The Road Gets a Little Bumpier

Saturday night, in a preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks there was a stupid stick swinging incident involving the Canucks Zack Kassian. The result has really put a dent in the Oilers ability to have a strong start to this season.

Sam Gagner was hit by Kassian’s stick in the mouth and by all reports he will miss a yet to be determined number of regular season games thanks to a broken jaw. The timing of this is very frustrating for any player.

All players work very hard in the summer to be fine tuned to get off to a good start. Hours in the gym and on the ice make sure they are ready to go. There is never a good time to be injured but I always felt that getting hurt in preseason was brutal.

The rest of the NHL continues right along and a player injured in exhibition is left behind. It is inevitable that Gagner will lose the fine edge he was worked on all summer. His level of conditioning will be challenged in two ways:

One, I would not expect a lot of training for him while the injury is acute. Two, his calorie and diet intake will be altered. After losing teeth and breaking your jaw would you feel like consuming the necessary calories to maintain your weight and energy levels?

I once took a puck to the mouth the morning after our team’s rookie party (great times by the way). The dentist described the state of my mouth like this… "it looks like a grenade went off on your lips." Not what I wanted to hear, especially after a late night. A bunch of teeth were loose and I had to wear a brace across my top row of teeth. I lived on soup and protein shakes for a few weeks. Until I could eat whole foods again I was losing weight faster then Gregor was losing his hair at the age of eighteen.

This isn’t good news for Gagner. In time he will get to the level he wants to be but it will not be right away. I know how competitive he is and the high expectations he puts on himself. The longer his down time, the longer it will take for him to get back to playing at his self imposed high level.

For the Oilers, the Gagner injury will leave them without their top two centers to start the season. Due to the Olympic break the Oilers have a full month of games in October. Wins will be harder to come by without both Gagner and Nuge. Take the top two centers off any team and that team will struggle.

As for Zach Kassian this was a very stupid play. I honestly don’t understand how his stick could end up hitting Gagner in the face. I feel that a player is always responsible for his stick. Always. I do not think it was by accident that it flew up and hit Gagner in the face. It was on or near the ice and then flies up? Makes no sense to me.

The Consequences

Kassian will probably be suspended. If I am the Oilers why do I care about that? It doesn’t bring back Gagner any sooner. One, two, 5, 10 games…doesn’t make a difference. Even for the Canucks, at this stage in Kassian’s development their team will move on without him.

I think the issue is with the lack of overall toughness in the Oilers lineup. Players like Kassian have no fear in playing the Oilers extra tough. Who outside of Mike Brown can stand up to a guy like Kassian or Andrew Alberts? Both these guys were running around Saturday night in Edmonton like there was no reason to be afraid! They’re big guys, but nothing to lose sleep over unless a team like the Oilers doesn’t have guys to match up to them with.

I know Edmonton got a lot of power plays against the Canucks Saturday. The plan is to score on those PP attempts frequently enough that the opponent will have to tone down the physical play. I get that, but at some point doesn’t the team need to have the ability to stand up for itself?

When is enough enough? And when they get to that point who will be the guy to do it? I really like Brown as a player, he played very well saturday, but it is unfair to ask one undersized guy to fight the whole team’s battles. I am not saying go out and bring in a Steve MacIntyre type player, just bring in someone who can play and step up when needed.

Last summer the Canadians signed Brandon Prust to a nice contract. He plays hard and fought most of the team’s battles when needed. He did a good job but it is a lonely job if you are the only one doing it and you are undersized. Marc Bergevin saw the need to get him some help. This off season he brought in George Parros to take the pressure off Prust. I guarantee all the Habs are walking taller this season.

I don’t care if Kassian gets suspended for one or ten games. I do care how the Oilers respond when they play him again. It is important for the team to not brush this over like nothing happened or it was an accident. The Oiler team can make a statement to not only the Canucks but all the teams in the league with some kind of a response.

