GDB 43.0: SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS

During their seven, soon to be eight, year playoff drought the Edmonton Oilers have done surprisingly well against the San Jose Sharks. While the Oilers have floundered near the bottom of the standings the Sharks have circled near the top, finishing 5th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 7th and 6th in the western conference.

Once again, the Sharks are one of the best teams in the west, sitting 4th with a 25-9-6 record, and the Sharks lead the league with a +7.3 ratio in shots for/against. Despite the Sharks consistency as an elite team and the Oilers as a bottom-feeder, Edmonton is 6-6-1 in San Jose during the past seven seasons.

Why? I have no idea, but the Oilers are hoping they continue to be competitive in the Shark Tank tonight.

The Oilers’ struggles against western division playoff teams continued in Phoenix on Tuesday with a 4-3 OT loss. The score flattered the Oilers as they were outshot 45-25. In 14 games against the top-8 western teams the Oilers have been outshot by a combined 163 shots and are a paltry 1-11-2. It has been ugly vs. the best in the west, and the Oilers need to wake up to avoid another "shot kicking" tonight.

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Perron
Yakupov-Gagner-Eberle
Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky
Joensuu-Lander-Gazdic

Ference-J.Schultz
N.Schultz-Petry
Belov-Marincin

Bryzgalov/Dubnyk

Those were the lines at practice yesterday, so they likely stay the same tonight. Eakins likely won’t play his goalies back-to-back and Bryzgalov has played two very strong games, so they could go with him tonight and Dubnyk tomorrow; unless Eakins wants Bryz to face another one of his former teams. Either way, goaltending hasn’t been the issue the past few games.

Yakupov draws back in while Roman Horak played one game and was sent back to OKC. I’m curious to see how Yakupov responds to Eakins’ "plan." The simple part of the plan is that Eakins will play Yakupov with offensive guys as long as Yakupov plays better without the puck and in the D zone.

I expect Yakupov to play hard tonight, but based on what Eakins said he’ll need to do it consistently to stick in the top-six. That is fine, but it’s about time Eakins starts thinking about challenging some other forwards the way he has Yakupov. Gagner and Eberle need to be better.

QUICK HITS

  • Anton Belov’s play on the OT goal was the epitome of a soft play. For reasons unexplained he elected to coast for one stride at the blueline and then he made a weak stick check on Yandle. I understand that players will make mistakes, turn the puck over and not always execute, but soft plays are inexcusable and the Oilers have too many players who make soft plays fairly frequently. Until that stops this organization won’t improve. If Belov plays significant minutes tonight what message is Eakins sending his team?
     
  •  The players need to be more accountable to each other, and I liked that Ilya Bryzgalov showed his displeasure after the tying and OT goals. You don’t want players doing it all the time, but at certain times it is necessary. It might cause some discomfort now and then, but when Bryzgalov, who spent the past 120 minutes standing on his head keeping his team in the game, gets fired up his teammates should listen. He was playing his ass of and it is nice to see a player demand that his teammates put forth the same effort.
     
  • Scott Burnside wrote a fantastic article on how TEAM USA picked their 25-man roster. It was great to get a glimpse into the process. The thing that stood out to me, yet didn’t surprise me, was how cautious they were about offensive players. That is the biggest issue in our game in my opinion. GMs and coaches would rather go with safe players than highly skilled guys who might make mistakes.

    Bobby Ryan has scored 160 goals since the start of the 2008/2009 season. Phil Kessel, 175, is the only American with more goals during that span, yet Ryan didn’t make the team.

    What perplexed me the most was that the coaches felt they didn’t need him on the PP, because he only had 8 PP points in Ottawa. The majority of the game is played five-on-five, and the only forward on the USA roster with more ES points than Ryan’s 28 is Patrick Kane. Ryan produces at ES, and Brian Burke even admitted in the article that he is an elite finisher. Instead of downplaying his PP production, shouldn’t they have been applauding his ES totals?

    My biggest beef about the state of hockey is that coaches are drawn towards safe players instead of finishers.Hockey is becoming to risk averse. I understand the need to have reliable players on the roster, but if you can’t score you won’t win. Is Derek Stepan going to be a difference maker more than Ryan? Ryan has been one of the top-ten most productive goal scorers in the NHL the past five years, yet the USA elected to go with guys who were "safer" and had a good first 40 games of the season. I suspect they will regret that decision.
     

