EVERY CHANGE MATTERS…

The past eight Oilers seasons have been painful for everyone involved. The players are sick of losing, management and the five head coaches are tired of it, the fans have to give each other a pep talk before every game just to keep watching and even the media is tired of covering the constant losing.

There are some things none of the aforementioned groups can change instantly, like suddenly making the Oilers contenders, however, there are some small things that can and must be changed to make the process more bearable.

We can all agree what needs to change in the near future for the Oilers to become competitive. They need a better blueline, they need more size and experience up front, the players who return next seasons need to be more consistent and competitive on every shift, and the Oilers must add more experience within their assistant coaches.

Ultimately, those moves or decisions will be made by Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins. We will debate, analyze and scrutinize their decisions. That is our job, and it’s what fans love to do and that is what makes sports great.

Every fan and media person will have differing opinions on players and how organizations build their teams. That will never change; however, there are some decisions within a pro team that fans can impact. One of them is the music played at their home facility.

The Edmonton Oilers owe it to their loyal fans to make the in-game experience as enjoyable as possible. The product on the ice hasn’t been doing it, but the fans can demand and should be treated to a better in-house atmosphere.

The music during Saturday’s OT loss to Philadelphia was atrocious.

I watched the game from the stands, and I asked the fans around their thoughts on the horrendous playlist? These fans ranged in age from 20 to 60, yet unanimously they agreed the music is awful. This is not a new problem, but the Oilers either don’t feel the fans deserve a better experience or they haven’t searched hard enough to find a better DJ.

Late in the third period and leading into OT the DJ played Give Me Some Loving, a Beatles song and Wooly Bully. The Beatles are one of the greatest bands ever, but their beats aren’t energizing. I could not believe how bad the song selection was late in a tie hockey game. None of those songs got the building rocking. Seriously, it shouldn’t be that hard to find more appropriate songs during key times in the game.

The fans deserve better, and so do the players. I spoke to three different players off the record and when I asked them about the music they said the following:

"It is embarrassing," said the first one.

"Most rinks play heavy, deep, quick paced music, but we rarely do," said the second.

"My friends come to games here and they all mention the music, and not because it is good," said the third.

If the Oilers don’t want to listen to the fans, they shouldn’t they at least listen to their players?

I know the music isn’t the reason the Oilers are losing, and none of the players suggested that, but the Oilers need to look at improving every aspect of their team and in-game experience. Emotion plays a huge factor in hockey, and a better playlist could get the fans more into the game, thus improving the atmosphere and that could ignite the Oilers at certain times in the game.

Regardless of whether it helps the Oilers or not, the fans deserve better. I am a season ticket holder, so I’m not writing this from a media person’s perspective. I’ve been to many other rinks around the NHL and the music and in-game experience is better in those rinks. The music selection in Edmonton if brutal.

I don’t expect the management or scouts to listen attentively to media or fan’s opinions on players, although getting as much info as possible is never a bad thing, however I do expect the organization to listen to fans when it comes to non-hockey matters.

It is time the Oilers improve the in-game ambiance. It is the least they can do for their loyal fans, and considering the players admit the music is terrible, an improved musical selection might even help the product on the ice.

QUICK HITS…2ND HALF

  •  The Oilers were 4-15-2 in the first quarter of the season and 9-9-2 in the 2nd quarter. They aren’t as bad as they were in the first quarter, but they need to at least maintain a 20 points in 20-game stretch pace the rest of the season. If they pick up 43-46 points in the second half that would be a major improvement, and they need to come close to that to realize the effort and execution necessary to be in the playoff hunt next season.
     
  • Nail Yakupov won’t play tomorrow in Phoenix. Yak looked frustrated on Saturday night, and I’m all for sending players a message by putting them in the pressbox, but is Yakupov receiving the message and is it the right one? If they want him to regain his confidence would they be better off sending him to OKC than sitting him in the pressbox?

    I understand that all players mature differently, but playing him six to eight minutes a night or sitting him in the pressbox might not be the best way to develop him. Make a tough decision and send him to OKC for a few weeks. In my opinion he needs to play 15-20 minutes a night and regain his confidence.

    I know many fans are going to scream they are ruining Yakupov, but the harsh reality is he will need to play himself out of it. Missing a game or two won’t hamper his long term development, but they need to find some common ground. If they want him to be better away from the puck, then let him learn to do that in the AHL where it will be easier to learn. That isn’t quitting on the player or punishing him, it is about trying to help him become a better player.
     

  • "It was a good conversation… We have a definite plan moving forward," Eakins said this morning about a 45-minute chat he had with Yakupov. He didn’t outline what the plan was, but I’m curious to see what it will be. The Oilers don’t need to just give Yakupov icetime, but they have to ensure they nurture his development and not ruin his confidence. It is a fine balance, but it is one they have to master. He isn’t the first #1 overall pick to be benched or play on the 4th line. Steven Stamkos and Joe Thornton did and both became great players, however, they were 18 and didn’t have the option of being sent to the AHL. 

