MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

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As another season to forget winds down, there are more questions than answers, once again, surrounding the Oilers.

How many will be answered in the off-season, and how many will the individual players elect to try and rectify?

Why does everyone call the final few weeks a death march?

It isn’t like they played great all year and are suddenly floundering down the stretch. The Oilers had another pathetic offensive showing last night. They were shut out for the 6th time at Rexall Place. They’ve been shutout in 6 of 37 home games and in nine others they’ve scored only once. In 40% of their home games they’ve scored once. That is horrific.

I can’t agree that the reason the Oilers play bad down the stretch is because they just want the season to end. I’m sure they do, as do all of us, but what was the excuse for uninspired play in October and November?

Why is being good offensively not valued?

I read Lowetide’s article on Schultz, and while we all point out his defensive issues, which are valid and understandable considering he’s only played 115 games, at least he does one thing well: he produces points.

Over the last two seasons Schultz is 29th in points for D-men. He has 56 points in 115 games. I don’t expect Schultz to ever be great defensively. I don’t need to him to be on the ice protecting a lead in the final minute of the game, because his game is more suited to have helped you get the lead. He is the guy you have on the ice in the final minute if you are trying to tie the game. Only the elite D-men play in both of those scenarios.

He likely won’t become a true #1 D-man, because he doesn’t have the size or strength to shut down the best, skilled forwards. That is okay, the Oilers have four other young D-men who are 6’3″, who skate well and should be looked upon to fill that role in the future. Marincin, Klefbom, Petry, Nurse and possibly Ekblad.

Of course, Schultz needs to improve his defensive zone play, and I believe he has taken small — I repeat small — strides this season. He doesn’t run around his own zone as much as he did last year, and he takes better angles to pucks. But he has a long way to go to improve. He is only 115 games into his career, and very few offensive-minded D-men excel in their own end early in their career. He must continue to strive to be better defensively.

I’m surprised at how quickly many Oiler fans have written off Schultz, due to his defensive liabilities, but will rip anyone who criticizes one of the young forwards or Jeff Petry.

Petry’s support group amongst Oiler fans, especially those who believe strongly in Corsi, is much stronger than the battle level we see on the ice most nights. The Petry supporters go crazy on Twitter if you mention that Petry needs to battle harder.

I’ve never once said the Oilers should trade Petry — in fact I’ve written and said numerous times it would a foolish move — but that doesn’t mean you can’t expect more from him — I’m not asking him to become Jason Smith. However, like many of his teammates, he doesn’t battle hard enough on a consistent basis.

This team has too many players who lose battles at important times in the game, or at important places on the ice. Petry isn’t the only one, but he is one of them. Asking him to improve in that area is not ripping his overall game, it is pointing out a flaw that needs to be minimized if he wants to help the team succeed. Having the best Corsi rating on a bad team doesn’t mean he is free of
being critiqued. 

As Petry matures what area of the game do you feel he will impact the most?

The stats guys tell me the Oilers score more when he is on the ice, which is good, but how come he only has 16 points? Is he impacting the play or is he just on the ice? Will he contribute offensively on the scoreboard?

Would you say he is as defensively sound as Jan Hejda or Francois Beauchemin? Those guys have just as many points as Petry and have the same TOI. Will he become a solid shut down D-man?

Coaches say you need to be exceptional at one thing to stay in the league. Some guys can only fight, and they don’t last long, but it keeps them in the league for a bit. If you can score goals, but are a defensive liability, teams will still find room for you. If you are a good penalty killer and can go up and down your wing, coaches keep you.

Petry has a good tool box, but I’m not sure we’ve seen what skill will become his calling card.

Will the Oilers improve if they get a legitimate top-pair blueline?

Of course, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the team will magically learn how to be more competitive and consistent. The players have to want that for themselves, and many of them need to look in the mirror over the summer and realize they are the ones who can impact their desire and hunger on the ice.

