I have a bad feeling about this

The Edmonton Oilers had a pretty decent game. Really they did. Scout’s honour. 

They lost anyway, and that’s getting to be an ugly trend.

The Loss To Phoenix

Dallas Eakins said basically the same thing after the game.

Eakins avoided placing blame on goaltender Jason LaBarbera, instead saying that the Oilers need to get better at blocking those point shots. While that may be true, and it’s certainly true that some of those outside shots were deflected, LaBarbera allowed four of five goals from far outside the scoring chances area.

And, just to add injury to insult, Tyler Pitlick scored his first NHL goal but then left the game on crutches after taking an awkward hipcheck. 

A one-goal loss to Phoenix isn’t a huge deal, but the trouble is that the hole the Oilers are in gets deeper by the day.

The Problems

  • Over the last five seasons (including pro-rating Minnesota’s 2012-13 pace) the eight place team in the Western Conference has averaged between 94 and 95 points. That means the Oilers need to record something like 88 points over their final 70 games – which assuming an average rate of overtime losses works out to a 40-22-8 record the rest of the way. Even if you believe (as I do) that the Oilers are significantly better than the record to date, that’s a lot of ground to make up.
  • The goaltending has been flat-out bad. Devan Dubnyk seems to have rediscovered his form of the last few seasons, but Jason LaBarbera has yet to have a good game for Edmonton. At age 33 he’s a little young to be losing it, so there’s got to be at least a decent chance he bounces back but it’s been ugly so far. I do think the Oilers move to add a goalie at some point but for right now the most important thing is Dubnyk playing as well as his long-term track record says he should.
  • The injuries up front are getting silly. As Bob Stauffer tweeted after the game, Pitlick is the ninth forward on an NHL contract to be out. He joins Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth, Jesse Joensuu, Ryan Hamilton, Steve MacIntyre, Ryan Martindale and Curtis Hamilton. If I had to guess I’d say Linus Omark is the next call-up; remarkably the Oilers will still have two plausible call-ups on the farm (Anton Lander and Andrew Miller) if they make that choice.
  • The penalty kill is a major concern, too. No team in the NHL is as likely to allow an opposition shot attempt 4-on-5 as the Oilers. It’s not just a case of the goalies needing to stop more shots (though that has been a factor); it’s a case where the entire unit just hasn’t been good enough. I can’t help wondering if the decision to work in a bunch of skill guys into the rotation is part of the problem here; the Oilers are leaning pretty heavily on inexperienced personnel. 
  • I’m less worried about the power play. A year ago, the Oilers scored on 16.9 percent of the shots they took (while not really generating a lot of shots); this year shot generation is up but the Oilers are clicking at just a 6.6 percent rate (meaning that any shot last year was more than twice as likely to be a goal as any shot this year).

Add a deep hole early in the year to a bunch of injuries to bad goaltending to struggling special teams and the Oilers chances of coming away with a playoff berth this season look pretty grim. Some of it will self-correct (the power play and possibly the goaltending), some of it needs help from the coaches (the penalty kill) and some of it (the injuries and the early hole) just needs to be overcome.

Put it all together and this looks like a season on its way to going pear-shaped, despite the team as a whole being significantly better than it was a year ago.

  • vetinari

    I hate to even say it, but what would the team have looked like if Krueger was still the coach and Eakins was an Associate Coach? Or if Renney was still running the bench?

    I’m all for supporting the incumbent coach but changing coaches every year means that they have to take 1/2 a season to learn what their players can and cannot do, and another 1/2 a season to teach them what you want them to do. They might as well run the next 4-6 weeks as one big training camp. Luckily, as a tier two out of province fan, I don’t have to pay to see this mess first hand.

    Get your draft guides out (again) OilerNation, and maybe 2014/15 will be a playoff year.

  • james_dean

    The Oilers again losing by one goal…….
    Yup……
    Who’s the day in, day out team leader here?
    Who’s hungry enough to be a winner? KLOWE?
    Another top 5 pick at the 2014 draft. And again in 2015. Then a rebuild.

  • D

    Oiler fans (?) need to get a grip! Certain things this team needs (goaltending) isn’t going to happen over night! Watched Ebs, Nuge, Perron today among the few & loved what I saw! A couple key additions & this is a different ending! Love what Gazdic & Acton bring, big time compete & Oiler pride, love it!

    • vetinari

      Must be speculation from an Eastern source because Yak has too much long term potential to give up on to get back a 31 year old goalie who will be a UFA in two years and yet another defenceman… also, we’re at 48 contracts so I can’t see us pushing that number up without darn good reason… and Montreal doesn’t have a lot of cap room to take on any salary, thus, I can’t see them trading away a decent backup who makes $1.4M/season for Yak’s salary hit plus the cost of acquiring another NHL ready backup.

  • Alsker

    Mark february 3rd on your calender folks because thats when we play Buffalo for the “battle of the basement”. And with the number one pick in the 2014 entry draft the Edmonton Oilers proudly select……

    • Alsker

      Man I truly hope we dont hear those words(unless via trade) again for a decade or better. Clean house Mr.Katz, find a real hockey dude, not a former cup winner, but a true student of the game, an enthusiast, someone NOT busy mulling over what was rather with what will be and will ALWAYS be!!!!!!

