2013 LMHF Report Game #24




Well thank jeebus for that.

Our season draws to a close with a victory against what should be considered our most hated rival. Qualifiers notwithstanding I'm going to take full enjoyment out of this.

Let's get the short negatives out and move on to a positive close to our year.

1. The Oilers still can't get "chips for everyone" right. That's sad. If we'd lost I may have lost it at that point.

2. Why has Mike Brown either self-neutered or been neutered by the coaching staff? There is no point to playing a player so bad if he isn't going to light people up or at least scrap in a game like this. There were many deserving Canucks out there and he wasn't interested in any of them. That Tom Sestito was allowed to mess with Yakupov and #64 had to do his own fighting back (though he did that well, more later) is an utter shame.

3. Some of those Dubnyk rebounds were just AWFUL. The Sestito goal set up by Kassian was about as juicy of a rebound as you'll ever see. He gave out two more of these in the period and got bailed out. He really needs to work on handling his angles. Two major weaknesses remain for him: low shots off the wall and high blocker shots. Hopefully these areas are a major focus in the offseason.

4. Eric Belanger demeans the Oilers jersey by wearing it. The guy spent the entire game avoiding the play. He wouldn't go into the corners. He wouldn't fight for the puck. He wouldn't even lean in on the faceoffs. I've never seen a guy loop out of the play that much during a hockey game. He should be absolutely ashamed of himself. If he ever plays another game as an Oiler I will be appalled.

I think that was about it. I'm not going to dwell on the rest of the season tonight. Let's enjoy what we got to see in this one.

One of the first things we got to see is how pathetic we know the Canucks are. Henrik playing 22 seconds is one of the most cowardly things I've ever seen. That "streak" should be voided. Kesler as always went whining to the bench after every single shift and didn't go face to face with anyone as per usual. Sesito tries to throw a knee on Yakupov. Bieksa spends the evening swinging his stick then breaks it over the bench like a whining child. Luongo goes headcase and starts letting in Jarred Smithson shots. Vigneault is too dumb to pull his likely playoff starter and save him the embarassement. It was lovely. I truly hope they exit in four games as they and their fans deserve to.

This game of course took a long while to get going. For much of tonight a lot of us were not sure if either team was going to do much in the way of showing up. The little bit of feistiness that appeared at the end of the second might have gotten things going a big. I still don't see why taking liberties against our players (Yakupov, Hall was crosschecked multiple times, Eberle took some abuse) is tolerated so readily by our coaching staff but at least these was some push back from individual players in little ways.

Let's go through the Oilers goals:

1 - Gagner breaks hard to the area behind the net and wins a battle to get the puck to Hall who makes a nice little backhand flip to the blue. Schultz to Schultz for a good, low, tippable shot and Eberle is in perfect position to get the job done. This goal was a big deal because the Oilers were really struggling to get a good offensive chance.

2 - The Oilers powerplay was moving the puck around really well and more movement through the middle of the ice meant the Canucks had a harder time dealing with the flow of the play. Yakupov is set up right beside the net (which I'm really thinking is the key to a ton of powerplay goals and might be worth doing some research on in terms of what % come from that spot. Has to be a bunch). Schultz does a good job of getting the puck to the net and of course Yakupov makes no mistake with that kind of chance. He was so excited. As usual. Worth noting that Sestito tried to mock him after his own goal. That worked out really well for him...

3 - This play starts as Eberle gets absolutely robbed when he can't finish off a rush led by Hall. No one quits on the play including Fistric who makes a great little play to keep it in at the blue line. Eventually the puck heads behind the net where Hall works it out and Schultz has smartly snuck to the front. Once again, no mistake.

4 - Horcoff makes a solid play in the neutral zone and smartly gets the puck deep as Magnus is carrying speed and can get in on the forecheck quickly. He takes advantage of an ugly mistake, then looks and sees Yakupov standing right in front of an open net. Bing-bang, it is in the net. As Yakupov was skating to the bench he was pointing enthusiastically at the Oilers bench. I think someone told him to get himself to the front of the net for the rest of the game. His next goal only cemented that for me.

5 - Starts with a forced turnover to Schultz in the neutral zone. He finds Hall moving down the wing who makes an excellent read to find a trailing Eberle in the slot. Eberle dummies the Canuck defender, then Luongo. Gagner, whose role on the play might have been missed on TV, played a part in generating the turnover and then was a great decoy who got thrown into the boards as Eberle scored.

