Step back from the ledge!

As a player I always knew Oiler fans were passionate but now that I am a member of the media I am getting an even deeper understanding of their passion for this team. I get a ton of texts and emails while doing my show. They are full of ideas from trades to line combos. I like getting them but it is hard to fully express passion through texts. That is why I love getting all the phone calls!

Callers are the best!!! After an Oilers game, when I do the post-game show, the real passion comes out. Win or lose, especially lose though, the callers are fired up! I love that interaction. Nearly every caller is expressing the same concern… why are the Oilers not winning more games this year???

The frustration is becoming increasingly clear. Oilers fans expect a playoff team this year. All the skill that has been acquired through the high draft picks and the signing of Justin Schultz should be translating to more wins they feel. I get asked all the time why this team isn’t winning games at a playoff-making rate. Fans want answers.

There are answers as to why more wins have eluded the team. This team is half way through a rebuild so there are still holes through this lineup. Injuries to both Horcoff and Jones have not helped the grit factor for the top three lines. Even strength scoring hasn’t been there so far. These are the most obvious.

Some of these issues will be remedied this year and some won’t. The issue I believe is more with the fans and media then with the team though.

You want to know why the team is losing more? Why are you so frustrated with the start with the Oilers? What can be done for the fans to feel better about it?

I have got an answer for you… Lower your expectations. The bar was set to high for this club.

Step Forward

I will agree that this team is ready to make a step forward. Here are some of the bright spots I have seen this year.

  • Devan Dubnyk is establishing himself as a solid goaltender. There is not one game you can totally pin on him as a loss. He is giving his team a chance to win every night. At this point in his development what more do you want from him?
  • Ralph Krueger is holding players accountable for their play. This is a big step forward for the organization. Gone are the days of players being sent out on the ice regardless of results. The whole team took notice when the two Ryans were sat out. That will pay dividends going forward.
  • The specialty teams are looking strong.
  • Justin Schultz has been good offensively and not hurt the group defensively. I have really been surprised by his poise on the defensive side of the puck.

All these add up to an improved season but does it catapult them into the playoffs?

Is it really reasonable to expect this team to go from 29th place to 16th or better? Last year they had 74 points. The 8th spot in the Western conference was taken by the LA KINGS with 95 points. We are talking about a 21 point improvement that would be needed to jump into the playoffs! 21 points! 10 wins plus a tie! That is a huge jump to make.

The Oilers have played 13 games this season. They have 13 points. If we stretch that out over a full 82 game season that equals 82 points. Last season that would have put them in 12th place in the western conference – still 13 points out of the 8th spot.

If the Oilers continue to go at this pace for the rest of the season, they will end of somewhere around 11th or 12th in the west. Those are reasonable expectations. Jumping from 14th to 8th or better is not. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is reality.

Step back from the ledge! Not because you are getting off the bandwagon. Step back because the playoffs are a stretch this year, they would be a bonus! Patience my friends, patience.

If in a year to eighteen months from now we are still having this conversation then I will join you on that ledge!

Cookie Cutter

Matt Cooke was involved in a pretty nasty incident versus the Ottawa Senators the other night. As he was riding Erik Karlsson into the boards his skate came down on Karlsson’s leg and caused a major injury. Erik is out for the season.

I don’t want to believe and can’t believe Cooke had any intention in causing harm to Karlsson on the play. It would just be too hard to do. He won’t be and shouldn’t be suspended.

I think the NHL should take a hard look at the socks that NHL players now use. Right after the last lockout the NHL went with very thin socks that look good but provide ZERO protection from skates. They got rid of the bulkier wool socks that did the trick for time eternal.

As soon as we all got these new socks we commented on how much more dangerous it would be to wear them. Many players have no long underwear under their knee pads. There is nothing between them and the sharp blade of a skate.

I am not saying that if Karlsson had been wearing wool socks he would not have been injured. But it would not be a stretch to suggest that instead of having cut his Achilles 75% he might have only cut it 30%. Big difference.

This incident was a one in a million occurrence, might not ever see it again. But the NHL needs to do something about the socks the players wear. I doubt that we will ever see wool socks back on players legs. Is there not something else that can be done?

