SUNDAY SHAKEDOWN

BattleOfAlberta

The last time The Battle of Alberta had any real teeth to it, back in the 1980s when the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were good teams that hated each other, there was no such thing as social media. No Twitter or Facebook. No fans talking trash at each other on hockey blogs and websites like this one.

There was no real-time back-and-forth. Fans got a game story, a sidebar and a column in the newspaper the next morning chronicling the results. Today, with smartphones buzzing and website comments sections full of your-momma talk between fans in Edmonton and Calgary from before the opening face-off to the final buzzer, feedback is immediate and ongoing.

Oiler fans filing into the parking lot outside Rexall Place Saturday not only had to digest the swift kick in the nuts that was a 5-4 loss to the Flames on a fluke goal, if they didn’t shut their phones off or tuck them away they could read and hear about it over and over again before they even got to the car. The post-game niceties from Oilersnation are here.

It’s a different time to be sure, but with the Oilers and Flames trying to rekindle the BOA, Hockey 101 dictates some things haven’t changed since Wayne Gretzky and Neil Sheehy and Jim Peplinski and Mark Messier went at each other like there was no tomorrow. Teams can’t consistently fall behind, like the Oilers did Saturday, and expect to win. They can’t get lousy goaltending, like the Oilers got Saturday, and expect to win.

Get that these days and Oiler fans get to open the DM that starts with, “Coilers . . .”

YOU CAN’T DO THAT

Cam Talbot deservedly got a lot of heat for allowing Michael Frolik to complete his hat-trick and score the game-winner from the corner behind the goal line with just under nine seconds to play. That puck can’t go in. Can’t. Ever. Good that Talbot owned it. Doesn’t change the fact.

The Oilers got away with coughing up a 3-0 lead to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday before storming back for a 4-3 win. Saturday, they spotted the Flames, who got thumped the night before by the Habs in Cowtown, two-goal leads on three occasions. This just in: not a game plan.

After nine straight years out of the playoffs, there’s hope, and rightfully so, there are better days ahead. The reasons for optimism we know. But even with more experienced hands at the helm with Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli and a brilliant kid named Connor McDavid draped in No. 97, you can’t win if the old bugaboos remain. They do.

Bad goaltending. Slow starts. Lapses in execution. Playing from behind. The Flames did the latter with some success last season, but it’s going to kill you more often than not over the long run. Nine seasons, going on 10, is a very long run. So you get what we got Saturday.

In many ways, this edition of the Oilers is better than any version of the team fans have seen in a long, long time – yes, the bar has been set low – even if issues remain and the results don’t yet reflect that. Better GM. Better head coach. Better player personnel. McDavid. McDavid. McDavid. After games like Saturday, that’s cold consolation.

Right here and right now, Oiler fans have every right to expect more than what they saw in the latest edition of the BOA, a record of 4-8-0 and DMs from their buddies in Cowtown that start with, “Coilers . . .”

HATS OFF TO GEORGES

  • Talked to Georges Laraque this morning and he was absolutely overwhelmed by the ovation and reception he received from fans at Rexall Place yesterday. Time flies and it’s been a decade since Big Georges wore Edmonton silks, but fans here have long memories.

    “I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “So many people, some of them just kids when I was here, came up to me and said a lot of nice things. It felt good to know they had good memories about me and some of the things I tried to do in the community while I was here.”

    Laraque was a tireless worker in the name of many charities – he sometimes took on too much – in this city, much of it done without fanfare and photo-ops. Hats off to the Oilers for bringing back players like Ryan Smyth and Laraque to take a bow. Classy stuff.

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • The Oilers overpaid for Andrej Sekera when they inked him to a six-year deal worth $33 million last off-season because that’s what teams often do with UFAs, but holy cow, if fans are complaining about the contract 12 games in, I can only imagine the noise in a year.

    The hindsight card screams Jeff Petry, but even without playing that hand, if Sekera doesn’t settle in and get considerably better, his contract is going to make the one Andrew Ference signed when he came here look like a smoking deal.
  • Leon Draisaitl needs to stay until he plays himself off the roster. 

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

  • fran huckzky

    Those were the good old days.

    Hall gave Jenny Hockey a nice bone-crushing hit, he rubbed the punk-mouth out “highlight reel” good…and no one on the fLames had the Cojones to bite back at Hall who is noticably ripped now and is a legitimate Middleweight.I like the new evolved physical Hall.

