GDB 37.0: ASK SAKIC?

As the Oilers get set to face the Colorado Avalanche trying to end a four game losing streak, Taylor Hall and company can take solace in knowing that some other young stars endured many years of losing, before tasting the sweet nectar of victory.

They should ask Joe Sakic, the Avalanche’s Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, about losing. He lost way more than these kids have early in his career, and it didn’t break him, and he didn’t pout about it. He persevered and became a Hall of Famer.

Hall has played 200 games, Eberle has been in 231 games, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has dressed in 136, while Nail Yakupov is at 82 games and Justin Schultz has played 76. No one should be suggesting that all the losing is going to wear down these kids. I don’t believe any of them are that fragile, but even if they thought about having a pity party, they should do a quick search of Joe Sakic’s career.

Sakic was drafted 15th overall in 1987 by the Quebec Nordiques. He played one more season in Swift Current before debuting with the Nordiques in October of 1988. Keep in mind that in his first three seasons he played in a 21-team league where 16 teams made the playoffs.

In Sakic’s first three seasons, the Nordiques finished dead last every year. The Nordiques drafted 1st, 1st, 1st and 4th in his first four NHL seasons.

1989: They went 27-46-7 for 61 points.
1990: They were 12-61-7 for 31 points.
1991: They went 16-50-14 for 46 points.
1992: They went 20-28-12 for 52 points.

In 1993, they were literally twice as good picking up 104 points going 47-27-10, but in 1994 Sakic and the Nordiques dipped back down to 76 points with a 34-42-8 record.

In his first four seasons, Sakic’s Nordiques won a measly 75 of the 320 games they played. Sakic dressed in 299 of those games, and he learned much more about losing than he did winning.

Despite all the losses Sakic played exceptionally well.

YEAR       GP      G       A      PTS
1989        70      23     39      62 
1990        80      39     63     102
1991        80      48     61     109
1992        69      29     65      94

In 1990, the second leading scorer on the Nordiques was Peter Stastny with 62 points in 62 games before being traded. In 1991, Sakic had 50 more points than his closest teammate; Mats Sundin tallied 59 points.

Sakic didn’t let the losing get to him. He kept battling and kept producing. 

WINNERS KEEP WORKING DESPITE LOSING  

Hall played his 200th game on Tuesday, and despite another loss, Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins haven’t come close to experiencing the type of losing that Sakic had to face.

Hall’s Oilers have played 248 games since he entered the league and they’ve won 87 of those. Sakic’s team won 75 of 320 during his first four seasons. Losing sucks and I’m sure it can wear down a player, but if Hall wants to become one of the greats he needs to keep playing hard, and hope that eventually he will be surrounded by better players. He needs to continue to show determination and play strong, and like Sakic, at times he will need to carry the Oilers on his back.

Hall was the Oilers most dangerous forward in LA. He needs to keep playing like that, regardless of where the Oilers are in the standings or how often they are losing. Hall has the ability to be a franchise player, and considering how much he has improved in his last 100 games, I suspect he’ll only keep getting better.

I’ve heard some people suggesting the kids will get tired of losing and want out of Edmonton, but competitive people don’t think like that. There will be games where they look frustrated, and understandably so, but many elite players have started their NHL careers tasting defeat more often than victory, and the last thing that Hall or any of his teammates will do is feel sorry for themselves.

They need to be part of the solution, and when they start to win the victories will be more fulfilling because of what they learned in their first few seasons.

MORE TOUGH STARTS…

Mario Lemieux missed the playoffs in his first four seasons, and five of his first six. The Penguins drafted 2nd, 4th, 5th and 4th in his first four years.

Steven Stamkos has missed the playoffs four of his first five seasons. The Bolts have drafted 2nd, 6th, 10th and 3rd during those four losing seasons.

John Tavares has missed the playoffs three of his first four years, and the Islanders are poised to miss the postseason again. They have drafted 4th, 5th and 5th thus far in his non-playoff seasons.

Rick Nash played five full seasons without the playoffs, and he missed the dance in 8 of his first 9 years.

Ilya Kovalchuk missed the postseason his first four years and seven of his first eight seasons.

Vincent Lecavalier missed the playoffs his first four seasons. The Bolts were scheduled to pick 1st, 5th, 3rd and 4th in those years.

**Sidenote**.. Rick Dudley was the GM for Tampa Bay in 1999 and he traded the 1st overall pick. He moved down to 4th, and then traded again and didn’t pick until 47th. He ended up with Dan Cloutier, Andrei Zyuzin, Shawn Burr and the Rangers 1st round pick in 2000. He could have used the first pick on Patrik Stefan or one of the Sedins, although those two had made it known they really wanted to play together.

