Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The Oilers. Ouch.

9

Wasn’t this the year that the Oilers were finally going to start delivering on the “We’re going to suck our way to success” strategy? Or was that last year? I forget. How long have they been rebuilding now? Seven years? Five? For as long as Kevin Lowe has been around? I forget that too.

It’s almost enough to make a guy feel sorry for the fans in Edmonton. They’ve been at this for what seems like forever and they still don’t look like a hockey team. At what point do the fans sit up and say, “How did Colorado suddenly become the team of the future?” The Avalanche went the full rebuilding route at about the same time as the Oilers and they look to be miles ahead despite the fact that Edmonton has had superior draft position. Even the Leafs – where Brian Burke was criticised for refusing to adopt the scorched earth strategy – are clearly a better team than Edmonton five years later.

(And yes, I realize that Toronto is probably not as good as their record, just like I know New Jersey is supposed to be a lot better than they are given their secondary statistics. Corsi numbers may signal different results for both teams in the long run but all the games are played in the short run. And the short run is a lot longer than we think. Leaf fans are happy to be enjoying the present.)

Even Calgary – with their own rebuilding project just underway – is well ahead of Edmonton in the standings so far. Is it possible that the Flames will again be the best team in Alberta this year? Would that make for some salt in the Oiler wounds?

For all their lousiness, the Oilers have found one terrific player (Taylor Hall) and a few more good players. The early story this season has been goaltending, but I think Dubnyk is at least decent and is probably capable of being a quality starter on a better team.

The Oilers are surely better than they appear to us now. They might even go on a run like the one the Avalanche are enjoying and get back into the playoff fight. But they had better hurry because the season slips away very quickly – they already have to go 40-22-12 the rest of the way to get to 95 points. I don’t think that even Kevin Lowe is stupid enough to trade Nail Yakupov for James Reimer or Ryan Miller but I do think he is dumb enough to make some sort of a panic trade if the Oilers don’t turn it around soon.

My solution to Oiler problems hasn’t changed in 15 years. Will another disastrous season finally be the last straw for Kevin Lowe?

We can only hope. Even Oiler fans deserve better.

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Comments

9 Responses to “The Oilers. Ouch.”
  1. Anon says:

    Good thing there’s no such thing as sample sizes. EDM’s actually played decently. Some poor goaltending early on caused some losses.

    The fact that you’re basing this all on 9 games is laughable. The fact that you think calgary could somehow place ahead of EDM has me surprised that you’d make your own site based on your little to no knowledge on the sport.

    Good day

  2. Mark says:

    Anon,

    While I tend to agree with some of your points, it worth noting that goaltending, the PK, a weak PP and miscommunication around the system to be played in the defensive zone are all reasons for the Oilers sputtering at the beginning of the season.

    While I think some of Tom’s observations are correct as well, I am lamenting his reliance on criticizing Lowe in these situations. The Tambellini era was one where Lowe was involved, but some reasonable evidence points to Tambo being given the enough slack to hang himself. Why wouldn’t the same be said for MacTavish? He’s the GM, he’s the “impatient guy” (albeit with only 4 rings).

    The problem as always with the Oilers is having enough actual NHL players. There are more now than at any time since Quinn was the coach, but there still maybe not enough. Some of that has to do with development (Yakupov, J. Schutz) some with age (N. Schultz) and some with gaps in the roster (Gagner and now Hall).

    I think if we were to expect rash decisions, the opportunity presented itself earlier this year with potential trades for Schneider and involving Hemsky, neither of which happened due in part (I hope) because of rational thought and not knee jerk reactions.

    Hopefully the Oilers have learned their lesson over these last few years. Namely, not employing any retreads (Tambellini, Quinn, Renney) from a franchise who has enjoyed the same high water mark as the Oilers over the last decade, but with none of the past success and recognition Oiler fans enjoy.

  3. Tom says:

    While I tend to agree with some of your points, it worth noting that goaltending, the PK, a weak PP and miscommunication around the system to be played in the defensive zone are all reasons for the Oilers sputtering at the beginning of the season.

    All true. And it could be that the pieces are all there and all they have to do is fix this small problem, or tweak that line, or change that strategy, or just wake up, and everything may be fine. Or it even could be that all that is true and circumstances – poor goaltending at a bad time, injuries, lousy luck – will ruin what should be a breakout year.

    On the other hand…

    While I think some of Tom’s observations are correct as well, I am lamenting his reliance on criticizing Lowe in these situations.

    I think the problem under Kevin Lowe has been the same since he took over – the Oilers don’t find enough talent. Maybe that is merely luck, too, but I doubt it.