Will someone stand up and say enough is enough?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the problem is, Jason, that the Oilers can’t really as a team respond physically…they just aren’t tough enough as a team to do it. so if, for now, the Oilers can continue to make the Canucks pay on the scoreboard, then i’m cool with that. who won the last 2 meetings again between the Canucks and Oilers, including the game on Saturday when the Canucks dressed all their goons and big guys….the Oilers!! let’s hope they can continue to do so in the regular season as well!

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    This just in from Bob Macenzie via Twitter,

    “Is this good time to note EDM, which was looking for super heavyweight BEFORE last night, is now ramping up that search.”

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “I think the issue is with the lack of overall toughness in the Oilers lineup. Players like Kassian have no fear in playing the Oilers extra tough. Who outside of Mike Brown can stand up to a guy like Kassian or Andrew Alberts? Both these guys were running around Saturday night in Edmonton like there was no reason to be afraid! They’re big guys, but nothing to lose sleep over unless a team like the Oilers doesn’t have guys to match up to them with.”

    I honestly understand the sentiment here. It’s a conventional wisdom that’s worn more than a few tires down past all-weather conditions.

    But, it is complete nonsense. All one need do is watch hockey to understand that the crippling injuries suffered by freak accident or horrible goonery have nothing to do with whether the offending team/player concerns themselves/himself with the tough guys opposite.

    Smac prevented nothing when he was here.

    As someone at LT’s mentioned: Chara, Lucic and Thornton… not one of them prevented Savard’s injury.

    This never works.

    By all means acquire an actual hockey player who can play with an edge. By all means.

    But don’t delude yourself into thinking this will prevent injury or goonery. This is simply wishful thinking.

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      The hypocrisy in this comment (and a few others) is ludicrous!

      MacTavish said it a number of times – “functional tough guys” are hard to acquire. Perhaps that’s why he threw $5M/year at Clarkson.

      When your options are limited, you do what you can, not contend “conventional wisdom” with “conventional wisdom.”

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Hey Mr. Know it All………since you know everything about hockey how about how about asking the players how they feel about having some deterrence?

      I suspect all of them would endorse having Steve Mac back!

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        The psychological value I’m happy to acknowledge. People consistently claim it has value. I’m not going to quarrel with it.

        BUT… the actual empirical claims made have never yielded results.

        • Zamboni Driver

          Absolutely right.

          Oilers had two great heavyweights in the past. When they fought they were the best fighters.


          Georges didn’t like it, and had no clue when to do it.

          Macintyre is not a hockey player.

          But alas, the “braintrust” with absolutely no fresh ideas goes back to Macintyre.

          Oh boy.

          • DSF

            People who make those claims can’t prove it…the same problem you face when you try and insist it had no value.

            Ask the players…like Jason Strudwick… who outlined it’s value in the above article.

            Or perhaps you’re insinuating he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            You are consistently a very poor reader.

            You say: “when you try and insist it had no value.”

            I said: “The psychological value I’m happy to acknowledge. People consistently claim it has value. I’m not going to quarrel with it.”

            Here’s is the claim of real world empirical results, which can be observed and demonstrated to be true or false:

            “Both these guys were running around Saturday night in Edmonton like there was no reason to be afraid! They’re big guys, but nothing to lose sleep over unless a team like the Oilers doesn’t have guys to match up to them with.”

            Except that when the Oiler had a very tough lineup, it didn’t prevent a hits, cheapshots, injury, etc.

            The people making this claim are making a very real claim. They need to acknowledge reality doesn’t operate within the confines of their fantasy.

          • DSF

            You appear to be intentionally melding 2 very different claims in order to prove a point that you cannot prove.

            Having a tougher lineup does not necessarily prevent cheap shots or injury but having players who will respond to that kind of behaviour does have an impact on the future.

            When Taylor Hall went knee of knee against Clutterbuck and was suspended for two games, are you suggesting there was ZERO impact?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I’m not melding anything.

            I’m changeling claims made. People can’t make a bunch of claims and then turtle when asked to confront reality.

