Jan 292012

oilers_backlit_1280The Edmonton Oilers are now at the All-Star break with Jordan Eberle in Ottawa to enjoy the festivities. The Copper and Blue ended their pre-break week with 2 games. After that debacle against the Calgary Flames last Saturday, it wasn’t looking promising.

The coaching staff worked the team’s asses off in practice on Sunday. According to reports it was as close to a bag-skate as you could get. Did it work? At least in the short term it appears so.

The team was home to the San Jose Sharks on Monday night and came up with a great effort. It ended with a 2-1 shootout victory. The team played hard and worked hard. They still made mistakes but like in October, they got the goaltending to bail them out. Devan Dubnyk has not been the “goalie of the future” that the organization thought he would be. Monday night was hopefully the start of him playing like he is. He was spectacular in making 44 saves in regulation and another 3 on 4 attempts in the shootout. This was a game that both he and the Oilers needed. It was a game that the officials let the teams play, except for one glaring error, and it was a fun game to watch. The only call by the zebras that was questionable was the 5 minute kneeing penalty to Ales Hemsky along with the game misconduct to go with it. Intent to injure? First off, how can anyone determine intent unless they can read minds. 2 minutes for tripping I could live with but a major was over the top. Second, it is Ales Hemsky. The same player who hasn’t shown much of anything this year and is hardly known as a dirty player.

We had a bit of discussion on Twitter about that call with @SportsnetSpec responding to my question about knowing the intent of a player with: How do we think we know when hits are intentional or not? And, why should that matter?”  @Magisterrex responded to that with “Uh…because it’s Ales Hemsky? Not exactly Andy Sutton-like.” We all know that Hemsky’s only intent on the ice is to score goals. Injuring another player isn’t in his make-up.

The Oilers then flew to Vancouver for a Tuesday night tilt with the Canucks. This was a game many expected the Oilers to be blown out of. What with the game Saturday, bag-skate practice on Sunday and the game Monday. We were to be surprised again. Another great effort by the team and another game taken to the shootout. Unfortunately the Oil dropped this one 3-2 but 3 points out of 4 against 2 very good teams was not something most were thinking about after that game Saturday but it was definitely a good 2 games. Again, the zebras let the teams play the game and there were only 3 penalties called. Devan Dubnyk got the call again and again was fantastic. This was the first time in his NHL career that he had played back to back games and made a statement to be the guy the team relies on over the course of the last 33 games.

I think that most of us are looking forward to those last 33 games if we get the same kind of effort we got Monday/Tuesday. I think we will all be wearing bags on heads if we get the same effort that we got against the Flames. The Oilers currently sit 29th in the league with a 9 point lead on last place Columbus Blue Jackets. If the Oilers do manage to finish the season in 30th, then everyone will be demanding heads on a silver platter. Looking forward in the standings they clearly have 6 teams within 6 points and could easily finishe 23rd. I personally would be happy with great a great effort by the players but for one last time I would be happy with them finishing 28th or 29th. ONE LAST TIME!! This will allow them to draft that stud defenseman that every team needs. They currently have some good prospects but no one who will be that play every situation and soak up the minutes that the stud defensemen do.

So here’s to a good last 33 games. A good honest effort every (most nights) and some team chemistry being fully developed. Here’s to Devan Dubnyk putting the stamp on the starting job for next season and here’s to one last top draft pick to finish off the drafting part of the rebuild.

Feb 132010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers I waited yesterday with hope that some poor sucker…I mean NHL General Manager would help relieve the Edmonton Oilers of one of their overpaid, under achieving bums…I mean stars. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, no one helped in the rebuilding effort. Steve Tambellini will now have less 3 days to work any magic he has and earn his paycheque once the Olympic roster freeze is lifted on March 1st. That’s not to say there won’t be discussions between now and then but nothing can be announced until that time. I would actually expect there to be a few announcements on March 1st as general managers do what they can to help their clubs for either the playoff hunt this year or for the future.

