52Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Searching for consistency

Inconsistency

The Oilers find themselves in first place in the Pacific division, although San Jose has three games in hand and is one point behind, yet they have only won five of 12 games versus the eight weakest teams in the NHL.

The Oilers are 9-6-1 versus the top 21 teams in the standings.

It seems they play to the level of their competition. They’ve dominated Chicago, Washington and St.Louis, yet they’ve been unable to defeat Toronto, Buffalo or Arizona in six contests.

The standings in both conferences are very tight, and if the Oilers continue to struggle against the bottom teams it could cost them a playoff berth.

The western conference race is very tight. Every team except Arizona and Colorado is within four points of a playoff spot. If we prorate today’s standings over an 82-game season we would only have three teams with more than 95 points in the western conference.

Central

Chicago 37 pts…    Prorated to 108
St.Louis 24 pts..     Prorated to 107
Winnipeg 29 pts…  Prorated to 82
Minnesota 28 pts…Prorated to 95
Nashville 28 pts…   Prorated to 92
Dallas 26 pts…       Prorated to 78
Colorado 19 pts…  Prorated to 65

Pacific

Edmonton 32 pts…    Prorated to 94
San Jose 31 pts..       Prorated to 101
Calgary 30 pts..         Prorated to 85
Anaheim 29 pts…       Prorated to 91
Los Angeles 28 pts… Prorated to 92
Vancouver 24 pts…   Prorated to 76
Arizona 20 pts           Prorated to 66

There is always room for change. Some teams will be better in the final two-thirds of their season than they were in the first, while others will be worse and some will be the same. It is solely a projection, but when you compare to previous seasons, we simply don’t have as many projected 100-point teams as we’ve seen in the past.

There seems to be even more parity than ever before.

While the Oilers only have four wins in ten games versus the eight teams with the fewest points (Colorado, Arizona, Vancouver, Dallas, NYI, Toronto, Buffalo and Carolina), they have managed 11 of a possible 20 points due to the lovely Bettman bonus point.

What is frustrating is how the Oilers focus, determination and consistency has not been as sharp in those ten games as it has against better teams.

The Oilers soiled the sheets for the first 20 minutes last night in Buffalo. They had two shots on goal in the first 16 minutes versus a team who had played the night before and had a depleted defence. Yes, they controlled the second period and the third until the final minute, but if they were ready to play in the first 16 minutes, they likely wouldn’t have needed to cling to a one-goal lead in the final seconds.

The Oilers have 12 games remaining against the aforementioned bottom eight teams.

They play Vancouver four times, Arizona three, Colorado twice and Carolina, Dallas and the Islanders once.

They must find a way to stop playing down to the level of the opposition. The good news is the Oilers have shown they can rise to the level of the top teams. They play 42 more games against the top 21 teams, and the challenge will be ensuring they can remain as successful against them as they have been so far this season.

I didn’t expect the Oilers to have a smooth ascension up the Western Conference standings. There will be dips, but Todd McLellan must be frustrated with this team’s inability to be consistent against teams with less talent.

Learning how to win regularly is more difficult than it looks. The dominant teams find ways to defeat the bottom teams more regularly.

Chicago is 6-0-0 vs. Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Toronto and Vancouver.

Montreal is 7-1-0 vs. Arizona, Carolina, NYI, Toronto and Vancouver.

St.Louis is 4-1-1 vs. Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas and Vancouver.

The Oilers have shown that when they’re prepared and focused, they can beat top teams. The next step in their evolution is to learn to be consistent. It is difficult, and while a 5-4-3 record versus the bottom eight teams is not terrible, they have left some “easier” points on the table, and will need to be better than picking up 13 of a possible 24 points.

In the ultra-tight Western Conference, they have to hope it doesn’t come back to haunt them on April 10th.

MONTH OF GIVING

Thank you to Bryan and Bryce for their bids and to The Base and Mr. Derks for the great packages. We raised $3,950 for Santas Anonymous yesterday.

