Monday, November 25, 2013

#FreeArco and Free Agents

Ok, heading to the Hawks vs. Oilers game today.

Arco and Jones are still benched.  Please follow the #FreeArco hashtag on Twitter.  I'd prefer the 4th line as Jones-Arco-Joensuu as the Hawks aren't a fighting team and we need more skill than anything, but Eakins is sticking with what's working. But let's admit that the 4th line is only really playing when the team is up by a couple goals.

But let's look at the plethora of free agents next year.  Consider this year to be the big tryout for a tonne of players.

  • Hemsky?  Gone.  I don't see him being resigned but definitely picked up by a team. MacT has to work the phone hard near the trade deadline or that's a lot of value wasted.
  • Smyth?  Please retire gracefully.  He's having a not bad year, but can we really see it happening for another year?  I love the guy, but I just don't see it at 39 years of age.
  • Jones?  Tough one.  Gone?  He hasn't been picked up on waivers before, so he'll dissipate. 
  • Pitlick?  Please sign him.  Please!  He's the future on the 3rd or 4th line.
  • Gazdic?  Meh.  Although nice to have a fighter, despite what others say.  
  • Arco?  Sign the guy if you can trade Gagner or trade him in a package deal.  He has a lot of value, has proven it, despite his size (tops in hits!).

  • N. Schultz?  Maybe one more year until Nurse ready.  
  • Petry?  Duh. Sign him unless you get that big package deal for a #1 d-man.
  • Larsen?  Buh bye.  Good on the PP, poor on the 5v5.
  • J. Schultz?  Yes. Sign him to five years at $4.5 - 5.0.
  • Belov?  Yes. Sign him up to a few million for 3 years.
  • Potter?  Maybe another year for $1.5-2.0 as a backup guy.  He's cheap and good value.

Now here is the big question mark?
  • Dubnyk?  I say sign him.  If not a #1, he's definitely an excellent backup.
  • Bryz?  We'll see.
  • Bachman?  Keep him down in OKC.

Buried players:
  • Grebs?  Nah.
  • Eager?  Nah.
  • Labarbera?  Nah.

That leaves the team with this potential lineup for next year:

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Yakupov - Gagner - Perron
Joensuu - Gordon - Arcobello
Jones - Acton - Pitlick
(Gazdic, Hamilton)

Belov - J. Schultz
N. Schultz - Petry
Ference - Fedun
(Klefbom, Potter)

For forwards, we need to move Gagner when possible and find a total two-way veteran centreman.  Don't mind moving Jones out either.

On D, the key is to wait for Nurse, who'll need to play a year or two in OKC if we are truly committed to development.  Fedun is ready.  Klefbom, I'm not so sure of right now in OKC. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Jackets 0 Oilers 7 - Perron, Yak, Smyth, Dubnyk shine.

Today, I listened to Oilers alumni and character player Dave Lumley (#20) from the glory years on Oilers Now and on TSN Radio. He made a lot of comments about the current team and how the size and grit of the roster should be along with having heart and size, things you can't teach a guy.

Well, the Oilers proved him wrong today.

Now, we're Live Blogging Blue Jackets at Oilers...

1st Period

  • Belov pinching. Stop it!
  • Player left wide open in front of net. We are really bad at this and always have been.
  • Good cycling by Oilers 1st line.  
  • Potter takes shot, rebound, Eberle's in front and scores!  1-0
  • Joey Moss dances better than Kevin Bacon on Footloose.
  • Potter gets puck to face and leaves game. But he came back.
  • Perron good. Three plays that have died with Smyth. I think Perron should be on 2nd line with Yak and Arco. And just as I typed that, Perron scores a greasy one with a good pass from Yak. He's tenacious
  • 2-0.
  • Gazdic takes a really bad penalty with a leg trip in the corner. Idiot.