The next year, Dudley traded the 5th pick to the Islanders for Kevin Weekes, Kristian Kurdroc and the 31st pick. The Islanders selected Raffi Torres. Despite these horrific deals, the Lightning still won the Cup in 2004. ***

Losing stinks but Hall and company aren’t the first group of young stars to endure losing seasons, so let’s stop the suggestions that they will want out of Edmonton. Anyone in the media or fan base who suggests these kids have endured too much losing need only look at the career paths of other young stars. Rarely is it an instant path to success.

Winning is difficult and as painful as these past few seasons have been for Hall and company, they need to learn from it, and be willing to ensure they improve their play so the team becomes more successful. Hall is good enough to lead this team to better times ahead, and he’ll likely inspire his teammates to follow him in the coming seasons.

LINEUP…

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Perron-Gagner-Yakupov
Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky
Jones-Lander-Gazdic

Ference-Petry
N.Schultz-J.Schultz
Belov-Larsen

Dubnyk

Arcobello got rocked by Drew Doughty in the 3rd period of Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the Kings, and hasn’t skated since. Lander will draw in for Arcobello. 

The Oilers will need to get scoring chances from someone other than Hall tonight. The Avalanche are 6-5-1 in their last 12, and after a 16-5 start they are starting to look more like the team people expected. They aren’t a force like the Kings, Bruins or Ducks, but they will provide another solid test for the Oilers.

Dubnyk gets the start. I’m not one who buys into the "Dubnyk plays better when pushed" theory; however, it is obvious that Dubnyk needs to be more consistent.  I want a goalie who plays well regardless of who he shares the net with.

WHAT SEE YOU?

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will end their trip on a high, with a 4-2 victory in Denver.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Bordeleau and Gazdic drop the gloves. Fight fans love it, while anti-fight crowd will complain. This will never change.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Usually it is former Oilers scoring against Edmonton, but tonight Ryan Smyth bucks that trend and scores against his former team ending his 10-game goal scoring drought. In 16 home games, Erik Johnson has only been a minus player twice, but he ends up -1 tonight.

DAY 15 MONTH OF GIVING…

Yesterday we raised another $3,850 bringing our total to $58,700. Incredible. Thank you.

Today’s packages include:

Package #1:

Today’s package is courtesy of The Maximum Fighting Championship:

  • Two season tickets to all three MFC shows in Edmonton in 2014, starting January 17th.
  • VIP dinner for two at the Shaw conference centre prior to each show.
  • Be a cornerman during one of the fights… **You must be 16 years of age or older***

Package #2:

  • $1,000 gift certificate/store credit at Reside Furnishings
  • Pair of club seats (section 112 row 14) for Oilers vs. Penguins on January 10th.
  • $50 bucks in Oilers money to use at the game for beer or food.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or 1.800.243.1945 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will go to the Christmas Bureau.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 



  • Jason Gregor

    The Oilers are horrible and it doesn’t matter how you look at it. They are in a deep hole that is going to be extremely difficult to climb out of. And I’m not talking this year. I mean in the years to come.

  • Spydyr

    Nice of them to award Bryz for a solid effort against the Kings.
    Eakins must have a man crush on DD. Time to go with the hot hand
    and it is not DD.

    Has or does MacT have any intent on addressing all 2 or 3 tiers
    of fans with any kind of remarks ? Better yet let Klowe speak, i could
    use a good joke right about now.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Sakic’s a great example, as are the others you’ve noted, Jason. I’ve long thought that the Oilers, while attempting to emulate the Chicago or Pittsburgh model, ought to really also pay attention to what happened with the Nords/Avs.

    But, at the same time, there’s one more player you missed talking about: Steve Yzerman.

    The narrative we all hear now is that the Red Wings were great from the minute after Mike Ilitch bought the team and/or Yzerman got there, but really, it was only since 1990 or 1991 that the team really began to take off. By that time, Stevie Y had been with the Wings for eight years (since his draft year in 1983) and I can always remember the talk about him was that he hadn’t really led the Wings to much of anything.

    Yes, they only missed the playoffs twice in the 1980s after Yzerman’s arrival, but it was also a time when you could finish 15 games below .500 and make the playoffs. From Yzerman’s first season in 1983-84 to 1991-92 (Lidstrom’s rookie year), the Wings only had one season above .500 (1987-88), finished last overall once (1985-86) and circled the drain towards it twice (1984-85 and 1989-90). And all while playing in the league’s weakest division (the Norris Division).

    When they did make the playoffs, the Wings were generally easy fodder in the playoffs for a division rival … or the Oilers, who beat them twice. In fact, I’d argue that, for a few years, the Wings were known for some of their off-ice problem-children – everyone from Bob Probert to Joey Kocur to Petr Klima.