Asking Petry and others to battle harder isn’t asking for much in my opinion, it is pointing out the harsh reality of this team. 

They are not competitive enough on a shift-by-shift basis to win.

The record does not lie.

They aren’t 29th by accident.

Are the Oiler defenders good in the offensive zone?

I ask this because I wanted to see if they have enough offensive instincts to help out in the offensive zone. Here is a quick chart of their 5-on-5 play of the guys who have played 500 minutes.

Player Name TOI Goals Assists Points Shots Missed Blocked Total
SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 1158:24:00 7 10 17 55 37 28 120
FERENCE, ANDREW 1203:42:00 2 11 13 67 20 42 129
PETRY, JEFF 1198:39:00 3 8 11 59 41 57 157
BELOV, ANTON 712:32:00 1 3 4 29 19 37 85
MARINCIN, MARTIN 560:28:00 0 3 3 19 15 22 56

The first thing you notice is how few shots they have. Ference has the most, and I think we’d expect Schultz and Petry to get more shots on goal. Petry shoots more, but he missed the net or had his shot blocked 98 times out of 157. One of the best skills a D-man can have in the offensive zone is the ability to get the puck on net. It isn’t easy, but it is something I’d like to see the Oilers work on in practice.

Walking the puck across the blueline and shooting is one thing the Oilers do in practice, but if there is no forward in the shooting lane how does the D-man learn to shoot around or through legs? That might be a small detail, but I wonder if it should be practiced more often.

The Oilers only have two D-men in the top-100 in shots; Schultz is 77th with 97 shots and Petry is 100th with 82. Having more offensive zone time would help, but neither of those two are natural shooters. They are always looking to pass, which is why at 5-on-5 Ference has more shots than both of them.

The frustrating thing is that Devan Dubnyk said Petry had the scariest shot on the team. Schultz has also shown he can fire the puck, and I’m perplexed why neither guy wants to unleash it more often. The Oilers have to find a way to get these guys to shoot more.

What type of contracts will Schultz and Petry receive?

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Schultz shouldn’t be paid more than Petry on his next deal, and neither one of them has shown a lengthy stretch of consistency over the past two seasons. I’d give them both a gap contract. If they play great and deserve a big raise afterwards, good on them.

Are they locks to be a top-pair defender over the next two seasons, or beyond? I don’t see it, so there is no reason to offer them a long-term deal. Had the Oilers waited until Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were done their entry level deals, only Hall would be making $6 million/season. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins would likely have signed shorter and cheaper deals.

I’d pay Petry $3.5-$4 million over three years and Schultz should get a two-year deal in the range of $2.4-$2.7 million. Petry is 26 and you might have to pay him a bit more due to his impending UFA status, but I don’t see any reason to pay him more than $4 million.

Do you see any comparisons that his agent would use in arbitration that would pay him more?

Will Craig MacTavish move out some friends?

The Oilers coaching staff has 6 years of head coaching experience, while the other 6 Pacific Division teams have an average of 26 years. Will MacTavish let Eakins pick his own staff? Read here. 

Did this “ad” seem legit or fishy to you?

This ad ran in the Edmonton Journal on Saturday? Does anyone know Jay Brown? Do any other fans think the same about being a fan as he wrote in his last line, “Please (Oilers) keep trying your best, and we will try harder to be the fans you deserve.” It just seems like something a fan wouldn’t say. Smells fishy to me.

Will next year be better?

I’m an optimist, but unless MacTavish manages to make three of four major moves I don’t see the Oilers being a playoff team next year. I hope I’m wrong, because everyone is tired of talking about a losing team. I’d expect the Oilers overall point totals to improve, but jumping up 30 points will be tough.

It is possible, Colorado did it this year, but it will be extremely difficult.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR:

  • Spydyr

    The Edmonton Oilers will make a great 30 for 30 one day. “The worst team in sports that ever existed, ever” What did Ray Ferraro say the othe rnight?

