Since beating the Flames on November 16th on Hockey Night in Canada, where they scored four unanswered goals in the third period, the Oilers have won four of their last five games. The winning has significantly reduced the number bogus rumors and there haven’t been any player agents stealing headlines during this stretch either.
But even though the memory of the three straight shutout losses at home are fading, the conference standings are still a harsh reality.
Ilya Bryzgalov also got his first start as an Oiler, shutting out the Predators last night, and is likely to get another start tonight against the Blue Jackets. I typically don’t agree with starting goalies on back-to-back nights, considering Dubnyk is playing pretty well, but it’s a common decision by the coach to go with the mythical “hot hand”.
The Oilers played a pretty solid game last night as well. The improved scoring chances for and against by each line combination looked pretty promising, so hopefully they can play well in front of Bryzgalov again.
It’s still pretty obvious that the Oilers lack the strong defensive play to compete in the western conference. It’s been the same story every year since the 2006 squad which included sound defensive players including Chris Pronger. For a while, I thought it was the coaching or gameplans that were at fault. But as the losing seasons pile up, you have to consider some deep rooted problems in the organization.
I’m beggining to wonder if it’s the Oilers assessment of players drafted and acquired that is a weakness here. Assuming that the Oilers have some sort of model or criteria to assess players, there might be some qualities the team is overlooking. Perhaps scouts aren’t looking at deeper performance measures and perhaps letting their biases take over. It’s hard information to uncover, but the on-ice performance and the lack of depth at the centre and defensive positions are enough to question team management.
Another issue is how poorly the team has handled the development of its prospects in the past. Far too often, players have been rushed into the league, without the proper training and preparation. The best example of this is Sam Gagner, who was drafted in 2008 and made the roster when he was only 18.
I’ve always wondered what another season in the OHL and a season in the AHL could’ve done for Gagner. He’s a complete player, but I really think the pressure of playing in the NHL and not getting the right training early in his career has hindered his true potential. Only in recent years have the Oilers established a solid farm league system, something that was missing when Gagner was drafted.
The Detroit Red Wings have always produced exceptional talent, and I think it’s in large part to their patience with prospects. Every player that gets drafted by the Wings typically completes a few years in juniors and then plays a season or two in the AHL. This included Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who both played a few seasons in minor leagues prior to becoming the teams franchise players.
A related article over at The Hockey Writers concisely lists off how to ruin an NHL prospect, using Buffalo Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko as a case study. In summary: rushing a player before they’re ready for professional hockey and setting him up for failure is a sure way to derail a hockey career.
Five ways to run an NHL prospect – The Hockey Writers
Why goalies should almost never start back-to-back games – Broadstreet Hockey
Sam Gagner needs to step up his game to show he belongs – Edmonton Journal
Bryzgalov’s “Hot Hand” – The Copper and Blue
Professional sports team owners and management strive to draw and retain fans by assembling a quality product in order to sell tickets and merchandise. There are numerous factors that influence how well a professional sports team draws fans: on-ice success, local economy, local sports market, demographics, to name a few. It’s crucial for teams, regardless of the external factors, to connect with fans and give them a reason to continue watching and attending events.
Amazing what a three-game winning streak can do. Since the Oilers embarrassing streak of three straight home shutout losses, the team has bounced back scoring 15 goals to defeat the Flames, Blue Jackets and Panthers. In those three wins, the Oilers scored 14 straight goals before allowing one against the Panthers.
Shots, Shots, Shots
The Oilers continue to get more shots on net compared to last season.
The question becomes how good are the shots that the Oilers are taking. Michael Parkatti of Boys on the Bus has been tracking shot quality. His work is well worth reading as shot quality is a critical factor for team success.
The best part about winning is that the Oilers aren’t being mentioned in trade rumors. The majority of the stories being written are about the small things the Oilers are doing well, such as the powerplay and penalty kill.
The other positive of the winning streak is that Devan Dubnyk can continue playing without the chatter of Ilya Bryzgalov taking over. Pretty sure if the Oilers had lost any of the past three games since Bryzgalov joined the Oilers roster, there would be all sorts of content produced about the Russian netminder. I think the signing of Bryzgalov is a good one for the Oilers as they definitely enhanced their tandem. But the additional narratives about Bryzgalov’s character and his run-ins with the media are a bit much. This was quite apparent when he first arrived in Edmonton as very little was asked about his on-ice performance and more about his personality and attitude.
