GDB 55.0: HOCKEY DAY IN EDMONTON

It’s Hockey Day in Canada, as we celebrate the game many of love to play, watch and critique. Most of us have played hockey on an outdoor rink, where the sounds of the game seem so natural and simplistic. Whether it is your blades cutting into the ice, or how your stick echos when you recieve a hard pass, the thud of the puck hitting the boards on a just-missed shot or the sweet "clink" of the puck going off the post and into the net, those sounds are what make hockey great.

The energy of a Rexall Place during the playoffs or even during a ferocious comeback in the third period in January still energizes even the most pessimistic fan. Today hockey fans across the country will sit down and watch Canada’s six teams display all of our favourite attributes of the game, and it will start with a Titanic battle for 30th place and a chance to have the first overall pick  in June.

In Edmonton and Ottawa hope and belief of better days are just as rampant as hearing the sweet sounds of the game.

The Oilers, despite being in 30th, should be favoured in this game.

The 29th play Sens are reeling.

Daniel Alfredsson is hurt, Mike Fisher was traded and Brian Elliott, who is supposed to start in goal, is on a 13-game losing streak. Elliott and Nikolai Khabibulin, who is also carrying a 13-game losing streak, will go head-to-head for a chance to celebrate a win for the first time in over six weeks. Two goalies riding 13-game losing streaks has to be a record, but I wasn’t able to get confirmation from the Elias Sports Bureau. (Hopefully we can get an answer later)

Shawn Horcoff has bronchitis and won’t play today. It looks like JF Jacques will take his spot on the roster, and we won’t know what the lines are until warm up, because there was no morning skate today. I really don’t think line combinations matter much at this point. If the Oilers PP can’t get going they might only win five games down the stretch. They need to find a way to score a goal or two with the man advantage if they want to win.

WHAT CAN YOU SAY?

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Noon starts in Edmonton are as rare as human candy cane outfits, and most likely just as gaudy. The Oilers have had one home noon start in their history, a loss to Nashville, so they will try to even their noon record today. I expect the Oilers to win, and also say goodbye to finishing in last place. The Sens will be gutted before the end of the month, and down the stretch there is no way the Oilers can possibly match Ottawa’s futility. Oilers win 4-2 and will need some lottery luck if they want the first pick.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: It won’t be a pretty game, but Taylor Hall will pot a pair of goals and Senator fans will all be clamouring, "It’s okay to be brutal, because we’ll get a chance to draft our own Taylor Hall in June."

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite the noon start, beer sales will be flowing like it is Saturday night. Most of you won’t be able to pace yourself and at around 11 p.m. this evening many bars will see a higher than usual exodus. Remember boys and girls pace yourselves. Hockey Day in Canada is a marathon and not a sprint, and for every two beers on this unofficial national holiday have a glass of water.

Best of luck to Lowetide and his debut of NATION RADIO today at noon on Edmonton Sports Radio, TEAM 1260. I’m looking forward to some great radio every Saturday at noon.

  • It is my understanding that the Oilers decided to play Khabby knowing that this is going to be a race to 30th place and they couldnt afford to take the two points in tonight’s game.

    Also, I hate Weekes almost as much as I hate Cassie Campbell. Almost. How many times has he been set up to talk about Khabibulin’s struggles? At least 3 or 4. You dont hire a fracking goalie to do you colour if he isnt willing to talk about goaltending woes.

    Terrible.

  • Jodes

    Man, I fell bad for the guy who dropped 2g’s on the Team 1260’s skybox for six. Great that he donated it to charity, but to pay that and see the craptacular performance this afternoon, that has to suck.

    Hopefully though him and his 5 friends/family, etc still managed to have a great time.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I didn’t watch the game so I don’t know, but whats with all the pessimists??

      We are at least a good peewee team…but I wouldn’t want to see us up against a decent bantam team….they would crush us

    • Jodes

      Well according to Kevin Lowe, thats going to be in another 4-6 years!

      I can’t see this team making the playoffs for at least another 3 years..

      Now the question is, Calgary went 7 years without the playoffs, will their still be enough fan base left for the Oilers if they go 7 or longer?

