That’s… not a good sign


The Edmonton Oilers have not been a particularly stingy defensive team over the last five or six seasons, which is something like saying that winter in Canada isn’t especially balmy. But even against that bar, this year’s edition of the team is primed for record-setting badness in at least one category.

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Shots Against 

Shots against

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The chart above shows two things: the number of games per season where the Oilers surrendered 40-or-more shot, and the number of times the total was 50-or-more. The numbers for 2012-13 have been projected over an 82-game schedule, as have the numbers for this season. 

Against Los Angeles on Sunday, the Oilers allowed 50+ shots against for the second time this season. It’s the first campaign since 1994 where the team played more than one game in which they allowed that many shots on net, and with 17 games left to play Edmonton is on pace to match the franchise’s all-time high for games allowing 50-or-more shots in a single season (in 1992-92 the team did it three times).

The Rebuild

Dallas Eakins 18

It’s more than fair to wonder about the state of the Oilers’ rebuild at this point. This season’s group hasn’t had better results than Tom Renney’s crew in 2011-12, and the decision to can Ralph Krueger (keep in mind that his team only played games against Western opponents) has not had results.

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We can talk about shot quality, as Dallas Eakins has in recent days, but the reality is this: when a team allows shot after shot after shot, it means they’re pinned in their own end. That can be mitigated a bit by allowing low quality shots, and it can be further alleviated by tremendous goaltending (as Ben Scrivens has so excellently demonstrated lately). But hanging around in the defensive zone is a recipe for disaster.

Eventually, bad things will happen. Eakins described the puck deflected in off Philip Larsen as a heart-breaker; it’s true, but that’s what happens to teams that hang around in the defensive zone. 

And the worst part is that things are getting worse. Via, the following chart shows Edmonton’s 10-game rolling Fenwick rating in 5-on-5 situations. That’s a fancy way of saying that the line shows the percentage of unblocked shots Edmonton is taking at evens while the game is still within reach:

Edmonton Oilers 2013-2014 rolling 10-game 5v5 close FF%

They’re winning games now, but that’s only because Ben Scrivens is playing like Dominik Hasek. That can’t last; it’s good that he’s capable of it but it’s not enough to keep the team winning. And despite the wins, that chart is a decent argument that things are getting worse. Or, you know, the 50 shots Edmonton allowed against Los Angeles. 

That strong goalie play is masking extremely serious problems, or at least generally it’s doing so. Sometimes, as with Sunday’s game, even incredible goalie performances aren’t enough because the team in front of that goaltender is being lit up like a Christmas tree by competent opposition. 

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  • **

    The players have no clue how to play the system, and Eakins keeps making changes to it. The players hate losing but after so many losses, they are now nonchalant about it. There are now reports coming out that the Oilers have some pretty slack practices, and when traded players go to other teams they draw comparisons. It’s too bad the players could not make their own statement by refusing to show up for practices and games until Eakins is replaced. Let MacT take the bench. Eakins is clearly not effective and brings out the absolute worst in the team. There is no more embarrassment or humiliation or booing from the fans that can make tis worse.

    • Zarny

      Excellent observation! I have the same point of view on this guy. I was thinking he has to be playing with some kind of injury [hope not ], but your right man he just plain disappeared.

      Everyone is ranting on Gagner, and rightly so, but NUGE, and Eberle have totally pulled a Houdini.
      Cant recall the last time Nuge scored a goal.

  • vetinari

    This seems to be the Oilers plan to finish the season– at least from the player’s perspective: pressure’s off after the trade deadline, so phone it in for the last 20 games, collect your millions, party your butts off and start again fresh in September, so see you then!

  • John Chambers

    To the koolaid drinkers who say Mac T has done nothing but good for this team.
    Yes he has made some good trades, but this is the worst defense this team has ever had. The worst coach this team has ever had. The most disappointing season the team has ever had. He’s doing great!!

