Joe Sakic spoke the other day about the Olympics and how he felt it’s better to play in the games and stay sharp while the majority of the league is resting or vacationing.

For a team like the Oilers, having gone 5-1-1 In their last 7, it would probably be best to just keep rolling, wouldn’t it?


For players I’ve been around, not participating in the Olympics is usually a welcome and rare opportunity to step away from the game mid-season. An 82 game season is a grind both mentally and physically. You would think any kind of rest would be a great thing but whether it actually helps is up for debate.


I went through 2 Olympic breaks in my career and both were very different. My first was in 2005-2006. I was having the best offensive year of my career and headed into the break with 12 goals. I was perfectly healthy and didn’t really need a weeklong vacation, but it was nice none the less.

A week off to relax and then seven practices before games shouldn’t have changed much. I always felt rusty if given more than one day off during the season (which was very rare) but with 7 skates before the first game back, there really should be no excuse.

I scored just twice in my final 25 games. Why?  Who knows, maybe it was just a coincidence but I never found that offensive groove the rest of the year.

The second time was 4 years ago as a member of the Dallas Stars. I couldn’t wait for the break. I’d been battling a herniated disc in my back for most of the year and had a torn hip labrum that needed rest. It was the perfect opportunity to take care of those injuries.

I received a few cortisone injections and took the time to rest and rehab. It didn’t help my game much but the rest and strength training likely allowed me to play a few more months and get through the season.


Every player is different, and every guy likely will use this time for something different, hopefully benefiting the team to close out the rest of the season.


The goalies are absolutely on fire right now. Perhaps rest will help but I have to believe that as a tender, when you are in the zone and on top of your game, it would be better to keep seeing those beach balls (and not the ones actually on the beach).

How Scrivens and Bryzgalov come back from this will be interesting to watch.


Over the last 10 games, this team seems to be working harder on the defensive side of things. I see forwards working to be in better defensive position in the offensive zone by making sure they have a high guy above the puck. Forwards are tracking pucks back into the defensive zone harder than ever before.

So much of the game now is playing without the puck. You have to let your offensive players be creative but whether you like it or not these days, back checking and defensive positioning to get the puck back is a must on winning teams.


Choosing a Devils goal to show a positive example might not be the best thing, but it’s hard to find clips of back checking because generally, when you do a good job, it doesn’t end up in the back of your net or even result in a scoring chance.

On this play maybe they worked a little too hard and sent three guys to one on the back check, but the effort was there. One thing I’ve heard from Oilers fans many times this year since it’s all gone down the toilet is “I just want to see effort; I want to see guys that care.”

That was a huge mental breakdown and possibly a lack of communication between Smyth and Gazdic, who should have picked up the D-man but it wasn’t for lack of try.  Nobody wants to see two guys over commit and many people are probably pulling their hair out, but early in the year I don’t know if we even see three Oilers in that frame.  Last night there was three forwards hustling to get back.


One shift later, Taylor Hall has great position in the middle of the ice and tracks a puck back to his blue line, forcing a turnover. They get the puck back and let their skill take over. Yakupov makes a heck of a pass on the 2-on-1 and they answer immediately.

That play doesn’t happen without the effort to play without the puck and be in the right position. These are just a couple plays from last game but you could pull more clips like that over the past month. When you work like that you have a better chance of winning and staying close in games.


This team is not where they are in the last few weeks without exceptional goaltending — we all know that, but commitment to defensive details is slowly improving and maybe, just maybe, the coaches’ message of a two-way game is starting to get through.

The players are probably pumped as they board flights home or for some sunny beach, but with the results of late you have to think the Oilers coaching staff doesn’t care for the timing of this Olympic break.


Be sure to tweet @oilersnation your worst valentines day gift ever given or received and Paris Jewellers may hook you up this February 14th.

  • Oilers Coffey

    Nice read from a pro. I’m sure these guys look like they are battling and getting the battle scars as a result.
    Perrons toe via twitter and RNHs hand.
    I hope they recharge and come back just as hungry as the last few games.

    • Sevenseven

      Amen dude. Ive been hoping having goalies steal some games for us would push a few of these guys over the top. Hell, I pray that the top talent on this team not going to the olympics brings these guys back playing like top nhlers. The team I, and many others, were overly optimistic would come out and show great things.

      5-1-1 is an improvement. The goaltending has improved. The shots against, improved. The forward lineup has improved. Remember dubnyk/labarbera? Turned into Bryz/Scrivens/hendricks. Remember the top two centers injured? Remember grebs? This lineup has improved since the start of the year. Good to see some positives finally.

  • D

    I have a feeling macT is about to pull a big deal. You gotta give the guy credit he’s constantly tweaking and scheming.

    I can’t wait for Gagner to be gone, I hope it happens quick. Regrettably ebs or yak will net what we need and like a rotting tooth, we can’t avoid what needs to be done forever, I just hope fans will remember that the front of the jersey is what matters, not the back.

    Go hard MacT, just do it

    • Serious Gord

      You say we should give MacT credit and then in the very next para you say you can’t wait to be rid of gagner who is only on the team because of MacT. Credit less debits and MacT has been a big negative since he became GM.

