TUESDAY TIDBITS…TOUGH STARTS

The Oilers are 4-13-2 (10 points) in their first 19 games, and they are on pace for 43 points. The Oilers will not finish with 43 points. They will improve, but can they improve enough to give you hope that next season will be different?

Here’s a quick look at the five worst 20-game starts in Oilers history and where those teams finished.

1993/1994: 3-14-3 (9 pts). They finished 25-45-14 with 64 points and 3rd last in the NHL.
1979/1980: 3-12-5 (11pts). They finished 28-39-11. They finished 6th last, but made the playoffs in the 21-team league.
1990/1991: 5-13-2 (12 pts). They finished 37-37-6 with 80 points and 3rd in the Smyth division.
2010/2011: 5-11-4 (14 pts). They finished 25-45-12 with 62 points and last in the NHL.
1997/1998: 5-10-5 (15 pts). They finished 35-37-10 with 80 points and 7th in the west and beat Colorado in 1st round.

It is very unlikely that the Oilers will finish at or above .500, and we all know the playoffs are a pipe dream. An Oiler victory vs. Dallas on Wednesday ties them for the 3rd worst start in franchise history, so there is no sugar coating this start; it has been horrible.

Oilersnation is fed up. You are sick of losing and I don’t think fans were ever this upset at any point during the 2010-2012 seasons.

This year was supposed to be different, mainly because the Oilers management and coaches said it would be. Craig MacTavish has made some solid moves; however, he erred by stating he’d make "Bold" moves. Signing Boyd Gordon, Andrew Ference, Jesse Joensuu, Wil Acton, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Jason LaBarbera and Ryan Hamilton weren’t bold. Acquiring David Perron was a solid move, but likely didn’t resonate as bold within the fan base.

Dallas Eakins termed his defence the "swarm," and by giving it a name it led fans to believe it was new and innovative. Other teams have used it before, most call it a pressure defence, but after years of watching porous defence the fans were jacked up believing the "swarm" would shut down the opposition.

That hasn’t happened.

Once again the Oilers are near the bottom in goals against, dead last in fact, having surrendered a woeful 75 goals in 19 games. The fans have a right to be annoyed, frustrated and down right angry.

The Oilers have to stop selling hope or improvement during the off-season. It hasn’t worked for five years, and the morale within Oilersnation is at an all-time low.

WHAT NOW….

  • It is interesting what we want to hear. When MacTavish said he’d make bold moves, he also clearly addressed that his young players would need to work harder, yet all the focus after the press conference was on bold moves. The GM didn’t hammer home the point about the young players, or repeat himself, but it was the first time anyone within the organization made a clear challenge/statement towards the younger players.

    Ideally, the Oilers wouldn’t have this many young players trying to learn the NHL game at the same time. They’d have the luxury of protecting them with proven veterans, but the Oilers didn’t build their team that way. The kids will need to learn the hard way, and it has shown to be a difficult learning curve. Right now MacTavish and company can only hope that all the tough lessons will pay off in the future. Sadly, there is no guarantee that will happen.
     

  • I chuckled when I was called an Oiler apologist because I am not demanding Eakins get fired. Firing the coach after 19 games would be a dumb move. Plain and simple. Losing franchises continue to make change, thus having no continuity. Winning organizations, in any sport, have continuity. Eakins isn’t perfect, and he has a lot to learn at the NHL level, but just like the Oilers made a commitment to the young players, they have committed to Eakins. He needs more than 19 games to judge whether he’s a good coach or not.

    In the last seven games the Oilers special teams have improved dramatically. The PP is clicking at 31.5% (6 for 19), while the PK is at 91.3% killing off 21 of 23. So we’ve seen improvement in those areas, but their overall defence still needs a lot of work. Firing Eakins and hiring someone else at this point would be a desperate and ill-advised move.

    Watch the highlights, do you honestly believe that Eakins would coach his players not to cover the guy in front of the net, or that he’d instruct them to leave Kruger wide open in front of the net, and send both D-men to the man on the boards. The players are making some horrible defensive decisions.

    All the best coaching candidates are currently working, so who would you replace him with? Firing the coach might make fans feel better because someone paid the price, but it would only mask the real issue. The team isn’t good enough. The mixture isn’t right.

    Firing the head coach would tell the players they aren’t the issue, again, and it would give another excuse to management. MacTavish didn’t build this team, but he’s in charge or trying to make it competitive. He’ll need some time, but firing the coach will only delay the process.