  • dougtheslug

    Every time the Oilers get scored on, the camera pans to Eakins on the bench, where he seems to be muttering something to himself.

    What do you think he is saying?

    That’s the sort of thing I have come to think about in this hopeless season.

  • dougtheslug

    I’m not sure firing Eakins would be the answer – I doubt the great Scotty Bowman could coach the current Oilers to many more wins. The problem is this is not a team but a collection of parts that don’t function well as a team. Under Lowe’s watch the Oilers have consistently taken the best player available rather than drafting based on team requirements. The end results is a top 6 of similar players with little grit and nobody to do the cornerwork and a flashy D with everyone wanting to carry the puck but no reliable stay at home defencemen.

    Lowe must love the fire Eakins campaign because it gives the impression that he has put a good team together but Eakins is mismanaging it. Truth is, Lowe is a complete failure because this is not an NHL caliber team.

    • Zarny

      And yet…..both Renney and Kruger had much weaker teams the past two seasons and put up better results. That comes down to coaching, plain and simple. I have said it all season – Eakins is not ready/able to coach at the NHL level.

      A good coach will tweak his system to allow players to succeed, he did not.

      A good coach will implement said system stepwise so the players can progressively improve in it. It does not appear he did that.

      A good coach will run high intensity practices with tempo so it reflects game play. We are hearing now that he does not.

      Finally, a good coach can motivate his team to play with passion and commitment to one another, something the Oilers have not done all season.

      I can understand teams going through slumps or one or two players struggling under a new coach – it happens. But this has been a season long slump for the team that is just being bailed out by goaltending in order to win, and multiple players are regressing. The latter is why Eakins must go. He has failed in developing the kids this season, which was supposed to be the reason he was hired in the first place.

      • dougtheslug

        Great post.

        And yes, I can understand the rookie coach quotient at work, but the real question is, has there been any improvement or any possibility of adjusments form the coaching staff?

        From Eakins himself: “Coming out of the break we firmly sent the message that what we’re doing during this time of practice and through the games is how we’re going to play the game next year. I don’t want to be coming into training camp next year, teaching a whole bunch of systems. We should have a good number of these guys back next year and
        we should be able to roll right into it and get going.”


      • Zarny

        Good grief, better results? Renney and Krueger’s teams’s were brutal.

        This year is tainted by the first 20 games when Dubnyk was letting in beach balls from the bluelines and the top 2 C were injured. Throw out of the first 20 games the this year’s record is the same as last year’s.

        Eakins has tweaked the systems.

        A good coach does not implement systems stepwise I’m afraid. That’s silly. Systems aren’t that complicated. Forward 1 goes here. Forward 2 goes there. You don’t start by half implementing a system.

        In case you missed the memo the criticism about practices not being intense enough goes back to Renney and Krueger’s days.

        It doesn’t matter who coaches the Oilers. Until they can put a top pairing D on the ice that isn’t named Schlutz, Ference, Petry, Belov, Fraser, Marincin or Larsen this team is scr*wed.

        You can’t make chicken salad with chicken sh*t

        • Randaman

          LOL. Have you ever coached at any level? Based on your comments, I doubt it. You do not implement a system all at once – you break it down into components based on the level of your team and implement it stepwise just like training a newbie at work. That is how a good coach does it. At the NHL level you can go faster, but just like in youth hockey you still need the players to master the fine points of each component before they can do the whole system properly. That is why you break it down and implement it stepwise. Skip a step or cheat the process and you get the mess that the Oilers are this year. If I recall correctly, this team is viewed by opponents as cheating the process as well……..

          Eakins adapted his Junior or maybe AHL calibre-system well after it was apparent to everyone else that it would not work at the NHL level. Good for him for finally recognizing it, but whatever he is doing now is not helping much either. The team is totally disorganized and only wins when Scrivens can steal a game here or there.