  • What makes Ryan’s omission even more surprising is the make up of their blueline. Only one of the eight D-men named to team USA would crack Canada’s top-seven, Ryan Suter. The rest are Ryan McDonagh, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Justin Faulk, John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. Orpik is the only physical defender, and only Carlson is the only other one above 6’2".

    How do they plan to defend Canada’s big skilled forwards like Getzlaf, Perry and others? They can’t expect to win games 2-1 just because they have Jonathan Quick in goal? Their blueline is made up of puckmovers, but they cut their 3rd most productive forward and that seems somewhat contradictory to me.

    I’m very surprised Dustin Byfuglien wasn’t one of their eight defenders. He adds a different dimension. To me Carlsson, Faulk, Fowler and Shattenkirk are essentially the same player. I don’t see how their blueline will be able to handle Canada’s forwards when they start cycling. That is great news for Canadians. I don’t see USA as a main threat in this tournament.
     

  • You can point at Taylor Hall and make an argument that he should make Team, Canada based on his offence, and that is a valid point. However, the difference between him and Ryan is that Canada has other guys with more points than Hall. Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Sharp, Tavares, Kunitz and Thornton. Kunitz also has more points, but playing with Crosby definitely helps.

    I’ve said I’d have Hall on the 25-man roster, but Canada has the luxury of going with guys who are also very good offensively, but have a bit more experience in Staal, Nash and Giroux.  Even in the case of Kunitz he is showing he can produce. Pascal Dupuis also played with Crosby and he only had 20 points. If Kunitz makes the team at least they can say he is producing more than guys who didn’t make it, unlike Ryan with Team USA.

    When Hockey Canada makes their announcement next week it will be interesting to see which forwards aren’t on it. We could see Hall, Seguin, Benn and Duchene on the outside.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Their struggles against top teams continue with a 4-2 loss.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall has eight points in his last four games and he continues his strong play tonight with a goal and an assist. He is making a strong push to make Team Canada, but even he admitted he doesn’t think he’ll crack the roster. Hall could be top-15 in scoring by the time January 7th rolls around, which will only add to the debate if he doesn’t make the cut.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After scoring four goals in his first six games, Boyd Gordon only has one in his last 30. He buries his 6th of the season tonight which puts him on pace to shatter his career high of eight goals.
 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 



  • Zarny

    Canada has players that can win hockey games rather than just put up points. If Hall was drafted by the bruins and won the cup and doing what he’s doing on a winning team then he’d be a lock for team Canads. Unfortunately Hall was drafted by a pathetic perennial bottom feeder and won’t even get consideration due to the fact that the goal of the tournament is to win! Edmonton Oilers…. Ruining careers since ’06.

      • Serious Gord

        Rick Nash was a far more established player then than hall is now. Nash was into his fifth season while hall is in his 3.5th season. 330 games vs 206

        Nash was also are far more dominant and consistent player than hall with a physical element that hall has yet to show.

        Try and find another example.

  • Newj

    My two cents on Bryzgarbage…

    Bryzgalov playing for Philly last season and a half was bloody HORRIFIC! Yes Flyers were weak in defending but he seldom had a game without a soft goal.

    Watching him this year, his puck handling skills are still non existent, his floppy style is still very unorthodox. The Flyers walked on their long-term goalie after 1 & 1/2 seasons…that was how much confidence they had in him. Oh and the suitors, well they certainly weren’t lined up waiting to get him.

    We got what we paid for…not much.

    and like stack pad stevie mentioned…I think the man is not good for morale..most Flyers were glad to see him go. He was the utter & complete brunt of the Flyer fans hostility last season.

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…then it is a _____.

    He may be great fodder for a silly sound bite, but an NHL goalie he’s not.

  • Rick Stroppel

    GRETZKY AND MESSIER TO THE RESCUE!

    I am really tired of the relentless negativity displayed by the posters on this site! Gretzky and Messier are waiting in the wings and Katz is just looking for the right time to put them into positions of high influence and responsibility in Oilerville. There are at least good four reasons for this:

    1. Former Oilers Glory Boys.

    2. Neither has accomplished anything of note as a coach or manager in the NHL, therefore unable to question anything done by anyone else.

    3. Both will be available to clean Katz’ glasses during time outs like Jerry Jones son-in-law.

    4. Both will be contractually obligated to go to Katz’ house and play table hockey with his kid.

    Gretzky and Messier should work so well with MacTavish, Lowe, Steve Smith and Buchberger! I can’t wait!

