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

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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.

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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.

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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.



  • The unwashed

    Late in a game like this,drive it to the net by skating it in,make them grab you and take another penalty,jack the pressure up.Driving it 200 feet by skating it forces them to all come back and eats up time.

  • oilerjed

    @Jonathon Willis

    There is lots of speculation about who is making the roster decisions but in your experience and access to the team what is your opinion?
    It seems clear to everyone else that Maricin is better then at least both Ference and Aulie, so how do you explain the moves?
    Is it all ego on Eakins part or is management manipulating the roster for other reasons?

    Oil come out on fire for a change and hold on tight for a 4-3 win!

  • At the end of the day we’ll probably lose as somehow we’ll find a way the crap the bed no matter what, a breakdown , puck mishandled by the goalie, shorthanded goal , you name it..Eakins will be toast by the 20 game mark if not right after this road trip, I do believe the team will be much better afterward, way too many terrible line combinations and no relationship with the players during the game..Look at Babcock, Trotz, Julian etc, they are fully engaged with their players and the game, that’s coaching, staring off into space and showing no emotion is not. Even if we pull this game out or even a few others it won’t get any better til he’s gone. We’re just kidding ourselves and hoping against the odds.

    • TheBirdOfAnger

      Happy to eat my words, good effort although Petry gave up the old give away with that dump to the guy in the middle, some things don’t change. Interesting game coming up, Nashville looks good but they owe us one..would be nice to win a road trip.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Very nice extended pusuit by Nail.

    Someone tuned the volume up on the Shoote-totor in practise ,it looks good.

    Lets see deep some penetation off the rush on the PP and try to suck em into another penalty.

  • Stack Pad Save

    Yeah, our record sucks. But I’m also finding it interesting how Dallas is doing so poorly (the team not the coach).

    Maybe their situation is similar to us in a way. Great offence (better than ours) but poor D (maybe even worse than ours – wow).

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Fire the trainers and equipment staff again.

    The last time they did it, it didn’t work. These guys are the first faces the players see when they enter their Resort/dressing room. Fire them again. They need to get it right this time.

    • Alsker

      No something new instead…fire the coa..wait, oh ya we the G….oh ya, we did…well that only leaves…Kevin Moss or Joey Lowe….Is this really how far we’ve fallen. Our POHO hides behind Joey’s skirt…

      • Spurzey

        You can bad talk everyone in this organization. But you never EVER mention Joey’s name out of disrespect again.

        Or I will hunt you down I will find you and I will shave your head, paint your skin red drug you and staple a flames jersey to you and leave you for dead on whyte ave with a cardboard sign that says “Oilers suck almost as bad as Edmonton does.”

        How much of a chance do you have walking away from there alive sport?

        • Alsker

          No offense intended at Joey what so ever…have volunteered at a couple of his projects including the home next to Winnifred Stuart School….It was Klown I was bashing, he’ replaced everyone other than himself and Mr.Moss. Other than the batcape what does he have left to hide behind. Would rather have Joey’ enthusiasm and love of the game than Blowhards ego.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Excellent to see every line looking to score,nice job by the 4th line.

    Super excellent work on managing the zone transition speeds and keeping everyone involved and together. Not to fast not to slow,perfect.

  • Kevwan

    Purcell deserved that one he has been taking it to the net this season but not been rewarded.

    Nice job of finishing it into the open net.

    Very well managed and played game.

    Now go home,relax knowing you are doing the right things,and get ready to rinse and repeat.

    Kudos to the much improved o-zone tactics and shot management tactics,especially mixing it up and keeping it down .Its getting there now.Just cht about the timing of those high angle shots late in games that exit the zone to fast on the glass.Nice nights work.

  • Alsker

    sweet, sit Klefbom again. Its not like a European player with very little professional experience could gain much by playing more games in the Ahl or anything. He’s probably better served being continuously pulled out of the NHL lineup.

    • Petry was good until that major brainfart giveaway to Hayes…

      Those are the plays that kill this team, but luckily Fasth bailed him out. I like Petry, but he makes some awful decisions at key times in the game.