GDB 15.0: The Early Hole

The Edmonton Oilers are in New York to play the Rangers on Sunday. A win tonight would move them to 2-2 on their current five-game road trip and give them a much needed boost up the standings. A loss, on the other hand, would make it all too easy to dismiss Friday’s win as an aberration and bring yet more pressure down on the coach and general manager.

Dallas Eakins 13

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

One of the things I wonder when I look at this team is whether Dallas Eakins was doomed by the fifth game of the season. I say that because the Oilers aren’t a terribly good team – I pegged them 12th in the West – and so even playing 0.500 hockey is pretty tough to do for a sustained period of time. When a team loses its first five games, even if it goes 18-18 over the next 36 it’s still going to be sitting at 18-23 on the year by the halfway point of the season.

That’s sort of what’s happened to the Oilers, who are 5-5-0 over their last 10 games. Unfortunately for the club, that 0-4-1 start means that despite winning half of their last 10 games the club is 5-9-1, seven points out of the playoffs and seeing torch-and-pitchfork wielding mobs on social media after every loss (and sometimes, if the opponent is Buffalo, even after the wins).

I thought the Oilers played better than an 0-4-1 mark would indicate over their first five, but even if that’s true the dice have no memory – the team doesn’t get to demand the bounces go their way for five straight games to even things out. Somehow, Eakins needs to find a way to get this team to play at better than a 0.500 pace for a while or he needs to get some friendly bounces. Otherwise, the team is going to stay near the bottom of the NHL standings.



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No changes up front; the biggest question is how much time Iiro Pakarinen gets. Eakins has been double-shifting Nail Yakupov and the Russian winger has looked pretty good, but Pakarinen’s own play has been a strong argument that he deserves more minutes. There isn’t a wrong answer for the coach here.


Andrew Ference is back, which means that Martin Marincin gets to join Oscar Klefbom as a healthy scratch. Eakins has opted to reunite last year’s wretched Ference/Justin Schultz pairing, and we’ve seen enough of it to know how that’s likely to go. The other two pairings are unchanged, as Nikita Nikitin is given another game with Jeff Petry as he tries to overcome his own struggles and shutdown defenceman Mark Fayne draws Keith Aulie once again.

It’s an ugly position, but the personnel choices here aren’t helping. 


Viktor Fasth played well against Buffalo, so he gets to try again against New York.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



Game day predicition: New York played on Saturday, with Alain Vigneault opting to start his backup against Toronto – presumably under the belief that with Henrik Lundqvist in net the Rangers stand a good chance even tired against the Oilers. It’s a reasonable bet on his part, but it won’t work out, as the Oilers manage to squeak out a 2-1 decision.

Obvious game day prediction: Keith Aulie likes playing, and fighting doesn’t hurt his chances of staying in the lineup, so he and Tanner Glass will square off at some point in the first half of the game.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: While much of the focus will be on Benoit Pouliot returning to New York, he’ll be outshined by Nail Yakupov. There have been suggestions for years that Glen Sather’s love of elite talent might make him interested in Yakupov, and the 2012 first overall pick won’t hurt that talk with a goal and an assist against the Rangers.



  • Alsker

    Two words that would have changed the direction and fortunes of this team for the last decade: Rick Nash…who did we take instead…Steve Kelly was it?? Way to much rum and artificial joy in me to remember…

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    In the 1st period they were entering the zone and trying to drive it around the net and just toss it out front,it looked like they were setting up the cycle,but the puck carries just wnted to get it behind the net then take it himself and create a shot option for himself,there was no intention to carry through with the cycyle,it was just setting up the 1st shot by coming around the net sharply. Look for this NOW,it is their Primary push,they should fall back on it now under pressure.Watch them on those drives around the net looking to bank it in off the tenders back or legs.

  • If it aint broke dont fix it,things look good so far.

    The breakouts have been well executed, the defense is showing nice decision making when they come up into the play-action and how they stick with it when they do commit.Nice support from the forwards as well stying back to support those up-ice movements.

    The o-zone possesions are being well managed,the shots are getting off quick but not to quick,the support is timed well,everything has been hurried up a bit in the o-zone and it looks excellent,the quick pointshots have been replaced by short quick penetrations with nice well placed shots, the offense is shooting after they force the defense into just one transition,they are hitting those first holes and are not overpassing or extending the zone-time before they convert the possesion into a shot,outstanding work.

    The sticks were down and active in the 1st period,they came up a bit in the second but the feet were moving well and it compensated.