    .

    We should have smashmouthed a tired fLames squad.Coaches why werent they ready and primed?Wrong Pre-Game music again? Bottom 6 and d-men Tutus not ironed right?

    Kudos to Big-George he was a solid Oiler who thrilled us all consistantly,thanks Big-Dog.

    Sekera reminds me of Ference without the teeth.

    Dre’ has provided evidence he can contribute to the top 6.

    Davidson reminds the eye of a young Jason Spezza ,test his accuracy ASAP ,make him pump it at the net,maybe he is a sharp-shooter.

    Old School Defense might be the cure to todays Possesion/Transition Offense.Own your Zone and Set the Tone.No one wants to be an upspeed late support man winning Teams use today to punch into the o-zone not when someone is ALWAYS looking to blow you up on the Blueline instead of collapsing and giving you ground and zone entry unchallenged.

    Nice read RB and reflective of the urgency we should all justifibly be feeling now….it is NOT WRONG to be asking the same old questions today considering the Teams results.

    I absolutely agree fans deserved more out of the BOA….and I lay it on Mac-L and his crew again…the Coaches pooched it evidenced by the fact the sucessfull gameplan developed at the end of the Habs game was NOT carried forward into the beginning of the fLames game….WHEN …it eventually turned out to be the EXACT same gameplan they used to turn the fLames game around.

    Those Habs in-game adjustments were not game specific they were System-Specific,100% portable and should have been recognised as such and carried forward into the fLames game and beyond.

    The sound of the perpetual learning curve squeaking away is like Chineese water torture already….players-coaches-managers….coaches-players-managers…managers-players-coaches back and forth for a bloody DECADE.

    I quit accepting the learning curve when Mac-L and PC got here….the fLames game made me wonder what is going on.

    I predicted a 5-15-0 record over the 1st 20gms under worst-case cicumstances if Mc-L didnt get help …at 4-8-0 I shudder to consider the odds.

    If I were possibly losing my NHL job methinks I would go out fighting….PC WILL move anyone…maybe its time to start re-playing Hockey Wives in the dressing room to remind the men how brief their careers are under the best of circumstances.

  • Al Theeathoone

    It’s a good thing our new super coach likes to get off to a fast start at the beginning of each season like we were all told to expect. Not happening.

    McLelland and his posse have failed miserably. No structure. Constant line up and line changes (injuries are no excuse – other teams have injuries too). No game plans and can’t get “anyone” to buy in on their so called new system. Sending down Nurse and playing Ference instead. Sending Draisaitl down and playing Lander instead, playing Purcell at all let alone on the top two lines and on power plays.

    Can’t win face offs, can’t get the players to take their eyes off the play and or the puck long enough to turn their heads and look so they don’t lose the man they are supposed to be covering (inept coaching). Can’t get out of their own end for extended periods of time usually resulting in a goal against (inept teaching and coaching), can’t get them to stop allowing odd man breaks, can’t score with a man advantage, can’t keep the puck in the offensive zones for any length of time especially on the power play, and can’t convince the players to not take foolish game changing penalties. All serious coaching failures.

    If after a come back win against Montreal this coaching staff couldn’t get the team ready to play a floundering confidence drained defensively poor, weak goal tending Provincial rival Flame team who just played the night before then what can this coaching staff actually do? Where is the progress? There is none and it’s highly doubtful there will be any progress this season and perhaps next as well.

    How many of you truly believe that defense is this team’s problem? Time to stop using that excuse.

    Inept coaching that can’t come up with a game plan to beat one of the two or three weakest teams in the league while blessed with 4 first overall highly skilled picks, two other high first rounders in Nurse and Draisaitl, much better goal tending than last year (and they are going to destroy his confidence too) and the best young player maybe ever and yet they can’t beat (in our barn) this year’s doormats – our hated rivals who have embarrassed us and stolen points from us for years. Without the ten points from the Oilers last year would the Flames have made the playoffs? Was McLelland not made aware of how important it is for this team to beat Calgary – not just for the points but more importantly to stop the humiliation of the past decade in this Province?

    This new Management and coaching staff were brought in here to improve this team and end or at least somewhat diminish the embarrassment us fans have suffered for much too long. They have failed miserably.