    Yzerman was the captain right in the middle of all of that and, even though he was putting up amazing scoring numbers, few were anointing him as any type of a great leader. In fact, he was starting to look like Marcel Dionne – one of the greatest regular-season players of all time.

    But, a couple of great late-1980s drafts later, along with some great trades and waiver finds and the Wings turned a major corner by 1991. Along with it came a commitment to two-way play from Yzerman and the rest is history.

    As Oiler fans, we have to hope that history does the same thing for our great players as it did for guys like Sakic and Yzerman.

  • Rick Stroppel

    TIRED OF ALL THE NEGATIVITY!

    In my view the rebuild is right on schedule. Obviously the “big plan” is to build a Stanley Cup contender in time for the move into the new arena. This is YEARS away…2015-16…what?…that’s a year and a half?…whatever.

    Anyway, by that time the roster will be completely revamped and will look something like this: Sam Gagner, Will Acton, Tyler Pitlick, David Musil, Alex Plante (only minus 13 in the Austrian league!), Robert Nilsson (burning it up in the Swiss league!), both Foligno brothers (can’t remember their names, sorry), Keegan Lowe, McTavish’s kid, Eric Comrie, Henrik Samuelsson, Sam Reinhart, Griffin Reinhart, Max Reinhart, Max Domi, Max Headroom, Lotto Max, Cammi Granato, Hayley Wickenheiser. Darnell Nurse will get traded when someone figures out that he is related to a football player, not a hockey player.

    McTavish will be back as head coach and Lowe will be back as GM. What could go wrong? THEY KNOW A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WINNING!

  • Puck_In_Throat

    I actually like this comparison, but lets think about what the Nordiques (Avs) then did to win a cup:

    1) traded the 1st overall pick in the 1991 draft (Lindros) for a package that included Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, cash, Chris Simon and Mike Ricci (key role players in their cup runs), and first rounds picks in 93 and 94.

    2) traded their 1st overall pick from 1989 (Sundin) to Toronto for Wendel Clark, whom they then flipped the next year in a three way deal to get Claude Lemieux (a proven veteran and a key part of their cup runs, who already had a cup)

    3) traded Thibault (from the #1 pick from Philly in the Lindros deal) rucinsky and adrei kovalenko for Patrick Roy, a proven, Conn-Smythe and two time cup-winning goalie. Almost as important, that trade gained the Avs Montreal’s captain Mike Keane.

    The players acquired by the Nordiques/Avs for all of their young studs had one thing in common: multiple Stanley cup finals appearances.

    If the Oilers have any hopes of being like the Avs, they need to recognize a few key pieces (Hall and Nuge IMO) and then maximize the value of other assets such as former 1st overall picks in exchange for proven veteran players.

    The most glaring of all of these is the Sundin for Clark-turned Lemieux trade. Not exactly a win in the stats column, but Claude Lemieux had 3 cups already and a history of playoff success. ** Edit** I looked up Lemieux and he in fact had just won the Conn Smythe trophy with the NJD. He also won the cup 4 times. Sundin finished with 600 more points than Lemieux, but 70 less playoff points and 0 cups. Nobody talks about how great Marcel Dionne was because the point of the NHL isn’t to score goals, its to win Stanley Cups.

    MacT has (hopefully) started on this route by acquiring Ference. But draft picks are no sure thing, and good GMs frequently trade players with “upside” for proven veterans.

    • Craig1981

      If a trade like that is out there do it in a heart beat. The problem though is Lindros was “the next great one” He was thought of the same way Ovi, Crosby, McDavid where/are. None of the picks THE Oil have are on that level (no disrespect)

    • Leon Nugent McEberle

      I was totally against dealing any of the kids early in the season. This franchise has gone through decades where they were unable to acquire enough skill to win. We had Doug Weight and we had Ales Hemsky, but we couldn’t surround them with enough talent to reach the top of the food chain.

      But watching this team over this season, I just don’t see how they can make the changes required without dealing one or two skilled players.

      The Lindros trade was a one off. Trades 2 and 3 are the types that the Oil need to be examining. You lose skill, but you gain other traits such as leadership, guys with a track record of winning, grit, etc. All elements that the Oilers could use a little bit more of.

    • Jason Gregor

      The Nords won 12, 16 and 20 games…loser point didn’t impact wins. The Nords were brutal.

      The Oilers have had 23, 27 and 17 regulation wins the past three years. Even in a lockout shortened season they won more games than the Nords did during those two horrific seasons.

      Even the Oilers weren’t as bad as those teams.

  • Craig1981

    Does Morgan Rielly no being released to play for the WJs mean there is an opening or is it too late to change Canada’s roster?

    I think the soon to be EIGHT years of no playoffs have wore down the fans far worst than the 2-4 years for the young guys.