I read Robert Tychkowski’s article at Slam Sports and I think he nailed the major problem with the Oilers right on. Offense! That’s not to say there is nothing wrong on the defensive side of the puck, clearly there are. The Oilers currently have given up the second most number of goals with only the Toronto Maple Leafs have given up more. Their goaltending has been shaky at times but that is to be expected with 2 rookie goaltenders between the pipes. The defense can look like a great group some games and then then next game look like raw rookies with their abysmal play and brutal giveaways.

As the article stated, even the best goaltenders in the league would be losing games in net with the Oilers because they just don’t score enough to offset even the best goals against average. The Oilers still need to keep the puck out of the net more. Let’s compare the Oilers and Flames to make this point. The Edmonton Oilers are averaging 2.42 goals for per game and sit in 28th place in this stat. The Calgary Flames are averaging 2.46 goals for per game and sit 27th. The offense is pretty equal right? Granted the Oilers have been well below that for the last 30 games. Washington leads this stat with an average of 3.93 goals per game.

Let’s take a look at the other end. The Oilers have a 3.33 Goals against average which is 29th in the league. The Flames have a goals against average of 2.44 which is good enough for 7th in the league. The difference? .89 GAA which is worth 23 additional points and 17 spots in the standings. So while a good offense can overcome a weak defense, strong defensive play can make up for weak offense too. For interest Chicago leads this stat with a 2.25 GAA. Washington actually sits 20th with a 2.80 GAA.

This proves to me one thing. You need one of your 2 sides of the ice to be great if you are going to be successful. Teams like Washington know how to put the puck in the net better than keeping it out and they are successful with it. The New Jersey Devils do it the other way as they are second in GAA but 21st in goals for. The Oilers are 28th in goals for and 29th in goals against.

Since the Oilers have 2 young goalies to develop and lots of deadwood on the forward lines, I agree with Robert that the offensive side of things is where the team needs to concentrate. Get some offense and give your young goalies a chance to develop. They always say the best defense is an effective offense and the Oilers just don’t have that. They spend too much time in their own zone and not enough in the offensive zone. It is tough to win games when you are defending all night…and not doing that well either.

The goal for Steve Tambellini for the next 18 days is to get rid of the deadwood for what ever he can get because in the long run this team will benefit even if it is just by freeing up cap room. Then this team needs to make sure they have their collective brains in gear for the draft and make sure there are no Jason Bonsignore picks in the future. The focus needs to be offense because as Washington are proving and the glory day Oilers proved, offense is fun to watch and more often than not will win you games no matter how bad the defensive side of things.

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Feb 072010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers Another week of Edmonton Oilers hockey and finally there were some wins. After going the entire month of January without a victory, the Oilers started February with 2 wins before returning to their losing ways.

The team started the week with a 4-2 victory over the 28th place Carolina Hurricanes. It was a game that the Oilers finally played good enough to win and the Canes looked like the Oilers had the previous 13 games. After allowing the first goal on the first shot, Jeff Deslauriers settled in and played a pretty good game. The new fourth line of Marc Pouliot, Zack Stortini and Jean-Francois Jacques caused the Canes problems all night and scored 2 goals including the game winner by Pouliot. Hurricane’s goalie Cam Ward had been playing good and the team was undefeated in 5 games coming into this one but Ward was shaky and the team was lethargic and looked like the team who had sat 30th in the standings most of the season. Rookie defenseman Alex Plante made his NHL debut for the Oilers and played a solid first game and even picked up his first assist. The Oilers were not without fault and many of the problems that had been present during the losing skid were still there but they were able to come out on the right side of the score for once. 26 giveaways are not going to win many games but fortunately the Canes weren’t able to capitalize. It was a positive result that gave the team something to build on.

Jan 312010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers The Edmonton Oilers played 3 games this week. 3 games against teams at various levels of the standings. Unfortunately they lost all 3. All three were for reasons that are the running reasons they have now lost 13 games in a row. Last nights loss against the hated Calgary Flames set a team record. It is the first time in franchise history that they have gone 0fer in a month. ZERO wins and 2 lousy points from scraping through to overtime before succumbing to the loss.