    Will the plan see Yakupov playing on the 4th line at ES and then getting PP time? That would allow him to see easier competition at ES, but also allow him to maintain some offensive confidence. I doubt he sits out more than one or two games, and when he returns I’ll be intrigued to see what "plan" Eakins has come up with for Yakupov.
     

  • I know it is only a few games, but Justin Schultz has been better the past three games. He is making better decisions with the puck, and more importantly he is making better defensive decisions. His positioning has been better and I haven’t seen him getting beat one-on-one. It is a small sample size, but he needs to continue his improvement during the 2nd half of the season. He’s only played 81 NHL games, so people need to recognize that it takes time for young, offensive D-men to get comfortable in the NHL, however, the Oilers desperately need Schultz to develop into a solid top-three D-man if they want to become a playoff contender in the near future.
     
  • Roman Horak will make his Oiler debut tomorrow night on a line with Gagner and Eberle. Todd Nelson told me he thinks Horak has potential to be a solid 3rd line centre, and potentially a 2nd line forward if he learns to use his speed regularly.
     
  • I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the sponsors who donated packages during Month of Giving, and to all those who bid on packages. This year we raised an amazing $77,150 for the Christmas Bureau, Santas Anonymous, Operation Friendship Senior Society and MS Society during the Month of Giving on my radio show and promoting the packages on the Nation. That is awesome. Thanks again.
     

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

 

  • Guy Lafleur

    JG- great read and your suggested needs are the same needs we have all been crying about for years. This has got to be the most frustrating thing. The inability of management, six cups and his entire braintrust have revealed that they clearly don’t know what they are doing. Ok 3, 4, 5 years you can say ok, we trust that management knows what they are doing. They have clearly displayed and more importantly proved that thy do not. The organization has continued to slide backwards and their assessment of current talent has got to be questioned. This has got to stop and we really need a proven builder/leader to get this organozation out of toilet bowl contention.
    As long a six cups is running the show along with the other ex oiler alumni- bucky, cement head, Mac T, smith and what the Heck has Housan done.
    Clean House already or run this brutal franchise out of town.

  • Spydyr

    The Oil getting 43 to 46 points in the last 41 games, giving them between 73 and 76 points for the year, would be a huge accomplishment considering:

    The Oil have 30 in the first 41 games, simple math extrapolates that to 60 in 82. However as with all stats they can be manipulated to give somewhat different outlooks.

    Difficulty of Opponents – The Oil play harder opponents in the last 41. A look at the 1st 41 shows the Oil’s opponents averaged 1.16 points per game (i.e. the average opponent would get 1.16*82 = 95 points for the season). As a league total until Dec 29th teams averaged 1.18 points per game (97 points per year). The Oil had a relatively easy schedule in the 1st 41. In the last 41 the Oil’s opponents have averaged 1.2 points per game through Dec 29 (about 99 points per year). Looking at this, the Oil will need to be better than in the 1st 41 to achieve even 30 points.

    The first 20 Disaster – The Oil were a total disaster in the 1st 20 games, in which they only managed 10 points. In the last 21 they have 20 points. If they manage to keep up this rate of 0.95 points per game they would achieve 39 points in the last 41 for a total of 69.

    The Great Divide – The Oil in the last 21 have been very good against weaker teams and horrid against good teams. The difference is quite amazing. 11 of the last 21 games vs teams that have earned 1.18 ppg or better (Dallas is at 1.18 ppg) the Oil have gained 4 points or 0.36 ppg. In the 10 games against teams with 1.05 ppg or less (Philly being at 1.05 ppg) they gained 16 points or 1.6 ppg. Extrapolating this trend for the last 41 games gives me 33 points in the last 41, or total of 63 points for the year which puts them just above the 2009 through 2011 teams which had 62 points.

    It should be interesting to see how they go vs the 62 point mark. We Edmontonians take a perverse pleasure is declaring what we can endure (how many of us remember the month below zero F circa 1970???). A few years hence we may be declaring we survived the worst Oil teams ever and wondering how KLowe kept his job for those years.

    One thing is for certain, that the time period of 2009 through 2014 in which the team will have 3 seasons on the 60s will go down a the worst period ever (at least I hope it doesn’t continue into 2014/2015, but them I’m the eternal optimist). I’m glad the ‘Plan” is on track. I hate to think where we would be if it wasn’t working out.

  • Johnnydapunk

    About the music.. It’s about time they get rid of that ****ing bull**** goalsong. Pitbull? Seriously? Whoever decided that should be ashamed of themselves.

