TWO DOWN

All kinds of changes during the off season and two games in, it’s fair to say not much has changed for the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers looked much like the team people had hoped for the first thirty minutes of the season and have looked all too familiar the last ninety.

I don’t think there is one good thing they can take out of that Vancouver game. It was a sloppy effort all over the ice. Way too many turn overs, too many soft plays, questionable goaltending and the end result is another loss.

IDENTITY

If this team is going to get better it has to start in their own end. It’s not just Dubnyk. Yes he has struggled but the entire team needs to make the defensive zone a priority.

This is somewhat hard to do with players that had the freedom to grow offensively and play a wide open style with few consequences in their early years but if they are going to become a winning team they have to take care of their own end.

Before Monday I’m sure Dallas Eakins will stress that compete level and attention to details like turnovers and defensive zone will need to sky rocket. The best way to fix this is by taking away a player’s ice time. I think you will start to see this happen very soon.

PUCK POSSESION

I’ve read and heard things throughout camp about the Oilers wanting to be a puck possession team. Right now all I see is a team that is careless with the puck all over the ice. Regardless if they don’t want to be called young anymore, this is a very unproven group that needs to make better decisions with the puck.

If there is no play to be made, they need to get the puck into safe areas and fight to get it back. A good puck possession team doesn’t mean hold onto it until you find a play or just turn it over.

Right now things are being forced and it’s a big reason the end result is a 44-23 shot differential in Vancouver and a 0-2 start.

GOOD NEWS

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is back and there are eighty games left.

While it’s not the start everyone wanted, there is plenty of time to resurrect the season. It’s been two games, all is not lost.

There are many things that Eakins surely wants to see changed but its way to early to think that he has been able to put his stamp on this team. Habits and tendencies that are deep rooted sadly don’t just change after four weeks of training camp. It will take time to see his type of team.

THE ROAD

You’ve heard it before that in times of struggles or early in a season it can be nice for a team to get on the road.

It’s no sure thing but it’s funny how sometimes an extended road trip can help get some positive vibes going. You get to spend time with just your teammates and escape some of the media scrutiny. Often this can help guys relax and simplify their game.

I can’t think of a better time for a “roady” than right now.

  • Batfink

    Brian, do you think it is time to cash in on one of the wunderkinds? A double whammy of getting some help and serving as an example? Personally, it think it might serve as wake up call if someone like that gets traded to a team where they are third line at best because of their defensive lapses.

    • Batfink

      Maybe Hall to Dallas? Lindy Ruff seemed to handle him a bit differently at the WC. Of course he had a lot of options at the WC that he wouldn’t have in Dallas.

      Sutherby, good article. Most ex-players usually looking to make excuses for their former comrades in arms.

      • Batfink

        The thing is, we have the fear of being snake-bitten in a deal. Players have left town and found success on different teams with different players, coaches and systems. Look at Cogliano. How’s he doing? Lupul, anybody? Matt Greene, the one with a cup ring? This definitely deserves an article by itself, but it’s more of a subject for between seasons.

        • Spydyr

          Certainly whenever you trade away a player with big talent, there is a lot of risk. But you can’t let that stop if what you are getting in return is worth it. I’m not saying trade Hall, or anyone else, but I don’t think anyone is untouchable either.

          Cogs for a 2nd round draft pick was one of ST’s worst moves, Lupul struggled for several years before finding himself in COTU, Greene and Stoll for Lubo was one of Lowes’ worst moves. You need to give up quality to get quality, it’s the getting quality that seems to be missing.

    • Spydyr

      No way, panic mode is not the time to trade one of the kids. It will have to happen when the team is ready to contend. They need a stud defensemen but now , forget about it.

      • Thumby

        Reality Check: The team might not ever contend.

        There’s this annoying tendency for some fans to assume, “When the Oilers make the playoffs…” or “When we’re cup contenders..” etc. As if its a certain inevitability.

        I hate to break it to those fans but they’re the victim of a clever marketing ploy called the ‘rebuild’.

        The ‘rebuild’ ploy deflects blame away mgmt and excuses poor results. It ensures that fans keeo filling those expensive seats. And when some of us do get upset over the poor results, we’re reminded to be patient.

