SURE IT’S EARLY, BUT . . .

History tells us two games does not a season make, so those writing off the Edmonton Oilers after Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks are jumping the gun, even if that’s understandable with patience waning after seven years out of the playoffs.

So, no, the fate of the Oilers isn’t cast in stone after a 5-4 defeat against the Winnipeg Jets on opening night and the loss to the Canucks. That said, I’m more alarmed at how the Oilers lost in Vancouver rather than that they lost.

While the absence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner leaves the Oilers with a gaping hole down the middle, one that Taylor Hall has struggled mightily to fill so far, that doesn’t explain why the Oilers were outworked, outhustled and outclassed so badly by the Canucks.

Since the moment new head coach Dallas Eakins arrived, his mantra has been about competing, about accountability and about new beginnings – he’s gone as far as to remodel the dressing room to emphasize the importance of looking ahead rather than back, of this team molding its own identity.

How much of that – the willingness to compete and outwork an opponent – did we see against the Canucks? Not nearly enough. Not even close. That, two games into the tenure of Eakins, is a problem.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

I get it that facing the Canucks without Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner left the Oilers outmanned. I get it that it’s going to take time for new linemates and defensive pairings to get used to each other. It’s going to take time for the team, as a whole, to get a grasp of new systems and settle in together.

What I don’t is the almost-total lack of "compete" the Oilers showed at every turn against the Canucks in a game in which they were outshot 44-23 and weren’t close to contesting enough loose pucks and open ice. There is nothing to mitigate the lack of gumption and gusto we saw.

What we got instead are some all-too-familiar post-game regrets. Tell me is any of the following sounds familiar. If you heard the same lament under Ralph Krueger or Tom Renney or Pat Quinn or . . .

"If you’re not going to compete like every shift is your last, you’re not going to win. That was very evident tonight," Eakins said, via the Oilers Twitter feed after the game.

"We can’t play like that," said defensemen Ladislav Smid. "We have to draw the line. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to wake up and win some games."

"We got out-played right from the start of the game," said Hall, who was minus-4. "There are a lot of things we need to improve on from that effort." Added Hall: "We have to wake up tomorrow positive and regroup. All it takes is one shift, one period next game to get back on track."

RESULTS, PLEASE

"We lost a lot of battles tonight," said Hall, who could well end up back on left wing against New Jersey when Nugent-Hopkins returns to the line-up. "That’s nothing to do with systems."

I applaud Eakins for much of what he’s said and how he’s approached this season. He’s stripped away the handy excuse of the Oilers being a young team. He is insisting on results. He expects his players, be they raw rookies or budding stars, to give him everything they’ve got. To compete.

After a good measure of all the above in the game against the Jets, a loss that sits squarely on the shoulders of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, we saw precious little of it against the Canucks. Systems take time. Chemistry takes time. Effort and willingness to battle should not. You either have it or you don’t.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • **

    You hit the nail on the head. The lack of accountability has trickled down from the top( the second winning-est man in hockey, the Lord of the Six Rings) and festered into a losing culture in the dressing room.

    It’s the lack of progress in competitiveness that is astounding. Still the easiest team in the NHL to play against at this point.

    • Oiler63

      Can’t agree more. Accountability has to start at the top level. Lowe messed up the team so badly and what accountability he’s got? None! If you want the players to buy in this whole accountability thing, you have to do something real, not just talking.

      Two things: Box for Smyth and pink slip for Lowe.

  • 719

    My thoughts exactly robin.

    And that’s what is so frustrating – weak D, suspect G, adrift at C and the rookie coach got schooled by the veteran.

    Yet the one element fans were told that, despite these serial (3 yrs and counting) weaknesses not being addressed by management – that the new wunderkind coach – the one worth summarily dismissing the last wunderkind coach for – would deliver was a team that would show up to play and give it their 110% each and every night.

    And we got excrement instead. In only the second game -‘with a couple days rest. NO EXCUSES.

    Same as it ever was.

      • Roadhouse

        Defending someone’s failure – as many posters on this site chronically do -makes you an enabler.

        Cubs fans are enablers; Yankee and Red Sox fans are not and have years of winning records as a reward.

        Are oilers fans in the cubs mould or the Yankees? I think by and large they are the former, but they may be reaching a breaking point (god I hope so…)

  • reaperfunkss

    They need a goalie who can pull their collective asses from the fire and sadly Dubnyk is not that guy. I know it is a big ask however.

    Get hall back on the wing regardless of the return of the nuge. Officially the 3rd best left winger in the league should play leftwing.

