“I got your back!”


Everyone has said the phrase above to a family member or friend at some point in their lives.

Who hasn’t had a buddy that needed some cash for lunch and you stepped up to help out?

Who hasn’t been out with a buddy for a night on the town and you meet up with a couple of girls? One is attractive and the other is a little bit rougher around the edges. Your bro is really into the hot one. As a good friend you step into the breach and are a good wing man.

Who hasn’t had to help out a family member with a big or small helping hand? Maybe you don’t really have the time or desire to do it but you are there for your family.

I believe a hockey team needs to be a close knit group. There should be a respect for each other’s abilities and skill sets. There needs to be an understanding of what every player contributes to the group, some more than others, but each one contributes to success.

I don’t think everyone needs to be best friends. There is no need to share your life with each and every teammate. At times a blow up is healthy. It clears the air. If two guys decide they need to come to blows, get after it. It is healthy on a team.

I don’t think everyone has to enjoy each other’s company. I have been on teams where linemates didn’t hang out away from the ice. That is fine as long as there is respect.

But….once you leave the room to play a game everyone becomes united. Each individual unites under one banner or better yet team logo. You play for each other, stick together and support one another.

The Oilers have had a hell of a rough season. For many fans, expectations were set too high and a slow start has brought them to the point of giving up. Another lottery pick is a long way from the playoffs…..again.

I did not expect this team to make the playoffs nor did I expect a lottery pick. I would never have expected to see the lack of team unity I have seen too often this season.


Twice against the Blues on Thursday night, Taylor Hall was a part of scrums. Both times it started with Blues goalie Ryan Miller. I want to focus on the second incident.

Hall was called for off side. After the whistle, he took a very light backhand shot on Miller. The Blues took exception. I have no problem with their reaction. Most teams would react the same.

The first Blues player to confront Hall was Vladimir Tarasenko. He was quickly joined by Jay Bouwmeester. They were pushing Hall around. A third player Blues player jumped in before one Oiler arrived.

Bouwmeester and Tarasenko are big players but I can’t imagine anyone is fearful of them. With thirty two penalty minutes between the two of them we can safely assume they are not aggressive even if you have never watched them play a second.


Hall was left to his own with the players. No one rushed over to even out the numbers. Mark Fraser was intercepted but that left Hall’s linemates and Justin Schultz.

There is no excuse for not coming to his aid. He is a teammate, one of the team’s best players, he deserves the support.

When a scrum arose four if not five Blues players were always in the picture. The Oilers were lucky to have two. Where was the support? Did the other guys pull the old “What happened? I didn’t see it!”

Imagine if the situation were reversed. If Jaden Schwartz had got involved with Scrivens. Is there anyone who believes there would not have been all his buddies right there with him? For sure! Front and center!

Why were the Oilers not there you ask? Two reasons I hope…. One reason I don’t hope.

1 – I hope it is the youth in the higher minute players. They are unsure how to handle these situations.

2 – I hope it is the lack of the feeling of ability to handle those situations. They feel they lack size or that skill set. The good news is it can be taught. It is very easy to go into a pile and hold on to a guy from behind.

The one reason I hope they don’t go to help teammates is they don’t care to. This is very scary if it is actually true. This would mean they feel it is every man for himself. There is not a sense of team inside the dressing room. How can you ask guys to hold each other accountable when there is no sense of team?

I don’t think and don’t want to believe there is not enough care in that room for each other.

The next time there is a scrum where a player is isolated I will be interested to see the group’s reaction.

If I were the coach, after tonight’s game I would have blown the roof off yelling at my team for this.  

We have seen the group come together in the past. I am reminded of Yakupov and the Jets situation with Ladd and company. I loved that! Showed that the guys were together.

After last night’s display I wonder where that has gone or if that was an anomaly. Do they really have each other’s back in that dressing room?

  • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

    Rather than watching ‘Oil Change’ (..gawd I hate that guys voice…) see the true Oiler ‘rebuild’ process here…

    When players don’t stand up for each other it indicates that they’ve given up and that they would much prefer to be somewhere else.

