TUESDAY TIDBITS…

Things can change quickly in one week. Last Tuesday, the Oilers were coming off a come-from-behind victory over the Devils ignited by the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and many felt things were looking up.

Since then, they’ve lost three straight, they are still giving up almost five goals a game, Nail Yakupov has been benched and Oilersnation is livid. Welcome to another rollercoaster season of Edmonton Oilers hockey.

There is so much to discuss, I wasn’t sure where to begin, but I’ll start with the status of Yakupov.

I wasn’t shocked Yakupov was scratched in Toronto, although I didn’t think it would happen, but I was surprised he sat out vs. the Capitals. Here’s my take on it.

I have no problem with Eakins healthy scratching Yakupov. Some will like it, others hate it, but Eakins made it clear from the start of the season what he expects from players. We aren’t privy to every conversation that goes on, but Eakins did hint at why Yakupov was scratched. He felt the former #1 pick was frustrated and trying to do things on his own.

I doubt Yakupov pouts. He’s a proud kid and he isn’t lacking in confidence or bravado. When he plays tonight, no way he doesn’t, I’m sure he’ll have an extra jump in his stride. The key will be can he maintain that, and will he play the type of game that Eakins wants. I’d like to think he would, but we won’t know until the next 10-20 games.

Many great players have been banished to the pressbox for a game or two, and they were better for it. Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk spent a game upstairs and they became two of the most lethal score scorers of the past five years. Yakupov’s skill didn’t evaporate during the past 72 hours. If he hates Eakins, that is fine. Coaches and players aren’t supposed to be best friends. Eakins’ job is to get the most out of Yakupov, and he clearly feels that benching him for two games will be the right way to motivate him. Time will tell if he was correct.

If Yakupov plays well, Eakins will play him, and he’ll likely play him a lot. Eakins challenged him, let’s see how Yakupov responds.

LINEMATES…SCHMINEMATES…

I don’t understand those who claim Yakupov hasn’t produced because of who he’s playing with. First of all it is a cop out, and secondly it isn’t true.

Yakupov started the year with Boyd Gordon. Gordon is currently leading the team with four goals.

Then he played with Marc Arcobello and David Perron. Both of them are tied for the team lead in points with five. And Arcobello managed to produce playing with Ryan Smyth, who many claim is an offensive anchor, even though he has three goals.

Then he played the final 22 minutes of the NJ game rotating with Gordon, RNH, Arcobello, Perron and Hall.

He was back with Gordon vs. Montreal, before sitting out the past two games.

Since Yakupov has been scratched, Arcobello had a 3-point game playing with Eberle and Smyth. Smyth, Perron, Gordon and Arcobello all found a way to produce without playing beside Hall or Nugent-Hopkins. So tell me again why Yakupov is the only one who is getting "brutal" linemates? It simply isn’t the case.

Stop blaming his linemates. They are all NHL players, and Yakupov is skilled enough that he should be able to contribute offensively playing with any of the other top-nine forwards on this team.

QUICK HITS….

  • Even the most anti-Dubnyk fan, wouldn’t have predicted he’d start the season this bad. He didn’t struggle this bad early in his career, even when he went eleven games without a victory. In those first 11 NHL games, he allowed 47 goals on 338 shots for a .860SV%. In his next six games, he went 4-2 and stopped 193 of 208 shots for a .928SV%.

    During his next three NHL seasons he had a .917SV%. It is fair to question his penchant for allowing a soft goal, but even when he was doing that he still found ways to have a respectable SV%.

    His first four starts has been the worst stretch of his career. I don’t think it is possible he can continue to struggle this bad. The question is how long before he gets back to playing like he did last year. Even if Dubnyk played average in his first four starts the Oilers would have won two of them.

    He needs to find his game to keep the Oilers in the hunt, but even if he plays well, I can’t see Craig MacTavish starting next season with him as the clear cut starting goalie. At the very least, he’ll have a legitimate contender battling for his job, and at worst, for him; he’ll be the back up or not in the organization.
     

  • The Oilers have scored the first goal five times this year, yet they’ve lost all five of those games. Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera can’t complain that their teammates came out flat. One of the goalies has to start making some saves when the Oilers have the lead. Every team will give up leads, but the goalies have to at least make it difficult to tie the game.
     
