Constant Craving

K.D. Lang Makes Her Debut Performance In "After Midnight"

 

Although it seems like forever…it was about 3 seasons ago I identified the Oilers major needs as:

1) An above average NHL goaltender.

2) TWO top pairing defensemen

3) A #1/#2 C

Well, here we are and the needs are exactly the same and the Oilers are no closer to getting this pieces than they were then.

The bet that Craig MacTavish made on the Scrivens/Fasth combo has turned out pretty much like then you go all in with a pair of 8s before the flop. Boom!

In similar fashion, MacT bet on a bevy of journeymen defensemen who didn’t really fill much of a need since the team was already chok a block with bottom 4 D…they just have more of them now.

I like Ryan Nugent Hopkins as a hockey player but anyone who is being honest with themselves would have to concede he does produce offence befitting a #1C taken 1st overall the draft…he just doesn’t.

Here’s a look at the production in year four of #1C’s taken 1st overall in the past 10 years:

2005 – Sidney Crosby – 1.34 PPG

2008 – Steven Stamkos – 1.18 PPG

2009 – John Tavares – .979

2010  – Tyler Seguin – 1.05 (Seguin wasn’t selected 1st overall but he should have been)

2011 – Ryan Nugent Hopkins – .736

There are those Hopkins apologists who will try and tell you that he can’t produce at a higher level because the Oilers are so bad or because they don’t have a D corp that can move the puck but that could also have been an excuse for some of the others noted above.

At this point in his career, Hopkins is an exceptional 2 way second line centre who may find another gear but if the Oilers are to be successful, he is going to have to score at the same rate as the other big centres in the Pacific Division and he has a very long way to go:

P/60 5V5

Seguin – 2.58

Schwartz – 2.58

Getzlaf – 2.50

Toews – 2.50

Carter – 2.39

Ribiero – 2.34

Backes – 2.34

Thornton – 2.30

Duchene – 2.27

Steen – 2.17

Wilson – 2.17

Bouma – 2.13

Bonino – 2.13

Fisher – 2.05

Couture – 2.01

Sedin – 2.00

Nugent Hopkins – 1.85

Can Hopkins improve on those number? Sure he can when the Oilers are a better team and he is sharing some of the load with another centre but it should also be remembered he is getting a huge Ozone push (63%) and is not currently delivering the goods based on his draft pedigree and 4 years experience.

For comparisons sake…Sean Monahan in Calgary is scoring slightly less than Hopkins at evens but he is only starting 46% of the time in the offensive zone. (and he just turned 20)


 

Craig MacTavish says he’s likely going to bring in a defenseman next season but I’m not sure he will get what the Oilers really need…at least one top pairing D. They just aren’t easily available and, unless you think Nurse or Klefbom is going to turn into one if the next 3 seasons, we may be having this same conversation in 2018.

The only answer is a trade of one of Hall, Hopkins or Eberle in a package to attain one and I don’t think he’s prepared to do that.

 

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SNAPSHOTS

Snapshots-logo

 

Well, the dust is settled and we’re now in the home stretch heading into the playoffs. The bottom line at the trade deadline is that the rich got got richer and the poor are tanking.

1) The Buffalo Sabres, as currently constituted, may be the worst team ever in the NHL. After moving out both of their starting goaltenders, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Torrey Mitchell and the enigmatic Chris Stewart and with Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons injured, the Sabres leading scorer is  Matt Moulson who has 9 goals and 29 points. Yikes!

2) The Arizona Coyotes are also in full tank mode after trading their best centre Antoine Vermette, their leading scorer, Keith Yandle and another top 4 defenseman in
Zbynek Michalek.

3) Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish set off a firestorm among fans when he pulled an “Iraqi Information Minister” performance out of his bag of tricks by expressing his utmost confidence in what is likely the worst defensive corp in the entire league. That the Oilers lost their best defenseman for a paltry return tells you pretty much everything you need to know about MacT’s ability to assess defensemen.

