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?

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I hope we get to revisit all these happy comments 3 months from now. I suspect a lot of you will remember MacIntyre sucks by then. He won’t fight Kassian once this year.

  • DSF

    Dan Murphy ‏@sportsnetmurph 5m

    Kassian on #oilers picking up MacIntyre as a deterrent, “Perfect. I don’t think he can skate, that’s the last thing on our mind.”

    • The Soup Fascist

      Kassian SHOULD have other things on his mind like missing (hopefully) 7 games or so and a couple of paycheques.

      If it was “accidental” I would feel bad that I seriously injured another person, through my actions. Fat chance. A reckless move from a classless player. He is the perfect Canuck.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Lines for tonight:

    Omark – Gordon – Yakupov

    Joensuu – Arcobello – Pitlick

    Jones – Lander – Hamilton

    Eager – Acton – Brown

    Excellent. The swedish sensation is in tonight. One of his last chances to prove everyone wrong.

  • I’m just as p!ssed as everybody (who’s sane) about MacT adding a useless facepuncher to the roster.

    But you have to remember we have essentially ZERO cap space so SMac was the only realistic “grit” option as he only costs $625K. All you guys lobbying for an actual NHL’er who is tough as nails and can play need to think about how much that guy will cost – if he even wanted to come here or some team would be dumb enough to give up a guy like that.

  • DieHard

    Just because MacT gets Smac from the wire doesn’t mean he stays with the team. If another, better option becomes available, he’ll try to grab him and waive Smac. MacT is just getting in the game that he needs to be in. We need an enforcer that can play (somewhat) and preferably a center.

    No one will fight Smac except another superheavywight, so really what’s the point. He’s not fast enough to catch someone like a Sedin and that is the type that should be targeted. If the Oil manage to put a Sedin on the shelf for the season as payback, then maybe the league with do what it should do with these goons. 40 games for that ignorant stick swing and big fines to the Canucks.

  • 2004Z06

    Hey at least it may be a stop gap until a Colton Orr type of player comes available.

    As for Kassian’s comment. He is right, Macyntire’s skating ability should be the furthest thing from his mind. Keeping that last tooth in his head however will be.

    The only way this works is if Mac goes over the boards, grabs Kassian and pounds the crap out of him regardless of whether Kassian wants to go or not.

    Take the instigator penalty, take the suspension. The rest of the league then knows that while it may not happen again, it CAN happen again.
    You only have to push the button once before people realize that you will if need be.

    There is your nuclear deterrent.

  • Gkpoil

    SAT, 12 APR 2014 – Vancouver better hope the Oilers have something to play for. Otherwise, I would suggest MacT acquire as many thugs as he can and play all of them that night.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

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

    Give it a rest. Explain why you disagree with Rom’s position instead of resorting to playground antics.

    All I hear in the lower levels of discourse is cliches and catch words. Whether you disagree with either of their positions or not, at least they are having a decent discussion about it.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

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

    Give it a rest. Explain why you disagree with Rom’s position instead of resorting to playground antics.

    All I hear in the lower levels of discourse is cliches and catch words. Whether you disagree with either of their positions or not, at least they are having a decent discussion about it.

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

      That’s my point EO…..I’ve explained in one or two posts how I respectfully disagree with his opinion….as have 20 other people…….but rambling on hammering the same point over and over again just because others disagree with you is not a higher level of discourse….

      But good for you if you enjoy it…..I mean that sincerely…..understanding that there are those who like it….I will leave it alone…..

  • Hemmercules

    They never seem to use Smac the right way. It always plays out the same. Regehr runs hemsky. They send out Smac after the fact to pick a fight with him. Regehr declines to fight. Smac fights the nearest goon. Nobody learn anything other than don’t fight Smac because he breaks faces.

    The only way Smac works is if he brings something else to the game, which if I remember from last time, he didn’t.

    If he is a beast at killing penalties and they maybe put him out early in the game to run a couple hard shifts to send an early message then maybe he works out. Useless player if he just sits 90% of the time in games they actually use him in and then just run him out to fight another 7′ goon.

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

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

    Well said, and I apologize if I came on too strong. I tried to read through some of the comments and if I missed your explanation that’s my fault.

    As always, with issues like fighting/truculence, the conversation seems to race to the lowest common denominator. Although I do not mind adding toughness to our lineup, I would have preferred someone with QUITE a bit more ability and/or a real NHL centre.

    • 2004Z06

      Agree, just call up Mac T and let him know where those guys are.

      This is a stop gap move until that player comes available.

