The dirty work



It seems like after the game against the Anaheim Ducks, Ben Eager has been a lightening rod for Oilers fans and media alike. They are frustrated with his response to Francois Beauchemin after Beauchemin obliged Sam Gagner with a fight.

I am not disappointed with Eager at all for his response.

It is great that Gagner took on Beauchemin knowing it might get a little bumpy. We all admire the guts it takes to do that, most players never do. It shows he cares about his teammates and that he is trying to get a spark going for the club.

Enter Ben Eager…

Later in the game he asks Beauchemin to fight and I bet Beauchemin said "why should I? He came after me".

Fair point.

So what are Eager’s choices? Jump him and have Beauchemin turn away and just wait for the ref to jump in or do nothing? Neither one is a great choice but I have no problem with him doing nothing. Jumping Beauchemin only makes him look like a goon and probably not a punch would have been landed. In today’s NHL if a player doesn’t want to fight he says no.

Before the lockout I can’t remember another player telling me no or me turning down a fight. That was just the way it was. If the score got too one-sided or if a good player got roughed up all the guys who could fight made sure their jerseys were tied down before the next shift. There were many more fighters on each team and there was a gentlemen’s agreement between them.

I knew that I was expected to respond. If we got down too many goals, I would go looking for a way to change the game with a fight. The flip side of that equation is if we got up by a few, I had to give a player on the other team a chance to do the job that his coach expected him to preform. That was the agreement.

The smaller pool of fighters today makes it harder to respond to a big hit or to try to create a change in momentum. With the smaller pool why does it only have to be a player like Eager who responds, especially if he can’t find a willing partner? There are eighteen skaters on a team. Could a Josh Green challenge a Sheldon Brookbank? Petry vs Lydman? Belanger vs Blake? I am not picking on these 3 Oilers, they are simply used as examples.

These are all reasonable match-ups which would give a positive response to the Gagner fight. It would tell the Ducks that the Oilers are in this together. Players like Eager are more than willing to do the dirty work but more and more their hands will be tied by the rules and lack of willing dance partners.

It is going to fall on the guys who never usually get black eyes to put themselves into that fire and stand up for their team.

  • Aitch

    The silliest I heard was people that Gagner answered the bell and not Eager. Some folks really need to realize that you can’t start a fight from the bench.

    On the Gagner-Hall-Hemsky line, Gags is the tough guy. Good on ’em.

    • 24% body fat

      While I agree with what your saying, I don’t think people intended to be just focused on Eager. I think they were trying to point out that all the guys who should be playing rough and getting into fights aren’t doing anything. Peckham hasn’t played great this year and I would rather see him sitting for 5 mins than Gags same with Teubert, Eager, Hordi, O’Marra even a Jones fight would be alright. I think the biggest thing that Gags’s fights have shown is that he is a team player. While some others on the team are disinterested especially the response the team gave afterwards.

      I have to wonder will we ever see MPS get mad? Does he have the Penner syndrome, his play goes off the charts when hes pissed.

      On another note I was very pleased to hear Renny’s comments following the game. No sugar coating and he said it with passion, or at least Renny’s version of passion. I’ve been waiting for that all season and I think he needs to do it some more. Look at the response it got from the team.

  • smiliegirl15

    Why would you ask one of them to fight ? The thing I can never understand is why we never take runs at thier good players. We always have players taking huge runs at hall , eberle , nuge, and hemsky . When was the last time you remember one of our guys doing the same thing after they did it to us ? To me a physical response doesn’t have to be a fight but renney could have sent out the meat after the gagner fight against thier top line eager, sutton, peckham, and whoever else ……………. Then go to town and let hell break loose…………send a message,and make them fight you.
    Maybe I’m just different but I would never let a friend or team mate take a thumping and not do anything about. At the very least I’m making the rest of that game a tough one and one they can’t wait to have end.
    I do agree that eager couldn’t have just started punching beauchamin in the face , it would have been retarded.You dont always have to send a message with your fists, shoulders work just fine.

  • The fact that Gagner fought shows he provides more to this team than just offense instincts. He’s been in a few tussles now and seems to hold his own, even when outgunned. I really like that kid, I hope we don’t trade him.