        The oilers may contend soon, or the may very well not. But what is crucial is that fans purge themselves of this ‘rebuild’ nonsense, and start holding mgmt accountable now, not tomorrow, but now.

        • Spydyr

          A team with three first overall picks will compete one day.Mac-T tried to fix holes this summer cough cough Dubnyk cough.I feel they are (finally) moving in the right direction(JJ, Perron a better fourth line).Like I mentioned before this team is being built to win when Rexall 2 opens.

      • Spydyr

        I agree that trading away one of the kids before the team is actually in contention would be a huge mistake.
        Until this team shows its star power and strengths the returns they get for any of the top kids will be limited until they can prove that they understand hard work and winning attitudes. Once that happens though find the weakest hole you have and fill it with the best you can get through a trade, and if that means losing a Hall, Gagner or a Nuge then so be it. But to get the best bang for your buck you have to be a winner first.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        No a trade is not the answer but maybe sending Hall to OKC for a “conditioning stint” would send a message early. No waivers just take him out of the line-up and bag skate him down south till he gets the message.

    • Brian Sutherby

      I think it’s still to soon to go down that path. It’s only 2 games and Eakins needs more time to teach his system and put his mark on this team.

      If nothing changes at some point the coach can’t always be the one out the door. I think if this team is not competitive by the end of this year its going to be players moving and not the coach.

    • Spydyr

      I am beginning to think that the Wunder Kids are not so wunderful as all around hockey players. So they can toe drag make, so what, this is the NHL not Europe time and space are at a premium.

      Where is the progress both offensively and defensively, where is the progress in compete level?

      Yeah it is just 2 games but essentially we have the same cast of characters which will yield the same results. Just a bunch of dudes freelancing out their out to score the perfect goal.

      Where was Ebs last night and honestly can Justin please play defense for once after he is a defenseman right?

        • TeddyTurnbuckle

          “It’s gonna take a ton to pry P.K. out of Montreal.”

          Maybe. Just maybe. On the other hand, PK could fetch $8M + for what he does, long term. Kessel+ money. His name all over Norris. RNH will give me 75+ pts every season for the length of a contract which I know when it will expire. Move PK for RNH so Desharnais can be demoted to 4th line.

        • TeddyTurnbuckle

          “They wouldn’t take Hemsky in any deal.”

          Why? Hemsky can be an effective (very) 3rd liner with decent PP minutes. Less time = less risks of injury. I’ll take 83 with 40 pts after 82 games of 3rd line minutes AND healthy than 1.1 ppg average but went down injured after 30 games… So, with that in mind, and after a full season, Hemsky becomes very appealing to many teams, not at a premium?

    • Spydyr

      If there is one thing that should be clear after the past two or three seasons is that it isn’t necessarily a personnel problem. Who would have thought that in the past three years we could add Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Ference, Shultz and Eberle and still stink?

      So you trade one of the kids, get too little in return and then you still stink. What then?

  • pkam

    I’ve been reading this blog for years, but until recently have rarely posted anything. That has changed the last couple of games, because as a life long fan, since the WHA days, I have had it. I want to see wins, and when they lose, effort. But I’m not seeing it. Its the same old sh*t. Obvious deficiencies not addressed, to many coaches fired and hired, KLoser unbelievably still employed, Bucky and Smith (and Smyth) unbelievably still employed. I respect MacT’s smarts, but I think he is in over his head. Actually, I might be satisfied if we can just beat the Flames, but I doubt that is going to happen with regularity. The fan base of this team have been insulted by KLoser, threatened by Katz, pay among the highest ticket prices in the league, have been asked to be patient through the so called “rebuild”, and still we are forced to watch crap hockey. I really think many long time Oiler fans are at the breaking point. I believe this year to be the most important in franchise history, and if they don’t make the playoffs they (players, management and coaches)better die trying, because the owe the fan base big time. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing it. Its the same old sh*t.

    • Thumby

      I’ve also been a fan since the WHA days (I was 11 in 1979 when they got to the NHL)and I can’t agree more.

