Boiling Point

Craig MacTavish10

The Oilers are in rough shape, and with a rested Chicago team coming to town after Edmonton’s loss last night it’s a good bet they’ll be in worse shape 12 hours from now. This is a team crying out for action by the general manager.

Trade

29-Draisaitl-1

This roster has three specific positional flaws that have worked to torpedo what progress the team has made:

  • Centre. It turns out rolling the dice on unproven guys at the most critical forward position and then hoping to fix it in the early going if need be wasn’t a very good plan.
  • Defence. Two big fixes were added over the summer; one of them (Mark Fayne) isn’t playing much and the other (Nikita Nikitin) is either playing hurt or isn’t good enough or both.
  • Goaltending. Ben Scrivens/Viktor Fasth always looked like a reasonable gamble to me, but with any gamble comes the chance of failure and that’s what has happened so far.

Craig MacTavish doesn’t have ammunition to solve all those problems – that’s one of the reasons why I thought gambling on Scrivens/Fasth made sense, because when a team starts from as far back as the Oilers did sometimes the only option is to roll the dice and hope for the best – but he has to solve some of them. Waiting on Draisaitl and Nurse and Klefbom to fix them is not tenable.

Coach

Dallas Eakins 19

I like a lot about Dallas Eakins, but he has made specific mistakes, something an exchange with one reporter (I believe it was Sportsnet’s Mark Spector) highlighted nicely:

  • Reporter: When is there accountability? He’s had a lot of top ice time, Justin Schultz, and he leads your team in ice time tonight. When do you take some currency that you have, in ice time (inaudible)?
  • Eakins: When we see fit.
  • Reporter: Your season’s almost done here for you guys. When do you think you might see fit?
  • Eakins: Matty.

The Oilers’ deployment of Schultz has been rational – soft competition, lots of offensive zone starts – but there’s just been way too much of it. I’m often critical of Schultz, but I understand his potential; in his first 10 games or so under Ralph Krueger he looked like a pretty incredible defenceman and his AHL work was extraordinary. What he isn’t doing is progressing, for whatever reason, and at this point in time there is simply no rational argument that he’s the No. 1 defenceman the Oilers are trying to play him as. He’s probably the worst defenceman in terms of current performance that the team has on the right side.

Lowetide used the phrase “the hill you die on” this morning and that about sums it up. The defence isn’t in good shape to begin with but playing Justin Schultz better than 22 minutes per game is asking it to fight left-handed. That may work for Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts, but when all you are is Count Rugen sometimes you have to wait in ambush with a dagger because you aren’t going to win that swordfight even with your good hand.

What Next?

Craig MacTavish gave his coach a terribly unbalanced roster, and even as the season slipped away he stayed the course. That’s on him, and he’s put himself in the ugly position of needing to make a trade from a position of weakness sometime yesterday. That’s a terrible spot for any G.M., but there’s nothing to be done but to go out and get the best deal available or let the season go.

I don’t see how Dallas Eakins overcomes this start. For the second year in a row the Oilers have started the season in a deep hole, and it’s going to take an exceptional performance the rest of the way (even following a trade) to change things. So far there have been no signs that Edmonton is capable of that exceptional performance.

It’s time for a trade. Then we’ll see about the coach.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • oilersOne

    A big problem with the oilers, in my humble opinion, is that they see the nhl as some sort of development league. They bring too many young guns up too fast and hope they perform. More junior and more ahl would help the team overall.

  • TheresAlwaysNextYear

    This is very likely going to be the all time worst Oiler season ever. It might even be a league-worst organizational implosion.

    This is sad for the Oiler faithful but it looks good on Katz, Lowe and MacT. The Oiler organuzation has been totally exposed for its stubborn fixation on trying to show the hockey world they know more than every time proven method of building a hockey organization.

    The ‘boys on the bus’ are clueless hangers-on.

  • TheresAlwaysNextYear

    The Katz Conglomerate bought a lot of property near and around the NEW Arena.This includes the Greyhound lot. It seems more than a few Oiler Experts and Management should be allowed to use the present Bus Terminal well before it closes? Buses are relatively easy to book. Tonight, only 6-0 after 2 periods. Last night only 2-0 after 3 periods. Line up the buses!!

  • Zamboni Driver

    I need that Stats loser that was on Lowetide’s show to call me – you know that one who said that the Oilers were going to be WAY better than the Flames going forward.

    Really! He implied that anyone that thought any different were dullards who didn’t know how to operate Excel as well as he did.

    Anyone have his number?

  • T&A4Flames

    I haven’t been to an oilers game or bought anything oilers related in 5 years and I encourage others to do the same. I will admit that I have watched every game this season on television but am not sure if I can take much more of this humiliation. I never see fans wearing their jerseys and oilers hats with pride in public anymore. This is so embarrassing.