Today’s items
Package #1

 

A pub party at On The Rocks and Urban Tavern

It includes $500 in gift certificates at OTR or Urban Tavern (The old Druid).
Crab Boil dinner for four at On the Rocks.
Pub Party for 10 at Urban Tavern (Opens up this weekend)
Pub Party for 10 at OTR.
Trust me, only bid on this if you have a fun group of friends. Dr. Wang and crew will treat you well at OTR and Marko and crew will ensure you have a blast at Urban Tavern.

Package #2

 

http://www.frisbeestudios.com/images/portfolio_slider/hughes/portfolio-slider-hughes-branding-1.jpg

  • $1,000 in Hughes Gift cards to be used for fuel or car washes.
  • Four tickets in their Theatre Box at Rogers Place on January 1st. Oil Kings vs. Calgary. It includes dinner and an underground parking pass.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Operation Friendship Seniors Society and Santas Anonymous.

Recently by Jason Gregor:    

Monday Musings: This is who the Oilers are

  • TruthHurts98

    It’s not just the losses against the basement teams, it’s their complete indifference and lack of intensity. Being so badly prepared falls on the coaching staff. I want to like TM and I hope he can figure this out before the Flames and other teams go whizzing by in the standings. Connor deserves more from his teammates and coaches.

    • Seriously Bored

      Its not up to the coach to make sure pro athletes are ready to play at the beginning of the game. How is he supposed to better prepare them? Show up with orange slices and cool new hockey tape to get the team excited before the game?

      If you are a professional in the absolute top of what you are doing and have been doing said job for 10+ years it should not be up to your boss to motivate you to work.

      I am quite sure the coaches game plan is not sit back and wait to see how the other team plays.

    • Jason Gregor

      Why is it on the coach?

      They don’t skate. They aren’t making the decisions on the ice.

      Your parents can tell you to study. You go to your room and open the book, but if you daydream and don’t actually study, what can they do?

      They can yell at you. They can ground you, which is same as being benched, but they won’t know if you are studying properly until the results of the test.

      Coaches can’t make these chest-pumping speeches every game that magically get players excited. Motivation comes from within.

      The coaches prepare them through video and if Buffalo was doing things the team wasn’t prepared for then, yes, you can blame coaches.

      But being strong on puck, smart with puck, hard on forecheck and backcheck falls on players in my eyes.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        Yes, the players play the game, but it’s up to the Coach to come up with a plan that these professionals can all be a part of that gives the team the best chance of winning.

        I’m seeing a bit of a disconnect between the players and the coaching staff.

        If it was 98% up to the players like you said on your radio show and that’s it…. then why even have a coach, or why practice.

        • Jason Gregor

          Coaching strategy and motivation are very different.

          Every player and coach has said 98% of motivation comes from the players. Not sure why some people still want to blame coach when team starts flat or isn’t focused.

          You can encourage them to be focused, but ultimately it is up to player.

          Oilers didn’t lose to Buffalo because of lack of video preparation on what to expect from Buffalo.

          • Dan 1919

            Completely agree, coaching can help teams temper expectations and help keep them even keeled and all that, but to say a coach has to get a guy fired up to want to put in a solid effort in the National Hockey League is a joke.

            I’m curious to know how you evaluate the team, I tend to see the entire team take blame when in reality the entire team isn’t the problem. I would say Caggiula, Maroon, Letestu, Kassian, Pitlick & Slepyshev have been great overall making up the bottom six this year. Usually they hold their own, and quite often they are actually generating chances or scoring against the opposition, IMO an ideal bottom six that plenty of teams wished they had similar results to.

            McDavid… is leading the league.

            Draisaitl, Lucic and Eberle all have 20+ points, although they have all appeared uninspired at different times so far. Regardless if they continue this pace throughout the season, their production is likely acceptable.

            Puljujarvi is in his first season.