  • Last year the Oilers scored first in 24 of 48 games. They went 12-6-6 in those games. In 2011/2012 they scored first in 40 of 82 games and went 23-11-6. In 2010/2011 they scored first in 32 of 82 games and went 14-8-6. They are getting better at scoring first, and if they can get some decent goaltending they should start winning.
     
  • The Oilers haven’t allowed 29 goals in a six-game stretch since November 9th-17th, 2010. Back then the Oilers were a bad team. They were outshot 235-140 and outscored 33-11 in those six games. Their SV% was .860 at that time.
     
  • This year the Oilers have outshot the opposition 177-170, and they’ve been outscored 29-18. Their team SV% is a paltry .839. The Oilers are far from perfect, but much of their problems would be solved by even decent goaltending.
     
  • They are still making some key mistakes defensively, but with decent goaltending they would have beat the Jets and Leafs and be .500 which is about where I’d expect them to be. If their goaltending doesn’t improve this road trip could turn ugly very quickly. The Penguins got spanked by the Panthers on Friday; they won’t be taking the Oilers lightly tonight.
     
  • Arcobello has played very well, but he needs to start hitting the net. Last night he had two great chances from within 15 feet and missed the net both times. You can’t score if you don’t hit the net. I’ve been impressed with many facets of his game, but he needs to stop looking for the perfect shot. Just get in on net.
     
  • Hall needs to put away the toe-drag move for a bit. It isn’t working. I understand wanting to try it, but he needs to use his speed and go wide, or just rip a wrist shot. He has a great shot. He needs to let it fly.
     
  • The +/- stat isn’t the best indicator of how a player is playing, but you can’t ignore that RNH is -9, Hemsky is -8 and Hall is -7. They have to be better defensively. No excuses.
     
  • The PK is a mess. Goalies can be better, stating the obvious, but the Oilers are leaving guys wide open all over the ice. They’ve given up 7 PP goals already. They were 9th in PK last year allowing 29 PP goals all season. Right now Gordon is the only forward with any significant PK experience. Acton, RNH, Hemsky, Perron and Hall haven’t done it very often in the NHL. It will take some for them to get comfortable, but I wonder if they look at adding another veteran forward who can kill penalties?
     
  • Alex Steen has to be one of the most underrated players in the NHL. In the summer Hitchcock told me Steen was his best forward, and he thought Steen could score 70 points this year. He said Steen was an excellent two-way player, who was going to focus a bit more on offence this year. It is very early, but Hitchcock looks like a genius. Steen has 4-4-8 in four games for the Blues.
     
  • Speaking of the Blues, Magnus Paajarvi has been a healthy scratch for all four games this season.
     
  • Until the Oilers are better defensively, not just in goal, they won’t compete for the playoffs. The Oilers are are 1-4-1 and 19-29 in goals for-goals against. The top-three teams in the west prove defence wins. Sharks are 5-0 and have outscored the opposition 24-7. The Avs are 5-0 and 18-4 in GF-GA while the Blues are also 4-0 and 19-7 in GF-GA.
     
  • The players and organization need to realize the Oilers don’t have significantly more skill than the other teams in the west, and until they commit to playing better away from the puck and in their own zone this team isn’t making the playoffs. It is early, but team defence and goaltending are the obvious weaknesses.
     
  • Overall I think this team is better than previous years, and eventually they will see results, but they need to try and salvage the month of October. I don’t belive they can’t be 10-12 points out of the playoffs on October 31st, and still make the playoffs. They must find a way to stay close.
     

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

 

  • Benny Botts

    @Gregor

    Jason, I have read a lot stuff out there suggesting that J. Shultz has struggled mightly in his own end. I have only been to one game this year and he didn’t look terrible (gave up the puck to much, but IMO a skilled player is going to give up the puck more then others trying to make more significant plays), it is also hard to judge on TV sometime. What are your thought on #19’s play?

    • Jason Gregor

      He has struggled, but he’s also only played 54 NHL games and he’s never been a defensive specialist.

      He needs to make smarter decisions in his own zone, and I suspect he will. Seems like he is trying to hard. I think he needs to simplify his game in his own zone.

      • Spydyr

        I hope somebody gets a leash on him because his defensive decisions have been atrocious. Jumping up on Washingtons first goal was an awful decision and nobody (tv commentators / journalists) seems to notice. Turnovers happen and defencemen need to reasonably cover them off, not – clearing the defensive zone with opposition forwards behind them. We had all the momentum, including the first goal due to a very good play by J Schultz – but it was a play where a forward could cover him off. J Schultz needs to pick his spots way more carefully or he cannot be given nearly as much critical ice time. In fact – maybe he should spend some time in the press box, because playing him is a whole lot more like playing “Russian Roulette” – than playing with Yakupov in the line up.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Btw….Jason please pass this on to your bosses at TSN.

