Step back from the ledge!

As a player I always knew Oiler fans were passionate but now that I am a member of the media I am getting an even deeper understanding of their passion for this team. I get a ton of texts and emails while doing my show. They are full of ideas from trades to line combos. I like getting them but it is hard to fully express passion through texts. That is why I love getting all the phone calls!

Callers are the best!!! After an Oilers game, when I do the post-game show, the real passion comes out. Win or lose, especially lose though, the callers are fired up! I love that interaction. Nearly every caller is expressing the same concern… why are the Oilers not winning more games this year???

The frustration is becoming increasingly clear. Oilers fans expect a playoff team this year. All the skill that has been acquired through the high draft picks and the signing of Justin Schultz should be translating to more wins they feel. I get asked all the time why this team isn’t winning games at a playoff-making rate. Fans want answers.

There are answers as to why more wins have eluded the team. This team is half way through a rebuild so there are still holes through this lineup. Injuries to both Horcoff and Jones have not helped the grit factor for the top three lines. Even strength scoring hasn’t been there so far. These are the most obvious.

Some of these issues will be remedied this year and some won’t. The issue I believe is more with the fans and media then with the team though.

You want to know why the team is losing more? Why are you so frustrated with the start with the Oilers? What can be done for the fans to feel better about it?

I have got an answer for you… Lower your expectations. The bar was set to high for this club.

Step Forward

I will agree that this team is ready to make a step forward. Here are some of the bright spots I have seen this year.

  • Devan Dubnyk is establishing himself as a solid goaltender. There is not one game you can totally pin on him as a loss. He is giving his team a chance to win every night. At this point in his development what more do you want from him?
  • Ralph Krueger is holding players accountable for their play. This is a big step forward for the organization. Gone are the days of players being sent out on the ice regardless of results. The whole team took notice when the two Ryans were sat out. That will pay dividends going forward.
  • The specialty teams are looking strong.
  • Justin Schultz has been good offensively and not hurt the group defensively. I have really been surprised by his poise on the defensive side of the puck.

All these add up to an improved season but does it catapult them into the playoffs?

Is it really reasonable to expect this team to go from 29th place to 16th or better? Last year they had 74 points. The 8th spot in the Western conference was taken by the LA KINGS with 95 points. We are talking about a 21 point improvement that would be needed to jump into the playoffs! 21 points! 10 wins plus a tie! That is a huge jump to make.

The Oilers have played 13 games this season. They have 13 points. If we stretch that out over a full 82 game season that equals 82 points. Last season that would have put them in 12th place in the western conference – still 13 points out of the 8th spot.

If the Oilers continue to go at this pace for the rest of the season, they will end of somewhere around 11th or 12th in the west. Those are reasonable expectations. Jumping from 14th to 8th or better is not. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is reality.

Step back from the ledge! Not because you are getting off the bandwagon. Step back because the playoffs are a stretch this year, they would be a bonus! Patience my friends, patience.

If in a year to eighteen months from now we are still having this conversation then I will join you on that ledge!

Cookie Cutter

Matt Cooke was involved in a pretty nasty incident versus the Ottawa Senators the other night. As he was riding Erik Karlsson into the boards his skate came down on Karlsson’s leg and caused a major injury. Erik is out for the season.

I don’t want to believe and can’t believe Cooke had any intention in causing harm to Karlsson on the play. It would just be too hard to do. He won’t be and shouldn’t be suspended.

I think the NHL should take a hard look at the socks that NHL players now use. Right after the last lockout the NHL went with very thin socks that look good but provide ZERO protection from skates. They got rid of the bulkier wool socks that did the trick for time eternal.

As soon as we all got these new socks we commented on how much more dangerous it would be to wear them. Many players have no long underwear under their knee pads. There is nothing between them and the sharp blade of a skate.

I am not saying that if Karlsson had been wearing wool socks he would not have been injured. But it would not be a stretch to suggest that instead of having cut his Achilles 75% he might have only cut it 30%. Big difference.

This incident was a one in a million occurrence, might not ever see it again. But the NHL needs to do something about the socks the players wear. I doubt that we will ever see wool socks back on players legs. Is there not something else that can be done?