            RNH and Pouliot have been the biggest problems. Pouliot well broadcasted, but RNH goes night after night taking perimeter flick shots and not battling into the open space in the offensive zone, getting no flak. The guy is immune because people are somehow convinced he’s the second coming of Lidstrom playing forward, and he’s not, he can’t even win a faceoff after 5 years. Sure he back checks, but he’s out there making plays that avid hockey players know don’t work (consistently pulling up and taking flick shots from above the circle instead of driving the puck to the net or into a cycle)…

            My two cents, but everyone seems to be taking heat on this team but RNH, and if he brought his $6mil worth of value to the team, they’d be looking a lot better than they are now(which is still solid).

            In a cap world we have to ask, if RNH’s $6mill was allocated to a $6mil Dman, would the team be better? Absolutely. The bottom line is people can blindly defend him all they want, but in a cap world his lack of production is really hampering this team.

          • RJ

            I’ve said this for the entire McDavid era.

            The Oil have a legit #1C, arguably the best in the league. By next year, I don’t expect anyone to argue it.

            Nuge is now a 2/3C, and he doesn’t put up a lot of points, and hasn’t since he stopped getting the best wingers to play with every shift.

            He had been bad at faceoffs his entire career, and seems to be stuck.

            When there were rumours of Nuge being traded for Seth Jones, a lot of Oilers media lost their collective minds. He is RH, has size (6’4, 208), can skate and plays the PP in Columbus. At 22, and a cap hit of $5.4m, the team would unquestionably be better off. They would have just needed a #3C who could win
            faceoffs.

            I did hear Dreger criticize him for his poor FO% today, but that’s the first time.

        • CMG30

          The players seem to be able to show up and execute the game plan when playing the top teams…

          No coach has a magic give-a-poop wand. It’s on the players to find the desire to show up for each and every game.

          You coach for skills and systems. Not internal desire.

      • AJ88

        “The good news is the Oilers have shown they can rise to the level of top teams”

        I wonder if those mentioned top teams are saying “they must find a way to stop playing down to the level of their competition”.

        As far as I am concerned the last 40 games of the season is going to determine the level of compete for the Oilers.

        And as far as what a coaches job is, motivation of individuals and team readiness is an important aspect of being a quality coach. I do agree that a players motivation has to come from within but a player can become less motivated with detrimental external factors that may be related to coaching decisions. Yak may be a good example of this…

      • Oiler Al

        Your last sentence tells all. If you are strong on the puck, hard on forecheck and backcheck at practice
        etc., which is governerd by the coaches, then why would they not bring the same to start of a game.
        Do they decide at game time they are just going to coast .?

      • Coach My PP

        Goooooo Team Todd!

        Todd don’t skate. Todd don’t make no decisions on the ice.

        But Todd don’t also make no decision off the ice. When the players aren’t strong on the puck, smart with the puck, hard on the fore and back check, Todd don’t make no changes, he just stands there and let’s it play out.

      • No.9

        Exactly, then shouldn’t those players that don’t do sh&t sit? Or do they get the benefit of the doubt cause they scored in the past? Coaches are suppose to motivate their players, just like a General to his troops. They don’t do it, they are court martialed, correct? Flip flop, flip flop, flip flop…man you worse than a pair of worn sandals.

        • Seriously Bored

          When your team only gets 2 shots in the first fifteen minutes that is an issue. Are you suggesting they bench the entire team? Benching only works so much, these are professional athletes and grown men. They dont all require spankings when they are bad.

          • No.9

            Here we go…more stupidy…always the same rebuttal, putting words out there that was never said or written. “Are you suggesting they bench the entire team?” Where did you read that I suggested that? You bench those that don’t hustle or work. They get 2 shots on net for the first 15 minutes, you take a time out and sh*t on them! Not with 1:30 left in the period and allow the other team to recuperate. Your team had the momentum. It’s not all on the coach, we get that, it’s up to the players to play. When the players don’t work they should not be given a free pass. When some of us criticize the players, ohhh nooo!! Don’t do that! They have been clutch, who are you gonna replace them with? BS!!

