GDB 6.0: Desperation, this early?

Yes, it’s far too early in the season to be saying that any of these individual contests are must-win games. It isn’t too early to say the Oilers need to find a way to get some wins. Either fortunately or unfortunately, the situation is much the same in Washington, a team that with a 1-4-0 record is actually a point back of Edmonton.

The Lineup

Once again, Nail Yakupov finds himself on the outs, as per the Oilers’ official Twitter account.

I haven’t seen official word on the defence but assume it remains the same as well, giving the Oilers the following lines for tonight’s game:

  • 1st Line: Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Ales Hemsky
  • 2nd Line: Ryan Smyth – Mark Arcobello – Jordan Eberle
  • 3rd Line: David Perron – Boyd Gordon – Jesse Joensuu
  • 4th Line: Luke Gazdic – Will Acton – Mike Brown
  • 1st Pairing: Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
  • 2nd Pairing: Andrew Ference – Nick Schultz
  • 3rd Pairing: Anton Belov – Justin Schultz
  • Goal: Jason LaBarbera

After the game the third line had against Toronto, I had thought Jesse Joensuu might find his way out of the lineup (or better still, on to the fourth line with Mike Brown the scratch) but evidently the head coach feels either that Yakupov on the bench gives the Oilers the best chance to win or that the young player will benefit from another night off. Neither of those seem like particularly sound beliefs to me, but maybe there’s something else going on here.

Opportunity

There’s a great chance here for Jason LaBarbera to take the starting job and run with it. Career-wise, he’s had very good numbers in the backup role for a few seasons now, but was never going to get another opportunity at the starting job unless fortune intervened; with Devan Dubnyk’s struggles it has. Mathieu Garon’s career was in a very similar spot when he came to Edmonton; he ended up providing pretty good goaltending during the Oilers’ late run in 2007-08.

Another opportunity here is the one being afforded to Mark Arcobello. It’s difficult to see where he fits on the Oilers’ roster moving forward: the fourth line has been handed to big men, Arcobello’s skillset is replicated in the top-nine and Sam Gagner will take back his spot at some point. Arcobello has until Gagner gets back to make it impossible for the Oilers to send him down – or at the very least, to make it impossible that he clears waivers. So far, so good.

Finally, if MacTavish does make a big splash, I expect it to be on defence rather than in goal. With the possible exception of Jeff Petry, this has been a suspect group from day one and while all six guys are NHL players every night some of them seem to be in roles they aren’t able to handle.

Predictions!

Game day prediction: The Oilers lose a tight one in overtime, falling 2-1 to Washington.

Obvious game day prediction: The fourth line plays less than six minutes and gets out-shot and out-chanced badly thanks to one shift where they’re caught against Alexander Ovechkin.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Just like the game in Toronto, this is a back-and-forth affair, but it turns into a goaltending duel. Both teams have struggled between the pipes but the combined save percentage of both goalies on the night ends up in the 0.960 range.

  • I know strudwick is tearing us apart right now, I know the score was 4-2. But I thought we were the better team. I’d argue that other than the Vancouver game, we were as good, if not better, than the opposition in every game.

      • I think we’re better than a 1-4-1 record. So that’s what I’ll say. You’re right, now matter how good fans may say the team is playing, if we are out of the playoffs… well, we are out of the playoffs. That’s all that matters.

        But based on what I’ve seen, I believe this will be a .500, or very close to .500, hockey team by the end of 82 games, and right there in the playoff hunt.

        Do you honestly believe our .839 sv% will continue? That is a stat that is simply too horrid to do anything other than get better.

        Again, I realize this is a results oriented business and regardless of how things look, if the w’s don’t show up, the rest is a moot point.

        But if this team continues to play as good as it has so far(even with all the mistakes) they will be at, or around, the playoff cut line.

        Some of the breakdowns have been bad(Jultz jumps up in the play too early on the Laich play), but there’s been far fewer than last year. The turnovers are still there, the mental breakdowns are still there, but they aren’t happening as often(by my eye). Besides, all teams have breakdowns every game, not just us. So, it really sucks to have a 1-4-1 record, but it’s still too early to panic.

        From what I’ve seen, if our goalies had posted a .900 save% or better instead of a .839 sv% out of the gate for the first 6 games, everyone is singing a different tune.

        It’s an 82 game season, there will be slumps and winning streaks. They are always magnified in either direction at the beginning of the season, so naturally this slump looks that much worse.

        I’ll gladly eat crow if we aren’t .500 by the 41 game mark.

        We are 29th in GAA and 30th in sv%. After seeing Dubnyk play himself into the top 15 for starters in the league for 2 years, I can’t see him being the 30th ranked goalie. Sure he could have a bad year, but that would mean finishing maybe 16-24th, not 30th. 30th would be a complete meltdown. Which is very unlikely.