  • Bobrovsky in the no goalie zone!  You're off the case!
  • Good killing by Acton.
  • Good killing by Hall.
  • I think the Jackets only got one soft shot on that one.
  • Yak flies through zone and draws a penalty near left side circle.  Wow he was really moving there.
  • Oilers currently outchancing 6-1. 
  • Eberle gets hauled down. No call.
  • Get in front of the net, Smyth!
  • Belov is so calm.
  • Gagner lob pass to Smyth in front of net who bats it out of the air into the net!  See!  That's what I've been talking about!
  • 3-0!
  • Hall knocks down Savard, perfectly legal.
  • Most of the play in Jackets' zone. And just as I say that, its in the Oilers zone for a while.
  • 2nd line cycling pretty well.  Yak flying again.
  • 4th line out and Joensuu makes a good hit.
  • Acton backhands puck to the net.
  • Bobrovsky makes save!
  • Joensuu causing havoc. Good to see.
  • A near perfect period for the Oilers. Who'd a thunk it?

2nd Period

  • Johansen gets a good wrist shot off, but Dubnyk perfectly square to puck.
  • Hall gets tripped. Why no call?
  • Gazdic and Boll in a fight.  Looks pretty even.  Another long one and it ends in a tie.  In shortened season last year, Boll fought 12 times.  And now Gazdic has the league lead in fights at 7.   He needs to decisively win some though, but I guess practice makes perfect.
  • Eakins looks really scruffy.
  • Bad rebound by Dubnyk.
  • Block save by Dubnyk.
  • Oilers on their heels.
  • Luckily Petry gets crosschecked by Boo Jenner. Now there's a name.  Oh crap, Ference is in the box too. Why? Oh "Embellishment".
  • Eakins calls a time out.
  • Hall hauled down again. Another no call.
  • Great pass by Yak to Hemsky who goes all alone in front and doesn't bury it. Exciting though.
  • 17-7 shots favour the Oilers.
  • Nice drop pass by Smyth to Perron.
  • Belov calm again and stops the attack.
  • An etching of Dubnyk's new born son is on the back of his mask. Aw.
  • Nuge wins a faceoff! yay!
  • Eberle taken down. No call.
  • Gordon wins faceoff, Smyth passes back to Perron who picks it up on right side, and flicks it over the shoulder of Bobrovsky into the net for his 2nd goal and takes over the team lead in goals with 7.
  • 4-0
  • Yak draws another penalty near 10 minute mark of the game. 
  • Perron stops the puck from going out, moves down, shoots and saved, but Yak buries it!
  • 5-0!  3 of them on the PP.  20 shots.
  • Dubnyk with a huge save!
  • 4th line almost scores.
  • Come on guys, gets the puck out. Lazy passes.
  • Eberle squeezes through traffic and wrists it on this new goalie.
  • Yak with Hemsky gets broken up.
  • Commercial break...
  • Petry makes play die in Jackets zone. Lazy dump in.
  • Gordon wins faceoff, Smyth to Perron to Justin Schultz and HE SCORES!  Smyth has 3 points. Perron has 4.
  • 6-0.  Can you believe it?  Why didn't I go to this game?
  • Uh oh, Oilers on their heels.  Come on, let's get Dubnyk a shutout.
  • Yak chips it through middle, Hemsky almost picks it up to shoot.
  • Looks like Yak-Nuge-Hemsky is the line now. 
  • And now Perron-Hall-Eberle?  Weird.
  • Come on guys, no goals at the end here. Ok good.

3rd Period

  • Dubnyk gives puck away and still not great with puck behind net but players not getting in a good position for him to pass to, so who knows. They need to practice that more.
  • Hall's stick is quite orange.
  • Petry draws a penalty and falls into boards. Ouch.
  • Smyth loses puck in Jackets' end. 
  • Yak with a quick smart shot from left side. Rebound though.
  • Oh, this is a power play.  I forgot.
  • Hall knocked down again.
  • Now they get setup, no good shots.
  • Hall to Acton almost good. Hall's mouth hurt, he heads off.
  • Give away by Gordon at blue line.
  • Perron weaves in and out of zone while fully checked but still able to pass puck to defense to reset.
  • Commercial break...
  • Hemsky with a hit.
  • Come on Gagner.
  • Eberle hauled down. No call but it's 6-0 so..
  • Justin fires it into traffic at net and it touches Smyth's stick and trinkles over the crossbar. Close one.
  • Nikitin with a hard shot into traffic, doesn't reach net.  Those shots make me nervous with all the screens.
  • Hemsky with an opportunity, blocked.
  • Yak is flying on right side, stops and passes, puck fumbles, Gagner open in front, gets totally robbed with a great save. Lazy backhand shot though in my opinion--could have had more umph.
  • Commercial break...
  • Nuge getting feisty!
  • No yawning stupid fan.
  • Shot on Dubnyk. Saved easily.
  • Ference mucking with Boo at net after.
  • Another shot on Dubnyk, saved.  Jackets with only 13 shots.
  • Yak flying again, passes, then moves to side of net where Gagner shoots but it deflects up into netting.
  • Oilers on their heels again.
  • Ryan Murray gets an open shot, goes wide.
  • Great save by Dubnyk.  I'm typing Dubnyk too much here.
  • Oilers eating up time.
  • 5 minutes left
  • Hemsky makes a good d-play and puck gets deflected to Jackets' end, whistle.
  • Commerical break...