    Oh how a Daryl Katz hockey analogy laced speech would be a pick me up right about now.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    I’m sorry, but watching those scrums bothered me for two reasons. Taylor Hall, you are 6’1 205 lbs, you can stand up for yourself as well. Instead of looking scared and trying to avoid the situation, why don’t you push back? Honestly! I’m not trying to say he needs to fight someone like Dorset and get hurt, but for crying out loud stand up for yourself!!!!! To me with how he was, and how the rest of his teammates are not attempting to get involved in any altercations shows me that they have quit on this season and on each other. It’s pathetic. How you let Tarasenko and Bouwmeester push you around and do nothing is embarassing. The Change in the top 6 needs to be made. We need someone who can play that will punch back when we get punched.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    It’s simply how you look at it. If a certain player is a “Knob” to his teammates it is considered eccentric behaviour on a winning team (you’ll defend him) and downright annoying on a losing one (let him get a beat down, he deserves it).

    Now I don’t know the room, but the Oilers play shows me there is very little I’ve got your back. But that’s what losing does. Accountability isn’t there right now and some players will have to be moved to get the veteran leadership that is sorely missing.

  • El Pindo

    I had absolutely no issues with them losing the game, the way this season has gone, and they way the Blues are playing, but the way no one stepped up for Hall had me livid. I was physically upset over that, how can you sit there and tell us as fans that this is our future, our core, our leader, and then not come to his aide, whether he was deserving or not. This is no team, this is a bunch of kids who got thrown into locker room together and are forced to wear the same sweater. That was an embarassment to the concept of a team and the tradition of the Oilers. When we had stars in the past they were protected, when we had no real stars we were a blue collar team that was willing to grind it out. This squad? This squad should be playing soccer (and I’m a soccer player myself – I know it isn’t a tough sport), I’ve seen more aggression in rec league floor hockey than I do from these “professional” “hockey players”.

  • El Pindo

    A couple of things:

    1. Hall was onside on the play, I played it back in slow-mo, linesman blew it, like they did on a Tarasenko play earlier…. They need to be better

    2. The Blues bench was at that end, the oilers were on the far side, when the play happened, the guys coming off the ice had their backs to the play. Hall was ahead of the play.

    3. When a team looks incompetent, which they glaringly did vs the 2014 Cup Champs in this game and after all we as Oilfans have gone through for the past several years it is easy for us to be critical of every little thing. I think this play was just a perfect storm and really not what Struds is making it out to seem.

    Does anyone recall which line came on after that play? Who were the forwards? Based on the lack of response, likely RNH’s, as I am sure Hendricks or Smitty would have been in there pretty quickly…..

  • OldOilerFan

    Good article and valid points. They absolutely need more character guys in the dressing room, guys that hate to lose. Hate to point out the obvious, but what this team needs, they HAD. We traded Matt Greene, a great character guy in the dressing room and tough as nails, and Jarrett Stoll, another tough guy and great in the face off circle, which took us years to replace. Anyone else see Stoll smiling as he pasted Eberle a few games ago? We also let go Sheldon Souray. Say what you want, but he was a tough customer on the back end – his only crime here was telling the truth, that Mgmt is stupid. What really rankles me is the quotes that come out now: Smid and now Bryzgalov both say the teams they are with now have way more up tempo practices than the Oilers. We’re soft.

  • Buhl_Country

    Jason, I think you stumbled across a revelation near the beginning of your blog; ‘There should be a respect for each other’s abilities and skill sets.’ It is very evident that there is very little of this happening in the current roster. I think it is partly due to the “systems” they are playing, or more accurately trying to play.

    Eakins changes the formations & systems on these guys for 5 on 5, PK, & especially the PP on a seemingly monthly basis. It would be difficult for a highly skilled veteran team like Chicago or Pittsburgh to adjust to that much change & indescision – never mind the rag tag group who currently wears the oildrop!

    When you have a group of young players who for the most part haven’t found their way in the NHL yet, throw in a handful of veteran players who are used to established systems play on better teams, then throw in a sprinkling of raw rookies on top of that it’s no wonder the players lose confidence in their team mates ability to do their own jobs & fall back into what they know.

    That is play their own game their own way & trust only themselves. Sad & dangerous.

  • Jordan1126

    Hey are Moose Dupont Dave “the Hammer “Schultz”or Bob Houndog Kelly available. This team needs a serious intervention. Bucky Smith must be gone after this season. It is painful to watch this team get completely manhandled. Lowe and Katz cant keep blowing smoke up everybodys butts. This market has too many smart fans. Toughen this team up .Playoffs please.