          WRT intensity at practice, isn’t that what Mr. Fitness was supposed to do – bring up the intensity and compete levels on the team? In my comment I never said that Renney or Kruger were different, I just pointed out that Mr. Fitness does not practice what he preaches (which is apparently the same for player accountability as well based on his free passes for young players not named Yakupov).

          The simple fact remains that Renney and Kruger had weaker teams (Pat Quinn likely had the worst one of the bunch – that lineup was brutal) and they still generated the same or better results. That speaks volumes about the current coaching staff.

          I do agree with you that the team needs a better blue line, and have been saying it here for the past two or three years that I have been posting.

          • Zarny

            LMAO…I played junior A bud.

            For starters coaches don’t implement ‘a’ system. They implement systems…plural. Since the system for defensive zone coverage has nothing to do with your offensive zone.

            And no, you don’t implement a system step-wise. It’s rather imperative that all 5 players know their roles and responsibilities. You don’t tell the D their defensive zone responsibilities and then tell the forwards you’ll let them know what they should do in a couple of games lol.

            You see “systems”, even at the NHL level, are very general. The first D or F into the offensive/defensive zone does this…the second guy does this. That is all implemented at the same time.

            The problem isn’t Eakins’ systems or what he is doing now. Most of the time players are in the right position which is all a system is designed to do. The problem is the players keep making stupid decisions or just get beat 1 on 1 because they are playing over their head against better players.

            The key to a system being effective is the players not the coach.

            WRT to intensity at practice no that isn’t really what Mr. Fitness was talking about. Practice isn’t about fitness. Off-season training is which is what Eakins was actually preaching about.

            High intensity practices are about practicing and making decisions at the same speed you play the game as well as developing an edge to bring into the game.

            And no it’s not a simple fact that Renney and Krueger had weaker teams. Both had much better G than what the Oilers had before Scrivens this year. Both were far less effected by key injuries.

            Most important of all both had Horcoff to protect Nuge and Gagner. Offensively Horcoff could never live up to his contract but defensively he was a #1C, a terrific PK and did the dirty jobs on the PP. When Horcoff was injured last year the Oilers got throttled.

            It’s rather sad how so many like you still apparently think of Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov and Schultz as children with no responsibility for their dumb decisions, risky passes, lack of intensity or trying to do it all themselves.

        • Cold Hard Truth

          Typical blindfaither argument: “If it weren’t for ____, then we would be a lot better.”

          The problem is ____ is changing every year.

          Truth is, the Oilers don’t just have 1 or 2 problems. They are not 1 or 2 fixes away from becoming competitive. The organization is riddled with problems that have been talked about exhaustively.

          This year, according to the blindfaithers, Dubnyk was the sole cause of the team’s collapse. Yet now they’ve been getting excellent goaltending from Scrivens and they still suck.

          • Zarny

            Spare me your drivel.

            At no point in time have I ever insinuated the Oilers are 1 or 2 moves away. They need to two top pairing D and 2 different top 6 F alone.

            Dubnyk was not the sole cause of the team’s collapse but last year he was solid while this year he was letting in beach balls from the blueline.

            And in case you missed the memo, if you ignore the first 20 games the Oilers are 3 games below 0.500 which is exactly what they were last year.

          • Randaman

            Ignore the first 20 games? Do they do that when it comes to the standings at play-off time? Throw out your best and worst and take the middle sample to judge by, kind of like figure skating. Interesting concept. Did they do that where you played Junior “A”? Nothing like blowing your own horn to make people think you are knowledgeable.
            Admit it, Eakins and the rest of this inept coaching staff have caused a huge regression of all players in all areas. Admit the mistake, suck it up and correct that mistake and move forward!
            He must be fired or we will lose Yak to the KHL, Hall will want out, etc. etc.

  • Zarny

    LMAO…the Oilers get over-matched by a bigger, better roster and people are still whining about coaching.

    Good grief, a different coach is not going to make the worst blueline in the NHL any better or the Oilers top 6 F any bigger.

    • Cold Hard Truth

      What is actually funny is the lengths you will contort yourself to defend the team.