But with all of the positives coming out, there is a harsh reality that the poor start to the season has already cost the team the playoffs. To make the playoffs in the Western Conference, a team would need about 95 points. For the duration of the season (58 games) the Oilers would need to win games at the same rate as the best teams in the league to make the playoffs. Possible, sure, but the odds are firmly against this roster.
The advanced stats also suggest that the Oilers are headed to their eighth straight year out of the playoffs. Tyler Dellow put together a piece comparing team Corsi rates at the quarter pole of the season and how it’s a fairly clear indication of whether or not a team makes it to the playoffs.
NHL Teams Due to Rise Up, Fall Down Standings – Sportsnet
I can’t say I’m disappointed. My expectation going in to the season was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th place. This was mainly due to the fact the Oilers hired a new coach, started the season with one legit centreman (Boyd Gordon) and that the defense was weak compared to other Western Conference teams.
Signs of Life – OilersNation
Defense Needed: Apply Within – The Copper and Blue
Of Note: Eakins on Forecheck - mc79hockey
How Devan Dubnyk Got His Groove Back – Oil on Whyte
Get Happy! – Lowetide
Another home, shutout loss this week, which leaves the Oilers at 4-14-2. This team looks to be on pace to reach some all time lows. Brutal.
At this point, it would make little sense to fire Dallas Eakins. I agree that if this were any other team, a coaching change would be made. But the Oilers have gone through enough coaches over the past few years, that this would only add to the instability behind the bench.
The Detroit Red Wings, one of the most consistent franchises in professional sports, have always stressed the importance of stability both at the player and management level. Since 1993, the Red Wings have had four coaches. The current coach, Mike Babcock, has been there since 2005. The Oilers on the other hand have had 10 different coaches since 1993. Eakins is the fifth Oilers head coach since 2008. Factor in the assistant and off-ice coaches, and you have way too much instability for young players to develop.
Think it’s important to remember how each coach brings different tactics, practice plans, etc., and that players always need time to adjust. I’m not defending the horrid start, it really is unacceptable. But a coach does need time to prove what they’re capable of. Too often, the needs of the team are trumped by what the fans want. It’s a difficult balance, but in this case it’s a better decision to let Eakins work things out.
The GM did an excellent job yesterday taking attention away from the struggling roster and coaching staff by holding a press conference. Really, there’s nothing new to report, but he sparked a ton of useless content regardless. Everything that he said was already known: the Oilers were trying to land a defencemen at the 2013 Entry Draft; future picks will be used to get roster players, likely a defenceman; and this team is terrible defensively.
Oilers vs Flames on Hockey Night in Canada
If fans are agitated by the horrible start, I can’t imagine what a loss to the Flames this weekend will do. This is one of those games that the Oilers can win to calm the angry mob, mainly because it’s Calgary and it’s on Hockey Night in Canada. Doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but it’s one of those “quick wins” that would appease the fans for a day or two.
Why firing your coach in a rebuild is nonsensical – Yahoo! Puck Daddy
The Coach – OilersNation
Fun times to be an Oilers fan. With the season all but gone by the 20 game mark, the off-ice noise is starting to take over.
It was tough watching Nail Yakupov get skewered, again, by the media for comments made by his agent over the weekend. It’s become pretty obvious that the kid won’t always get a fair shake in Edmonton, considering his teammates have struggled just as bad, if not worse, this season. But Yakupov does have a ton of support from fans who see past the misinterpreted, erroneous media clips and focus more on his star potential. Let’s just hope he can staring spending more time celebrating goals rather than take leading questions from the reporters.
Love/Hate the Internet
Bad information is just something you have to deal with as a hockey fan. This past weekend was a perfect example of how quickly bogus rumors can spread, as all sorts of stories about Ales Hemsky being dealt were popping up.
On the flip side, the internet, especially Twitter, is great in squashing bad rumors. It’s not an easy process, but following (and blocking) the right people and questioning the content will quickly get you past the bogus information.
The web also provides context to certain stories that may be ignored at first glance. Going back to the Yakupov drama, his agent Igor Larionov provided some scathing comments about the Oilers, which was quickly spread and critiqued.
Thankfully, people who have covered Larionov as a player provided his background and potential reasons as to why he said what he said. George Malik of Kukla’s Korner provides an excellent summary of how the story played out on Twitter and gave some useful context to the story [Kukla's Korner].
