LIFE IN CROYDON

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.

 detroit public school

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.

belgium-jan

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.

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215 Responses to "LIFE IN CROYDON"

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  1. Woodguy says:

    gcw_rocks,

    Thanks for gathering that.

    I think the D was worse this year after Smid was traded.

    I also think that the CF was hobbled with the teaching on minimizing blue line turn overs and they starting dumping too much.

    Hall’s CF is better the last 15 games or so, so that seems to be improving.

    Either way one year was bad and the other was bad.

    Bad.

  2. Bank Shot says:

    Woodguy:
    admiralmark,

    I stick with Eakins and let him set the asst. coaches with the understanding that one has to be a vet coach and at least one “good cop”

    This team doesn’t need to learn a new system for the 4th year in a row, they need to hit the ground runnning.

    Is the system really the issue here? Eakins ran his mini camp post Olympic break and the Oilers came out as bad as ever.

    If the Oilers could somehow entice a real solid coach like Daryl Sutter here I suspect you would see everyone running in the right direction in a real hurry.

    Eakins has them crab walking off into the woods. Not sure we need that to start next season, but i”m already resigned to it.

  3. gcw_rocks says:

    Caramel Obvious,

    This is a shockingly stupid post. Your very first criticism is for playing Lander on the second line. On what planet was that a bad idea? Who should have played there?
    This is a classic case of speaking out of both sides of your mouth. Which makes you either stupid or a cretin. Take your pick.
    From there it only gets worse. Yakupov wasn’t singled out. N. Schultz was benched. Hopkins playing on the PK is necessary. Playing on the second PP isn’t necessarily bad.
    Moreover, none of these decisions have anything to do with results. They are minutia. Mostly irrelevant.
    It makes no sense to criticize without having a sense of a preferable alternative. When you realize that there are no preferable alternatives, you will realize that there are no options.
    This team doesn’t have enough talent. It has never had enough talent. That’s the biggest problem.
    If you want to blame the coach then I need to hear specific criticisms that go beyond obvious ad hominem attacks or easily dismissed criticisms over the usage of players. That’s the bar.

    You need to learn some manners.

    You also need to check your facts. On numerous occasions Yak was singled out. Nick Schultz played 60 of 62 games before he was traded. One of the times he was scratched, “Head Coach Dallas Eakins also says that Nick Schultz will be scratched tonight, but stressed that the move to sit him and Gazdic is strictly to get other players playtime” – from the Oilers website. So, Nicky wasn’t benched much at all, and when he was the message was “not a performance issue”.

    Hopkins playing on the PK is not necessary. Hendricks, Gordon, Jones, Smyth, and even Gagner, Hemsky and Lander have PK experience. Playing RNH on the PK is a choice, not a requirement since there are viable alternatives available.

    These decisions do, in fact, contribute to the results on the ice. We can debate to what extent these do impact results – I would argue playing a washed up Schultz had a material impact -, but to say they don’t is simply not accurate.

    Let’s keep the discourse civil please.

  4. Kris11 says:

    Meh.

    1. I think coaching doesn’t matter that much in the standings in the NHL. Maybe the best coach in the league (Babcock?) gets you 6 points that a blah, way below average coach gets you. I think the evidence backs me up on this.

    So even if Eakins sucked, you can’t hang the failure of the season, a failure this huge, on Eakins or on coaching at all.

    2. There really isn’t much of any evidence that Eakins is coaching badly. Lots of anecdotes and someone post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacious reasoning. The correlation between Yak’s second year struggles and Eakins coaching is not necessarily causal.

    We know Eakins is a solid AHL coach. That should be good enough, IMO, to not cause a team to miss out on 20 points they would’ve gotten with Tom Renney or Hitchcock coaching.

    3. The big supposedly elite 6 point producers for Edmonton are not playing good two way hockey, dominating chances: Hall, RNH, Yak, Eberle, Gagner, Schultz. That’s the problem.

    That problem wouldn’t kill any chance at the playoffs if you had an elite D corps or elite goaltending or both. But the Oilers have a bottom of the barrel d-corps, especially given Ference’s crappiness, and have won well with elite SV%, and lost a ton with cruddy goaltending.

    4. Solution for offseason. Tweak coaching by adding an associate coach and dumping the nepotism brothers. Trade offensive talent for D help. Add league average possession forwards via Ida -nothing fancy needed- to help with possession numbers. Return to playoffs.

  5. gcw_rocks says:

    Woodguy,

    Thanks for gathering that.
    I think the D was worse this year after Smid was traded.
    I also think that the CF was hobbled with the teaching on minimizing blue line turn overs and they starting dumping too much.
    Hall’s CF is better the last 15 games or so, so that seems to be improving.
    Either way one year was bad and the other was bad.
    Bad.

    I can see that argument (and if you believe it it certainly doesn’t speak well of MacT), but some of that is of Eakins own making. He played Schultz over Belov who even struggling was better than Schultz or over Fedun, and he plays Fraser over pretty much any other option since any other option would be better. Therefore, I can’t give Eakins a full pass, just like I didn’t give Krueger one for playing Whitney.

    Safe to say, neither defence was stellar. At this point, my view is Krueger > Eakins, but to your point, that’s still a pretty low bar and not one we should aspire to. The bar should be at least Lindy Ruff. This summer, the bar should Laviolette or whomever is the strongest available veteran coach. If Eakins isn’t going to make that bar in September, he should be fired and the veteran brought in.

