Without superhuman goaltending from Ben Scrivens (and he was just fine in today’s loss) the Edmonton Oilers were on the wrong end of a 4-0 score against Boston. They were outshot, outchanced, somehow outhit despite never having the puck and flat-out out-played.

The Last Two Games


Edmonton has allowed 100 shots over its last two contests. They have matched up against the NHL’s powers and been found not just wanting but humiliatingly, embarassingly unable to even put in a respectable showing. Team Switzerland has been more competitive in Olympic matches against Team Canada.

The scoring chances today paint an ugly picture of an outsmarted, outskilled and outworked team:

The Problems

The problems are myriad. Let’s take a quick walk-through:
  • The powerplay. A strength as recently as a year ago – with much the same cast of players – it has devolved into a terrible weakness. Boston outchanced Edmonton 2-0 during Oilers powerplays today, and after a decent start to the night a first period power play sucked whatever energy the team had out of them. This one is on the coaching staff.
  • The Oilers had a top-10 penalty kill a year ago. This year, they sit 17th in the NHL, and they allowed two goals on five opportunities against the Bruins. The cast may even be improved from last season – this one too is on the coaches.
  • The top line. A year ago, the top line was an undisciplined run-and-gun trio that outshot and outchanced the opposition. This year, it’s an undisciplined run-and-gun trio that gets badly outshot and outchanced by the opposition.
  • Sam Gagner. Just that.
  • The defence. This one is on the current general manager to some degree, and on the one before him to a much larger degree. A year ago, Nick Schultz and Justin Schultz were in over their heads as the Oilers’ second pair. Currently, they’re in over their heads as the Oilers’ top pair. Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry have good points, but they’re being asked to play at levels well beyond their ability to handle. Rookie Martin Marincin is in the top-four on merit. Mark Fraser is just the latest addition to a forgetable group of bottom-pairing blue liners that have demonstrated little beyond an ability to get lit up in the NHL.

Today’s loss is yet another in a long series of humiliating low points for the Oilers. There is no excuse. It cannot be allowed to continue. This team desperately needs to turn things around, and soon. Maybe that means reworking the coaching staff so that new assistants can add some outside insight during an Olympic break reworking of team strategy – and provide better support for a rookie head coach. Maybe it means replacing Dallas Eakins with a veteran NHL bench boss.

Maybe it means more than that, or that and more than that. But this team cannot continue as-is. 

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Buck Negged

    Another disgraceful display. Total lack of effort. Too many mental brain fart pass attempts through multiple sticks. And too many multi-millionaire “super stars” trying to beat multiple NHL players with junior hockey moves. MOVE YOUR LEGS AND THE PUCK QUICKER. DUH!

  • Dan 1919

    Next Year’s lineup:




    (Hendricks/Gazdic – Gordon – x)

    ( X-X)

    (Nurse- Marincin)

    (J-Shultz- Kefbom)

    Use current roster players to fill in as many x’s as possible to be a good team. Ready-set-Go MacT.

  • Rick Stroppel


    I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions. Is his NTC reduced to writing in his contract? Does the NTC remain in effect for the last two years of his contract if he is traded? If so, he is basically untradeable. A team looking at the long term will simply wait for the summer hoping to get him on the cheap after a compliance buy-out. A team looking for short-term help will not want any part of that contract with a NTC.

    Can the Oilers trade him and agree to pay part of his contract? Does this count against the cap?

    Sorry about the silly questions and thanks for the answers.

    • toprightcorner

      Gagner’s NMC is only for 14/15 (cap geek)though MacT verbally agreed to a NMC for this year as well. Though it sounds like Gagner will approve a trade for the most part.

      MacT can trade him and retain up to 50% of his salary that WILL count against the cap though you can only do this for 3 contracts at time.

      Gagner is getting tons of ice time to showcase him but it is making him look worse. I think it would be smarter to sit him for 2 games and then drop him to the 3rd line for a few games in hopes Hendricks will rub off on him or stick him on the 4th line, either way he needs to earn his spot. Quinn and Renny both did that and he responded well and moved up the depth chart.

      If Gagner knows he will be traded he has no reason to play hard cause he doesn’t care what the return is.

