a solid NHL player, maybe even great. The problem is that it will take years for him to achieve his potential if he ever does. By drafting a top prospect Centre, the payoff will be sooner and the results can still be significant.

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#30 **
March 17 2014, 01:03PM
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From Craig Button:

Eakins “is largely responsible for the team under-performing,”

A rookie NHL coach leading young players is already grounds for a shaky foundation, and if the coach is not a good coach, whatever systems he puts in place are just going to confuse the players. The clearest contrast is Patrick Roy, similar roster, rookie coach, they are making the playoffs in convincing fashion.

Two first overall picks crashing and burning in the same season is a statistical improbability. That is mostly on Eakins.

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#31 Team Hall
March 17 2014, 01:03PM
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I think this article lets Eakins off the hook too easily. When your PP regresses, and almost every young player regresses under your watch, some of that is on you.

Now, the awful awful goaltending didn't help Dallas this year either, so it's not all his fault either.

50-50. If Dallas comes out of the schute 2-10-3 next year, axe him.

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#32 Will
March 17 2014, 01:08PM
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Turning towards the draft, do the Oilers need a defender that can help in one to two years, a bigger centre that could balance out our top 6 a bit in one to two years, or could we trade the pick and if so what for?

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#33 dougtheslug
March 17 2014, 01:09PM
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I take issue with this idea that if only the players would "take charge", that Eakins would be vindicated and we would all see what a coaching genius he really is.

That ignores all the issues that Eakins has been legitimately criticized for, from his deployment of personnel, to his suspect systems play.

Pretty much every one of the young stars on the Oilers has regressed this year under Eakins. I can't believe that all these players, who have excelled at every stage of their careers, have honed their skills by being ultra-competetive, have all, by some coincidence, gone backward in their development at exactly the same time.

Not firing Eakins, because they mistakenly fired the last 2 coaches, will prove the adage that 2 (or 3) wrongs don't make a right.

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#34 Craig1981
March 17 2014, 01:11PM
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A-Mc wrote:

At this rate, we're going to play ourselves right out of Aaron Ekblad territory.

I'm starting to think the Oilers will be acquiring a fresh centerman at this years draft.

I don't mind as long as they pick top 4. Those players all appear to be very close. Its looking like they will pass Florida and I am holding my breath against them passing both the islanders and Flames. I am fine with any of the centerman as well.......maybe one might even make RNH expendable for a top dman.

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#35 **
March 17 2014, 01:13PM
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In the interest of informed dialogue, here's the full article:

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/03/17/whats-wrong-with-edmonton-oilers-it-starts-with-the-coach-says-nhl-insider-button/

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#36 Tikkanese
March 17 2014, 01:20PM
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The defense is awful.

The powerplay is awful.

Like it has been said ad nauseum and I agree, another new head coach won't be beneficial. It has been 5 coaches in 6 years, 6 in 7 is even more ridiculous.

So keep Eakins, fire Smith and Bucky. Hire one as a Defense coach and the other as a new Powerplay coach. Coaching problems solved. NHL caliber defensemen problems a work in progress.

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#37 Tikkanese
March 17 2014, 01:25PM
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** wrote:

From Craig Button:

Eakins “is largely responsible for the team under-performing,”

A rookie NHL coach leading young players is already grounds for a shaky foundation, and if the coach is not a good coach, whatever systems he puts in place are just going to confuse the players. The clearest contrast is Patrick Roy, similar roster, rookie coach, they are making the playoffs in convincing fashion.

Two first overall picks crashing and burning in the same season is a statistical improbability. That is mostly on Eakins.

Ahh Craig Button, the genius who couldn't build around a young Iginla and Kiprussof and get into the playoffs.

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#38 Taylor Gang
March 17 2014, 01:45PM
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Nuge's play has me more concerned than Yakupov. I don't have the sense that his hockey IQ is through the roof anymore. Surely, if he has such good hockey IQ, he wouldn't continue on such an awful drought.

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#39 VK63
March 17 2014, 01:49PM
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Im not too surprised that Lander has acquitted himself well in this go around. Line mates with a modicum of actual talent hasn't hurt either (fwiw).

Im a fan of that scruffy pirate look as well. The barons captain has some moxy. I like that.

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#40 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
March 17 2014, 01:51PM
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@Taylor Gang

I think it's just a slump, I'm not worried yet. Didn't it take Giroux like 25 games to score a goal?

