GDB 31.0: TWO-STEPPING IN NASHVILLE

The Oilers enter Nashville in the midst of a dangerous dance routine; one step forward, two steps sideways and one step back. They wrapped up a crucial four-game homestand with only one win and capped it off with a dreadful performance against the Blues.

Their only victory came against the Predators, and if the Oilers have any hope of staying in the playoff race, they will need a victory in Nashville tonight.

The Predators handed the Oilers their worst loss of the season, 6-0, back on March 8th, so if you combine that with their woeful effort on Saturday you’d expect the Oilers to put forth a much better effort tonight.

LINEUP

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took the morning skate and he will play. In order to get him on the roster the Oilers had to send Teemu Hartikainen down to OKC.

And with RNH coming back Lennart Petrell will come out of the lineup. I don’t think the line combinations matter as much as the Oilers finding a combination of hustle, smarts, effort and consistency.

Hall/Horcoff/Hemsky
Smyth/RNH/Yakupov
Paajarvi/Gagner/Eberle
Jones/Belanger/Brown

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Fistric/Potter

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal.

YAKUPOV ICETIME

I asked Ralph Krueger to share his thoughts on how he uses Nail Yakupov in the 3rd period.

JG: Are you trying to protect Yakupov late in games, or are you concerned about his defensive awareness?

RK: He has our confidence. He’s an 18 year old, he’s going to be playing in this role, probably very similar, for the rest of the year. Not For lack of ability or will, he’s very responsible without the puck now. He’s trying to play the team game all of the time. We’re happy with him, but he’s an 18 year old and down the stretch the hierarchy has it in a way that we have more experience in other positions and other players. When you’re reduced to six to nine forwards and you’re trying to close games up and take them either into overtime or finish them with a lead, he understands that it’s just not his time yet. It was no different when we went back a few years to the roles that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle had to now being able to play in those minutes.

But it’s nothing against Nail, we all know that putting a player of that age in the lineup has its unique challenges, and I think that we’ve been able to use him very well and we’re happy with the minutes that he’s played.

JG: What about in overtime when it’s 4-on-4?

RK: We just have a lot of confidence in our penalty shooting ability. We’ve had some troubles 4-on-4 during the season, so we did have him playing if you think back. And there were some 4-on-4 breakdowns that cost us games that were extremely painful, and so we’ve kind of gone with more experience there. Those are gut feelings, whether you have 8 guys, or whether you end up going with 6. And he just wasn’t in the top 6 mix the last game, but he could be the next one. There’s nothing wrong with Nail playing there, but there’s a defensive element there and a risk reward. I’ve been in situations before where you play three forwards and one defenceman and just go for it.

But again, we believe in our ability also to win in penalty shots and we just felt the way that that game had been going, and the way that San Jose had been pushing us through the last part of the game that our chances might have been better. But we did play one of our best 4-on-4 periods, I thought, this season. They had 0 shots on our net and we had a couple of scoring chances, so I thought it was actually pretty good overtime period.

JG: How do you balance the feeling as a coach from game to game? You mentioned how right now you’ve got some veteran guys, and when it’s a tight game you’d lean towards them. Against San Jose after that shift in the third period when he had two big hits and got the crowd and bench energized, yet he didn’t see the ice again. How do you balance it? Is it just a gut feel, do you have a plan going into the 3rd period, or do you go from game to game and switch it that easy?

RK: I have all of the numbers and I’m a numbers man. I have them in my head and I’m working them down as the game evolves. I’ve got nine forwards in my head. On the one side I’ve got the green side; that means we need goals. The other side is the red side, we’re trying to shut a game or close it down, I’ve got nine forwards in my head and then going down to the last four minutes I’ve got six forwards. It’s a game to game thing. It really truly is conversations that we have with Bucky and Freddy between periods coming from above. It is final conversations with Steve (Smith) while we’re in those TV timeouts so I get some input from around me, and then the stomach just really takes you down the stretch. And you go with the players who really feel good that night for that situation. "

Yakupov was on the ice for two OT losses, on February 04th and 06th. He did lose his man, Tanev, vs. the Canucks but he made no mistake on the Jagr game-winner. We can agree or disagree with Krueger’s responses, but I respect him for taking the time to express his thoughts on Yakupov. I do agree with the coach on bringing him along slowly in regulation, but considering Krueger admitted Yakupov has worked extremely hard at becoming more responsible at ES, I’d look at giving him a shift in OT when there is more room to be creative.