    Furthermore, firing a coach based on 19 games with bad goaltending would illustrate desperation and a lack of leadership. Unfortunately, the woes of the Oilers are much bigger than one man.
     

  • Ilya Bryzgalov will not start for OKC tonight. He won’t play in Edmonton tomorrow, and i dont think wr see him until Tuesday night next week vs. the Blue Jackets.
     
  • My biggest concern with the Ladislav Smid trade was MacTavish’s comments that, "we have lots of depth at that position." They have a lot of potential depth, but none of it is proven. This organization needs to realize you won’t win on potential. They can’t expect Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to come into Edmonton next year and solidify their backend. No NHL team’s blueline is built around four young D-men will less than 350 combined NHL games, and that’s what Jeff Petry, J.Schultz, Klefbom and Nurse would be next season.
     
  • Tough break, no pun intended, for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos broke his tibia yesterday. I spoke to a doctor who done surgery on tibia’s and he said it is virtually impossible that Stamkos could be ready for the Sochi Olympics in three months. The only way he said it was possible would be if Stamkos required no pins or screw to repair the bone, which is unlikely.  Brutal news for Stamkos.
     
  • Stamkos has scored 27% of the Lightning’s goals, and they are 0-3 in games that Stamkos or Marty St.Louis don’t score a point. Ben Bishop will need to play even better for the Bolts to stay in the playoff hunt. This is the first time Stamkos will miss a game due to an injury. He was a healthy scratch three times as a rookie.
     
  • Sidney Crosby only has one goal and six points in his last nine games. That is a major slump for Crosby.
     
  • Igor Larionov’s comments about Nail Yakupov only added fuel to a horrendous 19-game stretch. Larionov stated, "We’re willing to make a move. Any team. That happens and that’s part of life." First off, Yakupov has no say if the Oilers wanted to trade him, so being open to a move was an interesting choice of words from Larionov. I read that as he’ll likely ask the Oilers to trade his client.

    The Oilers don’t need any more distractions, and Larionov didn’t doing his client any favours by mentioning he’s unhappy. Yakupov will be peppered with questions today, and the kid shouldn’t be subjected to that. That is on Larionov. If you have an issue, call MacTavish and deal with it quietly. Rookie mistake by Larionov.
     

  • Larionov’s comments will make for great water-cooler discussions and debate on the Nation, but I caution people to avoid tales of bad leadership or anything like that. Larionov wants his client to get more icetime, there was no mention of off-ice issues, so let’s try to avoid turning TMZ-like and fabricating tales of discord within the dressing room. 
     
  • I’m looking to recognize some of the great amateur coaches in our city. Do you know a coach, team sport or individual sport, who goes above and beyond to makes sports really enjoyable for your son or daughter. If you do, please email me a short paragraph stating all they do for their team. Email it to gregor@tsn1260.ca and they could be named our Elite Sportswear Coach of the Week. I know there are many great volunteer coaches, so don’t be shy to send me an email.
     
  • Be sure to vote for our pal Jason Strudwick in Battle of the Blades. If Struds wins the Inner City Children’s Program will receive $50,000. That is huge for them and could allow them to open up another school to house 50 kids who need help. Take a moment and vote HERE and vote TODAY. It is an easy "Good deed of the day."

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Rocket

    I agree they should not fire Eakins. Yet. Time will tell though. What’s interesting to me is that it seems like everything that can go wrong has gone wrong: injuries, bad goaltending, poor special teams, overall apathy.

    I mean what else could go wrong right?

    And something’s can’t be just “new coach, new systems” talk. How many coaches has Gagner had and he still can’t win a faceoff or backcheck properly? That’s on him not the coach or GM but MacT still likes him on The Oilers?

    SMH

  • Quicksilver ballet

    What conclusions are we to draw from the trading of Smid at this time and the signing of Bryz when salary cap was available? I guess we are in a deliberate tank job for the season, unless mngt can say else-why. Thank you season ticket holders for being patient for this season and watching crappy hockey. Also a big thank you for the companies that sponsor tv games for us tier 2 fans. Nobody is tuning in for the next 5 months.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    “we have lots of depth at that position.”

    ————————————————————————-

    Arguably the worst group of defenders in the league, and the guy supposedly in charge says this?

    This can only confirm MacTavish is part of the problem. You SUCK, Daryl Ballard!

    • Greasy Goal

      Im sorry, how does this fall on Mac T?
      What DID you want him to say afterwards? Something like: “Im not sure why im doing this trade because our defence is horrible as is but we have some promising young guys coming up soon!”?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Let’s see, where do we start Mr. W.

