Big Losses to Bad Teams

On Saturday night, the Oilers got walloped by the Calgary Flames. Losing by a touchdown to a team as bad as Calgary has prompted yet another round of questions about the direction of the Oilers franchise. Just how much should we read into the defeat?

In two words: not much.

Memory Lane

There have been 28 games this year in which a team scored seven-or-more goals in a win, and the Oilers have been involved in three of them. That perhaps isn’t surprising; Edmonton’s not a very good team. What is a little surprising is that the Oilers have won two of the three.

Back in November, Edmonton played what was perhaps their best game of the year, routing Columbus by a 7-0 score. Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno summed the game up for the losing side:

That was disgusting. We knew what kind of team they are and we played right into their hands. It is on everybody in this room. It is embarrassing. We handed them goals and gave them power plays and opportunities. It was really tough to be a part of this. I hope we have hit rock bottom here and understand that we are not a team that can play like this. It just didn’t seem like we had that push-back, that answer. We gave them an easy night. They were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It’s the wrong way to play. It was 7-0. It’s obviously the wrong way to play.

With the loss, Columbus fell to 7-11-3, just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for 15th in the Eastern Conference. They overcame that tough start (and that brutal loss) to climb into the dogfight for a playoff spot in the East; as of today Columbus sits just two points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot there with a pair of games in hand.

Less than a month later, the Oilers did it again, humiliating Colorado in an 8-2 blowout. Rather than quote the losing side (though the NHL.com write-up is worth reading just for Patrick Roy’s quote on the game) let’s look at what Taylor Hall said then:

I haven’t been in this league long, but I’ve been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game. Sometimes you’re going to get eight, and some nights you’re going to get zero. And [Thursday] was a great night.

Anything Can Happen

Taylor Hall

Realistically, an 8-1 loss to Calgary doesn’t mean anything more than an 8-2 win over Colorado; both games are worth exactly the same amount in the standings and should contribute exactly the same amount to any evaluation of the team.

The difference between Edmonton and Colorado (or Anaheim, a team that lost 7-2 to Calgary just 10 days before the latest Battle of Alberta) is that Avs fans and Ducks fans can look at the NHL standings page and not worry about being stuck in the NHL basement. These rough moments don’t prompt the kind of terrified navel-gazing that they do in Edmonton. The Oilers aren’t a very good team, and when the blowouts happen it’s all too easy to do the sackcloth and ashes routine.

But these games shouldn’t dramatically alter the preexisting beliefs of fans or (especially) those of management because the truth is that sometimes they happen. Does Kevin Lowe need to go? Should Craig MacTavish or Dallas Eakins follow him out the door? Maybe, but if so only because of the longer pattern of events, not because of a bad loss to the Flames.

  • Duchess

    Unfortunately, the fans are aware of the direction the Oilers are headed. Backwards. They moved up to 24th place overall last season and now sit back in 29th.

    Not to be concerned? Eight consecutive seasons out of the playoffs should result in more than concern.

    The Oilers’ core of young and skilled players are regressing, not improving as all had expected. Isn’t this a concern?

    Another concern, who would wish to play for this organization?

  • Duchess

    “Does Kevin Lowe need to go? Should Craig MacTavish or Dallas Eakins follow him out the door? Maybe, but if so only because of the longer pattern of events, not because of a bad loss to the Flames.”

    Explain the difference.

    You can’t because there isn’t one.

  • Duchess

    Well put JW. We should be angry about the consistent ineptitude the oil has displayed over the last 8 years, not about one bad loss where the other team shot at 33%.

  • The owner of this team is the one most responsible for this joke of a team…

    The owner hires the best management he can find
    the management he has assembled over the last
    few years are the joke of the Nhl..

    Time to fire the owner..

    • TayLordBalls

      Take a tip from the taxpayers out here in the Arizona desert who think that the best use of ” ice ” is to cool their drink.
      “If you don’t want a hockey team here ” DONT BUY A TICKET TO THE GODDAMM GAME”.

      It’s time for Klowes tier one fans to step up .
      If you are not happy with the status quo STOP BUYING TICKETS
      And if that doesn’t work and you are still in pain CHANGE DRUGSTORES.
      Need I say more?