    Lowetide just got clicked off. Permanently.

    He and Dellow going on about ‘while the Corsi isn’t showing things properly right now, we know it will’.

      • Zamboni Driver

        I think I’m going to..you know..watch hockey.

        Not sit there with an abacus and my remote control in my hand hitting rewind for hours on end.

        But I’m crazy like that.

    • Spydyr

      You do understand that stats, by definition, get more accurate as the sample size increases right? Them saying that the stats will more accurately reflect the results as time goes on is simply mathematical fact. Or maybe you just disproved centuries of theorems and peer reviewed research!! Way to go!! You gonna be rich son!! Lemme guess, high school drop-out pipeliner?

      • Zamboni Driver

        A) Gotcha.

        B) I couldn’t give less of a damn.

        By the way, know lots of pipeline guys.
        They’re the ones who can afford tickets.

        But why would anyone want to go to a game in person, when there is “simple mathematical facts” to be proven.

    • Jason Gregor

      Problem with Allan is he is not a sports guy. He re-invented himself as one to get a gig. He doesnt have an original thought so he relies on stats to provide content. He was annoying at 1260 when he was riding wes montgomerys coat tails playing motown records and hes annoying 30 years later with his advanced stats.

    • Zamboni Driver

      Thank you, i thought i was the only one getting sick of corsi this, and lowetide in general, listening to him and that mc79 guy is painful, i understand that advanced stats are becoming more mainstream, but lets face it most fans, dont care about it, If Dubynks .921 save percentage was so great, why did his own GM actively go out and look for a no.1 goalie in the offseason, only reason dubynk is still here is because the GM couldnt swing a deal for his replacement, And yes the oilers have outshot a few teams this season, but does Corsi take into effect that the oilers have the softest team in the nhl, everyone outside edmonton can see it, why doesnt the local media, who are still in love with the idea that the oilers have the greatest young talent in the nhl.

      • pkam

        The management is looking for a goalie with a better or at least equal SV% to compete with Dubnyk.

        Last season, Schneider was 4th in SV% at 0.927 and Bernier was 12th at 0.922 while Dubnyk was 14th at 0.921.

  • Zamboni Driver

    What I would like to know is who exactly on this team should be going into the offensive corner (first one to the puck)to get the puck? Oh wait, we don’t have anybody that can do that without hurting their shoulder.

  • Zamboni Driver

    The Oilers were winning 1-0 and on two occasions, with the faceoff in Washington’s end, Eakins rolled out the 4th line. When a team is struggling and dominating early in a game wouldn’t the best strategy be to at least roll with your 1st or 2nd line and try to increase your lead? Its too early to judge his system however the Oilers need wins and we all know that the Oilers cannot defend one goal leads. For this I give an Eakins an F.

    • Hair bag

      #1 Centerman/Nuge gave a flat pass to Hemsky who missed it – went to dman – who passed to unattended slot forward and we are tied 1-1

      Not the 4th line on that one.

      • Hair bag

        you miss my point-i’m not blaming the 4th line-much like playing blackjack you play the odds-odds are the 1st and 2nd line have a better chance scoring than the 4th and at that point of the game if Eakins chose to go for the jugular they may have increased their lead-btw on both occasions the 4th line lost possession and play went down the ice

  • Jason Gregor

    Jason,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the multiple systems that Eakins promised on all three zones ? I think everyone agrees that goaltending has not supported the team during critical parts of the game but by the eye it looks like RNH, Hall, Yakupov, Schultz, Hemsky, have all lost their mojo.

    It is inconceivable that all these hockey players all lost their game at the same time………..I suspect that the system that Eakins has brought in has something to do with this, bad goaltending or not. It maybe time to hit the re-set button on a system that is clearly in need of some changes to address our ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone?

    In addition benching Yakupov at least on a cursory level seem heavy handed given the performance of all of our skilled players?

    • Jason Gregor

      It is six games. The Oilers have outshot opposition in 5 of them. Decent goaltending and they are 3-3. You don’t change the system, that would be pushing the panic button. The Oilers haven’t played that bad IMO.