QUICK HITS

  • Why is Sam Gagner having his best NHL season? A big reason is because of a guy named Andy O’Brien. Read more here.
     
  • If you honestly believe the Oilers are better off moving out veterans and replacing them with unproven youth, then you can expect the Oilers to remain near the bottom of the western conference moving forward. The Oilers need to find PROVEN NHL players, not more "maybe," "might be," or "what if" type players.
     
  • I’m not saying the Oilers can’t move a veteran or two, but the return is likely more prospects and picks. These trades won’t fix the Oilers’ problems immediately. The Oilers need more experience, more consistency in their competitiveness and they need some size/skill in their top nine.
     
  • The Oilers will be competitive when their best players are equal to the best players on the other teams. The 4th line doesn’t win games for the Penguins, Blackhawks or Ducks. Their best players do, and until the Oilers best players are mature and have more experience the Oilers won’t win. That isn’t a knock on their young kids, it is just a fact. 
     
  • Case in point. The Capitals have won 5 of 7 and are suddenly two points out of the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has 7 goals and 11 points in those 7 games. To win consistently in the NHL you need production from your top lines, top defenders and goalies. Focusing on the woes of the Oilers 4th line is a great distraction, but it isn’t the main problem in Edmonton.
     
  • A stellar quote from Ovechkin courtesy of Corey Masisak from NHL.com: "Right now I’m scoring goals and I’m king of the world. Couple weeks I was almost in the toilet. Maybe [they] forgot to flush me."
     
  • Today is the last day to help my hometown, New Sarepta, win the right to host a concert, but more importantly raise money to build a new arena. Do me a favour and take 30 seconds and vote here for New Sarepta. Thanks.
     
  • The Oilers play their remaining 18 games in a span of 34 days. They have four sets of back-to-back games and they only get two days off between games three times. The Oilers will have to play unbelievably well to have a shot at the playoffs.
     
  • If you were GM of the Oilers what moves would you make? Now you can show your intellect with www.websimhockey.com. It is a 100% web-based, multi-player hockey simulator. You take on the role of the General Manager of a virtual hockey team. You manage the various aspects of your team (drafts, trades, lineups, coach strategies, negotiations and contracts signings, arena construction, tickets, beer, hot dog and parking costs, and much more).  Properly managing your team and its finances will ensure your success.  The first 12 Nations readers who email wsh.info@websimhockey.com with "Nations promo" as the subject line will get a free trial. Good luck.  

  • This is an awesome beer commercial. I’m sure most of you have a buddy that reminds you of the guy brushing his teeth.
     

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the last three meetings between these teams in Nashville one of them scored six goals. The Oilers got blanked 6-0 this year, but won 6-3 and 6-2 last year. I’m a fan of offence so I’m hoping that trend continues. The Oilers surprise us with a 6-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ales Hemsky scores twice thus heating up discussions over whether the Oilers should trade him before April 3rd.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During intermission Sportsnet will feature "trade watch," and instead of Ryan Jones’ name coming across the prompter it will read Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Even though the hosts will say it was an error, many will take to twitter and blogs suggesting destinations for Nugent-Hopkins. Seriously, some will believe that moving RNH would be a good move.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Hoping4betterdays

    Louie DeBrusk put it clearly, why didnt they bring their 3rd period game to the 1st and 2nd periods, had they done so they would have generated over 40 shots on net.

