WORKING HARD OR HARDLY WORKING?

A large portion of the Oilers fanbase appear convinced this team lacks passion and preparedness and based on wonky starts it’s a fair criticism. I don’t buy for a minute that the current Oilers are lazy rabble, they work harder on conditioning than the boys on the bus ever did (this is a universal truth btw, if RNH played a 1971 Phil Esposito shift at the modern pace, he’d pass out) and it’s not an argument that holds water.

Many Oilers fans believe the team doesn’t care or is indifferent, that professional pride takes a holiday when the team dons the blue, white and orange. I say bollocks. In some cases (Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz, Ben Scrivens, Nail Yakupov) players are trying to do too much, to hit a 5-run homer. Indifferent? No sale.

What then, is it? Here lies the gap that comes from being a fan. I could tell you with authority (and many fans will say or tweet this today):

  • They’re over-coached
  • The practices lack intensity and so then the feet aren’t underneath the players at game start
  • They’re holding their sticks too tight
  • The goalies have to make some damn saves
  • The coverage issues are so so bad (in a significant number of sorties) the team dies nightly under the avalanche
  • The defense gets beaten routinely by the stretch pass
  • The forwards don’t offer support in the defensive zone and lack the ability to give their D a clear, open lane for a pass
  • Very few defensemen on the team can pass tape to tape
  • Martin Marincin, Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen could help but MacT is stubborn
  • Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Mark Fayne and others are playing with significant injuries or playing too soon after injury
  • The power play is costing this team games every week

And all of those things are probably contributing. You know what isn’t (imo) contributing to losses? Lack of passion or caring. I’m calling bullshit right now on that train of thought. The msm is out for blood on this Oilers team and the ‘lack of passion’ drum is being pounded hard and heavy. Poppycock.

eakins capture

UNDER PRESSURE

The bottom line on this Oilers team is another season is gone, they let go the rope and are now at sea waiting for the end. What will it look like? My own feeling is that Craig MacTavish is still in charge of the team and is both loyal and intelligent. Casting Dallas Eakins as the villain in this piece is farce—look at this team’s shortcomings and tell me honestly the coach is primarily to blame—and there are some important positives on the ice this morning.

  1. Oscar Klefbom. What a terrific young player. Last night he made a rookie mistake and then made up for it by going all Jason Smith on the poor bastard fortunate enough to gain an edge due to the original error. Oscar Klefbom is manna from heaven.
  2. Accountability. Young Leon had a bad second period and was pulled from the rotation. That’s a good sign, now the coach has to do the same thing higher up the chain. Benching a teenager may seem like a cowardly act but for me it has two effective purposes: Sending a message to a young man who has some lessons to learn, and showing up the general manager for yet another incredibly shortsighted decision.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Craig MacTavish will want to call up Anton Lander, Martin Marincin and Iiro Pakarinen soon. Two things are very clear this morning: No help is coming unless Daryl Katz or Bob Nicholson step in (and they may in fact be the ones who have enforced the ‘no fly’ procurement policy).

And Craig MacTavish has a vision for this team that includes Connor McDavid in Edmonton opening night. Daryl Katz’ apology letter will be along shortly, this one with a promise of a 2016 playoff spot. Next stop: World Juniors to see the next great one. One suspects the management meetings surround a center depth chart of Nuge-McDavid-Leon-Gordon next season, with a blue line that includes Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. What about the Taylor Hall cluster? Well, that’s just yesterday’s papers, that’s just yesterday’s girl. The new Originals are in town.

It is incredible and it is exhausting and it is here. We’re sailing to the Hinterland again friends. Pack a lunch, its a poke.

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224 Responses to "WORKING HARD OR HARDLY WORKING?"

« Older Comments
  1. Zangetsu says:

    Cameron,

    I forgive you. Wanna be friends?

  2. "Frank The Dog" says:

    G Money: None of that makes Krueger a good coach!

    Not even the possibility that the high sh% that he rode to more victories against a tougher foe with a worse roster was systems play rather than blind luck? I’d suggest that any team Krueger coached would beat the pants off any team that Eakins coached. All hail Krueger! The coach that would have taken us to the Stanley Cup! 🙂

  3. Taro Tsujimoto says:

    godot10: It would be advisable for Katz to move earlier, rather than later, to signal to Babcock that the organization ready to be made over.Waiting till the end of the year to clear out Lowe and his cronies, MacT, and Eakins risks Babcock taking himself off the market by re-signing in Detroit.

    Mike Babcock will not sign in Edmonton. He will very likely re-sign in Detroit. They’ve got a great thing going right now (which is pretty much the status quo for them) and they might even come out of the East this season. And they’re going to be even better next season when they add Anthony Mantha. Our Oilers are the anti-Babcock. There’s no way he looks at this mess and says, “I’d like to be part of that.” The man wants to win.

