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.



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.


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.


  • Elgando

    There is no excuse for what happened to bring this season down….everyone knew what needed to be done, everyone knew where our holes were and MacT sat on his hands on the centre issue and overpaid on defence. And passing on a guy like Harding was idiotic. His numbers are incredible and he would have risked little taking a look at this guy.

    I say we dump our draft picks from the 3rd round and up for immediate help. We don’t deserve to draft them.

    • Elgando

      Sadly this is the same thing that has been said of every season for the last 5 years and no one has been found accountable. Though I am sure they’ve been given raises.

  • Elgando

    I tell ya its this “fast hockey” OBSOLETE mentality that Lowe and MacT seem to have. We’ve been trying to be the fastest team since 1999 when those two first got hand of the Oilers. It hasn’t worked. Ever! So if fast hockey doesn’t work the opposite must. And that is defensive hockey. And proof that it works for the Oilers is the 2006 Cup run. Sure enough the Oilers as a defensive team WINS GAMES! Only a defensive Oilers will ever win the cup again.

  • Elgando

    When in trouble fire the GM or coach and poof the rebuilds starts again at 0.

    No one takes responsibility in this organization. You can’t be the worst team in the NHL for 8 + years without enormous problems.

    How can the Oilers be so stupid and start the season with an average 1st line centre who will get better and a 4th line centre?

    ANSWER: they are deliberately trying to tank the management , they are incompetent, or both.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Nothing new here to look at folks.

    Serious Gord and DSF (and some others) have been telling us this for years. If only those in the EIG days and their plans to oust Lowe had come true. Things would be very different today.

    • You want a really good read?


      I read DSF blog daily, he’s got great stuff up and continues to amaze me at how accurate his stuff is on the Oil.

      It helps balance the cool-aid that is the Oilers.

  • vetinari

    I do believe that MacT has better potential as a GM than what Tambi gave us at his best. But he should have known that leaving three gapping holes in your lineup for your mediocre coach ( or if you like ESPN surveys, the worst coach in hockey), and one or more of the gambles fails, you’ve lost another season and you have absolutely no trade leverage to right this ship.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      He has some leverage, it’s in the form of a shot at getting McDavid, Eichel or the top dman ( I forget his name right now).

      It’s a question of does MacT have the balls to do that?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If MacT does make a trade of some substance, it’ll involve Perron or Eberle. A rob Peter to pay Paul ( to “fix” the defence or goaltending).

    MacT put himself into the position he’s in now, it’ll be interesting to see what he does to get the team out of it.

    Time to trade draft picks, and yes that means trading a shot at McDavid and get PROVEN NHL players.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    How about moving Justin Schultz to forward, hes always thinking offense anyways, maybe he can turn into a decent winger. Most of his mistakes are bad pinches or getting caught up ice. He thinks hes a forward anyways

  • Randaman

    Hey all,

    It’s Saturday. Go out and enjoy your weekend. These losers don’t deserve all this attention or passion.

    There must be some good movies playing? Take your significant other out for a fun evening and avoid Rexall at all costs!

    The story will be the same or worse tomorrow so why waste all your energy on this debacle?

    Just sayin…

    Only 33 more shopping days left.

    All I want for Christmas is a better shot at McDavid. Falalalala lalalalaaaaa

  • If I were a fan looking at the Oilers this year only without any knowledge of the past. I would say the GM MacT has not put a competitive team on the ice. He would be my first fire.

    I would feel sorry for Eakins because of the glaring holes at centre ice. I would think the owner is willing to spend the money. And the underlying philosophy on how to build a winning team is not there, would not know who is responsible.

  • Zamboni Driver

    What trade is going to make this team 20 points better?

    Goaltending and coaching are the only two real possibilites at this point.

    The coach has not made enough players better, has mis handled pre season, has mis handled who plays, and he has mis handled minutes played.

    The goalies can win an steal games we need to invest to improve this area.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Incidentally, something for stats geeks holding out hope because of numbers.

    Here are numbers.

    Last year the bottom W. Conf team that made the playoffs was ELEVEN games over 500.

    The Edmonton Oilers are currently 6 games under.

    So. My simpleton math says that in the next 62 games the Oilers need to be 17 games OVER 500.

    It’s already over, folks.

    • From an Oilers fan!

