Coaches usually are graded on wins and losses. If you win, you’re considered a good coach, if you lose more than you win, eventually you get fired. Of course there are other intangibles, but winning at the NHL level is the most important factor. With a young team like the Oilers, Krueger doesn’t need to win right away, but he will need to make decisions and evaluations that will lead to more wins in the future.

His first good test will be how he handles Ryan Whitney.

Whitney hasn’t been great, and he seems to be the new whipping boy of many fans. Regardless of how you view Whitney, it will be up to Krueger to try and get the most out of him.

Last night in OT, Jaromir Jagr beat Whitney in the corner which led to Jagr’s OT winner. It was great shot and good play by a future Hall of Famer, but when you get beat one-on-one you are open for criticism.

You can see the goal again here. Just click on the blue arrow beside Jagr’s goal.

If you look at the play you will see that it wasn’t so much a lack of footspeed that hurt Whitney, but rather taking a bad angle to the puck. If Whitney attacks Jagr a half a foot to Whitney’s right, then Jagr could have gone underneath him to the corner, rather than to the middle of the circle. If Jagr beats him down low, he doesn’t have a shooting angle like he gained from going above Whitney.

It was a bad angle, and bad decision by Whitney. But getting beat by Jagr doesn’t mean he is awful though. Click here and then click the blue arrow by Jamie Benn’s goal. Watch Jagr fend off and beat Ladislav Smid one-on-one before giving the puck to Benn.

D-men will get beat one-on-one especially if they have to face a beast like Jagr.

The point with Whitney isn’t about whether he made a bad play or not, it is whether he can return to being a consistent defender.

I don’t know the answer, but Krueger can’t afford to have the same mentality that many fans have right now. He can’t just say Whitney sucks, put him in the pressbox and let him rot.

He could do that, but that would diminish any value Whitney has. There are teams interested in his services, but right now they all want to obtain him at a low return to the Oilers.

Maybe Whitney will never be the player he was prior to 2011.

Whitney has had seasons of 38, 59, 40 and 39 points and that incredible run of 27 points in 35 games for the Oilers in 2010/2011. But then he suffered another foot injury, and since then he hasn’t been able to find his game.

It is easy to just write him off, but keep in mind how many Oiler fans, and pundits around the league, were saying the same thing about Ales Hemsky last season. Hemsky tallied 66 points in only 69 games during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and last year he only picked up 36 points in 69 games.

Many screamed he was disinterested, lazy and useless and his two-year contract extension was an awful decision. Hemsky was healthy enough to dress for those 69 games, but he wasn’t as strong as he had been in the past and he wasn’t confident in his abilities.

Hemsky is finally healthy again, and he’s back to being an incredibly dangerous player.

I’m not saying it is a guarantee Whitney will return to the player he was pre-2011, in fact, because he had foot issues, it is probably a bigger risk, but I’m very curious to see how Krueger handles him.

The combination of footspeed issues and a lack of confidence is a deadly mixture for Whitney. A coach can’t magically give a player confidence, but he will play a factor in helping him try to re-gain it. Krueger is a master motivator, and this will be a great test to see how he handles Whitney.

A player can’t gain confidence sitting in the pressbox or just practicing. Outside of the top 1%, every player has lost their confidence at some point. The good ones find ways to avoid losing it for long periods, while some never find it again. I have no idea which path Whitney will skate down, but if the Oilers want to get any sort of return for him, they’d be better off supporting him, than just kicking him to the pressbox.


How will Krueger balance trying to help Whitney, while also trying to win games? Can he do both?

The reality is the Oilers don’t have many better options. Can we please stop suggesting that Taylor Fedun is a better option. His coach, Todd Nelson, said he isn’t ready for the NHL yet. His footspeed isn’t the same after shattering his leg last year, but he is getting better Nelson said. He also has zero NHL experience, and while he’d be a great feel-good story he is not a better option at this point.

Corey Potter is not a superior player either. The Oilers could play Potter ahead of Whitney, but will they be better long-term? I don’t see how. They will de-value Whitney and then just lose him for nothing in the off-season.

At this point Krueger has to see if Whitney can get close to being the player he was before the last two seasons of serious foot issues. There is no guarantee he’ll ever be that player again, but it might also be too early to just discard him.

Whitney will be Krueger’s first tough decision, and how he handles him will show us a lot of how he thinks and acts as a head coach.


