Big Losses to Bad Teams

Jonathan Willis
March 24 2014 03:56PM

On Saturday night, the Oilers got walloped by the Calgary Flames. Losing by a touchdown to a team as bad as Calgary has prompted yet another round of questions about the direction of the Oilers franchise. Just how much should we read into the defeat?

In two words: not much.

Memory Lane

There have been 28 games this year in which a team scored seven-or-more goals in a win, and the Oilers have been involved in three of them. That perhaps isn’t surprising; Edmonton’s not a very good team. What is a little surprising is that the Oilers have won two of the three.

Back in November, Edmonton played what was perhaps their best game of the year, routing Columbus by a 7-0 score. Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno summed the game up for the losing side:

That was disgusting. We knew what kind of team they are and we played right into their hands. It is on everybody in this room. It is embarrassing. We handed them goals and gave them power plays and opportunities. It was really tough to be a part of this. I hope we have hit rock bottom here and understand that we are not a team that can play like this. It just didn't seem like we had that push-back, that answer. We gave them an easy night. They were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It's the wrong way to play. It was 7-0. It's obviously the wrong way to play.

With the loss, Columbus fell to 7-11-3, just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for 15th in the Eastern Conference. They overcame that tough start (and that brutal loss) to climb into the dogfight for a playoff spot in the East; as of today Columbus sits just two points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot there with a pair of games in hand.

Less than a month later, the Oilers did it again, humiliating Colorado in an 8-2 blowout. Rather than quote the losing side (though the NHL.com write-up is worth reading just for Patrick Roy’s quote on the game) let’s look at what Taylor Hall said then:

I haven't been in this league long, but I've been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game. Sometimes you're going to get eight, and some nights you're going to get zero. And [Thursday] was a great night.

Anything Can Happen

Taylor Hall

Realistically, an 8-1 loss to Calgary doesn’t mean anything more than an 8-2 win over Colorado; both games are worth exactly the same amount in the standings and should contribute exactly the same amount to any evaluation of the team.

The difference between Edmonton and Colorado (or Anaheim, a team that lost 7-2 to Calgary just 10 days before the latest Battle of Alberta) is that Avs fans and Ducks fans can look at the NHL standings page and not worry about being stuck in the NHL basement. These rough moments don’t prompt the kind of terrified navel-gazing that they do in Edmonton. The Oilers aren’t a very good team, and when the blowouts happen it’s all too easy to do the sackcloth and ashes routine.

But these games shouldn’t dramatically alter the preexisting beliefs of fans or (especially) those of management because the truth is that sometimes they happen. Does Kevin Lowe need to go? Should Craig MacTavish or Dallas Eakins follow him out the door? Maybe, but if so only because of the longer pattern of events, not because of a bad loss to the Flames.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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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#101 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 25 2014, 12:09PM
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@pelhem grenville

Your @shaw.ca still work?

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#102 RexHolez
March 25 2014, 12:09PM
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still nothing from this team?? no response whatsoever?? you got your star player and coach fighting, fans throwing jerseys, national media mocking you and you just sit there? same assistant coaches, same POHO, same old same old. just sitting there waiting to move into your new building. pathetic

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#103 Serious Gord
March 25 2014, 12:16PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

You need to keep in mind Gord's political views would make Adolf Hitler look like a humanitarian.

Hitler was a socialist/prgogressive:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Fascism

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#104 Serious Gord
March 25 2014, 12:18PM
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Dave wrote:

Conrad Black is that you ?

Lord Black is a far, far better writer than I am, but thanks for the compliment

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#105 Last Call
March 25 2014, 12:18PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

An additional thought. I understand the Oil are 0 and 7 in homes games on HNIC and have been outscored something like 32-10. Maybe when any team in the league is geared up to play a game because it is on a "big stage' the Oil aren't in the same league. Or does it say something about what motivates (or not motivate) the Oil these days?

Hmmm.... HNIC games are on Sat night. Is it possible that the young Oilers are slightly distracted and just want to get out and meet some puck bunnies on a Saturday nite??

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#106 snoopy
March 25 2014, 12:34PM
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This is just another example of a Edmonton Media member buying into the BS that is the oilers and the train wreck they are. Lowetide is worse listen to him you would think playoffs are still attainable. This team is that laughing stock of the league period nothing improves till Lowe is fired, if you question any of this watch one episode of Oil Change who is the puppet master there ??

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#107 The Suit
March 25 2014, 12:39PM
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Does it say anything about the coach that the only time he has shown any emotion all year long was when his suit got wet??? just sayin ....