Tuesday it was the Chicago Blackhawks making a trip to Edmonton. The game started off in typical fashion these days with the Oilers forgetting to show up to start the game and Jeff Deslauriers letting in that easy goal only 44 seconds into the game. It was bad enough the team didn’t show up to start the game but this made it even worse. In fact, by time the team did show up to play it was 4-0 for the Hawks and they were just in cruise control and you could see they had taken their foot off the pedal. It was a game of men (Hawks) vs. boys (Oilers). In watching the first 39 minutes it was hard to realize that both these teams were in the same league.

The Oilers finally got on the board in the last minute of the second with Fernando Pisani finding the net. The Oilers then came out in the third and played a pretty decent period, although I am not sure if it was a case of the Oilers stepping it up a bit or the Hawks laying back. Probably a bit of both. Ryan Potulny closed the gap for the home team at 5:44 of the period but that was as close as it got. Again, weak goaltending and only playing for 21 minutes are not going to win you many games.

Jan 242010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers The Edmonton Oilers have 32 games left this season. We all know that they are not making the playoffs for the 4th straight season. The Oilers players, management and owner know it too. They just haven’t come out and admit it though. So as fans, what should we expect from this team the rest of the season?

Should we expect them to just go through the motions? Should we accept them to just show up each and every game and just play dead while they are beat into oblivion? Here are my thoughts on what needs to be done to make this abysmal season something that can be looked at as a success in the long term scheme of things.

The Oilers have been dealt a gift either through fate, misfortune or even mismanagement but it is something they need to use. The gift? 32 games of under fire, in the heat of the action, mean nothing for now exhibition games. 32 games to see what players they have for the future.

The first thing they need to do is to put the younger players to the fore of this team. Whether it is by trading some of the older veterans or sitting them in the press box. And if they can’t trade some of the guys because of their contracts then send them to the minors. Who cares if someone claims them and you get nothing. This franchise has to start over anyway. Saving the money is worth it right now. The captains “C” and the assistants “A” needs to be taken from those who have them now and be given to the young guys who are going to lead this team in the future. Let them start leading now. Carolina did the same thing by taking the “C” from Rod Brind’Amour and giving it to Eric Staal. He is the future of their franchise.

Jan 232010

When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better. – C. S. Lewis

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers This is the only way that fans can look at the Edmonton Oilers season right now. Last night against the Dallas Stars was again a shining example of how those things that can go wrong, just continue to go wrong.

The Oilers started the game desperately trying to hand the game to the Stars. With 4 penalties in the first 11 minutes it appeared that the team was just going to play a lazy game and lie down and play dead. For the second straight game, they gave their opposition a 5 on 3 power play by taking 2 penalties at the same time. On this night it was again 2 veterans with Horcoff and Pisani both getting nailed. Again this was untimely as it was only 41 seconds after the Stars had scored to take a 1-0 lead. With the Oilers having the 29th ranked penalty killing unit you expected the Stars to make it 2-0 quickly. On this night, however, it was not the Sedin twins on the ice and the Oilers were able to kill that off. What did they do to celebrate this kill? Less than a minute after the brilliant kill Sam Gagner took a holding penalty and were again able to kill that off. With 6 seconds left in that penalty they Patrick O’Sullivan was pegged for unsportsmanlike conduct and with the team shorthanded for almost 6 consecutive minutes, the Stars finally solved the Oilers PK and made it 2-0. The shots at this time were 17-2 for the Stars and it looked like this was going to be Monday all over again.

Jan 212010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers So how do you know that your season is Going to Hell in a Handbasket? When the officials buy a dive of monumental proportions in overtime and you lose on the ensuing power play. What happened last night was a case of Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, does.

The Edmonton Oilers played possibly their best game in months yet they still managed to lose the game. They outplayed the opposition almost to a man, they out shot them, they out hit them, blocked over 3 times more shots, and even had less giveaways yet they still lost the game. There was 2 places they didn’t outplay the Canucks and in the end, those 2 facets of the game ended up costing them the game.

5 on 5 the Oilers were a far better team than Vancouver. But one of the major achilles heels of this team was blown out of the water. The Sedin twins were almost non-existent for most of the game however they were busy strutting their stuff during the power play. A power play that was 3 for 4 and only spent a total of 3:27 on those man advantage situations. Between them the Sedin’s picked up 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points.

