GDB 11.0: SHUFFLE THE DECK

Teemu Hartikainen will get a promotion today when the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings, if Ralph Krueger sticks with the lines he used at practice yesterday.

Krueger shuffled his lines after they produced only nine even strength goals in the first ten games of the season. The Oilers are last in ES goals, and that’s the main reason they’ve lost four in a row.

Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Hartikainen-RNH-Eberle
Yakupov-Smyth-Paajarvi
Eager-Vande Velde-Petrell

Yesterday Krueger had Belanger between 91 and 64 while Smyth was in the middle on the fourth line, but Belanger is not eligible to return from the IR until tomorrow, so I expect Smyth to be in the middle on the third line and Vande Velde to skate on the fourth line.

Krueger had no choice but to juggle his lines. You can’t win in the NHL if you can’t score at ES, and the Oilers have struggled at ES for the past three seasons. They were 22nd in ES goals in 2012, 28th in 2011 and 20th in 2010. 

He might just keep the top two lines the same though.

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
Paajarvi-Vande Velde-Hartikainen
Eager-Smyth-Petrell

The reality is that until the Oilers have enough players willing to score from the tough areas, they will struggle producing. The Oilers have loads of offensive skill, but you can’t expect to win scoring only pretty goals. They need some garbage goals, and I’m not sure line juggling will guarantee that if the players don’t alter their strategy in the offensive zone.

N. Schultz-J.Schultz
Smid-Petry
Whitney-Potter

I’d play Fistric and Whitney ahead of Potter at this point. Fistric gives you a physical presence on the backend and he’s solid on the PK, while I still feel Whitney, even if he’s struggling can give you more than Potter.

That being said I expect Fistric to be in the pressbox today. His back might still be a bit tight, and the Oilers will go with puck movers against Detroit.

Dubnyk/Khabibulin

Dubnyk has been great so far this season so the obvious choice would be to play him, but the Oilers have lost four in a row and I wonder if Krueger goes with Khabibulin todaY.

The Oilers are 1-6-1 in their last eight visits to Detroit, but Dubnyk is 2-0-1 in his career v. the Wings. During his only start in Detroit he stopped 42 of 44 shots in an OT loss in 2011.

Khabibulin has lost his last six v. the Wings and is 1-6 all-time v. Detroit as an Oiler.

I’d start Dubnyk, but I won’t be surprised if Krueger goes with Khabibulin today due to a four game losing streak and goes with Dubnyk tomorrow.

QUICK HITS

  • Ryan Jones is getting very close to playing. The Oilers could use some of his greasy goals, and his willingness to go to the net. When he is activated I’m guessing the Oilers will waive Darcy Hordichuk. Krueger won’t play him, so there is no point keeping him.
     
  • The Wings blueline isn’t great and the Oilers should be able to create some quality chances this afternoon, especially the Hall/Gagner/Hemsky line. Hall and Hemsky have been excellent off the rush this year, and I’m curious to see how they will work together.
     
  • I’m also curious to see Yakupov play with Paajarvi. Yakupov knows he has to shoot more, and with Paajarvi not a threat to shoot we should see 64 unload his heavy shot more often.
     
  • Shameless plug….I’ll be calling the Edmonton Rush/Calgary Roughnecks game tonight at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet One. Tune in.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Wings aren’t the dominant team we’ve been accustomed to watching for the past ten years, and the Oilers pull off a 3-2 upset.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall, Gagner and Hemsky will be the Oilers best line and they’ll produce two ES goals. Pavel Datsyuk also has a strong game including a sick dangle in the second period that will be on every highlight reel this evening.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The usually calm, cool and collected Tom Renney, will get into a verbal sparring match with Ben Eager during the second period. We won’t be able to hear or lip-read what was said, but Renney will point to his head a few times and give the thumbs down. Suggesting Eager isn’t that bright. Eager will be fired up and score the eventual game winner. After the game, Krueger will devise a plan that gets his players arguing with the opposing bench on a daily basis.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • bazmagoo

    Team just looks too young to me, doubtful they make the playoffs. But as others have said, this season is a step in the right direction. I’d be happy if they finished 10th in the west as it would represent a large improvement over the last 3 seasons.

    As it stands right now, they are relying too much on our goal tending which so far has been great. Too many errors happening too frequently. Hall taking that penalty while in the Wings zone while on a power play was a pretty poor play, but if that boy finds another level he could be a superstar. Eberle is slumping right now, be interesting to see how long it takes him to break out of it. RNH isn’t playing all that well on offense, but his defensive play is stellar. Yakupov looks like a 19 year old rookie, which of course he is. Schultz has been amazing, would put money on him breaking our Calder slump, as long as he avoids injury I think he takes it. Can’t understand why Hartikainen isn’t playing on the 1st PP when Horcoff is in the lineup, maybe they have Horcoff out there to win the faceoff? Harti in front of the net looked awesome today.

    Next season is when the Oilers will break out and make the playoffs in my opinion. I’ve been patient, and can wait another season. Hopefully they stay the course and don’t make any rash decisions. Goilers!

  • Reg Dunlop

    Tamblow has to be one of the worst GMs in history. I firmly believe his plan is to pick 1st overall for 15 straight years and then take a run at 8th place in 2025-2026 all while playing solitaire.