            If you want to leave it at some amorphous quality like the players “feel tougher” on the bench when SMac is around, fine.

            When you claim having a player like SMac around leads to tangible results you have to confront the reality that this simply isn’t the case.

          • DSF

            When did I advocate for SMac?

            The guy can’t play hockey. At all.

            Another dumb move by MacT in my opinion.

            Setting that up as your straw man is not all that helpful.

            Other more enlightened GM’s have, instead placed an emphasis on team toughness and have been acquiring big, tough players who can play.

            Despite what happened last night, the Leafs acquisition of David Clarkson is an excellent example of that.

            MacT also apparently recognized Clarkson’s value when trying to sign him in the offseason, but he failed and didn’t produce an alternative while many existed in a the marketplace.

            For example, Brendan Morrow signed with the Blues today for $1.5M.

            Who do you think would add more value to the Oilers lineup this season…Morrow or Grebs, Larsen, Belov or Potter?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Is this a one-off or a conversation. Honest question?

            If the latter, you should be able to discern that we are (and have been unless you suffer from some form of isolated amnesia) talking about the argument put forward by many, specifically here Struds, that having some kind of intimidation factor leads to real world results.

            Those people need to back up their claims.

            I never said you personally advocated for SMac. I said those people claiming x happens in the real world when y is present need to acknowledge that claim.

            SMac is a huge blunder by MacT. On that we agree.

            Clarkson was a huge blunder by MacT. On that we apparently disagree… though I’d wager in another context you’d acknowledge offering him a massive contract at his age and rate of production is a big mistake. The Leafs have a fine player, who is also eating too much cap hit and for too much term.

            Morrow is too slow to do anything for this team. I’d happily take Larsen, Potter and Belov over him. Grebs… meh. toss-up.

            Not sure why we are comparing D to Fs again though.

          • DSF

            Why does an NHL player with 674 games to his credit have to “back up his claims” to you?

            Thinking that physical intimidation has zero impact on results is not only counter intuitive but will be quickly refuted by anyone who has played competitive hockey, football or basketball.

            That you can’t measure it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

            “Not all that can be measured, counts.

            Not all that counts, can be measured.”

            – Albert Einstein

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Arguments from authority have limited value at best and are mostly fallacious.

            No one should be concerned to have to back up their empirical claims. It is not an onerous request.

            I don’t recall saying anything resembling: “physical intimidation has zero impact on results.”

            I’ve said that “All one need do is watch hockey to understand that the crippling injuries suffered by freak accident or horrible goonery have nothing to do with whether the offending team/player concerns themselves/himself with the tough guys opposite.”

            Freak accidents and horrible goonery are remarkably ignorant of deterrents.

          • DSF

            “Freak accidents and horrible goonery are remarkably ignorant of deterrents.”

            On that we can agree.

            But the failure to respond to physical play has consequences that you cannot and will not ever be able to measure.

            And yet you are still trying to use your high school logic classes to refute the knowledge of those with far more insight into the issue at hand.

          • 2004Z06

            Eakins has said he wants all of his players to be physical. Yup. Read Finish your checks. Not do a Hall and pick a fight with a nothing player from Columbus and wind up on the IR. Yeah we expect Gagner to drop em with Kassian. Or some other HULK who decides to crack open our skulls like a coconut. Why? Because we ain’t gonna do squat about it.

            Everybody remembers Messier as an elite player. They forget he had like 30 fights in his first 2 years. He punched his way to respectability.

            You all think that is going to happen now? Not a chance. So what is the bitching about getting Smack? As long as teams continue to employ thugs and frankly use intimidation we’ll need guys like Smack. Brown is willing but does not put the fear into other teams like a guy like Smack.

            He can’t skate. He can’t score. He can’t. Well for once I agree with DSF and I feel that the intangibles that Smack brings onto the ice and off the ice outweigh and override any argument against his role on this team as an enforcer.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            In that very game Brown fought Weise.

