It is Hockey Day in Canada, and all seven Canadian teams are in action. This year the Senators are the odd team out, playing at home vs. the Rangers, while the Canucks battle the Flames, Toronto is in Montreal and the Oilers take on the Jets at noon Edmonton time.
For some the noon start is great. You just rolled out of the wrapper after a long shift last night, celebrating nothing in particular, and you grab some left over pizza wash it down with some "hair of the dog" and settle in for another Oiler game. Your odds of catching a nap this afternoon depend mainly on how the game goes.
For others, the noon puck drop is the starting point for a raucous Saturday night. An afternoon Oiler win has been the catalyst for many "off the rails" Saturday nights in the past, and considering how rare a win in these days, I’m guessing many of the Nation’s young partiers will have a glow by the end of the third regardless of the score. Even the woes of the Oilers can’t derail your Saturday night.
The Nation readers with kids can watch the game together and then bolt outside for a spirited road hockey game or like I plan on doing, a fun game of shinny at the neighbourhood rink. It is Hockey Day in Canada, so you should either use the game as motivation for a party or to get outside and play hockey with family and friends.
Nail Yakupov will sit out due to concussion protocol. He has been placed on IR, and is eligible to return next Friday vs. Phoenix.
The Gagner experiment on the wing didn’t produce much so he’s back in the middle. If I’m Eakins I keep the top line together the rest of the year. Feel free to change out the other lines, but keep those three together.
I’m curious to see how Martin Marincin plays during the next few games. Many players have had a solid first ten games, but then they start to regress. If Marincin does that over the next week the Oilers should pull him aside tell him he played very well and send him back to the AHL before his confidence takes too much of a hit. If last game was just a blip and he returns to playing steady, then he will prove that he’s ready to stay permanently.
Either way, I think this has been a very positive season in Marincin’s development. The majority of player’s development is never linear, so if he has a very peaks and valleys that is expected and the valleys shouldn’t be viewed negatively.
- Perron is in a bit of a funk, which should be expected because he was producing more goals and points than he ever had in the first half of a season. He is still on pace to set new standards in goals and points, but he hasn’t been as snarly lately. He plays better when he is agitating teams, and he needs to rediscover his greasy side.
- In his last 28 games Mark Arcobello 4-4-8. He has played 2nd or 3rd line minutes in 23 of those games. The early season projections by some that he would be a 2nd line centre were premature then, and we are starting to see what type of NHL player he will be.
- I could see him as a 4th line centre who kills penalties and if need be can move up the lineup for a few games, however, he is not a 2nd line centre if you want to be a winning team. That isn’t a knock on him, just an observation of where I see him as a player.
- If you are frustrated watching the Oilers, you might want to check out the Edmonton Rush. They are 3-0 and have outscored teams 45-24. Mark Matthews has 21 points in three games. They are good, and their next home game is February 1st. They won’t replace the Oilers in your heart, but they could give you a nice distraction during the next few months.
- Gagner has 16 points in his last 28 games, however, he’s -12 in that span where he played 22 of those games on the top-two lines. Gagner looked tentative after returning from a broken jaw, and he’s been a little bit better lately, but he didn’t look great alongside RNH and Hall. After seven NHL seasons Gagner has shown he’s a 45-50 point player. I don’t see that changing, and considering his size and overall game, I don’t see him as the long term answer as the 2nd line centre in Edmonton either. I could see him having a 60-point season on another team at some point, but in the next ten years I’d wager he’ll average around 48-53 points.
- Sutherby had a very interesting response yesterday on my show when we were discussing the constant head coaching changes the young kids have endured. "You can continually shrug off the coach as a young player when they are constantly getting fired," said Sutherby.
For me, that is the main reason the Oilers shouldn’t can Eakins. At some point the players need to be held accountable. The Oilers best players are not consistent enough, and that is on them, not the coach. The only thing avenue the coach can take is to becoce a hard ass. Show the players video of their mistakes. If it happens twice, they miss a few shifts. If it happens a third time, sit them in the pressbox.
It is difficult to treat all players equally, because their skill sets aren’t equal, however, if the organization continues to blame the head coach for their losses, then the players will never change their habits. Eakins should be more of a disciplinarian down the stretch, and the organization needs to back their coach. If he needs to sit Hall, RNH, Eberle, Perron, J.Schultz or Petry to get his point across then he should, and the organization needs to back him up and have thick enough skin to endure the criticism that will come from those questioning the decision.
- I’d also like to see MacTavish show some leadership and publicly state on Monday that his coach isn’t going anywhere. The players need to know their coach will be here next year, so they can’t just mail in the final 32 games. Of course some will question MacT’s decision, but good leaders stand by their decisions and have the confidence to make decisions that aren’t the most popular. I’m not certain he is a great GM, but leadership and character surfaces when things are bad, and right now things are pathetically woeful. Now is the time he needs to stand up and be a leader.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I received a few emails asking me to predict an Oiler win until it happens. We’ve done it the other way before, so why not…Oiler fans deserve some happiness…Oilers win a 6-5.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Commenter pelham grenville will complain about the above picture, because some people aren’t happy unless they are complaining. The rest of the Nation won’t care, and will debate heavily over the merits of the coach, GM and players….
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Jones has played 313 NHL games. He’s only scored two goals in a game once, December 2nd, 2011 when he had a hat-trick. He gets promoted to the 2nd line and stuns everyone by scoring a pair of goals. One deflects off his leg, while the other one is a tap-in-from-the-backdoor off a nifty pass by Perron.