        Signing Grabeshkov, bringing in pillowy soft Larsen on the Horcoff deal, the Smid deal is the proverbial waiving the white flag on the season, only carried out to cut Daryl Ballards costs during another lost season.

        Don’t get me started on hopes, or players who’ve yet to show they’ll ever be capable NHL’ers. That’s even more of a stretch than MacT calling the Smid deal a hockey trade that’ll ever help this hockey club.

        You may try again Mr. W. It’s all a smoke show from where I stand. Fire them all if Larionov is willing to take over tomorrow.

        • Greasy Goal

          Grebby was a depth move. IF he turned into anything else it was a bonus & It cost us next to nothing to sign him.
          How about props for getting anything for the six million dollar man? Cap Space is a new angle that GM’s need to deal with, getting a Dman to contend for an NHL spot for Horcoffs massive contract was not as bad as it seems.

          And, of course, if all you look for are the bad things then that’s what you’ll see. What about the Belov signing,the Perron trade, drafting Nurse? We’ll see how Bryz does too. MacT had a hand in doing all of these things that benefited a club, a club he did not make bad.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            4-14-2 says otherwise. Lets no abuse the term benefit.

            I’m sure Belov will be out of here asap, saying thanks but no thanks to the Oilers this coming summer. Perron was the same scenario as the Smid deal, salary dump by the Blues plain and simple. A castoff from the St. Louis Blues is arguably the Oilers best player.

  • Spydyr

    “Call me Ishmael.” but before anyone here can suggest trading for Weber. They should have to do a book report on Moby Dick. Just so they know what a white whale is.

  • An interesting thought. Perhaps we need to fire two of our assistant coaches who somehow have survived the firing of all three previous head coaches. It is time for Smith and Bucky to get the axe and bring in some real help for Eakins and Acton.

  • I’m a huge Yakupov fan but does Larionov have the authority to say what he did with his client’s approval? While, I still believe that Yakupov has the highest ceiling among the three (firsts), unnecessary public outbursts such as these do make me question his long term ability to be an Oiler. Regardless, I agree that the (team) balance will never work, and I strongly believe that nothing will change until (at least one of the big 4 (Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov) and Gagner are dealt to address needs.

  • Articles like this just stun me. This team has taken a major step backwards from last year, contrary to management’s BOLD promises. In this article we are told that a bunch of 19 and 20 year old kids need to play better and be more accountable (ok fine) and the our rookie AHL coach needs more time to figure things out (ok fine) and that the young stars’ agents need to shut their mouths (ok fine) but nowhere is the name of Kevin Lowe mentioned. An absolutely outrageous record of failure since 2000, and not even the suggestion that the person in charge has failed and may be part of the problem (and removal as part of the solution) as we go into rebuilding the rebuild for the 3rd time. It just stuns me.

  • @ Albertaboy19 – what possible reason is there for Nashville to trade Weber to Edmonton? Do you think Dave Poile is sitting there desperately trying to unload one of the best D men in the league for unproven rookies, draft picks & prospects? That trade would have happened long ago if it was available.

    Anyone else whining about rookie coaches, and GMs trying to run a team full of young players….how is Colorado doing? How is Tampa doing? Support your argument that a rookie gm & coach can’t get the job done. It’s not working in Edmonton, but it is elsewhere.

    • Relax and stop getting your panties in a knot. He easily could do it to improve their forward position as their defense is set with the likes of Jones, Josi and others. Jones is webers replacement so if a deal came across that addressed needs why wouldn’t he?

  • Old School G

    Tampa Bay suddenly needs scoring. Sorry to see Stamkos go down he’s absolutely great.

    We happen to have a player or two that can play some decent offensive hockey and may be available. Which players? Who you willing to give up Tampa Bay?

  • Greasy Goal

    An intersting note, 1st place in the East(TB) is tied with 8th in the west(Van). We may have less teams in our conference but once again the west is tougher to play in. It’ll be a huge battle to even make next years playoffs with how things are going now.

  • Hemmercules

    From a Mact standpoint, if a players agent wanted to have a meeting with my head coach regarding his clients play time etc. I would tell that agent to eat a di……..

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Gregor we all know that this team is fractured, broken, and fighting internally that much is obvious. Tales of many thing internal, should not be focused on and I agree with you on that front.

    However is it not the role of the coach to bring the team together? Regardless of the effectiveness of the “systems” that Eakins has introduced………do you really believe that he has used his team in roles that get the most out of each player? Even you can see that the product is fatally flawed with a stubborn, egocentric coach that would rather hang out with the media in stead of instructing his team on the ice.

