Is There Room for Gazdic?

Luke
Gazdic is the most skilled Oilers forward when it comes to fisticuffs, but if
he is going to be a regular in the lineup he’ll need to be more than just a
fighter. Gazdic lost a few pounds — not that he was too heavy, he simply wanted to
get leaner and quicker.

But he
made it clear yesterday that doesn’t mean he is trying to forget the role that
got him to the NHL.

The Oilers
have not been team tough for a few seasons. They have been the easiest team to
play against in the western conference. That must change this season, and
toughness, grit and togetherness has to come from all the players, not just
Gazdic.

You also
need a head coach who is willing to dress a player like Gazdic. In his time in
San Jose, McLellan showed he likes to have some muscle in the lineup.

In his
first season as head coach in San Jose, Jody Shelley dressed 70 games and Brad
Staubitz dressed 35.

The next year
Staubitz dressed 47 times, Shelley played 36 games before being traded, but
McLellan replaced him with a younger tough guy, Frazer McLaren, and he played in
23 games after Shelley’s departure

In the
past five seasons he’s used different physical players: Jamaal Mayers dressed
78 games in 2010. He had John Scott last season and acquired Mike Brown from
the Oilers in 2014.

McLellan
doesn’t play goon hockey, but his resume shows he likes having a physical
player in the lineup.

Gazdic
got leaner because he wanted to be quicker. He recognized he needed to improve
his overall game if he wants to play more. He will need to be very good along
the boards in his own end, and he must make good decisions with the puck at the
offensive blueline. He can’t turn pucks over. I thought Gazdic looked fine when
Todd Nelson played him close to ten minutes a game last season.

It is
extremely difficult to make any impact on the game when you only play five or
six minutes, but when Gazdic played 9-10 minutes I felt he was effective. He
wasn’t a defensive liability. He made smart plays with the puck, and he skated
fairly well for a big man.

He is
also one of the toughest players in the league, and I suspect with Connor
McDavid arriving on the scene, McLellan will want Gazdic’s skillset in the
lineup.

Gazdic is
well aware of McDavid’s importance to the franchise.

“There
aren’t going to be many guys who will take a run at him, but if they do there
will be a price to pay for that. I want to make him feel as comfortable as
possible,” Gazdic said yesterday after an informal skate at the Royal
Glenora.

I have no
doubt Gazdic will want to try and protect his young roommate/teammate, but to
do it properly you need a head coach who trusts you can do it correctly, or be
willing to live with the consequences — a penalty — when you cross the line.

Intimidation
is still part of the game. Gazdic can’t protect the Oilers skill forwards the
way Dave Semenko, Marty McSorley and Kevin McClelland could in the 1980s. The
game has changed. The instigator penalty along with video review means Gazdic
has to do it within the rules. It is difficult, but still possible.

If I was
McLellan I’d have Gazdic and Matt Hendricks as my fourth line wingers to start
the season. The Oilers need team toughness, and if you have one of the toughest
guys in the league it is easier for everyone else to find their appropriate
level of toughness.

Toughness
isn’t just fighting, far from it, in fact. It is standing up for your teammates.
It is standing up for yourself. It is being willing to go into a scrum to
protect a teammate even if you are outnumbered. The Oilers need more on-ice
togetherness, but they still need a tough guy like Gazdic.

If Gazdic
can show McLellan he is reliable defensively and not turn the puck over
offensively, I suspect McLellan will give him every opportunity to play 60+
games.

I believe
Gazdic is up for the challenge, and with more skill on the top-nine, no one
should worry about his offensive production. That isn’t his role and if the
top-three lines are doing their job, then any points he produces will be an
added bonus.

Recently by Jason Gregor:      

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’ve heard Gryba can throw down when needed too. I’d throw him and his d-partner out with McDavids line; possible defensive mistakes? Sure, but I’d put someone who can fight with Connor to deter the Kassians of the NHL for a bit.

    Who knows maybe even Hall has gained better balance since his last fight lol.

    I like Gazdic and what he can bring on the 4th line, I just hope McLellan puts him on the ice right away unlike the previous coach that shall not be named who stapled Gazdic to the bench every time one of the kids got run.

    • bradleypi

      Seriously? So gryba is your pick for #1 Rd? Wow. Why does everyone on oilersnation want connor to play with plugs? Why play connor at all if they are scared he’s gonna get hurt. Yeesh… you’d think the kid was made of glass….

      • a lg dubl dubl

        Never said Gryba at 1d. Gryba is a 5/6 and sometimes 7 dman, what’s wrong with running the McDavid line and have Gryba and Ference(for example)?

        Top pair dman don’t always have to play with the top line, it’s not NHL15 lol.

