It is hard being an Oiler fan right now. The Oilers are 8-20-2 in their last 30, after going 8-3-2 in their first 13 games. In fact, the last 21 games have been even worse at 4-15-2 since November 26th. I understand the frustration, and appreciate the passion of the fans. I took the night off of twitter on Friday, but yesterday I logged in and was welcomed by numerous tweets from frustrated fans.
I’m guessing many of you felt the same way during Friday’s game. Reading my timeline reminded me why I love sports. The raw emotion is incredible. It also reminded me that I’m lucky to have a sports show in a city that cares. Here’s a few of the tweets from Friday.
Zero chance to get Price. They traded Halak because they wanted Price as their goalie of the future. You might have a shot, albeit slight, to get Rask out of Boston. Rask is playing more this year, and I’m sure the Bruins have told him he’ll be their guy of the future, but unless he asks for a trade I’m not sure why Chiarelli would move him. Thomas turns 38 in April, how many more years can he stay as an elite goalie? One or two at the most, I would think.
Not sure if you heard Beauchemin after the game. He said when Gagner asked him to go that he said to the former 6th overall pick, "Are you sure?" And after the fight Beauchemin basically said, "Good fight considering you aren’t a guy who fights very often." Beauchemin is tough, and I credit Gagner for stepping up. He clearly didn’t know Beauchemin was a south paw and he ate a few. The Oilers could have jumped him, but if Gagner was the initiator what did Beauchemin really do wrong. He even asked the kid if he was sure. Of course the optics weren’t good and someone bigger should have done something, but the Oilers aren’t blessed with an overabundance of physical forwards. I’m more worried about the overall message. Are the physical guys fed up with their coach? I’ll be watching how they respond in the coming weeks.
LOOKING AHEAD TO TONIGHT
I was excited to hear what Dean Lombardi was going to say when he arrived in Edmonton this week, but he ruined that by apologizing on the Mark Spector Show on TEAM 1260 that he was sorry for his outburst regarding the Ryan Smyth/Colin Fraser trade. When it rains, it pours in Oilersnation.
The Oilers can’t win and just when you think we’ll have some exciting off-ice controversy Lombardi decides to play all nice. Oh well, thankfully Dustin Penner has a sense of humour and I’m sure he made your pancakes much more entertaining this morning. Hopefully none of you suffered from S.O.B.S while eating.
The Kings are finally playing up to their potential, and they are 7-1-4 since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach. After struggling all season to find their offence, it looks like they’ve found it with 13 goals in their last three games. That’s not good news for the Oilers, who have two goals in their last three games.
With Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of the lineup, the Oilers only goal scoring threat is Taylor Hall.
Hall has 5 goals in his last 8 games.
Gagner has 4 in his last 15.
Eager has 4 in 16.
Jones has 3 in 17.
Smyth has 3 in 21.
Horcoff has 1 in 21.
Hemsky has 1 in 15.
Belanger has 1 in 43.
Lander has 1 in 39.
Paajarvi has 0 in 27.
Hordichuk has 0 in 18.
Until some guys start scoring the Oilers aren’t going to scare anyone, but at least they have to put forth an effort, which didn’t happen on Friday.
In the past week I’m noticed some media and bloggers have jumped on the "He was a bad signing," brigade. Interesting to note that none of these people wrote that Eric Belanger or Ben Eager were awful signings in the summer. Let’s look at this objectively for a second.
Belanger was signed because he was good in the faceoff, a decent PKer and could chip in offensively. He has been very good on faceoffs, 57.4%, solid on the PK, but horrendous offensively. Tell me why anyone would have thought he’d be this bad offensively. There were no signs that he would handle the puck like it was a grenade. Here’s his last eight years, starting from last year.
He hasn’t dipped the past few years, in fact his point totals increased slightly. No one could have predicted he’d be this bad, so saying he was a bad signing is wrong. He’s been bad, but the signing wasn’t. He hasn’t produced, and for some strange reason Renney continues to play him too many minutes. Rip on how he has been used, rip on Belanger for not performing, but saying it was the wrong signing is cherry-picking in my opinion.
When Cam Barker was signed, some people raised an eyebrow due to his injury history and because his game was trending downwards. For those who questioned it then, it is completely fair and accurate to question it now. Belanger isn’t in the category. He’s flat out played awful. Blame him. He’s been given ample opportunity to produce, but he hasn’t.
Nothing in the last eight years, or even recent history, would point to him being this dismal offensively. So far the signing hasn’t worked out, but that doesn’t mean it was bad at the time. In this case I think the player has to take most of the blame, because he hasn’t come close to being the player he was for the past eight years.
EAGER IS A BIT DIFFERENT
Eager is in a bit of a different boat. He got off to a bad start, concussion, and when he returned to the lineup he was hesitant to engage. It seems that Renney still holds Eager’s slow start against him. Eager has been the 3rd most productive Oiler (who is healthy), goal wise, in the last 16 games, but he can’t seem to get a regular spot on the 3rd line. I know Eager wasn’t brought here to score, he was supposed to bring some energy, and he hasn’t done it consistently enough, but considering how no one else is scoring you can make the argument he deserves to play as much as anyone on the 3rd line.
I keep hearing how people think he should be fighting more. Eager has averaged 8 1/2 fights/year for the past four years. Fighting is down 25% across the league this year, so if you take into account the dip in fights across the league, he should have six by the end of the year. So if he had three at this point, he’d be more effective? I don’t think so. He needs to be more of a physical presence, but he also needs to get some playing time.
Eager has more goals than the third line has combined, 4-2. Eager isn’t a game breaker, but lately he’s been better and at least he’s shown an ability to score a goal once every four games. What message is the coach sending if guys who produce, in limited minutes, will never get more minutes, yet guys who don’t produce, will continue to play no matter what?
Eager was signed to bring some grit and toughness, but also because he can play the game. He isn’t a goon who just fights, he’s never been that player. He skates well enough that he could play on a 3rd line in Edmonton, especially when the 3rd line is producing nothing.
Not going after Beauchemin on Friday when the score was out of reach was completely unacceptable on his part, it was disgraceful to be honest, and he needs to realize that he has to be a protector at times, but Renney needs to realize that Eager can add something, and right now he should be on the 3rd line with Lander in the middle and Paajarvi on the wing.
The coach and the player are both to blame in this case. Eager has been effective, but even when he is Renney doesn’t seem to reward him. The player needs to be more effective, but the coach needs acknowledge when he is playing well and give him some more minutes.
As for signing him, at the time I recall most people were a bit concerned about the length, rather than the dollars or the player. That’s fair, but something has to give with Eager and Renney. Player needs to play harder for him, and the coach needs to reward him when he does.
The Oilers didn’t skate this morning, but Devan Dubnyk will likely get the start. The only other possible change will be to dress Darcy Hordichuk. After Friday’s lack of push back, Renney could dress him.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: This is their 3rd straight game playing a team on the back end of a back-to-back, but I suspect the same result. The Oilers will at least give a solid effort tonight, but barring a surprise, I don’t see them scoring enough to win. 3-1 Kings win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gene Principe will have a stack of pancakes in his opening. If Geno doesn’t have a pancake prop I’ll be disappointed.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The crowd will be surly tonight. Friday’s performance combined with this sudden cold snap, -20 and getting colder, will have the fans on edge. Unless the Oilers get off to a good start, the boo birds will be out early and often.
Also if you LIKE The Jason Gregor Show Page on Facebook you could win tics to the Oilers/Flames game next Saturday. We’ll give those away on the page this week, and some other prizes.