      I’ve been a diehard fan through thick and thin but seriously think its asking far too much of us to keep forking over our time and dollars to watch the same type of soft teams that get trotted out every year…they just don’t/can’t compete.

      What I don’t get is that Klowe and MacT were both tough as nails, don’t give an inch competitors…where is that in their teams?

      What I’m going to do is take a deep breath, wait for our top 2 centers to get back and watch for 20 games before I do anything drastic like start cheering for the Leafs or Canadians.

      That said, in business when results are weak for an extended period, and there seems to be no movement in the right direction forthcoming, the leaders are held directly accountable…sadly, this rule does not seem to apply to the Oilers leadership. If it did, I think we’d have seen something better from our team since 2006.

      Edit – do you think 6 mil a year would get you a good President / GM? I do…

    • a lg dubl dubl

      You want wins, how about making better decisions as a coach. Both games were within reach. Last night, the OIL were in it after they tied it up, even after the second goal (which was VERY soft) they were there, but after Kesler’s third one, they gave up. An astute coach would have made the switch the minute the momentum changed. He is not there to hold these millionaires’ hands, he is there to get a million dollar’s worth out of them each and every night. If that means making the switch after one goal, or stapling Hall’s ass to the pine, you do it. Look at Carlyle in TO a prudent change at the right time and now they are 3-0. Eakins has as much ego as those he is coaching, time to swallow some pride, and start earning your paycheque as a coach!!!

  • Well Brian, that roadie doesn’t start for two more games. And when it does it will mostly be against teams that made the playoffs last year and have much better goaltending and are more physical than either WPG or van.

    Benching players – esp ones with healthy multi-year contracts who can see the holes in the line-up even better than you and I could be a recipe for disaster.

    It’s one thing for a veteran coach like hitch to do it – quite another for a shakey- looking rookie coach like Eakins to do it.

    • Brian Sutherby

      I’m aware of when the road trip starts. A lot has been made about if going on an extended trip is troublesome for this team. At this point, from what I’ve seen and what will be said about this team in the next few days at home that this road trip can’t come soon enough.

      I think in regards to ice time, that he will eventually tighten the reins on some guys. I don’t know if it will be drastic changes like a benching but minutes will change or should.

      This is not a team full of Veterans and superstars that have won Championships and Hart trophies. There are no Jagr’s or Ovechkin’s or Modano’s on this team that sure if they aren’t happy could change the culture of the dressing room and could be offended by a young coach coming in and putting his foot down.

      This is a team full of players that if they want to win need a coach to demand more of them. It’s easier to do that with a young team and unproven team than a veteran club.

  • Brian Sutherby

    First thing to do is DD never plays a game in an oilers jersey again,Hall plays his next game sitting in the press box(bring some kids up(whats going to happen we lose?)then hold tight for Ganger and Rnh to get back and take a second look.time to hold managment responsable for not getting us a goalie,dudnyk for being what he is and hall for not playing like he can!the good news is perron looks good as does gordon,joesnuu as well but he is hurt.and hold eakins accountable for not putting yaks up in the line up,he was playing with fire shooting the puck,finishes his checks and gets back on defence,put still gets low minutes!noone is over reacting to two games,we are all sick of 7 years of same old same old!

  • Newj

    As Brian has written, this not just about some whiffs by Dubnyk, this is about improving our team’s ability to keep scoring chances down and learning how to play without the puck.

    Case in point- some ON poster rants on Dubnyk’s inability to slide and make a basic save on Richardson’s shorty break away. How about assessing why they got a freakin breakaway in the first place? Poor judgement on the pinch and nobody covering the attempted pinch. Last night the mighty Isles held the Jackets to 12 shots on goal in 1st 2 periods…yes they did lose 3-2 in a SO. But we are light years from that type of defensive mind set let alone actual play.

    Eakins & company has lots of work ahead if they are going get this team to give a crap about keeping goals out, rather than their current mindset.