    Enter Gagner trade discussions (really I don’t want to hear your opinion on whether to trade him or not)…let’s face it though…we need to have depth on the team, and Gagner is as good a RNH replacement we have, and he’s performing admirably.

  • The questions that I’d like to ask have a personal element that I’d like to state before hand. Last winter my 16 year old cousin, who was both a straight A student and a top line player on his AA team, tried to stand up for a teammate by fighting a larger opponent and suffered a severe concussion. He has not played hockey since, and only returned to school last week after missing almost a whole year due to the symptoms. Depression has been a serious challenge for him.

    I believe that by allowing fighting to continue in the NHL, the culture is spread down through amateur leagues by the example that the top professionals set. Many kids still think that – despite the rules that are in place the minor leagues – it is something they must do “when the situation arises”.

    So here are my questions: In your experience, do NHL players ever consider the impact that fighting has on the broader culture of hockey? Also, at what age do you think that youth should start learning to fight at the rink? I don’t mean to ask about what level they should be allowed to start, as it is clear that kids will fight despite the rules, but rather at what age would you recommend that they begin to drop the gloves and take matters into their own hands?

    • Jason Strudwick

      Simple answer, no fighting for kids. Why should they? Hockey is a fun sport that should be played as such until it gets to a serious level. I would consider junior hockey the starting point for fighting before that it is a waste of time and as your story related it can lead to injury,

      It should be noted I feel the same way about playing hockey or any sport year round. Keep the sport fun and not super serious. It iis very important to get away from hockey in the summer to reboot. It is also a time to play other sports which will help the player become a better athelete and in turn a better hockey player. Even pro hockey players get away from the game after the season and it is their job.

  • smiliegirl15

    Tom Renney makes a lot of head scratching decisions regarding Eager. Does Eager risk being benched even more by starting a fight and getting the instigator penalty?
    Honestly I would give Renney another year here if Tambellini were turfed. One more chance, but that’s it!

  • neojanus

    I agree with Strudwick here as well.

    Ben Eager’s lack of reaction is not a terrible choice given his position with the team.

    He is a player whose role has been changing a little bit — focus on skill, less on agitation. I can’t say I blame him given the results of his attempts to agitate in that game against the Islanders. He failed and was benched for it. The NHL itself has been sending blatant messages that they are punishing players who create turmoil — extra penalty minutes, misconducts. Renney has punished Eager in games for agitating at the wrong moments… it is probably not clear for Eager what are the right moments. Someone else could have easily stepped up for Gagner as well.

    He’s been effective in his limited role so far and does bring some ability to create physical momentum if only because he’s a strong skater. If I’m Eager, I play to work onto the 3rd line ultimately. I’m not saying he can do it, but he’s had more offensive upside than several other players on the team. He has also now proven how fast he is… these are great signs that he has more offense to bring.

    You do need to protect players, but Gagner is working to show that he has grit and has matured as a man in the league. He’s trying to keep himself on the team… OR he’s trying to show how valuable a trade he is. Let him pick his own battles. So he lost a fight — Shmuh… it happens.

  • Spydyr


    So what you are saying is, you would like to see the equivalent of Eager, Hordichuk, and Lander, along with Sutton and Peckham on the ice against Burrows, Sedin (x2), Bieksa and Hamhuis

    As long as you’re ok with us losing a lot of f**king games.

    We’re not losing games because of Beauchemin’s missed hit. Other than Wilson on Hall earlier in the year, there aren’t many examples of injuries (caused by other teams) affecting the Oilers

    RNH, Whitney, Eberle. Could’ve happened to anyone on anyteam.

    To be honest, I like what Gagner did, but he didn’t need to. In hindsight, all his fight accompished was to embarrass his own team (tough guys who didn’t answer the bell)

    • Jason Strudwick

      You dont play that line every shift against thier top line that wouldn’t make sense.
      We are losing enough games as is anyways……….

