Moving Forward: When?

Craig MacTavish2

I
understand GM Craig MacTavish can’t just snap his fingers and conjure up the
finished product he hopes his Edmonton Oilers will be when this rebuild is done
and his team is actually contending for something other than a lottery pick
again.

I
certainly didn’t expect it Wednesday at the trade deadline – it went pretty
much as I expected it would as MacT rid himself of Ales Hemsky and Nick Schultz
for draft picks after unloading Ilya Bryzgalov and acquiring Viktor Fasth – so
I’m not disappointed he didn’t re-shape the team in a major way.

That’s
work better left to, and more likely to happen, during the off-season when
there’s more time to look at the big picture, when MacTavish and his peers have
time to assess wants and needs, when 20 or so teams and their GMs aren’t
wrapped up in playoff pushes – remember those?

All
that said, I think it’s reasonable for fans to ask when MacTavish and his hockey-ops
people will finally collect the group of players, give or take a spare part or
two, they can move forward into contention with. When will they have the
makings of a team that can stay together and grow together? A timeline, please.

I
think that’s a fair question. While MacTavish has been busy since taking over the
GM’s chair and hasn’t suffered the paralysis of indecision that marked the
tenure of Steve Tambellini, how much better are the Oilers today than they were
two or three years ago? How much longer until fans have the bones and most of
the meat that will provide the payoff for eight straight years out of the
playoffs?

Running in Place?

running-in-place

Compare
the roster Dallas Eakins had in a 3-2 overtime win over New York Islanders
Thursday with the one Tambellini had to end the 2010-11 season – the first
“official” year of the rebuild – and there’s been plenty of turnover.
Only five players, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, Ryan Jones and Jeff
Petry remain. Where the Oilers are today isn’t the product of inactivity by
MacTavish, to be sure. Is the team closer to contention?

How
many of the players here right now will be here next season and the season
after? How many of the players here now are keepers? How many more players must
be brought in to make the mix right, to form the group that will again make the
playoffs? Where will they come from and when will they arrive? Will the group
that starts next season be anything close to that?

What
about the top six forwards that faced the Islanders? With Hemsky gone, it’s
Eberle, Hall, Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron and Nail Yakupov.
Where’s the size and grit that can play top-six minutes? Where’s the big
centre? Still missing. Do the Oilers get some of that when they trade Gagner?
When might that happen?

What
about the defensive group, particularly the top-four? Still no bonafide first
pairing. Still no depth. Might Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom help fill out
that top pairing? Sure. When might that be? It won’t be next season. Can
MacTavish get his guy through trade or free agency? Maybe. Who? When?

What
about goal? I like what I’ve seen of Ben Scrivens and I like the two-year
“we’ll see” deal MacTavish signed him to. Fasth broke into the NHL
last season and stood the league on its ear. Not so much this season, mainly because
of injury. Are they a better tandem than Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera? Safe
to say, yes. Are they the tandem to backstop this group back to contention? We
don’t know yet.

Are We There Yet? 

b71c94_1bc4928bba22696245755b40e23b92a6.jpg_1024

I
think it’s a stretch to think MacTavish will address all the questions and fill
all the holes this off-season. So, again I ask, if management has not been able
to assemble all the right pieces to start next season, then when? By the 2015
trade deadline? The following summer?

How
much longer until we see the group that provides the pay-off? When does the
turnover of the roster stop and the tweaking and fine-tuning – even Stanley Cup
champions and contenders make roster moves – begin? Another year out of the
playoffs? Two or three?

I
wonder how many of the players identified as the core group now will be here
when – and if – that happens. I’d like to think Hall and Eberle and RNH will
still be all-in then. We still refer to the core as kids, and in hockey terms
they are, but time keeps ticking on this rebuild. It’s only the fourth year,
it’s only the fifth year, it’s only . . .

When?

 

Listen
to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason
Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • toprightcorner

    There are a bunch of guys that might do well by hitting the gym this summmer. Heck Eberle is posted as 5 lbs lighter than his draft weight. Time this guy drops the movie acting and get working on putting some muscle on.

    Same can be said for Nuge, although he has put on 10 lbs , he should be playing something at 200 lbs,
    There are guys at 5’11” playing at 200 and change, Crosby is one of them. there are hundreds. They invest into their game.. but the Oiler light weights crabbed the $6 million and have it made in the shade.

    I only say this as a parallel to the fact that not many Oilers improve their game onced they arrive here, and weight and strength is part of development.Forget chasing fridges and develop talent you have at hand.

  • toprightcorner

    I got an idea, how about we all (including the media) stop calling these “men” young guns, young core blaha blah blah.. You don’t hear Colorado calling their team “young” and maybe that’s why they actually play like real NHL players. Amazing what the art of “what you hear, eventually you believe” might be able to do to these lazy “star” players and consistently play hard day in and day out.