      I don’t think benching Yak was heavy handed.

      He has zero points.

      Hall, Gordon, Perron and Arcobello have 5 points.

      Hemsky, Smyth, Eberle have 4 points.

      RNH has 3 points.

      If it was just on points, he isn’t producing, but Eakins felt he looked frustrated and wasn’t using his linemates enough. I don’t think it is that big of deal in the long run. But that is just me.

    • book¡e

      To me the guys look lost, particularly in their own end. This overplay – out man – overwhelm – the opposition puck carrier in the defensive zone, takes a long time for a group to get right, even if you believe in it – which I dont. When it goes wrong, it gives up glaring scoring chances. Eakins may have bit off more than can be chewed, in the form of too many systems changes – too soon. Some things need to be eased in over time.

      • pkam

        Do you remember the 1st 10 games last season? The guys looked lost even more.

        I remembered watching the guys skating away from a free puck about 5 feet away and he was the one closest to the puck.

        Nothing was more strange than that to me.

  • Carlos Danger

    Do the pad changes explain Dubnyk’s struggles? Are more athletic less angle reliant goalies going to lead the way now? Is there a back up somewhere who plays this style that we could acquire? I have defended Dubnyk in the past but he has always let in about one “soft” goal a game which to me suggests that his positioning might have been off. I think this start, although a small sample size, might actually be who he is going to be in the future.

  • paul wodehouse

    TRADE…

    Dubnyk, Yakupov, Arcobello & the elder Schultz for Holtby, Johansson and Carlson and two first round picks…

    a way to stay close…? jus sayin’

  • paul wodehouse

    I’ll admit that I was not on the Arcobello bandwagon during training camp. But he has sure earned my respect. Centres arguably the most consistent line for the Oilers, which is not saying much. But he does all of the little things right. Complements his skilled wingers very well. Seems to have a primo scoring chance or two very game. But he needs to bank some of those chances. Few will say he’s an NHL player until he does.

  • book¡e

    We are bad on the penalty kill because Eakins has taken away responsibilities and spread them around. If a player knows he is the first (given that they are rested and not coming off of a shift) over the boards in a PK situation they take a great amount of pride in that and perform better. Last year we had that and PK was good this year it is a variety of players and it is not working. Set up a PK rotation and stick with it. Eakins, this is not the AHL can’t use the same mentality. By the time he figures that out our playoff chances will be done

  • Spydyr

    I understand and appreciate the thoughtfulness of your tidbits; however there is one thing not mention.
    The biggest change in the off season was the change in coaches. You discuss, a chaotic PK and poor defense, however no mention of a coaching change and the impact it has had.
    I am not sure of the mentality of the coaching staff saying, we need to compete, we need to work hard, we need to change the philosophy of the team, yet we have regressed in almost every measurable category.
    I am not saying push our coach under the bus, but how long will this continue with the players being frustrated, fans being angry, and an organization that can only say, we are getting better.
    We have been out played, out worked, and out coached.

    • Jason Gregor

      Actually they haven’t regressed in every measurable category. Quite the opposite in fact. Saying the Oilers have been outplayed all year is incorrect. They should be 3-3 with decent goaltending. They are a .500 team in my mind, so they’ve played like I expected them to play, excluding the goalies.

      The have improved measurably in faceoffs.
      They’ve scored first 5 of 6 times. They did it only 50% of games last year.

      They are outshooting the opposition in 5 of 6 games. They outshot teams 11 of 48 games last year. That is a major improvement.

      Goaltending has been brutal. You can’t sugarcoat it, but Eakins doesn’t involve himself with the goalies. He lets Chabot do it, (He was here last year).

      So I’m not sure why you think coaching has had such a negative impact. PK and goaltending are the two areas they are worse in. Goalie has a lot to do with both.

      Their forwards are all different on the PK, that is the issue there, not necessarily coaching.

      • Hair bag

        I will stand correct, the Oilers have not regressed in every category, you are right, however the categories they are better in are not translating to wins and are being offset by the problems.

        Who makes the choice of forwards on the PK, 28th in the league, Eakins even stated in the preseason that he was going to ask his higher paid guys to do more including on the PK?
        How much coaching is there in winning a faceoff?
        Where is the fore check?
        We are giving up 4.5 goals per game and it is all a goalie issues???
        Shots on goal is not a measurement of success, Toronto has been out shot on average 3.3 shots per game (www.sportingcharts.com) and they are current first in the east?????
        Although they have made certain strides, faceoff wins (top 5 face off players, excluding calgary, are on teams not in the top 10 in the league http://www.espn.go.com), more shots on net, these are not translating into WINS.

