Oilers learning how to increase their chances of victory

It takes time for a team to adopt the style of play a new coach is putting in place. At times the players are stuck between being in the right place and being out of position, it can look like they are frozen. We have seen this for quite a few periods for the Oilers this season. The good news is that it will get better.

Head coach Dallas Eakins will get the bulk of the players understanding what he wants from them and what type of team he expects them to be. There will be some growing pains and frustrating nights as the players learn it but if Eakins sticks to his guns the players will get there.

There will be nights were Eakins will want to get the attention of a player by sitting him out. Yakupov was scratched saturday night in Toronto. No doubt he was upset and embarrassed. He should feel that way, a coach wants him to feel something. It can be a great motivator.

Yakupov’s being sat isn’t the end of the world; seeing how he responds can be. Will he come out flying, skating, shooting and trying to play a solid game away from the puck or will be pout and feel sorry for himself? I would expect him to be back in the lineup Monday, let’s see how he plays. I fully expect him to come out on a mission.

The challenge isn’t learning a system. There are many different systems that can be used for a team. All the players have experience with some form of system so they can figure it out. The hard part is being consistent playing within the system.

Playing a consistent game is key to success for individual players and the group. A coach should know what type of a game he will get from each player every night. He doesn’t want to have to guess to know if Player A will have a good game or not. Coaches have a hard time trusting inconsistent players. They do not get a lot of the important ice-time, like the last five minutes of the game or period.

The team must also be consistent in their approach to playing the system. A system is in place to protect you when you are under a lot of pressure from the other team or you are tired. It is the foundation on which successful teams are built. It won’t work to play the system when it is convenient or feels right. That leaves too much to chance.

I had a coach who broke down an NHL season into three different types of game scenarios. He said there are twenty games that a team will win. All the bounces will go their way. All players will be firing on all cylinders. The power play gets a lot of opportunities and makes good. Basically these are games when everything goes right and winning the game is a given.

He said there are another twenty games that are guaranteed losses. No matter what a team does they will not win. The other team’s goalie blacks out and sets up a brick wall in front of the net. The team is tired. Injuries take some key players out of the line-up. The refs make some tough calls. These games just will not be won.

So that leaves forty games. He said it is in these forty games that playoffs are made and missed. The difference between winning and losing these games is razor thin. Attention to detail is the difference.

Playing the system to perfection is key. Knowing when to cheat offensively and when to be cautious wins and loses games. Strong and consistent goaltending. Winning more face offs then you lose. Getting pucks deep. These and other details add up to increasing the chance of your team winning enough of these forty games to get into the playoffs.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of NHL season left, the panic button should not be pressed just yet. I do think that Saturday night’s game in Toronto was one of the forty games that could go either way. The Oilers got one point, in my opinion a serious playoff team gets two. They need to get to those points.

Dubnyk

Wow! This guy is not getting any love these days. He is taking heat from every direction. There is no doubt that he has not played up to his own expectations. I don’t need to look at stats to know how he has struggled. Just watch him in the net, he looks very uncomfortable. He has not found his game so far this season.

Before we run him out of town consider this. Goalies go through funks during a NHL season. Just like skaters they have ups and downs during the year. Could it be that Dubnyk has just started the season in a slump? I am not ready to throw him away just yet. This road trip has come at the right time. He can get away from Edmonton and just focus on his game.

He needs to improve. His play has been subpar. The defensive play in front of him has been helter skelter far too often but that doesn’t change the situation Dubnyk, he needs to better.

Thornton and his Rooster?

The comments from Big Joe about what he would do after scoring four goals in a game are classic. I have been laughing about them for the last couple of days. I am glad they came out.

The locker room is a sacred place. When the media comes in they need to respect that. The age old battle of what is on or off the record is one that players and the media are always trying to sort out.

Thornton made the comments beside a big group of reporters, they were not interviewing him. In my opinion that makes it off the record. However when you throw a quote at there like that you never know what will happen with it. Joe should know this and choose his audience better.

A reporter named Botchford decided to run with it. I get it, it got a lot of attention for him. In the short term it looks like a home run. In the long run I think it will affect his ability to get interviews or good quotes.

Every player in the NHL will know that when he is around, nothing is off the record. They will be much more likely to choose their words very carefully and and clam up or cut the interview short.

The gate keepers between the player and the media are public relation people. I know that these people will reduce or cut Botchford’s access to players. Their role is to protect the image of the team and the players. They will be watching Botchford like a hawk.

I know this because I went through a situation like this. A veteran reporter asked a player how his fitness testing went at camp. His real motive was to confirm a rumor going around that a veteran player was out of shape. After the rookie said he did well the reporter asked about the older player. This rookie said that he was out of shape and didn’t do very well. The reporter ran with it.

The next day got a little ugly for the rookie and the veteran. The veteran had to field questions about his conditioning and it came up every time he played a subpar game. The rookie had to deal with the rest of the team and captain. The dressing room is sacred, some things just don’t leave there. It was a hard lesson for the rookie but one I know he never forgot.

As for that reporter his year got a lot harder. As a team we decided to give him one word answers the rest of the year. "How do you think the team needs to prepare for the game tonight?" "Hard" That was it. He didn’t get a good quote the whole year. Do you think his boss was happy about that?

  • ubermiguel

    Thornton’s comments struck me as funny but unprofessional. I can’t imagine top-end Captains like Sakic or Yzerman saying something like that especially with reporters in the room.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      No, you can’t imagine it because no low-life reporter ever quoted them off the record.

      I’ve spent enough time in dressing rooms as a player and coach to know that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.