    • Serious Gord

      You are either being sarcastic or are delusional.

      Neither gretz or mess are EVER moving back to EDM. They both have much deeper ties with other nhl teams – gretz with LA and mess with NYR. While mess has taken some nebulous position in the oiler organization (I am reluctAnt to say he is part of management) has he even visited EDM since he was “hired”?

      These two guys are used to being in big media market ponds and the big city lifestyle – no way the swim back up to a backwater like EDM.

      • Rick Stroppel

        Serious Gord: Apparently nobody has ever introduced you to the concept of “satire”. That is when a person uses irony or exaggeration to try and make a point in a humorous way. The reference to Gretzky and Messier playing table hockey with Katz’ kid should have been a good clue.

        The serious point I was trying to make is this: Katz places totally inappropriate reliance on Oilers alumni who have done little or nothing to deserve their current positions. I don’t WANT this to happen, but it would not surprise me at all if Gretzky or Messier pop into the Oilers picture in the near future. It would be par for the course.

        P.S. If the Oilers weren’t providing so much total CRAP hockey, maybe I could amuse myself by enjoying the product on the ice, rather than posting on this site. Cheers!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Gregor, just a short note to thank you for shaking my hand a couple weeks ago (Month of Giving charity check drop off).

    My wife surprised me on December 23rd saying that we were going to have a baby again!

    She showed me a test saying that she was already 2 – 3 weeks in.
    And I remember the timing of shaking your hand well, as your wife and you were only days away from having Beckett. I traced back the time and I shook your hand on the Friday and pretty sure we conceived on the Sunday a couple days later.

    It’s a big shock for the wife and I as we have 2 boys, ages 4 and 6 and were thinking we were done. I’m pushing the big 40 next year too.

    So thanks again Gregor! haha

    • Rick Stroppel

      how? cause smid isnt replaceable and is currently a game changer that you build your defense around? or was it the fact that dumping a replaceable player with an above average salary to make room for future decisions because this is a lost season?

      • Serious Gord

        I was thinking more like how he traded a serviceable NHL calibre defenseman for 2 middle tier prospects considering defense was already a weak spot and considering the value around the league for defenseman of smid’s calibre. You don’t think Smid could’ve fetched more come deadline day??

  • A-Mc

    It could be all the booze over the holidays.. but i am predicting an Oilers win tonight!

    Oilers win 4-1.

    It ends up being one of those nights where things just go in… Yak, Hall, Petry and Perron score tonight.

  • Stack Pad Save

    @ Jason

    I don’t know how you think Bryzgalov had a strong game, he had a typical Dunynk game. Make some great saves, and then let in a super weak goal (the TIm Kennedy Goal) and made a soft play on the final goal. HE should have stopped that goal from Yandle, even though Belov played it poorly, so did Bryzgalov.

    Dubynk had a shut-out his last game, he hasn’t played the last 2 games, and Bryzgalov had a weak game in the previous outing. If Dubnyk doesn’t play today it shows that accountability really isn’t a game plan of Eakins.

    • Jason Gregor

      A soft play on Yandle goal? Yandle is on a breakaway and it just slips through pads. He faced 45 shots, many of them very good quality shots and you blame the goalie. Good grief.

      I guess Bryzgalov should stop every puck in your eyes. Okay. I guess Belov and Petry’s plays on 3rd and 4th goals were Bryz’s fault.

      • Stack Pad Save

        They were both weak goals. You don’t have to agree with me. But I think you are wrong. He should have stopped both of those goals. You yourself consistently complained about how Dubnyk was not an NHL goalie because he let in a weak goal on a consistent basis and this caused the team to struggle. I see Bryzgalov doing the same thing. Plus I also see Bryzgalov having tantrums on the ice.

        I am sick of this organization telling fans that they are going to do things, like “bold moves” and create a culture of accountability and than fail to follow through on those promises. I also pointed out that Belov’s play was in error as well. But you want to run and defend Bryzgalov go ahead. Bryz your new man crush?

        • Jason Gregor

          Your retort is some lame man crush line…intelligent.

          Belov’s play was a lack of effort and soft. You think Bryzgalov didn’t try on those shots? Okay.

