We’ve been heading down the 2014-15 road for some time now, and a sign of changing seasons and themes is Dallas Eakins discussing the future in media. The latest verbal is nicely summed up in this Terry Jones article.
- Eakins: “Hallsy is able to take on the heavier load against those bigger opponents and D men. I can keep Hallsy away from Shea Weber, but I think Hallsy can handle Weber. But Nuge is in a different realm for me. Nuge just isn’t there physically yet. And I mean ‘yet.’ He’s getting there.”
I believe this is a big part of the Oilers problem. We focus on D problems, but the center position has only Boyd Gordon in the group who can effectively play the man’s game required in the NHL. Nuge seems to be wearing down the season, and I do wonder if a healthy summer and a consistent workout program will help him increase strength. It isn’t really fair to criticize—Nuge gets to a lot more battles because of his ridiculous skating—but the past few weeks are the first time in his NHL career that I’ve actually worried about him.
- Eakins: “The habits of our core guys, the guys who are going to be the difference-makers in the future, are improving. But we still have a lot of work to do around them. We need to supplement this group with some veteran leadership, some guys who can make plays and guys who are going to win battles in this conference. Craig and I have to sit down and make the right decisions for our hockey club to add and subtract what we need to do to move up in our conference.”
This is where I begin to have some concern with the MacT-Eakins pairing. Even when they were talking about playing a possession game last spring and summer, there was also a thread inside the verbal that acknowledged a need for big physical players. That need has been addressed many times over through roster moves, specifically Luke Gazdic, Matt Hendricks and Mark Fraser.
- Luke Gazdic 37.7 Corsi for % 5×5, with a 51.8% zone start
- Matt Hendricks 42.6 Corsi for % 5×5, with a 26.9% zone start
- Mark Fraser 42.1 Corsi for % 5×5, with a 38.6% zone start
The Gazdic slotting tells us Eakins is using him for reasons that cannot be justified based on statistical performance (not a criticism, just a fact), and the Hendricks-Fraser additions are low-cost (well, relatively low cost) attempts to solve problems. I would include the attempted David Clarkson signing in the Hendricks-Fraser pile, at a higher pay level. Hendricks has certainly covered his bet (in my opinion), but Fraser has been exposed. I don’t think he’s going to fill the role the Oilers envision.
I’ve rambled on about this forever, but the key is getting good players. If they’re ALSO big players, music! The Oilers would be better off with Mark Arcobello than an ineffective 6.05, 230 center next season. I’m not onside with the names mentioned and acquired so far in this area, and suspect it comes down to availability. Part of me suspects David Clarkson may yet be an Oiler, via trade this summer.
I have no problem with signing players to longer terms, that’s one area Edmonton can use to their advantage (thanks, Mr. Katz!). However, if the summer comes and we’re looking at David Clarkson, Mark Fraser and Zenon Konopka as solutions, we’re not going to be discussing the Oilers as a possession team.
It isn’t possible.
RED ROVER RED ROVER, WE CALL ANOTHER GOALIE OVER!!
Frans Tuohimaa is in Oklahoma City, as the Oilers run through goalies at a record clip. What does this mean if you’re Tyler Bunz or Ty Rimmer or Chet Pickard? Competition, and a lot of it.
LANDER AND PITLICK
I thought Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick showed some things in the San Jose game, but Lander can’t cash and that’s going to be the theme this offseason. We know a player who can post numbers in the AHL can do it in the NHL (there’s no magical mystery), but Anton’s playing in some tough luck right now and really has been since he arrived. The difference right now? He’s getting a push with really good players. Come on, Anton!
The pressure for Pitlick is less because the role he’ll play next year (should he make it) will be 4line winger. Pitlick does bring a physical game, but was more impressive in his previous stint (before the injury) and I do wonder if he’s showing enough currently. It’s a tough item to play against these strong California sides, but Pitlick could do himself an enormous favor by having a physical impact on Friday night.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
- Dennis King, Oilogosphere icon. Expos! We’re talking Expos this morning, maybe an Oiler question tacked on the end.
- Andrew Bucholtz, 55 yard line. CFL combine, draft and season on the way! Well, sorta.
- Rob Vollman, ESPN and Hockey Prospectus. NHL Free agents! Are there any good ones???
- Rob Soria, Oil Drop. Gagner, goalies and the draft.
10-1260 text, twitter @Lowetide_ and this is going to be grand!