6 - Nail finishes what he started. This play was all him. Made a great little play to keep things alive in the offensive zone initially, Magnus got the puck to Fistric. As this is happening, Yakupov heads straight to the front of the net, perfect screen, Fistric fires, Yakupov takes the rebound off his chest then deftly beats Luongo low. It was an absolutely stunning sequence from a tremendous hockey player. Couldn't see the celebration live so I'm glad they got it on the highlights. It was borderline subtle for him!

7 - Smyth crashes behind the net, Jones gets the puck and centers to Smithson who misses with his stick, barely gets it with his feet, then shoots without looking and scores. You know you're having a night when...

I'm just very happy to be able to count that many goals against that team and especially that goalie.


- Made some nice stops but also gave out some nasty rebounds as noted above. For the most part he was in control and cut back on the puck handling which helped his team out in the end.

- Good enough performance from him tonight, though I thought he dialed back the physicality at times which was a little mystifying. There were opportunities to really lay out some Canucks players and he didn't take them. He was caught up ice on Sestito's goal, but that shouldn't have mattered as he was elbowed in the head and the rush never should have happened in the first place. Aside from that lapse he was defensively solid.

- Quieter game than usual from him but that meant fewer mistakes. I'm okay with that. He landed a really nice hit in the second period which was something to see. Puck movement was just okay.

- Certainly one of his better games. He kept several offensive sequences alive with his play at the opposition blue line and was also rewarded with two assists by getting the puck headed toward the net. I also liked that he went at Lapierre and a couple other Canucks as the game wore on. I'm not sure why he didn't go after Sestito when he tried to knee Yakupov though. That was a little strange.

J. Schultz
- It is about time he had a game where the offence flowed so freely. His goal and passing game were great examples of the high level of skill he can bring to any game. He also bailed out a couple Nick Schultz mistakes including one ugly pinch that generated a 3-on-1. He was offensively effective without having to jump in too much. That's the mark of a strong offensive defenceman.

- He had a weird game. There were several instances where I couldn't really figure out what he was doing. No really exceptional moments in the positive but he did come out ahead so that's something.

- He was okay much of the night. I'm still not sure exactly what he was thinking on that ugly pinch given that Justin Schultz had refused to pinch on the other side not long before that. Some good work behind the net.

- Yeah, I really don't know why he dresses if he effectively does nothing in a game like this one. He went to the front of the net and forechecked I suppose, but he always gets caught deep in the zone and tonight was no different. He also looped away rather than finish his check. Disappointing. He should've at least administered some bruises.

- I'm glad the guy scored. It has to have been a weird ride for him over the past couple weeks. It doesn't change the way I think about him, but he actually scored that goal and had another good chance. Good for him.

- I'm glad that what may have been his final game as an Oiler was a better effort than we've gotten used to this year. He forechecked hard, drove the front of the net and nearly tipped a couple in. Generated a couple penalties and some scoring chances for others. Didn't take any crap and specifically had words with Kesler which is at least something.

- I've said all I want to say about him already. I hope he's never in another one of these reports.

- Uninteresting game. Didn't really stand out other than being thrown into the net by a Canucks defender at one point.

- I'll give him that he put out a good effort tonight. He hit people, went hard into the corners and did what he needed to do. Good plays to set up some chances and also got involved physically in pushing back a touch against the Canucks.

- Pretty solid tonight actually. While he wasn't able to be anywhere near keeping up with Yakupov and Hall/Paajarvi, he instead contributed by moving the puck well in the defensive and neutral zones while also picking off a few passes. This helped the transition game immensely. It was good to see him adapt his game and help his teammates out.

- A quietly successful game. He didn't do the things that I always watch for from him (using his speed to find openings, going to shooting areas in the offensive zone) but he did forecheck well and play off Yakupov to some extent once that line became the norm. Supported Eberle decently as well. If only we could get him to be a better player with the puck in front of the net. He had a couple really good chances to score in close tonight and just couldn't do much of anything with the puck.

- Easily could of had four or five tonight. He was robbed by Luongo and his defence at least 4 separate times including a couple beautiful backhand plays. This was the Eberle we need to see. He wanted the puck on his stick and drove the slot to look for shooting opportunities. When Eberle forces the play to the slot, good things happen either in terms of great shooting chances or a pass to a wide open teammate. His goals were covered above but just from a general standpoint he was excellent tonight.

- Worked really hard and took a lot of abuse tonight. While he wasn't rewarded the same way the other high profile young guys were, he did pick up some points and did certainly make things happen. He was strong in the corners and made some very nice passes and decoy plays when the offence got going. Always good to see him contribute. I will also note that #89 never shies away from the scrum. He was in there multiple times tonight and I have a lot of respect for that.