4) As the trade deadline loomed, the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks pulled off a very interesting trade. The Flames sent Sven Baertshi to the Whale for a 2015 2nd round pick. The young Swiss (Vancouver now has 3) players had reportedly asked for a trade and said he would not be re-signing with them at the end of the season so Clgary did very well getting a 2nd for the former 1st round pick. The Canucks are just playing the odds here, in my opinion, since the chance a 2nd round pick turns into an actula NHL player is around 25% and I’d wager there is a 50% chance Baertschi makes the grade.

5) The worst news of the day also involved the Flames who have lost their best player and captain to season ending surgery. If the Flames somehow manage to hold on to a playoff spot without Mark Giordano they will be due all sorts or accolades for playing an incredible team game under very difficult circumstances. I’m pulling for them.

6) The Anaheim Ducks showed their very serious about a cup run when they acquired James Wisniewski from the Columbus Blue Jackets. As for the Jackets, they cleared out a $4.5M contract in preparation for off season acquisitions as well as picking up a promising young prospect and an extra 2nd round pick in the draft.

7) The Arizona Coyotes are, in my opinion one of the biggest winners in the wake of the trade deadline. They not only picked up another 1st round pick, but also added blue chip prospects in Anthony Duclair and Klaus Dahlbeck. Considering they are likely going to get one of the top 3 picks in a very deep draft and already have premium prospects in Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson on the way, their rebuild centred on Norris quality defenseman Oliver Ekmann-Larsson, hockey should be fun again in Arizona…at least until they move somewhere else.

8) Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis tired to sell the farm yesterday without much success. Apparently a deal was close to send Dion Phaneuf to Detroit but it fell apart over the Leafs taking back a toxic contract and Toronto insisting Anthony Mantha being part of the return. I wouldn’t be surprised, after Craig McTavish strikes out on signing Johnny Boychuk, that he takes a run at Dion in the offseason. Phaneuf takes way too much heat fro what’s wrong in Toronto but I don’t think he would do very well playing for another loser franchise.

9) Poor old Shawn Horcoff…the Dallas Stars tried to give him away yesterday…no one wanted him.

10) The Dallas Stars are loading up on Swedish defensemen. They now have half the starting D from the 2012 Swedish WJC gold medal winning team in John Klingberg, Patrick Nemeth and the newly acquired Mattias Backman. If the other two play as well as Klingberg, the Stars are going to have lethal d>

 

 

The Best of Benny Hill

Slide099

 

The esteemed Lowetide has an hilarious post up today that essentially lays the blame for the current Oiler woes on the 2007 draft.

The real culprit in the 2014-15 Oilers season is the 2007 draft. Bob Nicholson going on Toronto radio and throwing the current staff under the bus ignores what happened before Stu MacGregor became scouting director.

 

 

Now, let’s be clear here…the Oilers absolutely whiffed on virtually every pick in that draft but suggesting it is the major reason the team remains in the sewer is just ridiculous.

In my Sunday morning tour of the the internets, I came across a post from The Last Big Bear over at Oilers Nation which provides some perspective on why the Flames are better now and likely will be for the foreseeable future:

Every skater selected by the Flames in the 2011 draft has already played in the NHL. They have 87 points in 168 games between them so far.

I just want you to think about that for a second, as Oilers fans, really soak it in. The next time you talk about moving up or down by 2 slots in the draft, as if that has any bearing on your franchise’ success, just remember what you’re competing with.

The Flames also have FIVE additional recent 1st rounders that they still have yet to add to the lineup.

The current crop of young NHLers, like Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma, Jooris, Ortio, etc, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The next 10 years of the Battle of Alberta will be no kinder to the Oilers than the last 10 have been.

In the wake of yet another Oiler loss to the Flames, I think it’s worthwhile to examine why the Flames are competitive despite having the lowest payroll in the league and the Oilers continue to stagger from pillar to post.

Starting with the 2007 draft which Lowetide identifies as a low point, let’s see how the two teams have drafted and developed since.

