GDB 3.0: Facing the Champs

The Kings have won the Stanley Cup twice in the past three seasons. They have become one of the dominant franchises in the NHL, and last season the gap between the Oilers and the Kings was as large as the Grand Canyon.

The Kings outscored the Oilers 11-3 in four games, but they out shot them 186-86. The Kings fired 48, 40, 50 and 48 shots while the Oilers countered with 18, 24, 27 and 17. The Oilers did manage a SO loss point in the first meeting when Richard Bachman stood on his head, but every game clearly illustrated the chasm between the Oilers and a Cup contending team.

Tonight will be our first opportunity to see how much closer, if any, the 2014/2015 Oilers are to competing with the elite in the western conference.

The Oilers have had two days rest to prepare for the Kings. Fatigue cannot be an excuse, but injuries and a complete head scratching coach move might. (more on that later) The Oilers are winless through two games, and the biggest concern has to be that they’ve allowed nine goals in two games.

The Oilers have to lower their goals against if they have any hopes of battling for a playoff spot. This is not new to anyone, but much of the focus continues to be around the lack of centre depth. There is no arguing that is a concern, but the Oilers inability to keep the puck out of their net is the bigger problem.

Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello haven’t made egregious errors that have led to goals. Arcobello was on the ice for the first two Vancouver goals at ES, but Sedin’s shot from the side boards should have been stopped, and Nick Bonino’s goal was a deflection from the high slot.

The Oilers have allowed nine goals to teams who were 23rd and 28th in total goals last year. I realize the Canucks have changed their coach and have a new system in place, but the Flames are far from an offensive juggernaut. The Oilers must improve in the D-zone to compete for a playoff spot.

LINEUP

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Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are injured. Both are ailing after being on the receiving end of some big hits in Vancouver on Saturday. Eakins said RNH did not get injured in his fight with Dan Hamhuis. This is the nightmare Oilers fans were worried about. RNH gets hurt and their top-three centres tonight have a combined 46 games of NHL experience. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, and even though everyone wrote, talked and discussed this possibility all summer Craig MacTavish elected to not bring in any centres with NHL experience. The Oilers management has no one to blame but themselves.

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In one of the most bizarre moves I can recall, Eakins elected to bench Petry because, “he is a bit behind from not having a training camp.” Even if that was the case, why wouldn’t you rest him tomorrow night instead. It is truly a baffling decision. If “not up to speed” means he is still not 100% from his training camp injury, then I ask why was he in the lineup for the first two games? They had Klefbom and Nurse, there was zero reason to rush him. Petry being a healthy scratch makes no sense to me. None. 

Fasth

Fasth played well in Vancouver and it makes sense to play him tonight and go with Scrivens tomorrow.

FIGHTING STATS…

I’m not here to debate the merits of fighting. You either like it or you don’t. I believe it has a place in the game, and I didn’t have an issue with Nugent-Hopkins fighting Dan Hamhuis. I don’t think anyone expects him to do that regularly, and he won’t, but he felt it was necessary to not back down from Hamhuis. I respect that.

Some don’t want him fighting due to the risk of injury. If you don’t want him fighting, that is fine, but the risk of injury in a fight is actually very low. Considering how much emphasis has been put on statistics lately, let’s look at the probability of an injury occurring during a fight.

Most of you have witnessed an Oiler getting hurt in a fight during this painful eight-year losing streak. Ethan Moreau’s shoulder popped out in a fight with Danny Markov. They were given roughing minors, because they never landed a punch due to Moreau’s injury.

Sheldon Souray broke his hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla. Steve MacIntyre broke an orbital bone, Theo Peckham was concussed, Zach Stortini hyper extended his knee, Ben Eager was concussed, Ladislav Smid was concussed when Sean Avery jumped him and Taylor Hall injured his knee.

That is eight injuries (If I forgot one or two the % will change very little). The Oilers have had 354 fights since the beginning of the 2006/2007 season. Over the past eight seasons the injury rate is 2.3% of the time (Moreau didn’t receive a fighting major, but I gave him one since the injury occurred while preparing to fight, so it was 8 out of 355). You can say you don’t want fighting in the game, but suggesting that injuries occur often due to a fight is simply false.

The Oilers are also a team that has fought more than most over the past eight seasons. I compiled these stats courtesy of Hockeyfights.com and found out that the Oilers have had the 8th most fights during the past eight seasons.

Team 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Total
1 Philadelphia Flyers 40 63 74 77 47 57 33 45 436
2 St. Louis Blues 42 53 62 72 78 42 21 32 402
3 Boston Bruins 29 52 46 47 71 61 32 46 384
4 Columbus Blue Jackets 39 58 53 49 54 57 34 39 383
5 Calgary Flames 36 70 61 74 35 35 22 32 365
6 New York Rangers 35 47 58 52 62 65 18 25 362
7 Vancouver Canucks 27 68 62 62 29 38 28 43 357
8 Edmonton Oilers 46 49 69 59 55 27 13 36 354
9 Toronto Maple Leafs 24 25 52 57 50 35 44 48 335
10 Anaheim Ducks 71 69 82 78 67 44 23 40 334
11 Pittsburgh Penguins 33 48 39 48 71 31 22 27 319
12 Dallas Stars 36 52 45 50 51 28 26 25 313
13 Colorado Avalanche 21 48 48 60 43 36 22 30 308
14 San Jose Sharks 34 42 42 57 48 35 18 31 307
15 Ottawa Senators 26 33 32 51 46 53 26 39 306
16 Tampa Bay Lightning 33 38 52 73 20 23 31 30 300
17 Chicago Blackhawks 40 57 54 36 28 41 16 16 288
18 New York Islanders 18 29 52 33 68 27 18 39 284
19 New Jersey Devils 32 46 57 45 37 39 16 10 282
20 Los Angeles Kings 42 22 48 37 49 33 19 27 277
21 Winnipeg Jets 24 30 53 40 33 35 26 33 274
22 Buffalo Sabres 37 26 37 26 30 40 25 36 257
23 Florida Panthers 29 38 34 50 24 31 20 30 256
24 Minnesota Wild 14 46 38 32 32 42 24 27 255
25 Montreal Canadiens 17 32 45 32 32 28 25 41 252
26 Washington Capitals 40 33 28 20 45 26 16 36 244
27 Nashville Predators 40 37 42 23 18 19 21 37 237
28 Carolina Hurricanes 25 44 26 34 25 19 23 8 204
29 Arizona Coyotes 47 40 56 30 23 27 16 18 170
30 Detroit Red Wings 10 21 11 19 13 15 14 7 110

