GDB 43.0: SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS

During their seven, soon to be eight, year playoff drought the Edmonton Oilers have done surprisingly well against the San Jose Sharks. While the Oilers have floundered near the bottom of the standings the Sharks have circled near the top, finishing 5th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 7th and 6th in the western conference.

Once again, the Sharks are one of the best teams in the west, sitting 4th with a 25-9-6 record, and the Sharks lead the league with a +7.3 ratio in shots for/against. Despite the Sharks consistency as an elite team and the Oilers as a bottom-feeder, Edmonton is 6-6-1 in San Jose during the past seven seasons.

Why? I have no idea, but the Oilers are hoping they continue to be competitive in the Shark Tank tonight.

The Oilers’ struggles against western division playoff teams continued in Phoenix on Tuesday with a 4-3 OT loss. The score flattered the Oilers as they were outshot 45-25. In 14 games against the top-8 western teams the Oilers have been outshot by a combined 163 shots and are a paltry 1-11-2. It has been ugly vs. the best in the west, and the Oilers need to wake up to avoid another "shot kicking" tonight.

LINEUP

Hall-RNH-Perron
Yakupov-Gagner-Eberle
Smyth-Gordon-Hemsky
Joensuu-Lander-Gazdic

Ference-J.Schultz
N.Schultz-Petry
Belov-Marincin

Bryzgalov/Dubnyk

Those were the lines at practice yesterday, so they likely stay the same tonight. Eakins likely won’t play his goalies back-to-back and Bryzgalov has played two very strong games, so they could go with him tonight and Dubnyk tomorrow; unless Eakins wants Bryz to face another one of his former teams. Either way, goaltending hasn’t been the issue the past few games.

Yakupov draws back in while Roman Horak played one game and was sent back to OKC. I’m curious to see how Yakupov responds to Eakins’ "plan." The simple part of the plan is that Eakins will play Yakupov with offensive guys as long as Yakupov plays better without the puck and in the D zone.

I expect Yakupov to play hard tonight, but based on what Eakins said he’ll need to do it consistently to stick in the top-six. That is fine, but it’s about time Eakins starts thinking about challenging some other forwards the way he has Yakupov. Gagner and Eberle need to be better.

QUICK HITS

  • Anton Belov’s play on the OT goal was the epitome of a soft play. For reasons unexplained he elected to coast for one stride at the blueline and then he made a weak stick check on Yandle. I understand that players will make mistakes, turn the puck over and not always execute, but soft plays are inexcusable and the Oilers have too many players who make soft plays fairly frequently. Until that stops this organization won’t improve. If Belov plays significant minutes tonight what message is Eakins sending his team?
     
  •  The players need to be more accountable to each other, and I liked that Ilya Bryzgalov showed his displeasure after the tying and OT goals. You don’t want players doing it all the time, but at certain times it is necessary. It might cause some discomfort now and then, but when Bryzgalov, who spent the past 120 minutes standing on his head keeping his team in the game, gets fired up his teammates should listen. He was playing his ass of and it is nice to see a player demand that his teammates put forth the same effort.
     
  • Scott Burnside wrote a fantastic article on how TEAM USA picked their 25-man roster. It was great to get a glimpse into the process. The thing that stood out to me, yet didn’t surprise me, was how cautious they were about offensive players. That is the biggest issue in our game in my opinion. GMs and coaches would rather go with safe players than highly skilled guys who might make mistakes.

    Bobby Ryan has scored 160 goals since the start of the 2008/2009 season. Phil Kessel, 175, is the only American with more goals during that span, yet Ryan didn’t make the team.

    What perplexed me the most was that the coaches felt they didn’t need him on the PP, because he only had 8 PP points in Ottawa. The majority of the game is played five-on-five, and the only forward on the USA roster with more ES points than Ryan’s 28 is Patrick Kane. Ryan produces at ES, and Brian Burke even admitted in the article that he is an elite finisher. Instead of downplaying his PP production, shouldn’t they have been applauding his ES totals?

    My biggest beef about the state of hockey is that coaches are drawn towards safe players instead of finishers.Hockey is becoming to risk averse. I understand the need to have reliable players on the roster, but if you can’t score you won’t win. Is Derek Stepan going to be a difference maker more than Ryan? Ryan has been one of the top-ten most productive goal scorers in the NHL the past five years, yet the USA elected to go with guys who were "safer" and had a good first 40 games of the season. I suspect they will regret that decision.
     

  • What makes Ryan’s omission even more surprising is the make up of their blueline. Only one of the eight D-men named to team USA would crack Canada’s top-seven, Ryan Suter. The rest are Ryan McDonagh, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Justin Faulk, John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. Orpik is the only physical defender, and only Carlson is the only other one above 6’2".

