THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES

The Edmonton Oilers are in a bad spot now, and with a 4-13-2 record to start the season you would be reading some ‘fire the coach’ articles by now if this were any other franchise. The thing is, they’ve done that already, seemingly every summer since 2009. I guess they could fire a coach in-season, but I don’t think that is going to happen. The alternative? A wild and crazy ride.

Do you remember the famous line uttered by every GM who ever fired a coach? It goes "well, you can’t fire all 23 players" and is followed by knowing nods from all gathered for the media conference. I think we’re about the see the reverse, kind of a "well, you can’t fire 23 coaches" plan.

It started with Ladislav Smid. Dallas Eakins didn’t give him a lot of time on the Smid-Petry tandem and honestly Smid’s skill set doesn’t really fit the Eakins template (get puck, move puck, rinse, repeat) for puck handling. The Oilers sent away Smid partly for cap savings into the next seasons, and that may be the case with more players as the MacT-Eakins tandem makes more final decisions on who can and cannot handle the Eakins way.

Sam Gagner may be in some peril as a center in this system. It’s early, and he’s coming back from injury, but he’s been exposed on this road trip by eye and by math–he’s not in good positions, doesn’t win enough battles and when he’s not helping offensively 89 doesn’t do enough without the puck to warrant top line minutes.

Dallas Eakins is the first coach in forever Edmonton has employed to deliver results without worrying too much about talent development. Eakins has to nurse Yakupov a little, but other than that it’s a results oriented business and those who can’t or won’t will be shot out of a cannon to their new home.

Bottom line: Dallas Eakins has a right to ask each player on the ice to be defensively responsible. We’ve been talking about systems but these aren’t new ideas brought from Mars, these are defensive tactics that require a player to adjust to the situation and mark his man. The results so far show some players have been able to adjust and flourish despite some stumbles, and others appear lost. Gagner has played far fewer games than the others, so there may be a sense that he can recover over time–however, at some point he’s going to pay for indifference or inability with lost playing time, a change in position, or a ticket out of town.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It began with Belov replacing Smid on the top 4, and resulted in Smid being sent away. Next step: Mark Arcobello at center, Gagner to the wing. The Edmonton Oilers have lost the season already and that is a horrible reality. The next logical step is to refine the roster to better reflect Dallas Eakins, culling those who don’t fit and adding those who are a better match.

Stay close to your internet, this is going to get choppy.

  • Terran

    There are certainties regarding this mess called the Oilers;
    1. The Oilers are mismanaged. 2. The Oilers make tons of money for Katz. 3. These young players don’t give a damn any longer. 4. Ference is not the leader needed. 5. The hiring of Eakins was a mistake. 6. The hiring of MacT was a mistake. 7. Kevin Lowe will be at his job in April. 8. The Oilers will not make the playoffs. 9. The Oilers will draft a top 5 again. 10. WE all pray for Bryzgalov to turn this thing around.

    A few recommendations: Stop going to the games, or booh the team and boycott the merchandise. That will hurt the owner.

  • Reality Check to the head

    In last nights game, I can honestly say the oilers seemed to be trying hard. I do however, think there is something missing between the ears. Whether it is knowledge, the brains to actually know how to play in your own end, or the willingness to pay the price to be defensively responsible, the Oilers as a whole are missing it.

    We have a lot of new players (and not too mention the coach), new to the team or new to the league. How could anyone really expected this team to be a playoff contender. Hindsight is 20/20, so saying we should have expected this start is laughable, but we should not have expected this team to be a well oiled machine during the first quarter of the season. Maybe a few more wins, but not a contender.

    I will continue to watch, continue to look for signs of this team learning to play together, while wishing they would have made that trade; Hemsky for Simmonds. Dont trade the 1st round pick, Our position will be shamefully awesome and maybe we will draft someone bigger than a smurf (Nurse excluded).

    (Drops microphone and exits stage left)

  • Paq Twinn

    This is exactly what I was saying in yesterday’s blog comments. Though you said much more eloquently. This IS our reality as much as it S-U-C-K-S. Everyone should be prepared to say good bye to some well liked players, some pretty damn good ones too.