  • bwar

    I think we expected the move to 11-12th in the West to occur last season and playoffs this year. Every year it seems like the Oilers are one year away from turning that corner. We play in probably the weakest division in the west. Vancouver is a banged up squad, Minnesota is a squad trying to transition into being a playoff contender, Calgary is a squad in denial of the need to rebuild and Colordao is in pretty much the same boat as the Oilers. At worst we should be competitive if not better than most of our division which in turn leads me to believe that we should be at least close to being a playoff team.

    We clearly have some areas that need to be improved upon but that doesn’t mean we should give up hope on this season. We have been in a pretty big slump recently and yet are still just 2 points out of a playoff spot. Lots of little things have been going wrong for us with Horcoff, Jones, Belanger and Lander being sidelined, RNH, Eberle, Whitney and Smyth in slumps, lack of 5v5 scoring, and our inability to win faceoffs. If any one of these issues change all of a sudden one goal loses turn into ties and ties turn into wins.

    So do I think expecting a playoff team is unreasonable? No I do not. We’ve been waiting and things have slowly been improving and now its time to start proving that this team could potentially be a contender. We still have a lot of work left but its time to start showing that everything is moving in a positive direction.

    If this team finishes near the bottom of the standings again I think we will have to start questioning the direction this team is going and ask if the pieces we have acquired are ever going to bring us a Stanley Cup.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Since you brought it up…

    Management keeps feeding the coaching staff guys like MacIntyre,Eager and Hordichuk types to address an area of concern on this hockey club. They’re often left flappin in the breeze for essentially doing what they’re brought into do (take a few penalties). Is there a disconnect/lack of communication between Management and coaching?

    Alot of years ago there use to be 2 single laces on the very top of the heel on skates. When used, they left little to no room far a skateblade to access that area. Those eyelets/laces have all but disappeared in the last 15 yrs. If Karlsson had the abilty/option to tie those laces/2 rounds of tape around the very bottom of his shinpads, i’d had to think he wouldn’t have missed one minute of action because of this.

  • 27Ginge

    Not sure what we were all expecting. The Oilers have the worst group of veteran NHLers in the league. They have absolutely nobody in their prime (maybe Smid and Petry). Any success at all is dependant on the ability of guys that aren’t even done growing. Every decent player the Oilers have is no where near his prime. I’m not gonna guarantee three cups but this team is gonna be unreal to watch and horrible to play against for the better part of this decade.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    So Mr Strudwick- explain to me exactly why the Detroit Red Wings
    have maintained their standing in this league for so long.
    How many years has it been now.The Oilers have sucked for years
    2006 the exception. Lower my expections ? Give me a break,
    make the moves to fill the voids this team needs without sacrificing
    the future, It can be done and you know it. You cant fill all the voids
    at once i understand that.

    Also, tell me from your heart if you feel Oilers Management have built
    the team to the point they are at now. No they didnt, we sucked for so
    bad for so long we acquired 1st round picks, and J. Schultz picked us.
    Put me a list togeather of moves that have improved us.
    Ryan Smyth- Nope. Belanger- Sorry- Eager- so-so.

    Dont pee in my ear and tell me its raining Struds.

    Takes time- they have had time. We will lose our stars as usual
    if this 10 year plan continues. Make a Move, show some balls
    Again, i know it all cant be done at once, but there has been nothing,
    Fistric is the only decent move to increase team toughness i have seen.

    • Jason Strudwick

      It is easy to say the team needs to make moves. Put forth 5 moves that can be made in the next 6 months to improve this team. Make them real though. No trading Omark for Crosby.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        1) Brad Boyes for a third rounder.

        2) Gagner,Musil and rights to Omark for O’Reilly (perhaps a 3 way deal)

        3) Hemsky,Lander and the Oils 2nd rounder for Erick Gudbranson and Scottie Upshall (or other like salary dump).

        4)Khabibulin for a 3rd/4th rounder at the deadline.

        5) Ryan Whitney and Alex Plante for a second rounder as soon as possible.

        Still have the probable lotto pick, center ice position is much stronger, as well as that upgrade on the blueline to go with the probable addition of Klefbom.

        Horcoff is bought out this summer to make room for that 3.5’ish lotto pick.