  • book¡e

    I just watched the highlights of Schultz’ ninja like defensive move the other day. He is on pace to break scoring records and Hall and Yak are looking great. This team is going to be awesome. Any day now they will break out and score like 12 goals in a game.

  • bwar

    The window of patience is closing on the Oilers .We dont want to be the next Islanders Leafs or Panthers.This off season we need to be very aggressive in our pursuit of a number 2 center.We still need a beast on the blueline,we need to be nastier in our own end.We know size is a issue up front.The draft is very deep so some of these issues will be taken care of.However I think we should make a major splash by.This city deserves playoff hockey dipping into the ufa pool.This city deserves playoff hockey.Now over to you Kevin and Tambo make it happen.

  • Word to the Bird

    As much as I bleed copper and blue, I think we have to step it up. I get the feeling that Tambellini doesn’t care very much about this season, and is completely locked on next season. We have the talent to be a winning team today! We have the assets to plug holes, why not go for it?

  • I agree with those that say it is to easy to shut down the Oilers. I believe we need more balance in our lineup and if Whitney is not improving we need another Dman capable of moving the puck.

    I think our D is good enough to hold us over until Klefbom and some of the other prospects make the transition.

    We don’t have a gritty hard hitting bottom 6 anyway, so i would try splitting up the skill betwwen the top 3 lines. Something like this would work.

    Hartikainan – Nuge – Eberle

    Hall – Belanger – Hemsky

    Paajarvi – Gagner – Yakupov

    Eager/Smyth – Vandevelde – Petrell

    Try to play the 2nd line against toughs and shelter the 3rd line. 4th line would be used sparingly.

  • I think if Klefbom can make the transition our D will look pretty good next year. I would not go out and sign a beast unless we can steal him or sign on a discount.

    J Schultz – Klefbom

    Smid – Petry

    N Schultz – Fistric

    Obviously, after taking the year off Klefbom will not start on the 1st pairing, but would probably switch places with N Schultz until he gets comfortable.

    I think J Schultz will be top 10 Dmen in the league in the next couple of years and Klefbom projects as a 1st pairing Dman with size.

    I would match Smid and Petry against almost any 2nd pairing in the NHL.

    With N Schultz and Fistric there is not going to be a lot of fancy plays or strech passes, but they would be solid as a 3rd pairing.

  • kawi460

    what about going after enstrom he’s a ufa in the offseason.

    and hopefully Clowe makes it to july 1st as well… fingers are crossed!!!

    never mind enstrom signed an extension a while ago my baaaaddd

  • justDOit

    In the 50’s, when Struds was in junior, wool may have been a suitable material to offer some protection from accidental cuts. In today’s game, it’s puzzling how kevlar socks, already worn by a small percentage of players, aren’t more common – or mandatory. But then again, hard foam and a plastic bucket seem to still dominate the helmet designs.

  • MarcusBillius

    A couple of years ago, maybe on the first Oil Change or in an interview, didn’t Kevin Lowe state they had a 5 year plan?

    First two years, suck it up (I presume that started in 2010-2011 after drafting Hall), third year get into the playoffs and fifth year make a serious Cup run?

  • bwar

    Weiss Flrd. …… Hemsky
    Perry Anah. ……. Hemsky
    O Reily Aves …… Hemsky
    Clarkson . NJD …..Hemsky

    Myers.. Buf…… Whitney/Petry
    Leapold..Buf….. Whintey/Peckham

    Clowe .. SJS ….. 2 nd. Rd. and Pitlick/Tobert.

    There could be another parts, but these are kind of the main players.

    Not really trying to dump Hemsky, but you have to give to get… banking on going with younger guys coming back , other than Leapold.

  • Didn’t Kevin Lowe state they (Oilers) had a 5 year plan? — MarcusBillius

    More like a 15-year plan.

    Strudwick stresses patience, patience and more patience. Furthermore, we should wait a year to eighteen months from now and if the Oil still isn’t within sight of the playoffs he will join us on that ledge (ready to jump)! If there isn’t major changes in the management by the end of this season, better start practicing, Jason. It will be a long leap.