  • Spydyr

    Absolutely dead on as to what will occur here in the next few moths. The players will either adapt to Eakins/MacT’s way/style/system or they will shown the door.

    Gagner is a disaster at center. His NHL FO % is pathetic. His saving grace is that usually he gets away with it because he in the past has shown the ability to produce points.

    My concern a couple of weeks ago was that Eakins was asking Gagner to come back in and play at the number2 position when clearly his game had yet to be seen and or played. It was like asking a guy to run a 100 yard dash without letting him warm up. A little time on the 3rd or 4th line was imo needed. So far the result has been less than expected of him. Go figure given the situation he was put in.

    I put his lack of performance on Eakins who at times put his players in untenable positions with unrealistic expectations. Example. RNH playing 28 minutes his first game. What was he thinking? His response usually is that if there cleared to play that means they are ready to perform at 100%. I’d argue that.

    Perhaps Jeff Krushell could elighten us with his knowledge. If you don’t mind asking him Lowetide on when a player should be expected to perform at 100% after an injury layoff?

    Times are lean. The game against Chicago last night was entertaining. We won the Special teams battle and got killed 5v5. DD was solid. Larsen needs a bigger body to play with. Is Petry stagnating again? Larsen and Fedun both have shown more than Petry in terms of recognition as to when to join the play. Are we overvaluing Petry? Or has Petry’s numbers been skewed due to the opponents he and Smid were paired against?

    Lastly will we ever see Corey Potter or Denis Grebeshkov in an Oilers uniform?

    • Agreed, Gagner should have been eased back in more slowly than he has been. It was clear and still is, that he’s not 100% and his jaw is sore. He took that hit a couple games back and was clearly in pain, and perhaps that’s why he’s a bit shy on some plays. He should have sat for another week to heal a bit more or been brough along slowly on the 3rd or 4th line with less minutes until he was more up to speed. I kind of feel like Eakins threw him to the wolves a bit there. There wasn’t any rush seeing as we had Arcobello to rely on for 2nd line C duties, so Eakins choice is befuddling to say the least.

  • Lowetide

    Smokey: I don’t have the answer beyond an opinion about Eakins’ usage of Smid. Sometimes a coach sees a player in a different way, that’s my guess.

    I don’t know why there wasn’t another shoe to drop, though.

    • Spydyr

      That would be to me like selecting first overall, making the playoff, signing a big free agent…

      I’s start the Stanley Cup parade on Jasper, and buy a season pack.

  • Craig1981

    Marc Crawford
    Paul Maurice
    Larry Robinson
    Peter Laviolette
    Jacquie Lemaire

    Are all coaches who have won or played in the Stanley Cup final in the “recent” years. Could one of these guys help the Oilers in some way?

    • Terran

      If the Oilers ever even entertain the idea of hiring Crawford in any capacity (even hot dog vendor #9 on the concourse), I will cheerfully burn all my oilers merchandise and begin cheering for the Flames.

      What I’m saying is I loathe the guy. It’s no coincidence that two of the more heinous acts (Lemieux on Draper and Bertuzzi on Moore) occurred with him as coach

    • If it isn’t Laviolette or Robinson don’t even entertain the notion.

      Even still, I’ve had enough of blaming the coaches for the players’ inability to play the system. Mac-T has his guy. It is Eakins for the foreseeable future so buckle up and hope the good times are still coming around the corner.

        • D-Unit

          Pretty sure in that dream world, Scotty, Lou and Mike would give them up if they didn’t want to complete, show some heart and stand up for themselves and their teammates. Not just once in a while, 60 minutes a game, 82 games a year.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            It is tough!……tough to give up on the six years of hope that is represented in the three first overall picks………but …sadly…..yes….I would do it…..I would have more faith in Scotty , Lou and Mike building something special…than I have faith that something special is in the works now.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      I like the idea of Crawford. He coached a very talented team to the cup (Aves in 96). I think he also did a good job with the Nucks in the mid 2000s with a lineup that had massive holes (goaltending, bottom 6 and D).

      Lemaire has retired from coaching but it’d certainly be interesting to see a complete change in style. The Oilers playing vicious, responsible D. I’d appreciate it.