- What else can you really say? He was tremendous as the Oilers offensive play pick up. He made so many things happen behind the net and off the rush specifically. I've said for some time that he plays his best games when he treats his primary offensive responsibility as being a rush passer. He showed why again tonight on several occasions and especially on Eberle's third period goal. Just a beautiful read. Kind of surprised he didn't score as well on a night when he's jumping around like that, but he didn't wind up needing to.

- We've covered his wonderful goals above but there was a little play I saw that I really wanted to highlight. Yakupov was around the low circle with the puck on the powerplay. Not much was happening in terms of movement and many other players would have been stuck, forced a pass and made a mistake or taken a stupid shot to the chest. Yakupov, without looking at all, made a subtle move then fired a laser shot-pass off of Luongo's pads right to Eberle. #14 was so shocked he couldn't score but MAN what a simple, utterly brilliant play. No one on the ice saw that and I don't think any other player could have done it the way he did either. I'm sure he knew what he needed to do to catch Huberdeau and he just went out there and made it happen. He engaged physically with Tom Sestito, hitting him when he had the chance and swinging his stick a little bit. He was all over the ice and passed the puck to himself off of the boards several times. It was an absolute treat watching someone that excited play the game in such an impressive way.

I'm hoping to put together a year in review, something that's been missing the past couple years, relatively shortly. There's a lot to say and a lot of decisions to be made.

The one thing I will say is that I've been mulling it throughout the season and while Hall surpassed Eberle this year in the "best of the group" race, I will say that Nail Yakupov is on his way to greater things than even Hall. Why?

1. He loves the game so damn much.
2. He appears to work harder than any of the group.
3. Sheer talent. The guy will score 50.
4. He's focused.
5. His game is versatile and we'll be talking about him as a complete player within a season.

#64 is bloody amazing. Period. Can't wait to watch this guy win a Richard Trophy.

Thank you all again for sticking with this throughout another trying year. We all hope for a tremendous offseason and better days ahead. You readers are the reason I plow through the horrible losses and why I so relish getting home to write after a massive win. Thank you once again for the encouragement, reads, discussion and everything else.


2013 LMHF Report Game #23




I don't see any magic recipe for tonight's loss. Chicago is a very good team and the Oilers are following management's lead in terms of tanking at the end of any season where you're not going for the Stanley Cup. The previous couple years have resulted in this being the end to our season, at least in terms of mental outlook.

Weird to see Emery somehow get hurt and pull himself like that. You don't often see the goalie head straight back to the dressing room.

At least there was some action for approximately a period. The Oilers kinda-sorta thought about putting up a fight in this one. I'm not exactly sure what triggered the complete giving up this time. I do know the fans are pretty well done as well. All reaction and the traditional BOOs were saved for the last few seconds and that is it. No reason to expect that they'd put in more effort than the team. This is much worse than last year or the year before because you know there's much less excuse for this garbage now. I've never heard so many people upset to be there, and the number leaving early or not showing up at all is increasing rapidly.

If you're a team that'a actually serious about taking a step forward, you need to be playing well at the end of the season. You don't need to be winning every game, but you need strong efforts and bright lights. There are not many of those right now.

I focused specifically on Bryan Bickell tonight as I think he'd be an interesting offseason pickup for our team. We were discussing it about a week ago and he was a guy LMHF#2 thought would be worth a shot. I'd tend to agree. Bickell is large and plays that way. Tonight he took a big of a run at Mike Brown and got no reply. He also defaults to the front of the net in the offensive zone, which is something we're lacking and especially in the bottom six. He's not a speed demon but is reasonably technically which matters much more anyway. He made some decent passes tonight and could likely get some things done with a little more icetime. He had one break in alone on Dubnyk and I was disappointed to see he went low, but at least he gained position, can clearly take a pass, and held his ground. I'd still take a long look at this guy in the offseason to add some unique things to our bottom six and possibly give him the opportunity to flourish and move up in the order every now and again.

I'm always amazed at how consistently Patrick Kane plays very well against the Oilers. Maybe it is the Gagner thing or maybe he's just really consistent, I'm not sure.

Is there a reason Krueger loves playing the fourth line against Chicago's top line? That was not fun to watch at all.