  • Newj

    relax, 2 games. effort was poor and that is a concern. we have had years where we start house on fire. 7-2,9-1 and were picking number 1 overall. my friends and were calling Labarbera rolli jr lastnight. Lets give it more than 2 games before we are asking for heads.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I hope come tomorrow night the lines look more like this:

    Hall-Nuge-Eberle

    Perron-Arcobello-Yakupov

    Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky

    Gazdic-Acton-Brown

    I know Eakins is a rookie coach, but even he has to see that his lines right now SUCK A$$

    As much as DD has sucked beyond all suckiness where has the scoring come from? that’s right, guys that don’t normally score. Eberle? invisible, Hall, ditto, Yakupov? same. Until the top players on the team start acting and playing like top players this team is sewered.

    And please get rid of Chabot!!

    EDIT: I forgot about Hemsky

      • Greasy Goal

        Those changes certainly can’t hurt

        By god they better start Labarbarra next game

        And if he looks good, play him till he doesn’t

        The team has to stop just giving players a free ride and make them accountable by sitting them, if we have legitimate other options

        It’s pretty obvious Dubnyk has been poor, and we can’t afford to just play him till he finds his game, if he ever will

        to just put Dubnyk in again because he’s our starter, makes no sense to me, and will just prove that all this talk about accountability is lip service

        which frankly has been oilers for most of the rebuild, which isn’t really a surprise you could argue since lip service comes from the owner and president for years

    • Jay Gray

      Agreed on the lines except Smyth needs to be taken out – permanently. He needs to retire so we can get some cap room…

      MacT needs to end this festering end of career.

    • Zamboni Driver

      “EDIT: I forgot about Hemsky”

      That, my friend is easy to do.

      Nice to see the Tinman settling in again for another comfortable $5 mil. Myself, I think he might want to invest a few bucks in skating lessons – well, no. Not ‘skating’. Stopping rather than doing the Hemsky-loop.

      Honestly, Hemsky is Roger Dorn.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      If both Montreal and Colorado can fix their goaltending without changing their goaltenders, then maybe MacT should ask how they did it. I would be packing my bags if I was Freddy Chabot.

  • Spydyr

    With RNH coming back Monday, it’s time to end the Hall experiment at centre and move him back to the wing. That will enable Smyth to be put back for spot duty on the fourth line and power play.

  • Spydyr

    Hopefully were done with Hall at center He’s not a center man never was never will be Get him back to wing and get Smyth down the line up where he belongs. -4-3-3 for your top line? Dubnyk didn’t play great but when your out shot 22 to 8 what do you expect. Maybe a little help from your team mates would be nice. Play in the defensive zone was absolutely terrible. Give a ways by everyone and it started with Hemsky on the PP for the short handed goal. Maybe if we scored on that one instead it may have changed the game but I doubt it. It was men against boys.

  • Spydyr

    Perhaps it’s not time to gut the team but I do believe a trade needs to be made and very soon. One skill for 2 sandpapers. As was noted in an earlier post, Perron can be a great agitator when he has a body or two to protect, but he is losing that edge as an Oiler because he is all alone, RNH andGagner are not going to fix this problem, only make it worse. I say Ederle is the most expendable, hope there is a return for him and his 6 mil.

  • Everybody chill.

    Peetso’s Law:

    ((new coach + new system – top 2 C’s + top player out of opposition)- stellar goaltending)

    = LOSS

    It’s two games in.

    Lets get some bodies back in the lineup, Hall back to LW and then we can get a better assessment.

    *with that said if they are getting their show run like they did last night, two months from now. Then I’ll be the first to be grabbing a pitchfork*

  • pkam

    A week ago I post here saying that it is still quite a way before Hall can be the top 2 centres and was got only trashes and no props.

    I know a lot of hockey fans would want to move Hall to centre. But from what I saw in the preseason, we have to prepare to suffer a lot of pain before it will materialize, if it will ever be which is still a question mark.

    And honestly, I don’t understand why we would want to move a great LW to center. Provided that it finally works out, we fill the depth in centre by creating holes in LW. What do we really gain by this experiment?

    Wonder how much of this has to do with relive the dream of Messier’s success.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Hall is a 3C at this point, Hemmer is a 2/3 RW, (very good chemistry between them) and Smyth is a 3LW at best.