    With the amount of talent on this team there is no way we should be a bottom 10 team in the league, but here we go again, can’t stop long losing streaks.

    You start to wonder if this team can ever be respectable again, let alone a good one.

    Would those 15 #1 overall picks, the great Jason Garrison and Kyle wellwood, and Scotty bowman behind the bench even be able to???

    I wonder.

    My head hurts.

  • bwar

    Always one year away… To me the long term question for this squad is “Can RNH be a first line center?” There is no doubt that RNH has talent but with all the issue we are having in the faceoff circle should we maybe start looking at other solutions? And no this isn’t me saying we should trade him but just asking what our long term solution for this problem is going to be.

    • Bonvie

      I believe RNH is too small to play the center position. The Oilers once had a small center like him from Brantford that they picked up from Indianapolis. As time would tell the Oilers found you just can’t win without size at center. Many critics told the Oilers that this kid was too small and would not be able to handle the defensive side of the game and the checking of the other teams top forwards, but the Oilers did not listen. This player was even smaller that RNH, and he too struggled winning faceoffs against these other big strong centers on every other team. Eventually the Oilers realized that the critics were right that you can’t win without having size at center, but for them it was too late as they signed a 20 year contract with this undersized pivot.

      • Citizen David

        You know that Nuge is 6’1 right? He’ll take a few years to fill out but to say he’s too small to play center is ridiculous. Haven’t you noticed that he already is showing some good defensive skills? And face offs is a skill people can improve at. He’s nineteen years old. Each year he’ll get heavier and stronger and better. But he’s got plenty of size.

  • Oh how I love reading the manic depressive roller coaster hysteria from the oiler fanboys. From over hyping a prospect one moment (last year Teubert, this year Hartikainen)…to calling for everyones head the next day after a loss.

    You always keep me coming back for more.

  • bazmagoo

    Obviously we are built for international ice size , not the NHL closet size rinks . Even Kreuger has them playing that way with not much more luck than the Swiss team had .

    Face it – we are still not as good as we were the year before Tams tore up the team . Certainly more entertaining , but not big and tough enough to compete in the upsizing NHL . Looks like it is back to the drawing board and many years before we become a force again .

    The drive for five and just barely still alive in playoff race . Cutesy hockey is entertaining but sours with constant losing as all other clubs are rounding into form and leaving us behind again .

    I,m getting really frustrated withj a majority of our players getting so easily pushed off the puck and constantly (repetitively ) losing most puck battles . Our players fein from board play and most are useless at it any way . 3 years down the road lets hope some develop some useable mettle .

  • bazmagoo

    The oldest player in our core group is 22, if you include Ebs, RNH, Hall, Yak, and Schultz as a core top 5 players. Check out the stats of the Sedin sisters when they were 22.

    Everyone needs to relax and not lose sight of the overall goal. The overall goal is to be consistently competitive, not once every 10 years. We are already more competitive then we were over the last 3 seasons, how many 1 goal games have we lost? And how much better is our defense this year? Man that is pretty much night and day so far except for our 3rd pairing, the top 2 pairings are playing great!

  • Reg Dunlop

    My problem this season stems from my expectations. I really hoped that the oil’s youth and enthusiasm would lead to wins and a playoff berth. The reality is that the last 3 first over-alls occured in average to weak drafts. Brian Burke said ‘They won a GD lottery and got the best player in the game’. He was not talking about the oil. Taylor Hall has million dollar wheels, 50 dollar hands and 5 cent hockey IQ. RNH is just a kid, hopefully he stays healthy enough to enjoy a long career. Yak is also a kid so who knows what he will become. One thing is certain, none of them appears to have the Crosby-like ability to make others around them better.

    Confucius said “You would be wise not to expect too much from the Oilers”. Sage advice.

    • Oilertown

      No offence but I think you are way off on that comment every single one of those players has the ability to make players better except maybe Ebs but he has other attributes I will take on my team anyday CLUTCH.

  • 106 and 106

    Shoot – and I was so excited telling everyone it was February and we were still in the playoff picture…

    11th isn’t nearly as fun, especially with *ugh* Calgary in 12th.

    The injury bug, like last year is taking hold and exposing us for all it’s worth.

    TAMBO, anytime now bud. Unless Seth is looking like the answer.

  • Citizen David

    Sidney Crosby is 5’11 Wayne Gretzky was 6’0. People need to stop being so into ‘size’. A player doen’t have to be 6’4 to be good. And anytime the oilers acquire a player with size you all hate on them.

  • Smytty's Jibs

    We need trades,Hall,Eberle,yaks,rnh,smid,petry,klefbom and Shultz are untouchable,but everyone else should be available!a package of mucil,plante,mps first and 2nd round draft picks should be made availble to add team strenth and take some pressure off the kids.as far as a big center anyone remember Peca in 06?we need to change the dynamic of this team quick to start being a force in the west!what would it take to get tavares out of long island?would a first round pick,whitney and lander get it done?where is Arnott playing for short term help?one thing for sure when jones can come back it will add some character to this team,a line of eager,jones and lander perhaps?

  • Oilertown

    go flames!or canucks,or montreal or winnipeg or the leafs,its embarressing to watch the oil year after year same thing,tamblowe should be shot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!