  • @STAZE_ "Tonight's 6 goals are double that of which the had scored the previous 6 home games."

  • Jackets' sixth straight loss at Rexall. 
  • Yak with a snap. Saved.  31 shots.
  • Nuge splits traffic, Hall tries to shoot but is stopped.  
  • Now in Oilers end.
  • Eberle with a pass off the boards to Hall on breakaway, fanned but it still goes in.  #HockeyGods
  • 7-0
  • Hall... 6 points in his 7th game since back from injury.
  • Gazdic brings it down to corner but not much happens.
  • Belov flattens Johansen
  • Gagner with a good move to Yak, who centres it, no one there.
  • Hall to Hemsky to Hall with shot, misses.
  • 1 minute left. Crowd is cheering, finally.
  • Crowd is standing on their feet and cheering.
An absolute blow out.  Dubnyk with his 7th career shutout.

My Stars:
1. Perron - 2 goals, 2 assists
2. Yakupov - 1 goal, 1 assist
3. Smyth - 1 goal, 2 assists


They were due to have this type of game.  The Hockey Gods are still smilin'.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oilers 3 - Hawks 5

The Good

There were stretches where the Oilers played toe-to-toe or better than the Hawks--start of the 1st, most of the 2nd, and a stretch in the 3rd.

The Hawks, not the Kings, are the type of team that the Oilers are most like, fast, scoring, skilled, and not necessarily gritty or big.  You can have skilled defensive forwards like Nuge, Arco, Perron, and Eberle to an extent.

Despite five goals, Dubnyk actually kept the game competitive for his team, making some excellent positional saves.

The powerplay was great! Finally!  However, the Hawks have the worst home penalty kill in the league? Can you believe that? Oilers took advantage of it. And finally, Yak gets put on the right half wall to fire his blistering shot. That one must have felt really good.

The Bad

Gagner. He's not a centre anymore. Everyone's saying it.  I'm wondering if that jaw guard is having a big effect on his vision. It seems so, but that's not an excuse for following the puck rather than watching and checking off-wingers streaking to the weak side.  He seems more anxious to score rather than defend as he only has one point, which is the plagued problem with this team. Acrobello has emerged as a decent replacement and I wouldn't be sad to see Sam get traded.

The Ugly

The Belov and Larsen pairing. Totally out of sync, and it left Kruger right in front to score.

There was a long stretch in the 3rd in the Oilers' zone where it seemed the Hawks were playing against a pile of pylons. It was really embarrassing seeing the Oiler wingers on their heels and not attacking defensively--likely out of fear.  In fact, most of the game was in the Oilers' zone.  And with that...

Line matchups. Dallas Eakins is trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  Hemsky on the PK?  Gagner against Toews? Slap me sideways fifty times.  A quarter of the season has been spent on experimenting with lines and matchups and trying to force weak defensive players into those roles.  Is this about the coach learning matchups and the players learning defense?  If so, it's now obvious to me that this year wasn't about immediate results, but about building for next season.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oilers 2 - Flyers 4

Perron and Joensuu return with only Perron making any impact.

I thought the reffing was poor. Belov hardly hit the guy. 

Flyers were a bigger and tougher team but so what? 

Of course Claude Giroux would break his scoring slump on us--on Ference and Dubnyk.

Flyers aren't a good team overall but they played well as one.

I missed Smid today. We needed him in this tough board game. I'm not happy with his trade to Calgary and don't think it's a move to make cap space for Bryz. Speaking of Bryz, I'm not a fan.

Sometimes management moves are to shake up the team and motivate. I think they had the opposite affect and it demoralized this team. 

They lacked heart today--something that Smid consistently brought to every game.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bolts 4 - Oilers 2

Both Taylors were good tonight. What a totally different energy with Hall back. I thought the Oilers as a whole played really well both ways. So many bloody chances! But what often happens is one or two brainfarts ruin it. Yak, Ference, Smid. Ok three. Other than that, Ben Bishop stole the show... And friggin Stamkos took advantage of those Oil farts. 

When Perron is back Saturday, I assume we're sending Omark back down. And when Joensuu is back, Gazdic sits right and we can finally have a real 4th line. But that puts 3 forwards so Acton and/or Eager get sent down too, right?

And finally the power play is back. 

37 shots! Fack!!!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Oilers 4 - Panthers 3 in OT

Arco! He can even do it from his off wing! Not once, but twice! He's sure making Gagner look quite expendable. 

In fact, all three old Oilers look expendable..Gagner, Smyth and Hemsky. Hemsky. He works well with Eberle but who doesn't! Hemsky made a pass to no one at mid-ice like he a big brain fart. But I think I prefer him on his off wing. Maybe every winger should play their off wing now. It's the new trend in Oiler forward fashion!

On all three goals against, Oilers had big gaps in the middle slot. Our centres are getting caught over to one side here, including the Nuge.

But speaking of Nuge, feeding Larsen and Fedun, both d-men pinching on 2 on 1s was gold. 

Bloody Ebs can't catch a break. He's so close on goals but something tells me his wrist still isn't fully healed. He's got no snap to his shot, unlike Larsen with his quick snappers from the point. Impressive.

The game seemed choppy and amateurish overall, especially with what appeared to be a sellout crowd. And by sellout, I mean that the fans in Sunrise, Florida have really sold out the team. I've seen more people at a Topeka, Roadrunners game in Kansas. 

Anyway, still not a great game overall by the Oilers and not a pretty win. They appeared to posses the puck way more but had Hemsky-like brain farts along the way. The usual. They should have won 5-1 by my gut.

By the way, I really liked the way Larsen and Fedun played. Tough but calm and they knew exactly when to pinch on offence and it paid off.

One more thing, man is Gordon a master on faceoffs. 

Oh yes, we know--Yak has a hard shot. That's all he did. He stood there and waited for the puck to come to him. I'm losing patience with him. But being that I lost patience on Hemsky years ago, move Hemsky first please. Which is what we're hearing about a possible deal with the Rangers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Smyth is back

The other injured forwards, Hall and Joensuu are on their way soon but Perron is still out and defensemen Justin Schultz and Belov are out. So we've got Larsen still and Fedun got called up today. 

Practice lines today:

Smyth-Gagner-Yakupov (white)
Eberle-RNH-Hemsky (light blue)
Jones-Gordon-Arcobello (dark blue)
Gazdic-Acton-Eager (black)
Joensuu, Hall (yellow)

I don't like Gagner at centre with Arco playing way better both ways. I'd go:


But at this point, does it even matter?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Red Wings 5 - Oilers 0

I'm simply not going to waste too much of your and my time with this after the most lack lustre effort I've ever seen. 

The injuries are also now plaguing this group of individuals. (I can't use the word "team" anymore.)

Not having many key players there has greatly affected the chemistry but that's no excuse as far as work ethic. 

As I said a couple posts ago, it's the Oilers culture. Eakins is not the problem. He's actually a solution. And now I don't think coaching has ever been the problem. It would be nice to try and have a coach for at least two years. Culture starts from the top.

With that, the constant problem with this team lays with Gretzky's former roommate. 

Kevin Lowe.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Oilers Plague continued - Fundy D

Yesterday, Coach Dallas Eakins admitted he made a mistake. It took a lot of honesty and courage to admit that he should have backed off the swarm defense.  But what he really did was call out the entire organization and the real mess it's been in since 2007.

And that mess is defense.  Anyone could have said it, but we're now hearing it from the one true source--the coach.  It's really no surprise to us hard core fans.