      • Word to the Bird

        I’ll take a crack at it. Marincin and Whitney for Ryane Clowe. Ales Hemsky for Mark Streit. Ryan Smyth for Dustin Penner. Sam Gagner for Brandon Dubinsky and a third round pick. And buyout Shawn Horcoff.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          Here’s what I would do.

          1. Move Gagner to center Hall and Eberle. I think 4 and 14 can drive the play by themselves and Gagner is the best center on the team to play with them plus they have a small history of success.

          2. Move the Nuge to center Yakupov and whoever we get as the other winger (see point #3). The more I watch the Nuge, the more I see him as a future Selke winner. He’s been struggling offensively this season but he’s been great on the D side. Now you have two lines that can drive the play the right way.

          3. Dangle Hemsky to see if we can get a player like Hartnell. This gives the Nuge’s line some size and should make it more difficult to play agaisnt on the D side. (Note – Love Hemmer but a Hartnell type fits better)

          4. Keep Harti and PVR together all season. Centered either by Belanger or Lander to see if they can be a legitimate third/fourth line that’s hard to play agaisnt.

          5. Try and acquire a top 4 D or at least improve our 5 and 6 spots in the off season. Not too sure how to go about this one.

          Nothing too drastic. I really think we have a great core developing here but we don’t exactly know yet what each of these guys are gonna turn out to be. I think this season will give us a good indication on who’s going to be who. Once we figure out where each of the young core fits, then we can make big moves to have more of a complete lineup to compete for the cup.

        • I like it, except the part about Hemsky and Streit, Meh on a 35 year old D-man.

          However, call me an optimist, but I think the Oiler get Weber, we need size and a mean streak back there………His shot isn’t too shabby.

          • a lg dubl dubl

            Are we really that much ahead from the current centre depth (RNH/Gagner/Horcoff/Belanger) by running a revised centre depth of RNH/Dubinsky/Belanger/Lander? Instead of 2 point-producing centres and 2 defensive-minded checking centres who can win faceoffs, we have 1 point-producing centre, 1 checking centre who can chip in offensively and 2 3rd-to-4th line centres (of which one is, thus far, a NHL/AHL tweener)?

            I suspect if Horc is bought out or traded, the team will miss him plenty more than the fans will (kind of like how things have been going since he got hurt).

          • Word to the Bird

            I would love to see Dubinsky in oiler silks. It’s not that I don’t love Gagner it’s just he plays a role similar to RNH. We need added grit in our top 6 and a top 6 featuring Hartikainen and Dubinsky immediately adds sandpaper to our lineup.

          • Word to the Bird

            Fully agree. But, as soon as we do that, then everyone’s crying we only have one true offensive minded centre and that half of our centre core is 4th-line quality or less. If it was RNH/Dubinsky/Horcoff/Belanger, I think they’d be better off yet (although giving up Gagner now sure seems like the gamble from hell).

          • I’m not sure I would shed a huge tear if we got Dubinsky for Gagner, he’s a 40 point guy Gagner is a 45-49 point guy, I think Dubisnsky game is overall better.

            I think this might have been doable with Howson not so much with Davidson.

            I would make this trade.

            With the way I think the Oilers will finish we may have a decent shot at really elite center anyways.

          • Word to the Bird

            I would love to see Dubinsky in oiler silks. It’s not that I don’t love Gagner it’s just he plays a role similar to RNH. We need added grit in our top 6 and a top 6 featuring Hartikainen and Dubinsky immediately adds sandpaper to our lineup.

  • vetinari

    First, love the “Scrubs” stills… one of the best all-time comedies on TV…

    As for what constitutes “reasonable expectations”, I admit that they were too high after the 2006-07 Cup run– that much is evident– but at what point do expectations need to be raised for this team? Expectations reflect goals and targets, both for the individual players and the team as a collective.

    Setting expectations too low can be counterproductive as it sends the message to players and fans that “the standings don’t matter”. Eventually if the standings don’t matter, then it becomes only about individual performances rather than team results.

    We’ve had three years of winning the draft lotto and we’ve landed some valuable pieces outside of the draft like J. Schultz. We’ve also seen Dubnyk emerge as a bona fide starter– something we haven’t had since Rolosson was on the team. Now is the time to start to raise expectations because they need to respond as a team and care about team results.

    I would rather shoot for a playoff spot (and take that stand publicly) than say “we finished 29th last year, so lower your expectations because 10th to 12th place in the West would be more reasonable”.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jayyyyyysonnnnn…..

    Have you seen that Fraser McLaren kid who plays for the Leafs? Seen him scrappin on HNIC last Saturday. He’s really the spittin image of you 15 yrs ago. When wearing his helmet he looks like your identical twin brother, 15 yrs removed. #whiteguysalllookthesametome.

    #PhysicalevidencetheyhavestartedcloningformerNHLplayers.

    How long till the Lemieux,Messier and Gretzky versions are available?

  • 50 in 39

    You are right Struds but that is not how being a fan works.

    If a reasonable expectation was 10th-12th in the west then one would hope for a 7th-9th finish. I would hope that the players would approach expectations the same way.

    Player development is progressing but at the same time I think you need to be careful about setting the bar too low.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I’m not sure why so many Oilers fans are as surprised as they are. To be truthful, we are lucky to have as many points as we have so far this season. Have just about been outshot every game. Faceoffs are a nightmare.

    This is the same team that has finished in the basement for three yrs straight, except for an 18 yr old Russian rookie and an NCAA rookie. Don’t gt me wrong, Yak and J Schultz have looked good and produced thus far, but did people really expect the team to be that much different because of them?

    With Whitney looking as bad as he does (and he is supposed to be the #1 dman) and injuries up the middle, Dubnyk has kept the team afloat, but this can’t last for much longer. The team seems to be finding ways to lose games again this year.

    Unless something drastic happens via trade, this team is far from the playoffs, and more likely closer to the draft lottery. It is so painful to say it, but I feel it is the truth.

  • Where's Your Towel

    I’m not a Vancouver Canuck fan , but their formula on building a team is so superior to the Oilers.

    Oilers philosophy is lets pick the best player and hope for the best. I think that philosophy works if you are building an All Star team but it does not work if you are building a team.

    Obviously luck is involved but this team has stayed the same for years-Young small with loads of potential. When do you say something is not working?

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Which formula are you referring to? The one where you draft good young talent and wait 4 or 5 years for them to develop into good/great players? Let see, draft the twins, wait a while and then boom! Draft Kessler, wait a while and then boom. Draft Schneider, wait a while and then boom! That sounds a lot like what this other team I know is doing.

      Or maybe you’re referring to the formula that can’t win a Cup. You can keep that.

  • Where's Your Towel

    Very few puck moving D-men

    No 2 way center on the top 2 lines.

    Lack grit and size.

    No faceoff man on the top 2 lines.

    Aside from that they are looking good for regular season.

  • northof51

    Who ever is running this team [ and thats not very clear..could be part of the problem ].,
    doesn’t know what the f…. they are doing!

    It seems the only plan is chasing slick, small skilled players because thats what is at the top of the pile when you play the lottery game.[it’s ok to have a couple of these, but not the entire team] Kassian was avialable when they choose Paajarvi?. OReily, was picked same year in the second round….after MVP. You get the point/,

    Tambelini/Lowe/ MacT, Katz, havnt made a significant move in the last 6 years!. Signing garbage like Hordicuk, Eager, Barker is not significant.

    If you set your expecations low, your results will be low.. I know there is reality, but there is also incompetence.

    There is something wrong in this camp, nobody is talking.. wait till they come back from their long road trip. Did the players change that much or is it the system and the coach?

  • Where's Your Towel

    Who ever is running this team [ and thats not very clear..could be part of the problem ].,
    doesn’t know what the f…. they are doing!

    It seems the only plan is chasing slick, small skilled players because thats what is at the top of the pile when you play the lottery game.[it’s ok to have a couple of these, but not the entire team] Kassian was avialable when they choose Paajarvi?. OReily, was picked same year in the second round….after MVP. You get the point/,

    Tambelini/Lowe/ MacT, Katz, havnt made a significant move in the last 6 years!. Signing garbage like Hordicuk, Eager, Barker is not significant.

    If you set your expecations low, your results will be low.. I know there is reality, but there is also incompetence.

    There is something wrong in this camp, nobody is talking.. wait till they come back from their long road trip. Did the players change that much or is it the system and the coach?