    How do they plan to defend Canada’s big skilled forwards like Getzlaf, Perry and others? They can’t expect to win games 2-1 just because they have Jonathan Quick in goal? Their blueline is made up of puckmovers, but they cut their 3rd most productive forward and that seems somewhat contradictory to me.

    I’m very surprised Dustin Byfuglien wasn’t one of their eight defenders. He adds a different dimension. To me Carlsson, Faulk, Fowler and Shattenkirk are essentially the same player. I don’t see how their blueline will be able to handle Canada’s forwards when they start cycling. That is great news for Canadians. I don’t see USA as a main threat in this tournament.
     

  • You can point at Taylor Hall and make an argument that he should make Team, Canada based on his offence, and that is a valid point. However, the difference between him and Ryan is that Canada has other guys with more points than Hall. Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Sharp, Tavares, Kunitz and Thornton. Kunitz also has more points, but playing with Crosby definitely helps.

    I’ve said I’d have Hall on the 25-man roster, but Canada has the luxury of going with guys who are also very good offensively, but have a bit more experience in Staal, Nash and Giroux.  Even in the case of Kunitz he is showing he can produce. Pascal Dupuis also played with Crosby and he only had 20 points. If Kunitz makes the team at least they can say he is producing more than guys who didn’t make it, unlike Ryan with Team USA.

    When Hockey Canada makes their announcement next week it will be interesting to see which forwards aren’t on it. We could see Hall, Seguin, Benn and Duchene on the outside.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Their struggles against top teams continue with a 4-2 loss.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall has eight points in his last four games and he continues his strong play tonight with a goal and an assist. He is making a strong push to make Team Canada, but even he admitted he doesn’t think he’ll crack the roster. Hall could be top-15 in scoring by the time January 7th rolls around, which will only add to the debate if he doesn’t make the cut.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After scoring four goals in his first six games, Boyd Gordon only has one in his last 30. He buries his 6th of the season tonight which puts him on pace to shatter his career high of eight goals.
 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

  • The Soup Fascist

    Gregor, just a short note to thank you for shaking my hand a couple weeks ago (Month of Giving charity check drop off).

    My wife surprised me on December 23rd saying that we were going to have a baby again!

    She showed me a test saying that she was already 2 – 3 weeks in.
    And I remember the timing of shaking your hand well, as your wife and you were only days away from having Beckett. I traced back the time and I shook your hand on the Friday and pretty sure we conceived on the Sunday a couple days later.

    It’s a big shock for the wife and I as we have 2 boys, ages 4 and 6 and were thinking we were done. I’m pushing the big 40 next year too.

    So thanks again Gregor! haha

  • Randaman

    Gregor,
    I think it is time for you to take off those rose colored glasses and see this team for what it really is. GONG SHOW!! Their leader ( if you can actually refer to Lowe as a leader) is more worried about team Canada than his own team because Daryl said don’t worry, the dollars keep rolling in. Lack of action on Management’s part proves this.

    • Randaman

      Ill completely agree with you that Gregor flips his opinion and story every couple of weeks just so he can have something to talk about on his show or have something to blog about, but how is Lowe the leader of this team? Hes a best middle management at this point (if you think in terms of an every day business. hes just a guy with a job title these days). If you wanna harp on a leader its either Katz or MacT. Katz has no hockey sense to run a team hes just funding one that makes enough money to keep him happy. MacT has been on the job as an active GM for less than a year. Hes got some sense as a GM cause hes not gonna get raped in a trade that any other GM would make just cause hes desperate.
      Give MacT till this time next year and if he cant make any improvements (no matter how big or small they are) then its a management issue.
      Sorry to break it to you but when the rookie GM hired a rookie head coach and then couldnt find any dance partners for a trade, the “rebuild” just got a couple of years longer at the very least.

  • John Chambers

    Chambers’ Team Canada lineup:

    Kunitz – Crosby – Neal
    Stamkos* – Toews – Sharp
    Tavares – Getzlaf – Perry
    Ladd – Bergeron – Staal
    Hall & Giroux spares

    Doughty – Weber
    Keith – Seabrook
    Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
    Boyle & Hamhuis

    Price – Luongo – Crawford

    The big omits are Seguin, Benn, and Duchesne up front. Hall makes it because he’s just a notch above those guys, while good role players like Mike Richards are already in abundance on this team (eg. Toews, Bergeron, & Ladd).

    On D I see 8 guys that nudge out PK Subban, mostly because I think guys dislike Subban and would rather have a guy like Boyle on the team as opposed to a cocky kid.

  • Arius Mumin

    The following has to be a joke: Yakupov with Gagner and Eberle, right?
    No?

    Is Eakins, or anyone when it comes to the Oilers, serious?