- I'm not saying he played badly, but giving him first star in a 30-shot, 4-goal game is lunacy. Sure he made a great pokecheck. Sure he made some nice saves in the third when nothing mattered. He was not very good in the first. He should've stopped Kane's goal. He could've made a much better effort on Toews'. Oduya's shot was nothing to write home about as he'd already squared after the pass from Kane. He also managed to give the puck away multiple times (including a complete whiff behind the net) which should be pretty impossible for a goalie. Again, not his fault we lost and he did make some very nice saves, but not to the point where his effort tonight should be lauded.

- Maybe Corey Potter's worst game as an Oiler. I lost count of the giant mistakes and bonehead plays at around 10. I'm sure he had more. He just couldn't make a pass to save his life tonight other than to a Blackhawk. He also got beat to multiple pucks and beat clean while defending from a positional advantage rountinely. That's no good. Fistric wasn't much better overall, but at least played a physical game. I don't mind taking that elbow on Shaw at all on the shift after he was giving Dubnyk such a hard time.

- Way too many defensive zone breakdowns and getting beat clean on the rush by Chicago forwards without any offensive plays generated whatever. That was the simple story of their night. Justin looks incredibly tired after what has easily been his longest hockey season and Nick just looks disinterested. Not a good combination.

- Smid is one of the only guys playing like a warrior to the very end. There's no quit and his game has changed very little. I would say he got caught out of position a couple times tonight and didn't move the puck that well, but you'd never question the effort. Now, on to Mr. Petry. For the most part he had an up and down game. He made passing mistakes but also some nice plays, and had a mixed bag kind of game defensively. If this were it for him tonight I'd be okay with things, but it was not. Watching the way he played Sharp on the Chicago EN goal made me want to vomit. It was eerily similar to Whitney's play along the boards in the last game of the season last year. Petry had position and lost it, didn't take the puck or the man, then in a 50/50 situation gave a sad sack effort and was beaten, then didn't even bother to haul down Sharp to prevent a goal. What in the blue hell was that Jeff? This guy does some great things but boy is he ever frustrating on a lot of nights and I'm not sure he's really improving. That last play is going to stick with me for a long time. Imagine if the playoffs had been on the line and that had happened.

- Random fact: I think I discovered why Smithson can't skate. He puts about 18 layers of sock tape on his ankles. They had a close up of him doing it going into the third. Back in the old days the tape was somewhat understandable, but with new skates and the need to be able to turn and flex your ankle, this is a recipe for a clunky clod. I'm not sure I've ever watched a large forward who does less on the ice than this guy. That continued tonight. Brown showed absolutely no push back even after getting hammered. There are plenty of targets on the Blackhawks even if you're not interested in hitting someone who matters but he couldn't be bothered. Watching him freeze in place, then get tripped, then trip over himself as he attempted to take advantage of the chance for a clear breakaway was pretty sad. Smyth? He sauntered around the ice doing not much of anything because he's way too late to the puck. He drew a penalty tonight at least by going to the net. Supposedly he had the second most forward icetime for the Oilers? Sad.

- Credit where it is due, these guys generated good scoring chances in the slot on each of their first three shifts. Unfortunately they managed to bungle all of them but that is still more than most of the rest of the roster did tonight. After that Jones went back to being largely ineffective, unable to take a pass and cheating for offence which caused turnovers in the defensive zone. Aside from some strong PK effort he was the same as ever. Hartikainen struggled with the puck tonight which is too bad because he went to the right spots and worked well in the corners. He also ran over a Chicago player while retaining puck possession in the slot on an impressive little play in the third. Disappointing night for him though as he wasn't able to capitalize and didn't pass the puck very well. Lander was very mediocre. Fine on the PK but did a whole lot of nothing 5-on-5 despite some chances to work of strong plays by his linemates.

- Unfortunately for these guys, after the first period the puck seemed to be winding up on Horcoff's stick in the far end of the neutral zone and the unit's zone entries were pretty sketchy after that started. Horcoff has visibly lost a step or two and can't seem to beat anyone anymore even if he maintains possession. Yakupov had a very nice first period. The goal itself was classic Yakupov, using his wicked shot from an unorthodox spot and putting it in the net. He also made a very nice sliding backcheck play and nearly finished it off with an offensive one during the same shift. He tailed off a bit in the second and third but was at least still pushing the effort. He easily could have scored a couple more. Magnus was less visible than many nights this year. He did a lot of skating but not much else. Hopefully that's just an off game where he fell back to his old comfort zone and nothing more.