  • The Oilers re-assigned Mark Arcobello to OKC today, because Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play on Saturday.  Anton Lander will get an MRI this afternoon, and if he can’t go they might recall Chris Vande Velde.
  • Ben Eager is close to returning, and could play as early as Saturday according to Krueger. Where do you play him though? And when you activate him to the roster, who will they send down? Will they finally part ways with Darcy Hordichuk.
  • Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen have been getting better every game. Paajarvi is using his speed more often, he drew a penalty last night, and he is going to the net better. Hartikainen is a load down low, and once he learns to shake off the defender and go to the next more frequently he’ll be a solid contributor.
  • Lennart Petrell is getting better at ES and on the PK and he’s a great shot blocker. No way he comes out with Horcoff and Belanger on the sidelines.
  • Ryan Jones skated with a visor for the first time today. He said he has no set timeline, but he joked, "My feet are coming along great. Hands are what they were before, not great." I suspect he might be ready to play by the 16th. The Oilers play Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday before getting three days off. That gives Jones ten days to get his cardio up to speed.  


  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Somehow Smid and Petry get by without getting and heat.

    Always seems to be the bottom 6 forwards and bottom pairing d-men that take the heat. Maybe the guys that are actually suppose to do something should take the blame.

  • GVBlackhawk

    I would ask Ralph Krueger the following:

    If Ryan Whitney appears to be a defensive liability, why would you put him out there in overtime? Can’t you get by using the top 4 guys alone…after all, it is only a 5 minute period. Finally, if you are so inclined on using Whitney, how does his pairing manage to end up on the ice against the opposition’s top line when you are playing on home ice?

    Benn and Jagr vs. Whitney and Potter was one of the most lopsided matchups that I have witnessed to this point in the season.

  • double edged sword – you can try to give Whitney the time to rebound from injury and adjust his game and deal with the blunders in the meantime – could mean allowing a crucial goal against and a L … or you can toss him aside ruining his possible trade value and allow another guy to pass him and rightfully so.

    If everyone is to be held accountable then management and coaching staff must show it and let veterans sit for bad play as well as the young guns.

    I agree that the injuries require adjustment and I’m fine with that. So if Jagr was streaming down the line on a partial breakaway and Whitney blunders falls and a goal is scored…sure ok that foot/speed issue – no problem. But piss poor marking and lack of protection of the zone in front of your net – that’s poor defense – injury or not.

    Also Kreuger might rein it in a little too – yes the kids need to learn and be present in every situation – but I bet he second guessed his choice to have Pajaarvi – Yakopov – Whitney – Potter on the ice for OT goal. Creative yes – hockey sense – No.

    • bwar

      Good Point

      In a 48 game season, the four that were on the ice
      probably should not have been. AT LEAST not all of them.

      When Dallas returns next week, or are they just staying
      at the Beverly Crest ? lol we will be a little different.

      Need that win in Motown Saturday, Damn if Calgary can win there
      surely to christ we have a good chance. Oil always give the wings
      a tough game.. Its the Jackets game that worries me more.

    • Bonvie

      I agree with the last statement about Whitney being on with Potter and the rookies in OT. I see his effort and positioning as more at fault then his mobility. Perhaps Krueger is still testing him to see if he can handle a little more at time then just his 5/6 spot.

      Whitney has not been that good but he is still good enough to be a 5-6 guy. I guess my main concern is injuries in the top 4 are bound to happen at some point in the season possible even two of the four top dman may be injured. Do we have an answer for an injury to Petry, Smid, or N. Schultz? Is Fistric good enough to play in the top 4 for a period of time?

      In the offseason the question is do we require a top 4 dman or will Whitney be able to regain that form. Although I will not be harsh enough to say Whitney is done, at this time it sure doesn’t appear he can play on the top pairing or play paired with a a call up, such as a Fedun or Teubert.

      Possibly Whitney can be traded with a prospect for an upgrade on Defense maybe back for Visnovsky, for a guy that will be playing the 5-6 roll but is capable of playing in the top 4 if needed. A guy that could also play with a call-up without having everyone of his mistakes resulting in goals. Or maybe they can target Tyler Myers for a long term solution with a bluckbuster and have one of their other veterans play the bottom pairing spot.

