GDB 19.0: SURVIVAL

I didn’t pick the Oilers to make the playoffs this season, had them 10th, but I don’t think anyone expected them to start the season this poorly; 4-12-2 in their first 18 games and tonight a date with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

The Oilers have to play like they did in Tampa Bay or they could easily get blown away in the Windy City.

We could break down the stats. Goals for, goals against, PP, PK or any other stat, but we all know that won’t be very flattering for the Oilers.

It would be easy to pile on the Oilers right now, and I’ve noticed many have. Every goal that goes in is either a major breakdown or bad goaltending. The other team is also paid to play and they are capable of making nice plays. Even if the Oilers were 12-4-2 they’d still be allowing goals.

Hockey is about mistakes, they will happen, but the key is trying to force the opposition to make more. We know that hasn’t happened often enough, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Oilers aren’t built to win more games than they lose. They just aren’t.

Yesterday I noticed a debate raging about the Oilers depth, and some were suggesting the Oilers finally have lots of depth in their-top nine. Are they better than they used to be in that department? Yes, but they are a far cry from having lots of proven NHL depth. I’m sorry, but that is true.

The reality is the Oilers won’t win consistently until the make up of their top-nine is changed. I and many others have written or said this for the past few years. The Oilers aren’t heavy enough, don’t have enough grit and they don’t have enough consistent skill in their top-nine.

That isn’t the player’s fault. You can’t expect them to suddenly become heavier, or more physical. The one thing they can control is their ability to make smart plays. They need to do that more frequently, but even then I’d only see them as a .500 or so team.

Some people believe the Oilers don’t really know what they have in their top-nine because they haven’t had all of them healthy at the same time. It is true the forwards are finally healthy, but I defy anyone to tell me why the Oilers don’t know what they have up front.

We know what type of player Taylor Hall is. He is their most dominant forward.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still developing his overall game, but he’s shown signs of what he can be.

We could describe every player’s strength and weaknesses; we’ve seen them play enough. Marc Arcobello is the only surprise, and thus far he’s been a pleasant one. Nail Yakupov has only played 60+ games, but we know where he needs to improve and what skills make him dangerous.

I don’t need to see 20 games with a healthy group of forwards to know what the Oilers have. They will show great skill, good speed and creativity, but this team isn’t going to win ugly games. They aren’t going to overpower you down low. They won’t consistently score goals from on top of the crease. They don’t have that mixture, and the Oilers need to accept the weaknesses of the group as a whole, and find ways to fix it.

It doesn’t mean they don’t have good individual players, they do, but collectively as a group this team isn’t going to succeed.

The same can be said for their defence.

They don’t have any big, physical defencemen. Philadelphia dominated them down low yesterday, strictly by getting good body position. Even if Ladislav Smid was still on the team, the Flyers would have had success. Andrew Ference is now their most physical D-man, and it is unfair to expect him to lead the team in that department. He will battle guys his size, and guys bigger, but the Oilers need some heavy D-man who can stop teams from cycling down low.

WHAT NOW…

 There will be no magical fix for the Oilers. The players have to play smarter and more consistent, and Craig MacTavish has to look for trades that will help balance his lineup; the Oilers need more than just a top-pair D-man.

Until MacTavish tweaks his roster, the leaders need to keep the players unified. It won’t be easy, but they owe it to themselves and the fans to compete every shift.

The other teams aren’t going to go easy on the Oilers, in fact right now they might look at the Oilers as "point night." After the Detroit loss, Smid said, "Guys think it can’t get worse, well it can," and he was correct. It is easy to let negativity overwhelm you. It happens for all of us, and in the case of the Oilers it will be extremely difficult to stay positive and upbeat, but they have to, or the final 64 games might be just as painful, or worse, than the first 18.

LINEUP…

Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Perron-RNH-Eberle
Smyth-Arcobello-Yakupov
Joensuu-Gordon-Jones

It is fair to suggest that Eakins could stick with the same lines for a few games, and hope they find some chemistry. Switching lines often hasn’t helped them win. Every NHL coach switches things up when his team is losing, but maybe Eakins should buck that trend and stick with some combinations to see what happens. I’m not sure there is a right answer at this point, but he will keep his top two lines the same to start the game.

Luke Gazdic is out with an injured shoulder.

The same six D-men will play and Devan Dubnyk starts.

QUICK HITS…

  • My wife is the best. She suggested I use Alice Eve in Oilersnation. I’d never seen Alice before, but I would agree.
     
  • The Oilers are said to be one of the leading teams in terms of using analytics, yet they continue to lose and they are one of the softest teams in the league. Is it just a coincidence, or have they gone too far into looking at statistics rather than on-ice play? Using analytics as another tool is smart, but it leads me to some questions.