        • I agree with everything except the goaltending situation. I think they have to do something. What that might be is clearly up in the air, AHL assignment, AHL call up, trade, whatever. But as has been pointed out many times in the past, it isn’t just that they need to score more goals to win, but you can see how it deflates the team when they carry the play for 10 minutes and then a floated bounces twice and finds five hole.

        • Mikey

          Interesting. Who are you? Tell Dubnyk to stop thinking, and just play. Hell tell him to go play a drop in game just to have some fun. It looks like he needs to have some fun. I hope he isn’t being alienated by the team.

  • Alsker

    All these stats(+/-,etc.), system play theories are useless when your SP is in the low 800’s. There’s no oops’s/mulligans when every mistake/turn over, fanned clearing attempt ends up in the twine. It is impossible to truly judge whats happeneing. Yes we all see the mistakes, what we havent figured out is why the mistake was made. Everyone here asks what Eakins system is, well, how can we critique it if we dont understand it. Frustration,irritation, aggrevation, all exceptable: PANIC is not!!! Well not yet anyways. Fix the GAA and someone please figure out and explain this system so we can bitch about it more accurately.

  • SLURVE

    You can all bitch all you want about the goaltending…. And I agree, it stinks BUT we were all fed the Kool-Aid about having an amazing offense. Having a great offense doesn’t mean that they outplay the opposition, it means they OUTSCORE the opposition!!

  • outdoorzguy

    Goodbye Eakins! But the scary thing is MacTavish will be back on the bench. Or worse Lowe (can he screw up any more than he already has by setting the organization back 10 years?) Man this is a terrible organization!

  • SLURVE

    Looks like Biron is also on waivers.

    Could MacT try finding our number one goalie the same way he built the defence? A whole bunch of average goalies vying for the number one spot couldn’t be worse.

    Eventually, we will need to trade either one of Yak or Ebs for either a number 1 “D” or a real starter.

    Dubnyk, wouldn’t have the numbers he did is other teams didn’t just shoot at will for the last few seasons. He is not the answer–I can’t remember the last time he protected a lead in a close game.

    I’ve been about as faithful to the oil as anyone–and I have my bag at the ready. Lowe needs to go!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    We’re in for one of those WTF games tomorrow. Oilers beat the Pens 5-2 in a head scratcher for the last two points they’ll earn on this trip.

  • SLURVE

    One must wonder if MacT caused the demise of Dubnyk with his attempt to acquire Schenider in the June’s entry draft. By trying to make a bold move, it started Dubnyk to question his worth and thereby creating doubts and questions. Now the team is struggling, this has a snow ball effect further dropping Dubnyk’s confidence and all the while hearing MacT voice in his head “Schneider,Schenider…”

    It is somewhat dumbfounded for MacT to pursue Schneider last June given Dubnyk had respectable numbers behind a porous defence last season.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I have no consolation for you Oilers fans. It is as bad as you think it is.

    I think dumping Dubnyk in a panic trade would be a very very bad decision, but it is a distinct possibility. MacT’s decisions have not been very predictable so far.

    Like I said, I have no consolation for you.

  • #YakCityGettingScrewedOverByCoach&Mgmty

    Freightening that the coach seems fit to play the 4th line against oveshkin’s line….

    I felt that Yaks would have a good game against his counterpart Ovi tonight ….had he played…benched for second game while J.shultz continues his horrific defensive play…

    Starts the 3rd with the 4th line…. Continually plays Brown in place of Eager…Eager has at least scored 10 goals in an Nhl season…

    Our PK is terrible as “skilled forwards are being used’ and not penalty killers ( if we have any) … It would be understandable if we needed to use Hall and Hemsky on the PK to keep them in the game or get some offence when we are down 4-1… But our first PK of the night looked like our first line….

    The coach is trying a system that doesn’t work unless you have Toews, Kopitar, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Richards….. We have one way scoters for the most part.. RNH, Gags, Hall, and Perron make sense on the PK…. Hemsky and Eberle don’t

    Poor coaching inToronto game, even more poor coaching in this game….

  • jbogus

    Long time listener (ok found site last year) and now on the way to being happily buzzed – what breaks my balls comes back to the salary cap, future benefit of value and the long term promise that evades us year on year on year.

    My folks just visited me in aus and my favorite gift was Oiler board shorts and my dad asked me why do I care about the oilers -and sadly I just do. And will do.

    Back to my balls, they’re broken – we’re smarter than philly, and slats in nry – I can’t accept the dollars we spend for lack of results. Had google the cap for the sabres today to make me feel ok with results vs what monies being dished out.

    Won’t rant, as that’s not my intent, rather just tired of the chasing the end if the rainbow so to speak.

    Like many, no longer can sit without comment.

    Jbogus

  • Lofty

    I think old Katz had better take a step back and really take a hard look at where his team is headed. He’s a smart guy…right? This old boys club joke of a management team has gotten him nowhere. Katz, you’re a had ass business man that has to make hard decisions, so why not start at the top with K-Lowe? Oh, wait…friends can’t fire friends can they?