            Didn’t help Hall, who could have been seriously effed +/- a couple of inches.

            And… after that Kassian still acted look a twerb.

            Add five more twerbs to the Oil. Kassian doesn’t change his routine.

            You agree with that. You are fighting with yourself.

          • DSF

            Keep trying.

            Thing is, Weiss laid a beating on Brown and no one stepped up to challenge Kassian because they would have received a beating too.

            Adding a player or two who doesn’t hide under a table the during the fight in the bar would make a significant difference whether or not you believe it.

            Had someone made Kassian pay for his sins I would wager he would have “changed his routine”.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Oh dear.

            Weiss didn’t ‘lay a beating’ on Brown. Watch it again. Brown started hammering so Weiss wrestled him to the ground. That’s fine, and a smart play by Weiss for sure. Please don’t alter what happened to fit your narrative.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Having a guy who “will stand up for his team mates” may make others on the Oil feel better and they then may perform better. If the team is fragile in a “physical confidence” sense then maybe they need something.

            Bringing in SMac might be a bit like the Oil bringing in Adam Oates a few years ago. If he can’t play he won’t be of much use. But the truly effective goons are all have contracts by now and unless the Oil are willing to give up something of value…

            Kassian is not so big that,I suspect, he has had some fights in which he has come out second best. And he still plays the way he does. He knows if he changes that part of his game he won’t be in the NHL. I’m sure he realizes he will need to answer the bell from time to time and that he will not always come out on top. But he also knows if he isn’t willing to accept that he won’t be in the NHL.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Not sure what you are talking about.

            The fight seemed pretty even with Brown maybe having a slight edge until he lost his footing


            Weise suffered a small cut it appears on the forehead. Not sure how getting hit in the head and having your opponent slip works out to “laid a beating.”

            The play by Kassian was so far behind the play that no one was around to step up to Kassian who was surrounded by refs by the time they arrived.

            The damage was done and would be again. You can’t deter someone like Kassian. You’ve already conceded that, though you now hold a different opinion.

            What good would someone fighting Kassian after the fact accomplish? Gagner’s still injured. Kassian will still be an idiot.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Just in the interest of accuracy, more than two thirds of responders on rated the bout a draw, or felt Brown had won the fight. It sure looked like Weiss was checking his forehead for leakage as he left the ice. And he was a non-factor the rest of the way. No “beating” was laid on anyone.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Seriously Rom….call it day on this one….you’re rebuttals are getting weaker and it’s getting difficult to stay respectful.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I’m not sure why anyone ought to be disrespectful.

            If you disagree with me tell me why. If you are tired of the conversation, feel free to ignore it.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Look Rom….just go listen to the MacT press conference…and if you still don’t get it …that’s ok….just at some point give it a rest.

            I’m not trying to muzzle you..or assault your freedom of speech…..but I think you’ve made you’re point….can you not just acknowledge that others have differing opinions….and move on?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I think he made a big blunder.

            I think that is a valid opinion.

            I’m happy to concede people of good faith can hold divergent opinions. I think the best way to do so is to take those opinions seriously and challenge them where you disagree.

            That doesn’t mean you hold that person in contempt, or disrespect. It means you take them seriously, listen and try to learn.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            I agree…how can anyone not agree with that…..I guess my point is I don’t think, on this one, that you’re practicing what you preach.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            I’ve told you why…..but you won’t shut up!

            Twenty people have told you why….but you keep nattering on in circles….it’s unbecoming.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            So, the argument you agree with is “becoming” but hearing an alternative is “unbecoming”?

            I guess those of us who don’t agree should leave you to it? Is that more interesting?

            Seems like a pretty bland way to run a comments section.

            If you are just tired of the circles, I agree with you it is tedious. But the alternative is to stop reading. After all, we are all still on topic.

          • pkam

            Give it up. It is meaningless to debate with them. They choose to believe in something that facts prove otherwise.

