I love that 2006 Oiler team. Balanced, defensive ability, veterans everywhere and the kids were on value deals. Roloson, Pronger, Spacek, Smith, Staios, Smyth, Hemsky, Horcoff, Peca, Stoll, Pisani, Dvorak, Samsonov, Torres and on it went. How many current Oilers would play their current roles on this team?
There are something like six men still playing from that team, but looking at these players and their numbers is a rush. I’ll never get over G7, but loved this team as much as any of the Stanley winners. The current kids want a Stanley as much as the fanbase, but the 2006 coach is going to need championship-calibre moves to get them back into the playoffs, let alone the SCF. It seems like such a long, long way—because it is.
There’s a lot of chatter and in the comments section about the youngsters. It is the “make sweeping statements with authority” portion of the season, where Justin Schultz should be moved to RW or traded or signed for $2M; where Jordan Eberle needs to be traded for 10 cents on the dollar because he doesn’t backcheck, where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins represents absolute failure.
Fans can afford that kind of venom. We’re fans, after all, and words are all we have (ha a—Bee Gees reference) in a season where the town team has ripped out our heart and stomped on it.
Craig MacTavish? He has no such luxury. There’s not a kid on this team who was here last year and has taken a full step forward, and that’s a tell. If you’re going to rip Nuge, or Schultz, or even Hall or Eberle, there has to be a “and this is what should be happening” attached to it. The fact that ALL of the 2012-13 kids are off their previous pace reflects badly on the organization, on the coach, on the system.
Punishing the kids by sending them away is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. No sir. Craig MacTavish has to sit down with Dallas Eakins and have a good long look at what worked and what did not this season, and together they have to plot a new path. The power play is becoming the number one hot spot for me, as it clearly isn’t working and yet the team stubbornly holds on to the system.
Here’s a tip for the Oilers: whatever you’re doing, it’s easily defended. Other teams are reading you, they’re not that upset you’re sticking to the current power-play setup. They probably fear you’ll put in the Ralph tapes from last season, causing the 5×4 to erupt in these final games. No one is frowning, but there’s some chuckling I’d bet.
I do not subscribe to the idea of firing Dallas Eakins. This was not an easy situation for a rookie coach—the pressure to make sure this team improved year over year must have been immense. Dallas Eakins is a smart guy, and his early results (the shot differentials at the beginning of the season were encouraging, although drowned by ghastly play in goal) were good.
Craig MacTavish has offloaded some players who either didn’t fit into the system (Smid, his skills are duplicated by Ference, as an example) or those who clearly struggled (Dubnyk), but none of the players dealt are what we might call long-term investments.
That all changes with Nail Yakupov. The Dreger monologue this week suggests the Oilers have made him available, and for me that’s the hill I’m prepared to die on in regard to Dallas Eakins. I have no worries about a coach coming in and putting noses out of joint, introducing new systems or even losing a few games in a lost season in order to gain the attention of the skilled men. I have no quarrel with any of it.
Trading Nail Yakupov when his value is less than pristine is a fool’s game, a Milbury ploy, an idiot wind. I sincerely believe Craig MacTavish is a smart guy, and do not believe the club will be so reckless in regard to the Russian.
However, if summer arrives and we see Yakupov sent away (as Dreger suggests, in a package) for less than full value, we will have our answer. The pain and suffering of the Katz rebuild will have been for nothing, the vision of the future will be well shy of glory, the promise of a new tomorrow will be another term in Shawshank.
Make no mistake. Yakupov’s future is a major item. This franchise needs vision and patience, even if it costs them another coach. Dallas Eakins has a fine future, but it may not be here. The rare gem is this kid from Nizhnekamsk. That’s the hill I die on.
If the Edmonton Oilers trade Nail Yakupov for flour and eggs, fans will know with certainty the dream is over, and should scream for management resignations all down the line. There is no neutral ground. None.