The Edmonton Oilers used to feast on the Minnesota North Stars. Over 14 seasons the Oilers were 27-7-11, but once they dropped the North, relocated to Dallas for the 1993/1994 season and became the Stars, they have owned the Oilers.
The Stars are 54-13-4-2 v. the Oilers since moving to Dallas. If you add in the playoffs, 23-10, they are a ridiculous 77-23-4-2 all-time against Edmonton. That is not typo.
Nine different Oiler head coaches have witnessed their team get dominated by the Stars over the past 18 1/3 seasons, so Ralph Krueger will be in tough to try and change this one-sided series.
The Oilers are the only western conference team that Glen Gulutzan, 5-0, has yet to lose against, and he’ll try to continue that streak tonight.
The Stars have kept their supremacy over the Oilers through five different head coaches and numerous players. From Mike Modano, Ed Belfour and Sergei Zubov to today’s group of Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen it doesn’t seem to matter who plays for Dallas the Stars usually win.
The Stars enter Rexall on a three-game winning streak, and Benn is starting to heat up with four goals in those three victories. Jaromir Jagr scored his NHL-best 17th OT winner last Wednesday in Edmonton and after that game he said, "If you skate with them (Oilers) they will beat you, so you have to beat them along the boards."
Krueger should take that quote and show it to his players and then Steve Tambellini should also read it because it is clear how you beat the Oilers. Don’t play run and gun with them. The Oilers have yet to figure out that they won’t be able to carry the puck into the zone on every shift.
The Oilers are 3-for-23 on the powerplay since Shawn Horcoff broke his knuckle, and a big reason for that is their unwillingness to dump and chase the puck with the man advantage. They have continually turned the puck over at the blueline, because they won’t chip and chase it.
If the Oilers are going to string together some wins during this five-game home stand they need to be willing to alter their game. They’ve only scored eight goals five-on-five so far this season, and unless that changes in the next quarter they could find themselves six or seven points out of the playoffs at the halfway mark of the season.
The Oilers need to start winning some one-on-one battles, and stop trying to play pretty, fancy hockey all the time. There is no doubt they have lots of skill in their top-two lines, but when you aren’t producing highlight reel goals, you have to be able to produce some garbage ones, and so far this season the Oilers haven’t shown the willingness to get their nose dirty.
That needs to start tonight if they hope to beat the Stars.
Chris Vande Velde wasn’t at the morning skate, but he will play tonight and Ryan Smyth will take a seat in the pressbox for the first time as an Oiler since Ron Low made him a healthy scratch.
Smyth is a very emotional player and he loves the game, and he took the news very hard. He politely declined comment, but said he will speak tomorrow. It really doesn’t matter what he says, because we should all understand that he isn’t happy with the decision.
Kreuger isn’t afraid to bench a player, rookie or veteran, and whether players like the decision or not, they will respect a coach who isn’t afraid to make a tough decision. Krueger did hint that the schedule was a factor, and with the Oilers not playing again until Saturday giving Smyth the night off allows him five days rest between games.
I’d suggest it is way too early to write Smyth off. I’m amazed at how many people are suggesting he is finished as a player. Guys have slumps, players get off to slow starts, and while Smyth won’t be the player he was ten years ago, it is way to premature to suggest he’s no longer an NHLer.
- Jaromir Jagr is still a force in the NHL. He is 8th on the all-time points list with 1,653 and his work ethic is a major reason why. "I always felt when I was tired I should work a lot harder. I think tired is just in your mind. I’d rather feel strong and tired than rested and weak," Jagr told me when I asked about his training regime.
- If I was Steve Tambellini I’d look very hard at signing Jagr this summer. Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux raved about what they learned from his last season and Jamie Benn has already said the same this year.
- I asked Jagr about being a mentor and what he tries to teach the young offensive stars that he plays with.
"There not many players, maybe Gretzky and Lemieux, who were born to be great players and didn’t have to watch anyone else. I think you always have to learn and watch older players. Maybe they (Gretzky and Lemieux) did, but they were great at a young age. If you don’t listen to anybody and just do it your way, you will find out that you might get it but probably too late in your career. That is why I try to help those guys. What I’ve learned during my hockey career, those little details, I can tell them right away so they can learn at 22 and not have to wait another ten or fifteen years."
Are you telling me Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Hemsky, Paajarvi and Yakupov couldn’t learn a few things from Jagr. I would seriously look at a one-year contract with Jagr.
- Ryan Whitney will also sit tonight, and it should come as no surprisine that he is frustrated. I don’t understand why people call players whiners when they state they are frustrated and want to play. Do you think the player is happy about not playing? Talking about it doesn’t make them a whiner. Far from it.
"I’m very frustrated. I want to play. We got outshot 40-14 and I’m not playing, so I think that shows where their thought on me is. I don’t really know what to say. He (Krueger) did say he wants to talk to me today, so I’m going to ask him what it takes to get back in the lineup," Whitney said regarding his second straight game in the pressbox.
- "He doesn’t care. He wants to win. Whatever he thinks the best lineup for him to win is, is the one he is going to play. When I got scratched the first time against Vancouver he said those are the six D that gives us the best chance to win. I don’t think he cares who you are. I just need to play better when I get a chance," Whitney said honestly when asked about Krueger’s willingness to bench veterans.
- Whitney sitting out two straight games will have many wondering how long he remains in Edmonton. It seems likely that he will get moved at some point and Whitney didn’t avoid the question when he was asked if his future in Edmonton was solid. "I would have to say that right now it’s not looking that way. They are paying me a lot of money and I’m not playing. I like it here a lot. I like the guys and I like playing here, but I don’t think they necessarily like me right now. I’d like to play. I’m just frustrated. I will not ask for a trade and it’s not my place to ask. If anything they’d be looking to do it. Why would they pay me this much to just not play," said a very candid Whitney.
- Before you get too concerned about Eberle’s goal scoring woes keep in mind he only had three goals in the first 16 games last year. He had three goals on 34 shots for a 9.1SH%. This year he has three goals in 12 games, and he is confident that once he scores one they will come in bunches.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Stars domination over the Oilers continues with a 2-1 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The comment section regarding Smyth and Whitney will be more entertaining than the actual game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Last night Jaromir Jagr went to Strudwick’s house for dinner. After sharing a few stories of their days in New York when Jagr was Strudwick’s personal stick maker for six weeks (true story), they play NHL 13. They had a friendly wager on the game which resulted in a stunning Strudwick victory. In the post-game scrum Jagr honors his bet when asked about his game-winning goal.
"I learned that move from an old teammate of mine in New York. Jason Strudwick didn’t score many goals, but he actually had really good hands. I used to watch him use that move in practice over and over, and I have to thank him for making me try it tonight."
Jagr’s game winner didn’t even come off his stick. He crossed centre and dumped the puck in. It bounced off the end boards into the low slot and ricocheted off Corey Potter’s skate into the net. Jagr was completely straight-faced during his post-game scrum when he honoured his bet to mention Strudwick.