LONG WAY DOWN

Maybe you thought Dallas Eakins was a pompous ass (I did) whose strut considerably outstripped his resume when the Edmonton Oilers named him head coach. Maybe you prefer the approach of Todd Nelson (I do) and want to see the interim tag removed from his title and have him signed as bench boss of the Oilers.

There’s been plenty of debate and discussion about Eakins, canned by the Oilers after a miserable start to his second season, and Nelson, promoted from OKC to mop up the mess with the season lost and fans counting down the days to a ninth straight year out of the playoffs. 

If you remove style from the equation and stick with substance – for me, that means wins and points — there’s not much doubt in my mind, as I’ve written before, Nelson is an upgrade over Eakins. I’m not here to argue that again. Eakins was sacked after 31 games with a record of 7-19-5 for 19 points and a point percentage of .306.

Nelson coached his 31st game in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings Monday. Nelson’s solo record, after five games in tandem with GM Craig MacTavish, is 11-16-4 for 26 points and a .419 point percentage. That tells me most of what I need to know as far as the coaching debate goes.

It also tells me, and this isn’t stop-the-presses stuff, MacTavish is going to have to do a helluva lot more than address who coaches the Oilers before fans get even a remote sniff of contending for a playoff spot. You’ve said it. I’ve said it. Jason Gregor talked about it on his show again Tuesday. If MacT doesn’t provide whoever is behind the bench with better players and more of them, a coaching hire is a fart in a wind storm.

NOT CLOSE

Ew

Had Eakins gone wire-to-wire at .306, the Oilers would have compiled 50 points this season. If the Oilers played 82 games at Nelson’s rate of .419, they’d finish with 68 points. The Oilers are getting better results with Nelson running the show, but those results aren’t close to good enough.

The point totals of the eighth-place team in the Western Conference over the past four full seasons (82 games) have been 91, 95, 97 and 95. Even Ralph Krueger’s .469 percentage from the 48-game 2012-13 season doesn’t translate to the Oilers being within a $5 cab ride of the post-season when projected over 82 games – it works out to 76 points.

Simply put (again), we can debate whether Nelson is the right guy for the job or play what-if and talk about the possibility, remote as it is, that a big fish like Mike Babcock or Todd McLellan or Ken Hitchcock might end up in Edmonton, but it won’t matter until the team is better. Way better. Five or six players better.

That falls to MacTavish, and, given his assessment of where the team is now compared to where most people believe it is — with much of the roster already turned over on his watch — I have very little faith he’ll be able to identify the missing pieces, let alone acquire them. None, actually.

Having the third or second or even the first pick at the 2015 Entry Draft isn’t going to make the Oilers competitive. Rushing Darnell Nurse into the NHL next season isn’t going to make the Oilers competitive. Naming Nelson or pick-a-name as coach won’t get it done either.

We know this. So does MacTavish. Doing something beyond talking about it is the trick we’ve yet to see. Call me doubtful.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Soapbox

The Oilers have so many glaring holes on the roster it’s difficult to pick just one or two, but one of the things that catches my eye is the lack of offensive production from the back end – not that the forwards are any hell either.

With Jeff Petry gone to Montreal, the team’s top six offensive producers on the blue line of those still with the team are Justin Schultz (5-20-25), Oscar Klefbom (2-10-12), Andrew Ference (2-9-11), Nikita Nikitin (3-5-8), Mark Fayne (2-5-7) and Martin Marincin (0-1-1). They’ve combined for 64 points.

Only Buffalo’s top six is worse. Edmonton’s blue line is so devoid of production that 27 teams get more points from their top three defensemen combined than the Oilers do from their top six (Buffalo and Vancouver are the exceptions). 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Yakcity7

    Honestly if MacLoser and KBlowe are back then PLEASE KEEP NELSON. If the stars align and they actually get rid of these clowns then let the new guy decide who coaches.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The only difference between Eakins and Nelson I see is Nelson does things the way they should be done. He deals/keeps issues inside the dressing room, and not parade them in front of the media everytime an ELC player made a mistake.