      Easy for us fans to armchair GM and say what this team needs, much more difficult to make it happen in reality unless you are Jim Nill of course. (That one is for you DSF)

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

      No worries….I appreciate the clarification……and I agree completely with your comment…..funny thing is…..as much as I like fighting in the game….I care a lot more about winning a Stanley Cup….and having a dedicated enforcer is not the way to go in the long run………but IMO these things don’t occur in a vacuum…it’s really dependant on the make up of the team at any given point……for right now MacT is doing what has to be done….I hope and suspect that in Sept 2014 we won’t need MacIntyre.

  • Gkpoil

    You want a deterent. Gagner should get up and two hand crank Kassian in the throat. Yeah Gagner gets suspended. He’d be off injured anyway. But now he gets space. Now he gets left alone.

    Or Eakins tells one of the tryouts to run the goalie in the next shift. “Chicken wing elbow as you cross the crease. ”

    Having a goon on the bench isn’t a deterrent, having a couple players who will end your career is.

    • pkam

      You think Kassian will stand there an let Gagner crank him in his throat?

      The result is probably Gagner get smash at his jaw and end up with a more serious injury and out for even longer.

      Just send a goon out the next game and get the Sedins and Kesler and make sure they will be out longer than Gagner. Don’t even bother to answer any call to fight.

        • pkam

          If Gagner try to do that, what do you think will happen? I bet it will end up with a fight, wouldn’t it?

          What is the chance Gagner win a fight with a guy about 3″ taller and 20 lbs heavier, not to mention he has a broker jaw? And what do you think Kassian will target if they really get into a fight? Oh right, he is such a gentleman that he will stay away from Gagner’s jaw because he knows his jaw is probably broken with all the teeth on the ice.

          Remember what Chara target Crosby when they tangled up in front of the net in the last playoff series?

          • GVBlackhawk

            Yeah a civil hockey fight. That’s broken up as soon as you hit the ice.

            I am not talking the one handed wild swing Kassian made.I am talking a two handed baseball style smash. Delivered by a pro athlete.

            If a fight followed, or not, a message would be sent don’t f@(k around.

          • pkam

            If I swing the stick or a dirty hit on your player, do I not expect some kind of retaliation?

            I don’t know about Kassian, but if I cheapshot somebody, I am well prepared for some kind of retaliation.

            I am not against retaliation, but you have to it smart too, like what Keith did to Daniel Sedin. You take a penalty or suspension, but make sure you get your job done and don’t put yourself in more harm.

    • What the Oilers didn’t mention is that due to the impact from Kassian’s being so powerful it broke Gagner’s jaw it’s very likely Sam also suffered a concussion in the process. He was probably half lights-out on the way to the bench, on top of being in agonizing pain.

  • GVBlackhawk

    @ 2004Z06

    So I should not be able to criticize a move that makes no sense then?

    I understand that good 3rd/4th line centres are not available on a whim, but there is a difference between making an effort to fill the gap and falling off the wagon.

    I realize that things might still fall into place with as teams put guys on waivers but the Oilers have been shallow up the middle since last November.

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

    Good blog…….I really enjoyed it…including 90% of Rom’s posts….I think the various opinions were well represented……it would be pretty boring if we all agreed about everything.

    On to the next article…..

    THANKS STRUDS!

    We’re gonna have a Battle of the Blades party and have a shot every time your butt hits the ice!

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    When someone cheap shots RNH-Eberle-Yakapov and Steve
    Destroys the culprit or better yet someone of equal skill
    on the opposition , you very hypocrite’s will be the first to stand
    and applaud. I’ve been there, seen it and done it.

    Your Team , like it or not, just grew 3 inches and put on 20 lbs
    and grew some nads.

    Me

  • oilersplumber

    I wonder how many of you out there are over 50 ? Doubt we would be having this discussion if most of you were and could have seen the Flyers, Bruins, even the Rangers and Canadiens of the day…….I wonder if that was why Slats had a few of his own. You think Wayne would have had the room he had with out them ? Doubtful………aaah the wisdom that comes with age……

  • pkam

    Does having MacIntyre dressed deter Kassian from doing what he did?

    I have no idea if it does at the NHL level. At my level it would have, I think. Would it Jason?

  • pkam

    Kassian gets 5 games and he starts talking smack before Smack is even on the plane out of Pittsburgh. You don’t think Smack is on the plane on his Twitter account and seeing that and thinking to him self. Which ant should I squash first. NHL does like predetermined fights. Really? The first game that the Oilers vs Nucks play where they are both in the lineup is going to watched as closely as Battle of the Blades when Struds is on.

    Adding a cannon to a gun fight puts the odds of us winning the gunfight more so in our favor.