      I don’t blame you, to be honest. After 8 years of dismal failure, most Oilers fans have forgot what a good team looks like.

      • Zarny

        Actually, what is funny is that you think I’m defending the team.

        Umm no. Eakins is simply the wrong target.

        The first problem is the players as a whole are simply not good enough. Far too many players like Petry and Schultz are forced to play above their heads. Most of that blame lies with Tambo who did not obtain anything other than a few 1st overall draft picks.

        The second problem is the players. Namely Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Gagner, Yakupov and Schultz. They make stupid decisions ad nauseam. They all make risky, cross ice passes that continually get picked off and lead to odd man rushes against.

        A different coach or a different system will do nothing to improve the Oilers’ fortunes.

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

    It’s gotta get worse before it can get better, right… right?

    I don’t know if firing the coach would solve a lot of the problems. Wouldn’t it just be another coaching change that the players have to deal with, and style to get used to? But I guess if it’s a veteran coach with experience that’d be good.

  • Newj

    I’m not usually critical of Kevin & Louie on the Oiler coverage, but yesterday Louie’s color comments just perpetuate the problems the Oilers are experiencing.

    Yak tried a high risk backhand pass out of their defensive zone which was quickly gobbled up and resulted in a decent scoring chance for the Kings. Seeing Yak’s reaction to what he just did I sensed he knew he screwed up.

    Louie on the other hand, he praised Yak for that risky move. Something about how it was nice to see the young kids trying things out there even if they dont always work.


    C’mon I appreciate the positive spin on everything the Oilers do and don’t do, but that kind of commentating gets tired real quick. Why can’t Louie call a spade a spade and state that hopefully those kind of mistakes are avoidable if they will play within themselves and quit trying those high risk passes, toe drags, ect, ect.

    Louie’s koolaid commentary is way beyond being supportive of the team, in fact it’s counter productive because acceptance of their mistakes becomes the norm.

  • CMG30

    Honestly I am not a fan of firing another head coach because I believe that’s been part of the problem with the Oilers. But with the way the team has been preforming, Mactavish may have no choice.

    • CMG30

      I agree. I don’t necessarily think coaching is the biggest problem, but if the Oilers start out poorly next year then MacT will have no choice but to fire Eakins, regardless of what our roster looks like.

    • The Last Big Bear

      A sports scribe the other day said that the combined NHL level coaching experience of the Edmonton Oilers is 5 and a half years. ENOUGH SAID! Bring in some competent, experienced, and structured coaching staff. Oh wait we did. We shipcanned him. Hard to write anything positive about the coaching staff. The powerplay last year was one of their strengths and today I cringe when we have a powerplay. WTF. Eakins refusal to utilize Yak on the right wall is so amateur its laughable. His flip flopping of defensive structures is not defensible. Considering next years team will have a healthy amount of rookies on D what system will Eakins teach them next year? Is there a system in place now and if so what is it called? This team doesn’t need continuity it needs experienced coaching staff. When Bryzgalov left his comments about Oiler practices was telling. From his departing comments you got the feeling he was leaving some country club and was headed back to work for a real team. With Eakins at the helm next year and a crop of rookie D start planning the catchphrase for McDavid. Back to you Oiler Josh.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    I use Dean Lombardi as one of my examples of an ideal GM.

    But some of the moves he made are moves that I don’t think Oilers fans are ready to make.

    To get Mike Richards, Lombardi traded Wayne Simmonds, who was an emerging power forward, plus Braden Schenn, who was the 5th overall pick from the 2009 draft and after lighting up the world juniors and the WHL as a 19 year old (53 points in 27 games), was widely considered to be the best prospect not in the NHL. Lombardi also gave up a 2nd round pick in this deal.

    Later on in the year, Lombardi traded Jack Johnson who was the 3rd overall pick from 2005, and a conditional first round pick to Columbus for Jeff Carter.