    I knew Eakins was toast the first time he threw Yakupov under the bus.

    What do they do now with the GM and the Marincin situation? Of all the Oiler D prospects, Martin could turn out to be the best blueliner. 20 lbs of muscle and 300 games under his belt. That kid could be the good, bad (mean) and the ugly on the back end. Hopefully this doesn’t unfold the way the Hartford/Pronger situation did.

    • freelancer

      Yes, however I don’t see Marincin being an Oiler in the fall. I don’t think it was a mistake the MacT forgot to mention Marincin in his trade deadline presser. I think MacT sees Klef and Nurse as the future top 4 and Marincin as a seat warmer until Nurse arrives.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Johnny Boychuk loves Edmonton,and loves the Oilers.after the Islanders season is over,you will see Johnny back in town,training and playing summer hockey,like he always does.Johnny also had high hopes the Oilers would trade for him,at the beginning of the year,because he does want to be an Oiler.

    If the Oilers can sign Boychuk,and trade our pick if it’s not McDavid to Arizona for OEL,then all of a sudden our D doesn’t look so bad.i heard two seperate rumours involving OEL and Edmonton. The first I heard was Hall for OEL straight up.the other was a scenario that had us picking 2nd (Eichel) and trading it to Arizona for OEL,Hanzal,Hawks 1st rd pick and Samuelsson. The Coyotes need an entertaining player up front to build fan interest.A Hall or Eichel would do so,waaay more than OEL in markets like Arizona.either way,I think Boychuk and OEL are Craig’s main targets this year,and he will let the goaltending ride under the new and improved defence.

      • tealyn

        Bob Stauffer put this out there last week, so it isn’t a rumor so much as a concept. It is quite ridiculous, but Eichel could be a guy Arizona covets greatly.

        • pkam

          I don’t listen to Bob Stauffer so I am not aware of this concept.

          I have a hard time believing that Maloney will give up that much for Eichel. If Coyotes are really willing to give up that much for Eichel, I don’t know about you, but I will take it in a heart beat.

          • 719

            I catch his last half hour on Fridays. I absolutely would take that deal if it were offered. I don’t think it is a crazy amount. Arizona would shed a star defenseman an injury prone center and a late first for an American superstar generational talent.

            I assume the ownership group wants to escape Arizona after their non-movement clause expires (after 2018 I think). They seem to be setting themselves up to fail in order to ensure departure. The above trade would save them $32.5 million in salary across the next 4 years at the cost of less than $4 million per year for the second overall.

            Imagine bringing a mid-twenties Eichel to Seattle or Las Vegas when they move… A lot better than OEL, I would say.

          • pkam

            If you think about equivalent players in Oilers, it is like trading Hall (may be a little bit more valuable than OEL but not a whole lot more), Pouliot (similar value as Hanzal), Penguins 1st rounder, and Yakimov (probably our closest prospect to Samuelsson).

            What do you think the people here will say if MacT makes this offer for Eichel?

      • 719

        It’s not as crazy as you might think.it would be OEL and Hanzal for the 2nd essentially.Hawks 1st (25-30) is no guarantee to be a player,and neither is Samuelsson.Eichel is said to be generational,and is American born. Arizona is the perfect place for Jack Eichel.

        Which brings us back to cost vs return,depending which side of the fence you’re on. Jack Eichel looks to be the best American player since Mike Modano,and the sky appears to be the limit on how good he could be.So what would that kind of player cost? Tons.if it became known that Edmonton was picking 2nd,and the price was a young #1 D plus,how long would it take for the bidding to reach this point?

        Arizona can replace Hanzal with Eichel,and OEL’s offence with a combination of Gormley plus a FA signing or trade,or if they have any other young LD that can grow with their rebuild. They would also have their own pick as well.they would be picking 2nd & 3rd in this scenario.