    One of the key reasons the Canucks have been good for the past several years is that they have found surprises in both the draft and among the undrafted. A quick look at the roster finds Edler, Bieksa, Burrows, Hansen, and Tanev as players who were very pleasant surprises when they turned out to be decent to very good players. When was the last time the Oilers had somebody come out of nowhere to really contribute?

    • Mark says:

      Under Lowe, the Oilers found useful players not necessarily in their system but from outside:

      Spacek, Tarnstrom, Staios were all useful players in their SCR team that were either discards from other franchises or relatively unknown. When Staios played for your Canucks, did you see him becoming as useful as he became in Edmonton.

      Alternatively, some of the trades Lowe made were sneakly good. The one that came to mind was Bill Guerin for Anson Carter, where Carter matched Guerin’s point output at less than 1/3 the cost.

      I think naming Tambo the GM, if we take Lowe at face value was that he understood that the day to day operations of the team were no longer in his abilities. Additionally, players like Tom Gilbert, Fernando Pisani, Shawn Horcoff and Raffi Torres fit the mold I believe you’re searching for.

      Where can we criticize them: not changing strategy fast enough after the Pronger situation and not realizing that your team, while competitive was aging. We can also criticize them in the latter stages as the ownership issues in Edmonton around the time Katz made public offers for the team lead to some decisions that were not necessarily in the best interest of the team long term (Souray). BUT I will defend Lowe for his work as GM, and oddly enough, so will someone who is infinitely smarter than I am and who provides more evidence:

      http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=6105

      • Tom says:

        You have to find players from the outside, too. I agree that Lowe made a number of good trades prior to the 2004 lockout, but whined about every single one of them. Oh, boo-hoo, he said, the CBA forces us to trade all our good players. This was true, but only because they didn’t draft anybody. They had to trade veterans for kids or they wouldn’t have had any prospec ts at all.

        Yes, you do have to pick up useful discards. Gilbert and Torres fall into that category too, In think. But Horcoff and Pisani are excellent examples but none of these guys – discards or pleasant surprise draft picks – are on the team today. The five Canucks I mentioned are on the roster now. Their backup goalie is another surprise, another undrafted player. Suppose you add four or five Pisani/Horcoff quality players to the Oilers today. I think they’d probably look pretty good.

        Kevin Lowe has managed the Oilers for what? Fifteen years? If there is one thing you can say for all of his teams is that they did not have enough talent to win. Usually it was not nearly enough talent to win. (Yes, there was 2006 but I do think that was a fluke. The salary cap was set so low nobody was really any good that year.)

        Kevin Lowe’s job is to acquire enough talent to ice a quality team. Has he been successful?

  4. Justine Galo says:

    To me, I think it’s lack of real leadership on the team and team that up with the dubious play of Dubnyk, you see a couple of ingredients for disaster. Perhaps it’s time to really push some of the young guys to step up and lead on and off the ice. It’s not impossible, look at the likes of Toews and Tavares. They lead on the ice, in the locker room and in within the organization.

    Perhaps the Oilers management and/or coaching staff seem to be holding all the strings and not letting the players develop mentally and mature faster.

    Duschene, Landeskog and Tavares are all younger guys as well, but their leadership shows on and off the ice, with the media and throughout their respective organization. I don’t see their President, GM, and coaches being mentioned when it comes to their maturity levels and development.

    Perhaps it’s time for the Oilers to let these guys mature into men, but you can’t do that if you’re always proverbially holding their hands.

    • Tom says:

      I don’t like explanations like a lack of leadership. It is like chemistry. When the team wins everybody has chemistry. I ask myself a question, “Do they have enough good players to win? Are the good players good enough?” Potential doesn’t count. Are they good enough right now?

      I don’t see the evidence of it yet. I still don’t like their play without the puck – it moves too quickly through the neutral zone against them – and I don’t think the defense is good enough with the puck. When the team is good enough, leadership won’t be a problem.

      Anyway, a big win for them tonight. They have to hang in there until they get healthy and tonight was a good start.

      • Mark says:

        And that’s the rub. Friedman reported that one of the reasons that Kruger was let go was just because of his system design. I think if you’re looking at play without the puck, you need to acknowledge the absolute circus that the Oilers’ dressing room experienced over the last 7 years: MacT, Quinn, Renney, Renny, Kruger and now Eakins. How can you play a system when you have 70 games before it changes?

        • Tom says:

          Who but the guy in charge is responsible for “the absolute circus”?

          Part of the issue will take care of itself. Young players make more mistakes and the Oilers are young. I don’t think Lars Eller should have said what he said, but I didn’t disagree with him.

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