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#108 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
March 25 2014, 12:49PM
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snoopy wrote:

This is just another example of a Edmonton Media member buying into the BS that is the oilers and the train wreck they are. Lowetide is worse listen to him you would think playoffs are still attainable. This team is that laughing stock of the league period nothing improves till Lowe is fired, if you question any of this watch one episode of Oil Change who is the puppet master there ??

I think Willis is just trying to make the point that the organization shouldn't fire everybody because they got blown out in one game. Even good teams get blown out and this loss realistically doesn't mean any more than any of the 37 other losses this year.

I think what he's saying is that if they're going to fire anybody, it should be because the Oilers are still awful (i.e. lost 38 of 72 games this year) after 4 "official" years of rebuilding.

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#109 Rick Stroppel
March 25 2014, 12:52PM
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Mike Wazowski wrote:

So the fact that the players are choosing not to backcheck is on Eakins?!?

Both the coaches and players need to be better. To paraphrase Yoda... your hate is making you stupid.

I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE WATER BOTTLE

The fact that Hall (and many other forwards on this team) CHOOSE not to back check IS on the coaching staff.

Step 1: Taylor you need to listen to me when I tell you to back check. You're going to be on the third line tonight.

Step 2: Bench in the third period.

Step 3: Off the power play.

Step 4: Pressbox.

Step 5: MacTavish, you need to trade this guy. He's a cherry-picker, he really doesn't care about the team.

Actually, MacTavish would be foolish to trade any of Halll, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov or Schultz at this time. People would be SHOCKED at what little return they would attract. Everbody in the league can see what unrealistic fans and the lap-dog Edmonton media cannot see. To a greater or lesser degree, they are all small, soft, defensively irresponsible players with inflated offensive stats. Literally every other team in the NHL has figured out that if you want to win, YOU HAVE TO GO IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

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#110 Serious Gord
March 25 2014, 01:00PM
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The Suit wrote:

Does it say anything about the coach that the only time he has shown any emotion all year long was when his suit got wet??? just sayin ....

Interesting point. While we have seen him snap at the players on video and a little behind the bench. This water incident caused him to go into a rage that had never been seen publicly - at least since he has been oilers coach.

And this was in the midst of the worst at-home performance against the flames in franchise history. Remarkable.

I think coaches like torts, or carlyle, or sutter, or even babcock would have gone bananas at the team for HOW THEY WERE PLAYING. I could see anyone of them so preoccupied with the travesty happening on the ice to not even notice the water spray.

Is Eakins really as narcissistic as that outburst, and hair style, and suits, and fitness-freak habits would seem to indicate? Is he that much more absorbed about himself than he is about the team?

With no evidence to the contrary the answer to both is "yes"

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#111 Ed in Edmonton
March 25 2014, 01:03PM
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Rick Stroppel wrote:

I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE WATER BOTTLE

The fact that Hall (and many other forwards on this team) CHOOSE not to back check IS on the coaching staff.

Step 1: Taylor you need to listen to me when I tell you to back check. You're going to be on the third line tonight.

Step 2: Bench in the third period.

Step 3: Off the power play.

Step 4: Pressbox.

Step 5: MacTavish, you need to trade this guy. He's a cherry-picker, he really doesn't care about the team.

Actually, MacTavish would be foolish to trade any of Halll, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov or Schultz at this time. People would be SHOCKED at what little return they would attract. Everbody in the league can see what unrealistic fans and the lap-dog Edmonton media cannot see. To a greater or lesser degree, they are all small, soft, defensively irresponsible players with inflated offensive stats. Literally every other team in the NHL has figured out that if you want to win, YOU HAVE TO GO IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

This sounds great, but a coach can't bench the entire team, they have to play somebody.

The Oil are between a rock and a hard place. The young guns they have staked so much on are not progressing and may have regressed this year. One could speculate that coaching this year has impacted this. I have no knowledge to state this is the case, but I hope people close to the scene know if that is a problem. Let's hope it is coaching as that is relatively easy to fix. If it a problem with the young guns...

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#112 Serious Gord
March 25 2014, 01:06PM
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Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

I think Willis is just trying to make the point that the organization shouldn't fire everybody because they got blown out in one game. Even good teams get blown out and this loss realistically doesn't mean any more than any of the 37 other losses this year.

I think what he's saying is that if they're going to fire anybody, it should be because the Oilers are still awful (i.e. lost 38 of 72 games this year) after 4 "official" years of rebuilding.