    I was trying to be diplomatic in my last post, but for christs sakes , why did it take till the 3rd to adjust? What did the coaching staff see and react to to make the positive change, we ABSOLUTELY must find out because we need to know how to do this every single period. If we cant even figure out why we make adjstments we are truly lost man.

    Evey game now magnifys the original problems we have had all season long, WHAT catalysed the changes the coaches made in the 3rd period, we need to know exactly what that was because whatever it is it works for us.

    I can see Louies loyalty on his sleeve, he is getting as pissed off as the rest of us are watching this team turn on the right switch at all the wrong times, and we are all wanting to know why the coaches seem to be waiting for long distance directions on how to adjust and seem to be just behind the curve, they are always behind the 8 ball.

    How did we adjust the system to win the 3rd period, and why the hell didnt we do the same thing in the 1st period?? These questions are the same ones we have not had answered all year long. What data catalysed the 3rd period changes and why did it take so long for the coaching staff to decipher and implement the data? And how can we make that happen faster and earlier?

    • Crusty Grit

      The Oilers are not buying into the system taught.. Period.

      Players that buy into the system play it and if the “system” is good enough the team wins.

      As of right now the Oilers have neither and it shows.

      • Crusty Grit

        Try it this way, you arent getting me into a Rolls Royve if a drunk is driving it, and I would leap into a beat up Chevy with a Nascar winner behind the wheel.

        Yes the system needs to be adequate, and ours isnt and hasnt been for several decades, and it is simple to detail and illustrate why based on results. So you are in muddy waters in reference to the Oilers situational dynamic, we have been teaching a flawed system for decades .

        The men know that the man driving the car isnt 100% ok and arent willing to jump into a beat up Chevy with a drunk driver and i dont blame them.

        A PROPERLY MANAGED system with all-in men will always win more than it loses, you want to free the coaches from accountability and it doesnt fly.

        The coach first needs to himself understand the system and how to operate it and adjust it then he has to ensure all men understand the system as he himself visualises it , then he has has to match his assets with his system needs, he needs to find ways to build dynamiclly natural lines which can each execute system requirements in the best ways for the line, slightly different in presentation than other lines but identical in tangible onice effect. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter approach to this dynamic challenge for a coach.

        This season has been a communication nightmare and it shows.

        Ralph doesnt know the system well enough and cant read and react to opponents and adjust himself at an NHL level most nights.

        We should be able to match any team in exact system execution because most teams use the same Adjusted-hybrid system we ourselves use, and the differences are very very minor, it is only due to a lack of dynamic understanding of the system we use that we are outcoached both during games and during other parts of the process.

        We have executed exactly as the Blues do in the past 2 years, so why the hell cant we do it on demand? We have experimented with the exact execution Chicago uses, but why cant we replicate this execution on demand? I could go on and on but whats the point?

        We cant do these things on demand because our coaching staff as a whole is overwhelmed.

        You see the reality is that an NHL coach needs to have a cerebral database of ALL the systems he faces and Ralph is wayyy over is head in this dept., he is wayyy undergunned. It isnt overall years of experience Ralph lacks its experience facing the constellation of NHL system presentations he is lacking in. he just needs help.

        I can tell you in 5 mins how to adjust our current system to replicate the Blues execution, 5 minutes , and I can also explain it in 5 mins to a room full of Oilers players, to put us all on the same page, well this is called coaching isnt it? We are lacking in the effective communication dept.

        Why cant Ralph accomplish this same task from the bench?

        I hate the system we use because it is essentially an offensive trap when Ralph gets it to work how he wants it to. But the reality is that most teams use a similar system so its very easy to outcoach them. This system can win games consistantly if its offense is engaged the proper way to create randomly generated and supported offensive opportunitys, but still utilises and maintains set defensive zone plays and exits .

        The system is ok maybe…., Ralph has the skillset we need but is lacking in the ability to read and react dynamiclly to NHL caliber systems so he isnt able to weild his own system optimally. The Players have tried to keep up with Ralphs erratic learning curve but the line juggeling broke the camels back and he lost them, as long as they could count on a little chemistry to back them up they had a cushion or margin for error in system execution, but as soon as the line juggeling began they lost that support and it immediatly showed in the results.