          • Seriously Bored

            When the majority of your team comes out flat who do you suggest they bench? Why is it stupid to ask if you want them to bench the entire team? Odd that you suggest what i am saying is stupid and tell me i am pulling words that were never written them go on a rant about me apparently not being critical of players and saying they are clutch?

            You seem to think it is one or two players but the entire team struggled in that first. He already raged on the team after one beat down from buffalo. I dont think its really productive to rage on the entire team after losing a close game in overtime.

      • OilersGM

        Gregor do you think great coaches such as Babcock, coach Q, Sutter, Trotz don’t have their teams ready to start games 99% of the times you have to be kidding yourself. Every team has a off night like the first time we played the Sabres this year that’s understandable but not to show up against the bottom feeders of the league every game it’s unacceptable I don’t care how you put it and what you say is your opinion doesn’t mean it’s always right. Now you might say we are a bottom feeder team as well but no we are not cuz when this team plays hard and shows up we all know what they can do.
        If you are coaching a professional team and getting paid pretty nicely to do so it’s every bit your job to get a team ready, it’s part of your job wether you like it or not. How you get them ready (motivation) or whatever it is no one cares as long as you have them ready.

      • TruthHurts98

        First of all JG, I respect your opinion. It wasn’t just the fact that they looked unmotivated in the first, they were sloppy. We had these same discussion when Weakins was coach too. Maybe it’s a grey area and it’s a mix of things. So does PC need to trade a few players then? TM calling the timeout and putting Hendricks on the ice was not an NHL coaching move in my humble opinion. It gave Buffalo a rest, time to set up and a free timeout. TM did and quite often does take blame, but I think he’s being a team first guy. Other coaches seem to get their teams more motivated. I know most of it comes from within, that’s applicable to life in general. Or maybe the entire team just stands around waiting for Connor to win the game? I find it baffling after all these years. If this nonchalant play continues I really doubt Connor will want to sign long term. If it turns around we’ll all be in Oilers euphoria.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    Yeah, that first period last night was just Brutal to watch.

    Then factor in that “questionable” timeout, and it seems like the whole team is just out of sync at times.

  • freelancer

    Bang on Jason. Even winning half of the Toronto, Arizona, and Buffalo games would be another 6 points. That 6 points could very well bite this team come April.

  • Perhaps the Oilers record against better teams is the flip side of the Oilers record against lousy teams.

    A bit of indifferent arrogance, the Oilers decade of darkness has created a mind set for their “better” competitors that probably includes the words patsy and doormats along with McDavid.

    This is their year to gain a few points because of the oppositions mindset… (much like Calgary a couple years ago) the fact that they (the oilers) give those points back by being cavalier when playing their inferior competition…. is the most Oiler thing ever.

  • Oiler Al

    Should we expect consistency, when Mclellan has the blender going at high speed in the past 10 games or so.

    If your names isnt McvDaivd or you dont play on his line, the rest of the forwards really suck, for one reason or another! There is no energy lead from any of the Vets on this team [Lucic,Eberle,Nuge, Pouliot,Hendricks and some nights even Kassian.

  • Oiler Al

    Should we expect consistency, when Mclellan has the blender going at high speed in the past 10 games or so.

    If your names isnt McvDaivd or you dont play on his line, the rest of the forwards really suck, for one reason or another! There is no energy lead from any of the Vets on this team [Lucic,Eberle,Nuge, Pouliot,Hendricks and some nights even Kassian.

  • Been there

    Sometimes when you are searching so hard you tend to miss what you are looking for when it is right in front of you. Consistency has been there, we have the streaks to prove it. But for some reason our coaching staff seems to want to change it up everytime we start a winning streak, but get on a losing streak and we keep the same lineup. Maroon, Kassian, Pitlick and Shlepyslev have been our best forwards all year, yet they get the least ice time and always one of them being moved out. Hell, I would love to see Maroon and Kassian play with either McDavid or Draistl between them. Both big men with soft hands, both physical. Kassian has speed to forcheck and Maroon the sense to trail and pick up rebounds. Both make life difficult for opposing d-men and goalies. Our top line is not doing great 5 on 5 anyways. Pulijarvi should be in the AHL getting ice time, Lucic should be second line as foot speed better suited to RNH or Draistl as his centre. All I know is when we get on a good streak where we are dominating and winning, leave the lines alone!!!!!

  • Druds

    I worry more that we really have no scoring depth anymore. We have to hope Nuge and Eberle get themselves sorted out or we are dead. There is no one on the farm who has any scoring chops so what we see is it.

    The glass half full says if Ebs and Nuge get it going then we will be scorching in the second half

    The glass half empty says maybe (as Nicholson put it) “Is this as good as it gets?” and we slowly continue to drop in the standings

  • dabears318

    I didn’t agree with the timeout call last night, but there was a lot more to that tying goal than a simple timeout being called at an impromptu time.

    That being said… I don’t understand all the vitriol being slung at our coaching staff.

    We have a world class, proven head coach after one of the worst coaching carousels any professional sports franchise has seen past few years.

    Like Gregor said… ultimately, the players play the game. And the missed assignments, lack of intensity and gamesmanship is on the players from these eyes.

    The silver lining is that we are in first place, and still control our playoff destiny. Let’s hope the players take advantage of that, with the coaches help.

  • Randaman

    The players obviously don’t care.

    Simple and that has to be fixed. There are still some entitled individuals that have to be purged. Not naming names…

    • Hemmercules

      Everybody likes to win. I wouldn’t say they don’t care. If they didn’t care they would be comfortably nestled into their usual spot in 15th place right now. Hokey is hard, they wont win every game.

  • elliotsmom

    As Forest Gump said once–The Oilers are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. While the Oilers can rise to the occasion and beat better teams than themselves, they slack off on their play against teams lower in the standings. These are the teams the Oilers should be playing balls to the wall. The lower standing teams, (Buffalo, Toronto, Arizona…..) are playing for the win, and getting it done. The Oilers however for some reason can’t seem to connect those dots though. A few more contests with their cavalier play and attitude toward the lesser points teams, it will be the Oilers circling the drain again. That would be a travesty because Chia has done much to improve the team and not playing to their full potential is very disheartening to everyone.

  • IRONman

    Good coach puts the right players on the ice at the right time

    Good coach motivates the players

    Ever play with a coach that yells?

    Players shut down.

    Something happened to Hall last year coz of the coach.

    Hall this year has 17 pts in 17 games

    Just see it.

  • Derzie

    What we are learning from Bettman’s NHL is that the standings are meaningless. The logjam is established in the first month and as the season goes on, movement is next to impossible. Parity is exhausting and just not fun. We want close when playoff races are being decided. Not ‘lose in November and still in it (but are really out)’. There is a growing narrative in the media about the tightness of it all as well. Remember the maximum parity comes if nobody plays any games at all. That’s what we are trending to. Boring. Has to change.

    Take this as an example:
    “The Oilers are 9-6-1 versus the top 21 teams in the standings.”

    Is 7 losses in 16 games “good”? Not to me. It’s trending in the right direction but it is not “good”.

  • Coach My PP

    Why is Todd frustrated with the teams inability to be consistent? Isn’t that coach responsibility?

    I thought he was one of the coaches with the best winning percentage. He should already know about winning and not learning along with his team.

  • Hemmercules

    A group of 30 dudes shouldn’t need one guy to get them going for a game. Every player in the NHL knows that playing hard and smart yields results.

    McL is the obvious goat this week since Eberle hasn’t been losing every game for the team lately.

  • madjam

    Oilers doing well despite having one of weakest secondary players in league still . Every game will probably be a struggle till end of season , no matter the competition . We have come a long way so far this season from last season , but still have a long way to go before being a playoff team . Coaching has done well getting them at least to this stage considering the personnel we have , and newbies working their way onto roster . Most clubs no longer take us for granted , and play us with more enthusiasm . We need more of our veteran players than what we are getting , if we hope to remain a playoff team in last half of season . Lately , that does not appear to be happening , and that group seems to have hit a wall as far as any progression goes – maybe even regression .

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I loved the Kassian and Maroon combo. Would like to see the Drake in between these two. 97, 27, 29 then 93, 14, rotate Pit and Pou.

  • Big Cap

    Perhaps the 2 vets with 6+ years experience and who both happen to wear a letter could help prepare and lead the charge to get their team going right off the hop??

    Nuge has once again dedicated himself to bettering himself in the faceoff dot at winning 43.7% of his draws. His a minus 4 coupled with 2 EV strength goals has once again proven his invaluable worth.

    But please, tell me again how he is a defensive whiz and a complete 200 foot player. The fact he isnt even on the ice with a 1 goal lead with 30 seconds left is all you need to know…

  • I am Batman

    Is it only me? I’m having fun watching the Oilers most of the times.

    Last night’s game was fun, I was on the edge of my seat (when I wasn’t bbqing). The result isn’t what we wanted, but it was fun to watch.

    Except the first Buffalo game, the Arizona games and the second Toronto game, win or lose we’ve been entertained…. I think.

    I want the team to do well and win as much as anyone, but I watch hockey to be entertained, to chill from my day . We want the Oilers to be in the playoffs so that we can be even more entertained, but as far as I’m concerned…. I watch playoffs no matter who is playing.

    Chill, this team will make the playoffs.

    Ps. Trade Eberle straight up for whoever is available

    • Seriously Bored

      1. Good luck with that

      2. I am sure that phone call will end with hilarious laughter and a click. There is a thing called the salary cap.

      3. Really? You seriously think those two are still calling the shots?

      4. Oh yay a new coach not even 30 games into the season. I bet that will get us into the playoffs! Too bad Ralph already stated he is not leaving his current position until he is finished what he started and he would not come back here anyways.

      • @Hallsy4

        Yeah I know, I wish. I proposed that trade with this years 1st rounder though a month or so ago and was trashed, with others saying that’s an overpayment by the Oilers. I could be mistaken, I might have proposed a 1st and a 2nd or something, which either way, Philly I don’t think would ever do that.

        2. Yeah the cap, How much does simmonds make? If they were willing to part with him, I’d take a bad contract back. Still, not going to happen, but it would be nice if Ebs, Nuge and Pouliot start scoring.

        3. I don’t think they are the final say, or even a big say, but I can’t see them not putting their 2 cents in whenever possible…. They’re hockey guys, not business or whatever their positions are. Either way, I’d like to see it.

        4. That is too bad about Ralph. I don’t hate Todd, but I’d rather have Ralph

  • S cottV

    Consistency is more than whether or not the players are ready to play.

    On that front however, I wouldn’t let the Coach off the hook – as he is a key part of the leadership group. Groups go – as leaders and their respective ability to influence goes.

    Consistency as it relates to generating a consistent winning percentage is influenced by

    Having the right off ice and on ice system or systems in place.

    Having the right players in the lineup and on the ice at critical times.

    Having good intelligence re the opposition and adjusting the system or systems to take advantage of relative strengths or weaknesses.

    You could go on and on, but – these things do have a lot to do with coaching.

    As for the Oilers specifically – things that may negatively impact consistency

    We have 3 very young centermen. Yes – very very talented but young, with a tendency to cheat toward offence. Veteran C’s learn how to prosper on the very edge of transition, without falling off the cliff too often – as in the puck is in the wrong net.

    We are still missing a Weber like d man. It’s probably not a solvable issue, but – a guy like that would have a huge impact on consistency.

    We are still primarily a one and done rushing hockey club and that style produces inconsistent results by its nature.

    We’ve taken rush oriented players out of the line up (Hall, Yak, Purcell) and replaced with guys like Lucic, Maroon and Kassian – but we’re still primarily one and doneing it.

    McL needs to influence to get the balance right and we need more o zone possession to increase consistency. The quality of our execution of cycling, pinching, puck protection and use of the points is awful.

    We shouldn’t be surprised at some inconsistency – at this point in time.