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#41 A-Mc
March 17 2014, 01:53PM
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I Don't buy that Eakins is the bad guy here, but i also don't buy that he isn't.

The team has been asked to play a defense first style game, which is a big change for the kids. There will be dips in production but lets be honest: the kids are doing just fine. No one is being ruined here. Hall has 63 points, Ebs 50 and Nuge 44. Nuge is a little low but he has publicly stated that he's more focused on being defensively responsible for his line than anything else. I would rather a defensively responsible centerman that scores 50 pts, than a pond hockey centerman that scores 60 but is a total train wreck in his own zone.

Yak.. we dont know what he is yet. Last year he was pretty dry in terms of production until the last few weeks. I dont know enough about Yak to say that he's under performing.

The 1 thing that does get me, is the power play. It's clearly a weakness this season and that is likely on Eakins. A Twitter fellow joked that when the Oilers get a Penalty they should immediately slash a player next to them to create a 4 on 4, because they have a better chance at scoring 4 on 4 than 5 on 4. i chuckled because it's seemingly accurate!

I believe the failure at the beginning of the season was mostly due to goal tending: it was brutal. Since we've cleaned up our goalie situation the Oilers are essentially .500. If the Oilers went this entire season playing .500 hockey, i dont think we'd see quite so many attempts at Eakin's throat. We'd still be pointing out the poor power play, but other than that i think fans would direct their attention to the type of players we need to acquire this off season in order to push for the playoffs.

So lets get back to that!

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#42 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
March 17 2014, 01:58PM
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@A-Mc

RE: taking a penalty for a 4 on 4, correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that the reason they introduced coincidental minors? The 80's Oilers would take a penalty just so they would have more ice to work with.

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#43 Puck_In_Throat
March 17 2014, 02:23PM
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I concur Gregor, as I had posted last week:

#5 Puck_In_Throat March 10 2014, 01:58PM

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ReplyEdit

I know that Eakins is taking a lot of heat here, and part of that is his own fault. He shot his mouth off a bit at the start of the year talking about how his system was going to make a big difference.

But I have to say what has been said by other people: even a great coach can't coach a team full of bad players to the finals.

Exhibit A: Ken Hitchcock - coaches a Stacked Dallas team to 5 straight years of 1st place (division) finishes; sacked when performance drops (coincidence: Brett Hull retires and the Stars lose 39 goals and 75 points).

Hitch coaches Philly to divisional finishes of 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd - fired in year 5 with a 1-6-1 start. Goalies for philly all have GAA of above 3.00 and Biron is tops for sv% at .908. ouch

Hitch coaches CBJ to a 20 point improvement over 3 years, culminating in their first playoff appearance. Columbus is eliminated in the first round. Hitch is fired the next year when it becomes clear 60 games in that they will not make the playoffs.

Hitch takes a year off and is hired by the Blues. They finish (divisional) 1st, 2nd, and soon-to-be 1st.

Did Hitch all of a sudden become a bad coach in 2002 (fired from Dallas), 2006 (1-6-1 start in philly) and from 2006-2010 in Columbus where his best finish was 4th in the division?

Or is it more likely that a good coach can only win with a good team?

All those who say it is "Eakins fault", you may be correct in saying that a good coach could get more out of the team (hello Ralph), but what Gregor and others are getting at is that this TEAM sucks, and that it wouldn't matter if Scotty Freakin Bowman himself came out of retirement to coach these guys. The Oil would still suck.

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#44 @Oilanderp
March 17 2014, 02:33PM
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@dougtheslug

I can't believe that all these players, who have excelled at every stage of their careers, have honed their skills by being ultra-competetive, have all, by some coincidence, gone backward in their development at exactly the same time.

Excelled at every stage except this one. You know, the one where you have to play a 200' game or you're hooped before you begin. The one where the skill level is so high you can't glide by on your skill alone.

Also, you do well to not believe that they have all regressed since it is simply not true. Below is a list of players followed by their average points per 60 minutes up until this year, followed by their points per 60 minutes this year. All values are for 5v5 close.

Player      Previous      Current

Hall            2.25            3.59

Nuge         1.45            1.99

Ebs            2.27           1.82

Yakupov    1.55            1.85

Gags          1.48            1.30

So. All players are generating more points THIS YEAR per unit time than they have on average in their careers. All except Gags and Ebs. Gags was injured and is snakebitten with a 6% shooting percent compared to his career 12%. Ebs, I am not sure of.

I didn't put Schultz in here since he is a defenseman.