    Just a thought!!

    • Bucknuck

      Exactly, great point, and I have to admit I have used “handles”, like Fab Five, Kids, Young Guns.
      Its time they played liike men.!

      These guys got their tires pumped beyond expectations and have not learned to play as a team, thus the ” dangler” watch me syndrome.

      PS: I like the Colorado example,a team not living
      behind the REBUILD curtain… no 5, 6 7 8, 9, year rebuild.

  • toprightcorner

    Moving Forward: When?

    As soon as they get rid of Eakins.

    His ego is so big his continues to try to revolutionize the game with his 4 forward/diamond formation PP, so effectively they have 1 d-man back.

    Guess what happens? A boat load of 2on1’s and SH goals.

    A peewee coach can figure this out.

    He is in way over his head.

  • toprightcorner

    Hey brownlee why don’y you post something constructive instead of constantly posting articles about you whining. You’r articles are the worst.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Probably because he has the balls and the inside info to call it out the way it is. Go troll back to EdmontonOilers.com message boards Sheldon. And use your spell check before you post.

  • M22

    Just my $0.02

    While I agree that Robin can sometimes get a little too crusty with some posters, I sure as hell like the fact that anyone who wants to come to ON and douche it up with typical interwebs-style douche-baggery probably will not find a home here.

    I kind of liken Robin to the lone security guy at a bar that will happily toss out the trouble-makers. Sometimes, you witness it and say, “geez, that was a little harsh”, but then you go back to your discussion, knowing the place isn’t over-run with tools, and appreciative of it.

    Am I right?

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    not trolling. Also, thanks for catching “don’y”, really embarrassing moment for me. Look back at his articles, follow him on twitter, nothing constructive ever, just. constant. complaining. I don’t mind criticizing oilers because i know they suck and there is a lot to complain about. However, if your going to constantly bitch about about how bad they are maybe offer up some solutions, like every other member of the oilers nation writers.

  • Bryzarro World

    When they get a coach that isn’t a moron. How’s the 1-3-1 coming along?

    Other coaches with the exception of Quinn shouldn’t have been let go. You don’t stick with crap just because you changed coaches too often.

    All just a laughable sh$t show…

  • Jofa

    Off topic, but I have to say I’m getting way too much enjoyment watching the Canucks implode and descend into rebuild hell.

    I mean, the whole goaltending saga is just a thing of beauty: The unexpected trading of Scheider, who goes on to take over the reigns from none other than Brodeur (albeit nearing the end of his career); trading Luongo who goes on to get a shutout in his first Panthers start; the Lack era starting with a Lack-luster mercy pull after 5 goals. And the fact that the masterful moves of Mike Gillis have managed to covert one of the NHLs top goalie duos into… mediocre picks and prospects, well, it’s just the cherry on top of the sh*t sundae.

    Beauty job Gillis. You are Tambellini-esque in your brilliance. Oiler fans salute you with the Wiser-hood slow clap of approval.

  • Zarny

    I can’t remember on which blog that I have posted a really long list about what’s wrong with Eakins. It was like, 30 games ago or some? However that list should be getting longer as the season go on. So MacT hired and fired wrong coaches, we can understand that from a GM who made a rookie mistake but seriously if this team need to step forward then MacT has to admit to that mistake and do the right thing.

    Eakins has absolutely no clue on how to be an NHL coach, he was hanging in AHL way too long and become delusional by thinking AHL players are just much the same as NHL players since most of them have spent time in AHL. He ignores the fact that AHLers are either prospects or underachievers which both are looking for a big payday by getting promoted to the big boy’s league. Of course that they will buy into any kind of BS as long as it provides them the chance to make it. NHLers are not having the same thinking process, most of them have either already proven or don’t have to prove if they belong. As long as Eakins keeps on treating NHLers like AHLers (their actual performance not withstanding…) then they will either tune him away OR play like an AHLer.

    It is part of reason why in other sports that college coaches are usually find it hard to adapt into professional leagues. In college, the coach is the star; but in professional league, players are the stars. Eakins is arrogant and think he is the chosen one, every time he is in the news, it is all about him! Who else would cry about some local kid hassle him for being suck? I have never heard a more ridiculous thing from any grown ups. Somehow he is able to twist this story into how poor his daughter must have felt, seriously…he was asking for pity here…it is shameless. Calling fans for being a quitter for jersey tossing…he has not ever register a reason behind that. IT IS ALL ABOUT EAKINS! EAKINS! EAKINS! And why there’s still peoples defend this guy at all?? They must have been fans of Canucks or Flames…no Oilers fans with the right mind should defend him for disgusting performances by the team throughout the entire season. The so-called 7-2-2 stretch were just hallucination of the actual great performance by Scrivens and Bryz. Eakins has absolutely nothing to do with it if you have watched how bad that Oilers were playing. The 7 wins has only beaten 2 of them who actually in the playoffs picture (Rangers and Sharks) and in those 2 games that Scrivens made a total of 94 saves!