    It is almost like MacT has done nothing different than Tambo except be Lowes buddy.

    Just sayin’

    • reaperfunkss

      Like he won’t turn the puck over or make a bad decision on the wing? Why should the centres have to cover his ego? How about Eakins teaches him not to turn the puck over and to play defence, otherwise he can join Omark in OKC.

      • The Soup Fascist

        ~ Hall should have no problem clearing waivers. ~

        Now back to reality.

        Mark Lee, in his sole contribution from last night, indicated JJ was nursing a sore back. Despite all the flu talk, JJ was the reason Hamilton was called up. Tough break.

        The Oilers were terrible last night, no question. Frankly, two very key players Hall and Dubnyk appear to be in another time zone and I think I read somewhere that they are missing their top two centres.

        Things suck but let’s wait more than 2 days before we demote Hall, trade Yak and Eberle, fire the coach and fly in an ECHL goalie from Vegas (in his own space ship, no less). The lack of compete from some guys is concerning no doubt. Lets hope Perron’s feistiness, Yak’s two shifts where he played pissed off and the fact that Boyd Gordon is on pace for an 82 goal season, give the Oilers something to build on.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    If Mr.Katz wants to get some value for all the money he is spending on this sh*tshow, he should ask the Ottawa Senators if Kevin and Criag and the gang could do a job-alike with the Sens management to pick up a few pointers on how to run a franchise. Katz can give 20 000 000$ to the Sens for a two week workshop. Problem is, Bucky and Steve will probably forget their notebooks, and Kevin will keep interrupting class by talking about his glory days.

    • Ha Ha You are so correct. Gregor is just like Eakins, one thinks he is Mike Babcock and one thinks he is Bryan Hall. Only problem is boys, those guys earned that position in life the other two are demanding pretending the earned it. Neither of them are in the same league.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I have reviewed the game footage. Crunched the advanced stats. Calculated the applications of reduced player long range, volcanic disc failure rate. And I have come to one conclusive equation.
    Advanced stat gurus please keep up!

    DD=WTF

    That is all.

  • **

    *sigh*. All these discussion after an Oilers loss feel like being in an assembly line pound the hammer over and over and over again for the last few years. At least the media and the bloggers get paid to do so but as a fan I am starting to feel bored and getting headaches. I feel sorry for all those who bought tickets for the home games and almost sold out the season. At least I only waste a bit of electricity on the tv and the computer. It is still disappointing though.

  • To be fair, the Oilers are a mess without their #1 and #2 C’s. The team is sugar coating it for the fans and we’re all making up fantasy lines that “would work if only Eakins would use them”. Actually, being honest we’re screwed.

    In reality we’re probably a couple of AHL’ers too many and there’s really no way to make up for missing key members of your roster. Against Vancouver we played a motivated, veteran team who pretty much have their sh!t together. They may not be the best in the league but they’re competent and pretty damn good when they want to be.

    Until Gagner and RNH come back and are up to full speed, no amount of positive thinking will hide the fact we’re at an extreme disadvantage. In the meantime we get the likes of Arcobello and Smyth playing far over their real world capabilities and Taylor Hall playing at 30% like a fish out of water. And there’s nothing Eakins, MacT or any fan can do about it.

      • Old School G

        I like Dubby, but he is what he is. All backup goalies are great goalies some nights but have at least one flaw keeping them from being a starter. Dubby has major lapses in focus during a game; he is not capable of consistently holding his concentration on the game for the required 60+ minutes, there’s his one flaw.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Even if we perpetually suck, and are always mediocre, at least we can beat the Flames. I am so sick of losing to the Flames year after year. But now the Flames are rebuilding, and we are in year 4 or 5 of our rebuild, so now its our turn to kick their ass for a few years right? Wrong! I guarantee they will beat us. They will outwork and out hit us, and they will win.
    I really thought this year would be different. Tonight made in crystal clear how sh*te we are. Are KLoser and MacT on mushrooms? Are they so overconfident that they actually believe that they are capable of improving this farce? They are amateurs. Oh yeah, almost forgot the Flames hired an actual hockey-mind (Burke) and in a few years they will be seriously kicking our ass. Great.

  • Spydyr

    Robin the effort and compete was there in full force until the extremely weak goal by Richardson,a 6’5″ goaltender sliding across the crease with his legs underneath him,five hole open and stick no where near the ice killed the teams confidence again, make that save and Oilers could have scored on that powerplay and been up 2-0. You can talk all the stats you want Dubynk does not have the mental toughness to be a #1 goaltender and probably never will.