    Why do hockey games have so many songs or organs in it anyway. What’s wrong with having a natural atmosphere instead of trying to artificially create one.

    More garbage off-ice to go along with the garbage on-ice, I suppose. If only it was more like Montreal or Winnipeg.

    You know what else I hate? Goalhorns that go on for 30 seconds to a minute long. 3-5 seconds is fine, but every rink seems to blast it to the point of being excessive and irritating.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I will take it a step further Gregor & say Mark Lewis has to go as well! The past couple seasons his voice has sounded tired & drawn out! I have had friends comment on him as well!

    Also, not to be nit picky, but we’re 6.5 years out from our Stanley Cup loss to the Canes! Every decimal point counts when grasping for something!

  • Johnnydapunk

    This organization is a complete joke. The sad truth is that Katz will never understand how badly run his team is from top to bottom. They cannot get anything right. Mac T spitting some Soviet Union propaganda on Fat Bob’s show last week was the biggest slap to the knowledgeable fan in this town. They think we are all a bunch of sheep. And as always, Kevin Lowe blows.

    • ubermiguel

      Attendance at tonight’s game is 16,839. The Edmonton Oilers thank you. Please remember, don’t drink and drive, and get home safely. A reminder that the next Oilers home game is…

  • ubermiguel

    A few things..

    Gimme some loving isn’t a Beatles song at all. It’s the Spencer Davis Group.

    But if they must play music, what’s wrong with that and Woolly Bully? At least 60’s era is nicer to listen to than Pitbull trash or electronic garbage. Maybe they’ll play Surfin bird next game.

  • ubermiguel

    I recently was at a home game; the atmosphere is at best lukewarm. It was a xmas holiday game versus another Canadian team (Jets) and it was still like a morgue at times.

    The on-ice product is embarrassing enough, but the presentation of the product is as bad as it was in the early ’90’s when those 2 amateurs Al Nagy and Brian Wilde were doing their hackneyed commentary/spoofy intermission crap.

    Just go to another nhl game anywhere in Canada and you will realize just another example of how far the Oilers have fallen. The team is crap, and the rest of what Katz and Co. are serving up is pretty much the same.

    • ubermiguel

      I went to a Leafs game at the ACC last year, and the non-game entertainment was pretty lack-lustre. Marginally better than Rexall. Saw a Raptors game in the same building; now THERE’s some entertainment value; it was a better show off the court than on.

      Centre Bell however is a total party. Went to a mid-week game against the Thrashers and the place was rocking.

  • ubermiguel

    Shultz Jr has been better?

    What game are you watching .Fumbling the puck on PP,waving his stick in corners and stickchecking in front of net.

    Give me a break.

  • SmythsMullet

    Correct me if I’m wrong but if my memory serves me right. Rexall played motley crues “wildside” on the opening faceoff in 2006. And that team knew a little about winning of there’s ever a concern

  • Alsker

    I was in Dallas on business a couple of years agoand was asked to go to a Mavericks game. I’m not a basketball fan but went and was amazed at how they entertained there, mark cuban runs a good show.Im fairly reserved at games myself but they had the fans in a frensy all night . Allot of stuff geared towards kids but it was an atmosphere like a game 7. There was 2 or 3 things going on at time, upbeat music. A nice change from the misfiring tshirt shooter or cheer for the car lame game. oilers games I do my best to ignore the crap going on between plays because its basically the same since about 1993. I would also prefer they bring back the cfcw coyote with a puck on a string to the 4’s and 5’s they are passing off as cheerleaders.

  • OilClog

    do they have the same dj as the oil kings. the atmosphere at one of their games is great. maybe it’s the effort or the winning if it isn’t the music. good management tends to do that. maybe we need a sign out front that says under new management and at least we can forget about how awful this team has been. seems to work for the restaurants that have food issues cuz people always go back to something they used to enjoy if there’s hope for the past goodness.why else would anyone go to kfc,dominos,or an oilers game? lately going to a game is like eating rotten ron’s…you know what you’re getting and you never leave thinking “that was good.” all the management will end up doing is hiring the nylons to perform cuz that’s what worked in the past. “your still the one” is still their fave song haha

  • OilClog

    So we don’t have a better option to play along side Gagner and Ebs then Horvat? Give me a break, this is crap.

    What is Yakupov suppose to do with Lander and Gazdic? Gets a shift with Hall, scores a goal. Ridiculous.

    Why is Perron on the right side? Why hasn’t he been as noticeable lately? How about putting him back into position along Nuge and Ebs. Allowing Hall and Yakupov to continue their chemistry.. Wait! Let’s play Joenssu! No no no.. Let’s call up Horvat!

    Good Lord.

    And Justin Schultz has been struggling. It’s ugly. But playing with Nick “dead puck” Schultz isn’t going to help anyone.