    “The Oilers have lost 40 games 4 times in the apst 4 years, the entire NHL has 4 other teams total losing 40 games in that time frame”

    BUT STAY PATIENT THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER..

  • Spydyr

    Why are the Oilers giving up so many goals when they are on the power play? The answer is obvious to me- they do not have a forward who can effectively play the other point with Justin Schultz. They keep using Sam Gagner but this is a disaster. Perhaps I am old school but the answer should be obvious to the coaching staff- use Marincin. He is a left shot , has a good shot, decent passer and the speed to get back and defend if Schultz gets caught in a pinch. In these days of mobile defencemen I wonder about the value of having 4 forwards on the power play in any event especially if you are playing someone like Gagner as your point man. Another poor decision by this coaching staff.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    I strongly feel the entire managerial and coaching staff should be let go at the end of the season. The case against Kevin Lowe and Dallas Eakins has been well made. What bothers me is a significant portion of the fan base seems to have more tolerance for McT staying on. I think he is as big a part of this mess as anyone else. You have to look at his whole body of work. Due to his closeness with KLowe you would think most of the personnel moves when he was coach occurred with his input and concurrence. Second, when he came back as assistant manager he would have been heavily involved in personnel decisions during this time because they admit to taking a collaborative approach. I would be willing to bet Tambellini was a minor player in the decision making made during this time McT was asst. gm. You know what it is like when you have someone looking over your shoulder who is the heir apparent to your job. As far as his tenure since being appointed GM
    1) he has proven to be a very poor talent assessor. He was willing to give Clarkson even more money and term than the Maple Leafs. What a disaster that would have been? His recruitment of grebeshkov instead of Gilbert another serious mistake. His free agent piickups Joennssu and Belov we’re poor decisions. Bringing in 3 Toronto Marli players who are not NHL caliber. The trade for Fraser will come back to haunt the Oilers when Hartakeilan is playing effective 3rd line minutes for the Leafs next year
    2) hiring an experienced coach on a 4 year contract and then not letting him hire his own assistants. Whatt were you thinking Craig when you gave an untested coach a 4 year contract? There were so many solid coaches available last summer.
    3) then the long term contracts for Eberle, Hall and Hopkins. You said it was a no brainier for everyone in the organization to give Hopkins that contract. Have you watched him play recently? Any parent knows you don’t spoil your children. You don’t buy them a BMW for their 18th birthday. A bridging contract would have been much wiser until you saw what you had with these players. Now you have Hopkins going around town buying race horses.
    4) the Gagner contract- he is untradeable because of that decision unless the Oilers take significant money back
    5) missing out on picking up Joe Colborne and Patrick Holland , big centermen,who could have been picked up for a song.. Colborne has played very well for Calgary.Holland has strong potential to be a top six centre. He is caught in a numbers game in Toronto but will play for them next year.

    5) Andrew Ference -quite frankly I have been very unimpressed with his play– it is going to get worse as we have 3 more years where his play will decline further because of his advancing age. Another untraceable contract because of the term and money left on it. Taylor Fedun can play as well as this guy has shown

    I could go on further but I do not want to hog the space. I have been disgusted by the lack of effort of this team particularly over the last few games. Serious changes have to be made.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      I agree, but not gonna happen the old boys club will still be here. We have to over pay some players because no one wants to play here at the moment. I wish Kazt was the owner in the 90’s.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    The Jay Brown thing is a little off in more than a couple ways. The most notable one being that the “City of Champions” moniker isn’t hockey-related at all. It’s a reference to the city’s recovery from the Black Friday tornado.

  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    “…and we will try harder to be the fans you deserve.”

    I could go on about this single line, but I think its safe to say we all know this is total bulls**t.

  • Chainsawz

    @Zarf

    I think you are being a bit cray-cray if you think a fan would spend the money for a weekend ad in a paper when the same could be accomplished with a weekday ad for less. Or a letter to the editor for even less. Or just send an email to the team.

    A PR company however would spend the extra cabbage for a weekend ad.