  • pkam

    I don’t think fear of a fair fight deters too many from doing something dirty. I think what deters someone from doing something dirty, is fear that it is highly likely that they themselves will receive an action that is intended to injure them. They will be forced to evaluate weighing going thru with their intended cheap shot with: a)potential pain of injury
    b)potential rehab
    c)potential injury that reduces their ability to play the game at the level they currently do
    d)potential loss of income due to (c)
    e)potential loss of career

  • Shaun Doe

    Hey Struds, was hoping you might have some insight into my question. I was was wondering what sort of conversation, if any, Dave Gagner might have had with Kassian after the game. I know Sam’s a big boy and not Canucks property as far as he is concerned professionally, but as a dad he must have been just a bit shook up/pissed by what happened to his boy. Have you ever experienced anything along these lines or heard of any thing like it? Thanks in advance

  • Quicksilver ballet

    For those of you have not been paying attention these past 3 seasons should wake up and take a look at where we have finished in the standing due a passive do not hit me I won’t hit you approach. Where has that got us?

    Gregor uses the the doing the same thing over and over again is insanity. Well we have been like the dog that presents its belly anytime anything approaches bigger than a chihuaua. We have shown no grit. None. We have had our nose continuously shoved into the ice. And we have come back and asked them do it some more. We have had no spine.

    3 previous coach’s,note the word previous, 1 GM and a plethora of NHL wannabe’s have come and gone. And still we had our show ran for us. Enough is enough. When do we stand up for ourselves.
    I am sorry to all the pacifists out there like Romulus. But I have been paying attention and for the past 3 years we have been getting the snot kicked out out of us regularly. I am sick of it.
    The addition of Smack by MacT signals a change in that he understands the situation. He bided his time. Waited to see who would step up. Saw that Mike Brown was in over his head. He made a choice to give Eakins a tool that imo nullifys a lot of the bs that teams have been handing us for the past 3 years.

    You add Eager,Brown and Smack.And now you have a 4 th line that can deliver the goods and the brawn on a regular basis. You do not need use Smack every game but sure as cow turd you use him to nullify pukes like ORR and Kassian.

    Its time this team pushes back. Not just on the scoreboard. You beat a team mentaly before you beat them physicaly. Smack puts doubt and fear into the minds of the opponent. A little fear goes along way to winning.

    book it

  • Jason Strudwick

    Wife and I watched the Battle of the Blades season preview last night. Your in tough Studs. I would rather fight Smack than try to compete against those other 7 teams.

    What Charity are competing for Struds?

  • Shaun Doe

    The Oilers need to go out and get one or more of the best enforcers in the league, even if they have to give up a little skill to get him. Target the enforcers on the top 6 winning teams of last years’ playoffs: Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Detroit, and Ottawa.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    The deterrent needs to come from the league. Simple as that. Suspensions obviously dont work as we have had decades on top of decades of hockey to prove it.The same can be said of Goons.The respect between players is near non existent and it stems from a lot of different reasons. I read Zonas article of an eye for an eye and while I disagree with the concept, I do agree with the idea. The league needs to punish more effectively. Id like to see suspensions combined with draft picks awarded to the victimized team. The severity could dictate the quality of pick,and ofcourse it would only apply to repeat offenders or extremely brazen acts of violence. Suspensions alone are not enough because there’s a pretty good chance that the suspended player will hardly be missed and there’s also a pretty good bet that the player injured is the better player between the two. Its almost not in a teams best interest to discourage it. Taking away a 3rd round pick would sting, and teams would start holding their own guys accountable…..Rant over,maybe Im just upset it came to hiring MacIntyre.

  • Wax Man Riley

    This is how intimidation is supposed to work in the NHL…

    Weise almost elbows Hall in the melon, then Brown needs to take a run at Canuck X.

    Kassian swings his stick at Gagner’s face, SMac just blindsides Canuck X.

    Eventually, Canuck X will go to Weiss and Kassian and tell them to start playing hockey because they’re tired of being run themselves.

    Does this make sense?

    Nobody needs to bring a shiv and gut somebody on the ice.

    Like the brush back pitch, eventually the skill guys get tired of playing like this and straighten their own teams out.

    It might take a game or two, but respect is eventually born out of intense rivalries such as these.

    Take a few penalties and just let the other team know you’ll run with them if that how they want to play…

    Unfortunately, the Oilers are no where close to compete like that….

  • Czar

    I wonder why Gretzky always wanted two or three tough guys on his team?? It was’nt so they could manage Gretzky’s fashion requirements.

    For all those people who think a goon plays no part……..ask the greatest player in the world how he feels about this……it’s all there on the record.

    Only a fool goes into a battle unarmed and expects to win the war.