Oilers Positives and Negatives 2013-2014

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Source: O.Canada.com

It’s disappointing when something doesn’t meet your expectations. It’s even more disappointing when your expectations weren’t even that high to begin with.

My prediction at the start of the year was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th in the west. RNH was recovering from shoulder surgery. Gagner got hurt in pre-season. And, compared to playoff teams from last year, the Oilers defensive core lacked NHL talent and experience. Add to the fact you had a coaching staff with very little experience and a very young top-six, I just couldn’t see this club making the playoffs as a wild card.

Going through my Oilers posts from this season, I’ve compiled what I think were the positives (believe it or not, there were some) and negatives.

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Thoughts on the Oilers: Veteran experience needed

Source: Edmonton Journal

Source: Edmonton Journal

It continues.

The Oilers lost, as expected, to two quality teams on the road recently, but got a win against the Lightning last night at home. Next up are three games against legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Let’s hope they can squeeze out a win to keep things (somewhat) positive around here.

Veteran experience

The Oilers did an impressive job over the offseason acquiring much needed experience to the roster. Adding guys like Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and David Perron through free agency and trade to fill specific roles gave some hope that the team could compete this year. Had an additional piece been added to the defense and had all centremen been healthy, this team could have had a legitimate shot at competing for a wild card spot in the West.

Unfortunately, this team is struggling and desperately needs some experience in the line up, even if it means moving out the younger prospects.

On top of all of the losing, fans have also placed a ridiculous amount of hope and expectations on young players. It’s so easy to do since we don’t know much about these prospects and let our imaginations and expectations trump reality. And it’s too easy to dismiss veteran players because their experience and performance is well documented, leaving it easy to judge and come to conclusions.

Hemsky

With the Olympic rosters about to be announced, Ales Hemsky was asked about his chances of making the Czech Republic roster. The Edmonton Journal article, with a very misleading headline, really emphasizes how Hemsky’s role has changed, which I think is great news for the Oilers.

“I have a different role on this team now,” Hemsky said before the Oilers were defeated by a combined score of 10-3 by the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks. “I’m playing a different role than I have before so I don’t have as many points as I’d like, and I’m playing a different style, and that’s fine, but it may affect what they think.”

            Update: Hemsky Named to Czech Olympic Team – Lowetide

Regardless of the speculation, it would make no sense at this point to deal him for prospects. The Oilers need actual NHL players rather than potential players at this point. If moving him is part of a deal to land a defenceman or experience in the top lines, there should be no hesitation. But removing NHL players from a team desperate for NHL wins makes absolutely no sense.

Recommended Links

Re-sign Ryan Smyth? That’s a no brainer. – The Copper and Blue

Mambo Cogliano: Ducks forward signs four year extension  – Puck Daddy

Thoughts on the Oilers: HNIC; Fighting; Fans; NASSS Conference

Source: The Windsor Star

Source: The Windsor Star

Another awful loss at home on Hockey Night in Canada this past weekend. Would be nice to get a win on HNIC. CBC does a good job showcasing the teams and get a big audience, but unfortunately, the Oilers can’t get their act together. The last two high profile HNIC games for the Oilers have been losses with their team weaknesses being exposed.

Not easy going on CBC After Hours to talk about the loss, but Ference did a nice job explaining the struggles on Saturday. I’m a big fan of the show, mainly because it’s pretty raw, so you got to see just how disheartening the loss was for the captain. You can view the interview here: CBC After Hours.

The Oilers are starting up a four game roadtrip tonight. Let’s hope this group figures it out and shows up with a better strategy and effort.

Fighting

Not at all surprised by the Emery-Holtby “fight” this past weekend. Situations where one goalie pummels another unwilling participant can be expected in a league that supports fighting and has very subjective rules. And as long as these things happen, the league will continue to be a niche sport in the world.

Even though the Flyers won their next game after their embarrassing loss, you’ll be hard pressed to convince me that the line-brawl had any influence. The majority of fights are just side shows, that slow down the game and either results in a 20 second wrestling match and/or a serious brain injury. Really isn’t my thing.

