After the game last night, I tweeted out the following:
- A crappy night, I do not agree with the PP decisions, but this needs to be said: the Oilers ARE improving in things that matter. Seriously.
I received a lot of tweets and comments and various other connections asking if I’d been drinking, smoking, had fallen and couldn’t get up, etc. So, I thought it might be an idea to explain my point of view. I want you to know it is neither unique or original, and will try to send you to the group of people who have convinced me of the progress.
First, let’s begin with what’s wrong. This Oilers team is a collection of exceptional talents on one end (Hall, Nuge, Yak, Eberle, Justin Schultz) connected to a group of useful NHL players (Perron, Petry, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Ilya Bryzgalov, etc) and a group of players at the end (Smyth, Jones) or the beginning (Lander, Belov). They can look brilliant for 11 games (7-3-1 recently) and historically awful the next (FOUR different 5 game losing streaks this season). They have not been able to play a full 60 minutes this season—they are identical to the first team I followed closely as a kid (1970-1974 Toronto Maple Leafs) in this way. Howie Meeker told me it was the errors of youth, and I believed him. I think it’s the same this time—too much youth, too many errors, too little attention, too much wheeling—and that’s the battle being fought with this group by Dallas Eakins.
This season began with shoddy goaltending, not learning the swarm, an errant stick from a dickhead, injuries to Hall, etc, Nuge being out to start the season, and on it went. In addition, I think a lot of the problem comes from this team ‘checking out’ from their own game plan when it’s working (we saw that last night, I think) and not doing the difficult work of working smart without the puck.
It also involves a lack of talent on the blueline, and that’s going to have to be addressed sooner than later.
Let’s continue the process with what works, no use throwing the baby out with the bath water.
- Much of the team is at or above 50% in scoring chances for; you may recall my quoting Jonathan Willis recently
- Michael Parkatti’s ‘expected goals’ suggests this team has been in the black a lot this season, including the recent Boston game.
- Even last night, a disaster, there was progress.
No one is saying life is roses, no one is whistling a happy tune, but it’s important to properly assess the problem before addressing it. There is plenty that’s positive going on here, including an improved Corsi and Fenwick year over year. The problems are clear (not enough actual NHL players, weak up the middle) and need to be addressed now.
WHO TO KEEP?
We all have our lists of players to keep, and I’m not going to give you mine because if you read this blog it’s already known. I will say that they absolutely need to keep the heart of the cluster, and that ‘trade Gagner for’ trade thoughts aren’t going to inspire. They must keep the coach (no options there, he’s a good young coach and a lot of the problems come from him trying to straighten out bad habits from the past—that won’t change with a new coach) and they must:
- find a veteran defenseman to build around
- improve the center position
- find a Pisani winger
- upgrade much of the bottom 6F
- reduce the number of inexperienced players
Godspeed, Craig MacTavish. They’re going to see you coming and you are going to overpay. So be it. I’d suggest we should look for names like Ehrhoff and Campbell, and would also suggest the team coming in Monday is a nice match.