    • Jordan1126

      Unfortunatley too many people and players in the organization just don’t get it!!!!!Still way too many STICK CHECKING, CHICKEN, MIDGET (Eberle-Schultz- RNH, Gagner, Lander , Yakupov) DAFODIL FAIRIES and FAKE TOUGHIES (R. Jones, Joensuu) on this team!Get Pinizotto and Big Mac in this lineup right f&^&ing now!!!!!!!

  • Buhl_Country

    Okay, I have three points to make.

    1. how do you know what the dressing room is like in relation to heart? Is is assumed because the players look like zombies out on the ice that they don’t give a rip?

    2. Taylor Hall shooting after the whistle or making contact after the whistle, with a goalie, is an unspoken no no. Did the other players on the team actually think he deserved a couple hits from the other team?

    3. Is there an issue when you have five guys all making around 5 or 6 million a year, who maybe feel entitled, and that has caused bad blood among the guys making a million or less…Kinda a Justin Bieber approach to things. I think we have some spoiled little brat players who should be traded. I’ll take grit and heart anyday….Ryan Smyth, and Zack Stornini for starters…as a working guy, I just expect these guys to be working a heck of a lot harder. Some are paid superstar wages, and there is no return other than Hall, I suppose. Send a message…trade ’em….too bad no one wants ’em though.

  • Zarny

    This issue is an extension of the critique that the Oilers are too much of the same.

    Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner and Perron are all smaller than the average NHL forward.

    Their role has never been to muck it up in scrums going back to Timbits. None of them are physical players. At least Perron is a bit ornery but let’s not fool ourselves. He’s not a smaller version Messier.

    And that’s fine. Kane, Tavares, Stamkos, Datsyuk…lots of elite players don’t muck it up. But you can’t have them all on the ice at the same time in the NHL.

    To put in bluntly the Oilers need a few more a**holes not just on the roster but in the top 6 F and top 4 D. Players who don’t just not shy away from violence but love it and relish any opportunity the game gives them to inflict pain and suffering on their opponent.

  • Tikkanese

    It’s sad that a team coached by stand up guys as players like Bucky and Steve Smith, as well as Eakins as a player reportedley(tho I don’t really remember him other than his name as a player), plus a pest in Acton, and none of the team picks up any of those qualities.

    Not to mention guys like Perron, Gazdic and Hendricks come in and try leading by example yet it doesn’t rub off. Maybe Hemsky was correct about the core.

    • Zarny

      In my experience attitude isn’t really something you pick up or learn; at least not when you’re 18+.

      Nuge, Eberle, Gagner etc aren’t going to learn how to be feisty and physical. That’s just not who they are. It wasn’t who Gretzky or Lemieux or Yzerman were.

      The trick is to acquire players who have Hendrick’s attitude but top 6 skill.

      • Tikkanese

        I’m not saying that they should be completely changing but not even a little seems to be rubbing off. Even Hall and Yak who have shown signs in the past of having a little of that in them look to have regressed in that department despite having more of those players around them and every coach on the team having that in them as well.

  • BobbyCanuck

    rumor has it that Smid calleds out Eberle for his lack of compete, Hall did not like this public display of accountability and the end result was Smid being traded to Calgary.

    A rumor, but if true, would certainly explain why we traded the exact type of D-man that we are always looking for.

    If you, as a player, were not part of that ‘inner circle’ there would be very little reason for you to stick your neck out to defend someone, that in your heart you knew would not have your back.

    I think that you need one D-Man, and one forward on the ice at all times that is willing to drop the gloves.

    Especially on our team, as other posters have suggested our so called core was never trained to fight, hit, or play D, all they have ever been expected to do is score goals.

    • Stack Pad Save

      Highly unlikely Smid did this, and he is in no way the type of defenceman we have been looking for. Smid was a good soldier, a good team player but overall he was a major disappointment given he was such a highly touted prospect. The only thing Smid did really well was block shots. The only time he got involved physically was after the whistle and even then was ultimately ineffective. He was not a great puck mover and he was slow footed.

      Furthermore, there is no way Hall would have anything to say about someone getting traded. Thats not how it works. Unless of course the player was a major cancer in the dressing room and hated throughout the team, but this was not the case with Smid.