  • Throttlehead

    The elephant in the room is goaltending, it is flat out terrible, Eakins won’t say anything because it would take the minuscule amount of confidence that these goalies have and kill it. If we don’t get a goalie and soon, we will be in and remain in the bottom 5. What has changed in coaching to where the PP and PK have sunk to the worst in the league? I assume we are trying to teach the young and the restless how to PK, I am not sure why its these guys. If its not the GM, not the coach, we have 3 1rst over all drafts, what is it exactly? The POHO is the same, the assistants, and whats with the goalie coach. I’m done whining 🙂

  • The only problem with this season is if you thought the Oilers had a good chance at making the post-season. I did not, and so am not that upset. I am actually starting to enjoy watching this team again though. You can see their improvement from the past few years. I see progress. I like it. I would suggest to stop overanalyzing the team and step back and enjoy the progress…we’re finally coming out of the desert.

    • Throttlehead

      At this point in the season compared to last season, where exactly have we progressed?

      GA- worse
      wins- worse
      PP- worse
      PK -worse

      We just have a better car salesman telling us the so called positives after the game.

      • Have you watched the games? The best statistical tool I have to prove progress in the team is my wife: the amount of times she shhhhushes me due to my incredulous screaming at the TV has markedly decreased. It still happens, but not nearly as much!

        If you want to feel depressed or angry about this team you can find whatever reason you need: it’s there. All I know is compared to 3 years ago this team appears to be on the verge of actually playing hockey. I’m enjoying it in the here and now, and encouraged because given the age of the team, it will only get better.

    • ^ Hear in lies one of the major problems with

      Oilers fans……Apathy & Hope.

      The” just one more year” “Next year they will be better”

      So, not that I don’t agree with you, I never had them pegged as a playoff team but, I never had them pegged as a playoff team because of their roster!!

      You’re looking at it from a tilted view!

      The roster, choice of players & coaching is the responsibility of the management, the responsibility of the management is to make this team competitive.

      I think it’s our responsibility to voice our displeasure at the way this team has been run, 8 years out of the playoffs is unacceptable in any sport.

      It’s unacceptable out of those eight years to burn off 4 years of contracts of arguable two of the team’s best players.

      It’s baffling how they can fire 5 coaches and yet, not find any responsibility within themselves.

      Logic would dictate that major whole sale changes should be made.

      I will reference Chicago and the firing of Tallon after he won a cup, mistakes should never be tolerated, yet the clowns up stairs continue to make the same ones and is the sole reason the Oilers are looking at yet another year out of the playoffs.

  • Throttlehead

    Dear bre’re Eakins,
    Mayhap you should have left the special teams alone. They were working fine last season before you showed up looking to re-invent the wheel. I’m not sure of the exact % of roster overturn but I would have taken a few more baby steps before I torched the season with this lame-ass display of beer league hockey at $225.00+ a ticket.

    In closing, if I were you I would ask Santa for a competent goaltender or two and a new pro-scouting squad. Your odds of asking Santa can’t be any worse than waiting for Mact to get off his duff and respond to a critical need. I’m not liking your shelflife.

  • Alsker

    I swear if the oilers finish in the basement again, the league will be forced to implement a new rule limiting the amount of years a team will be included in the draft lottery.

  • **

    “Add a deep hole early in the year to a bunch of injuries to bad goaltending to struggling special teams and the Oilers chances of coming away with a playoff berth this season look pretty grim.”

    In other words, just another Oilers season.

  • Serious Gord

    You know things are bad when DSF is getting propped.

    All I have to say is that 5 on 5 this team is (for the most part) miles ahead of years past, but special teams is really struggling right now. Eventually though, the percentages have to even out a bit. And eventually the team has to get healthier. Wins are coming. In fact, if their goaltending had been even average, we’d be at 6 wins and fans wouldn’t be breaking ankles.

    And the people thinking Eakins is going to lose his job this year are out to lunch. Seriously. Get a grip.

  • cf89

    problems with the oil are as followed:

    1. rookie head coach playing an inferior swarm defense system.

    2. mediocre to poor goaltending contributed by the pathetic swarm system (ss)

    3.penalty kill stinks b/c swarm system earlier on (which has been modified) and now offensive players on the pk…joke!! where is lennart petrell…haha!

    4.PP stinks b/c we need krueger. MacT. only did 1/2 right, he should have kept ralph as the HC and made dallas his associate coach and then told SS AND KB to lose his phone number — or higher an legit/establish head coach.

    5. the way i see it, we have had a bunch coaches over the last 3 years, and only Renney was legit. keep kreuger and eakins, make them assistants — tell smith and buch to get the h3ll out edm. and hire a legit nhl head coach, heck i’m desperate enough that as soon as dallas is fired, i’d even have MacT. reinstated. he was the last coach that had some success ie. 2006

  • Zamboni Driver

    First time I’m going to be critical of the coach (though I don’t know WTF our ‘system’ is in our own zone)…

    How he handled the goalie switch was a joke.

