The Oilers won’t reach their goal of making the playoffs. For them it sucks. They want to win, and missing the playoffs for the 7th consecutive season must feel like a swift kick to the junk. However, the Oilers need to suck it up and compete in their final seven games.

If they don’t, then new genernal manager Craig MacTavish will have a much more difficult job trying to re-shape his team. If the Oilers don’t have enough competitive players, it doesn’t matter how much skill, speed or size they assemble. You can’t win if you aren’t willing to match the intensity, desperation and desire of the opposition.

"We basically lost to the &*(&*(#@$% Abbotsford Heat last game…We didn’t just lose, we got our ass kicked," an Oiler player told me yesterday. He was embarrassed by his team’s performance and said the next seven games guys have to show each other they care. He said it off the record, so I can’t attribute it to him, but he was fuming which surprised me since I’ve never seen him that amped up.

We’ll see if his teammates feel the same as him when they face the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild are in 6th place, one point up on St. Louis and two up on Detroit and Columbus. A month ago they looked like a lock to make the playoffs, but they are 3-6-1 in their last 10. They aren’t playing very well down the stretch and the young Oilers have an opportunity to share their non-playoff disappointment with another Northwest division foe.

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The Oilers recalled Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander yesterday and both will be in the lineup tonight. I’d have thrown Hartikainen beside RNH and Eberle and put Hall with Gagner and Yakupov, because the top line hasn’t scored a goal in five games, so switch it up.

Kreuger will switch up his lines:



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At this point you might as well look at many different combos. It is odd seeing Horcoff on the wing and Smyth at centre, but for one game why not. It shouldnt’ matter what positions the players play, all 18 skaters must simply play hard and smart.  


  • Craig MacTavish will be much more decisive and proactive than Steve Tambellini. I’m not sure if he’ll be Paul Holmgren-ish, but he’s not going to hesitate to makes some moves. That could be good and bad of course, but Oilers fans will have lots to discuss this off-season. I suspect you will see at least 7 new regulars on the roster next year.
  • I’m not surprised MacTavish said he’d make bold moves. I wrote this on March 27th, yet many claimed I was clueless. A bold move doesn’t mean shipping out 4th liners, it means moving out a good player and getting a good one in return. It won’t be a surprise when MacTavish pulls off a deal, but it will be intriguing to see how many deals he makes.
  • If I had to rank the most pressing needs of the Oilers, i’d go with these. 1. A strong veteran shut down D-man who can play 20 minutes. 2. Another puck moving defenceman. 3. One, and ideally two, top-six forwards with strength and size. 4. A third line veteran forward who is physical, can kill penalties and play tough minutes. None of those are easy to find, but that is what this team needs. If Oscar Klefbom makes the team next year, he has to start the season in the third pairing. They can’t rely on him to be a top-four. If he plays his way up the ranks, great, but he shouldn’t be expected to start there.
  • The great part about sports is that we will all interpret comments/quotes differently. Kevin Lowe’s comments yesterday regarding "two-types of fans" had many fans irate. He never said he cares or listens to season ticket holders more, he said they communicate with them more, which is true. Ideally, he never should have said "two-different type of fans," because automatically those who aren’t season seat holders will feel offended.  You can say he chose the wrong words, but Lowe interacts with fans more than his players, so any suggestion that he doesn’t care about fans would be misleading. I actually thought his comment about six Stanley Cup rings would rile people up more than his fan comment. Either way, It made for some excellent debates.
  • The Wild are in a battle for the final three playoff spots. They can’t afford to take the Oilers lightly, and I suspect they won’t. The Wild didn’t skate this morning, but Mikko Koivu made it clear that they expect the Oilers to be hungry and ready to show their new GM they are worthy of being part of the team moving forward. It was an interesting take from an opposing player, and I’m curious to see if he is right.


GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Wild played last night, so the Oilers should have more energy and a heightened urge to impress their new GM. Oilers squeek out a 2-1 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Someone will try and make the Clutterbuck/Hall hit a story line. Clutterbuck has only fought twice in the last three seasons, but someone will go with the redemption angle. Clutterbuck loves to hit, and if he takes a few healthy runs at the Oilers none of us should be surprised.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lander has played 60 NHL games thus far, but he’s played 13+ minutes only 9 times. He will play 14 minutes tonight, and he will end his 19-game (dating back to last year) goal-scoring drought in the 2nd period.

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  • Spydyr

    Hey faithfull,anyone else out there think Jack Michals shoulda followed Dithers out the door?Listen to the guy he gets more jacked up(no pun intended) when the other teams scores than the OIL.I really get the scense he get on Stauffers nerves.

    No kidding. That guy must go. He is sickening to listen to.

  • Spydyr

    4th line gets burned 2x this period. Oilers with no PP”s? The play is mostly in the Oilers end. 4-2 loss coming up. You ever wonder why the Wild own us? Look no further than how many shots they block. They collapse down low and if a shot gets through Backstrom is there to save the day.We have a total of 9 shots on goal> We might have 17 by the end of the game. Not enough to beat this team. Oilers need to come harder into the paint. Won’t happen because their too soft.

  • outdoorzguy

    Saw the last half of the second period. Didn’t see anyone playing for, or with pride. Changed the channel to watch Seinfeld. George had a better career doing nothing for the Yankees than Lowe has had running the Oilers. There’s grass outside. I’m gone. Better things to do.

  • MMMmm…

    Down two goals and I could swear I heard trumoers that awoke me from my early slumber.

    Lets see if we can use MPS as an upspeed man coming from behind the play, We need to use a give and go that starts from a d-man at the half -boards then pass it to the pinchpoint of our blueline on high corner ,make one crossice pass through the n-zone to a forward on the opposite boards who will move the puck up MPS flying through the n-zone as early as he can get the puck , then have the forward come in behind MPS for the return pass, they cant handle MPS if we give him a short give and go to work off of, he is best used with some speed and with less telegraphing so d-men cant contact his big body to early and slow him down. Just make the d-men key on someone else early and give MPS a few strides where they cant key on him and get set.

    Our forecheck is looking decent, two men gapped nicely, now we need to be patient on the forecheck , they are trying to keep it organised when we pressure them and its not easy for them, that pressure is working out, but now we need to use the cerebral muscle memory we have given them to create offense, so now we need to use the same forchecking pressure but we need to target their outlet passes, they are strong numericlly in their zone so they are going easy and not panicing, but they are NOT making lateral east/west short passes between their d-men and their support, they are passing it straight upice, this is good, now there are less options for us to consider when attacking them, we need to target those short upice passes they are making to beat our forecheck pressure, there are two sweetspots they are useing,so lets bring some selective pressure up by having a d-man or someone step into some of those outlet asses and drive them to the net.

    Keep up the forechecking the way we are with the two men EXACTLY as we are executing it because it is so early they are resfusing to make those lateral passes, that pressure is setting up perfect opportunitys to take the puck in form a deep and vulnerable spot.

    When you see them collapse in and there are 3 men back consistantly it tells us to use the give and go but try to initiate it earlier so they start transitioning early laterally, they are keeping good lateral positioning in their zone so when we have possesion and are challenging them we need to use conventional simple plays like the give and go to break into their zone, speed is less critical than an executed give and go, but remember to blast every third possesion right past them, lean towards slower organised transitions as we are doing now, but toss a bullet at them once in a while out of the blue, use the controlled play 2/3 of the time and toss in some shrapnel .

    Once we get them to begin to transition laterally as we challenge their zone we can use that movement to key our offense, so test them with the give and go and see where they begin the transition laterally, what depth they are begininng to cross over at, once we know that we can set the give and go depth we need to initiate at, we need that dat so we time the give and go right, so try a few give and gos so we can see their transitions.