Are you still clamouring for Eakins head? Fire the coach because Eberle has regressed?

Yes, the PP sucks, but the fact remains that in 5 on 5 hockey most of the core has gotten better (by this metric) under Eakins. Sorry, there will be NO refunds on pitchforks.

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#45 Dan
March 17 2014, 03:01PM
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When are they gonna rearrange the letters in the logo to ILOSER?? Seems for fitting for this team then what it currently reads

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#46 Nick
March 17 2014, 03:07PM
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Team Hall wrote:

I think this article lets Eakins off the hook too easily. When your PP regresses, and almost every young player regresses under your watch, some of that is on you.

Now, the awful awful goaltending didn't help Dallas this year either, so it's not all his fault either.

50-50. If Dallas comes out of the schute 2-10-3 next year, axe him.

The article isn't even about the powerplay. It is about leadership and taking charge of the team. One bullet point about the PP and the less intelligent fans focus only on that and miss the entire point. THE PLAYERS NEED TO BE BETTER...

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#47 **
March 17 2014, 03:19PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Ahh Craig Button, the genius who couldn't build around a young Iginla and Kiprussof and get into the playoffs.

Nevertheless, he was in the thick of things, which is more than Gregor can say, or you or I for that matter. And you shoudl know that the Flames who went all the way to game 7 of the Stanley cup finals against tampa was built by Button. His successor, Daryl Sutter was hired by him. Kiprussof was aquired after Craig Button had left. So get your facts straight before you go on trolling.

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#48 Anton (still waiting for playoffs)
March 17 2014, 03:32PM
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This article only explained why Oilers shouldn't fire Renney let along Kreuger. So for those Eakins supporters or some of those believed that Oilers should keep Eakins for consistency sake have to understand that Oilers is nowhere near of being a contender at the start of the season. However, Eakins is becoming part of the problem for this team instead of as solution. Throughout the season that Eakins has pointing fingers on everything and everyone else, even fans. A new coach may not immediately makes an impact but at minimum that he shouldn't coach the team to regress. Let's try to tell Canucks fans that they shouldn't fire Torts with the same analogy, see how many of them will tell you to go to hell.

If anyone actually expect Oilers to start winning from the beginning of the year then you clearly have no sense of what kind of team that you have. If Oilers were developed correctly that they may win a few more games but overall is the level of willingness that you cannot find on Eakins team. Some from previous post were right about the bad play of Dubnyk exposed this team is nowhere near to be a contender. However, Eakins is still the worst coach that Oilers can have. If a team is full of problems, coach should at least not to become part of the problem.

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#49 **
March 17 2014, 03:36PM
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Anton (still waiting for playoffs) wrote:

This article only explained why Oilers shouldn't fire Renney let along Kreuger. So for those Eakins supporters or some of those believed that Oilers should keep Eakins for consistency sake have to understand that Oilers is nowhere near of being a contender at the start of the season. However, Eakins is becoming part of the problem for this team instead of as solution. Throughout the season that Eakins has pointing fingers on everything and everyone else, even fans. A new coach may not immediately makes an impact but at minimum that he shouldn't coach the team to regress. Let's try to tell Canucks fans that they shouldn't fire Torts with the same analogy, see how many of them will tell you to go to hell.

If anyone actually expect Oilers to start winning from the beginning of the year then you clearly have no sense of what kind of team that you have. If Oilers were developed correctly that they may win a few more games but overall is the level of willingness that you cannot find on Eakins team. Some from previous post were right about the bad play of Dubnyk exposed this team is nowhere near to be a contender. However, Eakins is still the worst coach that Oilers can have. If a team is full of problems, coach should at least not to become part of the problem.

Dubnyk's play might have been the best thing to happen to the Oilers this season. It finally exposed them bare skinned for what they are and what they need to to to succeed. Eakins is not part of the solution, picking up fights with everyone, from the media early on to fans.

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#50 **
March 17 2014, 03:51PM
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Will wrote:

Turning towards the draft, do the Oilers need a defender that can help in one to two years, a bigger centre that could balance out our top 6 a bit in one to two years, or could we trade the pick and if so what for?

I think their first priority should be to try and flip that pick in a package for a top 2 established dman. The team getting the pick could draft Ekblad and have a replacement in 3 years. If they can't, then try to get the 2nd line center. If they can't, then draft Ekblad. Those who know say he is NHL ready. IT would be easier to get a 2nd line center than a top d man down the road.

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