The Jones Factor

It was great to see Ryan Jones back in the Oilers’ lineup Saturday versus the Phoenix Coyotes. His flow is looking good and after the eye injury he suffered during the lockout he is now wearing a shield. What he means to this lineup is more than just flow and visors though.

Jones’ impact was felt immediately. He is the player that brings energy and some ugliness (as in he does the ugly work required) to this group of top nine forwards. In his first couple of shifts he could have had a goal for sure. From where? About sixteen inches from the blue paint. I don’t think any of his seventeen goals last year were scored from any further away than five feet from the net. That is what the Oilers need, someone to clean up the garbage.

On the forecheck he has the ability to separate defenceman from the puck. This is an area the Oilers are weak in. Either they refuse to chip the puck in when confronted with no other choice or when they reach the puck retrieving defenceman they lack the ability to bump him off the puck.

think with Jones in the lineup the Oilers will have more offensive zone time. He has the ability to keep plays alive. He never gives up on the puck. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that with Jones in the lineup the team should run the table but he brings the dynamic the Oilers team has been missing. With Horcoff coming back at the end of the road trip or when they get home, those two will provide more grit and guts to the top nine. It still isn’t enough but it is a start.

I have said many times that this group of Oilers forwards try carry the puck in too much. Dumping in is required. You are not giving the puck away when you dump it in, you are advancing it into areas where your linemates with speed can recover it. I think Ralph has been listening to what I have been saying. Take a look at this goal from Saturday.

Smart dump by Gagner, great speed and attack by Yakupov. Then Eberle does what he does best…..finish.

The Power Play

Did anyone else notice the change in the look of the Oilers power play Saturday? The coaching staff had no choice but to insert another player with Hall suspended but they made it clear what they were looking for with the addition. Both Smyth and Hartikainen were planted right in front of the net. Asses in the face of Smith!

The other three set up in an umbrella. Eberle, Schultz and the Nuge were sliding it around looking for an open shot knowing the screens would be there. I like that they changed up the look of the power play. They are going along at 23.7% right now which is good for fifth in the league. But you have to keep the other teams guessing as to what to expect from you or else they can watch tape and adapt. Every team scours the video for ways to shut you down, without any wrinkles to the PP, they will figure it out.

It will be interesting to see when Hall comes back after the Chicago game how the PP looks. I would assume that the first unit will be as it was before he got suspended, four forwards and Justin Schultz. Maybe the second unit will become more of a bomb from the point and battle in front type of unit.

The Road Trip from Hell!

Photo: Torcello Trio/Wikimedia

Nine game road trip! Wow! That is a long one. Two games against Chicago, the hottest team in the league. Only two teams that are below the Oilers in the standings, Colorado and Columbus. It doesn’t stack up as an easy road trip. They didn’t set the table for this trip very well with a record of two wins and three losses on this home stand. They need to have a strong road trip.

What is a strong road trip? Anything less than a 0.500 record on this road trip will hurt. When they get back they will have played twenty six games. Over half of this year’s forty-eight game season. Twenty-two games is quite a few games to make up points but keep in mind every team will be fighting for points. That means a lot of three point games. The Oilers will have to pass two or more teams to get into ninth. Not easy to do when teams are picking up points in those overtime losses.

For the most part the Oilers have been counting on the power play to win games. On the road they are at 16.7% on the PP. At home 28.3%. Without a lot of even strength production on the road they will be counting on their goalies to keep the games very low scoring, very low.

Pack Rats

This is an ugly road trip to pack for. Nine games! That is a long time. Lots of meals for stains to hit your clothes. I bet the guys have very loaded bags heading out on this one.

I played with a guy who would only bring a toothbrush on road trips less than five days! Just a toothbrush in the suit jacket pocket. Every time I saw him I would start howling. He said if he ran into an issue with stains he could get them laundered overnight in the hotel or just buy something. He actually made a lot of sense.

My prediction for this road trip is pretty optimistic.

  • Four wins
  • Four losses
  • One overtime loss.

What do you guys think?

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Hey Jason I like the article…. for some reason I think if the Oilers start Habby in net they might surprise the Blackhawks. I know we should play Dubnick more as he is the future but I feel better with Habby in between the pipes. What do you think?

    • Jason Strudwick

      Thanks. The team is playing well in front of both goalies. Dubnyk needs to be played a lot. I would still play him a ton but make sure khan by is still getting action.

      I would put Dubby in for Monday night.

  • bwar

    I thought they changed up those powerplay units earlier in the week?

    Really great to see Jones in the lineup. Hope Krueger has the good sense to pair him with Eager as much as possible. I do feel bad for Paajarvi because I’m guessing he will be the odd man out once Hall returns, even though he has been playing well.