Mr. Willis is arguing the catastrophic loss is an isolated incident and thus should be treated and discounted as such.

But it isn't is it?

It is just one low point - the lowest point so far - in a scene from a greek tragedy being played out on the ice and in the offices of the oilers. It is just part of a much bigger whole. And thus it should not be treated in isolation, therefore it SHOULD precipitate much larger response and action than we have seen this season.

The fans and the media largely (MR willis and a very few others excepted) have weighed in heavily on it and have called for action. The oilers management have yet to come out of the bunker for their final act...

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#113 Dennis
March 25 2014, 01:17PM
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Yak has an ankle fracture and won't skate until later in the week according the Oilers twitter. Fasth is not concussed but Brossoit will dress as backup anyway.

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#114 cccsberg
March 25 2014, 02:02PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

This sounds great, but a coach can't bench the entire team, they have to play somebody.

The Oil are between a rock and a hard place. The young guns they have staked so much on are not progressing and may have regressed this year. One could speculate that coaching this year has impacted this. I have no knowledge to state this is the case, but I hope people close to the scene know if that is a problem. Let's hope it is coaching as that is relatively easy to fix. If it a problem with the young guns...

Honestly, after 5 coaches and limited to no progression, if not regression for the whole lot of them you really think its the coach? Sure another approach, another coach might help to some degree... but by and large its the players! They are the ones on the ice, they are the ones deciding not to make the effort, they are the ones not back-checking, they are the ones who are "not embarrassed" when they've just been humiliated for the whole world to see. They're the ones sticking up for each other (not necessarily the team) and until they are FORCED to IMPROVE, or shipped out nothing will change. But good luck with that, management seems so enthralled with their "greatness" and "great talent" they're not willing to make the changes necessary.

Anyways, I'm a Flames fan, we've certainly got a ways to go but at least we're loving the intensity, commitment and hard work that has brought them together as a team and made this trying time very enjoyable to watch...

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#115 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
March 25 2014, 02:25PM
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@Serious Gord

I don't think he's arguing it should be treated as an isolated incident, I think he's arguing that there isn't much point in catastrophizing one game.

As painful as it was, I think it's really just another straw on the proverbial camel's back. That being said, if I was Katz I'd: fire the people with the long track record of failure (Lowe, Buchberger, Smith), leave the POHO position vacant, give MacT more time to enact his vision for the team, and hope MacT can find competent associate coaches to support and/or replace Eakins if the team continues to under-perform.

These are changes that can and probably should be made in the off-season. I don't think heads necessarily have to roll in the streets immediately after a blow out loss. What does the team have to gain right now by making immediate changes?

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#116 Scrivy
March 25 2014, 03:06PM
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Good article JW.

Once again, humble, honest, and realistic.

Unlike some other blowhards on this site...

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#117 pelhem grenville
March 25 2014, 03:29PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Your @shaw.ca still work?

no...

wodehouse.paul@gmail.com

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#118 devojo
March 25 2014, 04:23PM
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Not much? A game that actually mattered and thats your take.

It ain't april fools day yet JW.

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#119 Ed in Edmonton
March 25 2014, 04:42PM
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cccsberg wrote:

Honestly, after 5 coaches and limited to no progression, if not regression for the whole lot of them you really think its the coach? Sure another approach, another coach might help to some degree... but by and large its the players! They are the ones on the ice, they are the ones deciding not to make the effort, they are the ones not back-checking, they are the ones who are "not embarrassed" when they've just been humiliated for the whole world to see. They're the ones sticking up for each other (not necessarily the team) and until they are FORCED to IMPROVE, or shipped out nothing will change. But good luck with that, management seems so enthralled with their "greatness" and "great talent" they're not willing to make the changes necessary.

Anyways, I'm a Flames fan, we've certainly got a ways to go but at least we're loving the intensity, commitment and hard work that has brought them together as a team and made this trying time very enjoyable to watch...

I never said there was no progression, just not in the last season. There is no doubt Hall and Eberle have progressed over their 4 years taken as a whole.

I can't say the same about RNH's 3 year or Yaks and Schultz's 2 years.

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#120 pelhem grenville
March 25 2014, 06:07PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Lord Black is a far, far better writer than I am, but thanks for the compliment

...how misguided are you at taking a compliment...what a piece of work...you and your convicted felon evil hero "lord black"...the depth of delusion you have reached is only exceeded by how arrogant and holier than thou you've become at this late stage in life...

I will pray for you...

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