    Just because the past coaches were no good and hung out to dry by Oilers management and we are fatigued by the constant coaching changes, does not mean we hired the right guy this time. Your logic is falwed IMHO on the coach.

    The evidence is plain and the average fan can see the divisions in the team that is being orchestrated by this coach. Just because we are tired of changes should not stop us from making changes.

    • Spydyr

      You might be right on Eakins, but 19 games is way too early to tell. All the previous coaches have all gone through similar stretches of futility. Even Kreuger’s “miracle” 24th place finish (by this franchise’s standards) had only 1 win in a 10-game period when the Oilers were in position to make the playoffs.

      I would be giving this coach at least the entire season to prove what he can do. The firing of Kreuger was extremely premature considering just a 48-game stint with no training camp. Lets not keep changing systems/coaches with absolutely no proof that things would actually improve.

      • Greasy Goal

        I agree on letting this thing ride on for the entire year……….at this stage with our development ( or lack thereof) there is no point in starting over. If we suck the entire season and things go from bad to worse…….DE has to go.

        If he can turn things around……..then all is good. Given all the changes we made over the summer with personnel, the team should have moved forward, if just a little bit.

        In fact we have moved backwards so far it appears like we are in first place.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Thanks for the recap Jason. I know documenting this death march is still very important. We can sure count on the media types to continue to do what they do best.

    Maybe it’s time for the local sports media to step out of their comfort zone and expand their horizons. We as posters here on ON have a minute voice. Yourselves, in the media, have the platform to start/bring about awareness and change.

    I know the first guy through the wall gets bloodied usually, but it certainly appears as though the media are more concerned about their press passes remaining in good standing than they are about the undeniable direction of this hockey club. A couple more defiant/pi$$ed off Terry Jones types would certainly turn up the volume on this organization. Time to ruffle some feathers and get these entitled ones out of their comfort zone. Add another pitbull or two within the media circle. TSN 1260 > the team 1260, start abusing that newly acquired elbow room.

    • Hemmercules

      It’s probably easier covering a team that sucks, way more to write about.

      The media gets payed to cover the team win or lose, why should they stick their necks out for a bunch of losers?

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    When you are at the point the Oilers are at you have 2 choices. Either continue to feel sorry for yourself or get angry and play pissed off with a chip on your shoulder.

    The Jaguars and Buccaneers (sorry Jason) both won there first games this season. Those games were won early with aggressive play and high energy levels. I guarantee those players were getting ripped big time along with coaches owners etc by the media and fans.

    What worries me is the Oilers don’t have the pissed off gene in their DNA. Losing has become the norm and this is the place you get a paycheck in and leave ASAP.

  • Hemmercules

    Not a huge Eakins fan so far for obvious reasons but I say stay the course, another coach would just make things worse.

    Still seems strange to me that a team trying to turn a corner chooses a coach that “..has a lot to learn at the NHL level.” Almost the whole team has a lot to learn at the NHL level, why the coach too? Sigh. At least two more years outta the playoffs as rebuild part 2 begins with trading Smid and probably Yakupov soon.

  • Mikey

    So I take it that perhaps a Yakupov, Klefbaum, N. Schultz (salary dump) and a 1st to Nashville for Weber and a pick might happen now because of Larionov’s comments

  • vetinari

    The only problem with having a rookie GM hire a rookie coach to lead a predominantly young team is that it is so easy to find fault at each rung of the ladder when something goes wrong.

    A veteran GM or veteran coach or a team full of veteran players would at least give you confidence of one level of the team’s structure but right now, OilersNation has no confidence on any aspect of this team, from ownership down to the players on the ice.

    There are too many moving pieces that are potential problems and it is hard to isolate where the greatest attention needs to be, that’s why (I think) that most fans are saying you gotta start somewhere…

  • Mikey

    “No NHL team’s blueline is built around four young D-men will less than 350 combined NHL games, and that’s what Jeff Petry, J.Schultz, Klefbom and Nurse would be next season.”

    That is not Entirely true, look at Detroit.

    Kindle 165
    Dekeyser 29
    Lashoff 45
    Smith 59

    They also have Kronwall wich helps.

    I should also note that most of Dekeyser games came this season, and I would bet Klefbom will play 20 or so games this year. So at the same point in time next year it will be very close. This is also smiths second year in the pros, he played 34 last year, and a couple the year before.

    • Jason Gregor

      “They have Kronwall which helps.” You mean Kronwall, a top pairing D-man?