The Oilers are definitely a better team with a goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and the newly-acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. But it came at a cost as Ladislav Smid was shipped out to make cap space for Bryzgalov. Goaltending, in my mind, wasn’t the weakness of this team, so I find the trade-off pretty puzzling considering how bad the defensive lapses have been.
Having said that, maybe Bryzgalov plays average, steals a couple games and makes the defence look better than it is. Then again, it’s goaltending, which some would argue is similar to alchemy [The Copper and Blue].
In case you missed it, Omark had another great goal playing for the Oklahoma City Baron of the AHL:
For whatever reason, Omark seems to have a little more space when he plays in the AHL. A case can be made that the quality of players isn’t the same in the AHL as it is in the NHL. But I’m starting to think it’s the system they have in place in OKC that gives Omark, not only time and space, but some confidence in attacking in the net.
American Hockey League (AHL)
The AHL is a very talented league that, if utilized properly, can develop and prepare players for the NHL. We’ve seen far too many players in the Oilers system get rushed far too quickly, and instead left to struggle and eventually fade away in the NHL. For whatever reason, getting sent to the minors has a stigma about it in Edmonton. But in Detroit, it’s just part of the process and has proven to be a successful strategy every year.
The best teams in the league let their players adjust to the professional game slowly in the AHL or comparable minor leagues. In my opinion, unless they’re exceptional talents like Crosby or Ovechkin, players aren’t ready for the NHL until they have at least two full years in the minors.
Stars at Oilers G-20, 13-14 – Lowetide
Dallas Stars @ Edmonton Oilers Game 20 Preview – The Copper and Blue
Ilya Bryzgalov Lost in Translation – Tend the Farm
Terry Jones and Yakupov – mc79hockey
Larionov’s Comments Yield a Yakupov Incident on Twitter – Kukla’s Korner
The Oilers continue on their four-game road trip, where they picked up a win in Florida, but dropped a decision to Tampa Bay. I thought the Oilers played well in both games, even though they lost in Tampa Bay and ALMOST blew it against the hapless Panthers.
Great to see the young defenceman make it to the NHL and score a couple goals right away. Fedun has made a remarkable recovery coming back from a shattered leg which he sustained on an icing play. Since the injury, the NHL has smartened up and introduced hybrid icing to reduce the number of accidents occurring.
As long as the Oilers struggle on the ice, they’ll be mired in absolute garbage trade rumors. Nothing irks me more than garbage information, so it’s been a challenging week hearing about Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle potentially on the trading block.
Hockey fans have to remember that teams use media outlets and “insiders” to throw off rival GM’s and potential trade partners. Unfortunately, this leaves a ton of garbage information for fans to decipher through and digest.
Friday was a busy day for the Oilers as they dealt away defenceman Ladislav Smid to Calgary for prospects, and then later signed free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. As you can imagine, Twitter was flush with junk information on who would be next to go on the Oilers.
I’ll never quite understand how teams justify shipping out players for prospects. Shouldn’t the objective of every team be to find good players and keep good players? Can’t be shocked that the Oil pulled this off once again, I but remain surprised that the team is taking a chance on Bryzgalov. Dubnyk has struggled and the case can be made that the players may not have a lot of confidence in him. But I don’t see how Bryzgalov is a major upgrade, as he was recently bought out by the Flyers. Regardless, lets hope the Oil can get their act together and get some wins on this current road trip.
Shots on Net
Great point by the Oilers Radio Bob Stauffer last night after the loss in Tampa Bay.
Omark and Eager Returning to Oklahoma City – The Copper and Blue
Permanent Revolution: Oilers Trade Smid for Magic Beans – The Copper and Blue
The Remarkable Story of Taylor Fedun – OilersNation
Nice little video put together by the Communications & Technology Master’s Program at the University of Alberta. To learn more about the program, including the research being done by faculty and staff, check out the MACT website.
Below are a few of the posts I’ve written about the program, including my experience and research interests.
- MACT Experience (August 17, 2011)
- SuperFan 2.0 – Exploring the Produsage Qualities of Hockey Fans (June 19, 2012)
- Presentation of MACT Research at the “Friends of the U of A” Annual Meeting (June 4, 2013)
You can also view my final research paper through the University of Alberta’s Education and Research Archive .