Some of the best teams in the league fight often, while teams like Detroit and Montreal don’t. Teams can be successful with no fighters just as much as they can having a team of guys who like to fight, as long as both teams have good players.

One of the usual arguments for those opposed to fighting is that the Red Wings don’t fight and they win. That is true, but the Bruins, Ducks, Penguins, Rangers and Canucks have racked up a lot of wins while also dropping the gloves at a high rate.

Here is a quick look at each team’s point totals over the past eight seasons combined with their frequency of fights.

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 Total Pts Fight Rank
SJ 111 57 96 105 113 117 108 107 814 14th
PIT 109 72 108 106 101 99 102 105 802 11th
DET 93 56 102 104 102 112 115 113 797 30th
VAN 83 59 111 117 103 100 88 105 766 7th
BOS 117 62 102 103 91 116 94 76 761 3rd
CHI 107 77 101 97 112 104 88 71 757 17th
ANA 116 66 80 99 89 91 102 110 753 10th
WSH 90 57 92 107 121 108 94 70 739 26th
NJD 88 48 102 81 103 106 99 107 734 19th
NYR 96 56 109 97 87 95 97 94 727 6th
NSH 88 41 104 99 100 88 91 110 721 27th
MTL 100 63 78 96 88 93 104 90 712 25th
STL 111 60 109 87 90 92 79 81 709 2nd
DAL 91 48 89 95 88 83 97 107 698 12th
MIN 98 55 81 86 84 89 98 104 695 24th
PHI 94 49 103 106 88 99 95 56 690 1st
OTT 88 56 92 74 94 83 94 105 686 15th
CGY 77 42 90 94 90 98 94 96 681 5th
BUF 52 48 89 96 100 91 90 113 679 22nd
ARI 89 51 97 99 107 79 83 67 672 29th
LAK 100 59 95 98 101 79 71 68 671 20th
COL 112 39 88 68 95 69 95 95 661 13th
CAR 83 42 82 91 80 97 92 88 655 28th
TBL 101 40 84 103 80 66 71 93 638 16th
TOR 84 57 80 85 74 81 83 91 635 9th
WPG 84 51 84 80 83 76 76 97 631 21st
CBJ 93 55 65 81 79 92 80 73 618 4th
FLA 66 36 94 72 77 93 85 86 609 23rd
NYI 79 55 79 73 79 61 79 92 597 18th
EDM 67 45 74 62 62 85 88 71 554 8th

Teams that fought regularly like Vancouver, Boston, Anaheim, Pittsburgh and NYR won just as often as teams like Detroit, Chicago or Washington. A few other things stood out.

  • This illustrates how far the Oilers need to go to improve. It is daunting, but it is the truth.
  • San Jose is the best regular season team in the NHL, and while they’ve yet to win a Stanley Cup, or even make the final, I’m sure many fanbases would change places with Sharks’ fans in an instant.
  • I’m pretty sure Nick Lidstrom’s absence has been a bigger factor in Detroit’s recent drop in points than their decision not to dress many pugilists.

To me the above charts illustrate that you can either build your team by having skilled players who don’t fight, or with a rugged, skilled team that doesn’t mind dropping the mitts and you can have success both ways. Their is no perfect formula. You just need to build a team that fits with your philosophy.

Right now the Oilers are still trying to figure out what style they want to play, and what type of team they want to build. It shouldn’t have taken this long, but that is another story. For me, if Nugent-Hopkins wants to fight once a year because he is mad, I’m okay with that. I never criticized him when he didn’t fight, so I surely won’t rip him for fighting. 

Other teams have constantly taken liberties with the Oilers, and I’ve always believed you have to stand up for yourself if you want that harassment to stop. In the NHL, you have to let the opposition you are willing to stand your ground. It doesn’t always have to be with a fight, but once in awhile it is the only option. Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and many other stars will fight now and then. Not because they have to, but because they choose to. 

I respect Nugent-Hopkins for feeling that was the right time to defend himself.

If you need a chuckle Oilers fans check out what the Royal Half is saying about tonight’s Kings/Oilers tilt. Keep your chin up Oilers fans.

TONIGHT…

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GAME DAY PREDICTION: Life is full of challenges. Some are harder than others, and tonight is one of those games for the Oilers. Like our beloved tryout attendee #13, they will give it their best, but come up short. Oilers lose 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Nation will be fired up over Petry being a healthy scratch.

NOT-SO-OBVOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Darnell Nurse scores in his first NHL game. The Oilers always find a way to keep the diehard fan believing that the future will indeed be brighter.

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