These are the Flames picks from 2007-2014 that have had more than a cup of coffee in the NHL…(round taken in brackets)

2007 – Mikael Backlund (1) Keith Aulie (4)

2008 – Lance Bouma (3) TJ Brodie (4)

2009 – Tim Erixon (1) Joni Ortio (6)

2010 – Max Reinhart (3)

2011- Sven Baerstchi (1) Markus Granlund (2) Johnny Gaudreau (4)

2012 – 1st round pick Mark Jankowski is playing in the NCAA so too early to call.

2013 – Sean Monahan (1). The Flames may have killed this draft if their other two 1st rounders, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, develop as expected.

2014 – Sam Bennett – obviously his injury makes this pick an unknown.

Of that group, Brodie, Backlund, Gaudreau, Bouma, Monahan and Ortio were all in the Flames lineup last night. (so was Keith Aulie but for the Oilers)

By way of contrast, these were the Oiler draft picks since 2007 in last night’s game…Eberle, Nugent – Hopkins, Klefbom, Lander and Yakupov.

Of course, Taylor Hall should be added to that list since he is out with injury but I think you can also make the argument that Yakupov should be excluded based on his dreadful play.

Worth noting that only 1st round picks and 2nd round pick Lander played for the Oilers last night while Calgary had a 3rd rounder, two 4th rounders and a 6th rounder dressed.

Considering the Flames have never picked above 13th overall since 2007 and that the Oilers have never picked lower than 10th overall, it’s pretty obvious the Flames are doing a much better job in drafting and developing which is paying dividends in their payroll situation.

Which brings us to the future.

Hockey’s Future has the Flames prospect pool as the 2nd best in the league…

The Calgary Flames have undergone an incredible amount of organizational turnover the past couple of seasons, but a promising vision for the future appears to be finally taking shape. They currently have a young, talented NHL roster, headlined by prospects such as Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Sven Baertschi, and Markus Granlund – not to mention Sam Bennett, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Their AHL system is well stocked, too, with Emile Poirier, Bill Arnold, Michael Ferland, and others pushing for NHL jobs. There are even more talented forwards at the NCAA and CHL levels, with Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, and Hunter Smith all showing various degrees of promise. The Flames also have a few promising defensemen, such as Tyler Wotherspoon, who are close to NHL-ready. The goaltending pool is not particularly deep, but the prospects that are there – Mason McDonald, Jon Gillies, and Joni Ortio – have good potential.

 

Meanwhile, the same website list the Oilers prospect depth at 25th.

Strengths: Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Martin Marincin lead a deep group of defensive prospects for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have solid depth at forward, led by Leon Draisaitl, who should develop into a very good two-way center in the NHL. The system also has several big players with power forward potential including Bogdan Yakimov and Mitchell Moroz.

 

Once again, when you consider the respective positions the Oilers and Flames have occupied in the draft, I think it’s pretty obvious that the Flames are much better positioned in the future and while the Oilers woes may have started in 2007, as Lowetide says, they certainly didn’t end there.

Mid Terms

Half-way-done

 

Most teams are either at or past the halfway point of the season.

Only Vancouver, Columbus, Florida and the Rangers have yet to play their 41st game, while New Jersey and Tampa Bay will have played 44 by night’s end.

The Nashville Predators head down the back stretch with the best record in hockey and, while I certainly didn’t expect that kind of stellar performance from them, I’m also not totally surprised that a team that features Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Seth Jones is having success. David Poile made a lot of savvy moves in the offseason and the Preds are benefiting from an outstanding performance from rookie Filip Forsberg propelling them to the top.

At the other end of the spectrum, both Minnesota and Dallas have been huge disappointments.

The Wild have been one of the best possession teams in the league all season but have been sewered by dreadful goaltending and, although it’s not his fault, I can’t imagine coach Mike Yeo survives the month.

In Dallas, shoddy defensive play is stifling one of the most productive offensive teams in the league but I imagine Jim Nill will wear that and pursue other options in the offseason.

Another team that has surprised has been the Winnipeg Jets. Despite being down 4 of their top 6 D and Evander Kane for an extended period, they are still hanging on to a wild card spot although by a very slim 3 points and, while I don’t expect them to hang on you have to admire their pluck.