  • Where's Your Towel

    I feel the oil could use a left handed, veteran defenceman. maybe sign a guy like Strudwick to really make our top pair dynamite. when the d is working the point we could have them both set up with the one-timer.

    If the oil finish 25th overall i will be fine with that. people need to realize that hopkins hasnt even played 82 games yet in his career(74). just think how good he will be when hes been here as long as sam gagner.

    i also think the oil should trade khabibulin and sign roloson. They reaquired smyth which was the right move for how it all went down when he was traded. i feel not giving roloson the 2 years he wanted so he could have stability for his family was unjust when they turned around and signed another old goalie to 4 years with a higher cap hit. I dont have anything against khabi because hes in really great shape every year but i still hope this happens.

  • MattyFranchise

    Lower your expectations……..wow what an insight! That’s what I have been doing wrong the whole time??

    For the past five years I have lowered my expectations to finishing last……..and I supposed to do this again this year.

    I would love to go to my boss and tell him I have a five to seven year plan…….” hey boss my plan is to lose money over the next 5 to 7 years and then I promise that we will break even sometime, and then we can make some money after that…..OK”?

    Yea I get that we are in a re-build, but Tamby the architect has not demonstrated the ability to fill even the smallest roster holes! IF Tamby was operating in the ” real world”, he would have been fired a long time ago.

    • ubermiguel

      In the past years my expectation were greatly INCREASED. I wanted to see the Oilers acquire the best possible player so that when we mature, the club could compete for Stanley’s cup. Those expectations were met. I expected that Tambo would not get impatient and that he would stick with the plan he outlined three years ago – Draft, develop within and build a positive culture. Expectation met.

      A much better analogy for you would be to approach your boss and say. “Instead of flogging this useless product that nobody wants, lets develop a new product that everyone wants. It may take a few years but then we will make lots of money and be a successful organization”.

      So please, take the advise and step away from the ledge.

      • Thank you Mr. Lumley, it’s like some people don’t even read the articles and just skip down to the comments to bitch! (sorry Mom)

        Also I would like to add to your comment, that in this case our very understanding friend Rama Lama is getting profits and products confused.. Patrick Laforge is (I believe) the guy that makes sure the team is profitable, which I believe it is but I’m also told otherwise by the city council meetings with Rexall Sports but that’s neither here nor there..

        They’re trying to fix the endless monotony that we were going through with the perennial 10th place finishes. People just have to be patience with the development period. Or I suppose we could fly Lowe and co. out to Kelowna each summer to see what Heatley is up to?

        Profits and product DO NOT go hand in hand in this city of hockey mad people.

        If they did, we wouldn’t have hockey and Rama wouldn’t be mad.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          Props! Every time I start to read a post comparing hockey to real life market situations or their own situation I immediately skip it. It makes absolutely no sense to do that in a hockey city like Edmonton.

        • 27Ginge

          Really……..I thought that the analogy was fairly self-explanatory! In any case, what you are suggesting is following a leader and his strategy using blind faith.

          Sorry but I do not endorse this course of action. Just how long have we been talking about roster issues ( small players, face off people, puck moving defenseman, enforcers who can play) and what can be done to address these isssues?

          Concurrent with finishing last and drafting first, could we not address some of these issues in a more proactive manner. Maybe acquire someone with a real well thought out trade? Outside of trading Penner, Tamby has not demonstrated any creative thought process.

          Patience is for losers!

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            “Really……..I thought that the analogy was fairly self-explanatory! In any case, what you are suggesting is following a leader and his strategy using blind faith.”

            News flash Rama! Yes! As a fan that is all you can do (blind faith). Check that, you have one other choice, you can stop being a fan. Are you that delusional that you think bitching about management actually changes the way they are gonna manage the team?

          • Cowbell_Feva

            News flash…….stop drinking the koolaid that the Oilers are feeding you!! If you don’t think that members of the Oilers read articles, and visit the odd website………you are delusional.

            BTW, I’m not trying to change the Oilers management by posting, simply expressing my views.

            Some professional writers are starting to grow weary of Tamby and his make believe strategy of building this team. Eventually this clown will get fired, you can only pretend for so long.

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            Hey dude, there is nothing wrong with expressing your views as a fan. That is every fan’s right.