    This road trip is pretty crucial for the Oilers. Too big of a hole and they won’t have enough time to claw back up the standings. I’m pretty excited to watch them square off with the Hawks on Monday, should be a really tough test and we will be able to see if the Oil can rise to the challenge.

    Just as a little side note, do you think Krueger will ever figure out how to utilize Yakupov? Or will he stick with his current strategy of benching him after his first mistake?

      • bwar

        Obviously we aren’t watching the same game. Eager’s size and speed are a huge benefit this team. He gives the entire lineup a huge boost and that boost is only increased when he plays alongside Jones. Try actually watching the game and not the stats sheet and the will see that he fits in just fine “in this eras closely called game”.

        Seems like if the fans were running the team you would run all the toughness out of the lineup in under a week.

        • Well…Eager’s size and speed COULD be a huge benefit for this team. He uses it sometimes… not every game for the whole game. He does take some penalties that if other players took (say gagner) we would eventually be all over them for.

          Eager has all the tools except the brains to be bigger impact on the team.

          If you watch the games so closely Eager wouldn’t be on the top of your list of guys to defend and call “a huge benefit”. He may be what this team needs more of but hes far from the perfect guy to do it.

        • Chuckpuck5000

          Absolutely not. I am all I favour of more toughness – advocating trading hemsky and gagne to get REAL first and second line toughness – not a pretender like eager (or jones for that matter).

          Eager was run out of every other town he played for before EDM because he was a penalty liability – usually at the worst possible times – because he couldn’t play physical without letting his emotions run too high. Playing eight minutes or so in non critical situations that may be manageable, but on a high time high tempo line he’s a trainwreck about to happen.

      • Release the Hounds

        Seriously Gord, if you watched the game at all, you would have seen that both calls on Eager were pretty much ‘phantom’ calls. So, I wouldn’t dump too much on #55. And I don’t want to hear you come back with the line “He shouldn’t have put himself in a position for those calls to be made”. That is just giving the goofs in the stripes way too much credit.
        Another stellar display of sub-par, bush-league officiating. If you watched the Canucks/Red Wings game, you would have seen another officiating fiasco. For a league that calls itself ‘professional’, the NHL is losing credibility by hiring referees that can’t do the job!

        P.S. Love my ON hoodie 🙂

  • Krusher

    7-1-1. The passionate Oiler fans will stop complaining about what we don’t have, and be happy we aren’t the Calgary Flames. DSF will also be forced to stay positive for an entire post! ‘Nuff said.

    • m3sh

      hahahaha, that would be so awesome.

      Now seriously, anything less than wanting .600 hockey is an implicit acknowledgement of failure. I’m trying to stay positive about this season (though these guys are seriously testing me).

      So I’ll go homerville on this, within reason, and say the offense drought ends (pretty please), we go 5-2-2.

      Somehow? If we’re going to start turning the corner, this is the time. I think there’s lots of compete on the ice this year, and the lack of finish the last couple weeks has really killed us, time to break this cycle.

  • Good read Jason.

    Good to see Jones back also.

    I can see the Oilers going 3 and 6 on this road trip, any other wins would be a bonus.

    Realistically, the Oilers could go 2 and 7. I really only see two games they should win and that is CBJ and the Avalanche.

    This unfortunately is a make or break road trip.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Good article Jason, gotta love Ryan jones coming back for more grit on the team. Can’t believe it took a year and a half for Eager to get sprinkled into the top line. I noticed a few things about Nuge last night on the power play that show his scoring confidence may be a little low. On the 4 on 3 plower play in overtime he was spending a lot of time behind the goal line making it obvious that his option was only to pass. When he and Gagner were up top and Ganger had the puck the Nuge wasn’t getting ready to one time the puck if Ganger passed it over to him. He was wide open for a one timer but the coyotes know he won’t shoot so they just close everything else off. When the Nuge gets the puck on the half wall the other teams close off the passing lanes and give him the shot. All he needs to do is shoot the puck when someone else is in front. Keep Ryan Smyth in front and shoot Nuge!

  • m3sh

    Has Jones ever played center?

    It is nice to have another cleaner back in the fold, we need a second shot ace to come in and start cashing these second shot totals we are putting up, Jonsey should be dripping like Pavlovs dog with all the rebounds we are generating.

    7W-2L no overtime games, this team needs to start to fight to win and take risks big enough that overtime isnt a realistic factor, either we knock someone down and out or they knock us down and out. If teams know we have publicly and openly said we were not setteling for OT points they will get jumpy when they face us and maybe open up a bit to much and become vulnerable.

    Time to break out my Ryan Jones Voo-Doo doll and stick some pins where his offense lives so we can fire him up.If he doesnt put up the points as needed I will start plucking shiny
    strands of hair out of Ye Olde Voo-Doo Dolls beanbag , ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The Flow-be-Gone system, it works every time.