Staying in the WC, you may recall that I predicted Edmonton and Arizona would battle for the basement but I have to admit I though the Oilers would be the better team and grab the 13th spot ahead of the Coyotes. Arizona has a 7 point lead with 2 games in and so it looks like the Oilers are going to make a liar out of me.

There are virtually no surprises in the EC except, perhaps, the declining play of the Bruins, (not really all that surprising after trading Boychuk) and the unfortunate situation surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets. If healthy, I believe the Jackets would have been a playoff team but that ship has sailed and let’s hope they get better breaks next season.

Not in the surprise category, but worth mentioning again, the Florida Panthers continue their march up the standings and it wouldn’t surprise if they finish in the top 3 in the Atlantic Division never mind a wild card spot. This is going to be a very good team for a very long time so enjoy the ride.

On an individual level, I think you have to give the highest mid-term marks to Flyers winger Jakub Voracek. The big Czech has 52 points and legs Tyler Seguin by 4 although I expect Seguin, Patrick Kane and a couple of others are going to make for a very interesting race down the stretch.

Really?

Taylor Hall is a problem. Seriously.

While he’s not the only problem, once Katz comes out of the ether and fires the entire Lowe/MacT regime, the first place to look for change is the “face of the franchise”.

The Oilers were totally outclassed by the Flames on Saturday night.

https://twitter.com/Sun_Tychkowski/status/5363920550908477

WALTER SOBCHAK says:

  1. The league needs to step in and take that draft pick away.

    As an Oiler fan I am disgusted, as a fan of the game I’m embarrassed.

    I consider MacTavish to be the worst GM this team has ever had.

    He’s absolutly destroyed the soul of this team………again.

And to all a good night.

The Battle of Alberta Redux

Unknown

 

Lots of internet chatter today, as the Oilers are in Calgary to play the Flames, about the comparative success of the rebuilds in Alberta’s two NHL towns.

Lowetide has a rambling, somewhat illogical post up that is one part anguish over the sorry state of the Oilers and one part a defense of their situation because it might be different next season.

The rebuilds in Calgary and Edmonton look a certain way this morning but we know (we really do) that a year from now it will be different. We remember. We remember. And we kind of laugh at ourselves, because how stupid we’ve been forgetting that one major thing that changes the entire equation.

Then the phone rings and a shot goes in from center ice and it’s that damn Josh Jooris scoring on the Oilers from center ice!

Trade them all!

Bastards!

We need to remind ourselves there was a time when Guy Lafleur was a failure, when Denis Potvin’s team won 19 games, when Charlie Simmer couldn’t get a job. We need to remember that Nail Yakupov is 21 years old.

While what Lowetide says is not certifiably untrue, what we can do now, is make some reasonable guesses about how this will project into the future.

If you believe, as I do, that good teams are built from the backend out and, then, up the middle, a team that ignores those parameters is very unlikely to be successful.

To assist in this “forensic analysis” (where have you heard that before), I’ll turn this over to Kent Wilson at Flames Nation who has an excellent post up about the State of the Nation in Calgary.

We can jump right his his conclusion but I urge you to read the entire article:

It’s not wrong to cheer for wins and hope the Flames somehow make the post-season this year, but let’s face it – this is still an organization that has a lot of work to do before they’re a legitimate contender. The good news is the club has a lot of arrows pointing in the right direction and are apparently well ahead of where they would seemed to be at the onset of this project.

The cupboards aren’t empty anymore. There’s established, pillar talent already on the roster. And there’s real competition amongst future NHLers in the depths of the organization. For the first time in perhaps a decade, there’s opportunity for the Flames to evolve and take real strides forward.

While I laud Wilson for a balanced and objective description of the Flames’ progress, I’d like to dig a little deeper into what the future may hold for the two ASlberta teams.

Let’s start with goaltending.

As pretty much everyone would agree, Craig MacTavish bet that two inexperienced backup net minders would battle it out for #1 and things would be swell.

Well, that bet, like so many others he has made, blew up in his face with both Scrivens and Fasth rocking save percentages well below .900.

In contrast, Calgary management went out and acquired a solid, veteran goaltender in Jonas Hiller who is sporting a .915 percentage which I’ve always thought is the floor for good to great goaltenders.

