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.

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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.

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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

image (20)

Hall-Arcobello-Purcell
Pouliot-Draisaitl-Yakupov
Perron-Yakimov-Joensuu
Hendricks-Gordon-Acton

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.

Nikitin-Fayne
Ference-Nurse
Hunt-Schultz

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. 

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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.

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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…

13

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.

Recently by Jason Gregor:   


  • Serious Gorg

    The incompetence continues. Petry & Marincin are probably counting the days until they get traded away from this sinking ship.

    Welcome to Edmonton, where you don’t earn your playing time, you’re gifted it.

  • Jeff#3

    Q: Can Leon play a big role right away
    A: So far so good

    Q: Can Yak bounce back
    A: So far so good

    Q: Can Arcobello do a good job centering a line
    A: So far so good

    Q: Can Purcell take it up a notch when the regular season starts
    A: So far so good

    Q: Can Joensuu carry his pre season performance into the regular season
    A: So far so good

    Q: Can Eakins, after being surrounded by better analytics and a more experienced coaching staff overcome his rookie mistakes.
    A: No.

    Does anyone else miss Renny or Krueger?

    • Zarny

      Are you kidding?

      In 2 games Draisaitl has zero points and has not played a “big role”.

      Arcobello’s was non-existent against the Flames and was carried around the ice by Perron and Purcell against Van. He was also an awesome 36% in face-offs.

      Nothing in either loss has been due to Eakin’s “rookie mistakes” I’m afraid.

      There is nothing to miss about Renney or Krueger. The Oilers were terrible under both finishing 29th and 24th. Krueger’s response to the Oilers losing 6 in a row and then 9 of their last 12 games was to stand there looking goofy.

      • Zarny, do you ever worry you cherry pick stats a bit? I mean you knock Drai for not having points, then ignore that Arco has a goal.

        The Arco Purcell Perron line has been good.

        And Yak is producing with Drai, even though he hasn’t buried one off a pass, they’ve been creating a bunch of chances so far in two games.

        Hey, what was Arco’s face off percentage in the Calgary game?

        If we’re taking about reasonable expectations, then both those guys have surpassed them so far.

        • Zarny

          No I don’t.

          You said Draisaitl has played a big role. He has not. He has contributed 0 G and 0 A. His line is 4th on the team in minutes played and he has 1 SOG. He doesn’t spark the PP and is stapled to the bench for the PK. He’s been good with FO and had a few flashes but Yakupov and Pouliot have carried the line. None of this is unexpected. That’s exactly what you expect from a rookie. It simply isn’t accurate to say he’s played a big role.

          You said Arcobello has done a good job of centering a line. I disagree. He’s had one good game with FO and one terrible game. Other than FO he was a ghost against Calgary. Perron and Purcell are clearly better players imo. Against Van his goal consisted of skating down the wing to the far post with his stick on the ice. His assist was a 5 ft pass and Joensuu did all the work. Kudos for the basics and I don’t think Arcobello has been bad but he hasn’t been good. Not at centering a top 6 line.

          How is not being bad far surpassing reasonable expectations? Looking OK as a heavily sheltered rookie is the bare minimum of expectations for Draisaitl. Looking like a 3 C playing top 6 minutes is the bare minimum of expectations for Arcobello.

          At best both have met expectations imo. The problem is that the Oilers are relying on them far surpassing those expectations.

          • The Soup Fascist

            The kid is 18 years old, has played 2 games, and is helping to create chances. He is playing a big role, in that he is playing an important role for the team. He was stapled because of 7 consecutive penalties.

            Arco is gelling well with his linemates, whether you believe he’s being carried or not.

            Your view is not pragmatic or realistic, it’s depressing, pessimistic, and reminiscent of DSF.

            Go get a hug?

      • Craig1981

        I have been amazed at these top prop comments…..and the fact that at least 8 people proped yours (even if 10 trashed it) makes me have a little faith in Oiler fans.

        I have seen very little to blame Eakins for this year. Yak has looked good, much of the team has looked inspired….

        I am not sure why he is sitting Petry, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt right now…..maybe the was locker room issues, maybe hunt has practiced really hard and he wants to show the team he rewards that……hell maybe Petry got dumped by his girl and isn’t in the frame of mind to play…..all these explanations are a better fit than Eakins, a former AHL winning coach, is actually a total fool.

        K you please explain to me, after MacT coached the team to the finals, had people insisting he get fired after a 20th place finish the next year, but Krueger has 80% of the fans want to but a statue up at the new arena for him after one 24th overall finsih?!?! And the year he coach everyone said the Oil had a huge advantage since their top line played with each other in the AHL and were conditioned

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    Why would Eakins scratch Petry, who is the current best d man, when there’s far loads of other d man like Ference, Nikitin, or Hunt that should be scratched. Unbelievable.