        • Let’s break this down:
          We started the season with Larson, grebs, potter who are AHL defenseman.
          Schultz, petry, Mauricin, belov are either rookies in the NHL or have only played 200 games or less in the NHL
          Schultz and Ferrence who are 5/6 defenseman.
          You add dubnyk that has never been a starter in the NHL and Labarbera who is a career back up.
          Mac T made some calculated risks that didn’t pan out and poor evaluation of players. We have been out of the playoffs since November and a top five ticket price in the league. At least in Calgary they are working hard and competing. Most nights we are crap. As fans we have to evaluate the team when the games mean something. Oops that was three months ago. Now we’re drafting in the top three again. I blame this on Mac T.

        • Serious Gord

          Agree but Tambo was supposed to do nothing great so this team stayed in the lottery, none of us liked it but on hindsight that is what they were doing and it was all intentional.

  • Serious Gord

    I dont think its matter if they keep playing, their as aweful as the have been all season. Outplayed every game. Right now we got goaltending winning games in spite of some poor play.

    As for the Olympics, I’ll watch the hockey, but pretty much every thing about the Olympics bugs me as I have a gay family member. I know the Olympics tries create this pseudo world community and harmony, but if the Olympics were really about the good of society and not the almighty buck, they would stop having these games in countries that openly discriminate against people or have a horrific human rights record.

  • book¡e

    Mac-T will have detractors like every other GM’s of the league. I tend to lean in his favour based on the below.

    1/ Rookie year.

    2/ The man represents himself in a most professional manner.

    3/ Liked him as a player.

    You have to give this guy time. Coming from a guy whom has been an Oil fan since day one, giving time is not the most easiest thing for me to offer up these days. My own frustration with this team can not be the determining factor in assessing Mac-T.

    Coming into a Managerial position is never as easy as it may appear to be. Having some personal experience to a lessor degree than Mac-T and many other professionals, I understand that to correct and or change what is in front of you, takes time and effort. I believe Mac-T has the effort part down.

    With the “Old Boys Club” prevalent with this organization, Mac-T may be the best of the bunch thus far!

    • Serious Gord

      Only the first reason is even remotely a legitimate defense.

      And he should have been made GM of an ahl team fora few years to make his rookie nhl season more likely to be a success.

      • Some might argue he IS the GM of an AHL team. If you’re going to learn on the job (the only way to learn that job, IMO) you might as well do it with a basement-dweller.

        The mistakes he’s made have been minimal (Grebs, LaBarbara, maybe the Gagner contract) and mostly just mistakes in hindsight. Grebs was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but LaBarbara made sense at the time, and if Gags’ face hadn’t been blown up, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have been the same old Gags, 55 pts and lousy faceoff%. The guy takes a year to recover from a catastrophic facial injury, not the GM’s fault.

        The other FA signings were positive, the trades have been on average positive, Perron is a slamdunk, Smid has proven to be expendable, I didn’t think Horcoff could be moved and he was. Not bad for a rookie.

        • Serious Gord

          Those might have been mistakes in your hindsight but they weren’t mine or others – we said they were wrong when he was committing them and others. Dubnyk gagner and hemsky were all big mistakes that doomed the oil to the basement and THE WORST RECORD in oilers history.

          And considering MacT’s current position as GM as being ahl training – funny I never heard that excuse from Klowe – assumes that he will be moving to another team. There were/are plenty of minor league teams he could start with – preferably junior a – he can then move up the ahl.

  • Serious Gord

    Anyone bored with reading the OMB here? Pop over to the Canucks Army Message board. It’s quite humorous… There are a select group of fans that are suggesting the team tank and try to get into the lottery picks area. LOL

    Should we tell them how that works?

  • a lg dubl dubl


    grebishkov 1 yr contract,depth dman buried in the minors, who cares. Even though the Oilers probably could have used Horcoff this season, Mact got rid of Horcoffs contract for Larson, that in its self is pretty good imo. Mac also did try to bring in more/better goaltending to strengthin that position but missed out, that happens all the time, and Labarbera was based on his stats was supposed to be a decent back-up but imploded along with DD. Belov, better than most. My point is hes tried to rite the ship every gm trys to make their team better through out the year, but to say he’s a poop gm for not giving up the farm for 1 player…give your head a shake man. Oh and 5 coaches in 6 yrs didn’t help either.


    I agree ST came in to do nothing but I don’t really buy that reasoning for the full 3 yrs he was here, for the first yr or 2 yea but his last yr no he knew what he was doing imo.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination to Follow

    Scrivens, Perron, Hendricks, Gordan, Ference

    Next few trades are going to be big, but Macs done a decent job so far.

    Tough to get two way offensive 2nd line centers, even tougher to get top pairing dman.

    He solved the problem with the 2nd line gritty LW, 3rd-4th line C, and the back up goaltendr depth.

    Plus we have 34+ mil in cap space year. (Before gags trade)

    Not bad for 5 months of work IMO.

    • Serious Gord

      Cap geek over estimates the cap for next year so let’s wind that back to 30 million give or take

      And MacT has to sign 14 players – avg of 2.14 million per player. And he has to get a #1 and #2 goalie, a 1&2 def and two top six off including a #2 centre.

      He has dug himself a huge hole and has very little money or prospects to fill it with.

      And of course the gags trade was a disaster of his own making.

  • 2004Z06

    Curious that nothing was written about the winning goal against NJ. I would like to know Taylor Halls justification for leaving his man on the left wall and skating across the ice to help in a puck battle on the right wall?