This is a huge advantage for the Flames and with Kari Ramo (.903) as backup and Joni Ortio (.911 in the AHL) , the Flames are in a great spot.

On defense, the Flames also have a huge advantage in that they have TWO legitimate top pairing defensemen in Giordano and Brodie, (please refer to Wilson’s article to see how good these guys really are) and a decent supporting cast.

The Flames bottom 4 D are a work in progress with Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell as the second pairing but it should be remembered that Wideman, despite an inflated $5.25 cap hit, is a pretty good offensive defenseman in his own right with 10 goals and 21 points which, coincidentally, is the EXACT same offensive production as Taylor Hall and a country mile better than the production of Justin Schultz. Certainly Wideman has some chaos in his game but I think you’ll agree that Schultz pretty much personifies chaos.

The undersized Kris Russell is Calgary’s #4D is another offensive defenseman who is certainly covering his cap hit of $2.6 million and with 15 points on the season is providing as much offence as Schultz for far fewer dollars.

The Flames bottom pairing is scary with Derek Engelland and Laddy Smid but, going forward, bottom pairing D are very easily upgraded any offseason.

And lets remember when criticizing Calgary’s bottom pairing that the Oilers are paying Nikita Nikitin and Andrew Ference almost $8 million in combined cap space to fill those roles.

Now, it is pretty clear that, with Darnell Nurse, Oskar Klefbom and Martin Marincin, developing, the Oilers have better prospects (based on draft pedigree) on D but the Flames also have a trio of very good prospects in Wotherspoon, Sieloff and Cundari and, with the wonky development path of defensemen, there is no guarantee the Oilers trio will turn out better.

Of course, the other most important aspect of building down the middle is at centre and here there is just no comparison.

The Oilers till have the worst depth at centre in the entire league while Calgary is stacked:

Edmonton:

Nugent-Hopkins

Leon Draisaitl

Mark Arcobello

Boyd Gordon

Anton Lander

Bogdan Yakimov

And, THAT’s it!

Calgary:

Stajan

Backlund

Monohan

Colborne

Jooris

Granlund

Bouma

Byron

Knight

Arnold

Reinhardt

AND

Sam Bennett

Now, obviously, not all of Calgary’s centre prospects will become NHL players but SEVEN of them already are and I think it’s a pretty good bet that Bennet will be too. It’s an incredible organizational strength that allows the Flames to withstand injury but also gives them an arsenal of trade assets when the time is right.

The perception is the Oilers have a big advantage on the wings and, while that may be true, lets look at what is going on this season by ranking both teams wingers by PPG.

Hudler .942

Gaudreau .771

Hall .724

Eberle .588

Glencross .583

Perron .485

Jones .434

Pouliot .400

Raymond .388

Yakupov .229

Baertschi .214

Doesn’t look like the gap at wings is as big as some would like to think and I didn’t includes the centres that Calgary is playing on the wing because of the logjam there.

I guess you can argue that Hall, Eberle and Perron are having off seasons and that may be true but I think it’s important to remember that hockey is a team game and the Flames are having much more success playing as a team. There are always reasons for that.

Next is something we’ve touched on before so I won’t belabour it but the Flames have far better prospect depth than the Oilers who have basically nothing in the pipeline at forward while the Flames are ranked #2 in the entire league according to Hockey’s Future, while the Oilers are ranked 25th. Considering how high the Oilers have drafted in the past 10 years, this is almost inconceivable.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that the Flames have the lowest payroll and the most cap space (estimated at $25 million) heading into next offseason.

Their immediate needs would seem to be at least one more top 4D (Keith Yandle or Johnny Boychuck anyone?), a couple of upgrades on right-wing (they have Morgan Klimchuck, Emile Poirier and Michael Ferland all coming at LW)

If Burke and Treveling make the right moves in the summer, the Flames could easily be a playoff contender and their rebuild could be over.

While Edmonton drafts another kid.