    Those are BOLD moves. But here is the genius of Lombardi’s thinking: both Carter and Richards were under contract for a long time, so the assets he was giving up were for long term, not short term, assets.

    One could argue that the Richards trade especially turned out well for Philly, but LA won the cup, so Lombardi still “wins”.

    These are the types of trades that the Oilers are
    a) too chicken to make;
    b) require a hard evaluation of your current assets (which the Oilers seem incapable of doing); and
    c) the Oilers would bungle if they tried to make.

    We will need to make some big trades to get better. Not this year, probably after next year. Hard decisions will have to be made.

    I don’t trust MacT to make them.

    • Lombardi made some pretty astute trades, but I just wonder if that type of trade is there to be made now for the oilers. Is someone going to give up a Mike Richards or Jeff Carter type of player for anything Edmonton has? Is any team in the league going to voluntarily make Edmonton a better team, and by extension, themselves a worse team just to be nice to us Oilers supporters?

  • CMG30

    i am dumbfounded by the amount of positivity Eakins speaks of after the game. i understand why he does it i just tire of hearing it.

    he’s more like Kruger than we give him credit for. motivational. except not.

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

    For a coach that says the players will be in top shape and hearing ex oilers saying that it’s pretty relax practices in edmonton,intense is a word that they should learn. I don’t remember a practise that my coach didn’t skate my ass off, it starts there. Effort is everything in life and not saying it’s all of them but it shows the who of who.

  • I’m hoping Eakins looks at his NHL Head Coach record at the end of the season and realizes he needs to coach the team that has been assembled for him and stop coaching a system that obviously doesn’t work. Unless of course McDavid is goal next year.

  • On a positive note, I think our days of 8-0 thrashings are done with the signing of Ben Scrivens. On a sour note, Andrew Ferrance – Stanly Cup winner, mentor,captain,4 year contract with no-trade clause. His play has been medicore at best. If that’s mentoring, then wow. Our defense definitely is atrocious, but what’s happening to Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakabov? They seem to be scared to play like they used to. It may be Eakins and staff, I’d like to think so. We really need major changes AGAIN in the off season. I really hope we can get some defensemen – MEN, not boys and let the young guys get back to what they do best. SCORE. Things cannot improve without removing the cause of the rot. Deep thought has to gone into what this cause may be. Heads must once again roll.

  • The Last Big Bear

    1) I think one of the reasons Eakins hasn’t been fired mid-season is that MacTavish jus doesn’t have the administrative staff to deal with the avalanche of applications from Stanley Cup-winning veteran NHL coaches who will flood his inbox when they find out they could be the next guy to be humiliated and have his reputation ruined before being fired after a year of coaching in the most dysfunctional organization in the NHL.

    2) Edonton’s defence has gotten *significantly* worse since the beginning of the year. Hands up any sane person who looked at what was already the worst defence in the NHL back in October, and said to themselves “This group is going to have to get a lot worse before they get better”?

    3) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Oilers need to be buyers, not sellers. Acquiring Scrivens’ expiring UFA contract and negotiating an extension was by far the best move the Oilers made all season. And yet, at the trade deadline solid NHL veterans were available for throw-away draft picks, and the Oilers turned their nose up. Andrej Meszaros is a 28 year old defenceman on a 40-point pace, who’s good enough to play 20+ mins for the Bruins, and he was available for a 3rd round pick.

    “Oh noes, what if be doesnt re-sign?” The chance of Meszaros (for example) re-signing are much greater than a 90th+ overall pick has of ever even making the show, much less becoming an impact player. If a deadline acquisition doesn’t re-sign, he still probably plays more games for you than a late-round pick. “So should we just trade away ALL our picks then Mr Smarteypants??” If you are in the somewhat rare position to trade a 90th+ overall pick for a 28 year old who plays 20 mins a night for playoff teams, and is as good or better than anyone else on your team, then yes you make that trade. EVERY. TIME.

    Unless you’re Edmonton. In which case you gotta keep that pick. How else will the 2023-24 team maintain momentum after that crucial 8th consecutive Stanley Cup win?