  • TayLordBalls

    I can’t get behind the “this isn’t a big deal.” mindset either.

    Calgary is this team’s closest rival. It’s also this city’s biggest rival. Every sports team in this town claims their Calgary equivilant as their greatest rival, be it the Oilers, Eskimos, Golden Bears, or a junior high regional chess all-star team.

    One thing Kevin Lowe once said is cortrect: “There are many fans in this team that would accept us losing every game as long as we beat Calgary” (I’m paraphrasing). It’s true, and their’s an equivilant for every great sports francise in the word: Manchester United and Liverpool, Green Bay and Chicago, India and Pakhistan in cricket, etc.

    We would hope to sometimes a great franchise (to coin a phrase) and to do so, we cannot expect a 8-1 thrashing to never happen. But we can expect an 8-1 thrashing to never be tolerated, to be excused, to be responded to with anything less than an apology to fans that pay $500 for a ticket and a jersey.

    That is what we had with the Gretzkys and Messiers that Ben Scrivens invoked in his post-game comments. Jersey-tossers don’t disgrace their names and logos and legacy, a team that shrugs off an 8-1 loss to their closest rival are the ones who disgrace that legacy.

  • Anton CP

    Watching TSN right now, holy crap. All I can say is F you Dreger! You and your little boy crush on Eakins should stop already! Are you even listening to yourself and that bat-S crazy non-sense? Yeah, let’s just blame EVERY SINGLE PLAYERS ON THE TEAM SINCE COACH CAN DO NO WRONG right?

    • Shake_N_Bake

      So the fact that the players are choosing not to backcheck is on Eakins?!?

      Both the coaches and players need to be better. To paraphrase Yoda… your hate is making you stupid.

      • Rick Stroppel

        I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE WATER BOTTLE

        The fact that Hall (and many other forwards on this team) CHOOSE not to back check IS on the coaching staff.

        Step 1: Taylor you need to listen to me when I tell you to back check. You’re going to be on the third line tonight.

        Step 2: Bench in the third period.

        Step 3: Off the power play.

        Step 4: Pressbox.

        Step 5: MacTavish, you need to trade this guy. He’s a cherry-picker, he really doesn’t care about the team.

        Actually, MacTavish would be foolish to trade any of Halll, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov or Schultz at this time. People would be SHOCKED at what little return they would attract. Everbody in the league can see what unrealistic fans and the lap-dog Edmonton media cannot see. To a greater or lesser degree, they are all small, soft, defensively irresponsible players with inflated offensive stats. Literally every other team in the NHL has figured out that if you want to win, YOU HAVE TO GO IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

        • Serious Gord

          This sounds great, but a coach can’t bench the entire team, they have to play somebody.

          The Oil are between a rock and a hard place. The young guns they have staked so much on are not progressing and may have regressed this year. One could speculate that coaching this year has impacted this. I have no knowledge to state this is the case, but I hope people close to the scene know if that is a problem. Let’s hope it is coaching as that is relatively easy to fix. If it a problem with the young guns…

          • paul wodehouse

            Honestly, after 5 coaches and limited to no progression, if not regression for the whole lot of them you really think its the coach? Sure another approach, another coach might help to some degree… but by and large its the players! They are the ones on the ice, they are the ones deciding not to make the effort, they are the ones not back-checking, they are the ones who are “not embarrassed” when they’ve just been humiliated for the whole world to see. They’re the ones sticking up for each other (not necessarily the team) and until they are FORCED to IMPROVE, or shipped out nothing will change. But good luck with that, management seems so enthralled with their “greatness” and “great talent” they’re not willing to make the changes necessary.

            Anyways, I’m a Flames fan, we’ve certainly got a ways to go but at least we’re loving the intensity, commitment and hard work that has brought them together as a team and made this trying time very enjoyable to watch…

          • I never said there was no progression, just not in the last season. There is no doubt Hall and Eberle have progressed over their 4 years taken as a whole.

            I can’t say the same about RNH’s 3 year or Yaks and Schultz’s 2 years.

      • Anton CP

        Players are not back checking, so it is players fault.

        Players are not hustling on a broken play, so it is players fault.

        Players are not protecting the puck well and turn it over, so it is players fault.