    Kevin Lowe is the Godfather, live with it. MSM and everyone who is allowed to write about the Oilers to make a $ off them has to answer to him. What he tells his people to tell the media-is all that the media is allowed to talk about, and they must stay in those lines.

    When MacT said that Gagner was a great charachter guy and blah blah blah, MSM took that and ran with it, their opinion has not been allowed to change since. Oilers wanted the teams that dont see guy play much to believe that and they told the MSM to help them sell him as such.

    They told the MSM that Yakupov is the bad guy and they can go and write and speculate on that. They are however not allowed to write about or question Eakins in any negative way, that is why those microphones studder most of the time when they have to ask Eakins a question: they dont want to upset the big cheese.

    • A-Mc

      In some twisted round about way, it’s almost genius to stick those 3 together. They are being thrown to the wolves and there are no defensive saviors to be had between the 3 of them.

      If ever a weakness was needing to be exposed to the players so that they finally understand what they need to do, this is the way to do it.

      • Arius Mumin

        Are you in good health?

        If that line gets eaten by those wolves, no matter what, Yakupov will be the scapegoat. While goofboy 1 and goofboy 2 will remain in the top 6 and in the coachs good book. #@$% Eakins.!..

  • A-Mc

    GDP

    Oilers outshot 20 to 4 in the 1st period, but only down 2-0

    Gene Pricipe interview The Nuge…he says they have to try harder and they are better than this, and have to start taking body, let the puck do the work for them…..blah blah

    Gene cracks a bad Pun that the 2 guys in the booth are obligated to laugh at…
    and I quickly change the channel and watch
    Oklahoma v Alabama game

    ….in this way i dont throw the remote at the TV when the Oilers lose again with a half-arse effort

    This team has turned me into a glass half empty guy

    I guess its better the glass totally empty guy like serious gord….but im getting there

    • Serious Gord

      I know its not in good taste reposting my own GDP….and i’l get trashed…

      but…….

      All i want to know is if I got the prediction hat Gene Principe made a bad pun …..i changed the channel early and watched a great NCAA football game….and saved my TV at the same time

      I’m not bragging about the 2-0 prediction and the shot differential (very close on that)……….Im not bragging…… because that prediction is like predicting the sun comes up in the morning and sets in the evening….
      it is more like Obvious game prediction…..

    • Dan the Man

      I guess the only positive is that they probably can’t be any worse than the line of Gagner, Eberle and Horak were last game.
      One of the worst performances I have ever seen.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    I don’t understand how the Oilers are handling Yakapov. The team is out of the playoff race and this is the best chance for teaching and giving a first overall draft the minutes and line mates to succeed. Playing on the four line then sitting him out is a real head shaker. MacT has to tell Dallas to play him come hell or high water. If we where in a playoff race I could see some shuffling but look at the standings and get real.

    • A-Mc

      The only currency a coach has to teach, is ice time. To reward poor play with more ice time is to basically throw the teaching card out the window.

      Last year the Oilers let Yak prove he could play with the big boys offensively, and he can. Now the mandate should be to reduce his defensive liabilities to the point that in a pinch, yak can tighten his sphincter and get through a shift vs a #1 line with out getting out played.

      I’m not sure if you have children or not, but as a parent i somewhat relate Eakins’ problem with Yak, with parenting. There are certain things that are unacceptable as a parent to let happen with relation to my kid; but the flip side is that once in a while you need to ask yourself “Is this the hill I’m willing to die on?”

      Defensive Liability may just be THAT hill for Eakins and the Oilers

  • I tried it at home

    Is there any link I could use to hear what Bryz said after the Phoenix game? Guy is rapidly becoming my favorite player, and I love having someone in the dressing room who’s calling out the slackers ( I hope).

    • Stack Pad Save

      Your favorite player is the guy who calls out his teamates and yells at them on the ice? Has tantrums and throws his stick? The guy who won’t paint his helmut because he is using the organization to audition for other teams for next season?

      • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

        Painting his “mask” has nothing to do with it. I see passion and a dislike of losing every night. If everybody played with his effort and focus we might win a couple more games

        • Stack Pad Save

          I appreciate his desire to win. I just don’t think he is a very good teamate. If he wasnts to yell and scream at his teamates ont he ice so be it. But then he shouldnt be suprised when he gets yelled at for letting in weak goals that cost the team a game as well. I watched some of the HBO season with Bryzgalov and his teamates avoided him like the plague. That has got to tell you something and seeing him throw his tantrums on the ice I get why.

  • BC BOY

    That photo… (the one with the shark)… that looks like Petry getting chased into the corner by Thornton.

    NSOGDP – Jumbo Joe scores his third with 5 to play in the third. Farhan Lalji has a stroke waiting for #4 and the subsequent post-game interview.

