Tuesday, October 15, 2013
The Oilers have stumbled out of the gate slightly.
The beginning of any season is fraught with emotion. For nearly every team there is hope and a quick start brings dreams of a late spring run into mind while a bad start, well see your Edmonton Oilers and the message boards, comment sections (Never read the comments, I no longer do), blogs and social media for that over the top panicky emo reaction.
Eakins should be replaced by Laviolette.
Yakupov should be traded for a goalie.
Hall is terrible. Eberle is terrible. They are all terrible.
Now for a bunch that are supposed to be sophisticated, Oiler fans, like all fans, really are not, with some exceptions of course and neither are the media that cover them. From Terry Jones musing that any six blueliners at the WJC a few years ago would do a better job than the crew patrolling the Oiler blue at that time to pretty well anything that comes out of Mark Spector's mouth (Ben Eager a top sixer, Cam Barker a top three NHL blueliner, the fact that a team can't win with Euros in support roles - hello Chicago), you get the picture.
And then there is Joe Average fan (or maybe I am being harsh - perhaps the folks online are the dregs though I sadly doubt it) who calls for veteran NHLers to be sent to the minors and replaced by Rob Schremp and Colton Teubert and so on. Of course said fans are not confined to Edmonton, you have Boston fans who want to get rid of Chara and Toronto fans who want to dump Kessel and Phaneuf and it goes on and on.
A lot of white noise. A lot of bullshit from people who think Mike Brown is a better hockey player than Ales Hemsky. Dummies in other words.
What do I take from the Oilers' start so far? Some good. Some bad. Some questions.
In the end its goals that matter of course but possession stats show that the Oilers are either holding their own or outplaying their opposition. Or if you hate possession stats then just watch the game and you will see that the Oilers are either holding their own or outplaying their opposition. They are 1-4-1 but they could very easily be 5-1 or any other combination. And they haven't been playing patsies. Would it better if they had more to show for it? Obviously. Is it better that they could be 5-1 but are not rather than being 5-1 and getting wildly outplayed but getting points because they have hot goaltending or have been lucky? Make sense? Sure it does.
Winning and outplaying > Outplaying but losing>Winning but being lucky>Being horrible and losing
We knew Perron was a player and we figured Boyd Gordon was a player too but both have been better than advertised so far. Gordon isn't going to keep up the pace offensively but he's probably going to break career marks considering the talent he is playing with. Two great gets by MacTavish.
The team can score. They've run into some hot goaltending here and there but without Yakupov doing anything and without Gagner in the lineup they're still scoring some and its balanced, eight players with four or more points plus Ted had three in four games.
Faceoffs. If you think they matter and I'm not really sure that they do other than its important to have guys who can win them in your zone, especially on the PK, then you're probably happy. They've gone from being terrible to pretty good. Of course Acton lost two last night on the PK and both times the puck ended up in the net.
Arcobello's lack of finish might be the only thing preventing him from having an NHL career right now. Small sample size but can they really send him back down once Gagner is healthy? I don't think so. Considering they have no F depth in OKC (although early returns on Pitlick sound positive) this is an unexpected pleasant surprise.
The goaltending has been awful and with even average goaltending they are at least 3-3. It is hilarious though that people are ready to throw out three years where Dubnyk has been a pretty decent starter over four games. That said he has to be better though and one suspects he has to be get it together really soon or MacT is going to pull the trigger. There are more issues than goaltending but its the most obvious and probably easiest to fix.
Team D has been, um, interesting. Case in point, Lupul's first goal on Saturday night. Belov has the puck carrier contained just fine and next thing you know there are four Oilers within about a ten foot square area and Lupul is wide open in the slot. I guess its a system thing? Whatever it is their coverage has been terrible at times. That's stuff you get taught in atom right there although Bryan McCabe never figured it out either.
Schultz younger has been pretty terrible in his own end, if anything he looks like he has regressed. Tyler Dellow brought up Andy Dellmore the other night and that sound you heard was my tears, they flowed in a very copious manner, drowning the cat and flooding our main floor.
The fourth line has been a joke. Whenever they are on the ice they invariably chase the other team around the offensive end for a few seconds, then the neutral zone for a few seconds and then finally around their own end for a minute or so in a total gongshow. I respect guys who make the NHL through hard work and determination despite lack of talent but these guys are playing about five minutes a night too much. So essentially all of their shifts. Last night was the epitome of how useless the whole exercise is with Chimera, unintimidated, running Schultz younger and then later skating away from Gazdic who was left going to the bench without his gloves or stick, having dropped them, and then later, Ovechkin, a guy who is supposed to be intimidated, I guess, running Brown.
Too fucking much. Get rid of them and bring in some guys who can PK or at least play a semiregular shift of hockey please. You know like the fourth lines in Chicago and Boston. Good teams.
I really only have one right now and that is Eakins. I can't figure him out. Benching Yakupov to get his attention for a game made some sense, I guess, but when you're not winning keeping a guy out of the lineup over Mike Brown or Luke Gazdic for a second game makes little sense. Yakupov has looked awful but so did Hall when he played C and Eberle was terrible for the first week. Make your point and then put him in a position where he can succeed.
Beyond that there is that fourth line and there is the 'system'. I like Eakins, I am a sucker for a guy who is articulate and who seems smart, but presently I am wanting more.
One More Thing
I think the Oilers are a possible playoff team, I do, if they can iron out the goaltending and the coverage issues. I do find it funny how fans and media are freaking out. The team has been garbage for seven years and now people are getting upset? Hilarious.
Cam Thomson (RiversQ to you), who is a pretty smart guy, pointed out in the summer that MacT had too much on his plate and he was right. You gut a team for seven years, purposely tanking (and in many cases just being really stupid when it comes to judging talent) and the end result is a roster that has so many holes in it that you are going to be unable to fill all of them. In any case they have been lucky that Arcobello has been reasonable and Belov too but the D is still iffy and the fourth line is a gong show and they are lacking guys who can play a solid allround game, guys like Brouwer and Ward and Chimera, to name three members of last night's opponent.
Kevin Lowe sniffing that he has six Cup rings is more than hilarious considering that he turned a pretty good club into a laughing stock in the blink of an eye and his man Tambo, well his legacy lives on, with guys like Souray and Cogliano and Brodziak and Visnovsky and so on and so on playing for teams better than Edmonton (news flash - everyone has been better than Edmonton these last seven years). Tambo is the guy who turned a house into a paper clip, each player brought in withering on the vine until they were moved for lesser value (or nothing), picks moved for guys like Smithson and Brown, what other teams call waiver wire fodder.
I like MacTavish but he's part of this crew, the one that employs Buchberger and hires Messier and all of that. I wish him well and I do think he has the chops but I worry. I think the foundation is here for greatness but I keep thinking back to the darkest days of the rebuild when I'd bring up Atlanta and Florida and the Islanders, wandering the desert for decades, and people would sneer.
Nothing is guaranteed even with the young core they have in place. These first two weeks don't matter, really, but they have exposed a few issues. I think they can be fixed but I guess we will see what MacTavish and Eakins are made of now.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:21 PM