            I have tried with facts as argument and ask him to counter that with facts and unable to do, he responded with “why do you think the players all stand up and hit the board with their sticks when a fight broke out”.

            It is like trying to tell someone who enjoys smoking that research has proved smoking is bad to his health and he asks you then why so many people still smoke.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            By unbecoming…..I mean weak…..your comments are normally well thought out and interesting…..I think you you know what I mean …so ill let it go…..ill move on..

  • 2004Z06

    Instead of going after Kassian or Alberts, they need to run the Sedins, Kessler or one of the other top players on the Nucks. The last time I can remember the Oilers doing this was a Detroit game two years ago where the Wings disturbers were running around and Kronwall gave Hemsky one of his borderline hits. The next shift Smid took a penalty (short handed due to an extra minor for someone going after Kronwall) for cross checking Zetterberg down along the boards then hammering away at him a few more times. He yelled at their bench that their start players would pay if they went after the Oilers’ skill guys. If I recall correctly, someone also took a good run at Datsyuk but just missed. The message had been sent, and Detroit’s disturbers were quiet after that. Too bad the Oilers only play like that once every season or two…….

    As for Kronwall, later in the game Commodore had to take some punches for him in a fight that he had no business being in.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    You know this doesn’t work right?

    It is a demonstrable fact that tough guys do not protect your players and that they do not prevent injuries. Look at the evidence. It is undeniable.

    But if you are evidence adverse just look at what happened Saturday night. Brown made Weise “pay the price” for his attempted hit on Hall before Kassian hit Gagner in the face.

    The only thing that will ever stop this kind of thing is the NHL getting serious about suspensions.

    In the meantime, the answer isn’t to get someone to intimidate Kassian into behaving. Nothing is ever going to do that. Instead, send Brown after Edler, not to intimidate him but to put him in the hospital. Then the next time you play the Canucks call up some AHL thugs whose job isn’t to fight but to put one of the Sedins in the hospital. Fighting Kassian or Weise is a giant waste of time.

    I’m not really in favour of that move but at least it has a chance it would work.

    The toughness mafia of the NHL has gotten out of control. They want violence but not real violence. Me, I could do without the violence however if the NHL and the Gregors of the world insist it is part of the game then I say bring up some real thugs and do real damage to the players the other team can’t afford to lose.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Marc Savard…

    On his team when he got permanently injured:


    2 of the biggest, most “functionally” tough guys on the planet, and a pure enforcer. I’m also pretty sure one of (or both) Lucic and Chara were on the ice when it happened. Can’t confirm that but I recall someone mentioning it.

    When SMac was on the team (toughest guy in the league) we lost almost all of our skill guys for 10 games or more due to injury.

    • Reg Dunlop

      That was one hit. Watch any other team in the league and let me know when you see anyone else get pushed around for 60 minutes in their own building like we seen saturday. You think playing a bunch of push overs doesnt give other teams a huge boost of confidence and affect their play positively?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Alberts was laying out someone seemed like every shift. Labarbera gets snowed 5 guys skate to the bench without batting an eye. Hall gets hit to the head Smyth and Hemsky go stand around Weise just because they think thats whats expected. Brown steps up as usual at least they got one solid team mate. 6 soft players on the blue line doesnt cut it. What do Smith and Buchberger tell these guys when they get to the bench after something like snowing the goalie happens and nobody even give them a second look?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am onside with a nuclear deterrent.

    For all those who say “let the Oilers get pushed around, we will just beat the opposition with powerplay goals,” I ask: Is a goal, or even two points in the standings worth losing a Gagner for 2 months?

    Dave Brown, where are you?

  • Dawn

    Where is Jody Shelley? Literally dress him for 30 games this season with the understanding that if someone gets looked at funny he knows his role. If someone pulls a Kassian on Gagner, that not only is Kassian responsible but perhaps the Sedins or Kesler are also held accountable for Kassian/Weises actions. The Oilers need to rock a Brown/Shelley type of players in their lineup. Tired of a soft team thats gonna keep having players injured because they dont stand up for themselves. I agree 100% with you Strudwick. PP’s are nice, but what are you gonna do when your star PP players are all on LTR.

