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 

  • I tried it at home

    Tonight’s game is further evidence that this team is not just one bold move away from being a contender. This team is sick on many levels. Any thoughts that next year or the next for that matter will improve is a pipe dream. With an inverted rebuild ie. forwards maturing before defence, we are a long ways from being competitive. And fire KLowe.

  • Haha…in terms of the group that messed things up indeed.

    “Lowe also lost his temper at the news conference when asked why the Oilers didn’t search out new blood to replace Tambellini.

    “How are fans going to be reassured that the group that left the mess that Tambellini couldn’t quite clean up is now going to be cleaned up by the guys who left the mess to begin with?” asked one reporter.

    “In terms of the group that messed things up, you’re talking about the group that had a team one period away from winning the Stanley Cup (in 2006)?” Lowe shot back.

    “Seven years ago,” said the reporter.

    “There’s one other guy I believe in hockey today that is still working in the game that has won more Stanley Cups than me. So I think I know a little bit about winning, if there’s ever a concern.”

  • Serious Gord

    I try very hard to tune out the Sportsnet Bobbleheads and now I got to read about them here? DeBrusk has been sniffing too much blue paint lately. And Quinn knows nothing about broadcasting if there was ever any concern.

  • Zamboni Driver

    If props are important when posting on this site then make sure you end all posts with the obligatory ” Fire Kevin Lowe!”. Regardless of how stupid your comment is if you follow it up with ” Fire Kevin Lowe! ” you will garner lots of props.Fire Kevin Lowe!

  • Slapshot

    Just listening to Stauffer talk about how Gagner came back from his injury too early, but know he needs to start delivering. So he gets a pass on his weak-ass play for the past 20 games? Always an excuse with Gagner and for some reason this organization loves him. FFS this is the NHL, professional hockey, where he is getting paid huge money. Being in a score drought happens, but playing non-contact fly-by hockey is unacceptable. Its a real head scratcher as to why MacT thinks Gagner is a character guy, and when MacT said that it makes me question his intelligence.

    Also, as usual, playing a good team reveals how piss poor the Oilers are, and I will be my mortgage that they will not make the playoffs for two more years. But don’t worry, this long stretch of meaningless games will allow our management “braintrust” to evaluate which players they want “going forward.” My question is, who evaluates the evaluators? It ain’t Katz, thats for sure. Also, WTF does Howson do? Make coffee?

  • Serious Gord

    Just found out that Lowe’s master plan is to raise a genetically modified baby, and raise him to become the saviour. Just gotta wait another 14years guys, he’s already 5yrs old

  • Zamboni Driver

    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!
    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!
    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!
    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!
    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!
    I can’t wait for this year to be over and get on with next year! At least we get a great draft pick!

  • Zamboni Driver

    I wonder if there is record for the total yardage in goals per game? We gotta be a couple of football fields on ‘Devonwhohadnochanceonthatone’

    One of the stats nerds can help with that I bet!

      • Zamboni Driver

        Heard Gregor talking about Dubnyk one day saying scouts in the NHL don’t think Dubnyk is nearly athletic enough to be a starter in the NHL.

        I was thinking that very thing yesterday watching the Canadian kid goalie stop the breakaway (or was it the US game?..whatever…) – I thought “No way in the world Dubnyk makes that save. Can’t bend, stretch…that’s a goal on him.”

        • I am surprised to hear that. Ever since last season ended Gregor was of the view that the Oilers could get by Dubnyk and you didn’t need a top tier goalie .

          I was always of the view that you need a good goalie as your first priority in rebuild.

  • outdoorzguy

    Time to fire the coaching staff. Clearly Eakins can’t coach at the NHL level. The assistants have shown their inabilities as well, BOLD MOVES…NOW!!

  • Serious Gord

    5-1

    So many dark analogies are running through my mind for what the collective mental state for this team must be.

    A beaten Labrador is one of the meeker less politically inappropriate ones…

  • Zamboni Driver

    Perron has a glancing blow with SanJose goalie and the D man was right in his face. Lander takes a hit from behind and all the players do a flyby. That is Oiler hockey!

  • These guys aren’t standing up for each other. I don’t know why. Ference and Eakins need to figure out who is willing to go to war and who’s just there to collect a paycheck. Then they need to recommend to MacT to trade their useless asses. I don’t care who they are, but they need to be identified and removed, ASAP.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Anyway. This train wreck is over.

    Whoever mentioned the NCAA game was totally right. Flipping back and forth that game was WAY more entertaining than watching this collection of losers.

    Keep drinking the koolaid though, blind-faithers. Six Cups and Batman are counting on you.

  • Serious Gord

    Has anyone seen an oiler scrum or face wash a shark tonight? How about giving Niemi an ice shower?

    Were I Eakins I would promise any forward who did one of the above twenty minutes of ice time in the next game. Savagery can be taught/learned.

  • Serious Gord

    I think there should be a new rule. No player shall be allowed to be on a commercial until their team has a winning record. Jordan Eberle commercials are getting stale now.

    • Was anybody else hoping for an Oiler jersey to be thrown on the ice again tonight? That would be epic.

      Anyways, tomorrow I am off to Indianapolis for a couple of NFL games. I have been an NFL fan for many years but over the last few years have been heading south to catch a few games. I am strongly considering giving up my seasons seats and instead using that money to go down south 3 or 4 times a year to watch a few games.

      Getting tired of this crap!

      • Slapshot

        I was thinking same

        you can buy San Diego season tickets, or Arizona Cardinal tickets, even Chicago bears (direct flights now)…..

        Only 8 home games……

        You can pay for a flight for 2, watch NFL game, and hotel…..all for the price of GOLD Seats ……LITERALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Thanks for the idea

        or

        I can save my 15k, go to a masters, fly to the UK and catch EPL game, go to the final four, go to Kentucky derby, go to Vegas and watch some UFC live……. and have life experiences…….

        Seriously considering

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

          I am a Chiefs fan. An organization that has had plenty of failure for many years. Well last year the fans got together and said enough is enough. We flew plans over the stadium asking for heads to roll and one day they actually did. They cut ties, fired everybody and brought in new blood and turned it around.

          I know full well that I could attend at least 4 games a year, hotel, airfare, etc for what I pay for my seats now.

          I can watch the Oiler games on TV and shut er down at anytime I want. Oh look Twister is on tonight, I think I will watch that instead of the Oilers.

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

          Please don’t go cubsfan……you’ll be giving up your tier one status…..and you’ll regret it $150,000.00 from now when the Oilers finally ice a contender!