GDB 16.0: OIL CHANGE NEEDED

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." For years many attributed this quote to Albert Einstein, however, there is no proof he actually uttered those words.

"Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results," first appeared in the basic text of Narcotics Anonymous which was copyrighted in 1982. Brownlee can attest this is very true, having tried to kick the habit for years, and I wonder if Ralph Krueger is starting to wonder the same thing about his hockey team.

Tonight the OIlers play their 16th game of the season, which is 1/3 of the abbreviated 2013 season, and they haven’t been able to improve their five-on-five scoring.

In the first 7 games they scored 7 ES goals, and in the last 8 they also scored 7. Through 15 games they have shown zero improvement. Sure, they have produced some quality chances, but scoring chances won’t win you games; you need to score goals.

I applaud Krueger for showing patience and not firing up the McBlender every few games, but at some point he can’t keep hoping guys will produce. The line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle should be producing more goals, and eventually they will, but how long can Krueger wait?

That line has fired 57 shots on goal during the past five games, but they’ve only scored four times and one of those was an empty net goal. On 56 shots with a goalie in net they’ve combined for three goals and a woeful 5.3 SH%. Eventually they will start scoring more, but if Krueger doesn’t try something to generate more scoring this team could find themselves out of the playoff hunt sooner than they’d like.

The Oilers had an optional skate this morning, but after chatting with a few people it sounds like Krueger will rotate the bottom three lines tonight.

Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky

They’ve played together for most of the year, but they’ve had limited success at ES. It was smart to move Yakupov away from Eric Belanger, because he wasn’t generating anything, but this trio hasn’t produced enough to be assume that they will automatically produce.

Smyth-Belanger-Eager

I like moving Eager up the lineup and giving him some more icetime, but if the Oilers don’t score early tonight, I wouldn’t hesitate to move Eager into the top-six and try to get some energy and net presence.

Hartikainen-Vande Velde-Paajarvi

Hartikainen and Paajarvi are struggling to find some consistency, and I’d look at slotting them in amongst the top-six as well. Both of them need to watch film on Ryan Jones in the offensive zone and try to do what he does.

THEO DEBUTS

After a four game conditioning stint, mixed in with a subtle message to be more focused, Theo Peckham makes his season debut tonight beside Mark Fistric. He will add some much needed abrasiveness and Krueger is hoping his attitude and style will help his offensive players. "To augment our skill you need guys who are difficult to play against. That’s what Theo brings to our lineup," said Krueger.

N.Schultz-J.Schultz

They have been a solid pair, but if J.Schultz is going to be considered an offensive D-man he needs to start generating some points five-on-five. Schultz is tied for 22nd in scoring by D-men with eight points, which is very good for a rookie; however he is 142nd amongst D-men in ES scoring with only one point.

Smid-Petry

I’d like to see much more from Jeff Petry. He has no points in 15 games despite playing over 21 minutes a game. At some point he needs to generate something offensively..

Dubnyk

Nikolai Khabibulin has been great in his three appearances this year, and I had no issue with playing him v. Los Angeles. The backup needs to play at some point, but Dubnyk is their starter and he needs to have a bounce back game and after an average first period v. Colorado and third period v. Dallas.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 14-26-5 v. the Wild since the 2005 lockout, but they are 10-10-2 at home. If this team has any hope of staying in the playoff race this is a game they need to win. They will reward their loyal fans with a 3-2 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite adding Zach Parise and Ryan Suter fans still think of the Wild as a boring team. Even though they’ve played some very exciting games the past few seasons, the Wild are still not a team that has Oiler fans excited to see. Rexall will not be electric tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After Joey Moss gives birthday boy Ryan Smyth (37) the gears by calling him "older than dirt," he tells Smyth what he got him for his birthday. "Before the game I called my good buddy Wayne Gretzky and asked him to bless your stick. I held it in my hands as Wayne said his blessing," Joey told Smyth. 

Smyth is Gretzky’s second biggest fan, behind Joey, and his face lit up after hearing Joey’s story. Smyth walks back to the dressing room with a huge smile on his face staring at his stick imagining what Gretzky said, and it inspires him to play like a young Ryan Smyth. He scores tonight, gets a huge ovation from the fans and after the goal you see him high-fiving Moss behind the Oilers bench.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR