GDB 73.0: Walloped by the West

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 2014/2015 season has not been good (understatement of the year), but when you look at how they match up against western division opponents; it has been downright pathetic.

The Oilers are 5-25-10 against the west.
They’ve been outscored 138 to 80.
They’ve been outshot 1,230 to 1,068.
They are 3-15-1 at home.

Many things need to improve for this team to even become a contender, but the management, coaches and players all need to look within and realize they must change if they want to compete in the wild, rugged west.

The Oilers wrap up their season with ten straight against the west, starting tonight against the physical Winnipeg Jets. Then they face Colorado, Dallas, Colorado, Anaheim, LA, Calgary, LA, San Jose and Vancouver.

All of those teams will be battling for their playoff lives — Col, Dall and SJ are on the brink of elimination — and the Ducks are the only team safely in a playoff spot. The games won’t mean much to the Oilers, but they will mean a lot to the opposition, and that’s why the Oilers can use these games to measure where they stand.

If they can win five of ten, that would be a huge accomplishment, but I’m not certain they can. This team is not built to compete in the west. I’ve said it for years, and despite numerous changes to the roster every season, management has yet to grasp what this team lacks.

It seems everyone wants to blame the entire season on Dallas Eakins, but the Oilers have won only four of 15 games vs. the west with Nelson behind the bench. Coaching was only one aspect of this organization that needed to improve. It has since Eakins departed, but the team still has a long way to go to become competitive.

This team has too many of the same players. You need skill, and the Oilers have enough skilled players, but they don’t have enough complementary players to surround them with. Benoit Pouliot was a good addition. He can play on your top line and contribute and he adds a different dimension with his tenacity.

The Oilers still lack skilled size in their top-nine, and that has to be the main priority over the summer to improve the forwards.

The blueline needs the biggest improvement. Oscar Klelbom is maturing nicely before our eyes, but you can’t ask him to play first pairing minutes if he is playing with Justin Schultz. Regardless of what the GM thinks Schultz can become, he has never showed the high-level desire and competitiveness to be a first pairing defender.

Mark Fayne can be a solid second pairing shutdown guy, and the Oilers likely can live with him taking the toughest matchups next season, but right now it looks as though the organization is hoping he can do that paired with Nikita Nikitin. Again, it is a gross overestimation of a player’s (Nikitin) talent.

There is no quick fix for this team. Even if MacTavish can pull off a trade to acquire a top-pair defender (it is extremely unlikely), they still have other holes to fill like goaltending, forward depth and defensive depth.

I won’t say these ten games are meaningful, but their opponents will be playing for a playoff berth, so the Oilers should at least get a sense of what it takes to become a playoff contender. The players who are on this team must become more consistent with their work ethic, decision making and their overall competitiveness in the tough areas of the ice.

Watch how hard the Winnipeg Jets battle. The have a nice combination of size, skill, grit and determination throughout their lineup. They are extremely physical. They punish teams. I don’t expect the Oilers to match their physical play, but their desire needs to be equal to the Jets.

LINEUP…

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Defence

No lineup changes. Martin Marincin will stay with Andrew Ference while Nikita Nikitin stays with Mark Fayne.

Goal

Scrivens starts.

QUICK HITS…

  • Jordan Eberle is once again amongst the top-30 scorers in the NHL. Since he entered the NHL in 2010/2011, he has scored the 26th most points in the NHL with 279. He is an elite point producer. He is never going to be a physical player — accept it, that isn’t his game. He is 26th in goals with 116 and he is 24th in ES goals at 83. If you trade him it creates a huge void of offence on the right wing. I’m not against trading him, but the return needs to be very good and people need to recognize that Yakupov can’t fill that offensive void.
  • I’m sure the Flames will try and re-sign Karri Ramo. Hiller only has one year left on his deal, but if he makes it to unrestricted free agency he is the goalie MacTavish should target. I’d rather sign him than Antti Niemi.
  • I love how the Jets play. I don’t think they have the top-end offensive players to make a long run in the playoffs, but they will be a handful for the Ducks or Predators, if that is who they face in the first round. Tyler Myers has been exceptional for them since coming over from Buffalo. Their top-four D is very solid with Byfuglien, Trouba, Enstrom and Myers.
  • Who would you pick as top D-man on the Oilers this year?
  • I agree with the decision to send Ryan Hamilton back to OKC and use the final recall on Andrew Miller. Hamilton will not be a regular NHLer in the future, but Miller has progressed during his second pro season and he does have NHL speed. I’d rather see them play Miller for ten games to see what he can offer.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From JetsNation.ca

The Winnipeg Jets are feeling really good heading into a two-game road trip that starts Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Winners of four straight games, the Jets (37-23-12) have a cozy four-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with just 10 games remaining.

That being said, the Winnipeg can’t take its foot off the gas pedal against the lowly Oilers.

“We believe we’re going to make the playoffs, but it would be a mistake to be too high. We feel really good about ourselves, but that’s it,” Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec told the Winnipeg Sun.

TONIGHT…

HotDogs

GAME DAY PREDICTION: It will be an entertaining game, but the Jets need to the two points and the Oilers can’t handle their physical style of play. Oilers lose 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have allowed 36 goals during the past nine games. They keep pace by allowing four tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Miller scores his first NHL goal in his third NHL game. His mother will be in attendance tonight, and like most hockey players you always get a boost when your parents are watching.

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  • Prongers Promises

    If they lose 9 of the last 10, I can deal with it, as long as that 1 win is against the Flames.

    I’d prefer we skip out on McDavid and win out though…

    • Big red ginger snap

      I agree with you, I always want to see a win against the Flames. But I could see it actually kicking the Oilers in the @ss again.

      Remember the 2007 draft? Oilers were in fifth last place, last game of the year was against the flames. They win that game and it puts them into 6th last place (putting Chicago in 5th) and guess who wins the lottery? lol, yup that’s right. The Oilers get Gagner and Chicago gets Patrick Kane.

      Even when winning games, the Oilers find a way to screw it up.

      • Stompinstoms

        This isn’t true.

        A loss in the last game of that season would have actually placed us fourth last, not fifth last. The Oilers jumped both the Blackhawks and the Capitals with that last win.

        Also, the odds are a crap shoot now, so losing hardly gives you a better chance at McJesus (last=20%, 2nd last=13.5%, 3rd last=11.5%). Those are all bad odds, and no matter where the Oilers finish, it’s very likely that they don’t get McDavid.

        So how about we work on that culture problem and actually try to win games for once?

        Sheesh, I know the games don’t technically mean anything, but they haven’t since late October.

        Even the fans of the Oilers have a losing culture!

    • Craig1981

      A Hall-McDavid-Yak line to follow the Poiloit-RNH-Eberle line is one of the only things that would give hope for next year though.

      I have resigned myself to the fact we will have the 3-4th pick now though

  • WTF2

    The Oilers will make the playoffs next season, we are so much better than those flames and jets, they are just having lucky seasons! Shultz will outscore Giordano next season — I mean cmon… that guy wasn’t even drafted, King LEON is a legit #2 threat next year, stop worrying about Petry and Perron — they STUNK and they questioned my authoratay, AND I am planning on bringing Eakins back so were alllllll goood in the city of champs.

  • Thumby

    I’ve been an Oiler fan since the first Wild Bill Hunter press conference but I will have to cheer for the Jets tonight. If any fan base in the league deserves playoff hockey more than Edmonton it would be Winnipeg.

  • pkam

    The article says Martin Marincin will stay with Andrew Ference while Nikita Nikitin stays with Mark Fayne, but the chart put Martin Marincin with Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin with Andrew Ference. So which one is correct?

  • Micbilly99

    Gregor I agree they need a 1st pairing D or at minimum a quality 2nd pairing D to either matchup with Klefbom or Fayne. It’s another wasted year if we start the season next year with all of Nikitin, Ference, and Schultz. None of them are capable of handling anything above 3rd pairing matchups.

    In terms of what they need to change the mix. I dream of them somehow picking up Wayne Simmonds. Something about the way that guy plays would mix in with the top 6 here perfectly.