    This ad has some legs to it. According to you, the sales rep should be tipping Jay Brown’s contact information to a reporter to get his scoop, similar to the original jersey tosser getting a story about him in the papers.

    Since you work in PR, can you divulge if one of your clients is the Oilers?

    • Wax Man Riley

      Oh, I’m sure that reporters are busily trying to contact Jay Brown. BTW, I wouldn’t necessarily expect that he lives in Edmonton or Alberta (Lord help him if he does).

      Really? You’re basing the legitimacy of the letter on … paying the weekend rate vs. paying the weekday rate? LOL

      The differences between weekend and weekdays rates nowadays are negligible – maybe 5 or 10 per cent, if that. A lot of papers have streamlined their rate cards for all editions – the only variables are based on size and location in the paper, not publication date. Kijiji and other online sources have forced print publications to mark down their rate cards in order to compete (it’s not working, by the way – newspapers are dying because print and classified advertising just can’t compete with Kijiji).

      On one point, I do think you’re quite correct: It would have made more sense to submit it as a letter-to-the-editor. But, then again, with letters-to-the-editors, there aren’t any guarantees that it gets printed, either at all, or in its entirety. A paid ad obviously does. Plus, an editor might have looked at that letter and said: “Hmm, you know what? This letter is not likely to make this guy very popular. Let’s protect this guy from himself by not running it.” (yes, this happens a lot).

      There’s also the possibility that Jay Brown phoned up the newspaper’s sports editor (or assignment desk), voiced his opinions, told the editor he should do a story on it but was politely told that he should either submit it as a letter-to-the-editor or buy an ad. We used to get those calls all the time, too. And, much of the time, the caller was always suspicious that you wouldn’t run their letter and thus they were willing to plunk down $400 for a quarter-page black-and-white to pontificate about some sort of one-off issue.

      But again… that’s not a very “exciting” scenario. It may not be enough to satiate your taste for conspiracy.

      Do I do PR for the Oilers? Sweet bearded Jesus no! It’s widely known in the business that PR jobs with or for the Oilers don’t pay very well. And I like to eat and sleep indoors.

      • Chainsawz

        I looked it up. The minimum mark up for the type of ad he ran was $200, enough to make a guy think about the weekday rate.

        You keep on using this exciting word. Doesn’t matter who printed it, it’s not exciting either way. It’s painfully fake, that’s all.

  • Chainsawz

    So Petry takes the puck away in his own zone and passes it to a teammate, who then passes it to another teammate, who passes it again to a forward that shoots the puck into the net.

    How does your 16 pts system quantify that Jason Gregor? Did you “seen” that on the ice, or were you looking for more “grit” out there?

  • Zarny

    I would argue the Oilers answered many questions this season. The problem is most of the answers were ‘no’.

    Such as no, Devan Dubnyk is not good enough and no the Oilers don’t have even close to enough depth at C.

    Or no, Petry is not a top pairing D. No, an over-abundance of 5-7 D does not make up for a lack of any 1-2 D. And no, throwing J. Schultz out against the best F in the game for 20+ min a night isn’t a good idea 100 games into his career.

    No, the top 6 F do not have the right mix. No, a skinny kid like Nuge can’t go up against behemoths like Getzlaf, Thornton, Toews, Backes when his only back-up is Gagner.

    No, three or four 19-22 y/o can’t carry a team of fringe NHLers. No, 19-22 y/o who are prone to making mistakes do not excel when you put them on the ice with other 19-22 y/o prone to making mistakes.

    I could go on but the answers, like the questions, are basically the same as this time last year.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Hahahaha! Just read the letter from “Jay Brown.”

    This is either a 14 year old kid who likes to watch on TV and has never bought a ticket, let alone a mini-pack, season ticket, or a jersey…

    Or this is Bob Stauffer.

    Not sure which one, but I guarantee he has is not a ticket holder that has paid for any amount of games over the last 5-8 years.