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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  • oilerjed

    Why is Miller their last recall?
    I thought that they get 4 recalls after the trade deadline.
    Hamilton was up already. Isn’t Miller the only recall since the deadline?
    Was MacTavish misinformed about the rules when he said that he wanted to see Miller, Broissoit, Davidson, C Hamilton, Yakimov up in Edmonton before the end of the season?

  • oilerjed

    I posted a comment on Lowetide about this yesterday and Terry Jones had made a point about this as well, so obviously lots of people thinking about record vs West. Calgary owns the 4th best record in the Western Conference against other Western Conference opponents.

    Edmonton’s points earned per game against the West was 0.150 under Eakins, with 30 games to look at. It is 0.400 under Nelson. Still not good enough, that’s just above Arizona’s ppg total for the 2nd worst in the Conference.

  • Serious Gord

    As sad and miserable a run these last ten games will likely be, what is much more saddening, infuriating, depressing, and despairing are the prospects and thoughts for the start and likely the entire length of next season with a team little if at all improved and still being run by katz, Lowe and mact with their puppet Nelson and their enabler Nicholson.

  • Oilers4Ever

    Hey Gregor, TSN is reporting that Arizona has given Sean Burke permission to speak with other NHL teams for employment opportunities. Do you think the Oilers should be throwing whatever it takes at him to get him here seeing what his track record has been working with goaltenders and turning them around or should we stick with the unproven (interim?) junior goalie coach we have right now?

    I don’t know. How much better would the Oilers coaching situation be if they could nab Tippett and Burke? If they could convince Todd to stay on with Ramsay and punt Rocky back to OKC, that’d be a pretty good coaching stable, I think. Probably the strongest it’s ever been and for once nobody could ever say quality coaching was an issue.

    • Jason Gregor

      Thompson is very good at video. He can stay as 4th coach. Burke is a goalie coach, not on the bench.

      I’m sure Burke will look to a more competitive team after being in Ari for the past few years, but Nicholson knows him well from Team Canada, so, yes they should at contact him and see where his head is at.

  • Thumby

    My god do you ever write anything original? See: Young Willis, Matt Henderson, Lowetide. Just rambling, rehashing and filling space. Time to pick up your game and find a way to stand out from the crowd. Very beige.

  • Oilers4Ever

    Have you noticed sportsnet doesn’t even bother to put oilers’ games on the regular channel and do a proper pre-game show? Goes to show you the sad state of affairs for this sorry ass team!

    • Rem99

      It looks like an average team playing the worst team of the decade.

      5 years into the rebuild and it’s gonna be the worst season in franchise history. Yup, we got some great management alright!

    • Newj

      YOUR TEAM IS NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THINK IT IS AND YOU ARE WASTING OUR TIME

      Flames have their own site where you can go to celebrate the success of your team. Why come here to make asinine comments about our team?

      Previously I have posted that I was rooting for ALL Canadian teams. I have changed my mind. I hope the Flames lose. And when you do, I will be going to Flames Nation to grind your noses in the bullsh!t.

      Signed,

      An Oilers Fan.

      • PlayDirty

        You sound like a poor loser. Our team sucks, deal with it. They’re our provincial rivals, of course they’re gonna Raz us, what do you expect? You need to thicken up that thin skin of yours!

  • Reg Dunlop

    I know that the oil is just playing out the string and you should not base opinion on one game or a small handful of shifts BUT I have been a hockey spectator and participant for 45+ years and I have never seen a worse defenceman than Nikitin. He makes Corey Cross and Ray McKay look like Pierre Pilote.

  • dougtheslug

    The only thing worse than watching the Oilers is watching Buffalo or Arizona trying to hold a lead.

    This is what I’m reduced to – watching the only teams even worse than the Oilers and hoping they win. Which they never do. There is nothing but pain.

    This season can’t possibly end soon enough.

  • Oilfaninvan

    I can just picture MacT busting into the room and slamming on the goal horn button when Winnipeg scored and then being escorted out by security. Another win in the Mcdavid sweepstakes.

  • Harry2

    All you have to do is take a look at the Sens to see just what goaltending can do for a young team.

    Scrivens is the perfect backup for Edm. But he is a terrible #1 goalie. Defence or not hes just not good enough.

  • PlayDirty

    Should be embarrassing for Kevin Lowe . Brian Burke made a fool of him years ago and he continues to prove he was right.

    They trade away a potential #1 goalie Dubnyk.

  • dougtheslug

    “Winnipeg Jets test should prove to be ‘good indicator’ of where Edmonton Oilers stand”

    This was the title go a Journal Article today.

    So to answer where we stand after playing the Jets…..we are in the s%^@s that’s where we are. Nowhere near close a playoff team. The end.

  • Oilfaninvan

    I know it’s really easy to dump on a guy, but Nikitin looks like a creaky robot that needs his joints greased. Seriously. All this dude has going for him is alliteration!

  • PlayDirty

    Meanwhile south of us….a real hockey team which is being rebuilt properly wins tonight and is one step closer to playoffs. Congrats Flamers…. You are giving your fans a reason to live hockey.