- You know something's wrong when Eberle in the second period executes the toe drag around a Chicago D, has Crawford at his mercy, and doesn't bother to look up before he shoots the puck. It looked like a wicked Crawford save but make no mistake, that was an Eberle screw up. That extra second he always takes, that little angle change or move to the backhand would have resulted in a highlight reel play and instead he didn't even look up. Damn. I've written that these guys have pretty much checked out for the year and aside from a brief time in the first tonight where they looked like they were considering jumping back into the game, I stand by that. If you noticed anything exceptional that they did, add it to the comments.

One left. Please don't embarrass us all against VAN on HNIC like you did against Calgary. Please.


2013 LMHF Report Game #21




Our opening topic tonight is potato chips. Why is that? you may ask. Well, I'll tell you...the Edmonton Oilers can't even do potato chips right at this point. Seriously. I'll elaborate - there was an announcement made late in the game that "everyone" would be getting chips as we left the building. Great, most of us thought, as at least we could take SOMETHING home from this game. It turns out that those of us who actually stayed until, ya know, the end of the game, were beyond out of luck. They had already been completely out for quite some time. I say a lot of critical things about the Edmonton Oilers, but I can't recall them screwing up something so damn basic. Just amazing. What is wrong with these people??

Anyway, back to hockey, or whatever exactly it was being played at Rexall Place tonight. One team kinda sorta played, another team didn't really bother.

I'd really like to write another legit game assessment before the end of the season. I do really enjoy getting into the nuts and bolts of the game. I'm less than optimistic this will happen though. There's every chance they come out on Wednesday and paste Chicago, just because we're the Oilers I suppose. It just isn't possible to go through assessing players the way they've played the last few games. Everyone is completely checked out mentally.

It was so sad to watch our team with the goalie pulled. We allowed Anaheim I think 5 attempts at the empty net. The Oilers barely got a shot. Not only that, but they turned the puck over in such a sad and pathetic way...it was either in the neutral zone or barely into the offensive zone every time. Really bad when you can't even muster a whimper.

If I'd been thinking of it in advance I suppose I could've done an Anaheim game report. They showed up and did what they needed to do with what appeared to be a roster where players were resting. It is sad but true that our team has, once again, become just an easy checkmark on the schedule at the end of the season.

Usually when this kind of thing happens there are at least people around trying to earn a job that can impress you. I tried to pay more attention to Lander and Hartikainen than anyone else tonight, though even that was a struggle at times.

Hartikainen managed to get himself a couple scoring chances including a nice tip and control the puck in the corners. He didn't capitalize and I really hope he spends some substantial time on his shooting in the offseason. It looks more than anything like he's just rushing it a little bit sometimes. That happens with young guys but learning to focus and finish is very hit or miss. It takes effort. #56 didn't blow anyone up tonight that I recall and I hope he brings that to the table in the pre-season next year as well as the AHL playoffs if he's eligible.

Lander was less noticeable and had some trouble with the puck from what I could see. He was completely out of place in the lineup of course, but at least it gave us all a chance to see him with some decent players. Paajarvi and Yakupov outclassed him by a lot of course. This doesn't mean he was a failure. While he wasn't as good on the PK as he usually seems to be, he was okay positionally and at least put forth an effort out there.

Aside from those two it was pretty much a grab bag for me. It is tough to focus on hockey that bad.

The top line with Gagner added didn't do too much. Sure, Hall scored but even he was surprised that shot beat Hiller. He kinda whiffed or was shooting for a rebound. As a unit they weren't carrying speed into the offensive zone at all. Gagner struggled to get his shot away despite some strong stickhandling. Eberle really didn't look to be into it at all. Hall was at times, and others not. Landed a big check near the end of the game for some reason

The second line was interesting to watch at times. Yakupov was once again probably the most dangerous forward. He got a couple good shots away from the slot and threaded an absolutely perfect pass to Paajarvi whose stick just disintegrated somehow. It was a grade AAA level pass that required a delay, weight shift, perfect speed and timing. Just awesome. #64 could still break for the open ice better. I hope there's a coach around that can see and teach that. Magnus could have been better but could have been worse. He was a half-step away from a lot of plays.

The old men were terrible tonight. Horcoff, Smyth and Smithson didn't contribute at all. Horcoff even managed to take a couple of stupid penalties to salt it. Smyth was behind every play. Smithson can't keep up either. Not worth saying much more. Smyth tried a double-wraparound....seriously.

Jones hit some people I suppose. At least that's something.

Brown took another dumb high sticking penalty. He's great at that.