    Are the Oilers using them properly?
    Are they relying on them too much?
    Is it too early to see the benefits from them?
    Are they a non-factor, and the issues are mainly with scouting?

    I don’t know the answers, but it is something worth looking at. They weren’t very good before they started using analytics, so maybe that is the bigger problem. When a team is in the midst of an eight-year losing streak they need to look at every aspect of their organization and try to improve it.
     

  • Speaking of analytics, I’m curious why when Ryan Jones had a bad Corsi rating he was getting ripped, yet now that he is even at Corsi, has two goals in ten games and is +3 no one is suggesting he stay in the lineup?
     
  • Here is a great story on Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan will go into the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow, but it will be bittersweet because of his father’s battle with Alzheimers. Shanahan was one of my favourite players, and he’s very deserving of us his induction into the HHOF.
     
  • Taylor Hall returned from injury with a new stick, and the half-orange shaft matches the Oilers colours. He has two goals in two games, and he’s abandoned the toe drag. I’m sure he will bring it back at some point, but he’s focusing on beating guys with his speed. He has 60 points in his last 56 games.
     
  • I usually don’t rip on the officials, because they have an extremely tough job and they get it right more than they get it wrong, but that 5 minute major to Anton Belov yesterday was the worst call of the season. He never hit Giroux in the head, so how does he get a match penalty? They worst part was they met for three minutes to come up with that decision.

    You can’t reverse the call, I understand that, but at least come out after the game, or today, and admit you made a mistake. MLB admitted Angel Hernandez blew a call in May, and Jim Joyce earned a lot of respect when he came out and admitted he blew the call at first base that ruined Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game.

    The Flyers never scored on the match penalty, although it did lead to a weak make up call, and a subsequent four-on-four where Giroux scored, but fans deserve hearing someone from the NHL admit it was a horrendous call.
     

  • If the Oilers deal Ales Hemsky, which seems likely, I hope it isn’t just for prospects. You won’t improve as an organization if you continually ship out proven NHL players for maybes. Dealing Smid for prospects only made sense if they had another trade happening and needed to clear cap space. MacTavish said he felt they had depth and could move Smid, but they don’t have size right now. Klefbom and Nurse will add size when they make the team, but today’s lineup is smaller without Smid.
     
  • A reminder to watch the Nation’s own Jason Strudwick tonight on Battle of the Blades. If you don’t watch it, please vote for him. If Struds wins, the Inner City Children’s Program will get $50,000. That will make a major difference for many young kids in Edmonton. You can vote here later tonight or tomorrow.

TONIGHT….

GAME DAY PREDICTION:  The Oilers have played the Hawks tough the past few seasons, but I don’t see a miracle happening tonight. Hawks win 5-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall picks up two points. Hall has 15 points in 10 career games vs. the Hawks.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The comment section is filled with positive, up beat comments. Fans decide to pull a George Costanza, and write the opposite of what they feel. Everything in Costanza’s life was going wrong….

"Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable. I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s often wrong."

After that riveting speech George decides to do the opposite of everything that is normal for him. Up is down, down is up….Later in the show Costanza is rewarded…

"A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child, and it’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgement I’ve ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion, Elaine, Jerry. This is my religion."  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Dan 1919

    Larsen gets second star? WTF? He was on the ice for 3 goals against. You’d think they’d consider Ebs with his goal and asist or how about all Hawks? LOL

    • Batfink

      Just going to comment on the same thing. What, Eakins trying to teach Gags a lesson? “This is pressure Sam, I know you won’t let me down.” Or we could seriously try to win games. Scoreline was flattering to the Oilers, but I’m sure there will be some kind of justification.

      • Alsker

        Not trashing you but after 7 years you would thing gags would know WTF pressure is? He’s not one of the kids, we sign him to a 4 year extension with NTC attached and he cant play tough,no defensive game,unable to win draws. The poster boy for what is wrong in Oil country. Management is blinded by the positions they hold. Sad, really.

  • YFC Prez

    I love gagner but whenever there is an important face off he loses it cleanly to the other team. He’s been in the league for 6 years now. Will he ever figure out face offs ? I’m loosing faith. Good game from yak and hall. They were flying but another loss. Getting hard to take

  • Hauk15

    Philip Larsen mine as well play wing. Terrible defensively. But good thing we signed that hulking 5’11 187lbs Ference for the next 3 years and made him captain to “bolster” our defense.
    F*cking joke.