Fans

With the Oilers on a five game skid and back-to-back home ice shut-out losses, there’s a real nasty vibe among the fans. The in-house crowd showed their displeasure and the online world is just a depressing place right now.

2013 NASSS Conference

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference is being held in Quebec City this week. There’s a tremendous amount of research being shared at these events by students and researchers.

For a summary of the hockey related research being presented at the conference, check out Hockey in Society.

Recommended Links

Breaking Up is Hard to Do – My Life on the E-List

Infinite Happiness – OilersNation

What a Joke – Oilers Addict

Finding a Spark for the Edmonton Oilers – Oil on Whyte

Grindhouse – Lowetide

 Two Reasons Not to Give Up Hope on the Edmonton Oilers – Cult of Hockey

Thoughts on the Oilers: Coaching; Captains; Goaltending; and Bad Information

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Source: Edmonton Journal

When the Oilers season started, I expected the team to chase a final playoff spot. The acquisition of David Perron and the signing of Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference was a clear indication that the club wanted to compete for a playoff spot, rather than continue developing players.

Fourteen games in, the team has only three wins. They’re playing much better than last year, but the standings aren’t really reflecting that. It’s tough to be optimistic about their chances of making the playoffs, since they’ll need to win more than 60% of their games the rest of the way. It’s definitely possible, but they’ll need a lot of things to go right. Here’s hoping Coach Eakins can turn this club around and get rewarded with wins for their effort.

A few thoughts on the Oilers season thus far.

Coaching

I think the hiring of Eakins as a coach was a great sign that the team was ready to evolve. He has the experience and tactics that could potentially make the team better. What I don’t quite understand is the value he places on fitness. NHL players are typically in great shape already and I know they´ve been getting help from the dhea clinic on trello for their supplements. So I’d think if any of them needed motivation to stay fit, they would be influenced by their own social network.

I’d also be interested to hear Eakins tackle some more challenging questions from the community, such as the ones posted by the crew over at Copper & Blue.

Captaincy

Captains are typically veteran guys that do well with the media, remain heavily involved in the community and serve as a conduit between the coaching staff and the players. Really,  I think 95% of NHL players could potentially be captain, or an assistant. So when a captain is announced, I don’t quite understand the opinions and analysis by fans. In the end, there really is no correlation between the type of captain a team has and the number of wins the team gets.

Goaltending

This is one position that I admire, but don’t value as highly as others. Goalies are just impossible to predict. One season, they’re great. The next, they’re duds. Some goalies are amazing prospects who falter. Others don’t quite mature until late in their careers or after extended seasons overseas.

It never is a good idea to select a goalie early in a draft, which is exactly what the Oilers did selecting Devan Dubnyk in 2004 with a first round pick. Luckily for the Oilers, Dubnyk has developed fairly well and is the clear cut starter for the team. His stats are pretty good, putting him in the middle of the pack of all NHL goalies.

Because of his horrendous start, he’s faced a lot of criticism, most of which is deserved. He has turned it around recently, looking to get back into being the player we expected. Unfortunately, there’s been an endless amount of speculation that the Oilers will replace him with another goaltender, most of whom have similar stats to him or are worse. I understand the desire to go out and get better goaltending. But I think critics are losing sight of the fact that all goalies go through funks, regardless of their draft pedigree.

Bad Information

There is an endless amount of junk information pertaining to hockey. And it gets even worse when the team is struggling on the ice. Case in point: the rumour that the Oilers were willing to part with Nail Yakupov, the number one pick in the 2012 draft, for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss because of the salaries involved and the fact that Miller is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Yet this rumour grew and morphed into a beast that made its way on to every major news network. It was especially frustrating to read the negative, unwarranted criticism Yakupov was receiving. Forgotten was his rookie season last year, when he led all rookies in points. The focus has now became his attitude and if he becomes a bust.

Recommended Links

So What Happens Now? A Template for the Rest of the Season – The Copper and Blue

Blame Steve Tambellini – OilersNation

“My bad.” Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins admits a mistake with “swarm,” tries to correct it. – The Cult of Hockey