    The Oilers are in for a real humiliating season, worse than any in the past because of the expectations we all had for this year. Big time FAIL. Most of us didn’t plan on the playoffs but we all expected some improvement. There is none. Zero.

    McLelland’s wage (the “millions” he’s getting) does not affect the team’s cap. Either get him to produce NOW or replace him (maybe with Herbers). Tell him he needs to earn his wage or show him the door. Same goes for Nicholson.

    Patience my a$$.

    We are tired of being embarrassed. We deserve better. The City of Edmonton deserves better. The players deserve better. McDavid deserves better.

    • Canoe Ride 27.1

      I was gonna say this.

      If Mac-L needs help…then someone get him some help.

      Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

      Sounds like the fellas just need a good talking to by the right person.

      We are not seeing “contact” being ingratiated into the Processes the men have been learning when it is simply another tool which they need to learn to use together congruently…when Coach says “STICKS DOWN BOYS—STICKS DOWN” everyone does it immediatly and together if they do not they stand out and are easy to police….if you do not congruently work tactical contact into your Process or System itself you can never self-police or know when specific men are straying from the program .

      This means that during a game Mac-L should be able to get a call from upstairs saying he needs to put up a wall of contact feet into the neutral zone because the eye-in-the-sky has spotted an opponents tactic which needs to be stopped ….he should be able to give one single directive and every man should comply in a Systemwide action.

      The System should be telling the men when who and how to hit or make contact….the men cannot make this decision on their own optimally….this is coaching issue and really the only thing holding the Oilers back IMHO has been a lack of timely impactfull contact during the execution of their gameplan.Forecheck contact,backcheck contact blueline contact and more….no one is tending the ship in these areas.

      The men were taught some new obviously elite battle techniques positionally to win pucks…now they need the same time and attention given to them in the hitting or contact department.

      This issue should have been given time and consideration when the overall Template was constucted by Mac-L et al.

      Hitting must as a primary core value driver be optimally managed within the System not externally by men on their own.

      Pep talks and new ideas,stimulating conversation is what Mac-L and his boys require.

      If the old way doesnt work sometimes you just need a fresh perspective to kick-start you.

      So tell me Mac-L just HOW DO YOU work this needed tactical contact into your entire Process when you have a creatively driven offense devoid of traditional structures to hold it down?

      You CAN let the men work it out willy-nilly based on learning individual habits or the mysterious “chemistry”..sketchy though….or you can ADD some new habits to your existing Processes…the latter being the stable mallable path of least resistance.

      Everything is working now except the tactical contact aspect.Dont begin ripping apart things which are working for you because you do not see this yet.

      Just ADD a tad of the right ingredients.

  • smiliegirl15

    I worked downtown when Georges was leaving Edmonton. He was signing autographs at the Bounce from 9 – 11 one day. He was there at 1 pm when I went home to walk my dog and still there at 5 when I went home, although by that time the line was pretty short. He stayed there until everyone who’d come to get an autograph got one, everyone. Pretty classy so of course Edmonton loves you Georges! He did a radio show while he was here and who didn’t love his chest bump on the glass when he scored a goal?

  • Been there

    We have a cultural problem in Oil country and it has been prevalent for the last ten years. Yes, we are not the most talented, yes we have tried numerous coaches and changes in personnel but the one consistent thing I have seen over and over is the team NEVER comes ready to play!
    We have to be consistently the worst first period team ever. The players even admit it, every post game, we started to slow, we weren’t prepared, blah blah blah.
    Until y
    This team gets serious about coming out and not only wanting to win from the beginning, but be willing to take it to the other teams early regardless who the opposition is, we will never progress!

  • BobbyCanuck

    Interesting comments from TMAc after the Habs win.

    He said something about’now we will see if the players take the foot of the gas pedal, and revert back to the old ways, or if they take the win and build on it. Either way it will help make it clear as to who has the style and motivation we want and who does not’

    Sooo lets all relax, and watch this play out until game 40. I am pretty sure, not all of the golden kids will be around after that time.

    Please lets just forget about trading for a #1-D, will cost a lot.

    Any conversation will have to start with Ebs/Hall/RNH +Yak +Shultz (or someone at that level) + our 1st pick next year.

    Pretty heavy price to pay for a Drew or a Duncan