    • D-Unit

      According to Capgeek, the NTC in Gagners contract is only 2014-15. This year, it is the “verbal” that MacT gave him, whatever that’s worth.

      If he gets traded this year, the NTC would still be in effect next year.

      According to Elliotte Friedmans 30 thoughts this week, Gagner could not be a compliance buy out, as he signed the deal after the current CBA came into effect.

      The Oilers could trade him, and continue to pay some of his salary. Yes it would count against the Oilers cap.

    • Dan 1919

      NTC kicks in this summer, so if they dealt him now, starting this summer, the team that has him can’t trade him without his permission for 2 years.

      Someone would still take him, just as they would Ebs, but we would only get for them what they are worth. Something most Oiler fans can’t seem to realize.

      Your point is exactly valid, there’s a reason we’ve been terrible for so long, terrible D and overvaluing guys like Ebs and Gagner. They’re both overvalued and signed long term now, we’d only get peanuts for them because we’ve overvalued them and hung on too long.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i picked up the game in the middle of the 2nd period when it was 1-0 Boston and said to myself….”i guess i didn’t miss much”. looks like i didn’t. same old same old. but i was expecting this to happen, the win streak can’t last forever and they will eventually fall back on the suck again. Eakins should stay, but for the love of God, please don’t tell Eakins next year he has to work with Smith and Bucky on the bench again! let him hire the rest of the coaching staff HE wants!

      and MacT is really on the hot seat this summer. he MUST find as close to a #1 d-man that he can, as well as better bottom end d-men. he also MUST find some size and grit that can actually play NHL hockey, but i realize he may not find all these things in just one summer. the heat is really on this guy starting at the trade deadline!

  • Serious Gord

    Six shut outs this year. What’s the record for a season?


    Good to see johnathon formally joining the ranks of journos who are willing to consider removal of Eakins.


    Benching yak seems foolish to me. Hard to see how he was any worse than than any other player. How come gagner was NOT benched? Heck how about benching hall for his peewee-level passing attempts?


    And is this a first for Johnathon to completely single out a player Sam Gagner for criticism in his very own bulletpoint in a game review?

  • Dan 1919

    I agree with your overall article JW, I haven’t watched in weeks, and with a fresh view today, you realize this team is so far away from competing it’s genuinely sad. They have a few pretty good players and a team full of guys who will never win.

    The team is a disaster, good luck MacT.

  • Dan 1919

    What a rude dose of reality.

    Sad return to Boston for Ference. I think he was on the ice for all 4 goals. No wonder Boston could let him go when they had 2 stud rookies, Hamilton and Krug, nicely marinating in Junior or down in Providence, then brought up to develop beside real 1-2 d-men.

    Boston can afford to let an elite talent like Tyler Seguin go for little more than spare parts because he didn’t play Bruin hockey. You don’t play Bruin hockey, you don’t play in Boston.

    Which raises the question, what is Oiler Hockey? The one player who, pound for pound, is arguably their hardest, most responsible player, Mark Arcobello, gets sent down to OKC.

    Maybe Oilers were saving themselves for their version of the cup. That would be against Buffalo on Monday. And I’m not sure they will be trying to win. Is that Oiler hockey?

    • Alsker

      Well my guess on Arco is Eakins and MacT had had enough of his effort, physical play and heart making others look bad. ~Definite dressing room issue taken care.~ As for Oiler hockey, MacT went out his way telling us snowpants was everything in an Oiler: ability,skill,character…umm you’re right, what is Oiler hockey?

  • Dan 1919

    Here we are 4 season into the stamped and certified KLowe rebuild and we’ve got 1 good player in Taylor Hall, a few small flashy forwards like Ebs and RNH, and a team no where close to NHL compete level… utter failure.

    Hopefully Mac-T can right this ship in the next year or two because if he doesn’t there would be no choice left but to actually rebuild the rebuild, meaning a very long time without watching a real NHL team.

    • hark65

      Completely agree. The team is a LONG way from being a solid roster and I don’t see any big name FA’s coming this summer to help the defence or top 6 (which is where they desperately need help). Unless one considers Ryan Callahan or Milan Michalek “big names”. Would they consider signing with the Oilers?