    • DSF

      These types of arguments born outta watching Semenko in the 80’s and the broad street bullies doesn’t mean a nuclear detterant work today. It works only when a player can play actual shift with your skill lines. Guys like Bob Probert, Semenko, Chris Simon could actually play regular shifts. MacIntire, Hordichuk, Shelley play 3-6 minutes a night on a fourth line and are lucky to make it on the ice usually against other fourth liners.

      A Brandon Prust or Hartnell are examples of guys who can play. There have gotten to be too few Darcy Tucker types who can play with skill and drop mitts with middling heavies. The Clutterbuck’s and Cooke’s don’t ever fight the Big Mac’s and would turtle in a millisecond. They know when the Boogeyman or Shelley’s come over the boards and it never deters the cheep shots.

      The instigator got rid of the effective Nuclear Deterrent. Steve Mac was useless cause he rarely could ever get to the cheep shot artists and was generally ineffective at playing eye for an eye. The Boogeyman was one example of a knuckle dragger who did not have the skill in most Senior Men’s Leagues that was effective. The Boogeyman could skate enough to run ya, and chop ya, or knee ya. To me he was the one Nuclear deterrent that could deter cause he did not care who he went after, and was arswhole when he did. However Lemaire was smart enough to get him shifts on top lines from time to time, and the team was so sound defensively that he could run guys without costing the team the other way.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Struds I’m pretty sure MacT tried to bring in David Clarkson, Clutterbuck, and other functional tough guys last year. But unless they can play with our skill, what;s the point.

    I really think you’re glossing over the fact that all their running around lead to a bunch of powerplays. It was also pre season so win or lose it doesn’t matter. The best enforcer will always be a deadly power play.

    • Reg Dunlop

      What’s the point? What’s the point in having a bunch of small, skilled guys if they are constantly injured or intimidated to the point that their skill is only on display when PP opportunities arise(which will be seldom when refs put away the whistles later this season). Does anyone remember how much tougher Peckham and Stortini were when Glencross was here? Time to get someone to ride shotgun for Brown.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Who are we to tell Six rings Lowe how to build a “winner” when it comes to building a successfull hockey club?

    Just shut up and make sure your ticket payments go through when due. Shut the puck up you bunch of whiners. We’re already getting much more than we deserve for our money. Know your role, ya bunch of sheep.

    All the suspensions that’ll be handed out in the coming days. Are these reg season games, or irrelevant pre season games/both?

    • StHenriOilBomb

      The suspensions, as I read yesterday (searching for the link), will be effective during the regular season, and anyone suspended will also miss the rest of preseason until his suspension has been served.

      How was the deck building?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Thanks for your reply Bomber. Good to know they’ll start with games that count.

        Deck is great now. Had some hurdles to overcome when I used dynamite to disassemble the old deck. Didn’t care much for the color of the exterior anyways. Looking at it from a positive prospective, i created a new opening for a window (bonus I didn’t count on) it was overdue and about time for a change. Just shingling the roof to the garden shed, and then i’m done.

  • Dawn

    It seems to me that taking it in the chops time after time has got be at least as hard on the team psyche as all that losing has been. I hope Dallas has the answer for that too. Can he coach the guys into everyone standing up for themselves and each other?

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    No to the nuclear heavyweights. Yes to a fuctional tough guy. There’s always time for a tough guy that can play real minutes and a semi regular shift. As soon as I got to know Eakins more, I immediately wished we had kept Peckham for another half season.

  • Dawn

    Oilers have let this kind of incidents slide way to often in past few years. Fighting Zack Kassian in the next game is not the answer either.
    Need to become a tough team, need to be able to hit other teams skilled players.

  • Dawn

    Hey Struds as a player does having an enforcer in the lineup change your mindset? If so where do you stand on the “fighting doesn’t belong in the game anymore”argument?