      • jaicee

        Of course there will be a strong enough fan base! We are NOT Flames fans, and never will be.

        Regardless of another 3 years without playoffs… we are still true orange and blue!

        • Jodes

          Well we’ve seen Edmonton fans become fickle before, I’m not saying its going to happen, I just really hope that we don’t have a repeat of the mid 90s when there were 9000 a game for most nights.

          I know that Taylor Hall’s not going to let it happen, but what about our management? How many more years can you honestly stand watching our PK and our PP be worst overall, our F/O % pittiful at best and management year after year ignoring it?

          Or bringing in players that are injury prone or are soft?

          Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the kids, but until management steps up and brings in some REAL talent to help these guys along, we’re going to see more games like this afternoon’s.

      • Jodes

        I am a pretty optimistic dude but if I have wait even three more years before a playoff push is a reality…

        If they are not at least in the thick of things next year at this time (10th place or so) Tambellinii better be shown the door.

        It has been said before but this summer and even this trade deadline is going to make or break his tenure as the Oilers GM. At the very least it should.

        After this year the Oilers have two years not to match Calgary and their 7 years without the playoffs. Will not happen. Taylor Hall will not let it happen. The Oilers will never be the Flames. Some things never change.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    i just finished watching the game(PVR) can somebody ANYBODY play on the freakin pp!! my god thats been the downfall of the Oilers all damn year!

    *SIDENOTE* kinda like that previous post’s rumor of Horcoff Gagner and Smid for Spezza, as much as Id hate to see Samwise and Smid go bringing in Spezza would be great! At least HE can win draws and HELP on the PP

    • Horcsky

      I doubt Spezz would help this powerplay very much. It needs wayyyy more than just one player to be helped.

      However, they seem to be moving the puck better on the PP lately, and one would think that would translate to goals. Seems like this team has the same perpetual problem though, lots of passers, but few shooters.

  • Crash

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record….there is only “one” thing wrong with the PP. They move the puck ok, they have enough skill guys on it, they have some decent shooters on it, they work hard at it but….

    What they don’t do that pretty much every other team in the league does is camp at least one guy on top of the blue paint at all times and it wouldn’t hurt to camp two guys there. It’s never going to matter who they have on their PP, it doesn’t matter if they do get Spezza…they spend too much time trying to set up the perfect pretty goal and not enough time just getting traffic at the blue paint and just getting pucks in there from every angle.

    This is what most teams do, especially the good ones and this is the reason that the Oilers don’t score as many goals as other teams and hence end up losing all these close games. This also goes for even strength play, same thing, but the Oilers can’t seem to figure this out.

    There’s way too much analyzing the PP and who should be on it….it’s not who is on it, it’s what they are doing with it….it blows me away that crease presence can’t be coached…there’s something missing there.

    • Chris.

      Crease presence, and effective point shots from both sides of the ice on both PP units. Remember when Lubo and Sheldon patrolled the point? Or better yet Stoll and Pronger. There are some personnel issues at play.

      • Crash

        Their PP wasn’t lighting the world on fire with Souray in there either and back when Stoll was patrolling the point they had a guy by the name of Ryan Smyth who camped his ass right on top of the goaltender at all times. Sure it would be nice to have a couple of more skilled d-men but even then the PP would struggle the way it’s run now.

        If they would only create screens, bang rebounds from in close, deflect shots from in close, jam in lose pucks in the crease or even just bank a shot in off a defender who has to come there because of the Oilers being there. They would score more often despite who is on the point.

        The PP shouldn’t always need point shots…the shots can actually come from anywhere….this team has very little crease action, very little….that’s why they pass the puck around so much…they are waiting to set someone up for the can’t miss shot…there’s actually no point in them shooting because the goalie can easily see the shot which leads to an easy save and then a clearing of the puck.

        Just watched Burrows score a PP goal against Calgary, the nucks had at least one guy on top of the goalie at all times and there were actually two there when Burrows scored his goal.

        It’s that simple

        • Chris.

