David Staples from the Edmonton Journal Cult of Hockey Blog posted today about the scoring chance differentials of Oilers wingers over the past several years. He's concluded that wingers like Perron, Yakupov, and Hemsky have not been very good at playing good defensive-style hockey.
In watching this team intently for years, especially since 2007, the year after the Cup run, and when we lost or traded a lot of defensive-minded players, the team has been abysmal on defense overall.
And yes, while the defensive core has also not been up to par either, this year, the defense are actually much better than the past two years, and while everyone is asking for those impossible-to-find-and-trade-for #1 and 2 d-men, they're not looking at what's finally glaring out at us all, and something I've been saying since the season started:
Oilers top 6 wingers suck at defense. They're cheating for a breakout play and not pinching in to help their defense and centre teammates to actually gain the puck back first. They're expecting them to just flip it up to them and it's obviously not happening all the time.
Krueger's defensive system last year essentially allowed wingers to cheat, but it opened up a huge hole in the gap that when a team knew how to exploit it, they were firing off shots at Dubnyk at an unprecedented rate and why the team was one of the worst five on five. Actually, they were absolutely atrocious five on five.
So in comes Eakins this year with a very demanding swarm defensive team system. In watching some of the scoring chances and goals against us this year so far, the entire system breaks down with the wingers cheating and not helping enough. It's as if they're still used to Krueger's system. It's really why Yak got sat. He even admitted he doesn't like to play that style. And it makes me wonder if that's why St. Louis traded for Perron, being that St. Louis is a very defensive-minded team.
Yakupov, Perron, Hall, Hemsky, and to a lesser extent, Eberle, don't have the greatest scoring chance differentials and are all to blame. Hemsky most of all. And you don't need stats to see it. We've been witnessing it for years and it's been frustrating to watch.
Thank God for our top nine centres playing excellent defense. Nuge, Arcobello, and Gordon have been carrying the forward lines this year in playing good two-way defense. This year, they're actually in the top 5 in the league in scoring differential 5 on 5. Unfortunately, the special teams aren't up to snuff, they're taking too many penalties, goaltending is questionable, and the injuries have piled up a la 2011.
At Eakins' presser this morning, he said he believes the team is commited to this system and it'll take time for them to adjust to a defense-first mindset and compete level. I sure hope so.
This system works. It's worked with the Marlies, but it takes commitment from the team. It's why he sat Kadri when Eakins coached him. But look at him now.
These are examples of why exactly MacT brought Eakins in and why this fan believes, Eakins is the guy who isn't offering the quick-fix, but the longer-term solution to fix a problem that has been plaguing this team for 6 years.
While it might have been a good idea to put Eakins as coach and Krueger as associate coach and in charge of special teams instead of Keith Acton, here we are.
I just hope it turns around in the next 7 games. There are glimpses in all the close games and being able to compete toe to toe now with the defensive teams that are dominating the league.
So hang in there, Oilers fans. We've been doing it for 6 years, another season isn't gonna kill ya, but for me, only if our wingers actually commit to defense first. So far, not so good.