        I agree that any system manned by informed and committed men can win consistantly enough to win the Stanley Cup. But ONLY if it is managed by a competent and knowledgable coaching staff that understand the system inside out and can execute it from the bench blindfolded.

        Just Ralphs learning curve regarding the relationship between our d-zone exit strategys and their influences on our o-zone entrys and tactics was like climbing a cerebral Mount Everest. This took 15 games to sort out. Then it was the n-zone transitions, then the offensive zone transitions, then the dumpins, then the lack of shots on net, and on and on and on.

        These are all coaching duties, they are Ralphs jobs to do and no one elses. yes its a challenge and bad things happen to good people every day so “so what” the reality is that
        we need better results and if you look closely it is a communication disconnect that is the root of all of this evil.

        All the good intentions in the world wont grow hearts where there is no room for them, we need to look into that dressing room and the Oilers offices and find the catalyst of this disconnect. We are Leaderless and Horcoff needs to go tomorrow, he should have been slashing and fighting and biting and scratching to lead this team tonight and he didnt show up like that.

        You just need to watch OilChange to see the disease in the dressing room, its like a Zanax commercial.

        Our veterans have not been leaders for various reasons and it has shown, the time for a changing of the guard in the room is overdue.

        I mean jesus Horcoff cant wear that letter in good conscience can he?

        As for the rest of the bums who didnt even leave a drop of blood on the ice tonight, to hell with you to, I am sick of defending you all. The men who battled tonight know who they are and know I am not aiming for them. I say blow this team up right now and offload 50% of them as a start, buy what we need we have money—make room and buy assets. we need to be ready for next year and all of this dead weight needs to go immediatly, including most of the vets and not just the oldest ones either.

        This system sucks but so what if we are forced to use it lets use it but lets let Ralph off the hook and get Mac-T behind the bench because he created the dam thing in the first place, I want to see us use the NHS not Mac-Ts Adjusted-hybrid piece of crap, but we simply need a system the coaches know inside out the specific system is less important than the knowledgebase of the men running it.

        We need a leader that will fight for the system and the players that represent the systems links and we need that to rub off immediatly, and thats the reality we are faced with, we are lacking direction and passion, and it is going to tarnish these young men in another year or two permanently if we dont fix the problem ASAP.

        I can rationalise it all i want for you man but at the end of the day the players arent stupid and they know when they are being driven in a Chevy and being told its a Caddy, the system is inferior and they hate it with good reason, so like it or not the system has to go, no one is overruleing this core of players, at least no one in their right mind is going to risk pissing this group off, not in todays NHL.

        Wipe out the fencesitters before next year 50% of the roster DO NOT be manipulated by contracts pay the pricks off, dump the current system, bring in the best man for the new system you choose or send Ralph to summer school, and lets start shopping for quality players to re-tool with from the marketplace.

        Or just replicate the Blues execution and try for a long win streak before it is numericlly to late.

  • washed up

    Too many wasted opportunities. Tonight was the final nail in our coffin. We didn’t show enough intensity for the first 2 periods. We never seem to learn.

    At least we made it to late March with meaningful games. Not too hard to do in a 48 game season but the spin doctors will do whatever it takes to frame this season positively.

  • outdoorzguy

    Dear Mr. Katz.