    The lateral o-zone shot support positionally has been very well managed and well timed.

    The shot selections and placements have been well managed to keep the pucks in the zone and create nice rebound numbers.

    There is nothing to tweak right now.

    Nuge is Huge and Yak is on the Attack, all looks good. Nikitin makes me nervous when he turns it into the middle,they are keeping their 3rd forward hovering high in the n-zone just a few feet out of the Oilers zone looking to scoot in,and their forecheckers are looking to just break pucks loose from the middle of our zone so their high n-zone support can attack.Keep it to the outside when their 2-man forecheck hovers in the mid-zone keeps the 3rd man hovering and refuses to commit to aggressive penetration.They are trying to get the d-men to turn it into the middle when we break out of the zone.Keep it outside or horse it out,no funneling it to the middle for them in our zone.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    They are sending the forecheckers in together now some of the time. One man deep and are swarming the net trying to funnel things to the middle, if they keep it up look to speed up the exit and catch 3 of them deep with their defense cheating up to support them and burn them deep with a 200ft breakout rush.They are cranking it up and bringing the 3rd forward into the zone now.

    Steady as she goes,keep looking for offense,dont sit back.Keep penetrating their zone deep and getting shots on net,keep em on their heels.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Nice job by Joenssu late in the game to get the big body moving and keep the pressure on.

    Keep the shots in the o-zone LOW no high angles. Keep it in the zone like you were doing all game,try to drive it closer to the net.

    Lets see this PP close out the game,just penetrate deep and be a cautious defensively no shortys,drive it in like Ebbs did last time and try to close this one out.

  • Stack Pad Save

    What is wrong with Eakins?

    How can he not see what every other person who watches the Oilers sees.

    Aulie, slow and slower. Ference, slow and old. Nikitin, slow and good at gaurding the boards.

    Please make better decisions Mr. Eakins.

    • “Aulie, slow and slower. Ference, slow and old. Nikitin, slow and good at gaurding the boards”….Seems to me it’s not the coaches fault these players are old and slow…..who is responsible to bring him talent???????

      • Alsker

        Let me see……………….

        MacT got the players for Eakins to coach.

        Kevin Lowe hired MacT, a coach that was previously fired by same guy…


        What’s wrong here?

        • Stack Pad Save

          I’m really tired of changing coaches on what seems on an annual basis so I would let my coach make those decisions. I know the real issues are at the top and it’s been well documented by the fans. IMO changing the coach merely takes the accountability and pressure away from those sport jocks that run the team at the management and President of Operations positions.

          I also suspect Eakins is getting direction from the above mentioned idiots on who he can play and not play!

          • Stack Pad Save

            Well if you are a coach and you are not allowed to make your own line up you may as well quite because you’re not the coach.

            I agree with you, the management of the OIlers has been poor. It still doesn’t excuse Eakins from making more poor decisions.

            If I was Katz, I would have had fired the whole lot, but apparently until the fans stop unloading the brinks truck to the front door of Rexall Place than the pile of suck that is the Edmonton Oilers organization will not stop.

          • Spurzey

            Although we hope that would be the case it is highly unlikely. Eakins would risk payment of the balance of his contract which I believe would be 3 years or so. Contractually they are obligated to not embarrass the team even after termination….that’s why they typically disappear into the sunset and hope for another gig, if it ever comes!

    • Serious Gorg

      I doubt they did much. Are they going to tell the bouncer at the club they play for the perennial bottom dwellers of the NHL??

      “Back of the line, Fellas”

  • Serious Gorg

    Obvious game day prediction: oilers lose. articles are written about how they “played well enough and should have more wins”. Eakins stays the coach, and they whimper the year out with talk about improvement in corsi.

    During the summer they talk about how the kids will be a year older, Mac will over pay for some UFA winger, and we go thru all this again next year. Couple years down the line when the team is stinking out the new arena, maybe Katz will finally get tired of it Ll and finally bring in competent management

  • Stack Pad Save

    GDP: Oilers can only win in bunches. 3-2 in OT.

    OGDP: JSBM Productions is full of thick, funny smelling smoke, and someone decides to steal a Japanese toothpaste commercial and call it the game day video. Somehow Wayne approves it.

    NSOGDP: Oilers fans are so fed up with the state of the franchise, that even with a first period lead, fans turn off the game en-masse to avoid any chance of watching another Oilers late game collapse. Fand check 3 different websites for the final score before believing that the Oilers held on to win in OT.