The Oilers are 1-2 on the road trip, and after a grievous performance in Philadelphia (another low ebb, incredibly) the club hits Chi-town wobbly, inert and indifferent. This hockey club is in trouble.
I don’t know about any lineup changes, but there were some passengers yesterday so Eakins will probably get a lot better effort (the crew didn’t exactly leave it all out there yesterday afternoon). I’m of two minds on this: first, this is going to be a long season and the Smid trade drives home the reality of a season lost. The club still doesn’t have enough NHL players and balance (sweet, sweet balance) and Dallas Eakins system appears to be written in Sanskrit based on the amount of time it’s taking to figure things out. So, it’s a failure of management, coaching and personnel that gets us here.
Second, we’re seeing some terrible things now. Taylor Hall was stunningly bad on coverage for the second goal, and then heard that damn dog whistle later in the game during a moment when the puck’s possession was still in doubt. He should have been the guy retrieving the puck on the play, or at the very least supporting, but buddy was going jailbreak ala Robert Nilsson. Ghastly. As you know, I’m onside with Taylor Hall’s skills all day, and have never doubted his buy-in about being the alpha and a leader, so his lollygagging is an extremely bad sign. I may have misread the play, and maybe he was confused, but that’s the kind of action that starts creeping into the game when players have absolutely tuned out the coach. Whoever brought that GD dog whistle into the Oilers game needs to be shot and pissed upon.
We’ve talked a lot in the last couple of days about ‘another shoe to drop’ after Smid’s exit and Bryzgalov’s signing. I think the Oilers would be open to a deal but it has to make sense, and if they wait the return may be greater. Ales Hemsky is the asset in play, I don’t think there can be any doubt at this point. The Oilers will have received offers for Eberle and Yakupov, but trading either doesn’t make any real sense–even if you’re getting 100 cents on the dollar. The future promised includes both in the script, and it is pure nonsense to entertain offers that don’t include players who can have greater impact (Subban, etc) and are of a similar age. Those trades rarely happen, because they’re insane.
The Hemsky trade could come at any time, the money moved this weekend probably sets that up. Now it’s a matter of how much overpay is required for the dollars Edmonton will keep from the Hemsky contract. That would probably come in the form of a pick, but this is just guessing.
That’s Bill White playing for the Blackhawks 40 years ago, with a helmeted Guy Lafleur in pursuit. White arrived in the NHL as a fully formed being–he was stuck in the minors during the pre-expansion era and didn’t play in the big leagues until 28. Once there, White was a brilliant player for Los Angeles and Chicago through the mid-70′s (he would coach the Hawks for a time, then coach in the OHA–Charlie Huddy played for him on a very good Oshawa Generals team 1977-78), using his lanky frame and passing ability to impact the game.
Anton Belov’s arrival in Edmonton should be considered a wonderful gift, and the Oilers can’t let him get away (it happens, Jan Hejda flew the coop before they could get him under contract–in fact, as I recall, the Oilers were indifferent about Hejda–allowing Columbus to swoop in). With Ladislav Smid’s being sent away, next year’s opening night blue (with Belov and rfa’s signed) might look like this:
- Ference-J Schultz
And then Larsen, Fedun etc along with prospects Nurse, Klefbom et al. Keeping Belov has suddenly become very important. And getting a true No. 1 blue is of course vital.
In my lifetime, Chicago has been strong several times, but not like they are today. The current Hawks are SO strong they were able to discard Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, and others when a large number of bonus dollars were added after the 2010 Stanley win. One true thing about Chicago’s run from 2009 through today is their ability to maintain strength up the middle while also adjusting the deck chairs.
- 2009-10 centers: Jonathan Toews, John Madden, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Colin Fraser
- 2010-11 centers: Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Jake Dowell, Patrick Sharp, Ryan Johnson
- 2011-12 centers: Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, Patrick Kane, Jamal Mayers, Patrick Sharp
- 2012-13 centers: Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw
- 2013-14 centers: Jonathan Toews, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Pirri, Michael Handzus
That’s some first class adlibbing there, and a nice bit of drafting (especially on Shaw). Now, Toews at the top of the list obviously has a lot to do with their success, but if you look at how they’ve managed to replace Madden and then Bolland (and move Sharp to wing) it’s a solid bit of management/coaching. It should be noted that Shaw, Kruger and Pirri were all drafted after Edmonton selected Lander and all have arrived as NHL players before him.
By comparison, the Oilers have been MORE stable (certainly since 2011 fall) but the results haven’t been there. Why? One reason is youth–the Nuge is a wonderful player but he’s been facing older players and there are times (like yesterday) when he gets manhandled. Gagner doesn’t have the range of skills that a Bolland possesses, and the club did add Boyd Gordon but subtracted Shawn Horcoff this past summer.
When we talk about the situation at center, it’s always a ‘big, 2-way C’ coming in, but for me I’d prefer a ‘veteran 2-way center’ to come in, size be damned. The Oilers build up the middle needs another center, and if he’s so good that Gagner has to play wing (ala Sharp) so be it. We talked about it all summer, but center is a massive need. Again. Still.
The goaltending issue in Chicago is stable at the front, party at the back. The club drafted Corey Crawford right after Edmonton selected Colin McDonald back in 2003, and like Devan Dubnyk took some time before establishing himself as an NHL starting goalie. Crawford’s SP over the years is interesting compared to Dubnyk
CRAWFORD-DUBNYK EV SP, BY YEAR
- 2010-11: .924 to .921 (Crawford with the better number)
- 2011-12: .915 to .927 (Dubnyk with the better number)
- 2012-13: .934 to .922 (Crawford with the better number)
- 2013-14: .933 to .872 (Crawford with the better number)
I’m still onside with Dubnyk as the Oilers goalie of the future, but the Bryzgalov move is understandable. If you’re Craig MacTavish, watching the goals go in early and being patient haven’t paid off so you make a smaller move because a big one may not be needed (if Dubnyk can turn it around). The one thing that has changed? Dubnyk’s no longer the incumbent who has to be clearly beaten to win the No. 1 job–this is open audition time starting now. May the best man win, and I still believe that’s Dubnyk.
Tonight, we may get Khabibulin versus LaBarbera, which is its own kind of crazy.