A Lump of Coal

lump of coal ribbon

 

It’s a little quiet around the house for Christmas this year. Mrs. Bouncings’ parents will be over for Christmas dinner and #1 son and the grand babies will be over from Vancouver to bring in the new year while #2 son jets off to Cuba for a much deserved break, so I have a little time on my hands to reflect on Christmas past.

There a bit of melancholy when all of your family isn’t here on Christmas day but time and distance happen to almost every family I guess but I am reminded that one of the most precious gifts given and received under the tree were Oilers’ gear and game tickets.

The boys’ eyes would light up when they knew they would be going to “the game” with Dad (I was mainly in charge of fetching snacks) and they proudly wore their new jerseys and toques.

I imagine there are still families in Alberta whose holidays pivot around Oilers’ hockey but it also seems to me those numbers are dropping like Oilers” jerseys at the end of another listless performance. (4 were tossed last night but that doesn’t even get much of a mention anymore) and is just sad.

I wonder if Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish are aware of, or even care about, all the hopes and dreams they are crushing among a generation of young hockey fans and how they are pissing away the goodwill of the most loyal fan base in the game?

The current edition of the Oilers is on pace to easily be the worst Oiler team ever and that includes the expansion team that moved from the WHA to the NHL. It’s really, really hard to be that bad and should be almost impossible given how many top 10 draft picks the team has had…but here we are.

I imagine all is happy and gay at the Lowe/MacTavish homes this holiday season but I really hope, for the sake of all those young fans out there, that they take some time over the holidays to look in the mirror, reflect and do the honourable thing.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Blue

Joni Mitchell’s “River” is a haunting, mournful song that deals with alienation, regret and missed opportunity.

Here we are…a few days before Christmas and this song could really be the anthem of the Edmonton Oilers.

I’ve long believed the Oilers have the most loyal fan base in the league, supporting the team through thin and thinner for the past 20 odd years and, while teams like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, appear to have a similar fan base…they really don’t. Their arenas are packed with corporate season ticket holders while, to a much larger degree, the Oilers fan base  consists of individuals and families who have supported the team for many years.

I was one of them once…becoming a fan of the team when it entered the WHA and holding season tickets for many years and that love of the team has been passed down to my two sons who remain hopeful they will one day have a team they can feel good cheering about.

Devotion to the Oilers runs deep throughout my extended family too. My brother-in-law Pete passed away suddenly from a heart attack more than a year ago. This is a photo I took at his wake.

OILERphoto

 

Kevin Lowe and his henchmen perhaps know how passionate the teams’ fans are but knowing it and appreciating it are entirely different things and I don’t think they appreciate it one little bit, instead seeing fans as wallets who pay for their continuing failures.

Lowe started to lose me when he got into that trade dispute with Mike Comrie over returning his bonus and it has been death by papercut ever since.

When he took his most popular player to the wall over $100,000 (remember Ryan Smyth offered to buy a suite for the $100,000 and Lowe rejected it), I was pretty much done. He has done nothing since to redeem himself in my eyes but I really don’t want to hash over another laundry list of his failures since that time.

What I want to impart is how sad I think it is that Lowe is presiding over an era in history of the team that is seeing it start to lose the hearts of its fan base.

Even the most optimistic of followers of the team have begun to abandon their ways and I can only speculate on why it took them so long but it is real and it’s growing.

There’s a pall cast over the team and a fresh, spring breeze is needed to blow the stench away.

If Kevin Lowe cares even one whit for the team and the city he needs to resign and take his entire regime with him.

If he won’t, Daryl Katz needs to help him with his decision.

Enough.

 

 

Circle the Wagons

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Kung Fu Circle Jerk

HUH?

It was only a week ago that Craig (It’s Not My Fault) MacTavish called a press conference to announce that the team was going to stay the course and that he, and the players, had full confidence in Dallas Eakins. One would assume both Bob Nicholson and Kevin Lowe were on board with this message or it is extremely unlikely it would have been delivered.

So, what changed in a week?

The Oilers continued to lose but that was nothing new.

Taylor Hall went on record as fully supporting Eakins.

We’ll never likely hear the whole story but I think we can speculate.

