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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Why can’t you all just shut the puck up and make sure those tickets are paid for.

    You’re getting far more than you deserve, ya bunch of sheep..

    signed: Daryl Katz

  • BubbaZanetti

    If MacT wants to make a bold move and help this team, then there is only one move….Step Down.
    The state this team is in, they need to get an experienced GM and experienced coach to get this ship straightened out and rolling in the right direction. And it ain’t gonna happen overnight.

  • Dockstaff

    If you send an E-Mail to every GM and tell them you are trading Eberle this week and will only contact the GM’s with the best offers, are you really telling me you wont get anything. It takes courage and the will you expect of your players, time for Big Mac to show the same.

  • BasementDweller

    First a trade and then the coach? Most people believed heading into the year the Oilers were a better team on paper with the defence, winger and goaltender additions (centre still obviously a glaring issue). And where are we? The same boat as last year. How is that not a coaching issue? Too bad coaches can’t be signed to two-ways so we could send Eakins back to the minors where he belongs! I get wanting to halt the revolving door behind the bench but enough’s enough.

  • bazmagoo

    Really don’t trust this management team’s ability to make a good trade from a position of weakness. It’s obvious to me Eakins isn’t an NHL head coach and he needs to go ASAP for us to have anything to cheer about this season. Heck, it was obvious last season at this time!

  • Burnward

    “If you cannot break your addicition of playing certain ways there’s going to be big problem.” Dallas Eakins on Oilers

    Per Gene.

    This guy is a trip.

    • Serious Gord

      please keep in mind I am a second tier fan

      raining jerseys is not the right answer

      Think bigger raining 1/4 used season ticket booklets

      that should get there attention.

      what are they going to do bann you from renewing

  • Burnward

    Listening to Hall, Ebs, and Perrons post game from last night, all three mentioned two mistakes that lead to goals. Schultz was the main culprit in both. I wonder if guys are starting to get real sick of him.

    And because Eakins doesn’t want MacT to eat his words, refuses to sit him for a game. It’s becoming more and more evident from an outsiders point of view that Schultz is a cancer in the locker room. Not because of his attitude, but becuase of the special treatment he receives.

    All three mentioned how they keep talking about it in the room, but he doesn’t seem to get it. It’s about time someone does something about it.

    If Hall is captain material, he needs to be pulling him aside and talking to him. If that isn’t working then he needs to go to the coach and ask him to bench him. Thats what I would do.

    • PutzStew

      Hall gave the puck away on the first goal and just about caused another when he did the same thing with the net empty in the third. No accountability there either.

  • bazmagoo

    Cue the Monday am press conference, long face by Mac T as he tearfully fires Eakins who is most of the reason for the digression( along with Mac T) , players don’t come out of junior as duds but Eakins has managed to kill everything that ever has worked for this group and that is on him. Next step give the job to Ramsay who at least has some NHL experience( I wish there was a way to give Todd Nelson a shot but this mess could ruin him and he deserves better) for the rest of the year then hire a real NHL coach in the off season. Nothing to lose, the season is over anyway. Bite the bullet !

  • bazmagoo

    Eakins exchange with Spector shows what kind of guy he is. That was embarrassing, if not a bit infuriating.
    Little baby can’t/won’t answer the tough questions.
    “Matty, Matty, please ask me an easy one!”

  • nuge2drai

    Excuse me Mr.Lowe. I have a question or two about winning… It’s been a while.

    Lowe, MacT, Dallas, Howsen, Katz.

    For me it’s these egos that have ruined this team.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I can’t imagine anything of significance getting done. Craig would surely get bent over even on a sideways type of move, let alone the much needed one that would fall into that of the bold variety.

    What compounds the thought of this administration supposedly fixing this problem, is the guy who got us into this mess is still in charge. Kevin has proven to be nothing more than a very poor liquidator of assets, often done while in a position of weakness.

    We’re doomed, and so is what’s left of 4, 14, 10 and 93 when the smoke finally clears. There needs to be a non negotiable new structure put in place here. Mike Babcock, please come help save this market. Hopefully you’ll have Connor McDavid to groom into a real driver on your bench. Would Gretzky make a decent POHO?

    • Cain

      If Schultz wasn’t failing miserably at “racking up points” too, I could live with some of the egregious mistakes he consistently makes.

