Steve Simmons in his Sunday column: Slowly but surely, the Dallas Eakins influence is becoming evident with the Edmonton Oilers. First nine games: 36 goals against; Next nine games: 34 goals against: Last nine games: 23 goals against.
The Oilers say hello to an old friend today, with Shawn Horcoff and the Dallas Stars hosting the 29th best NHL team late this afternoon. Dallas is death for the Oil drop over the years, but the current edition of the Oilers should have plenty of energy after a subpar performance against Columbus on Friday night.
QUAL COMP (FORWARDS)
- Taylor Hall
- Ales Hemsky
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- David Perron
- Jordan Eberle
- Sam Gagner
- Nail Yakupov
This is Behind the Net and the difference between 1 and 7 isn’t huge but it’s there. Plenty of talk this weekend about Taylor Hall and his WOWY (which we’ll get to) but it appears Dallas Eakins has identified the man who’ll push the river and has (rightly) placed him at the front of the pack. Also, I’ve been reading quite bit on Eakins mishandling the young Russian, seems to me this shows the coach is trying to find (and of course the opposition coach plays into this too) soft landings for the kid and the guy who has pain issues early this season. Truth to tell, the most capable L, R and C are facing the toughs, which makes sense based on the talent set of the current Oilers.
ON ICE SAVE PERCENTAGE (FORWARDS)
- Gazdic .966
- Jones .950
- Acton .945
- Perron .914
- Arcobello .907
- Yakupov .886
- Hemsky .881
- Smyth .872
- Gagner .871
- Eberle .864
- Gordon .863
- Hall .863
- Nugent-Hopkins .862
- Joensuu .821
I’ve also been reading about the good work of the Acton-Gazdic 4line, child please. You and I could play two months of NHL hockey and look reasonable with that kind of SP behind us, and on the other side of the coin Nuge-Hall are getting beaten up pretty well by their own goalies. Which leads me to this.
OILERS CORSI ON (FORWARDS)
- Perron 1.01
- Arcobello .62
- Eberle Even
- Hemsky -1.97
- Smyth -2.02
- Gagner -3.25
- Nugent-Hopkins -5.31
- Yakupov -6.22
- Hall -8.10
- Jones -8.22
- Gordon -12.23
- Gazdic -19.62
- Acton -20.50
- Joensuu -22.70
Since arriving in the NHL, Taylor Hall has been pushing the river. He is NOT doing it through 27 games this season, and his WOWY chart is ghastly at this point in the season.
WHAT’S WITH THE WOWY?
First, you should know I’m going to bet Taylor Hall every time. When he’s 50, I’m betting Taylor Hall. The combination of power, speed, skill and finesse is breathtaking, I could watch him play NHL hockey all day.
Second, he had an injury and we’re not certain how much impact it had on him (or may continue to have) but it’s real. He played a couple of games at center and he also played with a very tentative Sam Gagner for several games.
- Dellow: When he (Hall) moved to the wing, they went 56/44 with him on the ice and the score close in the next five games. Since then – and I recognize he’s coming off an injury – he’s Lennart Petrell, who posted a 38% Corsi% with the score close during 2011-13. This is a problem. There’ve been whispers of changes in how the Oilers approach things from a tactical perspective and I wonder if this links back to that. Dallas Eakins mentioned during a media availability that they’d changed things in the defensive zone and abandoned the much discussed swarm. The time period that he suggested that the change was made roughly corresponds to the point between the Pittsburgh game and the Islanders game. I’ve felt, watching the games, like we’re seeing the Oilers forecheck much less aggressively and basically let the opposition come to them.
There’s always a danger of excuse-making for our favorite players, and I may in fact be doing that here in regard to Taylor Hall. I’m going to stay the course with him though, because he’s a wonderful talent, a determined man and a chance machine. As a fan of the draft, Taylor Hall represents the Oilers’ Mecca, and for me he’s already the center of a wonderful cluster. He might be a flawed diamond, but he’s our diamond and I’m sticking with him all down the line.
EXTRA SKATER, HALL, LAST FIVE CORSI FOR 5X5
- Against Jackets (7-0W): 11-9, 55%
- Against Panthers (4-1W) 9-12, 42.9%
- Against Hawks (5-1 L) 8-11, 42.1%
- Against Preds (3-0 W) 12-10, 54.5%
- Against Jackets (4-2 L) 9-8, 52.9%
The last really poor game was 10 November, Oilers have been pushing more and the results are more in line with expectations. The Corsi for % in those 5 games for Hall is 49%, a major improvement over the rough patch.
WATCHING THE BRUINS
Everything’s easier when you have a top defender. Everything. I watch all the Bruins games, and it’s amazing how easily they can place a flawed defender (Torey Krug as an example) into the rotation and keep on rolling because they have a monster at the end of the book. 25 minutes a night from big Chara, 21 from Seidenberg and another 21 from Johnny Boychuk and then all of a sudden you can work in Doug Hamilton and Torey Krug without having the whole damn thing fall apart like a cheap suit.
I learned about young defense from the Toronto Maple Leafs. When I was a kid, they had a veteran defense (this is when I was little, the ’60s) and I remember Tim Horton and Allan Stanley and Bob Baun and Larry Hillman and they all looked 95 years old. Old defensemen, the good ones, are gold. Anyway, by 1971 they were all kids like Jim Dorey, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Rick Ley, Brad Selwood and Brian Glennie—honestly, they were all like 23 or younger and inexperienced. Even a guy like McKenny who had been around awhile couldn’t play defense like any of the old guys could, and the best of the kids (Dorey) was a high event player (Dorey would fight if someone looked at him sideways) so chaos ruled the day because kids on blue.
We’ve been talking about dealing the first round pick for Ehrhoff and I’m still on board, but at this point would like a more complete player, a real defenseman like Phaneuf who can play big minutes in all disciplines and still find the time to be an asshole. The Oilers need a big ugly defenseman with experience, hair on his ass, a sneer and bad breath.
Any of those guys lying around?
Dallas lost Stephane Robidas to a horrible injury the other night, they’ll be down one good man on the blue line today.
The Oilers need a guy like Charlie Huddy. They already have Justin Schultz for the Coffey-role, they need a coffee-mate for Schultz the younger. If Boychuk was left handed he might be perfect, but more and more I’m leaning toward Dion Phaneuf. You should be prepared for a lot of Double Dion wow kablammo bang smash pow! talk as we get closer to free agency. I’m sorry, but can’t find an alternative and until I do, we’re all going to suffer.