        OEL is a mover,not a shaker,and doesn’t solve all of Edmontons problems,which is why it would cost the other pieces as well. Who knows what the offers will be for that 2nd pick,no matter who lands it.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Steps up onto soapbox…

    This is the problem as I see it today. If we call it like we see it in any part of society people are labeled as harsh, haters, trolls etc. etc. etc.

    How come Dallas can stand in front of a microphone and throw the players and past coaches under the Greyhound because the players did not understand basic defensive positioning so they could not understand his much advanced “swarm”? How come he can judge a fan who had enough and tossed his jersey? How can he run Yak into the ground, both coaching wise and verbally? But yet those who call it like it is when talking about Dallas (he spoke & behaved like a pompous donkey) are going too far?

    The other day a Toronto reporter asked Horachek why he sent a player home who was 20 minutes late for a meeting but there was no consequence for the players who had not given a full effort for several games? A fair and direct question. Something we lack from media in EDM IMO

    Dallas walked in to Edm like he was the second coming and he spoke down to people like he was smarter than everyone. Then for a season and a half he failed miserably. Pompous. Ass.

    Drops Mic…steps off soapbox, rolls ankle, falls, curses, screams in pain…just like watching this organization for the last 10 years.

  • tealyn

    I’d bet that Nelson would’ve had the same winning % as Eakins over the past 31 games if he was forced to use Arcobello and Draisaitl as the #2 & #3 centers.
    Nelson’s approach might be better, but I don’t see the coach making any significant difference at this point.

    • You can’t talk about Eakins being limited by holes at centre without allowing that Nelson’s record would be better with Hall, Perron and Petry. Either way, we’re on the same page — player personnel has to improve.

  • tealyn

    Agree on all points here……..but Nelson does not have the benefit of “the one who stirs our drink”, that being Taylor Hall.

    I suspect with Petry playing and Taylor Hall ( healthy and playing) we would have been able to squeak out another 3 to 4 wins, and that changes the win/loss in a real substantive way.

    The inability of MacT to separate himself from his decisions, and look at things subjectively, is the real problem going forward.

  • Not that it matters at this point but I can’t help look at Krueger’s winning percentage and remember he did that playing mostly western teams. I still think he and Renney were the best two coaches we had in a long time.

  • 719

    People in this town cry out for a media man like Brownlee. When he comes along, people chastise him for giving his opinions.

    Well written Mr. Brownlee, I will continue to be a fan and read everything you publish.

  • pkam

    I had Nurse and Hanifan both coming on board in 1 year after both spending 1 year in ahl,scouts saying Hanifan is as good as Ekblad but this only works if you can get Boychuk.Our defense in 2 years would be klefbom Boychuk Hanifan Fayne Nurse Marin son. Draft and develop with a couple free agents one being a goalie.All you guys that want to trade the lottery pick for somebody that will leave in free agency in 2 years . I am talking to you Realist

  • Anton CP

    The way for Oilers to have better rosters is simply by making a fewer trades. For most of the past few years that only Oilers top line are consistent and the rest are not, it is very obvious has to do with only the first line are the most consistent line for the past few years. How many players have played the second line C for the past few years? Horcoff? Gagner? Arcobello? Draisaitl? Who else?

    The managements need to listen to their own for what they were preaching: patience.

  • Anton CP

    Here is a long list of how Oilers are impatient and constantly looking for quick fix since SC year, it is about all players that either Oilers dump quick, rush to the professional, or signed to a moronic big contract:

    Lupul, Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth, Souray, Pisani, Penner, Sykora, Khabibulin, Visnovsky, Gagner, Paajarvi, Nilsson, Cogliano, Brodziak, Reasoner, Stoll, Glencross, Pitkanen, Grebeshkov, Smid, O’Sullivan, Cole, Comrie, Dubnyk, Scrivens, Whitney, Barker, Belanger, Eager, Hartikainen, Belov, and Petry.