            But clearly, from your last post, you are under the impression that what you write here somehow affects the hockey team.

            Well, this will be the last time I ever address you in these forums. Clearly the skies in our worlds are not the same colour.

  • northof51

    And there is good news. Curtis lazar is now ranked 11th by ISS. Barkov 7th. Draft day will see a center come this way.

    The Oilers lack of offence is concerning but I feel it will resolve itself with a game against the Blackhawks. There good for a 9 or 10 spot. Stat night.

    Is Nashville for real. Pekke Rinne is the team.Wow. if only they had some forwards.

  • MattyFranchise

    Teemu Selanne was on hockey tonight last night talking about how he wears kevlar socks and wrist guards and really likes them because he hardly even notices wearing them while playing.

    When a guy who has suffered that kind of injury and has gone through the rehab for it advocates that kind of gear then perhaps the other players should pay attention.

    • ubermiguel

      I was at that game when he got sliced up. The ice crew was scraping up shovels full of bloody snow. Nasty business. I was worried I had just witnessed the end of a Hall of Famer’s career, was glad when he came back from it.

  • northof51

    If i was an owner i would make all players wear the kevlar socks,some do already.We are passionate about our hockey,winters are long here,but also very knowlegable i believe.patience yes,there are some very good players here that need to mature.you are doing a fine job on the radio Jason,i listen to you at bed time and i go right to sleep,lol

  • Where's Your Towel

    Even in the depths of the 30, 30, 29 seasons we occasionally got to enjoy a thorough trouncing of a superior team by our little club.

    It just doesn’t seem to be clicking the way I expected it might.

    I was expecting a team that would be fun to watch but probably lose about half the games due to defensive weakness.

    Instead we are watching a team that is painful to watch. Literally. There have been games they’ve WON that have actually made me feel sick to my stomach.

    Jason, I know all of this is expectations, and that’s your point. Offence was supposed to be our strong point. Up front is where the vast majority of the talent is. The Oilers are struggling to score two goals per game and we don’t understand why.

    • Mark-LW

      Exactly. Dubnyk has been the only reason we are ahead of last year’s point pace. I think we all were hoping for that but also combined with improved offence from our offence heavy core. Improved goaltending and improved offence should net a larger improvement than what we’ve seen in the last six games

  • northof51

    Personally, my feet sweat no matter what I wear, and I don’t find any comfort in the thin socks. I know the pros know their equipment better than most, but it concerns me that kids want to wear whatever the NHLers wear.

    I get that some pros don’t want to wear a visor or change their socks, but some impressionable youth somewhere is only doing what his idols do. (Same reason my 11 year old nephew thinks he needs a $300 RBK Sickick II). I would like to see mandated equipment (like visors, and maybe better socks), and that will filter down to future generations.

  • I agree expectations were too high. I didn’t think the team would make the playoffs or maybe come close. But I think fans are freaked out because the Oilers are losing games to horrible teams, struggling with scoring and not getting a lot of shots. Oil should have a few more points at this point, even with the injuries and holes in lineup.

  • geoilersgist

    Couldn’t agree more with you. People need to calm right on down. There is no need to get upset this is part of the process. Overall this team appears to have improved immensely from last season.

    • DSF

      No, it hasn’t.

      G/G

      2012 – 2.52 – 20th

      2013 – 2.15 – 28th

      GA/G –

      2012 – 2.83 – 23rd

      2013 – 2. 54 – 11th

      G DIFF

      2012 – -0.31

      2013- -0.39

      G. DIFF Season

      2012 – -27

      2013 (projected 82 game season) -32

      EV 5V5

      2012 – 0.91 – 22nd

      2013 – 0.52 – 30th

      PP

      2012 – 20.6 3rd

      2013 – 22.2 8th

      The one area of noticeable improvement is penalty killing.

      PK

      2012 – 82.4 – 14th

      2013 – 87.5 5th

      The biggest issue is an almost total lack of secondary scoring and scoring from the D.

      For example, while Schultz Jr. has 7 points, the rest of the D has a total of 5 points for a total of 12.

      By way of contrast, Vancouver’s D has 26 points.

      Makes it pretty easy for the opponent to concentrate on shutting down the top 6 since no one else is scoring.