Jan 192010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers 6-0 final. Does anything else need to be said? This was a plain, old fashioned butt whooping of large proportions. For a team of so-called professionals either playing for jobs next year or showcasing themselves for a trade, this game was played with the passion and intensity of a limp noodle. EDMONTON OILERS = FAIL

I have watched the Oilers since the beginning of the WHA days and this was one of the worst games I can remember in a very long time. This made 8 straight losses and 15 times in the last 16 games. We all know, and the team knows that their playoff hopes are totally gone but the least they can do is try or give the semblance of try when they step on the ice.

Again, the leadership on this team must come into question. The leaders on this team are obviously ok with losing and unfortunately they are dragging the young guys down that rutted road of no return. This team brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the legendary Vince Lombardi:

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

This team has obviously gotten into the habit of losing and the leadership of this team seems to be quite happy with this. How could things have gotten this bad? I believe that the leadership of this team started to try and take control of the team when Craig MacTavish was coach and I don’t think things are any different now. The leadership wants to control the team and don’t want to do anything other than their way.

Jan 172010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers The Edmonton Oilers entered the HP Pavilion (known as the Shark Tank) for a Saturday Matinee game winless in 2010. Their last taste of victory was on December 30th against the almost as hapless Toronto Maple Leafs. 6 games, having been outscored 23-13 over that period and team had to face the top team in the league in order to break out of the winless streak. Not a positive outlook for this team. That with the fact it was an afternoon game which, throughout their history, the Oilers have not done a good job of showing up for.

The Oilers have shown over the first 46 games that their line-up and team make-up is filled with weaknesses. If only took the San Jose Sharks 3:51 to expose one of them. That dreaded weak goal. Patrick Marleau was given credit for the goal as his centering pass from the corner hit Oiler’s starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s stick and deflected through his legs and into the net. Definitely not the kind of gift that the league’s top line needs and not the way the Oilers need to start a game.

The Oilers did have a bit of life though and were able to tie the game briefly with 16 minutes gone in the period as some hard work down low by Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner lead to a great cross ice pass from Gagner that found the stick of a pinching Denis Grebeshkov who made no mistake beating Shark’s starter Thomas Greiss who was making his 7th start of the season.

That was as close as the Oilers would get though as another of their nemisis bit them less than 3 minutes later. Dustin Penner was nailed for a high sticking call out near center ice. It was one of those lazy, unnecessary penalties that ultimately seems to cost the Oilers and it took the Sharks only 54 seconds to find the twine as Devin Setoguchi gave them the lead for good. Outshot 16-6 in the period the Oilers were lucky to get out only down by 1but some good goaltending by the rookie Dubnyk kept the Sharks circling but not biting.

Jan 142010

500px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers The Edmonton Oilers started their final 38 games tonight knowing for sure that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is officially done for the season as he has opted for back surgery to try and correct his herniated disc problem. The Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has also come out and said that the team will not be going out to look for a new goalie to get them through the rest of the season. With both Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk both needing to clear waivers next season if they get sent back to the minors this is the smart thing to do. One of these guys will be the Khabibulin’s back-up next year and the Oilers need to see which of these goalies is going to be their goalie of the future and which guy they can take a chance on losing by sending back down. As I said before, these 2 young goalies have to be started on a rotating basis no matter what. Let’s see what they are made of.

The first period tonight had to be one of the most boring periods of hockey I have seen in a while. There were only 7 total shots (4 by the Oilers) and no goal and very little in the way of action. Other than some good work by Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano and a great hit late in the period by Dustin Penner it was booooorrrrring hockey.

The one thing I was impressed with in the first period was the defensive work (yes, defensive) by Robert Nilsson especially in taking the puck away from a much larger Michael Rupp in the defensive zone. The Oilers did some good work and ended the period getting a 5 on 3 powerplay as the Pittsburgh Penguins were guilty of taking 2 penalties at the same time with 12 seconds left. The Penguins played the period like they thought this game was going to be a gimmie.