      I honestly wanted them to grab Hitchcock when he came on the market. Yes I said it! Hitchcock to Etown!

  • Terran

    Lowetide,

    If the Oilers were so insistent on signing our Comrad, could they not of sent say a couple players to the minors like Schultz and Jones and retained the mandated portion of their salary against the cap and still had room to sign Bryzgalov? Cause I don’t get why any organization would take 30 cents on the dollar for a player I believe 29 other teams would see value in. It doesn’t seem well thought out at all, or make sense. There had to be other options?

    Secondly, why did we have to give Bryz 1.75? Was he not willing to take a check for 800k to 1m just to get back in the bigs? I don’t get having to sacrifice Smid for him, and having to pay a goalie that much, when it appeared no one wanted him. Rich Winter looks brilliant squeezing the Oilers for that.

    Lastly, do you see another trade coming, which might make sense of this leaching? Cause if not we gave away a player for a tweener who won’t help us win. Smid was not a complete defenseman. He lacked in his ability to make plays, but all these puck movers we have lack a certain defensive acumen.

  • Craig1981

    Looking at Eakin’s record in the AHL, it seems his teams continue to improve from season to season. I know that isn’t all on him, but changing the culture in a room isn’t done quickly or easily.

    If the teams plays well the last half and keeps up to our playoff teams the season wasn’t a loss……..though I would like to watch an Oiler playoff game once this decade at some point

  • D-Unit

    LT, I agree that Gagner should be done at centre, but he never should have been playing there in the first place, his entire career, not just this year. But that speaks to the Oilers problem as a whole. Put guys in positions they can’t or shouldn’t play because the coach has no options.
    I also agree, don’t get rid of Eakins, but even if they did, what experienced coach would want to come into this mess? Deal with so many prima donna players who refuse to buy into any system.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      Ganger IMO should be playing 3rd line wing until he is up to speed. Physically and mentally. Arcobello have show he can produce as a 2cd line center. Small window of games. But Arco sure did let the play die on his stick. And his FO numbers were a step up on Gagners. Till we get McDadvid….

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        I wish I could say Gagner is the new Horcoff…but I can’t ….Horcoff had talent , could win a face off, played a two way game, and had a little grit.

        • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

          I’m not kidding….you give me the Horcoff of 3 years ago at 5.5 or the Gagner of today at 4.8….and I take Horc every day of the week and twice on Sundays!

      • D-Unit

        I would be happy with Gagner playing 3rd line wing. Preferably with any other team in the NHL. I don’t know how you convince any other team to pay him $4.8 to do that though. Gagner is just one of many cases of the Oilers putting more value into their players than the rest of the league would.

        • 15w40

          Why bring in Andrew Ference and make him captain if your going to give Gagner 4.8 million and tell him essentially he is a core guy? Blows my mind that Gagner was not given the C considering that he has doe and said all the right things in terms of propping up this team in hard times. It like talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time. Eakins/MacT’s message to the core younger players is your not ready yet to take on that role and responsibility. For me Ference is an excellent role model but coming in cold into a room where you know no one and being asked to lead them just does not work. Where is the trust? The we’ve been in this together mentality? The sense of kinship. Brotherhood.

          Giving Gagner the 4.8 million isn’t an issue for me. Not giving him the captaincy was, is and will be for me. It sent the wrong message. Leadership comes from within. Its earned through tough times and good times. Gagner earned that I believe.

  • DSF

    The oilers need a top 2 dman and need it badly. Do we wait and choose one in the draft and probably sacrifice another season or 2 of losing? With the kids having not tasted victory, I honestly believe they will get tired of losing and want to leave the organization. I think you need to use that top pick, and dangle one of the kids and get yourself a dman. I think a guy like Weber may be traded if the right package comes along and how can you deny a top 3 pick and a young gun like Eberle or Yakupov in a trade.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      This team needs a full on colonoscopy. Make sure there aren’t any tumors or worms.

      That’d be an interesting incentive. Play well or get a colonoscopy.

    • DSF

      I’d even do the dirty deed and stick it in…ewwww….

      Eakins needs to get this team to play defensively. Pick up men, cover guys in the slot, and don’t leave guys wide open in front of the goalie. That’s where this team needs to start.