    My thinking is more in line with Freewheeling: The window of patience is closing on the Oilers .We dont want to be the next Islanders Leafs or Panthers.

    Considering where this hockey club has come from, the bottom of the barrel, the positions at goal and defence seem to be reasonably good. The forwards are where the biggest problems exist. Particularly at centre and the bottom six. Can’t score even goals, not good in the faceoff circle, lacking grit, turnovers, soft on the puck, too many veterans beyond their time, etc., etc.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    IMO the thing that will get Gagner traded is if he wants 5mil per year(going off this years pace) on a long term deal, I hope he’d take a bit of a “home town discount” for the long term deal say 4mill on a 5-6 year deal.If not it’ll be goodbye Mr.Frodo and good luck.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        is it the team that has little interest in winning or the gm? yes the team is only as good as who the gm trades/signs/drafts, but the team in 06 wasnt even supposed to get passed the 1st round.

        The Oilers are IMO a team,right now, that can grab the 6-8th spot after that…ya never know.

        The core players all want to win, it falls into the gms hands to give them the supporting cast to get them over the top.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Good article and I do have some counterpoints though:

    1. Agreed – better each game. No stinkers? Although I would say the Calgary game would be in that category.

    2. Kreuger’s progress is questionable – so disagree. He has set a tone but if we are talking about “coaching” he has been outcoached in some critical situations. A couple are the OT losses in 4 on 4 with MPS and Yaks + Whitney + Potter vs Benn and Jags when you had the last change. Whitney’s starts in any tough defensive zone start when he has a confidence problem leading to goals. I would say at best he is “Satisfactory” but not “huge step forward”.

    3. Special teams – agreed.

    4. Schulz – we won another lottery pick here. Improvment big time.

  • Oilers4ever

    I usually agree with most things that Jason says, but I got a disagree here. Plain a simple this is a business and yer in it to win. If this team doesn’t make the playoffs again thats 7 years. Ridiculous. Tambo should be fired if this team misses again. Its pretty cut and dry in my eyes. If I am a sales manager of a store… I don’t care if its clothing, auto sales, whatever, and my store doesn’t do well I would guess probably half of 7 years where you are always behind the competition, not making a profit, what have you, chances are the owner of that store is going to hire someone else who can turn things around. This team has had three first round picks in a row plus Ebs who darn well plays like a first overall pick, and still they under perform. Enough with the excuses about expectations to high. We hear this year after year after year. If the current GM can’t sign or trade for the missing pieces (and they are out there to be had) then hire someone that can do the job. Glad I am not a season ticket holder. I’d be cashing in my tickets as I am tired of the job the chimps are doing running this team. They should take a look at what Ed Hervey is doing with the Esks. Fresh GM, not afraid to make changes by making trades, cutting lose some people who have been here and hiring the people you need. We don’t have proof that what he’s doing is going to improve the Esks. We’ll likely know my Labor Day or so, but at least he’s got the guts to do whats necessary and make the decisions to it. Tambo just continue to hide behind his mother’s skirt with no guts to do anything and this team will end up with another top 5 pick because of it while we all have another serving of things will be better next year… Shame on them for all the deception.

    • Oilers4ever

      Oilers4ever…. you dam right. These guys are crying patience, only covering up their shortcomings. If it wasnt for the Lotto picks and
      Schultz jumping on board, there has been very very little done here in the last 6 years.

      Katz always stating this is a business.,, well run it like a business… quit living in the past.The 80’s are long gone.. the game has changed, but not the Oilers… Too many old cronies onboard, hanging their hats on the old glory days… wake up!, before its to late.

      I think Tambo is not hiding behind his mothers skirt, I think its more like Lowes skirt.

      I am thinking now… Professor Kruge needs to drop the philosopher spinage and pull out the clipboard .. change the game plan, figure out how to score some goals.

  • Oilers4ever

    This reminds me of companies that are losing money go bankrupt and change their name. But the Oiler fans having been buying this Kool-aid for years.

    Ohh wait till next year.