  • Micbilly99

    The Oilers don’t need to tank the rest of the season, I think the loses will just happen regardless. I would like to see the Oilers put more minutes on those players at the bottom of the line up. There is zero need to play Schultz 25 minutes a night, play Marincin 20-22 minutes. See how he responses. Play the crap out of the Roy & Yak. Let’s really see if they have something. The time for assessment is here, no sense watching what you have already seen all year long!

  • pkam

    Let’s give the Jets a lift tonight and a kick at the Flames on April 4th, and I don’t mind another kick at the Canucks on April 11th.

    Win or loss, let go to OT so either team can get a loser point.

  • Thumby

    And if they win 5 of their last 10 games, the Oilers will tie its lowest win total EVER in a non-lockout season, with 25.(1993-94, and 2010-11).

    Just awful.

    • Oilers4Ever

      Hate to say it but next year will be just as bad. Arizona and Buffalo will be climbing the NHL standings but the oil will once again be occupying the bottom of the standings. As of right now I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Jason.
    Great. Eberle can score points.
    My issue with him is that he is absent at the start of the year. Granted the Oilers are out of the playoffs in January every year hes played here. But if you ask me, October to January hes pretty streaky and doesn’t show up.

    Ever notice how he looks really driven against Eastern conference teams and against big western teams he looks sheepish? He may be good but he also may be a better fit on an eastern conference team as that style of play might just suit him better.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I really hope MacT gets a number one goalie so it could give us some kind of gauge on what really have and what needs to be done to improve our d- core instead of just saying we visually look better.

    • PlayDirty

      Not sure about next year but the Wheat Kings’ 16 y/o Nolan Patrick is 6’3″ and 192 and scored 30-26-56 in 55 games this year. Draft eligible in 2017.

      Check him out next week as they play the Oil Kings next week in the ‘series of Thrones”

      *McDavid scored 25 in his draft -2 year.

      **not holding my breath.

      ***i hate sounding like a stats nerd.

  • S cottV

    JG – do you see the Oilers tracking toward a playoff berth in the next 2 or 3 years?

    Or – unless something out of the ordinary materializes – is it more like 4 or 5 years out?

    • oilerjed

      wow this sure sounds great. That way we can restart the rebuild with a new group of managers who will want all of their own draft picks. This is the road that will lead us to 20 years out of the playoffs.. Say you get your wish and EVERYONE gets fired, what are you left with?

  • bazmagoo

    The Oilers defense is their biggest problem. Has been for the last four years. Dominic Hasek in his prime could not win with the sad bunch the Oilers assemble year after year. Goaltending can wait. Get a solid defensive core 1st.

    I was not a fan of the Smid trade. (He was one of our best defenders.) He has hardly set the flames on fire with his play.( 3rd pairing on a playoff hopefull.) Petry will likely be the same.

    A lot of the fans here need to watch some
    non-Oilers games. It’ll help them realize just how bad our defense is. Goaltending is/should be considered low on the priority list.

    We need a trade that brings in some defensive help.
    Chicago will be off loading alot of salary this year. As will the Rangers and Pittsburg. I hope Nicholson is on it.

    • bazmagoo

      Exactly. It does not matter what the (hopefully new replacement for MacT in the offseason) GM does with centermen or a goalie, as long as the D corps is this bad the team will not win. It has been so bad that the past 3 years watching/going to games with my Novice and now Atom aged son I would tell him to watch how the other team’s defencemen played, not the Oilers. LOL

      We were at the 6-0 loss to the Blues around Christmas last season and it was beautiful to watch how their defence moved the puck and controlled the play. As far as individual talents, watching Doughty play in person at Rexall the past couple of years shows how huge of a gap there is between anything the Oilers have right now and what a true #1 d-man is like.

  • PSinghBSc

    My default team is usually the Hawks in the west, and Habs in the East, and I like pulling for the under dog.
    I despise, Canucks,Kings and Bruins.Hope Oilers defeat the Kings in their two games.[ not likely]

    I have watched most Winnipeg games since TDL, and this team comes to play every shift, every game, and can score goals, despite Buff and Wheeler out of the line. They need for their goalies to stay hot.

    Early wild predictions SC… Rangers vs Ducks.