1) Daryl Katz got a phone call from Gary Bettman expressing his concern about the sorry state of the franchise and the widely held belief the Oilers were deliberately tanking the season.

2) Daryl Katz took a look at the bottom line as an increasingly empty Rexall Place was beginning to cost him serious dollars and demanded “something” be done.

3) Craig MacTavish found “religion” in a week and countermanded everything he said he a week earlier.

4) Taylor Hall (and/or others) demanded a trade.

There really are no other plausible explanations but please let me know if you have one.

At this point I guess it doesn’t really matter but we need to step back and take a glance at what has really happened here.

When the Oilers rebuild began Kevin Lowe, Craig McTavish and Scott Howson were charged with leading the team to glory. Howson would soon leave for Columbus while McTavish would fall on his sword later but, incredibly, rather than re-shape the organization, Kevin Lowe decided the smartest thing to do would be the bring them both back for another kick at the cat. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about Lowe’s acumen as POHO.

Tone Deaf

One of the best takes on today’s events comes from ESPN’s esteemed hockey writer Scott Burnside. I strongly urge to read his entire column but here is the money shot:

MacTavish, who was bounced from behind the Oilers’ bench back in 2009 after missing the playoffs for a third straight season after somehow coaching them to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, will go back behind the bench, because, well, why not?

What could possibly go wrong?

Or more wrong?

MacTavish will preside over the bench on an interim basis to perform a task he was deemed ill-suited to perform a few years ago, while helping former AHL coach Todd Nelson get used to the job. Nelson will then hold the job on an interim basis presumably until the end of this miserable season when who knows what further chaos awaits.

Meanwhile, MacTavish will continue to perform his duties as GM, another job he has proven to be ill-suited for.

Back when MacTavish was hired as GM, Lowe got rather defensive when asked about the old boys’ club mentality that permeates this franchise that was once the gold standard for on-ice excellence.

At one point at that press gathering, Lowe peevishly reminded a questioner that he figured he had more Stanley Cup rings (six) than all but one person working in the game.

It’s not true, by the way, but the point was obvious: Look, I’m smarter than you, so how dare you question how we do things?

Tone deaf? Oh there’s lots of that going around the Oilers.

Ten days ago MacTavish made it clear that while he and ownership were ticked off at the Oilers’ losing ways, it wouldn’t be wise to lump him in with personnel decisions made prior to his arrival as an executive.

Monday he was a man with bloody hands.

The beleaguered GM also insisted Monday — presumably after those higher up the food chain demanded a sacrificial lamb — there is ongoing evaluation at every level of the organization to get at the core of the problem with this team.

Perhaps we might suggest more frequent use of a mirror.

And when MacTavish is done, he might lend it to Lowe.

Doomed From the Start

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector takes a lot of heat from Edmonton hockey fans because he’s never been afraid to question the status quo and, even today, his veracity is being questioned but he hits it out of the park here:

As for Eakins, he was a hyped up product of the Toronto media who interviewed so well for an associate coaching position that MacTavish fired Ralph Krueger and made Eakins his head man prior to last season. A Roger Neilson disciple, Eakins strutted through the door promising improved fitness, analytics, and his innate ability to get to know each “young man” on a paternal level. Many of those young men were already in great shape and had fathers, however, and found the new coach arrogant and assuming.

Eakins acted like he had 381 NHL wins, but alas, leaves Edmonton with a .381 winning percentage and departs a team with absolutely no pulse or energy, and losers of 15 of their last 16 games. But as MacTavish points out, it is “naïve” to think Edmonton’s biggest problems stood behind the bench in a suit and tie.

They lie inside the suits in the GM’s box, at the Oilers offices behind the name plate reading “Kevin Lowe,” and in the roster of amateur and pro scouts who have simply failed to produce, and should be wholly replaced.

More of the Same

And another take from the Journal’s John MacKinnon, one of the only MSM members in Edmonton to call bullshit on Lowe.

So, to summarize: Bob Nicholson, vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, five months into his first NHL gig, will evaluate MacTavish, not yet two years into his first NHL job as a GM, who will evaluate Nelson, who has yet to coach his first game in the big leagues. But, not to worry, Nelson has MacTavish as his mentor as he transitions to the Oilers head job.