  6. gvblackhawk says:

    Kris11:
    Meh.

    1. I think coaching doesn’t matter that much in the standings in the NHL. Maybe the best coach in the league (Babcock?) gets you 6 points that a blah, way below average coach gets you. I think the evidence backs me up on this.

    So even if Eakins sucked, you can’t hang the failure of the season, a failure this huge, on Eakins or on coaching at all.

    2. There really isn’t much of any evidence that Eakins is coaching badly. Lots of anecdotes and someone post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacious reasoning. The correlation between Yak’s second year struggles and Eakins coaching is not necessarily causal.

    We know Eakins is a solid AHL coach. That should be good enough, IMO, to not cause a team to miss out on 20 points they would’ve gotten with Tom Renney or Hitchcock coaching.

    3. The big supposedly elite 6 point producers for Edmonton are not playing good two way hockey, dominating chances: Hall, RNH, Yak, Eberle, Gagner, Schultz. That’s the problem.

    That problem wouldn’t kill any chance at the playoffs if you had an elite D corps or elite goaltending or both. But the Oilers have a bottom of the barrel d-corps, especially given Ference’s crappiness, and have won well with elite SV%, and lost a ton with cruddy goaltending.

    4. Solution for offseason. Tweak coaching by adding an associate coach and dumping the nepotism brothers. Trade offensive talent for D help. Add league average possession forwards via Ida -nothing fancy needed- to help with possession numbers. Return to playoffs.

    I agree with much of what you said. How do you explain the stark turn around that occurs when some teams replace their coaches and keep (essentially) the same roster? There are many examples of this.

  7. justDOit says:

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  8. Glock9 says:

    Jasmine: Ryan Whitney was run out of town by the Edmonton media like all other players are run out of town by the Edmonton media. Players won’t sign in Edmonton because they know they’ll get run out of town by the Edmonton media. Ray Whitney said he didn’t sign in Edmonton because of Oilers fans when Lowe wanted to sign in Edmonton. Oilers fans are the reason players won’t sign in Edmonton as they know they’ll get run out of town by the Edmonton media and Oilers fans.

    G Money: Ryan Whitney left because he only had one leg, and you can’t play NHL defense with one leg.

    It also means he didn’t run out of town, he hopped.

    G Money: Ryan Whitney left because he only had one leg, and you can’t play NHL defense with one leg.

    It also means he didn’t run out of town, he hopped.

    Jasmine,,

    He’s right. Whitney hopped outa town.

    All the way to Florida where he signed for 1 year (900,000) i think, compared to the 4 mil he was making here.

    Played a couple of games with Florida and is out of the NHL now.

    Was not run out of town. Was done. Career over……

  9. Glock9 says:

    What a mess……

    Only thing I know for sure ———> Glad my name is not MacT !

  10. "Steve Smith" says:

    Woodguy: You need to post more.

    I get that a lot.

    (I don’t.)

  11. delooper says:

    Croyden isn’t that bad anymore.

  12. Lowetide says:

    “Steve Smith”: I get that a lot.

    (I don’t.)

    I wish you would.

  13. Lowetide says:

    delooper:
    Croyden isn’t that bad anymore.

    I don’t know London at all, but my original title (“Livernois Avenue”) didn’t really work.

  14. delooper says:

    Croyden basically means “Crocus town” or something like that. I suspect their crocuses aren’t quite as beautiful as the ones that come up in Alberta but they’re probably quite pretty.

    There’s a field by the farm my father grew up at. In the spring thousands of near-transparent crocuses pop up. The individual crocuses are near transparent, but when you line a few hundred up they make a rather radiant light-purple blush.

  15. DeadmanWaking says:

    Firing the coach at the lowest point of a low season can’t possibly not work, if only because regression to the mean.

    We could instead try the one thing we have yet to try during this rebuild, which is show up in October with a viable defensive roster.

    The BPA meme translates to talent before balance. Sure sounds good on draft day. Now look. Transactions in the modern NHL have only gotten harder.

    The problem is that talent breeds expectations, while lack of balance sabotages results. Then frustration, then magnification, then implosion, then the iron broom of fresh beginnings.

    Because an iron broom never sets the clock back.

    Really, what the iron broom accomplishes is replacing a sick hare with a healthy tortoise. If the hare really is going to pass out and die before reaching the finish line, better sooner than later. If the hare is bobbing wildly because one of his hind feet is stuck in a plastic sippy cup, the right thing to do is dice the encumbrance.

    Occam’s razor: All our Fenwick belong to no-first-pair. No other explanation required.

    In my view, MacTavish has nearly said as much. He’s not evaluating Eakins on what can’t be accomplished with the present roster. He’s been there himself. They are looking a narrower indicators of the playing the game the right way, so that when the gaping holes are finally plugged, results are quick.

    Change for the sake of change is shamanistic. It’s tribal. It’s preliterate. It’s the instinct of our ancestors still bubbling under. I reject this absolutely because far too much else blows through the door when it’s opened to the first crack. Where Dawkins is militant, I’m resolute.

    I was opposed to replacing the Krueger hare with the Eakins tortoise. And now I’m opposed to the Eakins hare being replaced with yet-another-tortoise not yet named.

    Many times when the right battles are being fought, things get worse before they get better. Ask any alcoholic. Yet the mad schemes to obtain a residence further away from today’s favorite watering hole continue. And nearly the whole family agrees, proving only that the sauce doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

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