The D? I dunno. Smid played tough as usual but also made more mistakes than normal. Petry made a really nice play to Hall to get him a goal then passed the puck away a bunch of times. I'm starting to wonder whether it is Petry's passing or whether at this point the forwards are so bad/disinterested that no one is in position to take a pass. Not really sure. The Schultzes? Just okay. Missed some coverages and Justin at least wasn't constantly wandering the offensive zone as he did during the last game I went to. Fistric and Potter spent most of the night giving the puck away as well. It wasn't pretty.

Dubnyk? Good enough if his team had decided to show up.

If you care about sports and consider yourself a competitor, you wonder what impact all this intentional losing has had on the players. I maintain it results in what we've seen at the end of this season. Rather than a team that fights to the bitter end for at least some improvement, the players know that management is okay with losing. There's no accountability. Why would they want to win? Just wrecking the draft pick. This is why the NHL should have nuked the weighted lottery a long time ago. I would have much rather watched a team forced to fight than one taking the most talentless way out to rebuild a team. Watching hockey this listless after knowing your team is capable of more is even worse than watching a horrible team get beat. There's just nothing there to go after and instead of putting forth a professional, strong effort down the stretch and winning a game or two, this team is skating out the string. Make no mistake about that.

I won't be at the game tomorrow, so no report. See you Wednesday.


2013 LMHF Report Game #19




We're going to break from the regular format and go to what was the most important thing that can be extracted from the game tonight. The first line is done. They've shut it down and are going home for the summer. To watch that line go through the motions and simply show up rather than even try to win was really upsetting and completely disheartening. I know the team was going to miss the playoffs heading into tonight's game, but you have to beat Calgary on Saturday on HNIC. You have to at least give all you've got. I've never understood how people just quit on the game myself, but that was exactly what we saw from 4, 14 and 93 tonight. Not one step in their usual extra gear. No push toward the net in the third period. No extra effort anywhere on the ice. No jump. No excited or even frustrated faces. Just blank stares...going through the motions...letting an AHL school them in their own zone then hopping back on the bench to wait for their next turn. How completely and utterly pathetic. If we had the roster space to sit them next game I'd strongly consider it after THAT. Watching Taylor Hall lay on his butt after getting hit...or Jordan Eberle skate slowly back to the bench with no purpose after a play was ended...or Hopkins not even trying to beat defenders...just brutal. Completely brutal.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! If Ryan Smyth is the man most people seem to think he is, he should watch the tape of his performance tonight and ask the coaching staff to sit him down for the rest of the year. He should spend that time strongly considering either hanging them up for good and preserving his legacy, or immediately begin the kind of offseason regimen that let guys like Chelios and Roberts keep playing for as long as they did. He should truly commit to this team and actually make the effort, rather than whining about his role on the team, not playing during the lockout, then showing up to do THIS in the regular season. I've never seen a veteran player lose that many races to the puck where they had a one, two or even three step head start. He couldn't even be bothered to make it to the boards on most of these plays tonight. He'd simply glide in one direction, then extend his stick weakly and move on. He made one of the most rookie-mistake plays I've seen all year to set up a Calgary goal, poking a puck in desperation right to a waiting Calgary player in the middle of the damn ice when there was nothing but space and time along the boards. How does he respond? Why he rushes into the CGY zone at 3mph and uncorks the 3-three-hour wind up 4mph slapper. This is a guy who has never been my favorite but at least had my respect for his effort on the ice. This year and especially tonight have really impacted my view of him. It'd be one thing if he was leaving it all out there, blocking shots left and right and simply couldn't do it because the body is no longer willing...but he's not putting forth the effort and then I see he's apparently yukking it up on the bench while we're down 3-1 to CGY on HNIC. 20-something Ryan Smyth would punch the current #94 in the face.

I know it was an exceptional night, but it is really crummy when you realize that MAYBE one guy (Horcoff, depending on the moves made in the offseason) is the only guy in the bottom six with any business on this roster. I know that Jones and Petrell at least played a little bit like they were trying to earn jobs tonight...but the fact that this performance and that effort was so noticable is a great indication that they just are not good enough to be here. Smithson hits exactly like J.F. Jacques used to, meaning that because of his weak skating fundamentals he doesn't make near the impact he should and winds up completely out of position. He also spent half the night falling on his butt. It was terrible. Mike Brown landed one decent hit and spent the rest of the night skating around trying to look like he was doing something. I liked Petrell's goal, and his tip attempt later in the game, and that he went out of his way to play physically. Doesn't change my conclusion that he needs to be gone. Jones made a solid play to set up Lennart, then went back to overskating and being out of position as usual. At least he hit some people. Horcoff wasn't great but also had absolutely ZERO to work with out there really. I don't expect miracles from the guy. He wasn't good in the defensive zone though...and made a number of PK mistakes despite the fact that the unit was largely successful.