    This team should keep trying cross ice passes at a stand still. It’s beautiful.

    • Spydyr

      no different than the past when we used to call up a forward , play him with buchberger and wonder why he doesn’t score like he used to? you’re right on when you say we should play skill with skill. how good was hemsky playing with horcoff? not a superstar and yet we could see potential.keep playing yak with crap and you’ll end up with another hemsky.

  • Spydyr

    Being a Lowe class cable watcher, I’m wondering if they still play “Cotten Eye Joe” and if that bald dude dances up and down a set of stairs in the lower bowl. That guy was the best. Wait , maybe that was Gregor? Anyway, he was great.

  • OilClog

    I back what Rotten Ron wrote.
    The Phoenix Suns were weapons-grade bad last year. Tickets were 5 bucks – that’s f-i-v-e – on Stubhub (third row uppper level, at exactly mid-court). There might have been 5K there, but certainly not 10K. Never had so much fun at a sporting event. Always something happening. Always something to cheer for. And I went a couple of times, so it wasn’t just one of those lightning-in-a-bottle games.
    Once you’re seen live sports in the U.S. I honestly don’t know how you’d ever bother to leave the house to attend a game at a Canadian funeral home. And once you’ve seen basketball live – and I fkn hate basketball, traditionally – I don’t know how you could look anybody in the eye and say, “I paid actual money to go to a hockey game in” a Canadian funeral home.

  • OilClog

    Yak should be sent to OKC to get his game back on track. 10 to 20 games down there would help his confidence and he can learn how to play in his own end. Right now he is totally lost out there. Give him until after the Olympic break, because he’s not going to play for Russia. Were going to need him playing better so when they finally get rid of Hemsky he can slide into his spot. If that doesn’t work for him and his agent then get rid of both of them.

  • Rick Stroppel

    THESE GUYS HAVE GOT IT ALL FIGURED OUT

    I heard Pat Laforge interviewed by Jason Gregor on the radio this afternoon. I think I heard most of the interview. In my opinion, Laforge was prickly, sarcastic and dismissive. He kept on saying they have certain “obligations” to fulfill during the game, as if this had anything to do with the choice of music. When Gregor made a positive suggestion, he sarcastically described it as “brilliant”. He minimized the complaints by saying that people are only upset because the team isn’t winning. He admitted that the people who were in charge of the music made some big mistakes in the last game. Jason asked whether there would be consequences. Laforge sarcastically replied, “what happens to you when you make a mistake, Jason?”.

    Now it is my turn to be sarcastic. Lowe, McTavish and Laforge think they got together and invented professional hockey in 2006. They have dislocated their shoulders from patting themselves on the back. There is a profound arrogance that infects this organization from top to bottom. They strut around as if they are responsible for some kind of hockey dynasty. For many years the media in this city have been pandering to them. I think that is finally changing. It’s not like we have a choice. NHL is the only major league show in town, and hockey is in our DNA. This team simply is not interested in treating fans with respect.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I realise I did comment earlier about the music thing, but the more I think about it, deckchairs and a certain unsinkable ship comes to mind….

    Man it is pants being an Oil fan at times.

  • Alsker

    Last year with Krueger was the first year in a long time that progress was made. PP and PK were much better, and the team’s position in the standings improved. I’m not sure what reasoning MacT has used to replace Krueger, and in hindsight, it might have been the most stupid move MacT has made as GM. I don’t think Eakins is a bad coach, but perhaps this team would have been better served with the stability of another year of Ralph.
    Its another example of this management group “thinking outside the box” when what they should be doing is keeping it simple.

    • S cottV

      Completely agree that at most bring Eakins in as an Associate Coach under Krueger and evaluate him up close, as an eventual Head Coach.

      The whole thing was knee jerked, with MacT turning an Associate Coach interview into a Head Coach selection and firing Krueger via Skype.

      The team needed to pick up where it left off and move forward – which would have been best served by leaving Krueger in place. The Coach change bumped things backwards, which is somewhat normal in the short term. However – Eakins trial and learning curve, confused the player group and worse – cast a player group shadow over his credibility as an NHL Coach. The program never recovered from the bump backwards – floundering in 29th place.

      The next 16 games will be very interesting. Most are against teams that are at the top end of the standings and the remainder against teams directly in the playoff hunt. “If” the Eakins learning curve is narrowing, and “if” the player group perception of him as a legit NHL Coach is improving – the Oilers should win some of these games and look like an outfit coming together.

      Eakins must surely be concerned about how the team meets this challenge. The move with Yak is probably designed to stamp some additional 2 way thought process into his head, before running the gauntlet with him, these next 16 games. While not the only one with defensive lapses, Yak is minus 25 and while I am no big Eakins supporter, it’s easy to see why he is reluctant to play this guy, without another attitude adjustment.