MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

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As another season to forget winds down, there are more questions than answers, once again, surrounding the Oilers.

How many will be answered in the off-season, and how many will the individual players elect to try and rectify?

Why does everyone call the final few weeks a death march?

It isn’t like they played great all year and are suddenly floundering down the stretch. The Oilers had another pathetic offensive showing last night. They were shut out for the 6th time at Rexall Place. They’ve been shutout in 6 of 37 home games and in nine others they’ve scored only once. In 40% of their home games they’ve scored once. That is horrific.

I can’t agree that the reason the Oilers play bad down the stretch is because they just want the season to end. I’m sure they do, as do all of us, but what was the excuse for uninspired play in October and November?

Why is being good offensively not valued?

I read Lowetide’s article on Schultz, and while we all point out his defensive issues, which are valid and understandable considering he’s only played 115 games, at least he does one thing well: he produces points.

Over the last two seasons Schultz is 29th in points for D-men. He has 56 points in 115 games. I don’t expect Schultz to ever be great defensively. I don’t need to him to be on the ice protecting a lead in the final minute of the game, because his game is more suited to have helped you get the lead. He is the guy you have on the ice in the final minute if you are trying to tie the game. Only the elite D-men play in both of those scenarios.

He likely won’t become a true #1 D-man, because he doesn’t have the size or strength to shut down the best, skilled forwards. That is okay, the Oilers have four other young D-men who are 6’3″, who skate well and should be looked upon to fill that role in the future. Marincin, Klefbom, Petry, Nurse and possibly Ekblad.

Of course, Schultz needs to improve his defensive zone play, and I believe he has taken small — I repeat small — strides this season. He doesn’t run around his own zone as much as he did last year, and he takes better angles to pucks. But he has a long way to go to improve. He is only 115 games into his career, and very few offensive-minded D-men excel in their own end early in their career. He must continue to strive to be better defensively.

I’m surprised at how quickly many Oiler fans have written off Schultz, due to his defensive liabilities, but will rip anyone who criticizes one of the young forwards or Jeff Petry.

Petry’s support group amongst Oiler fans, especially those who believe strongly in Corsi, is much stronger than the battle level we see on the ice most nights. The Petry supporters go crazy on Twitter if you mention that Petry needs to battle harder.

I’ve never once said the Oilers should trade Petry — in fact I’ve written and said numerous times it would a foolish move — but that doesn’t mean you can’t expect more from him — I’m not asking him to become Jason Smith. However, like many of his teammates, he doesn’t battle hard enough on a consistent basis.

This team has too many players who lose battles at important times in the game, or at important places on the ice. Petry isn’t the only one, but he is one of them. Asking him to improve in that area is not ripping his overall game, it is pointing out a flaw that needs to be minimized if he wants to help the team succeed. Having the best Corsi rating on a bad team doesn’t mean he is free of
being critiqued. 

As Petry matures what area of the game do you feel he will impact the most?

The stats guys tell me the Oilers score more when he is on the ice, which is good, but how come he only has 16 points? Is he impacting the play or is he just on the ice? Will he contribute offensively on the scoreboard?

Would you say he is as defensively sound as Jan Hejda or Francois Beauchemin? Those guys have just as many points as Petry and have the same TOI. Will he become a solid shut down D-man?

Coaches say you need to be exceptional at one thing to stay in the league. Some guys can only fight, and they don’t last long, but it keeps them in the league for a bit. If you can score goals, but are a defensive liability, teams will still find room for you. If you are a good penalty killer and can go up and down your wing, coaches keep you.

Petry has a good tool box, but I’m not sure we’ve seen what skill will become his calling card.

Will the Oilers improve if they get a legitimate top-pair blueline?

Of course, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the team will magically learn how to be more competitive and consistent. The players have to want that for themselves, and many of them need to look in the mirror over the summer and realize they are the ones who can impact their desire and hunger on the ice.

Asking Petry and others to battle harder isn’t asking for much in my opinion, it is pointing out the harsh reality of this team. 

They are not competitive enough on a shift-by-shift basis to win.

The record does not lie.

They aren’t 29th by accident.

Are the Oiler defenders good in the offensive zone?