        I do not have an issue with your response, my issues lies in that we are talking about all the other problems and giving a pass to the Coach?

        From the sounds your response, it appears as though the current state of the Edmonton Oilers is of no fault of the coach…

  • Spydyr

    It is easy to say and see that Yak was not playing as well as we and he would like. BUT as has been pointed out Yak is a minus three, and that is far better than the other young players. So maybe the coaches should be working with Yak and not punishing him, or not only be punishing him, and start benching some of the others who are on the ice giving up twice as many goals as they are producing.

  • book¡e

    The night was long,
    The air was thick,
    The oilers goals against aren’t worth a lick,
    Management searched from pole to pole,
    To find the goalie who wont give up the big goal,
    When they found him their battery was dead,
    The shooter tutor was screwed to the shed!

  • Spydyr

    Okay lets see where we are in the fault department so far….its the goaltenders….its the coaching….its klowe…its katz….its the defence….its the offence…its bucky…its everybody…

    ahhhhh….Hockey season is back!

  • Hemmercules

    Look on the bright side, you can pick the Oilers to lose every night on Streakcred and its almost a sure bet!

    I know its been working for me, now if those stupid Florida teams would quit screwing me over I might actually have a streak to brag about.

  • Spydyr

    Actually I have my own theory as to why we are losing in such odd and indescribable ways…ITS THE CURSE!!!

    My premise is that back in the glory days ..say 1985 or maybe 1987 when we were regulary destroying teams 9-4 or 10-2 etc and Slats was smirking and the guys were laughing on the bench and Dave Brown or Semenko were using other teams tough guys like lawnmowers or rented mules…I think at some point then, we were cursed…cursed to lose all we had and when we finally got it back it would never be the same.
    I talked to some people who know about these things and they suggest we can only break the curse by melting down the Gretzky statue and remaking it into a statue of the goalie Bunny Larouque or may “redlight” Racicot ( as a symbol to all those goalies who were mistreated by us in that decade). Im afraid its the only way we will escape this pit of evil we are trapped in…

  • Czar

    Good to see Yak back in. What will be the most interesting is to see if Hall gets a game upstairs if he doesn’t improve. Yes, he’s had shots and a few goals, but I am really “seeing him bad” on goals against. Look at the video, he’s floating in his own end. The transition from what worked in junior, or even the AHL, for these stars has been slow. Ebs looks like he’s starting to get it, but Jultz, Hall, Yak and to a lesser extent Nuge, need firm coaching.

  • Jason Gregor

    Jason neglected to mention that the coaches who benched Stamkos (Melrose) and Kovalchuk (Fraser) were both fired reasonably soon thereafter.

    And do we really want to run with the Dallas-Eakins-as-Barry-Melrose meme?

    Dallas “Queen Bee” Eakins and his Mindless Drones swarming their way into our hearts.

    What about elite talent and mindless drone does exactly feel like a well-fitting glove!

  • Hair bag

    After watching the games this season, the Oilers breakout seems to be really struggling under this system. (with many other things for sure)

    We seem to consistently rely on just getting it out of our zone without trying to establish any sort of controlled play. I’m not sure if this is because of the winger along the boards is “swarming” the puck which takes away his pass on the wall, or if we are relying on our face-off percentage after the icing to recover the puck. (yeah that seems silly to me too…) However, the past two games in particularly our Dmen were constantly setting up a point shot for the opposing team every time they had us in the corners of our zone.

    The constant dump attempts by our Defense really have me scratching my head. I understand when the pressure in our zone is one-sided and you need to just get it out but that can’t be “the play” every time.

    • pkam

      Did you watch the Oilers game last season?

      More often than not, we couldn’t even breakout of our zone and turn over the puck in our own zone is the norm.

      Not saying our play is perfect, but it is surely better than last year.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I know that Larsen was sent down but I would have put him in for Justin Schultz for a game. Justin Schultz is a big example of somebody who needs to emphasize defense before going on the defensive. Good Justin is him jumping into the play and creating Gordon’s goal. Bad Justin is him racing out of the zone before we clear it and leaving Laich all alone in front.