  • We get so many shots against because our top six are not a top six. We spend so much time in our end and not in the opposition end. Most of the time it is one and done. Pretty simple

    Hall – too many giveaways.
    Yak – too young and jittery.
    RNH – appears tired as the season goes along.
    Eberle – Just waves at the opposition as they go by.
    Perron – only one with compete level
    Gagner – should be in press box

    A different coach may help to solve the problem by I think they just are all too young and inexperienced. I am afraid that by the time they get better they will have entered their new contracts and most will be gone. So we have to watch them as thy grow up and other fans will get to experience their successes.

  • The sample size is big enough, we need a bold move with this team.

    Fire the coaching staff, hire some combination of

    Head Coach

    Laviolette (2x Stanley Cup appearances)

    Marc Crowford (2 X Stanley Cup appearances)

    Assist Coach

    Larry Robinson (2X Stanley Cup appearances)

    Todd Nelson (Has done a great job on the farm)

    Jac. Lemire (winner)


    Fire Kevin Lowe and hire Bob Nicholson as POHO

  • vetinari

    In the world of professional sports, you are your record. That runs from Darryl Katz straight through Kevin Lowe right down to MacT, Eakins and every player on the ice.

    These seasons are not abnormalities– they are the standard results that we can all expect and count on unless something fundamental changes.

    On that score, we’ve generally screwed around with changes at the bottom rungs of our organization– changing players on the roster and firing the odd guy in middle management (with our favorite target being coaches but thankfully we at least got rid of Tambellini).

    Maybe this organization needs a change higher up? I, frankly, think that Katz is a huge part of this problem as he stacks the organization with guys from the glory days rather than merit and he seems to have his blinders on while counting his cash. I know that he is the owner as long as he wants to be but either be part of the solution or get someone who knows what needs to be done to get out of this mess.

  • Cold Hard Truth

    Zarny or should I say Dallas, you are right on one front and one front only!

    I have been critical of Dallas Eakins since the start of the season…………there are too many issues he has created on his own to mention.

    I do need to concede on one front where Dallas has made an improvement…………our players no longer eat donuts!

    That’s quite an accomplishment!

    • Zarny

      The fact morons like you think the Oilers’ problem is coaching is laughable.

      If Renney and Krueger were so great why do all of the players they coached still make dumb decisions?

  • For every post that is defending Eakins by stating the previous coaches did not made this team better, or we can’t find and coach with experience willing to coach this team…the important facts that you are ignoring: we are not looking for an instant winner here, we are looking for a team that at least shows signs of improvement. By saying how this team is exactly where they were last season means this team has show no sign of improvement at all. The clear sign of regressing which can be found at a simple +/- area, we lack of depth in 3rd and 4th line last year but at least top lines were keeping it respectful. This year that we have only one player on + (both Eager and Brown are gone) with Marincin! Last season the team may not be good, but at least they were trying. This season? The only one that is still trying on ice is Scrivens. Stop using the win/lost column to explain how this team is not as good as advertized, that’s not the point! For some wants Eakins to be fired 3 games into the season that has nothing to do with W/L, it is just simply recognizing that Eakins can’t coach! Just so after 65 games and a few Scrivens great displays on ice suddenly it is not coach’s fault? Clearly, you are one of those fans who has way to high of expectations out of this team at the beginning of the year by drinking too much of Eakins’ cool-aid and now refuse to realize that Eakins is just horrendous as a coach so by giving him a free pass by blaming everything else. Geez, you know who else also doing the same thing? EAKINS!

    The so-called “no veteran coaches available” excuse is also laughable. How about Avs? How about Bolts? How is their rookie coaches do? Rookie or veteran, it is about if he can coach at all. Torts has won cup with Bolts before but does not make him a good coach now? Maybe those Canucks fans can answer that for you.

    Fire Eakins! Fire Eakins! Fire Eakins!