GDB 41.0: Halfway to where?

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The Oilers did not start the season great. They were 7-19-5 in their first 31 games, which cost Dallas Eakins his job, and they are 2-3-4 with Todd Nelson/Craig MacTavish behind the bench.

They won 22.5% of their games with Dallas Eakins, and so far they have won 22.2% of their games with Nelson, however, they do have points in six of nine games (66%) under MacNelson, while only grabbing points in 12 of 31 games (39%) with Eakins.

The Oilers are playing better, but their winning % has yet to improve, although I expect it to under Nelson’s direction.

The Oilers only had 9 wins in their first 40 games, so improving in the second half of the season shouldn’t be difficult, however, I believe they need to show consistency in specific areas of the ice if they are truly going to see improvement beyond the second half of this season.

Last season, the Oilers were 13-24-4 in their first 41 games and 16-20-5 in their final 41 games. Their goaltending was much better in the second half, which led to a seven point improvement, but I don’t believe the team improved in the areas necessary for them to win.

They improved their point totals, mainly because their first half was so bad, and we likely will see the same increase this season, but until they demonstrate consistency in the small details of the game that lead to victories, I won’t be fooled into believing an improved second half will lead to better results next season.

WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE?

  • We need more players to show a willingness to work hard in the tough areas on the ice. No player makes the NHL without a strong work ethic, but to succeed and remain in the NHL, they need to learn how to work hard in the toughest and most important areas of the ice. Watch Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon. Sure, they will make mistakes, all players do, but when they enter a one-on-one battle they make it hard for their opponent.
  • Justin Schultz has to improve in this area. I don’t expect him to become Jason Smith, but he can’t continually try to defend players with one hand on his stick. Dig in, lean on a player and make him work hard to fend you off.
  • The entire team needs more stops and starts and less circling.
  • Forwards need to go to the net and stop. Stay in front of the goalie, not on the side. Don’t let the D-man push you out of the way so easily.
  • D-men must make life more difficult in front of the Oilers’ goal. Make forwards pay the price for standing there.
  • When these aspects are addressed and become regular habit for the players then we can believe they will improve, but until then I can’t get too excited over more wins in the second half of the season. Mainly because there were so few victories in the first half, that it won’t be difficult to “improve” their win totals.
  • I have noticed a massive difference in their pace of play. They are much more aggressive and that is due to Nelson’s philosophy. If he can get this team to play harder in the tough areas of the ice, I believe he should get serious consideration to be the coach next year. That has been the glaring weakness of this team for the past four seasons, and if he can convince them to play harder he should be the coach next season. So far, so good.

LINEUP

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The only change was Fasth for Scrivens. Nelson wants to see Fasth again, and he should get a strong test tonight against the Red Wings.

I thought the Oilers played solid throughout Sunday’s game vs. the Islanders. Even when the Islanders were out shooting them in the third period, it wasn’t complete domination by New York. You expect the opposition to have strong stretches in the game, but the Oilers didn’t wilt like they had in previous games.

You can see the Detroit lineup via Dailyfaceoff.com.

QUICK HITS…

  • I’m going to write an article more in depth on the topic, but one main concern in Oilersnation right now, and rightly so, is what can the Oilers and Nail Yakupov do to improve his game? It has to be both of them, and the harsh reality of sports is that much of it has to come from Yakupov. I believe he has improved his play away from the puck and in the defensive zone, but right now he looks lost offensively. He has zero offensive confidence. He needs to support the puck better in the offensive zone. When his teammate has it in the corner, he can’t wait on the wall near the hash mark and hope for a pass. He needs to get closer, for a shorter pass, or go help out.

    Some suggest playing him with Derek Roy. Nelson could do that, but that likely means more difficult matchups than he will face playing with Lander and Fraser. People have suggested he hasn’t played with good enough linemates.

    Here are the forwards he has played with the most this season at even strength:
    Arcobello, 193 minutes, Draisaitl, 180, Perron, 109 and Eberle 97 minutes.

    Last season, he played the most minutes with Sam Gagner, 318, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 227, Eberle 193 and Perron 176.

    In his rookie season when he scored 17 goals, he played the most with Gagner 277, Paajarvi 148, Hemsky 143 and Horcoff 120. He had his most offensive success with Horcoff, and was on for the fewest goals against playing with Horcoff. Yak played 60 minutes with RNH that year and never scored a goal at EV.

    I don’t buy that his quality of linemates are the only concern. He played the 2nd most minutes with RNH last year, but still only managed 11 goals. He needs to play better. He needs to read the plays better in the offensive zone and help and use his teammates more often. Nelson is working with Yakupov and he talked today about Yakupov needing to be more supportive in the offensive zone, and he and his linemates need to find ways to get him in better shooting lanes.

    In his rookie season Yakupov scored 17 goals on 81 shots in 48 games. This year he has four goals on 78 shots in 40 games. He is actually getting more shots, but has only 1/4 of the goals.

TONIGHT…

BabyLeon

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are playing better, but the Red Wings are incredibly structured and their patience will pay off in a 3-2 Detroit victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers pressure the puck carrier much more and that keeps them in the game. They play a much more uptempo game under Nelson.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I can’t think of anything today that will top the photoshop of MacT and Draisaitl – what an awesome idea. Baggedmilk is a freakin genius. MacT genuinely looks concerned letting his young prospect go, while Leon looks very comfy heading down the river to Kelowna. So good.

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    • Serious Gord

      Oilers fans got a taste of / lesson in why pouliot is playing on his sixth team in six years. I guess it’s impossible to coach it out of him. (No doubt he has a rep with the refs too).

        • Serious Gord

          Clearly not playing to his previous levels. I think there are four possibilities

          1. He’s hurt or has damage to his knees that limit his mobility because he’s allegedly wearing braces. He certainly looks slower and he doesn’t seem to have as wide a stance as he used to.

          2. He’s lost the will to play for this team/ this organization or at least it has affected his consistency of effort. His comments hint at his discouragement.

          3. The other teams have figured out his habits – and he does look stale in how he attacks. The play continues to die with him far too often.

          4. His last injury has made him gun shy and he seems more afraid to go to the nasty areas or take chances on open ice.

          I think it’s a bit of all four. But lack of success due to the three other issues has made him more and more lacking in point 2 re desire/will.

          Let’s see how this coach handles pouliot’s screwup. If he benches him next game it might go along way in regaining some faith for hall in this organization.

      • Chris_Cruise

        Agreed, it was a selfish play and he has a reputation that preceeds him. But if we were in need of wins I’d surely be pissed. But we’re not so I’m okay with it. ; )