The only forward unit that did anything right for a decent part of the night was the Gagner line. The Yakupov non-goal was an absolutely magnificent sequence. Magnus skates in to land a hit he never would have thrown a couple years ago...this leads to a lose puck heading to centre ice. From the second Yakupov saw that puck, the lane ahead and started moving, you knew it was headed into the net. Yakupov pounces, Gagner makes a good read and gets the puck, Yakupov drives to the perfect spot, Gagner finds him and damn if Mr. Handeye can't get his stick on the puck. Not our night I guess, but still, what a transition play. Just amazing. All three forwards doing exactly what we needed them to. Yakupov and Paajarvi both landed multiple hits during the game. All these hits came while maintaining position and making a positive impact on the play. The line attacked with speed and was responsible for most of the good chances we had. Yakupov made a brilliant laser pass that should have found Gagner but he missed it by a step. Magnus drove the puck and did pretty much everything we've been asking him to. Sam could have been better, but at least was a step above the rest of the forwards along with his line. I won't excuse their defensive play though, as aside from a couple gems from #s 91 and 64, they did indeed get pinned in the defensive zone and make some mistakes that led to Calgary chances. I do blame the D for some of that, but the unit needed to be better. Gagner also completely blew by the front of the net on the PK leading to a CGY goal (Petrell was also completely out to lunch there I believe).

When it comes to the D tonight I'm not even sure it is worth discussing them. Remember how we spoke about the Calgary D standing around waiting for the game to be over? The Oilers D didn't check anyone tonight. They stood around and let Calgary score. They gave the puck away. They didn't pass well to their forwards or skate the puck out of our zone. A perfect example was the first goal, where Smid sent the puck around the boards, Petry was within a couple steps and couldn't be bothered, and there was no forward there to get the puck. Suddenly Calgary is in on us and scores. Ugly, unacceptable way to start a game. It is one thing to allow a good goal early...it happens, but not that way.

Khabibulin? Yeah he was terrible. Just horrendous. He stopped some tough ones but almost all of these stops generated huge rebounds. He got beat four times by a whole lot of nobodies. It wouldn't have mattered of course...but still you have to note that he wasn't any good.

So yeah, I'm pissed. I saw this coming but not this bad and not with this much quit.

The thing is, we have had several chances during this season to make a statement about taking a step forward. 75% of the conversation at the deadline was about "sending the wrong message" by...well...doing anything to this team...I wonder what the message was when essentially nothing was done. Make no mistake, adding Smithson was a waste of a fourth round pick. Couldn't you have helped this team and given it a playoff push boost by grabbing a player or two that could actually contribute? It was evident from the other trades that the cost was minimal. Instead we have paralysis as usual.

It is evident at this point that the entire conversation around the Oilers - from management to the media to a wide majority of the fans is completely wrong. They think we simply need to "add size". They think this is all part of the process. They think you can magically wake up one day, acquire everyone you need and be a Stanley Cup contender for a decade with the same people and ideas you had before...it simply does not work that way. It never has and never will.

For the last word I'll turn to the talking about the coach. I've tried to like Ralph Krueger. I like his positive take on most things and I like that he seems to be thoughtful. These are important parts of being a strong coach. The thing is, you also need to be able to get pissed off. You need to have intensity. You need to impose your will. You can't whine about not being able to get players icetime because you steadfastly refuse to take a chance and play offensive players on the PK when you're losing. That's just such a great example of a coach who gets completely stuck in his own groove and can't see the obvious and easy solution to his problem. When you're down in a game late in the season and can't make the playoffs but want your players to grow, you play Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Hopkins and whoever damn else on the PK, PP, 5-on-5, 4-on-4 and wherever else you can. You just DO IT. This is not complicated stuff. We may very well be at the paralysis through analysis stage here.

Good god is this ever frustrating. I am so thankful that I didn't have to pay for and sit through 41 games of this crap this year. It is painful to say that, but it is true.


2013 LMHF Report Game #18




So, Fan Appreciation Night huh? Otherwise known as guaranteed loss night? Yeah...not good. I was not optimistic heading into this one. By the end I was just disappointed that more people hadn't prepared for the loss by loading up on free popcorns to litter the ice with.

This one was bad. Really bad. Listless and sad bad.