      Yepper seasons over and the fans still keep a coming out. How many years in a row has this happened? Pathetic. It wont be fixed by this time two years from now. Book it. Not sure whos dummer the organization or us fans. Katz must be laughing all the way to the bank.
      Time to turn attention elsewheres. There are many other things in life besides these pukes.

      • crowfoot

        Remember when Ethan Moreau made some dumb-a** remark like -it doesn’t matter if the Oilers win or lose, the seats are filled every night. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    • D'oh-ilers

      I understand what you’re trying to say, but what you said is factually incorrect, on several points, including some very basic ones.

      Playing “.500 hockey” is in reference to winning percentage, not getting 50% of the points. You can go an entire season 10-1-71 and still end up with 91 points, despite having a .122 winning percentage. You aren’t 9 games above .500, you’re 31 games under because you won 31 games less than half of the total games played.

      The Oilers don’t need to be “17 games over .500,” to reach 91 points, they need to be 15 points above a point-per-game pace for the remaining 62 games (77 points). They could do that going 8-1-53 (.129), 31-16-15 (.500) or 38-23-1 (.613).

  • Slapshot

    “,…, or let the season go.”

    ‘The season’ is already gone. I think the GM decided to ‘let’ it go some time ago.

    They should still make a trade though, both to send a message to those who will remain, and to prune the tree of some rotted limbs.

  • JSR

    I’ve played enough hockey to know when a team has quit on a coach. I believe the Oilers quit on Eakins late last year. I’m betting he doesn’t make it to December. Danny Bylsma will attempt to clean up the mess.

    • bazmagoo

      I think the team quit on Eakins 20 games into last season personally. When MacT went on tv shortly after and said Dallas was his guy and he was behind him, the players realized they didn’t want to dial it in for the rest of the season and started to try. Decided today that if the Oilers lose tonight and they don’t can Eakins I can no longer spend my time following the team until major changes happen. Life is just too short.

  • Schultz may be good some day,but if that day ever comes it is a long ways away.Eberle is not a 6 million dollar player,and brings very little to the mix.I would have feelers out for both these players looking for a big solid d-man and a forward that will go to the front of the and B Schenn.There is also the possibility that they are going for another 1st overall pick but don’t want to make it public knowledge.

    • Burnward

      Eberle at 6M per yr and Shultz are both not tradable for anything of value.

      You would probably have to take money back or would only get marginal players or washed up players – like Richards from LA

  • J.R.

    “I once lost a job because of my values,” Renney said. “In Edmonton, I was asked to give more playing time to more young players who’d had an operation to play. I reduced their playing time. But we had to play them, because they were really good and we were selling hope. But I acted according to my conscience.” – Tom Renney

    Is it possible that the management is not letting Eakins bench Schultz?

  • From an Oilers fan!

    Some i am sure has said it already, so excuse me for repeating if so.
    Way to go David Perron, way to go man. If they trade you because of
    this, [ we will never know] i will forever despise this Management group
    until they are weeded out. I cant hate the players, you know they dont want this crap.

    Eakins you are not an NHL Coach yet , not your fault for taking this job ,its tough for even the most seasoned coach, but you have a ton to learn yet.

    MacT – I Believed in you, i still do sort of , DO SOMETHING – Overpay, can the coach , grow some. better to go down trying than to not have tried at all.
    Lowe – just pack up and move – i will help.

    Katz – you are just nuts – rich , but nuts brother.

  • It’s frustrating to watch the lack of progress by the team as a whole. Within this season they have had a few spurts of playing better hockey, but by and large they keep making the same sorts of mistakes over and over.

    I didn’t want Tom Renney to be fired, and I didn’t want Krueger to be axed, because I think giving the coach a few years to get his players to master his system is really important… but it really seems like we’ve picked the worst coach we’ve had since Pat Quinn to be the one the team is going to commit too, and the one time we didn’t fire a coach was when an awful lot of good coaches were available.

    I like that Eakins seems to be open to learning and does a lot of pro-active things for his development as a coach. Those are really important traits for a coach who wants to reach the NHL one day. Too bad we gave him the job while he was still learning his craft.