      But he’s failing at being an offensive defenseman just as thoroughly as he is at being a defensive defenseman.

  • lucky

    The roster holes are obvious, but in game Eakins is consistently schooled by the other coach. They may come out flying, but the other coach adapts and Eakins has no reply, other than to juggle the lines. He’s lost and the other guy laughs. I feel for these players and finally Perron speaks up. Interesting times ahead.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Tossing to “Matty” is the “BoysontheBus-est” thing ever.

    “Someone is asking hard questions. Let’s throw it to Matty who will preface his softball question with a reference to “Lummer and/or Huntzie””.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Katz has embarrassed the Oilers and Oilers fans long enough. It is time to embarrass him

    Tonight the game is on national TV.

    I am calling on all fans to not take their seats until about 5 minutes into the game. Stay in the concourse area

    I will not take my seat until then.

  • smiliegirl15

    The Oilers should have kept Krueger. The Oilers played better in general under him.
    I thought Ramsey was supposed to help out Eakins with his experience?

  • bazmagoo

    As usual your bias for Eakins come out in spades…………let me get this straight JW, you basically excuse Eakins for the shortcomings of a roster. You laid this totally on Mac T……..fair enough.

    Mac T basically overhauled his entire team from last year ( save for the top six) and added proven defenceman to the roster. Two new goaltenders and six forwards……….. and many a writer praised him for these additions. It took this joke of a coach 20 games to figure out that MM was worthy of playing time, 10 games to figure out that Petry was NOT the problem, more the soution. Carrying too many players at TC and then into the season while trying to figure out who stay and who goes 10 games into the regular season smacks of incompetence. Benching players that have no reason to be benched and not benching players that have reason to be benched is the latest example of a desperate coach that is clearly out of his league.

    Yet you distill this down to Mac T………..although he shares some of the blame the coach is the one hired to have the team prepared for each and every game.

    Look at Calgary with all their losses, no excuses from the coach, they just keep winning. The problem here is we had a rookie GM hire his own coach, which turned out to be a colossal loser…….MacT can rectify this by firing Eakins and bring in a real coach………like Brent Sutter.

    The props or trashes should higlight how the Fans feel on this!!

    • Dockstaff

      Rama: 10 games to figure out who stays.

      My thought exactly. They clearly weren’t serious about winning in those first two weeks. starting three rookie/near rookie Dmen?! Hunt, Nurse/Klef, Schultz.

  • theoil

    Boiling point?

    This reminds me of the guy who decides to go on a diet when he is 500 lbs

    What happen at the 300 lbs mark and so on.

    8+ years of being the worst in the NHL.

  • Slapshot

    Katz does not hold Lowe accountable,Lowe does not hold Mactavish accountable,Mactavish does not hold Eakins accountable and Eakins does not hold the majority of his players accountable.If this were to happen we would have a new POHO,GM,Coach and some new players would be brought in.until then nothing with the Oilers is going to change. it’s going on 8 plus years and everyone on the outside knows what needs to be done ,the problem is the guys on the inside,the results do not lie!!!!!

  • J.R.

    This team is a mess and that’s based largely on the roster shortcomings you mentioned and that have been identified as an issue since the off-season. I can’t imagine anybody disputing that, at least going by the eyeball test.

    That said, Rob Vollman of ESPN and a regular guest on the Lowdown with Lowetide, told Al on Friday the underlying numbers he’s looking at have him absolutely convinced the Oilers will garner more points from their remaining games this season than the Calgary Flames will — he said that before the loss to the Devils.

    Right now: EDM 20 GP 6-12-2 14 points/CGY 20 GP 12-6-2 26 points.

    I think the Flames have overachieved despite some iffy underlying numbers and it’s reasonable to believe they won’t compile points at the rate they have for the balance of the season. Likewise, most people believe the Oilers have underachieved despite some modestly improved underlying numbers (and have done so with a favourable schedule).

    That said, I can’t for the life of me figure out what numbers Vollman has that makes him think the Oilers will be better than the Flames the rest of the way. I don’t know how many Oiler games he watches, but based on what I’ve seen of both teams, Edmonton’s lack of depth at centre, defensive issues and uneven goaltending — to name just three areas of considerable concern — I don’t see any chance of that happening. None.