I ask this because I wanted to see if they have enough offensive instincts to help out in the offensive zone. Here is a quick chart of their 5-on-5 play of the guys who have played 500 minutes.

Player Name TOI Goals Assists Points Shots Missed Blocked Total
SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 1158:24:00 7 10 17 55 37 28 120
FERENCE, ANDREW 1203:42:00 2 11 13 67 20 42 129
PETRY, JEFF 1198:39:00 3 8 11 59 41 57 157
BELOV, ANTON 712:32:00 1 3 4 29 19 37 85
MARINCIN, MARTIN 560:28:00 0 3 3 19 15 22 56

The first thing you notice is how few shots they have. Ference has the most, and I think we’d expect Schultz and Petry to get more shots on goal. Petry shoots more, but he missed the net or had his shot blocked 98 times out of 157. One of the best skills a D-man can have in the offensive zone is the ability to get the puck on net. It isn’t easy, but it is something I’d like to see the Oilers work on in practice.

Walking the puck across the blueline and shooting is one thing the Oilers do in practice, but if there is no forward in the shooting lane how does the D-man learn to shoot around or through legs? That might be a small detail, but I wonder if it should be practiced more often.

The Oilers only have two D-men in the top-100 in shots; Schultz is 77th with 97 shots and Petry is 100th with 82. Having more offensive zone time would help, but neither of those two are natural shooters. They are always looking to pass, which is why at 5-on-5 Ference has more shots than both of them.

The frustrating thing is that Devan Dubnyk said Petry had the scariest shot on the team. Schultz has also shown he can fire the puck, and I’m perplexed why neither guy wants to unleash it more often. The Oilers have to find a way to get these guys to shoot more.

What type of contracts will Schultz and Petry receive?

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Schultz shouldn’t be paid more than Petry on his next deal, and neither one of them has shown a lengthy stretch of consistency over the past two seasons. I’d give them both a gap contract. If they play great and deserve a big raise afterwards, good on them.

Are they locks to be a top-pair defender over the next two seasons, or beyond? I don’t see it, so there is no reason to offer them a long-term deal. Had the Oilers waited until Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were done their entry level deals, only Hall would be making $6 million/season. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins would likely have signed shorter and cheaper deals.

I’d pay Petry $3.5-$4 million over three years and Schultz should get a two-year deal in the range of $2.4-$2.7 million. Petry is 26 and you might have to pay him a bit more due to his impending UFA status, but I don’t see any reason to pay him more than $4 million.

Do you see any comparisons that his agent would use in arbitration that would pay him more?

Will Craig MacTavish move out some friends?

The Oilers coaching staff has 6 years of head coaching experience, while the other 6 Pacific Division teams have an average of 26 years. Will MacTavish let Eakins pick his own staff? Read here. 

Did this “ad” seem legit or fishy to you?

This ad ran in the Edmonton Journal on Saturday? Does anyone know Jay Brown? Do any other fans think the same about being a fan as he wrote in his last line, “Please (Oilers) keep trying your best, and we will try harder to be the fans you deserve.” It just seems like something a fan wouldn’t say. Smells fishy to me.

Will next year be better?

I’m an optimist, but unless MacTavish manages to make three of four major moves I don’t see the Oilers being a playoff team next year. I hope I’m wrong, because everyone is tired of talking about a losing team. I’d expect the Oilers overall point totals to improve, but jumping up 30 points will be tough.

It is possible, Colorado did it this year, but it will be extremely difficult.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR:

  • Zamboni Driver

    Guarantee you the “improve 30 points thing is not impossible but it is hard” thing was said…ohhhh…about 12 months ago. And 24….

    Totally disagree with you Petry, Jason. You can’t tell me that removing Petry would make the worst D in the NHL by 11 blocks really that much worse.

    IF anyone in the NHL knows who he is (and cares) then they MUST move him for something. If people are so in love with all the “High end young talent™” nonsense, and none of the holy four can ever be moved, who, exactly do the Oilers have that anyone would possibly want?

    Gagner? Please.

    Perron. Sure. But HE is someone they’d be insane to move.

    Who, then?

  • Zamboni Driver

    “The frustrating thing is that Devan Dubnyk said Petry had the scariest shot on the team.”

    Maybe thats because Petrys’ shot is a flutter that goes top corner?