    Remember that give and gos normally end in shots on net and we need those badly, we need those first shots followed up immediatly, so lets use the give and go and lets collapse around the initial shot.
    Measure them for the give and gos , we need to know when to engage the upspeed man, what area to begin the play in, and that is decided by their transition spots in their own zone, so lets challenge their d-zone with a few small give and gos and see that transition spot.

    We are so far behind we need to use our speed to create individual breakaways and one on one plays as well, lets isolate guys one on one in their zone if we can, not a numbers advantage they will key on early but simply isolate them into one on ones so we can try to beat them that way.

    Throw two give and gos at them and then hit them with a pure speed move.

    Have Yakupov cross to the middle and carry the puck into the middle from the center of the ice, early so his speed can hit them in the middle and back them off, lets use middle speed and MPSs size and speed going to the back door, lets let MPS get some clean o-zone entrys without the puck so his big frame can be used as a screen and to cause trouble more. Get MPS into the zone cleanly and use him as a screen or to force the defense when he heads to the back door looking for the deflection. yakupovs speed needs to come from the middle and be supported by backdoor pressure, so have MPS come in streaking upspeed just as Yak hits the mid n-zone and begins moving the d-men around early. Send MPSs big frame at high speed and upspeed right to the back door for the deflection use the stick length and speed to force their d-men to cover MPS at the backdoor early, this softens up the middle for Yakupovs attack.

  • outdoorzguy

    5-1? The message is certainly being sent that the teams problems are all KLOWES fault. Definitely if it was 8-1 it would be KLOWES fault. He should put on his skates and show his dmen how to play the man. A pp? what?

  • Spydyr

    Hey what happened to my dam post i sent it when we were down 3-1??

    Lets throw the Flying -V at them as many times as we can, why not, lets get some Youtube coverage and throw some smoke up for next year, lets have some fun now.

    Send the d-men right up like forwards and have the forwards fall back, lets force some play here, lets allow some odd man rushes and let our hair down lets make Dubby sweat,serious;y lets loosen up now, and try to create some odd dynamics.

    Bait them into playactions that make them tempted to go for it, they need to be lured into mistakes we cannot force 4 goals out of them the normal ways with this little time, so lets bait them with sugar, give them some situations they cant deny themselves, bait the suckers in boys, take some chances, if we plan them they become tactics, high risk but still tactics.

    Pick the most common odd man rush teams generate and lure them into going for it. Set it up . We need them to take chances so lets use greed as a weapon and lure them out into the open.

  • outdoorzguy

    Who said this was over. Ha ha ha.

    The boys are back it seems hey?

    Very nice play fellas, nice play in the d-zone perfect way to sidestep their pressure with the short pass and tight support.keep chipping.

    Excellent speed explosion by Nail, hammer on them fellas.

    Almost nailed them again the same way, good job, short give and gos guys. simple and sure.

  • Spydyr

    Darn it I slept through the better part of this game but it doesnt look so bad now. Wonder why we werent doing this sooner?

    i must say that the men work their butts off for Ralph when he pulls the tender so early, they must appreciate the opportunity, but they sure surprise me how few times we are scored against when we do this early pull move, I hope it never backfires in the playoffs.

    Lets look on the bright side but this was essentially a 5-4 game with the last second miss there.

    What the hell happened in the first part of this game . Because the game i saw in the 3rd wasnt the same team that must have shown up in the 1st. We were taking the entire game over in the 3rd period. MMMmmm…. thats odd isnt it, what happened to make us change so drasticlly in that time frame? Did guys just try hrder suddenly or did we make adjustments that worked?? Lets figure it out and try to do it for 60 mins next time. Nice dynamic finish, but where was the start?

    Nice to see Yakupov getting some points, keep feeding him the puck boys, elevate him if we can .
    Nice bounceback tonight, nice effort under less than optimal circumstances. I am glad we left Dubby where he was, maturation comes in many forms

    It would have probably been good to see the level of micro-managment we saw in the 3rd much earlier but I wasnt watching this one early so I dont know what the problems were. I do know I would hve liked to have seen another two periods because we seemed to have dialed them in there for most of the thrird period. We were coming on without a doubt.