  4. Post Morty says:

    G Money: The hiring of another rookie coach was borderline insanity.

    Then there was the two rookie GMs in a row – sigh…

  5. Zangetsu says:

    Post Morty,

    Every oilers GM has been a rookie. If MacT counts as a rookie so does low and Slats.

  6. G Money says:

    “Frank The Dog”: Not even the possibility that the high sh% that he rode to more victories against a tougher foe with a worse roster was systems play rather than blind luck?

    Such a statement requires one to make the assertion that Krueger had a system.

    I watched all those games, and the answer is: no, not a chance in fucking hell!

  7. G Money says:

    Cameron,

    Geez, if you’re going to accuse me of de-escalating, at least use as an example the post where I declare all Flames fans to be mathematically equivalent to liars or idiots, rather than the one where I (backhandedly of course) compare you to Einstein and Oscar Wilde!

  8. G Money says:

    Zangetsu:
    Post Morty,

    Every oilers GM has been a rookie. If MacT counts as a rookie so does low and Slats.

    Interesting observation. Given that Slats has many many rings, and Lowe had teams that were competitive every year despite heavy financial restrictions, and through some impressive wheeling and dealing went to the Finals the first year the cap was introduced … guess two outta three ain’t bad.

    (See, I managed to regress to the Meatloaf)

  9. Post Morty says:

    Zangetsu,

    Good point, although I’m pretty sure that Sather was a GM in a previous life, and therefore doesn’t count.

    Also, that was a different time to be a GM in the NHL and Slats started with a pretty good roster.

  10. Clay says:

    Clark Gillies dropping the puck for the CHI-NYI game. I was quite young during the 80’s, but remember watching the Oilers and NYI tangle in ’83 and ’84.

    Two of the biggest impressions on me was that Semenko, Lumley, and Gillies all looked identical (a function of the hair+beards+Farmervision), and that Gillies was actually the Sasquatch that Steve Austin battled in The 6 Million Dollar Man. I was very frightened of him.

  11. Gordies Elbow says:

    Clay,

    I hated Gillies. Almost as much as Billy Smith.

  12. Pouzar says:

    Eric Rodgers ‏@ericrsports 33s34 seconds ago
    #OKCBarons lines:
    R.Hamilton-Williams-Ford
    C.Hamilton-Lander-Pakarinen
    Moroz-Yakimov-Miller
    K.Jones-C.Jones-Ewanyk

  13. Pouzar says:

    Eric Rodgers ‏@ericrsports 14s15 seconds ago
    #OKCBarons d-pairs:
    Simpson-Hunt
    Marincin-Gernat
    Musil-Oesterle
    Brossoit in net

  14. Lowetide says:

    New post up.

  15. Clay says:

    Gordies Elbow:
    Clay,

    I hated Gillies. Almost as much as Billy Smith.

    Billy Smith scared me too. He played net with a battle-axe and wanted to kill Gretzky.

  16. "Frank The Dog" says:

    G Money: Such a statement requires one to make the assertion that Krueger had a system.

    I watched all those games, and the answer is: no, not a chance in fucking hell!

    Krueger spoke frequently of his system, that he had developed and applied successfully to every team he coached, and there were quite a few of those, leading up to the Swiss Olympic team.

    Do you think it’s reasonable in the circumstances to assert that the skaters just randomly skated around the ice doing as they saw fit, or are you just engaging in light hearted hyperbole?

  17. maudite says:

    Woodguy:
    Couturier now up to 7 goals.

    Playing the toughs without a whole lot of help.

    Good Philly blogger tweet:

    Bob Roberts ‏@BobRbrts15m15 minutes ago
    Couturier now on pace for 20 goals with the toughest usage in the league dragging around one of the NHL’s worst players

    Everyone remember which posters wouldn’t trade for him because he brings no offence?

    The problem is that last year at this point was the time to do a philly deal. I wAs begging for an eberle Shultz package heading that way. People were in an uproar about the idea even here.

    No, we wait. Never sell shiny at full orbit. Overpay contracts based on shiny and keep falling short of a moon landing. The edmonton oilers our North Korea of space flight programs.

  18. maudite says:

    Pouliot out of lineup has hurt a great deal IMO. Doesn’t excuse the lost tourist navigation of our defense deployments but it definitely hurts our offensive makeup

  19. G Money says:

    “Frank The Dog”: or are you just engaging in light hearted hyperbole?

    Mostly light hearted hyperbole.

    Krueger did indeed have a system, just a really really terrible one. It was deconstructed early in the season and then several times throughout the season as the Corsi went off a cliff and the system proved repeatedly that it didn’t work (“wide open looks from the slot” was a complaint that started the Krueger year, not the Eakins year).