    Pull him or don’t. And after a temper tantrum from your career backup – some guy whose name we will all forget next year – you PUT HIM BACK IN THE GAME?

    What he should have done was send him on a one way to the ECHL…

    Likely where he belongs, sure.

  • **

    How can you can the coach when the GM canned Kreuger for him ? Obviously MacT. will not . Likewise , how would Lowe can MacT. ? If one goes they both go , but that’s unlikely , and so we are stuck with both bad results or not .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Eakins coaching results are making me think Tambs, Renney. Quinn and Krueger are looking like progressive, creative, hockey dynamos by comparison.

    Sad.

    Keep it up Mr.Eakins because I hear you can get some real tasty veggies in the ECHL. And that is where you are very likely headed. I give you another 10 mos of the current situation and you may want to line up a good mover.

  • Big Cap

    Can’t stand to see that sour, cry baby look that our Big Mouth, Blow Hard, No-It-All coach displays after another one his swarm defense tactics have gone array.

    Tell us again how you demand top fitness, and an ultra competitive team, because NO other coach demands the exact same thing. I’m sure when guys like Sutter, Carlyle, Quenneville, and Torts heard you spout off, they all thought, “Great Idea, I’m going to try that out too”

    Hello, Pete Laviolette… you got any plans over the next few months?? Eakins your time is done!

    PS – And thanks Eakins for taking down our history and tradition of our proud and successful years past.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I’m depressed, but not so depressed to crap on our team, and be so fickle as to lose all hope/faith 12 games into an 82 game season.

    Our worst season in history we started 6-3-1, who knows…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    • Serious Gord

      It’s not fickle it’s math and the historical record.

      No team in the modern era has ever come from dead last on Nov 1 and made the playoffs. Very few – 3 (?) have ever done it when they were 5 or more back on Nov one. The oil is 8 back with St. Louis having three games at hand. And two back of Dallas and they have two games at hand. And the oil have only two game left before nov1. Thus it is a near impossibility to make the playoffs.

      So who is being fickle in light of those facts?

      Time to take your realism medicine.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        Who said anything about making the playoffs? I’m more concerned with effort/competitiveness.

        I meant being fickle with regards to supporting the team, we say we are loyal, crap on Lowe sure, but Yakupov has had a tough start to the season, so let’s trade him/he’s going to the KHL/should have drafted Murray.

        If Hemmer wasn’t doing well we would be screaming for his head/Dubnyk was one of our better players last year and has 3 rough games and so let’s hack his head off too.

        The games haven’t been awful, the only ones in where we were truly outplayed and outclassed was Vancouver, and Pittsburgh.

        And about games in hand…there is 70 games left, 72 for Dallas, don’t tell me it is impossible to be competitive for a playoff spot when there is 70 games left

        We’ve had below par goaltending and awful Special Teams, but our PP chances created is better in volume this year to last, so it’s only about time their chances start going in, and Dubnyk is looking back to normal so who knows? It isn’t mathematically impossible to make the playoffs by Nov.1, nor miss them.

  • BLAKPOO

    Labarbera being terrible is a goaltending issue. Labarbera getting the start and being allowed to stay in after 3 brutal goals? That’s a coaching issue. Yeah, sure it’s against his old team, and it would make Labarbera feel like a champ to beat his old team, but we’re not looking to make “After School Specials”. We need wins.

    This game was very winnable. Despite the bad penalties and consistent turnovers ( I’m looking at you, Nail ), the Oil showed some great ability and perseverance to battle back. It’s a shame bad goaltending and bad coaching decisions lost them this game.

  • Rdubb

    WHAT IN THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO OUR SPECIAL TEAMS?
    The past few seasons they were in the top half & even as good as the top 5. So with that kind of “production” out of the special teams, why has Eakins decided to “switch” things up? There were far more serious problems that those two areas, wasn’t there?
    I know I have said this before, but watching the PK last night made me mad, and down-right PISSED…I don’t want to name players here…while on the PK, the PHX point man had the puck, and both forwards moved over to the side of the ice where the puck was, pretty easy pass to the opposite defenseman, puck moved down low (or shot), and a few seconds later, GOAL. And this happened on almost every single PK, maybe PHX didn’t always score, but both forwards converting on the d-man with the puck, he makes a simple pass over, and now it is basically a 4 on 2. I don’t know it that is this stupid “swarm” defense, because if it is, Eakins better change it FAST.
    Just Watch the Oilers PK today, you’ll see the same dumb ass thing happening over and over. I am not an NHL coach and never will be, but if I can this being a stupid play, I am sure coaches like Suter, Tippit and whomever else can see this too, and easily break down the Oil system.
    Eakins has his fingers in to many things, let the guys who ran the PK and PP go back and do it the way they have for the past 3 yrs and get the PK & PP back on tract & we’ll stop losing these games we should be winning.