      I do agree on one thing though. Eberle and his lack of compete…Brutal

  • Buhl_Country

    Good article Struds. My main concern is that Eakins seems to be behind some of the “coward” moments with this group. I still can’t believe Nolan didn’t have to answer the bell against the Kings a few games ago. Also, let’s not forget the whole “a perfect game is no hitting” BS. It sure looks like Eakins is preaching mixed signals, talking about accountability, but other teams sure haven’t had to be accountable when they take shots at us…but I could be wrong. Sure wish there would have been a few coaches interviewed, rather than throw a long contract at an unproven guy who looks to be too arrogant to change methods and adjust to an NHL level, i.e. the PP…yikes. Who knows what’s best moving forward, the Oil will look like a bigger joke firing yet another HC. What to do?

  • Dockstaff

    A couple of points:

    1. Hall is a beast – when focused and committed he is an elite winger. When not he is becomes a good winger on a very bad team.

    2. Are top 6 are coasting thru this season and their objectives are – don’t sustain a LT injury. Hence the effort and compete wains a lot.

    3. Speculation only and as Struds I hope I’m wrong – but look back in the last 2-3 years and we have seen this story before about lack of “man-up” but there is a central figure to this Taylor Hall.

    A lot of noise about the personnel not stepping up but perhaps “they choose” not to. Why? Is Hall a jerk off ice? Has he lost the the respect of team mates because of what he has said or done? Is he a whiner?

    We do not know. But what we do know is no one has his back time after time after time. And if you factor in that this has happened for 150 games with different players ALL not choosing to “man up” – That is a VERY serious issue. You cannot trade all 20 players …… but you may have to trade one.

  • The Last Big Bear

    good lord, who cares

    just distracting from the real issue in edmonton and thats the lack of good hockey players not none of this BS. Gregor used to be cool until strudwick and sutherby came along which led him to losing the ability to form his own opinion. “OH STRUDS AND SUTHERBY SAID IT! THEYRE IN THE LEAGUE! IT HAS TO BE TRUE”

    god i hate this city

  • Dockstaff

    Hall was love tapped by a Russian that would never do harm. Massive overreaction. I would rather focus on why the entire team does not know their responsibilities on the ice. They look as lost on the ice as they do upstairs in the management group. Nobody seems to know how to do their job.

  • Rdubb

    Struds, I know I am writing this a few days after it has come out, but hopefully you read it and comment on what I have to say:
    All yr I have been saying this team is talented, they try, but they don’t have or play with nearly enough heart. I have not played to this level of hockey, nor come close, but did play the game for many yrs and always played very competitive ball hockey for many yrs too, and I can tell you that any time a mate would get into trouble or a “scrum” happened, there was always 4 others skating or running their asses off to get in there. Even being a goalie, I got into a rukus once and the play was down in the other end, I can honestly say that the guys on the ice literally stopped playing the puck and were down in my end before one could spit…and it also worked both ways as I have gone into the corner to aid a pal who was getting pummelled due to his size, and again, it didn’t take long for others to rush in…always, we hung out as group. When of age, after a game we’d enjoy a “soda pop” in the room while getting undressed and showering, then we’d generally go to a lounge and enjoy a pizza and more soda’s. Yes, we all had our own little groups, but everyone (if possible) would join. One group here, the next beside them and so on, but we always had each others back. Even when out with other friends at a bar, and if one team mate got into a scuffle, well, if any of us were there, we had his back…
    Enough of that…I thought that Hall, Eberle, RNH & J.Schultz were such good and close friends? Shouldn’t they skate like hell into the corner to help such a good friend getting pushed around? Even if Hall is by far the stronger of the group?
    My feeling is that by know one racing to help, it “MIGHT” just fracture this friendship somewhat off of the ice, and that’ll generally tend to lead to that showing up on the ice…
    These guys had it so easy growing up, being the best player on teams, having everyone look out for them, they never had to be the one helping…time for Ference to lead, if he can???
    If Hendricks play doesn’t rub off on any of them, time to re-build all over again…Tambi grabbed the best players (except for Yak), but did he always take the guy with the most character???

  • What really bugged me about that play was Hall had just come back from the dressing room after being high sticked in the face. If you aren’t going to protect a teammate in that situation…when the heck are you going to?!