          • Stack Pad Save

            So your telling me he made a good play? Give your head a shake. A goalie cannot have a great or even a good game if he lets in a goal from behind the net, overplays another at an atrocious angle and than plays a breakaway really weakly and lets a guy who is half tied up beat him with a floater. This whole debate centred around who would start and it seems even the coach agreed with me. Bryzgalov played good but he let in 2 soft goals and those goals where a huge difference at the end of the game. Your willing to rip every other player on the Oilers for 2 mistakes in a game, but you wont rip Bryzgalov. Yes, it does appear to that you do indeed have a man crush! Soare you gonna watch todays game, or skip it since Dubnyk is playing?

      • Serious Gord

        Bryz played a solid game, faced a mountain of shots and should have stopped two more.

        That said he was the reason why the oil were even i the game and for that reason he was very much a factor – in a positive way – In the game. What’s discouraging is that even with all world goaltending – which Bryz has give the past two games – this team can’t compete with average or better teams.

  • Serious Gord

    Stauffer pointed out that hall has 38 points and has cracked the top twenty.

    Guess who has one more point and is +11? And no one seems to be talking about him playing in Sochi.

    • Seguin is having a nice season. Not as nice as Hall’s though, especially considering the first 13 games for hall.

      By the end of January if Hall stays healthy, seguin will be a mere spec in the rearview.
      Hall has been +3 since moving back to the wing. More impressive than Seguin’s considering Hall’s supporting cast.

      • Serious Gord

        Even though they were drafted in the same year developmentally I think its fair to say that Seguin is about eight months to a year behind hall:

        He is eleven months younger,

        He has played far fewer top line minutes even if he has dressed for ten percent more games.

        Let’s see where Seguin is about a year from now compared to where hall is today.

        The above being noted – for the record I 100% supported taking hall as number one. It was a case of force majeur as to not take a two-time Mem cup MVP number one would be unprecedented. That is not to say I think hall is or was the better player – I think Seguin is just a little better, a little more valuable than hall.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    I don’t understand how the Oilers are handling Yakapov. The team is out of the playoff race and this is the best chance for teaching and giving a first overall draft the minutes and line mates to succeed. Playing on the four line then sitting him out is a real head shaker. MacT has to tell Dallas to play him come hell or high water. If we where in a playoff race I could see some shuffling but look at the standings and get real.

    • A-Mc

      The only currency a coach has to teach, is ice time. To reward poor play with more ice time is to basically throw the teaching card out the window.

      Last year the Oilers let Yak prove he could play with the big boys offensively, and he can. Now the mandate should be to reduce his defensive liabilities to the point that in a pinch, yak can tighten his sphincter and get through a shift vs a #1 line with out getting out played.

      I’m not sure if you have children or not, but as a parent i somewhat relate Eakins’ problem with Yak, with parenting. There are certain things that are unacceptable as a parent to let happen with relation to my kid; but the flip side is that once in a while you need to ask yourself “Is this the hill I’m willing to die on?”

      Defensive Liability may just be THAT hill for Eakins and the Oilers

  • John Chambers

    Chambers’ Team Canada lineup:

    Kunitz – Crosby – Neal
    Stamkos* – Toews – Sharp
    Tavares – Getzlaf – Perry
    Ladd – Bergeron – Staal
    Hall & Giroux spares

    Doughty – Weber
    Keith – Seabrook
    Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
    Boyle & Hamhuis

    Price – Luongo – Crawford

    The big omits are Seguin, Benn, and Duchesne up front. Hall makes it because he’s just a notch above those guys, while good role players like Mike Richards are already in abundance on this team (eg. Toews, Bergeron, & Ladd).

    On D I see 8 guys that nudge out PK Subban, mostly because I think guys dislike Subban and would rather have a guy like Boyle on the team as opposed to a cocky kid.

  • Bucknuck

    I predict a big win for Edmonton tonight. 7-3 BIG. Yakupov gets a hat trick, and Gagner gets four points.

    If I’m wrong I can just blame it on a delerium caused by a horrible head cold combined with cold medication. If I’m right I look like a GENIUS. Or something like that…

    Go OIL.

    • Serious Gord

      I recommend a double hot toddy – piping hot tea with whiskey or brandy; some lemon and honey to taste – drink one a period or until you pass out. You will be right as rain tomorrow morning and the agony of another oilers mastication will be but a hazy recollection.

  • Arius Mumin

    The following has to be a joke: Yakupov with Gagner and Eberle, right?
    No?

    Is Eakins, or anyone when it comes to the Oilers, serious?

    Kevin Lowe is the Godfather, live with it. MSM and everyone who is allowed to write about the Oilers to make a $ off them has to answer to him. What he tells his people to tell the media-is all that the media is allowed to talk about, and they must stay in those lines.

    When MacT said that Gagner was a great charachter guy and blah blah blah, MSM took that and ran with it, their opinion has not been allowed to change since. Oilers wanted the teams that dont see guy play much to believe that and they told the MSM to help them sell him as such.

    They told the MSM that Yakupov is the bad guy and they can go and write and speculate on that. They are however not allowed to write about or question Eakins in any negative way, that is why those microphones studder most of the time when they have to ask Eakins a question: they dont want to upset the big cheese.

    • A-Mc

      In some twisted round about way, it’s almost genius to stick those 3 together. They are being thrown to the wolves and there are no defensive saviors to be had between the 3 of them.

      If ever a weakness was needing to be exposed to the players so that they finally understand what they need to do, this is the way to do it.

      • Arius Mumin

        Are you in good health?

        If that line gets eaten by those wolves, no matter what, Yakupov will be the scapegoat. While goofboy 1 and goofboy 2 will remain in the top 6 and in the coachs good book. #@$% Eakins.!..

  • The Soup Fascist

    Hey Katz, find someone like Doug Wilson. Mac-T could not get another coaching gig in the league and you gave him the GM position, LOL. It sucks to be an Oilers fan.

  • Serious Gord

    GDP – San Jose and Anaheim have been red hot for sometime now – oilers now had it at 35-1-5 combined.

    This they are both due for a regulation loss. I’m just not confident that the oil are the team to do the job. That said the sharks are missing five forwards.

    4-3 EDM in regulation.

  • Serious Gord

    Anyone awake at Oiler front office ?? how the hell does Pittsburgh claim 6′-4″ Taylor Payatt off the waiver wire ?? apparently not good enough for this smurf toilet bowl team. What a JOKE !
    Fire six rings already ! anybody up for a mash-mellow roast at hawerlack park ? Thinking OILER Jerseys to ignite and stoke the fire. Katz would have prime view through his living room window.

  • Randaman

    Gregor,
    I think it is time for you to take off those rose colored glasses and see this team for what it really is. GONG SHOW!! Their leader ( if you can actually refer to Lowe as a leader) is more worried about team Canada than his own team because Daryl said don’t worry, the dollars keep rolling in. Lack of action on Management’s part proves this.

    • Randaman

      Ill completely agree with you that Gregor flips his opinion and story every couple of weeks just so he can have something to talk about on his show or have something to blog about, but how is Lowe the leader of this team? Hes a best middle management at this point (if you think in terms of an every day business. hes just a guy with a job title these days). If you wanna harp on a leader its either Katz or MacT. Katz has no hockey sense to run a team hes just funding one that makes enough money to keep him happy. MacT has been on the job as an active GM for less than a year. Hes got some sense as a GM cause hes not gonna get raped in a trade that any other GM would make just cause hes desperate.
      Give MacT till this time next year and if he cant make any improvements (no matter how big or small they are) then its a management issue.
      Sorry to break it to you but when the rookie GM hired a rookie head coach and then couldnt find any dance partners for a trade, the “rebuild” just got a couple of years longer at the very least.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I was just on THN where they are counting down the all time greatest teams. #2 is the 83-84 Oilers. This current crop is nowhere near as talented as the 83-84 team and the current Oilers would kill to have a Paul Coffey or even Charlie Huddy on defense. But the 83-84 team was a young group of kids all in their early 20’s who took 4 years together to learn where their heads needed to be for them to win.

    The league is a little different now. Almost half of the teams don’t make the playoffs. But the same lesson applies. For this current crop, they need to get their head in the space. Let’s not forget that. If Brett Hull can learn to back check and then go on to win a Stanley Cup, then I’m sure these kids can too.

  • Arius Mumin

    Nichushkin with another goal tonight. Nurse better be the real deal. Otherwise missing out on the next Malkin will be the greatest Oil mistake of the decade. We shall see.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      I’m with you thinking that Nichushkin is a hell of a player, but it’s worth noting that Malkin is a center. Nichushkin isn’t the big 2nd line center that we’ve been missing for years. While Nichushkin’s game would bring something the Oilers desperately need, Edmonton’s wings in the top 6 are getting pretty full.

      I think if Nurse is given the proper time to develop as a player, he’ll be more valuable to the organization in the long run.