This can’t go on. The Edmonton Oilers are losing games, but they’re losing much more than that during these punching bag games—they are losing their ability to function as a group. For instance, Dallas Eakins has this nasty habit of placing blame without taking responsibility. Even when he does take responsibility, it’s kind of backhanded: “I assumed that we knew what traditional d-zone coverage was” isn’t really “my bad, but we’re on the same page.”
Here’s the thing: no they weren’t. The Oilers were getting their asses kicked around the parking lot before the second goal (13-6 Corsi SJS at 5×5 up to that point by my count and using Extra Skater) and only strong goaltending from Dubnyk had it 1-0 before the Marleau goal. Never-ending underlying facts.
Anyway, back to Eakins. This nasty habit of not taking responsibility and pointing the finger at others in public is irritating but not a deal breaker. I suspect we’ve all worked with someone like that, but their good qualities outweigh the bad and these events happen rarely enough that we don’t say anything.
Except. Except in a season where the nightly press conference becomes a blame game. Then a player’s name is out there consistently, and that’s going to be an issue at some point in my opinion. Now, a kid like Nail Yakupov can talk to his agent, and his agent can blow into town and make things worse, but that’s a sign that communication is very bad and that things aren’t going well.
It’s easy enough to set aside one player, Yakupov is struggling and the Oilers are drowning. I wonder though if this problem with calling guys out and communication doesn’t run deeper. Ladislav Smid was an Oiler for a long time, and he’s gone early in the season to a rival—and what’s more there’s no acknowledgement at all from the organization when he returns with his new team. A small, trivial item to be sure, but employees notice these kinds of things.
I’ve been thinking about communication since early in last night’s game. The team’s breakouts look like the plan hasn’t been communicated properly, the players don’t know the script. Nail Yakupov is going to get the blame here, but there was a lot of wonk along with the work that went into that play before the kid screwed up.
WHY? In game 43 of the season? WHY? “I assumed that we knew what traditional d-zone coverage was” came the answer last time, so we assume it’s the same answer today.
We NEVER hear about or from the assistant coaching staff. Do they know what they’re doing? Are they able to communicate with their players? Can you tell me why the best defenseman last night was the kid who hasn’t been here long? Can you tell me why the Oilers best players many nights are the guys who arrived in fall?
This can’t go on. Communication.
There are only a few reasons why a team would be performing like this 40+ games into the season—they can’t possibly be this bad, I’m no longer buying it.
- Youth. Young players make mistakes, it’s just a fact.
- Age. Older players struggle when their skills erode and they can no longer make the plays that came easily in past seasons.
- Communication. I’ve been a manager and I’ve been an employee, and most of the time when things screw up this is the reason. And it isn’t always management by the way. These issues do require a buy-in from the worker and if you don’t understand, ask someone!
- Stubborn. Man, I know this one well. I think there’s a lot of stubborn on this team, married to youth and inexperience. And it isn’t always the player by the way. These issues do require reflection on behalf of management—is it a good idea to say “I assumed that we knew what traditional d-zone coverage was”, suggesting the players are dummies? That kind of thing usually puts distance between you and the people you’re dealing with in any business setting.
- Quitting. I’ve saved this for the bottom, because it’s a very touchy item and people shouldn’t just march around throwing these ideas into the wind—it might catch fire. However, when I watch this Oiler team right now it looks for all the world as though these players have not bought into the plan. That’s not to say that they aren’t working hard, or don’t want to win, but belief is a powerful thing in life, and I’m not sure these 23 believe in themselves and the system used by Dallas Eakins. After the “intimidation” comments last night, I’m not sure Eakins believes in the team.
Well ladies, there aren’t many. They can trade that first round pick for Christian Ehrhoff, but the value will be higher at the draft. They can deal off Eberle, but I don’t think that’s going to happen during the MacT regime.
They can tweak the coaching staff, and that’s where it gets dicey. First, no one wants to see someone lose their job, but this isn’t working so perhaps a change in job description for one or two of the staff. Second, bringing in a veteran “co-coach” like Paul Maurice to make certain things run smoothly, we can call it the Renney role if you like, but I think we’re heading there sooner than later.
Finally, I do think we’re at a point where it’s reasonable to talk about the entire coaching staff being replaced. No fun in that, epic fail as a matter of fact. I believe Dallas Eakins is a good coach lacking experience, but the results continue to disappoint. Not just wins and losses, but Corsi and breakouts and communication and “I assumed that we knew what traditional d-zone coverage was” and calling out the kid when 10 other things ghastly happened on the same play.
My Dad always had this phrase he’d use at times like this: if you’re not for me, you’re against me. I wonder how many Oilers are for Dallas Eakins this morning. When I watch this team, I don’t believe the answer is 23.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Today on the show, we get back to work! I missed it! Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. We’ll talk Olympic team, Outdoor game and Brian Burke’s comments.
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. We’ll talk WJ’s and Oil Kings.
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. The man who reviewed last night’s game for CofH deserves a medal, instead he gets a chance to talk some more about the game.
- Andreas Morse from FC Edmonton. The Eddies have some big plans for this year, including a tweaked schedule and more offense.
- Jungle Jim Hunter. We continue our series on Canadian Olympians at Sochi.
TSN 1260 at 10 this morning. @lowetide_ on twitter or 10-1260 via text. It’ll be fun!