  • Oiler63

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but this years team might be out of it quicker than last years. How long before a guy like Hall says he’s had enough of the losing?

  • otter2233

    Is Eakins trying to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room by continually making head scratching decisions in the hopes one will work out so he can say “HEY!!!, look that one thing finally worked!!!”?

  • Jeff#3

    My prediction of Ramsay being the Head Coach by mid-November seems too passive. Eakins seems to want to be shown the door sooner than that with his continual head scratching decisions.

  • Andy7190

    This is a joke! How can one team continue to suck this bad. This shouldn’t be possible. Calgary won tonight…Calgary!!!! Aren’t they a decade behind us in the rebuild?!

  • Spydyr

    Katz….Lowe has six rings he knows something about winning.

    Lowe ……MacT has his MBA he knows how to build a team.

    MacT….Eakins is an excellent coach and Schultz will win the Norris.

    Eakins….We need Hunts shot on the powerplay and our best defenceman last year should be in the minors

    “The Braintrust” all think they are the smartest people in the room.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I’ve been keeping positive so far, but Eakins is absolutely baffling me. This lineup is brutal, and this game is going to be a hideous affair. Let’s just get it over with.

  • T.J.F.M.

    That is probably the worst line-up ive seen.

    Should be:

    Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov
    Pouliot-Draisaitl-Perron
    Purcell-Yakimov-Joensuu
    Hendricks-Gordon-Gazdic (Acton, if Gaz isnt ready)

    They continue to drown Yak.

    I simply do NOT get this organization. Our “Top 2 D” are out. One is in the AHL and the other a healthy scratch. For what?? Hunt/Schultz: arguable the worst defensive pairing ive ever seen in the NHL. Offensively, they are fine. But hands down the worst “defensive” pairing, ever!

    It continues to get harder and harder to cheer for this team. I say it every single year, but i need a new hobby. This is just too painful!

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    “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.”

    Well, that question has been abruptly answered. No doubt about it now.

  • vetinari

    So… anyone going to tune in for the Arizona game tomorrow night or do we all just agree to disband, watch football and curling this winter and meet back here for the draft in 2015?

      • vetinari

        I would love it… LOVE IT… if someone got a life-size cut out of Katz’s curly-haired young lad and put it outside of Rexall on game nights so that fans could take pictures of themselves with the cut out, holding an Oilers jersey. You could then have another one of the kid at age 40, age 60 and then a skeleton to complete the set.

      • vetinari

        I hate the NFL, but watching the Oilers is like getting kicked in the balls 82 times over an eight month period… so… 16 ball kicks + possible playoffs over 82 ball kicks? Sign me up!

  • Hemmercules

    So much smoke. Never any fire. Summers always look promising. New players. New goalies. New coaches. Then you wake up 3 games into the season and realize the coaches are over their head, the vets are past their prime, the goalies are career backups, every prospect has been rushed in, no centre depth in sight and the 20 year olds that are expected to carry the team can’t even score.

    Pretty hard to write them off after 3 games but they don’t exactly give you much hope.

  • I’d have thought Nikitin should be pulled (if his ankle is still bothering him), or Ference, or Hunt, or Schultz before Petry. What is with all the Petry hate? What happened to accountability? Why is Yakupov getting so few minutes when he is playing much better than a bunch of other people? Can’t this coach make adjustments on the fly during games? Why was Klefbom in Edmonton at all if there was no plans on playing him? Who makes these decisions, the coach or manager or a collective?

  • The Soup Fascist

    I realize he is the captain but someone is going to have to show me how Andrew Ference is adding ANY value right now.

    He is slow at the best of times and when he has to turn, the term “glacial” is not an overstatement. He has almost no offensive flair and puck moving ability at all.

    The one thing that made him a marginal third pairing NHL player was his “battle” and I have seen precious little of that this season. Maybe he is still hurting – I don’t know – even more reason to sit him. Better yet, you can use that as a reason for getting him off the ice without “benching” him.

    I get that he is a veteran and the captain. You dont have to embarass him – but what you do have to do, Dallas Eakins – is sit his a$$ in the press box instead of Jeff Petry. The second thing you need to do is bring Marincin back to the big team.

    Enough pissing around showing everybody how smart you are. Play the best six defencemen you have and try – or at least look like you are trying – to win. You and the organization owe the fans that.

    Enough.