  • RexLibris

    I’ve been really impressed with Petrell’s play thus far. He seems to be making better decisions with the puck and his positioning looks better.

    The addition of Jones, Horcoff and Belanger when they return might also help the 5v5 production by taking away some assignments and balancing out the roster.

  • A-Mc

    It’s easy to judge Whitney when he looks like the weakest link out there, but really: if all things are status quo and we’re complaining about Whitney, we’re not in that bad of shape.

    Everyone needs an outlet, Whitney is that guy right now.

    I’m hopeful that Eager can step right back in and continue on with the play he showed in his first game of the year. He was excellent IMO. In terms of who goes back down, it is a tough call between Magnus or Harti. I feel like Magnus is making a huge push to re-Establish himself on the Oilers roster and being sent back to OKC could totally derail what he’s doing here. Things are going his way and he’s playing great, i want him to sustain it for a while so that it becomes his new norm regardless of what is thrown at him. Does that mean Harti should go down? At this point, i think his play style is less fragile than magnus’ so i think i would decide to send him back to OKC over MPS.

    This also frees up some ice time for Ben, so that Krueger can work his magic and get Ben performing to his potential.

  • oilerjed

    Seems to me that if Dallas hadnt been able to walk right through the neutral zone untouched that game might have ended much different. Yak had them penned up at their blue line and they looked unsure how to attack then Yak questionable decided to back off and go join the wall on the oil blueline. Would have been better off keeping the pressure on, he definetly has the speed to recover from a quick pass up ice, plus like I said there was the rest of the team there waiting anyway.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Gregor, from what you can see, why isn’t this team winning? Is it a matter of some players needing to get up to speed or the young guys needing to mature a bit more?

    The kids look a little snake-bitten around the net, but the only guys who have really been underperforming this season are Whitney, Potter and maybe Smytty.

    On the other hand, the second line is killing it, J. Schultz is everything we hoped he would be, Petrell, Harski and Paajarvi have all been pleasant surprises and Dubnyk is playing way above expectations.

    So the top 6 is fine, our top 4 D are playing at or above expectations, the bottom 6 has been better than expected and our goalie is standing on his head….but we’re losing and getting outplayed.

    Do you think it’s a fundamental flaw in the way the team is put together? Has the team just not clicked into gear yet? Or is this just where the team is at until the young guys get another season or two under their belt?

    • Jason Gregor

      The Oilers still need some jam in their top-six, because no one only scores pretty goals.

      Hartikainen and Paajarvi are big bodies and they are getting better.

      The Oilers will need to make some moves over the next 12-15 months to add more size and toughness who can play.

      I’ve seen lots of positives so far this year, but their lack of overall team grit is still very apparent.

    • A-Mc

      All i can say is that:

      1. We’re getting to OT FAR more often, which implies insanely close games

      2. our #1 line is totally snake bitten (as you say). When Eberle misses a 3/4 open net, you know the hockey gods are having a laugh at our expense. Eberle is awesome and those goals will start to go in.

      Between Eberle and Nuge alone, the snake venom has cost us a few W’s imo. The Oilers are on the fence right now. The slightest shift to either direction means the difference between a W and a L.

  • Whitney looked like a Pylon on that goal. Jagr is Jagr even at 40 years old, but all he did was make a sharp left turn and Whitney’s jock was in the rafters (to steal a famous phrase).

    One quick change of direction. I think it’s safe to say that in 4×4 OT #6 shouldnt be out there. At least not until that mobility sorts itself out.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Gregor, is there really a spot for Hordi on this team anymore? Find it really hard to see Prv or potentially Hartsi get sent down because of numbers when Hordi just isn’t used.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t see how. No point keeping a guy on the roster as your 13th forward when he only plays 1 minute a game.

      I suspect he will be put on waivers once Eager is back, or for sure when Jones comes back.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Lack of footspeed and determination is what I see during our power plays. Particularly Gagner where he seems to stand straight up, pull his shoulders up and swing his arms like an orangutang (must be Trump’s dad) and then ever so slowly makes his way back to our zone before he does his turn and then start winding up his speed.

    He has done this the last couple of games and I have now seen the defenseman slowing up too much now and we have been pressured and have lost possession in our own zone because of this.

    It looks bad, and it nets a bad result. I hope Krueger has noticed this.

    Lastly, Whitney has looked utterly terrible.