    And seriously. The Oilers hired an AHL coach that had an okay record of development and okay results with what he had, and they left Todd Nelson right in Oklahoma. He knew the players, has been an okay-good development coach, and meanwhile has figured out how to have a competitive team every season, even years when he had very little to work with. I’m not saying Nelson would have been a great NHL coach, but I’ll bet you anything he wouldn’t have tried Hemsky on the PK last year, and he certainly was getting more out of Schultz (and basically any player we send down to him).

    After all those other boys they’d been with why did the Oilers decide to get married to Eakins?

  • Kevwan

    I don’t buy that MacT is in a position of weakness. There are other teams out there that have had disappointing starts ( Colorado, Dallas, Columbus, Philly, etc,) that have more legitimate playoff potential than the Oilers.

    Ryan O’Reily has had a poor start to the season and is someone MacT should be targeting.

      • Kevwan

        I think Colorado would want Schultz, they really need help on D. I’d trade Eberle for him if I had too but Schultz would be my first offer.

        I keep imagining MacT and Eakins having the Billy Beane-Art Howe conversations from Moneyball. Instead of Pena and Hatteberg and 1B it’s Schultz and Petry/Marincin/Fayne and 1D they’re arguing about. Maybe the only way to stop Eakins from giving Schultz #1 D minutes is for MacT to trade him.

  • Kevwan

    fire mac t and bring in lowe as the interim general manager. After all he has 4 stanely cup rings. The problem is the owner…he knows he has a terrible management team and everybody hates lowe but he refuses to do anything about it which I don’t understand. I am also a flames fan but am starting to feel sorry for the oiler’s fans…well a little bit

  • Burnward

    On paper Oilers are a playoff team ,advanced stats told me that.

    All these Advanced stat guys say the right thing buy saying its not everything but to them when they are proven wrong they got back to their stats . To them it is everything. Just go over to Lowetides blog you will see guys dissecting everything and yet they get it wrong. Why? because they rely exclusively on Adv stats.

  • stevezie

    I was ok with the Eakins hiring. It didn’t make sense to replace Krueger based on what he achieved but I gave MacT the benefit of the doubt.

    I am firmly in the fire Eakins camp now. He has been out-coached nightly in every single way. He lacks the ability to properly assess his players and put them together in positions to succeed. His systems have all been failures. He diddles like Tambo did. And he refuses to hold players accountable that need to be held accountable. He also can’t get the best or even good play out of many of the players on a regular basis.

    There needs to be a string of things happen: Lowe, MacT and Eakins all fired, Freddie Chabot fired immediately (replace with a Shooter tutor) and replace many of the scouts (pro and amateur). Lowe for running the Hockey Ops into the ground for 9 straight seasons. MacT for the Eakins debacle and for failing to put together something better than this. Eakins because he can not coach at this level with this team. The scouts have poorly assessed the talent on the team, then players on other teams and the amateurs that have been drafted.

    Allow a new coach and/or coach/gm to come in and determine if this is the right mix of players (its not) and who stays and who goes over the remainder of the year.

    As perviously noted the team needs to play at 17 games above 500 for the remainder of the year. There is zero chance of that. So let’s stop wasting time. The season is done and let’s start making changes now so that come draft time we are drafting the right player for the mix going forward. A real coach and some new scouts will help assess and replace current players with a team.

    I have been a fan all my life, was in the building for 3 cup wins as a kid with my dad and I have never been as truly disappointed and fed up with this team as I am right now. The Flames really are everything the oilers are not this season. Maybe Burke will follow through and pummel Klowe in the back barn sometime soon, until then we’re stuck with the garbage.

    The organization is filled with issues and until they begin to deal with issues and eliminate them, it won’t matter who the next draft pick is because nothing will change based on one more pick (just as the previous 8 have showed us).

    I think most of us are at the end of our ropes with this organization and a trade right now won’t impact it as it needs to. Change the management structure now and maybe, just maybe, we’re a real team for 15-16.

  • I Remember the Orange Jerseys

    That’s complete bull.
    On paper this team is much better than previous years. And even if it is about the same on paper they are still underachieving massively. It’s all on the coach. He’s an idiot. Tonight we lose and hopefully this darkest time, the toilet bowl of Eakins inept ignorance will end.
    The fact MacT has sat by for so long and let it get to this point tells me he is unfit as well.

  • Dockstaff

    Forget a out a trade, forget about the coach. This team needs new management! These guys have tried and we’ve seen the results!! Get new management Katz!!!