    I’m not sure if you know this or not but your hockey team is not very good. You kind of inherited a bad team when you bought it. The team has been pretty bad for a few years. Unfortunately there are people that are in positions that they shouldn’t be in. For example, the coach. He tries, but he has a hard time keeping his people together and formulating any sort of plan. We have some good players, he just can’t get them to work together. The man responsible for putting the coach in place, your General Manager, should be held accountable for that decision. But then again, the GM has not done much over the last few years to improve the situation. He just seems unwilling to do anything. Maybe he’s just not qualified to be a GM. The responsibility for putting him in place falls on the former GM, who if you ask most people would say was the one who actually started the downward spiral of this team while he was GM. And thus I think it’s a given that his current role and influence within the organization still suppresses and retards any possibility for improvement. As the former GM, he made lots of bad decisions, but despite those decisions he was promoted to oversee all hockey operations. Seems like a lot of people in places they are not qualified to be in. Hence the state of the team. Together this group has accomplished very little in improving the quality of the organization. So Mr. Katz, I would hope that you would be able to come back to Edmonton for a few days of reflection and focus on this hobby you call a hockey team. Hopefully, after firsthand dealings and assessment of these people you will realize that in order for the team to succeed and move forward in the future, you must remove the incompetents and replace them with experienced hockey people who have an understanding of the game. You must separate yourself from your hockey heros and put real managers in management positions. Then Mr. Katz, you can go back to Vancouver.

      • Hoping4betterdays

        I am with outdoorzguy….I’ll be happy to pitch $$$ and have it on the front page of the Sun. Anyone who thinks we have a shot at the playoffs after tonight needs to book a scan.

        • Crusty Grit

          Agreed.

          Even though we have some of the best talent and potential in the league our management is failing in their duties.

          All organizations that succeed have strong mentorship programs that thrive on challenge and accountability.

          Until we see (demand) that in Edmonton, we can continue to debate draft potential and non-core asset acquisitions.

          • Hoping4betterdays

            Mr. Katz, how about sending your management team for a small training-retreat to Pittsburgh or Detroit to teach and train them on how to become effective leaders and strategic thinkers? Be worth your $$$ and time. Ahhhhhh….screw it. Be cheaper to fire everyone and start fresh.

      • vetinari

        I’d chip in 20 bucks for the ad. Moderators on this board should set this up asap. It says what we all feel and I personally would like to send a message.

        Problem is they sell out games and whether I like it or not the only way these doofus’ listen is with their bottom line. I am in no way saying don’t support the team, but you see what happens in centers where hockey is less relevant, changes are made. Hell CBJ and the Lightning and I argue the Islanders are run better then us. We are in the desert with Florida and probably Calgary.

        Thanks Katz….

  • vetinari

    17 games left in the season and it looks like another lottery year in our future. My wife wanted to take me to Edmonton (we live in Saskatchewan) for a hockey game for my birthday this year and I said no, I won’t spend our money to support Katz until they get rid of the current management and fix their roster problems. I’ve never turned down the opportunity for tickets but I refuse to pay to support this mess.

    The fact of the matter is this: nothing will change so long as Katz makes money from this team. Obviously, if results mattered, something would have been done by now. Because nothing has changed, I can only assume that Katz supports this train wreck. It is the only logical inference.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I can see how many of the closed minded individuals here feel this team is only a couple contributing veterans away from helping this hockey club get over the hump.

    In case you haven’t heard, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr retired long ago. They’re no longer available to help here.

    Ryane Clowe will cure what ails this club, Steve Ott will help this club……ah rubbish, all of you naive bastages. Since day 1 the plan was to rebuild from within. What part of this don’t you understand…

    Like it or not, the lottery is still Edmontons best option. This is why management assesses, and then does nothing.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think the WE WANT BURKE CHANT will do way more damage then the letter in the paper. You know Katz will be watching the game and will be pissed. I pray at least a couple drunk fans have enough balls to start the chant. All i know is what is going on right now is a disgrace ……. oilers use to have no stars and at least gave you effort .

  • Crusty Grit

    Don’t worry guys! We were lucky enough to be the worst team in the league for so many years in a row that we’ve been able to draft some of the best young talent! We don’t really need to do anything, just give it time! Have faith! It can’t get any worse! The same management team that brought this once proud franchise into the punch line of every joke league wide has it all under control!! Does this about some up the message we as a fan base is suppose to swallow? Oh wait… Lets not forget tencer’s message! No booing allowed!! Just sit there and cheer! The players feelings might get hurt otherwise! What a joke