        • bradleypi

          Ya. It’s not nhl15. It’s real hockey. And if coach McLellan used your strategy of playing plugs with McDavid and hall, he would find himself unemployed real fast. I myself would rather see sekaras and Schultz out with the top 2 lines. But that’s just me. Let’s keep track this winter and see if coach McLellan plays his best players with each other or just plays grinders with skill players. I’ll bet gryba gets significant ice time with the 3/4 lines. Not 1/2

          • a lg dubl dubl

            So you’d rather win games 7-6 than a bit lower scoring games? I see your point, don’t get me wrong, but I have absolutely ZERO faith in Shultz as a dman. By putting him with the McDavid line guarantees JS playing over 20 a game, I thought the Oilers wanted to cut his on ice time to about 15-17 min.

            Sure by all means run Sekera with the top 2 lines but Shultz shouldn’t. My point was if things start to get feisty a bit what’s wrong with putting Gryba out with McDavid, just to maybe settle things down if need be, no different than putting Gazdic with 97 for :45.

            Shultz in your top 2, haha! 😉

  • Spydyr

    Someone should tell Luke don’t worry about the instigator penalty. If someone takes a shot at one of the kids. Dummy him, don’t take no for an answer. Just drop him. Word travels fast in the NHL.

  • Spydyr

    The players that needed “looking after’, [ the rats that run around trying to hurt players ],
    Gadzic, did not take care of business in that regard. He only wanted to fight the other teams “tuff guy”!!

    In fairness to him most other Face punchers just want to fight their counterpart on the team.90% of them would not be the team based on their hockey skills.

    I will never forgive him for not taking care of Kassian after the Gagner jaw buster.

  • Harry2

    How is it exactly that Gazdic protects players? All I have to do is mention Sam Gagner and Zack Kassian.

    What Edm really needs is a tough guy to play in the top 6

    • bradleypi

      He can’t perform miracles and stop Kassian from swinging his stick….. but if you didn’t watch any more oiler games after that one, gazdic called him on every time they were on the ice together. No go from Kassian, but he didn’t come close to even breathing on another oiler for the rest of the year either….

  • Jaxon

    Gazdic didn’t score in junior, nor the AHL, so there is no reasonable expectation that he can score at the NHL level.

    He is terrible offensively, defensively, a slow skater, poor shot, and can’t take or make passes compared to his peers. It’s an absolute joke that any informed individual would think he belongs in the NHL to do anything other than fight.

    Pakarinen or Pitlick for example excel in every aspect of hockey better than Gazdic (except for fighting). Never mind players such as Andrew Miller who bring a lot more offence.

    If you believe fighting makes a difference in the NHL, fine, I won’t debate you there. But when articles come out trying to promote actual hockey playing ability of one on the worst players in the NHL (well below replacement level), there is just zero credibility.

    If you think Gazdic can be Georges Laraque realize that Laraque put up way better numbers in junior. 70GP 22P, 62GP 41P, 41GP 44P. Compared to Gazdic 58GP 13P, 67GP 29P, 63GP 30P.

    If Gazdic steal ice time from any other player on the team, a criminal investigation should be launched.

    • Train#97

      Gazdic may not be the best player but he is a good skater who can play a good north south game banging bodies up and down the wing creating space for Hall and McDavid.

      • fran huckzky

        Not the best player? He is the worst player. Pitlick isn’t the best player, Klinkhammer isn’t the worst player. These players are miles ahead of Gazdic.

        Gazdic is not a good skater. Where did this perception come from? He is a terrible skater. He is slow, and he reacts even slower. He can not play a good north south game, it’s just all he has is a north south game. And this north south game is terrible. He is a fringe AHLer without fighting, maybe not even an AHLer.

        He will never, and I mean never play with Hall or McDavid. Him banging bodies is not hockey. Any player can rack up hits if they don’t have to worry about playing you know….offence of defence.

        • Tikkanese

          Klinkhammer is the worst player. All he does is hit. He doesn’t score. He does not PK. He certainly never fights or even agitates for that matter either. I’ve seen him not joining scrums as well. He is a waste of a roster spot really and that’s coming from an old school guy who loves a good hit.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    How does Gazdic compare to John Scott or Mike Brown?

    It looks like as far as McLellan is concerned…facepunchers don’t need to be that good. So I don’t see why we are hoping for a breakout season. He doesn’t need to be that.

    McLellan will make sure Gazdic’s strengths are utilized appropriately. That’s good enough for me.

    Also, I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Gazdic getting dressed for 60 games a season won’t cost the Oilers the playoffs. McDavid breaking his hand in a fight (as he did with the Otters), will definitely jeopardize chances at the playoffs.

  • Reg Dunlop

    This isn’t the 90s NHL having goons on your team will not win you games, or cups. Who are the goons on Chicago? Or even LA? They have some guys who are big and throw their body around but NOBODY makes those teams to “protect” anybody, they can all play hockey and all provide some kind of value.

    Not every team has to be all the things. The Oilers have the players they have, if their top 6 had a Backes, Lucic, or Simmonds on it then they would be a “physical”, “tough” team, but they don’t, those are not the kinds of players they have. AND thats fine you’re not going to turn Yakupov into a hard nosed checker/fighter, thats just dumb, you have you use the strengths of the pieces you have to win, not try to turn those pieces into something they’re not. That style of hockey only leads to the NHL basement as coach Eakins has clearly demonstrated last year.