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?

  • Dan 1919

    Dubnyk is awful. Oil outplayed the Jets and Leafs and have two losses to show for it. Bachman should be called up, the goaltending has been embarrassing.

  • Czar

    System……..what system? You mean the one where everyone follows the puck around like a bunch of five year olds?

    I for one do not believe that all the players are the problem, except maybe for Dubby?

    I have seen all the players look confused out there even Hall, RNH, and Eberle……is Eakins going to Bench them too?

    Benching Yaks is laughable…….Eakins should bench himself and go for a 200 km bicycle ride…….that will solve everything.

    • BC BOY

      I totally agree with this one. Eakins is a laughable. It is not the Dallas Eakins show. He has no idea how to run an NHL team. Who puts Belov and J.Schultz together on a 4 on 4. First off Schultz has been horrible all year and Belov played that 3 on 1 about as bad as can be played. Eakins 25 minute a gam guys are all horrible minus players after 5 games. Learn how to run a bench Eakins and maybe you will one day be more than an AHL coach. Benching of Yakapuv is just horrible.

    • Dan 1919

      Did you watch Yak play? When he didn’t have the puck he wasn’t just floating, he was literally standing around on the ice, it actually looked very awkward to see at the NHL level. His sitting is good. He will be better.

      • Avatarget

        So far I haven’t seen anything from Yak to justify his first overall selection. I sure hope that changes but the results so far are not encouraging. I am not in panic mode about picking him so high yet, but I am mildly concerned. Guy Lafleur got off to a bit of a slow start and then took off and became a superstar and the same could happen with Yak. Hope he gets it together eventually (sooner is better than later but later is better than never at all). I sure hope we didn’t blow a number one overall selection on a player who never arrives.

        • Geitus Maximus

          Using your logic, you would bench RNH, Hall, Eberle, Schultz and everyone else who has made mistakes.

          Call it what you want but benching is over rated…….I can see it for veteran players just so they get rest but not for players who are trying to find their game. I think that the only thing Yukapov can be blamed for is trying too hard ……and trying to figure out where he need to be playing this new retarded system Eakins has developed for this team.

          So far this system looks really good…….at losing games.

          • Avatarget

            I never said I thought he should be benched. I said I was mildly concerned about his performance so far considering he is a first overall pick. He just doesn’t seem to produce much or do much to have a positive impact on the game…at least not with the frequency one could expect of a number 1 selection. Hopefully he comes around and realizes his potential. The Oilers organization and fans have a lot invested in this young man.

        • Geitus Maximus

          Remember he’s just a kid, but a kid who lit it up the last few games last year. He needs someone to feed him the puck as there isnt a better sniper on this team. He’s being benched for not following the system, not because he isnt talented. Yak is pure heart, he wont let us down, but lets not pile up on him and tear down his confidence. He’s still the youngest guy on the team. And that takes some patience. Yak is not the reason why the Oil are struggling.

        • BC BOY

          He should of won the Calder last year, led the team in goals last year, he was the consensus first overall pick. Give him some time. Steven Stamkos was all types of suck his first full year. Playing third line and being a bit snakebitten this year has contributed to him being a bit lacksadasicle. He has not been given much of push from the coaching staff and that’s a tough challenge for a player use to being the man.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Oilers have played well enough to have four more points. You gotta go with Barbie to see if he can give you at least average goaltending. Last night was sad. The Oilers outplayed and outshot TO and there was 4 bad goals. Might of been Dubbie’s worst game since San Jose last year. Oilers still seem to be learning Eakins defensive system, but I like the neutral zone play and 5×5 offensive zone play. Clean up the special teams, get some timely goaltending, tighten up the d zone, we will be ok.

    • Dan 1919

      I agree, if they had average goaltending they won that game easily. The team is looking worse than they are right now because every small mistake (that all teams make every night), is being magnified and drained past soft Dubnyk.

      This team is competing now, improving every night, and looking solid. My biggest worry is that the team is going to stop putting in the effort because they know everything they do will just be spit on by Dubnyk as soon as they allow a shot against.

  • Thumby

    The FIST thing we need to do is get average goaltending…we’ll worry about solid goaltending later…

    Sorry RB – couldn’t resist…..

    I know, I know…bring on the trashes. I deserve it.