He tried to put in "swarm double-up" defense, but as I said from the beginning of the season, they rarely ever executed it.  But when they did, it worked.  Problem is, if it's not executed properly, it leaves a gaping hole that teams can exploit.  If the other d-man goes in too soon, the opposition can chip the puck out.  That offender needs to be pinned to the boards first, then we execute the swarm.  But they weren't and teams were exploiting that hole, similarly to how they did last year with Krueger's system, and while I think it was intentional... hmmm... was it?

Last year's Corsi numbers against competition level for the entire defense was WORSE than the worst guy the year before.  It's as if the team completely abandoned defense altogether.

So even not executing the swarm wasn't the actual problem that Eakins admitted this team has.

The heart of the matter with the Oilers isn't just defense; it's flippin' BASIC fundamental defense.  And from last year, I'm calling out Gagner, Hemsky, Yakupov, and yes, even Hall.  Oh yes indeed.  As Eakins said, "Oh boy, they love to score".  Well, no shit.

But as I said after about game 5, this hasn't been a "defense-first" team since the Cup run in 2006 with MacT at the helm.  Eakins wants our guys to love playing defense as much as they do offensively "like the Bruins".  Wow, makes sense, eh?  You know, stop the other team from scoring!

Do you recall that team of 2006 being flashy and run and gun, because I sure don't, save the odd Hemsky dazzle.  I remember them holding teams in our end and just going up the ice in three lanes, or just battling on the boards on the forecheck and chipping it lose, including a shit load of garbage goals.  Sure we had a #1 d-man in Pronger.  But it was a team effort on defense and look where it got them.

We have way better offensive talent the past two years than we did then, but that means jack squat if the team doesn't play as a team defensively.

This isn't about trading for so and so or we need a #1 d-man, although it helps.  It's a team culture and the reason why so many are calling for Lowe's head as he's been the constant here.  And he was a talented defensemen in his day!

MacT did try to get some two way forwards this summer.  Guys like David Clarkson were so very close to playing here but we got Joensuu instead, who everyone seems to like, although he's out on IR for now.  Boyd Gordon, who essentially replaces Horcoff, isn't posting good numbers, but I say it's not really his fault since he takes most of the faceoffs draws in our own end with leaky wingers who give away the puck all around him.

We should stop looking at a players talent solely based on offensive numbers.  We should EQUALLY look at their defense, which is what all these advanced stats are trying to show us, which is why I pay close attention to The Journal's Cult of Hockey Blog led by David Staples and Bruce McCurdy, and Michael Parkaretti's "Boys on the Bus" blog.

What they blatently point out is our cheating forwards who want to play offense first and of our top forwards, Arco, Nuge, and Ebs are good to very good two-way players. But if they're on a line with leaky guys, their numbers suffer.  It's why the Hall-Nuge-Ebs works for the most part. 2/3 are good defensively.  And that's the kind of balance we at least need on every line.

It's not necessarily to equate size with defense, although it helps in certain situations, but defensive positioning and attention to detail is what's most important.  Ben Eager is a big fella, but defensively?  Arco is a tiny guy but he is able to sneak between his man and the play effectively.

When I played, my offense was up there, but I wasn't the best defensively.  My coach benched me for the first time ever and I literally sat on the bench the whole game on a road trip.  After the game when everyone left the locker room, I asked him why he did that.  He said, "Your defense stinks.  Until you get that through your head, you'll never play again."  Next game on the trip, he said, "I'm going to play you the whole game and all you're going to do is concentrate and work your butt off on defense.  I don't care about your offense.  Pass it to someone else and run the offense, but defense first Mike."

And so I played the whole game, and even against a really good team, not one player I defended scored.  I forced errors and prevented attacks into the zone. At the end of the game, my coach said I was the best defender out there.

I'd rather have this team learn and execute defensive fundamentals first.  Score 4-5 goals a game but if the other team outscores you, who cares.

All that said, turning this team around defensively is no easy task.  The mentality change and offensive-first habits formed over years for some of these guys will unfortunately take time.  The first 20 games are usually chalked up to teams learning systems and gaining chemistry with each other.  With injuries and line shuffles, chemistry is out the window.  Eakins was optimistic in thinking they'd relearn habits quickly.  He was wrong and he admitted it.

At least finally we have a coach who knows what the real problem is and I believe he's the guy who'll eventually fix the offense-first culture that has plagued this team for many, many years.