          But the team does need to upgrade along the point… Agreed? In football a good running back opens up passing lanes for a quarterback by forcing the defenders to respect the run. Simmularly, good point men on a hockey PP unit draw defenders up to protect the shooting lanes creating more time and space for the forwards down low. Besides… Having forwards battling in the blue paint is pointess if good hard shots aren’t arriving on net from all areas high and low.

          • Crash

            Agreed that the team does need to upgrade along the point, but more for defensive purposes than offensive, other than maybe having guys that can move the puck out of the zone better (which I guess is both good defense and offense).

            And good hard point shots are not required. All that’s required is getting the puck to the net, whether it’s a good hard shot or just a simple soft wrist shot or even just sliding the puck into the crease from the corner of the rink or behind the net.

            The last thing that is pointless is having forwards battling in the blue paint. Did you happen to catch the 5 goals scored in the Flames/Canucks game? All due to down low play and just getting shots thru. Rebound goals and screens on every freakin Vancouver goal so far.

            Craig Simpson even just mentioned the net presence after the 3rd Canuck goal. And, now as they go to commercial Jim Hughson says, shot and a rebound, best play in hockey. Problem is the Oilers don’t seem to know this or actually they do know this cuz they talk about it all the time….they just choose to not do it.

          • Chris.

            You act like I disagree with your assertion that a better crease presence is required… I totally agree. I want a net presence. I want a more battle. I also would like to see more size and agresssion in the top six to help facilitate this. I just think you are making light of the importance of good hard point shots. There is more than just one problem with the powerplay. Just my opinion.

          • Crash

            I’m all for more size…did you mean in the bottom six? I think our top six isn’t going to change much but our bottom six could. I sure hope it does and yes a d-man or two would be nice too.

            And truly, I’m not making light of anything…good hard point shots are great but shots of any kind will work as long as there is net presence. Even good hard point shots don’t accomplish much without net presence. All a good hard point shot leads to without net presence is a good old fashioned turnover.

            Just my opinion too and I’m also not talking about just the PP….even strength is the same problem

          • Chris.

            No, I mean more size in the top six as well. Some of this will naturally happen over time when Hall and Pajaarvi grow and fill out their frame, or maybe Stu will supply another big body via the draft if they choose Couturier (don’t know)… Or maybe Hemsky will be moved for a younger player with more size… One thing I am sure of: the coaches are begging this group to attack the blue paint; so some of the ongoing problems are a function of the personnel. You can’t coach a player like O’Sullivan to drive the net, but you can’t stop a player like Hall from running his face into the crossbar… There will be more changes in the top six before Stanley comes to town: and I’m hoping for a size and aggression upgrade over time. I want players who want to live in the blue paint; I want it to come natural to them.

  • Net presence is also a problem in our own end. I’m not going to pretend to be a genius of anything (no one pays me to give hockey advice) but when two of their forwards are between our goalie and our defensemen (in fact our defensemen are just staring at the puck like novice players) it makes the goalies job near impossible. I’m actually embarrassed watching that, I dont know how they’re not.

  • Chris.

    Lowe better be posturing in his assessmenst of the team to ease up trades.

    If he actually believes that it will take 4-6 years, or is laying ground cover for more of this train-wreck hockey – I can’t even finish the thought – it hurts too much.

    The Oilers are very close to being a playoff team, maybe not a Cup winner. Has this disaster gone on so long that we fans have been conditioned to think it’s some kind of miraculous event to be a playoff team?

    It isn’t. Only poorly run franchises stay out of them. Any GM worth anything can shackle a team of UFA’s together and see the post season. Even Lowe did it. Perhaps sometimes you miss a year. Always being bad is the definition of incompetence.

    The only tough part is going deep. And doing it every year, each decade.

    4-6 players changed out, we’re in. What is missing to be in the playoffs are role players, the cheapest and easiest to get. We have the skill, 4 decent D, and Dubnyk is good enough.

    As for being elite, it always comes back to #1 C and #1 D – definitely difficult, but if they don’t think they can get the pieces in place, they shouldn’t have their jobs.

    The sign of competence is forward progress. There was a slight purge last year, but any more stagnation after what the fans have already been through (since the 90’s) isn’t acceptable.

    Having patience for development is not the same thing as condoning inaction due to fear, indecision or lack of ability.