  • vetinari

    I used to think that the young players like RNH, Hall an Eberle were the face of the franchise… now, when I think of the Oilers, I think of the draft and Katz’s curly haired son standing next to his new first round flavour of the year– Katz’s son is the new face of Oiler’s hockey!!! Someone, please put a cut out of this young lad out in front of Rexall so that fans can stand next to it and have their pictures taken, just like on draft day. The draft is now my Stanley Cup!

    • Arius Mumin

      I would donate $25-50 to any charity to have my picture taken with a Katz Kids Kut out. Maybe we can have it done for the next draft party at the Pint.

    • Arius Mumin

      RNH, Hall and Eberle are his safety blanket.

      If they were the stars that we are led to believe, any “good” NHL coach would use them on multiples lines to spread the wealth and create offense and match-ups.

      Instead, no matter their, or their teammates performace, we are guranteed to see the trio together.

      • vetinari

        Those three are also young, inexperienced and not able to physically manhandle opposing players yet. They need support and experience around them to show them the ropes. Teams like Boston, Detroit and LA can bring in young players easier by putting them on lines where they have veteran experience. We need to trade for actual NHL players at this point and not picks or prospects.

        • Arius Mumin

          How long before those three young, inexperienced Oilers are physically able to manhandle opposing players?

          If neither one of the three are able to handle the physicallity of the game on their own: what sense does it make to play them together? What is the benefit in that?

          This is also not their first time at the rodeo. They have and had experienced players around them to show them the ropes.

          Is Smyth not an actual NHL veteran? Horcoff? Ference? I could go on.

          How many actual NHL players do the Oilers need?

  • Spydyr

    Interesting parallels between the Nords and Oilers. The Nords also stockpiled young talent, but didn’t turn into a winning team until they made some tough decisions and traded Lindros and Sundin away.

    The scary thing is, even at their lowest point the Nords missed the playoffs 5 straight years. The Oilers are going onto 8.

    • Spiel

      IMO, they lost the Sundin trade. And Lindros wouldn’t play in QC so they had to trade him. The Lindros trade led Colorado to a couple cups and cost Philly 1 or 2 imho.

  • Spydyr

    Okay I just figured out why Eakins is starting Dubnyk. The Oil scored eight goals against the Avs last time they played so he is figuring with Dammit in net they can still win 8-7.

  • vetinari

    You know, I wasn’t necessarily expecting a playoff spot this year but I was expecting:

    1. a competitive team every night;
    2. more consistency, development and less mistakes from the kids (Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yak and J. Schultz) and from the journeymen (Gagner and Dubnyk);
    3. more leadership and structure from the veterans;
    4. more tactical coaching from the “hot shot AHL” guy that every team was courting in the offseason;
    5. some bold moves to fill out the roster. Heck, I would even settle for some “not necessarily bold but definitely practical and necessary moves” at this point; and,
    6. meaningful games at least until the trade deadline.

    This year has definitely been a step back for the organization in most facets. Sure, there have been some goods things (acquiring Perron, signing Boyd), but the bad definitely outweighs the good. This is the first time that I’ve said it but we are “rebuilding the rebuild”. How many more years from here???

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

    Please explain to me the coaching soundness of pulling the goalie with over 2 minutes to play. A 2 minute shift at the end of the game is leg destroying for our elite guys and you can see the likelihood of them scoring diminishing with every passing second. That is an Eakins innovation that makes exactly zero sense, and should join the Swarm , the 5 forward powerplay, the Smyth Hemmer Hall first line, the endless line shuffling, the dressing of Gadzic for 3 minutes a game, the benching of Arcobello in favour of Gagner, as conclusive evidence that the Eakins hiring is an abysmal fail. Tho

    • S cottV

      Have to keep Dubnyk in the mix and hope they both play well.

      Dubnyk still deserves some support, although he better get it going, because it is getting harder to justify.

      Bryz looks better – no question, but is still early and with the playoffs gone, why over expose him and draw others into the Bryz ufa sweepstakes.

      I mean we ride Bryz – kill Dubnyk – lose Bryz and there is no end to the gong show.

      • Spydyr

        The Oilers cannot even lose right. If they had lost that last meaningless game at the end of last season to Calgary. Seth Jones would today be an Oiler. Next year when the only true franchise player since Sid becomes available in the draft. I fully expect the Oilers to be out of the lotto pick sweepstakes.

  • Serious Gord

    Stauffer is hinting that the team is not 100% healthy.

    That’s what you should expect when a small recalcitrant team plays several heavyweights in succession.

    And now the meet arguably the fiercest team in the league – the St. Louis blues.

    What are the odds that by Sunday the team will be 0-6?