March 31 2014 03:51PM
As another season to forget winds down, there are more questions than answers, once again, surrounding the Oilers.
How many will be answered in the off-season, and how many will the individual players elect to try and rectify?
Why does everyone call the final few weeks a death march?
It isn't like they played great all year and are suddenly floundering down the stretch. The Oilers had another pathetic offensive showing last night. They were shut out for the 6th time at Rexall Place. They've been shutout in 6 of 37 home games and in nine others they've scored only once. In 40% of their home games they've scored once. That is horrific.
I can't agree that the reason the Oilers play bad down the stretch is because they just want the season to end. I'm sure they do, as do all of us, but what was the excuse for uninspired play in October and November?
Why is being good offensively not valued?
I read Lowetide's article on Schultz, and while we all point out his defensive issues, which are valid and understandable considering he's only played 115 games, at least he does one thing well: he produces points.
Over the last two seasons Schultz is 29th in points for D-men. He has 56 points in 115 games. I don't expect Schultz to ever be great defensively. I don't need to him to be on the ice protecting a lead in the final minute of the game, because his game is more suited to have helped you get the lead. He is the guy you have on the ice in the final minute if you are trying to tie the game. Only the elite D-men play in both of those scenarios.
He likely won't become a true #1 D-man, because he doesn't have the size or strength to shut down the best, skilled forwards. That is okay, the Oilers have four other young D-men who are 6'3", who skate well and should be looked upon to fill that role in the future. Marincin, Klefbom, Petry, Nurse and possibly Ekblad.
Of course, Schultz needs to improve his defensive zone play, and I believe he has taken small -- I repeat small -- strides this season. He doesn't run around his own zone as much as he did last year, and he takes better angles to pucks. But he has a long way to go to improve. He is only 115 games into his career, and very few offensive-minded D-men excel in their own end early in their career. He must continue to strive to be better defensively.
I'm surprised at how quickly many Oiler fans have written off Schultz, due to his defensive liabilities, but will rip anyone who criticizes one of the young forwards or Jeff Petry.
Petry's support group amongst Oiler fans, especially those who believe strongly in Corsi, is much stronger than the battle level we see on the ice most nights. The Petry supporters go crazy on Twitter if you mention that Petry needs to battle harder.
I've never once said the Oilers should trade Petry -- in fact I've written and said numerous times it would a foolish move -- but that doesn't mean you can't expect more from him -- I'm not asking him to become Jason Smith. However, like many of his teammates, he doesn't battle hard enough on a consistent basis.
This team has too many players who lose battles at important times in the game, or at important places on the ice. Petry isn't the only one, but he is one of them. Asking him to improve in that area is not ripping his overall game, it is pointing out a flaw that needs to be minimized if he wants to help the team succeed. Having the best Corsi rating on a bad team doesn't mean he is free of being critiqued.
As Petry matures what area of the game do you feel he will impact the most?
The stats guys tell me the Oilers score more when he is on the ice, which is good, but how come he only has 16 points? Is he impacting the play or is he just on the ice? Will he contribute offensively on the scoreboard?
Would you say he is as defensively sound as Jan Hejda or Francois Beauchemin? Those guys have just as many points as Petry and have the same TOI. Will he become a solid shut down D-man?
Coaches say you need to be exceptional at one thing to stay in the league. Some guys can only fight, and they don't last long, but it keeps them in the league for a bit. If you can score goals, but are a defensive liability, teams will still find room for you. If you are a good penalty killer and can go up and down your wing, coaches keep you.
Petry has a good tool box, but I'm not sure we've seen what skill will become his calling card.
Will the Oilers improve if they get a legitimate top-pair blueline?
Of course, but that doesn't mean the rest of the team will magically learn how to be more competitive and consistent. The players have to want that for themselves, and many of them need to look in the mirror over the summer and realize they are the ones who can impact their desire and hunger on the ice.
Asking Petry and others to battle harder isn't asking for much in my opinion, it is pointing out the harsh reality of this team.
They are not competitive enough on a shift-by-shift basis to win.
The record does not lie.
They aren't 29th by accident.
Are the Oiler defenders good in the offensive zone?
I ask this because I wanted to see if they have enough offensive instincts to help out in the offensive zone. Here is a quick chart of their 5-on-5 play of the guys who have played 500 minutes.
The first thing you notice is how few shots they have. Ference has the most, and I think we'd expect Schultz and Petry to get more shots on goal. Petry shoots more, but he missed the net or had his shot blocked 98 times out of 157. One of the best skills a D-man can have in the offensive zone is the ability to get the puck on net. It isn't easy, but it is something I'd like to see the Oilers work on in practice.
Walking the puck across the blueline and shooting is one thing the Oilers do in practice, but if there is no forward in the shooting lane how does the D-man learn to shoot around or through legs? That might be a small detail, but I wonder if it should be practiced more often.
The Oilers only have two D-men in the top-100 in shots; Schultz is 77th with 97 shots and Petry is 100th with 82. Having more offensive zone time would help, but neither of those two are natural shooters. They are always looking to pass, which is why at 5-on-5 Ference has more shots than both of them.
The frustrating thing is that Devan Dubnyk said Petry had the scariest shot on the team. Schultz has also shown he can fire the puck, and I'm perplexed why neither guy wants to unleash it more often. The Oilers have to find a way to get these guys to shoot more.
What type of contracts will Schultz and Petry receive?
Schultz shouldn't be paid more than Petry on his next deal, and neither one of them has shown a lengthy stretch of consistency over the past two seasons. I'd give them both a gap contract. If they play great and deserve a big raise afterwards, good on them.
Are they locks to be a top-pair defender over the next two seasons, or beyond? I don't see it, so there is no reason to offer them a long-term deal. Had the Oilers waited until Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were done their entry level deals, only Hall would be making $6 million/season. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins would likely have signed shorter and cheaper deals.
I'd pay Petry $3.5-$4 million over three years and Schultz should get a two-year deal in the range of $2.4-$2.7 million. Petry is 26 and you might have to pay him a bit more due to his impending UFA status, but I don't see any reason to pay him more than $4 million.
Do you see any comparisons that his agent would use in arbitration that would pay him more?
Will Craig MacTavish move out some friends?
The Oilers coaching staff has 6 years of head coaching experience, while the other 6 Pacific Division teams have an average of 26 years. Will MacTavish let Eakins pick his own staff? Read here.
Did this "ad" seem legit or fishy to you?
This ad ran in the Edmonton Journal on Saturday? Does anyone know Jay Brown? Do any other fans think the same about being a fan as he wrote in his last line, "Please (Oilers) keep trying your best, and we will try harder to be the fans you deserve." It just seems like something a fan wouldn't say. Smells fishy to me.
Will next year be better?
I'm an optimist, but unless MacTavish manages to make three of four major moves I don't see the Oilers being a playoff team next year. I hope I'm wrong, because everyone is tired of talking about a losing team. I'd expect the Oilers overall point totals to improve, but jumping up 30 points will be tough.
It is possible, Colorado did it this year, but it will be extremely difficult.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR: