GDB 53.0: HOME COOKING…BAD

The Oilers have played 23 home games. They have only won eight of them.

Last year they won 9 of 24 home games.  The last season the Oilers and their fans left Rexall place in a good mood more often than a bad one was in 2007/2008 when the Oilers won 23 of 41 home games.

Since October 2008, the Oilers have played 213 home games and they’ve won 86.

The Oilers have 18 home games remaining this season, and hopefully for their sakes and the fans, they can find a way to start winning on home ice.

When the Oilers finished dead last in 2010  they were at least competitive at home winning18 and losing 23 (OT loss is still a loss for me), so there is no reason this team shouldn’t be able to match 18 wins or better it.

It won’t be easy with 14 of the 18 games against western opponents.

They play the Kings, Ducks, Sharks and Flames twice and the Coyotes, Avalanche, Wild and Canucks once. The Senators, Rangers, Islanders and Sabres will visit from the East. Ten of those games will be against teams currently in the playoffs, but if the Oilers are going to start improving eventually they need to be a few playoff caliber teams, especially at home.

The Oilers won’t make the playoffs, but they need to start building a foundation for the future, and one of those bricks needs to be molded into a good home team.

Of the current 16 playoff teams, only the Rangers have a losing record at home winning 12 of 28. Of the 14 teams not in the playoffs only three, Washington, Phoenix and Dallas have won than half of their home games. Winning at home doesn’t guarantee you a playoff spot, but it increases your chances significantly, especially if you can be a dominant team at home.

The Oilers need to start creating winning habits at home, and since I highly, highly doubt Dallas Eakins gets fired at the end of the season, it is up to him and his team to start finding a winning formula on home ice.

HITS…

After Tuesday’s loss to Vancouver Dallas Eakins made reference to "the perfect game."

Do you know what the perfect game is? The perfect game is no hits. Do you know why that is? It’s because you have the puck. You don’t have to hit anybody; you have the puck. 

That statement got some people excited. Many believe hitting doesn’t help you win games, mainly due to the reason Eakins outlined above. In theory that makes sense, however, practicality and reality often offer up different outcomes.

There is no such thing as the perfect game, no hits, and many successful teams use their physical play to help them win. Here is a hit chart for this season. Playoff teams are in bold.

Hits Team Hits/game
1768 Toronto 33.3
1662 Los Angeles 31.9
1569 Ottawa 30.7
1519 Columbus 30.3
1397 Winnipeg 26.8
1323 Phoenix 26.4
1263 Buffalo 25.7
1263 Colorado 25.7
1300 Pittsburgh 25.4
1313 Philly 25.2
1232 Boston 25.1
1307 NYR 24.6
1298 NYI 24.5
1264 Anaheim 23.8
1181 Washington 23.6
1153 Carolina 23
1178 Edmonton 22.6
1093 Florida 21.8
1076 Calgary 21.1
1048 St.Louis 20.9
1047 Montreal 20.9
1049 New Jersey 20.5
1030 Dallas 20.1
1029 Tampa Bay 20.1
1030 Nashville 19.8
1015 Vancouver 19.5
963 San Jose 18.8
1001 Detroit 18.5
898 Minnesota 16.9
888 Chicago 16.7

I think we all agree that hit charts from building to building can be subjective. The Leafs have 1099 hits in 28 home games, but only 669 in 25 road games. Are they magically that much more physical at home or do the statisticians in Toronto consider every rub out a hit?

That being a team like Columbus has virtually the same amount of hits on the road as they do at home. I’d say it gives us a general idea of which teams are more physical than others.

The chart proves that some teams win by being more physical, while others don’t need to.
Nine of the top-14 teams in hits are in the playoffs, while seven of the 11 teams with the fewest hits are currently in the postseason.

My issue with Eakins comment is that he tried to deflect the issue of contact and brought up the unattainable "perfect game" scenario. No team is perfect, but the suggestion that being physical will automatically decrease your chances of winning is somewhat misleading.

Of course you want your team to have the puck, but both teams want it, and I find many of the successful teams are not only good at controlling the puck, they are excellent at getting it back.

Many consider Pittsburgh to be a puck possession team, and they are, but they also are top-ten in hits/game. Delivering a hit hasn’t hurt them, and clearly they win despite not playing a "perfect game."

A major benefit from being physical is that your aggressive play will force teams to move the puck quicker than they want, which often leads to turnovers. Having players who can separate opponents from the puck through body contact is also valuable and a significant part of the game.

The problem with the Oilers is that their overall skill isn’t good enough to be a puck possession team, and right now they aren’t very good at retrieving the puck once the opposition has it.

I’m sure Eakins will strive to build his team to become more of a puck possession team, but I’d hope he realizes that until they become great at protecting the puck and not turning it over, they will need to improve their puck retrieval skills at the same time, and often pressuring the puck carrier, hitting and being physical is the best way to create turnovers.

I respect that he wants his team to have the puck, but I felt bringing up the notion of the "perfect game" was an attempt to deflect attention away from an area of their game, physicality and aggression, that has been lacking for years.

LINEUP…

Hall-RNH-Eberle
Smyth-Gagner-Perron
Hendricks-Gordon-Jones
Joenssu-Arcobello-Yakupov

Ference-J.Schultz
Marincin-Petry
Belov-Potter

Bryzgalov

Hemsky is still nursing a deep bone bruise, but Nail Yakupov returns to the lineup.

The optics don’t look great having Yak on the fourth line and Smyth on the second, but I doubt they stay that way very long. They were hoping Hemsky was ready and he’d be playing there.

Gazdic hasn’t had a fight in 13 games and while Eakins stressed being a healthy scratch wasn’t performance-related, I wonder if his lack of aggressiveness recently is the reason he is in the pressbox? If your job is to play physical and get the opposition’s attention, then you have to find a way to do it. However, Eakins defended him in the post-game presser on Tuesday saying he tried to do his job.

So either he isn’t doing it well enough or he is sitting because Phoenix rarely dresses a tough guy. What do you think?

QUICK HITS…

  • I would have liked to see Eakins put Gazdic on the ice more often against Kassian. I never expected him to jump him, but had he been on the ice more often the chances of a "heat of the moment" altercation would have been higher.
     
  • I don’t buy the Bertuzzi/Moore argument as a reason why Gazdic couldn’t have done something to Kassian. That happened a decade ago, and since then many teams and players have found ways to send a message to the opposition without being suspended.

    Andrew Ference didn’t ask Lee Stempniuk to fight earlier this year. He dropped his gloves and Stempniuk had no choice but to eat a few rights or defend himself. In the past week I’ve seen Milan Lucic and Tom Sestito go after Jordan Nolan instead of waiting for him to politely oblige their request to fight.

    Sestito and Lucic went after Nolan after he hit one of their teammates earlier in the game. Had Gazdic been on the ice for more than one and a half shifts against Kassian, he would have had a much better chance of engaging him.
     

  • I wouldn’t have worried about Gazdic taking an instigator or even worse a 7-minute penalty like Sestito did in LA last week. Was getting the win that important in the overall picture? The Oilers are in 29th, had the won they’d still be in 29th and out of the playoffs in late January.

    Whether they like it or not, the perception from players around the league is that teams can take liberties with the Oilers skilled players without fear of retribution. If Gazdic had got a hold of Kassian and landed a few shots that wouldn’t have stopped every team from trying to hit the Oilers in the future, but at least it would show that if you do there will be some consequences to your actions.

    If the Oilers were in a battle for a playoff spot, I could understand being worried about giving up an extended powerplay, but that wasn’t the case on Tuesday and it won’t be the rest of the season. I’d hope the next time someone cheap shots one of the Oilers skilled players, Eakins will at least give his physical players an opportunity to try and even the score; in a manner that won’t lead to a suspension like Lucic or Sestito managed to do. 
     

  • It is smart not to rush Hemsky back. You want him healthy for the deadline.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: I’m taking a night off. The first person to tweet @jasongregor their GDP I will add it to this post. Look deep into your crystal ball.

Update…Courtesy of @JaredGorbahn GDP: Oilers 4-1. Bryz forced to stand on his head and Hall adds 2 assists.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Yakupov and Arcobello combine to score and many will suggest they should be playing with Perron.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle ties a career-high with goals in four consecutive games, but it is his game celebration that surprises many. After the game he sends Wanye a tweet, "I know yesterday was difficult for you with the Biebs’ arrest. Don’t worry I won’t let you down. I’m not getting traded." Wanye promptly retires from twitter saying his life can’t possibly get any better. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • Zamboni Driver

    We’ll, my first game into the self-imposed ban on attending Oiler games and everything is great.

    I stayed at home and played with the kids, had a bottle of wine with the wife, and saved myself $300.00 on tickets, parking and beer.

    Man, this Tier 2 fan stuff is awesome. Thanks K Lowe

      • Rick Stroppel

        I have a business so at least my tickets are a write off and I can give them away to employees/customers so it’s not a huge loss.

        Honestly, I really feel bad for people who pay out of pocket to watch this sh!t. I can’t imagine shelling out thousands of after tax dollars to watch this crap and being eliminated from the playoffs 2.5 months into the season. I guess i am fortunate that I was only a Tier 1A fan.

          • Thumby

            For 20 years I took a lunch pail to work every day at one time and I pay my fair share of taxes as well. I also give generously to charities and donate tickets whenever possible. As a business owner I can tell you that I do my fair share of subsidizing.

            Regardless, anybody who attends an Oiler games gets effed

          • Thumby

            You need to rethink this comment – guys like Oasis have risked their own money to start & operate businesses which create employment – thus increasing the total tax base. Or do you believe government creates all the jobs?

            The fact that you can deduct client entertainment as a legitimate business expense in not an issue.

            The employees of a company are limited to $50 per year in non taxable company “gifts” and anything above that is taxable.

            You really should have known…

  • Zamboni Driver

    I feel like that is precisely the assessment of the game that Ray Ferarro would have given.

    “…keep it up going to be hard to play against.”

    “…liked Ryan Jones’ toe-drag…”

    Great job as always Lou.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Hey guys,

    Do you guys think the Oilers can win the cup? I sure do! maybe even this year. They have awesome frikkin potential.

    YakCity will lead us there along with Ebsy and Hallsy and Schultzie. Eakins and the eastern media hate Yakcity and try to keep him down, but it wont work. As a matter of fact, Yak would probably win the scoring title this year if not for the lousy assistant coaches.

    High five guys. Go Oilers.

  • outdoorzguy

    Jones sounds really pissed in his post game interview. He made some interesting comments about players have to start being accountable and stop passing the blame around to coaching, and other people. He was asked about his recent fights and just said that was what the game called for and that he’s just “trying to survive”, another interesting comment.

    • 15w40

      I used to really like Jones and then he just started mailing it in like the rest of the team. It was only after Jones got sent down and was on the outside looking in that he started showing up.

      The only reason Jones is playing with any desperation is because he has to. He is literally fighting for his job and a paycheque.

      • D-Unit

        what you say is true, but it is nice to hear him talk about accountability and players. Would be nice to hear it from a top 3 or 6 forward though.

        Jones does seem to understand the meaning of the word better than management and ownership of the Oilers.

    • Serious Gord

      Jones played horrible last year, mailed it in in camp, got sent down to OKC, got called up, played good for a hand full of games, went back to his usual self for 40 games until they traded someone who made hm totally dispensible. Now he decides to play with a purpose for all of 4 or 5 games and he’s all the sudden an authority on being accountable?

  • Thumby

    Lots of positives to take from tonight:

    Calgary wins, as Kevin Lowe inches closer to his fourth “first overall draft pick” ring, to go with his 6 StanleyCup rings. That’s one for each finger. Man, that guy knows a thing or 2 about winning, if that’s ever a concern.

    Oilers outshoot Coyotes. With them outshooting Vancouver in their last game, and nudging Jets into overtime the game before that, I believe this constitutes a 3 game moral victory streak.

    Kevin Lowe convincing Team Russia to name Belov as one of their Olympic d-men represents his greatest triumph for Team Canada. Did I mention that guy knows a thing or two about winning?

    Yakupov resumes his march to the green jacket.

    Katz update: ” The rebuild is right on schedule”.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      Yes indeed, the morale victories are really starting to pile up.

      Are we on a 4 game win streak now by K-Lowe standards?

      Just thinking/wondering out loud here…………if K Lowe knows so much about winning, why do we lose so much?

  • Spaz

    Was speaking to my brother at the game, apparently he knew the Jersey tosser. The Oilers have ‘banned’ him and his group for life. If true this franchise is worse than I thought.

    What tier are the fans who go to games and voice their displeasure?

    • camdog

      We will have to ask K Lowe the almighty.

      Remember, he has 6 rings and knows something about winning. It’s up to him to judge us as fans and tell us which category we fit into.

      Whilst walking into the Vancouver game earlier this week I was amused to see security going through signs and confiscating what they deemed inappropriate. Rexall truly has become the ultimate fan experience. Confiscating signs, banning fans, etc. While filling out my season seat holder survey I had to think twice about being honest with my responses. I have probably been blackballed because of my honest answers that won’t sit well with Oiler management

  • Thumby

    I am an Oiler’s fan.

    When I go to a game and they lose, I’m down. Ruins the evening. Apparently this happens quite often. I thought it was me just bringing them bad luck whenever I showed up. I don’t think I’ve seen them win in two years.

    I don’t know if these win/lose stats make me feel better, or worse but I’m no longer thinking it’s me and my presence bringing them bad luck.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I think it’d be mint if the fans cheered, “Let’s go Barons!” At the next performance like this. And there will be another performance like this….

    I somehow feel like they’ve been instructed to lose so much, that they have no idea how to win.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    At the end of the game, Dallas, you looked more upset that an Oiler jersey had been tossed on the ice, than at the fact the team you coach has now won exactly 15 games in 53 attempts, and will finish last or near last for the 5th season in a row and out of the playoffs for 8. And is now not even a laughing stock because people around the league consider this team “irrelevant”.

    Let me explain something to you.

    We fans are the reason you guys are so highly paid. If we didn’t care so much about this team and this game it tries to play, you would be paying to play the game in front of empty bleachers on Thursday nights at 11pm. We buy the tickets. We pay real dollars to park our cars for the privilege of being able to walk a kilometre in the cold to a shabby arena to buy overpriced beer and cold hotdogs and watch you guys stumble around and think you have earned your millions by just showing up. We pay your salaries. We have earned to right to voice our displeasure.

    Who has dishonoured the Oiler jersey more – the fan who tosses it on the ice in embarrassment, or the management, coaches and players who have dragged it through the mud for the last 8 years?

  • camdog

    At the beginning of the season I thought Jones was still recovering from the eye injury, more mental then physical. He is what he is, a borderline 3/4 NHL winger, who can pot a few.

  • Serious Gord

    Jones comments are very true. But I think he was just kissing ass. He wants another contract. If he doesn’t get it, he’s out the league for good. (And he doesn’t have enough games for a pension yet.)

    Jones should be playing very desperate hockey. Oilers should offer him league minimum for 2 years. And Jones should take it.