      You mean Kronwall the guy who plays the most minutes and has 10 points so far.

      I’d say the D is built around him. He is the main guy. He is their best D.

      Oh, and what about Ericsson the guy who plays the 2nd most minutes? This is his 6th year in Detroit.

      So the four guys you mentioned are #3 – #6 and you say Detroit is built around them? I don’t think so.

      • Mikey

        Hence why I said not eniterly true. I was not disagreeing with you. I just wanted to point out that there is a team that is similar to the oilers, in this situation.

        And as such you put Kronwall on the oilers and what do you get? Two teams with guys in the #2-#6 spot that all have less than 350 games played.

        Ericsson has averaged 47 games a year in his 6 years in Detroit. The team is hardly building around him. Maybe him and Ference cancel each other out.

        What about Ference? For better or worse he is our Kronwall. Which really shows you how bad our D is.

        The oilers obviously need a top pairing D. They have the assets to get one.

        Ex. Kronwall for Yak. Dion Phaneuf for Yak.

        Those are examples just to show that you don’t need to get weber or any other top 5 D guy to make your D. The difference is Detroit as a team is more committed to defense. And are vetran guys who get it. Which is huge.

        One last thing, Detroit isn’t built around the guys I mentioned. They are building around them, which the oilers are trying to do. Good teams don’t rebuild, they are always building or renovating.

        • Mikey

          Mikey says “Ex. Kronwall for Yak. Dion Phaneuf for Yak.”

          ——————————–

          Neither of those teams would make that trade right now. Especially after the biyatch move of crying to your agent over your ‘treatment’.

          Fail’s treatment has been extremely generous. If Loose lips MacTavish and Eakins backed their talk of running a meritocracy, Yakupthapuck would be in the ECHL right now.

        • Jason Gregor

          You missed the point on Ericsson. He is now a #2. He has developed and earned it.

          They didn’t have to rush him. And he has played the past three and lockout seasons as a regular. He worked his way up the lineup.

          Detroit isn’t building around them. They have stars who play the tough minutes and let the kids gain confidence is easier minutes. Oilers do not do this, the team isn’t built that way.

          They can trade Yakupov, but no guarantee a team will give you a #1 D-man…that is what Kronwall and Phaneuf are on their teams…

          There is no accurate comparison to the current Oilers and current Red Wings…

          • Mikey

            True enough about Ericsson.

            But the Wings are using the younger guys in more than just easy minutes. DeKeyser is playing with Kronwall. Smith is on the second paring with Ericsson, up until the later got injuried.

            It really all boils down to the oil need one true #1.

            And you are most certainly right that there is no guarantee the oilers can get a true #1 with a trade or FA. I think it might be worth looking into an Offer sheet.

            Their really is no accurate comparison to any team or player for that matter. All teams (players) are built differently. Just like you can’t compare how the oilers rebuild is like Pitt, Chi, NYI, ect. But we still do it any ways, just with a grain of salt.

      • Serious Gord

        Yes to all that and the fact that detroit is loaded with veteran forwards who are among the very best 2 way players in the league and thus take a huge load off of the D.

        And it also doesn’t hurt that the coaching staff may be the best group of defensive tacticians in the game today.

        A more interesting hypothetical is how good would the oil D and Oil team D be if they were being coached by the Detroit staff.

        My guess would be that the team would be knocking on a playoff spot.

  • Craig1981

    Agreed, Eakin’s is not the problem. If they want to change the culture and compete level in the dressing room, showing the players they can get a coach fired would be the end for MacT.

    The team has better players than they did last year. I doubt anyone can question that. I want to see where they are att the end of December

  • Craig1981

    Eakins should stay where he is for a few years at least. Not only are the players learning to play in the NHL, we’ve also asked them to learn a new system every year. You cannot continuously do that and expect to get ahead.

    New defensive pairings, new forwards on the PK, it’s all new. Expect some bumps in the road too as the defence gets used to Bryz.

    Let things settle.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    “The Oilers will not finish with 43 points. They will improve, but can they improve enough to give you hope that next season will be different?”

    How do you know they will improve and no, I do not believe they will improve enough to give me any hope for next season. Or the season after, for that matter.

    There have been 2 consistencies during this horrible era. 1) We have been horrible. 2) Kevin Lowe.

    2 + 2 = 5

  • Mikey

    I can agree that getting rid of Dallas Eakins will NOT solve the Oilers woes right now, as will Igor Larionov trying to stir up the pot and have Yakupov traded. Should be pretty interesting to see what develops!