  • Spydyr

    “Please (Oilers) keep trying your best, and we will try harder to be the fans you deserve.”

    Should read:

    “Please (Oilers) START trying your best,and try harder to appreciate the die-hard fans you don’t deserve.”

    Fixed it

  • Chainsawz

    That’s a great ad. Kudos to whomever this “Jay Brown” is. And I’m saying this un-ironically. I’m assuming that Brown is sincere.

    OK … I don’t particularly agree with the last line of the ad. I don’t think Oiler fans need to “try harder,” but I do think that fans here need to be more realistic.

    I moved here from Grande Prairie a few months ago and one of the things that we always assumed up there was that Edmonton had some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the NHL. From a distance, they most certainly are. But, now that I live here, I’m surprised at how remarkably unsophisticated many of them are.

    Throwing a jersey on the ice is full of symbolism… but only in the eye of the beholder.

    To some fans, it’s a wonderful act of defiance – but really only if it’s an act of finality. If either of the two jersey-throwers have come back to watch a game, then tossing a jersey was a hollow gesture. To other fans, it’s a shameless waste of an expensive jersey that a lot of poor kids would die to have (the fact that the first jersey toss took place a few days before Christmas made it a shameful symbol of jingoistic petulance that could only happen in a fat-cat province). To some fans, it was an act of disloyalty.

    To the players and coaches, it most certainly is. The defiant reactions of both Eakins and Scrivens speak volumes. In the hockey culture, there are no more sacred symbols than the logo and the jersey. Never mind the NHL media, ask any reporter toiling away at a small town on the Prairies what happened to them when they walked across the logo on the dressing room carpet of the local Junior A team. They would have been chewed out right then and there by a trainer or coach or player. It’s not something that’s done. Oiler fans should know that. Not understanding that speaks volumes.

    Meanwhile, the other night, some bozo in Calgary threw an Oilers jersey on the ice during a game in which the Oilers weren’t even playing. And, given the amount of creativity and original ideas flowing out of the Calgary fandom (it’s been chanting “Shoot!” at every Oilers defenceman wearing No. 5 since April 1986), I imagine Oilers jerseys will be catching snow on the Saddledome ice quite a bit over the next couple of decades. Hope it was worth it.

    Is Jay Brown a “real fan?” I believe he is. And I think he represents the common-sense element of the Oilers fandom who just stuck his neck out.

    For the most part, he speaks for me. I have no problem admitting that.

    • dougtheslug

      Nice first post, Zarf.

      You can now go back to your cubicle and get back to work cold calling for Oiler season ticket sales.

      Hope the Oilers paid you for your time.

    • Chainsawz

      Need a hand off the high horse, bud?

      I’ve been (and most fans) putting on the Oiler jersey with more pride than a lot of current players. The team is the focal point though so when they stink, it rubs off me as a visible fan of the franchise.

      Most of players on this team, they’ll wear the colors for a couple seasons or three then move on to another market. Do you think they care about any of the history or pride that used to exist in that jersey? To more and more NHLers, the 80’s Oilers are a team you’ve heard about, unlikely to have seen. Look at the Islanders. 4 cup dynasty. Some great players on that team. Does anyone outside of some their fanbase look at that logo in awe of its history? Or are they more likely to see Mad Mike Milbury, Charles Wong, and now Garth Snow sinking that franchise? Point is, sure there are guys putting on that jersey to play hockey but they don’t get it and never will. They play with no pride because of management decisions on player and coaching personnel have put this organization into the cellar. To me, seeing a jersey tossed at the right time (Not every time) sends a message to Katz, Lowe, and the rest: this is the level of disrespect you are showing us as fans.

      I really don’t want to see it every time the Oilers lose. I don’t want to see it again, frankly. I just want wins from here on out just like everyone (except tank nation). I just don’t see that happenning with the same people calling the same shots. If no changes are made, I want to be wrong.

  • Chainsawz

    I was watching 30 for 30 on the NYI ownership scandal in the mid 90s and there was an interesting interview portion with Wayne Gretzky. He talked about that he thought he knew what it took to win a cup, but never truly knew it until 1983 when the Islanders swept the series. He said he remembered walking by the isles dressing room after game 4 and the door was open, he looked inside expecting celebration and emotion, but what he saw was a group of thoroughly beaten down men who were physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted to a degree greater than he could ever imagined. He went on to say that was when he fully realized what is needed to win a championship in the nhl. the following year the oilers won their first cup.