    After much banter, it was concluded by folks more knowledgeable than I about hockey systems that the Krueger system, which pushes the wingers high and to the points and forces the C to cover the entire middle of the ice in the d zone, was extremely complicated, unintuitive, and entirely different from any other system in the NHL, a “smartest man in the room” type of system, and a f**king disastrous one at that.

    Now, the interesting part of this is that one presumes its the same system that the Swiss team used to try and hang with much more talented teams. Why is that? Who knows. Maybe it works better on the bigger ice than the tried-and-true NHL systems do (which makes sense, since over may years the NHL systems will have been heavily optimized for the smaller ice). Maybe it’s because the Swiss teams were perennial underdogs, but they were so united by nationalistic pride (and not knowing any better) they committed to the system wholeheartedly, and that made it work, at least for “not losing” as opposed to “winning”.

    But I’m baffled by why I’m one of the few who remembers this stuff, the confusion, consternation, and frustration of the Krueger era. (And that’s just the fans, the players were much worse off)

  20. knighttown says:

    I’m with you G-Money on the status of the coach. You can’t not acknowledge roster imbalance, goaltending and luck but just as clear to me is that even with all of that, this roster has underperformed horribly.

    That shouldn’t be debate. We all knew of the 2C hole when we made our preseason predictions. Most guessed between 75-90. They’re on pace for,, like, 56.

    Shouldnt that be the end of the debate? Aren’t we all in agreement that reasonable expectations for this team even with the roster imbalance was, say, 80 points? Injuries haven’t been abnormal.

    The only argument possible is that goaltending has moved the reasonable line from 80 to 56 but even still, Chabot falls under the responsibilities of the head coach. You can’t just dismiss that.

    All employees should have measureable performance objectives.

    If you sold Webkinz in 2002 your “reasonable” might have been growth of +75% year over year. If you managed a Blockbuster in 2008 your “reasonable” might have been growth of -10%.

    Claude Juliens reasonable is likely 105 points and at least two rounds in the playoffs. Anything less and there will be disappointment and whatever follows that.

    Dallas Eakins was given a sub-par team and was expected to produce middling results. He’s produced one of the worst seasons in modern history.

  21. russ99 says:

    There is one thing that Eakins is directly to blame for, and that’s the lack of offense. Especially since we have 6-7 forwards all with a track record of 20+ goal scoring.

    BTW: Just because Krueger didn’t use a possession-based system that doesn’t mean he didn’t use a system.

    I know this is a site with a lot of fancy stat fans, but we really need to move off the idea that the cycle/possession first game and high Corsi/Fenwick leads to more goals as a hard truth. It’s obvious that individual players working within a system tailored to their strengths and working as a team lead to more goals.

    This is the disconnect. Some players are suited for the cycle, some are not. As a coach you need to determine that and put your players and your team in the best place to succeed. This painting every one of our players with the same coaching “brush” is why we’re not turning the corner.

    What would it hurt to take the reins off the top two lines as long as the effort is there when going back to defend? I’d think the players would be more committed if they were given some free rein in areas where they can excel and gain some confidence.

    MacT and Eakins have chosen to die on this hill, and that’s a shame, since I think both could be successful if they’d just be willing to admit mistakes and adapt.

  22. Woodguy says:

    Mr DeBakey: Team
    Singular
    One season, 48 games

    The irony is that after that season,
    Krueger went to MacT and asked for a decent Assistant.
    MacT interviews Eakins, Fires Krueger, Hires Eakins, no new Assistants.
    One year later,
    Eakins went to MacT and asked for a decent Assistant.

    The assistants thing isn’t irony.

    Its tragedy.

  23. Woodguy says:

    lance: Sounds like you may be taking for granted 4th highest ticket prices in the league and a sold out building. We can debate the effects of a ten year treasury eclipsing 3% or Russia raising interest rates but it’s stupid cause no one knows anyway. Were you in Edmonton in 1995?

    It more a matter of Katz getting ALL the income streams from the new building for the low, low, low cost of $5MM/yr + maintenance.

    Right now he just gets hockey ticket income, partial food & beverage during those nights and partial parking income during those nights.

    Its not close even with a half empty buildings.

    Its free money and there will be a lot of it.

  24. Woodguy says:

    G Money,

    But a good portion of the problems, especially getting consistently less out of a better roster than any coach preceding him, means there is ample evidence that Eakins should be replaced at the earliest feasible opportunity with an experienced NHL coach with a track record of success, especially in working with young players.
    So it’s possible to acknowledge the problems AND the improvement and still think Eakins should be replaced.

    I agree with that.

    Dallas has lost me with lately.

    Accountability is not for all on the team, including himself.

    I don’t think MacT hires another coach right now though.

    I think MacT is the type to want the coach to be a “yes man” and a NHL vet coach won’t be that for him.

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