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Some people want Hall on the half boards instead of Nuge because he is more of a threat to shoot. David Staples tonight was a perfect example why Taylor can’t play the position. He may have a hard shot and is a great skater but his decision making is below the NHL average until he matures as a player. He gave the puck away on the offensive end tonight at least 5 times,

    • Oilers Coffey

      I wish the Oilers had a half wall sniper like the Great 8!
      Oh we did with Krueger in Yakupov. Eakins has absolutely destroyed this kids confidence. How many of us thought wow this kids got a canon last year when he was scoring from that very spot.

  • emonkee

    JW, I am not sure I agree with you on this…as I posted in LT’s GDB today, the PLAYERS made a ton of mistakes…in the latter part of a PP in the second period…after a fairly decent 1PP shift, 2nd unit stepped on, hemsky can’t control the dump-in, puck was sent down, next possession, after the oilers dump-in, puck was sent around to Gagner, he can’t control the puck, and puck got sent down again. Ference retrieved the puck and going up the left side….3 oilers were standing on the left side, leaving only hemsky on the right to try to stop the dump-in, either that is Ference’s lack of vision, or the 3 oilers who were on the stuck on the same side. In that play, hemsky tried to drop the puck back to ference, kreiji picked off and created a 3 on 2. Next PP, hall was deep in the zone, but he elected to make another drop pass (these oilers luv to make blind drop passes) to JSchultz, Paille pressured and have a breakaway, thank goodness Scrivens saved it. These are simple plays, not defending Eakins, but I doubt Eakins told the players to cough up the puck that much in the PP. These are on the players…

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Couple of things. Didn’t like the play when Nuge passed it to Eberle breaking out of the zone but Eberle was changing and it came back the other way. Why is he changing before his team is able to dump it in. Didn’t like the play when the defense were changing inside the Boston blue line while a puck battle was going on just outside the blue line. We won the puck battle but we went offside. You are allowed to jump over the boards so you are not offside you know? Lastly Taylor Hall’s back pass to the other team summed up his night and that’s why he isn’t on team Canada.

    • emonkee

      That’s right TT, Taylor is one of my favorite oilers, but those drop passes, as I mentioned, is unacceptable. Hall also likes to pass cross ice when there were multiple sticks in between…he has to avoid those if he wanted to be selected for the next Olympic.

  • Alsker

    JW, that power play is a disgrace. Guy Boucher was not too succesful in his tenure as the head coach of the lightning, but he is a power play master mind. Don’t you think he would be a wonderful associate coach for Eakins? He’s got NHL experience, but not too much, so he wouldn’t cast too big a shadow over Eakins. He is working in some swiss league right now, so he’s sorta available. Whar do you think?

    P.S. Bruins GM Chiarelli is a Genius. Sigh.

    • Bryzarro World

      Gregor and Zarny will tell you the coach makes no difference. I shake my head everytime I hear some fool spew that crap.

      Some are just afraid to lose their press pass so they bag lick, others are just tools…

        • Bryzarro World


          Yup.. he also falls back to “not hard ti understand” or “you ever play the game?” I used to like him but he is becoming lame. Waiting for him to start ranting about his playing days at the southside athletics club…

      • Bonvie

        Exactly same with Hemsky zero back checking pressure by these wingers just let guys stroll into the offensive zone without putting pressure on them. Yak lets Hamilton stroll by on the goal he scored, it all started out by the blue line a bit of back check and pressure to take away time and space would have made all the difference instead Hamilton strolls down into the Oilers zone like hes playing in a rec game.

        Exact same thing observed by Hemsky on i believe it was the 3rd goal at the blue line the puck carrier skates right by Hemsky without any effort from him to battle for the puck or play physical.

        This is a very stark difference between Boston who took away time and space from our Offensive players all game long, and made quality scoring chances so scarce to come by.

        I wonder about those who have to ask why Yak may have been benched. I have seen better back checking pressure in celebrity charity games.

  • D-Unit

    So, when is it too early to be out of the playoffs and start playing for losses?
    10 games? 15 games? I mean, honestly, you can be out of the playoffs at that time.

    You never did explain which games they won that were meaningless? Was it the first 5 wins or the last 5 they won?

    I never did say they should win 81 or 82 games.

    If you think losing is the answer, maybe you should call Lowe of Katz for a job. Unless of course you already work for them, and you know losing is the answer and are towing the company line.