Many in the hockey industry speak well of Nelson, but given the Oilers dreadful record of developing talent, it’s probably best to wait and see how he does. How much did defenceman Justin Schultz learn about defensive-zone coverage during his time in Oklahoma City, to cite just one example?

Somewhere in the management mix are Kevin Lowe, the former GM and president of hockey operations, and Scott Howson, his second-in-command during Lowe’s tenure as GM, and who now is MacTavish’s assistant.

It sure will be interesting to see what the soup-to-nuts organizational audit turns up. What could the problem possibly be?

Buying Time

Firing Eakins strikes me as nothing more than another desperate attempt for the Lowe/MacTavish cabal to save their own asses. Lowe hired McTavish back, McTavish hired Eakins and the team is worse than it ever was so, rather than effecting any real organizational change, the team scapegoated Eakins (mea culpa..I always thought his hiring was stupid) and are now working toward finding another sock puppet to take the gas pipe when none of this works out. Todd Nelson is going to have MacTavish hanging over his shoulder for the rest of a season that is far, far beyond saving. Any success he might have is totally irrelevant.

Today’s move means nothing more than giving Lowe and McTavish another shot at righting the ship in the offseason when it’s likely they will punt Nelson (who understandably will leave the organization) and the decimation of the scouting staff (well deserved in my opinion but this far into a rebuild is almost an afterthought)

What I think you can count on is that Lowe and MacTavish, with Bob Nicholson as an advisor, will be given yet another opportunity to show us they are the “smartest guys in the room” and will soon start dismantling the core that they lost so many games to acquire.

Are you comfortable with that knowing the track record of these people?

I’m not.

 

Tanking

tanking

 

All sorts of speculation early this NHL season about which teams might tank for a chance to draft Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

In years past, there might have been 2 or 3 teams who were so bad that they might want to give up on the season and do everything they can to get the 1st overall pick but this season I think it’s fair to say there might be 8.

But I think, in reality the list is likely a bit shorter.

Let’s start at the bottom.

As of this writing, the team with the worst win percentage is the Edmonton Oilers (.328)

Oilers’ GM Craig (It’s Not My Fault) McTavish has already indicated he won’t be making any moves to improve his team so it’s likely they’ll limp along pretty much where they are for the rest of the season at least until the trade deadline when I expect they’ll move Jeff Petry and David Perron for “futures”. The loss of those two might cause a slight downturn in the teams  performance but not to the degree that it should have any signifcant impact on the final standings.

Staying in the Western Conference, the Arizona Coyotes have been bad and they’re getting worse. They’ve just dropped their 8th straight game at home and have only won twice in their last 11 games. GM Don Maloney has already indicated he’s getting ready to blow things up and move out sone expensive veterans and I expect he’ll soon follow through on that threat not only to start a rebuild but to save money for the cash strapped team. I would wager all of Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette and Martin Erat will all have new addresses early in the new year and the Coyotes will go from bad to worse and then worser. This is the team I think will finish 30th in the NHL and draft McDavid. The team desperately needs a marquee name to market and I expect the NHL will do everything in its “power” to ensure that happens.

Another teams that is poised to go into sell mode soon is the Carolina Hurricanes. Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Sekera are both UFA at the end of the season and I expect both will be dealt. I also believe the Hurricanes will try to convince Eric Staal to waive his NMC so they can turn him into a first round pick and other assets. Say hello to Jack Eichel!

The Buffalo Sabres are not a very good team but they have stellar goaltending, a great coach and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games played and look like they’ll be moving out of the sub basement.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are beginning to get their injured players back and are on a 5 game winning streak. I think they’ll easily play themselves out of the chance to draft the wonder kids.

Which leaves us with 3 big question marks…The Philadelphia Flyers, The Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.

Now, the odds of any of these 3 teams winning the lottery are pretty low but an extended losing streak by any of them could increase those odds significantly and I can see Ed Snider in Philly, with a wink and a nod from his buddy Gary, going into full tank mode in the very near future.

Stranger things have happened.