      I’m not saying we are losing games b/c of missed hits, I’m saying we dont responded physically and we should.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With 2/3rds of the heart of the team out of the lineup, there’s so little left to carry the team. Nothing left but a whole lotta guys, playing out the string who’ve givin up this season, as well as each other. Their play must only confirm this.

    I can understand throwing oneself on a grenade like Gagner did, if it still mattered, but the season was over weeks ago. If anything, Sammy sure has a warped sense of humor doing it when he did. There’s nothing left but a whole lotta hockey that doesn’t matter.

    • Spydyr

      It still matters to a degree. If they don’t go out there and try hard to win games even if they know they aren’t going to make the playoffs then they will end up like the Islanders and losing will be a habit and a locker room culture.

    • Jason Strudwick

      Safe to say you are a glass half empty kind of guy!

      It is fair to be disappointed with the lack of wins. But to suggest that a player sticking up for another means nothing I think you are off base. Teams that don’t care about each other will never win, trust me, I have seen some. Did you watch the new york rangers before the lockout ? Nobody stuck up for anyone. That attitude creeps in and it is very difficult to get rid of.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        The glass is never empty, it has fluids in it, or air, it’s always full of sumfin. I try to think of myself as a realist, living in a bullship free zone.

        The timing of Gagners heroics are what i’m questioning. Why wait till now when the games that matter are over.

        03/04 Rangers, 2009-2013 Oilers, same thing. Most of the rest show they don’t give a rats arse on a nightly basis.

        Lets call a spade a spade here…

        • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

          I used to role the same way – realistically and “bullship free”. But one thing I’ve learned is sometimes you have to make yourself believe in the positive, no matter how unrealistic it may seem.

          You’d be surprised how many “unrealistic” things you can positively affect by approaching them with a can-do attitude.

          Highly competitive level sports are very much affected by this thinking. Look at how important confidence is in an athlete.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I hear what you’re saying.

            We though, aren’t athletes, we’re the ticket buying public, purchasing what appears to me to be a deficient entertainment product most nights. The NHL takes this Edmonton market for granted and the Oilers appear to take the fans support for granted. There are only so many ways to candy coat 3 last place finishes in a row.

            Were we scammed in the early 80’s, was it just dumb luck that put the Oilers there or was there pride and desire to be better on a daily basis back then? Where did all the ambition and pride go?

  • Dan the Man

    I think people are more frustrated with Ben Eager’s season as a whole and not just the Anaheim game.

    I certainly didn’t expect a reaction from him because as has been previously stated it was Gagner who challenged Beauchemin. Beauchemin even double checked with him to make sure he wanted to fight. Beauchemin told Gagner “good fight” afterwards. On top of that, Beauchemin missed his hip check attempt on Hall.

    Gagner is a brave guy and good on him for stepping up for a team mate but getting his face pounded in did nothing for the Oilers in that game.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    minus 26 is the forecast daytime high. About frakin time we got some winter. Was beginning to worry that those Global warming people might be right. Ahhhh winter.Welcome back

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Thanks for this, Struds.

    What do you think of Ryan’s comment (#4)? Looks like people are agreeing with him, and so do I.

    Why aren’t the Oilers pushing the issue? Why aren’t they putting other teams in the same situation Sam, Ben, and the rest of the team was faced with? It really does seem they’re on the receiving end of hits, fights, etc. more often than the other teams.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Where did all the pride and ambition go? It’s never been the same since guys like Messier left. I remember when he fought McSorley and basically said the days of the old Oilers are over deal with us now. Guys like that did’t put up with games like the other night against the Ducks. Somebody on the current roster has to step up before things will change.

  • vetinari

    I respect Gagner for what he did considering he was out of his weight class and his traditional role on the team. I think I’ve seen more development and leadership from Gagner this year than in his first few years and hope we get to see him develop even more with the Oil in the coming years.

    I think the issue with Eager is not just this game in particular, but that it reflects his season in general. I’m not saying that a player HAS to fight (after all, the code’s the code), however, when team toughness was an offseason issue and Eager was one of the additions to expressly fix that problem, I would have thought that by the fourty-something game he would have logged a few more scraps by now, or at the least, been riding shotgun and bringing his physical edge into play.