  • YFC Prez

    deja vu all over again……lots of goals against, softy goal for duby, bad face off %….and i’m sure we’ll hear the post game stuff about how we competed and there lots of positives…..lather rinse repeat

  • YFC Prez

    What a frustrating game. Oilers play ok for portions of the game, but then leave guys open, don’t pick up trailers that come in late. Dubby has got no rebound control, and no confidence. And some one tell me why Gagner is taking faceoffs against Toews, and playing more then Arcobello. Eakins is playing the heck outta him and he’s not responding. He’s not ready to play that much and his conditioning right now is terrible. Larson and Belov don’t look good together defensively. Really could use a shut down guy with both of these guys.

  • Rocket

    Predictably Bad result but an entertaining game to watch. Dubnyk played well even with his one-soft-goal-every-game. The kids looked alright too. They just got beat by a better team. Oh well, next….

  • Spydyr

    Anyone up for a dead pool?When will the Oilers be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs?

    I’ll take the Ides of March. March 15th.

    With thirteen games left in the season.

  • Hauk15

    Oilers D best to worst IMO.

    1.Petry
    2.N.Schultz
    3.Belov
    4.Ference
    5.Fedun
    6.Larsen

    What do you expect from this crap lol.
    Petry is good, he has potential to become a legit top pairing dman. Belov is a 2nd pairing guy. Nick is a legit 4th/5th. The rest are AHL quality.

    • Randaman

      You think that line up of d man is bad? Wait till you add ,Klefbom,Nurse and Marincin in the next 1-2 years.Hold onto your whities because its going to be keystone cops around the Oilers until they gain some experience.

  • YFC Prez

    I love how Eakins said the vets didn’t cover defensively. Good, maybe they’ll be held accountable and that includes the damn captain with his eleventy billion give aways. Also, Larsen needs to be sat down and talked to. Kid was on for almost every goal.

  • Spydyr

    Ironically, our 4th line guys are the only ones who aren’t in the minus section of +/-. Jones, Acton, Gazdic, Eager, Lander, Pitlick and even worse Grebeshkov are all even or in the + column while Nuge and Hemsky are -12, Yak is -14, Petry -11, Hall -8 and on and on. F*cking said that your 4th line plugs are the only ones not on the ice for the majority of goals against.

  • Spydyr

    Well I am out of here.

    Tomorrow is just not another long weekend.I hope everyone takes some time tomorrow to reflect on the sacrifices so many brave men and women gave.So we can worry about how lousy the Oilers are instead of having to save the world from tyranny.

    Lest we forget.

  • Randaman

    Let me qualify that post. On face offs , sucks, on the fifth goal, five feet away staring at his check in front of the net, sucks, speed, sucks, balance, sucks, blind passes in his own zone creating give always, PRICELESS. No trade as a gentle men’s agreement? I think NOT.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    The lost, again.

    They looked better tonight, but they still lost.

    Brutal turnovers all over the rink.

    Brutal defensive zone coverage. They seem to be getting worse in their own end, honestly.

    Another loss…..

  • outdoorzguy

    Craig MacTavish
    Scott Howson
    Kelly Buchberger
    Steve Smith
    And of course Kevin Lowe
    All clearly connected to the horrendous last decade of this team.
    Time for a change? Of course.
    I hope the seats are empty at the next home game. I hope the fans boo the team the minute they take the ice and don’t stop. I hope the fans chant for Kevin Lowe to be fired during the entire game. He is clearly a puppet of buddy Katz, but as long as he holds the position of Director of Hockey Operations all of this crap falls on his shoulders
    This team continually gets a pass from fans, from media (where else do reporters refer to players by their first name?) because we need hockey. But this isn’t hockey. The only thing that matters is wins. Al Davis said it best “Just win baby”. This team can’t do that in its current state. Shake it up “Bold Moves” and take your six rings out the door with you! Stand up for what you deserve Edmonton. How do you think a real professional sports city would put up with a decade of sub-mediocre performance. “The City of Champions” my ass.

  • I am the Liquor

    Just stop going to games people. Money is the only language Daryl Ballard is fluent in. He doesnt give a rats ass about the hockey team. As long as he has his cadre of ex-players to kibitz about the good old days, everything is fine.

    I used to feel sorry for Leaf fans back in the seventies and eighties. Now I am living their nightmare.

  • Since we aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, what’s two more years of crap for Mcdavid. He’s potentially a generational player. The kind that only comes around every 10 years or so. Seriously, what’s two more years of losing, at this point it’s pretty much in our culture to be losers. Darnell Nurse can be our D.Keith, and Mcdavid our Crosby. Nuge can be our veteran Hossa type. Hall, Ebs, and Yak I’m sure can fit in there too.

    Still need a goalie though. I have my doubts about Bryz and DD that’s foresure. Maybe Bunz or Brossoit can develop, but I really doubt that as well. We really, really need a top 10 goalie. It’s the one position that can hide so many mistakes.