        Then, what is coach’s job on this team? Just dress nicely and look sharp? I guess players have to figure out on their own since it is not coach’s job to address the problems, set up plays and correct mistakes. You know, players have to do it on their own.

          • Positive Ray of Sunshine

            Glad to see you’re both on the same page. I rarely agree with either of you.

            The coaches job is to put together a framework for the players to perform within. It is still on the players to execute. The coach can’t do it for them. If we had Scotty Bowman at his prime, he can’t force a player to backcheck when he doesn’t want to.

          • S cottV

            The Coach must influence the player group to execute the framework that is put together.

            Influence is fueled by such things as experience, credibility, proven track record, charisma, persuasiveness, fire, ice, passion, timing,common touch,incremental results etc. etc.

            Don’t see a lot of the above in Eakins.

            I would agree a tough group to influence but at the end of the day, the Oilers need the very best Coach available to do so.

            To me – a formidable tough @ss sob, that knows his stuff and would be the last to take any crap from snot nosed entitled brats – is the kind of guy the Oilers need.

            The brats don’t take Eakins seriously and it isn’t likely to change.

  • An additional thought. I understand the Oil are 0 and 7 in homes games on HNIC and have been outscored something like 32-10. Maybe when any team in the league is geared up to play a game because it is on a “big stage’ the Oil aren’t in the same league. Or does it say something about what motivates (or not motivate) the Oil these days?

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Hmmm…. HNIC games are on Sat night. Is it possible that the young Oilers are slightly distracted and just want to get out and meet some puck bunnies on a Saturday nite??

  • The backlash comes from the embarrassment of events that took place Saturday… player throwing tantrum, coach throwing towel, fans throwing jerseys, and players throwing the game.

    After all of this you are staring at bottom of the league standing 6 years in a row.

    What do you expect the fans to think or accept.

    There has been too much BS from management and fans have had enough.

    PS. Taylor Hall wasnt embarrassed after that performance, welll maybe thats the problem.

    • Patrick Roy after getting embarrassed by the Oilers:

      I’m not disappointed at all. They played well and scored power-play goals, they scored on the rush. We knew before the game that it’s a team that it would be very dangerous to exchange chances with. If they go on the rush, it’s their game, and we played into it. We need to learn from it. I was very happy when we came back and made it 3-2. Then we have a 4-on-4 situation and miss the net, and, bang, they go the other way and score.

  • mesa

    I would agree that if this had been a “one of” then there is not much to talk about. After all, didn’t the Oil thrash the stanley cups champs last year?

    But this isn’t an isolate incident, just perhaps the one with the biggest exclamation mark.

    How many games did they go without scoring a goal at home earlier this year? Does anyone not think that any time a California team, Hawks, Blues or Bruins have come though here it could have been this bad had the foot not been taken off the gas after 30 minutes and a 4-0 lead? The 59 goal shutout of the Sharks. most night is 6 or 7 -1 game.

    If your point is that you can’t read too much into a single game, I agree with you. But if your point is that the Oil are somehow off the hook for this, I don’t.

  • Willis this depresses me. Where is your fire? Both Gregor and Brownlee wrote articles about the ineptitude of the oilers management and you’re basically saying this loss wasn’t a big deal. It is a big deal and it should be the last straw for Kevin Lowe.

  • I think you should read into the loss a lot. With nothin else to play for besides pride, you would expect the Oilers to put forth a far better effort. Against the flames, or any other team. But, since this was the (very mediocre) Flames, a bitter rival, on a Saturday night, on national television, AT HOME, and the score being 8 TO 1, I would read into this loss quite a bit.

  • I think that this is an opportunity for Katz to pull the trigger on canning Lowe. If they’re looking for an excuse, that loss against Calgary as good as any. It’s happened before around the league.

    I just think something’s gotta give. Get Bucky and Smith outta here too and bring in some qualified individuals to give Eakins the support he needs. Enough with the oldies; they’re no good anymore.

    There’s no time like the present – something the Oil should figure out one of these years.

  • I think the reason for such a BIG reaction to an 8-1 loss is due to the low threshold, in terms of patience, Oiler fans now have because of the last 8 years of being the laughing stock of the league.

    This fan base has been patient enough and the outcry after such a loss to the flames could easily be justified. Oiler fans deserve change! This has gone on far too long.