    • Zamboni Driver

      Had the misfortune of listening to that complete drivel (that Lowetide lapped up embarrassingly) on the QEII, Robin. Just about hit the ditch.

      I think almost all the ‘advanced stats’ are nonsense, and this guy did his best to prove me right.

      “Despite not being able to score or prevent goals, despite never bumping into anyone, despite no heart, grit or give-a-damn…the Oilers are clearly better and will demonstrate that going forward.”

      Because of “shot attempts”. Not shots…attempting to shoot.

      So.

      Despite the fact that they’re disproving the nonsense stats geeks believe to be gospel truth….they’re going to start disproving that right away because of the…..

      stats.

      Right.

      Btw…if ‘attempts’ was a definition of success in OTHER pursuits, how many of us would claim Jeter-esque success?

    • bazmagoo

      Agree for the most part Robin. But the roster is improved this season when compared to last season. And last season it was improved compared to 2012-13. This is ALL on coaching, I have no idea how anyone can argue otherwise.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        Then how do explain the consistent failure under the three previous c
        head coaches?

        It is very easy to argue this isn’t ALL on coaching. It starts with horrible management.

        • T&A4Flames

          It’s like beating a dead horse in this city, which is why I try not to get too emotionally invested in this team. If we need a new coach, well kiss this rebuild good bye, imo. I don’t think this group can handle another coaching change, another new system, another mantra. They’re young and adaptable, but at some point they need stability. Also, if all of these coaches have been wrong, then we have to hold the person who hired them accountable for their poor decision making. Tambellini is gone, while Lowe and MacT are running their damn reunion tour to kick off the season, as if anybody cares about the 80’s anymore… It may as well have been a remembrance of the last time an Oilers coach left Edmonton with a winning record. Let it go. Nobody else hired MacT when he was fired from here and nobody called him to be their GM. I hate this team. I love this team. I hate myself.

      • camdog

        As somebody not entirely familiar with the advanced stats I am curious how they are calibrated against quality of competition?

        Whether that’s playing soft minutes against the other teams 5-6 d man, or a schedule that allows you to play against easier competition.

        • MGD

          If I may, it’s whatever you need it to be to make a point. There can be no standard for measuring quality w.r.t. hockey teams/players. Advanced stats guys position themselves as geniuses when in fact they add numbers, calculate averages, percentages and thereby have created an industry for themselves. Well done guys. Scoreboard is all that is required. But thanks anyway.

    • Cold Hard Truth

      That’s typical of guys who look at stats but don’t watch games. I had a friend tell me he was sure the Oil were gonna turn it around a dozen or so games ago (which he then gloated about when they went on their first winning streak, and has shutup about since) because of their advanced stats. He of course didn’t watch more than a game or two (Toronto fan) and didn’t understand how I could be so pessimistic about his claim. Advanced stats are a tool, and a tool is only as useful as you make it, advanced stats are not grounds to make claims about teams you’ve never actually watched play. Same goes for players (see: all the people who thought Nikitin might be a good d-man because of his corsi with Tyutin without actually seeing him play more than once or twice).

      Also Re: Goaltending; as bad as it has been at times this year the Scrivens/Fasth tandem probably wouldn’t be so noticeable if they would plug the other holes on the team. For example having someone on the back end who actually makes an effort to stand guys up at the blueline instead of backing up to the hash marks all the damn time might go far, as would having a top 6 centre who might actually give the Oil a bit more ability to respond when things go sideways. Doubt they’re winning any cups with those two in net, but again, they’re probably ok with a less depressingly awful team in front of them.

    • T&A4Flames

      I see some issues with this. I will take Vollman’s word on the #’s, but the #’S don’t account for things like give aways and defensive lapses at key moments of a game. CGY will likely regress I think, but reality is that CGY is much better structured during games and EDM makes large blunders at key points.

      • MGD

        They do make blunders but they are also struggling to score. A couple 4+ goal games but really they just can’t seem to score. When they score first they cannot handle the oppositions push back. This team simply cannot win.

    • PutzStew

      advance stats can be perfect but if they keep making boneheaded plays like I mentioned above then they will continue to give the games away.

      The oilers are to advance stats killer.

    • MGD

      I think Ebs is right in there for his contract; the current rate of pay in the NHL seems to be around $1Mil per 10 pts… as long as he keeps w/in range of 60pts/yr he is decent value for his contract