      Meanwhile Ebs and Nuge are first liners, Perron can play 1/2 LW, and Yak should definitely NOT be playing lower than 2RW.

      Arcobello is a service-able 2C until Gags returns, and Gordon would be ripping it up as a 4C with whomever he plays with.

      That’s the makings of four solid lines — why would you risk Hall’s turnovers impacting the Nuge’s return, or taking away from Hemsky’s new found productivity???? Play him on the third line till he gets comfortable there than you start re-arranging the lines based on productivity.

      • pkam

        So who is playing the other 1/2LW? Joensuu?

        We can have Nuge centre Hall and Eberle, a proven line in the last 2 years.

        We can play Arcobello in the 2nd line until Gagner returns. If he is good, then perhaps keep him as the 3C and bump Gordon to the 4th line when Gagner returns. If he is not, OKC he goes. Kind of like the 9 games tryout for the 18 years old. Give him a chance to show he can play in the NHL.

        If Acrobello works out, we have Nuge, Gagner, Acrobello, Gordon Acton as our 1C to 5C, looks pretty good to me. Hall, Perron as our top 6 LW. Josenuu, Smyth, and big Gazdic as our bottom 6 LW. Eberle, Hemsky, and Yakopov as our top 9 RW, and Brown the 4RW.

        So why do we need to keep Hall as the 3C? Bbecause he has great chemistry with Hemsky? Why not put Hemsky up to play with Hall and Nuge? Hemksy is definitely skilled enough to play in the 1st line. Why waste 2 top 6 players to play in the 3rd line with Smyth?

  • Greasy Goal

    In all seriuosness we got curb-stompt last night but which team wouldn’t? We’re missing our top 2 centers, any team that had that seriously huge hole would be hard pressed to win consistenly. It was a questionable game followed up with a bad game, let’s not lose our heads.

  • WinterNightSky

    When does this ever cost the oilers ? I’ve stopped going to games. Stopped buying center ice package. I PVR games now and only watch 10 games a year. No more oiler merchandise. Even stopped watching other NHL games.

    I used to be a diehard fan until the lockout.

    Does it even make a difference ?

    • WinterNightSky

      By yourself, no. But with enough of us? I won’t buy any more merchandise, and certainly wouldn’t pay money to go to a game. I can barely be bothered to watch them for free at home. And you see the other commenters on here. And my friend, who splits season tickets with some other friends of his, increasingly regrets his decision. With enough of us…

      I wonder the waiting list for season tickets looks like now.

  • WinterNightSky

    My hockey team ( mens Senior Hockey in Calgary) has a player on it that creates offence and makes the team operate in the correct zone! Whenever he is not there we seem to always play in the defensive zone, do a lot of skating, shoot a lot of pucks, but never seem to score a goal.

    With out this player, we always seem to be skating around accomplishing nothing, except getting a great workout. I say the Oilers are missing RNH more than we can ever imagine, and having him back will change everything. Gagner too but to a much lesser extent.

    Relax people RNH…….next game will tell the tale and I for one can’t wait.

  • Brian Sutherby

    I have been a season ticket holder since 1994 and this is getting old pretty fast. I agree with Brian that 2 games does not make a season but if they cannot turn it around this year it has to fall on the players and not the coach.

    • Thumby

      I completely disagree — both of the previous games were winnable with appropriate coaching. Look at Carlyle in TO they were about to lose their first but he made an astute goaltender change plus shuffled two lines sat one D-man, and they came away with their third straight victory.

      Eakins left Dubnyk in when he was struggling (twice in a row) has over played Hall when he was coughing up the puck and making poor decisions without it (twice in a row), and stapled good players to the bench when they were effective (twice in a row).

      How many times, and how many issues before you start to see a pattern? Note that the above two in a row refers only to the regular season… lest we forget the last preseason game when the same squad got schooled by an AHL team.

      You be the judge, players or coach?

  • pkam

    @ nina russo

    Sending your best player, and one of the best left wingers in the Western Conference last year, down for a “conditioning stint” after 2 games is bad enough. Having him sent down after asking him to play centre against the other teams top lines is even worse.

    I completely agree that he’s struggled, but please step back from the ledge.