Last night’s loss to the Calgary Flames is a bitter pill for all involved. Why? By the most generous estimates, this team is four years into the rebuild and remain capable of a game so bad it borders on unwatchable. The Oilers routinely have more breakdowns than a British sports car on the Canadian prairies, are exposed on most defensive plays and appear to have picked up nothing from their experience.
It’s incredible. In life, you will find those who gain experience and apply it and those who do not get it after repeating errors many times. You will work with people who have five year’s experience, and those who have one year’s experience five times.
To my eye, this season had a lot of nice new building blocks. Adding David Perron, Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference to the group seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. I was concerned by two things that happened early on: the final pre-season game against Dallas (Oilers got rocked and looked flat, much like last night) and the Kassian stick to Gagner’s jaw.
Until the Gagner injury, the Oilers roster displayed a rational bent, filled with players who might be able to drive possession and win that part of the game. Early in the season, certainly the first 20 games or so, Edmonton was in fact outshooting opponents (at times) and had the Corsi edge. However, the goaltending was horrible and we know how that went, plus the team began adding players (MacIntyre, Gazdic, later Hendricks and Fraser) who could give the team a physical edge at the expense of hockey.
We are here.
I have no issue (and have said this many times) with physical players, but the exposure is immense when said players are unable to play the game at NHL speed. I’m not trying to pick on any one player, but this is a fact. No one wants to be exposed, but if you have a look at last night’s video there’s a lot of exposure in every goal against. Why is this still happening? Calgary has a bunch of newbies and never-were’s and yet, they seem to be able to play their system consistently. Why?
The Oilers appear to have a coach/team problem—we’ve seen and heard things and last night it was on national television—and Craig MacTavish has to address it. Now. I have absolutely no idea how big the problem is, who the problem is, or how the GM will solve the problem, only that displays like last night make the Edmonton Oilers look as addled as their on-ice execution.
I have a great deal of respect for Craig MacTavish, and do believe Dallas Eakins is a really smart guy with the kind of determination to succeed that will one day allow him to fulfill his coaching dream. This isn’t working, folks. I don’t know if you fire the coach or trade the team, but this isn’t working. The shots for/against, the inconsistency, the speeches to ticket-holders about who’s in charge and how long it took to take charge. It’s all very droll at this point, I see Flames fans giggling and hell who can blame them? Repeat: CALGARY FLAMES fans are mocking us, and we have no reply.
Not a word. We are here.
I’m reminded of the great Craig MacTavish quote about a player’s effectiveness coming down to what he creates versus what he leaves behind. Can we argue that this season has been a success if we apply it to Dallas Eakins’ team this morning? From the outside, it looks for all the world like there’s an internal battle within the organization and there are going to be casualties. This season has seen Ladislav Smid and Ales Hemsky sent away, but at some point—unless this thing gets fixed and winning becomes part of the routine—there are going to be bigger names traded, bigger names playing out their contract, bigger names asking for a trade.
Losing begets negative emotions and moments like last night. I think it might be wise to go back and ask ourselves why Sam Gagner and the Oilers agreed to part, and perhaps we can find some clues. Edmonton can offload players by the dozen, but sooner or later they’re going to run out of Marlies.
By word the Oilers covered things well last night, by deed they exposed everything that is wrong about them. I suspect the fear inside the organization is damage control, but I’m of a mind that last night may have been good for everyone. In my life, I’ve done some pretty stupid things. On reflection, it sometimes helped me to see my actions as others might see them, and perhaps I’ve changed a few things along the way.
We’re never too old to learn. It takes a great effort to learn about ourselves and change the way we approach others in the task at hand. I expect the Oilers problem is a little or a lot about communication. Last night, in a moment I’ll remember for a long time, the curtain opened just a little, and the unwashed were allowed a glimpse inside.
Beyond how fans feel, I’m interested in seeing how the actors on stage felt about the performance and their part in the scene. Inside those minds lies the key to the Edmonton Oilers future. No one will die from this, but lives can and will be affected. I wish everyone in the Oilers organization well, and hope they can get out of their own way to fight another day.
The only way we’ll be able to keep track is results on-ice, and it is scarcely possible it can get any worse than last night. San Jose arrives Tuesday, proving once again the hockey Gods have a wildly peculiar sense of humor.
Once upon a time, Daryl Katz bought a hockey club. His legacy so far? Men in expensive suits walking to the podium to select first overall. This is his team, I can’t imagine he enjoys life in Croydon.