  • Stack Pad Save

    @ Jason

    I don’t know how you think Bryzgalov had a strong game, he had a typical Dunynk game. Make some great saves, and then let in a super weak goal (the TIm Kennedy Goal) and made a soft play on the final goal. HE should have stopped that goal from Yandle, even though Belov played it poorly, so did Bryzgalov.

    Dubynk had a shut-out his last game, he hasn’t played the last 2 games, and Bryzgalov had a weak game in the previous outing. If Dubnyk doesn’t play today it shows that accountability really isn’t a game plan of Eakins.

    • Jason Gregor

      A soft play on Yandle goal? Yandle is on a breakaway and it just slips through pads. He faced 45 shots, many of them very good quality shots and you blame the goalie. Good grief.

      I guess Bryzgalov should stop every puck in your eyes. Okay. I guess Belov and Petry’s plays on 3rd and 4th goals were Bryz’s fault.

      • Serious Gord

        Bryz played a solid game, faced a mountain of shots and should have stopped two more.

        That said he was the reason why the oil were even i the game and for that reason he was very much a factor – in a positive way – In the game. What’s discouraging is that even with all world goaltending – which Bryz has give the past two games – this team can’t compete with average or better teams.

      • Stack Pad Save

        They were both weak goals. You don’t have to agree with me. But I think you are wrong. He should have stopped both of those goals. You yourself consistently complained about how Dubnyk was not an NHL goalie because he let in a weak goal on a consistent basis and this caused the team to struggle. I see Bryzgalov doing the same thing. Plus I also see Bryzgalov having tantrums on the ice.

        I am sick of this organization telling fans that they are going to do things, like “bold moves” and create a culture of accountability and than fail to follow through on those promises. I also pointed out that Belov’s play was in error as well. But you want to run and defend Bryzgalov go ahead. Bryz your new man crush?

        • Jason Gregor

          Your retort is some lame man crush line…intelligent.

          Belov’s play was a lack of effort and soft. You think Bryzgalov didn’t try on those shots? Okay.

          • Stack Pad Save

            So your telling me he made a good play? Give your head a shake. A goalie cannot have a great or even a good game if he lets in a goal from behind the net, overplays another at an atrocious angle and than plays a breakaway really weakly and lets a guy who is half tied up beat him with a floater. This whole debate centred around who would start and it seems even the coach agreed with me. Bryzgalov played good but he let in 2 soft goals and those goals where a huge difference at the end of the game. Your willing to rip every other player on the Oilers for 2 mistakes in a game, but you wont rip Bryzgalov. Yes, it does appear to that you do indeed have a man crush! Soare you gonna watch todays game, or skip it since Dubnyk is playing?

  • BC BOY

    “Canada has other guys with more points than Hall. Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Sharp, Tavares, Kunitz and Thornton.”

    The only players on this list with a better P/G than Hall on this list are Crosby, Getzlaf, Tavares and Thornton

    • Dan the Man

      I was about to point out the same thing but I see that you beat me to it so I will just add that only 6 Canadian forwards have more PPG than Hall and of those 6 only 1 is a winger. Obviously Canada will be using centres on the wing but wouldn’t it be nice to have a natural LW with Hall’s wheels?
      Also one of the 6 is Stamkos who may not be healthy enough to play.

  • A-Mc

    It could be all the booze over the holidays.. but i am predicting an Oilers win tonight!

    Oilers win 4-1.

    It ends up being one of those nights where things just go in… Yak, Hall, Petry and Perron score tonight.

  • Spydyr

    Your analysis makes me wonder if the powers that be are creating their team “not to lose” rather than creating their team “to win it all”. There is a huge psychological difference between these two approaches. That same approach seems to creep in when teams try to protect a lead. Often times it backfires.

  • Zarny

    Canada has players that can win hockey games rather than just put up points. If Hall was drafted by the bruins and won the cup and doing what he’s doing on a winning team then he’d be a lock for team Canads. Unfortunately Hall was drafted by a pathetic perennial bottom feeder and won’t even get consideration due to the fact that the goal of the tournament is to win! Edmonton Oilers…. Ruining careers since ’06.

      • Serious Gord

        Rick Nash was a far more established player then than hall is now. Nash was into his fifth season while hall is in his 3.5th season. 330 games vs 206

        Nash was also are far more dominant and consistent player than hall with a physical element that hall has yet to show.

        Try and find another example.

  • Zarny

    A Shakespearean quote came to mind that seemed fitting for the Oiler’s owner, management and Serious Gord:

    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not with our stars, but in ourselves”

    • Serious Gord

      Thanks for the shout out. More Shakespeare is just what this site needs more of.

      (And I’m sure many would like to see a little (or a lot) less of me)