    And I will keep on repeating this until he is finally gone:

    Fire Eakins! Fire Eakins! Fire Eakins!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Great nutshell article. My thoughts exactly. Anyone who trolls this is still high on koolaid. Wake up! The team hasn’t improved in 4 years. The current edition of the Oilers should be the best we’ve seen in years but they play the worst.

    It is beyond frustrating to see a talent filled lineup that can’t play at all like a team. These kids cannot play together. Plain and simple.

    They aren’t all a bunch of morons either. They all understand that a team must come together to win in the playoffs. They know one player isn’t the difference in the playoffs (unless it’s a goalie and that’s rare).

    Who is responsible for bringing the team together? For getting them to play like men? Is it the GM? The coach? The captain?

    Obviously the coach plays a giant role. We’ve seen some night and day performances from several teams the past few years: when Babcock took the Ducks to the finals with an aging Adam Oates as the 1C, Hitchcock’s first year in Columbus, St’ Louis since the arrival of Hitchcock, Detroit since the arrival of Babcock, Buf this year since Ted Nolan’s resurgence, Dallas now under Ruff, Team Canada’s and Boston’s PK under Julien.

    Coaches make a difference. Watching the Oilers disjointed and foolish play is a bunch of misguided players who don’t have a clue how to win in the big league. I barely care about the scores. 7-2-2? It’s garbage time. These wins don’t matter. Furthermore, they’re still a complete mess on the ice.

    Only the goaltending has improved. Finally. They’ve needed 6 goalies to figure this out this year.

  • Rdubb

    Listening to Gregor’s show the other day, people were asking and talking about Eakins making this team fitter, and as Gregor pointed out, all players on all NHL teams are already very fit people, what the Oilers need to get better at is there compete level. All one has to do is look down hway2 and our team has much more skill then theirs, on paper anyways, but Calgary COMPETE’S night in and night out. Just imagine what we could accomplish is out team competed like the flames? Wouldn’t that be nice to see?
    Also, during the same show I do think, it was brought up that 4 former players have gone to new teams and said just how hard their new teams practice and compete in practice as compared to the Oilers, why is that? Maybe the Oilers should have a up-tempo fast style 1hr practice instead of the oh so easy 1.5hr practice.
    I also heard how hard Fraser practices, pushing, shoving, being rough and practicing like he should be playing, and Fraser is a 6th or 7th d-man @ best. Maybe everyone should practice like that. Ference should be telling the coaches and players too for that matter, that they must practice with more tempo and practice like they wish to play.
    I could see 1, maybe 2 guys being a bit bitter saying this, but not 4!!! Un-freaking-real
    Also heard ex-flame Jamie McCowan talking about how hard they practiced in the mid to late 80’s, and that there was the occasional bloody nose, either by practice or by getting mad at a brother due to practice, but, all would be forgotten soon after, on most occasions.
    Hopefully the coaching staff, upper management or even the players heard the radio show, read/heard the comments or even read this or others whom are saying the same, “THEY MUST PRACTICE HARDER, & THEY MUST PRACTICE LIKE THEY WANT TO PLAY”! These days are more important than yrs past mainly because of the lack of practice time teams have during the season and because of the game…
    Is it a philosophy of upper management to have slow paced practice, or the coaching staffs? Either way, this must change!!!
    I’ve been beating a dead horse about this all yr, saying that this team doesn’t compete hard enough shift to shift, that they show little or no heart from one player to the next. Perhaps stepping up the practice would help this out, maybe not.
    What this team needs is more Smyth’s from 10yrs ago, more Bucky’s and the Jason Smiths, guys who bleed Copper&Blue, have it running through their veins. Right now, all we have is an old broken down Vega is Smyth, where are the Vette’s in Hall, RNH & Eberle? Either change their oil to Copper&Blue and trade the car…
    Peck

      • Rdubb

        @ Slats
        I think that we do have guys to run a practice that is both intense and “game like”, these guys are, & should be; Ference – who played for BOS for many yrs and knows how and what a good practice can do for a player and team, Hendricks – practiced under a few good coaches in WAS, all of whom are noted for running hard practices, Perron – Hitch is a noted hard ass coach who runs a good practice too, and is also a very good teacher of the defensive system, just look @ what his teams have done and look @ how the Blues have improved since Hitch came in, Scrivens – although new to Edm, he has practiced under Eakins, Carlyle & Suter, and should have a good relationship with Eakins to tell him that practices aren’t nearly hard enough…
        These are just a few…then you can throw in Bucky, who worked harder than he did during his Oiler days? Not many if anyone…