    That story really resonated with me and made me think of the current issue oilers. Yes they are young and small and inexperienced, but i think above all else they have absolutely no concept of what it takes to be successful in the nhl. That’s not to hate on the oilers, because i wouldn’t necessarily expect them to, but it just goes to show that we still have a looooooong way to go as a hockey club.

    • Serious Gord

      This team has no identity either as to “how they are to win”.

      Look at Tortarella in VAN – he tried to implement a tough, hit first system there and it failed. As he has a team of skilled forwards that use puck possession.

      The question is What system will work with these players? (or close to)

      Hence I agree we need veteran coaches who can make suggestions and tweaks for something that works.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      Now THAT needs to be incorporated into a proper main media article. I have never heard that story before, but it invokes a feeling that almost anyone can reference from some point in there life be it sports or life in general.
      There is absolutely ZERO of that in this team.

  • O.C.

    There has to be a change in the top six.

    The roster from Jan.11,2013 to now has nine players remaining. Eighteen have left,plus GM and coach.

    Changing the bottom 2/3 is not working.

  • O.C.

    I’m quite confident that the current Oilers (and when I say current Oilers I mean everyone from Owner on down)are relieved they are not getting the fan support they deserve.

  • jonrmcleod

    Colorado is a tough comparison since they’ve looked like a team for a few years now just waiting to put the pieces together. Strong goal tending is what helped them do that this year, but that won’t likely be a recipe for playoff success.

    The Oilers, by contrast have been sold as a team that just needed to put it all together, but are really a team in need of two or three key pieces.

    Of all the moves Mac T can make in the off season, I hope he realizes that this team is never going to win with the same player at every top six forward position, and no legit top pairing D men.

    He desperately needs to bring in some stop gap D men to mentor the huge influx of young talent coming up that will one day make up our D core. And he needs to shake up the top six by adding some still young veterans, who want to be apart of the team going forward, and demonstrate a compete and work ethic not seen in 80% of our young talented forwards.

    These players all seem readily available in free agency, otherwise it might be time to bite the bullet and take a deal that is high cost, but beneficial long term. As in maybe it’s time to see what a first round pick + a wonder kid can actually get us.

  • Not that I need to say anything but just in case that jersey throwing post I made in the heat after that 1-8 loss comes back to haunt me again… I just wanted to say even though I’m a brown Jay, Jay Brown isn’t me.

  • Action Jackson

    Lowetide`s discussion on Schultz focused on the fact he was playing more than any other defenceman on the Oilers. He has potential, but he should not be playing that much at evens right now.

  • O.C.

    Listen Jay, Edmonton is/was called the City of Champions for a lot more then just a few Stanley Cups. Dont pretend that this city is only obsessed with the Oilers. There was a dark day when a tornado tossed this city around like every NHL team does to the Oilers and how the city came together and got through it and rebuilt is why we will always refer to us as the City of Champions.

    Not because of a tired organization living in the past glory days of retired athletes.

    Edmonton is much more then the City of the Oilers.

  • O.C.

    Ferraro hit the nail on the head (as he usually does) on your show today.

    The Oil cannot be afraid to trade on of their prized young assets because he might be great somewhere else. You must assess a trade on only if it helps your team, what the player(s) traded away may do is of no importance.

    I always find it odd when fans (or even media sorts) say so and so cannot be traded, as Gregor does wrt Petry above. Any player is trade-able if the deal is right.

    Even Gretzky was traded (i.e from the Kings to the Blues, I am not referring to the sale from Pocklington to McNall).

  • paul wodehouse

    So Lowe takes out an Ad under the guise of a fan. Proabably buys the first copy on Sunday, highlights it, and sends it to Katz?

    “See Daryl, the fans love us. Just some bad apples”.

  • paul wodehouse

    Jay Brown does NOT speak for me.

    do what you wish fans, it is your right and responsibility to demand value for your money.

    i see Schultz as a young Duncan Keith. there is plenty of upside.