They didn't deserve two points tonight. That is for sure. Neither did Phoenix really though. This game was one of those that in the old days could have ended in a zero-zero tie and you'd have just said "Yep." and headed on home.

There was no push from practically anyone on the ice until the third period. I don't know what precisely it is about this team that turns the switch off if they don't set the other team on fire in the first period. There's no reason they can't be winning games in any and all periods, but this group seems to have only one way of getting it done and if that doesn't work out they pack it in for the night.

What exactly did they do to that confident team that left the building not that long ago to take on the world on the road? Did they all just jump off the damn pier in Vancouver or what? Have they been replaced with a bunch of drones who just sort of drift through games? To go this silent and listless, when you're finally in the position where you MIGHT make the playoffs is appalling. It's been appalling to watch on TV and I figured at least it would get better at home. If anything it got worse.

I'd like to also highlight what happened to us in the third period. I still don't know exactly what happened with Taylor Hall that inspired such wrath from Phoenix. I saw Michalek, who was perfectly fine after rolling around on the ice like he'd been shot. I saw when he, Yandle, Hanzal and others playing like little whining children afterwards that should have all been sent to the penalty box. I saw our team do...pretty much nothing in response. That was embarrassing. Completely and totally embarrassing. I'm not a guy who says this team isn't big enough and all that like others do, but there are times when you really have to question the players on the ice and especially what the coaches are telling them/who is being put on the ice. Having no response to PHX's chippy play is unforgivable. You send guys out there and you take a run at Ekman-Larsson. You dummy Doan. You go after their skill players. You don't leave the Taylor Halls and Nail Yakupovs of the world to do it on their own. Just stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

And I'm so tired of having to point out the refereeing, but I must again because it was that terrible. Things were bad enough when the two weak tripping calls came in succession, but what went on in the third, where players weren't being protected during a dangerous situation was really upsetting. This league wonders why it has problems...well letting Michalek chop away with his stick for 3 straight shifts with no penalties called is a pretty good example to look at.

Getting back to more game details - does anyone know why the Oilers defencemen insist on simply shooting the puck out of our zone and giving it away so often? They all did that an absolute ton tonight. Almost no solid passing to be found anywhere. When they weren't dumping the puck away, they were letting the PHX forwards skate right by them with the puck...sooo...yeah.

- He was terrible. Sure he had stretches of smooth sailing where he made some decent saves but those goals were unforgivable. He's played enough strong games this year that the team should be in a playoff spot so I don't hold that reality against him, but no excuses for tonight's effort. Unfocused and cost us.

- I did actually see Whitney skate into the corner well and beat an opposition forward in a battle for the puck tonight. That was good but the rest of the night for both of these guys was pretty horrible. Fistric was having a really hard time moving the puck and making any kind of decision. He got caught standing still several times. Whitney had some decent moments with the man advantage but otherwise spent the night passing to the wrong team and making coverage mistakes. He'd just stand around for no apparent reason.

- Certainly one of Petry's worst games of the year. He kept passing the puck tape-to-tape to the opposition. He wasn't even close to making plays. I can recall maybe one good skate in the offensive zone that ended in nothing. Smid didn't play well either. He got caught in the offensive zone after giving up an easy possession and creating a Phoenix 3-on-1 the other way that thankfully came to nothing. He was just okay in the defensive zone, which is well below his usual standard. No big mistakes that went in the net but several that could have.

N. Schultz-J. Schultz
- No fireworks from either of these guys and both got caught standing still or out of position several times during the game much like the rest of the D group. Not a lot of crisp passing either.

- I was somewhat looking forward to watching Smithson's first game at Rexall to see if maybe there was something I'd missed in past looks at him where he really seemed like nothing special at all. I was disappointed. Smithson seems so far to be Eric Belanger without the positioning or the goofy shooting technique, plus some hit attempts. I stress the word attempts because tonight he couldn't really direct his momentum in any meaningful way and ran into people but didn't really do anything. Petrell at least showed a little bit of fire, skated some and played a decent game. Brown was basically invisible save for a tip in front of the net. I don't know what it is about the Oilers' culture or coaches or what but he sure has toned things down since the first couple games.

- Watching this line was really strange. The thing that was most striking was how incredibly slow and out of it Yakupov made Horcoff and Smyth look. They were constantly behind the play. #64 had to freelance all over the ice for the unti to get anything done at all. When they did it was a credit to him and pretty much nothing else. Nail was fairly quiet early, but came on crazy in the third. Loved that he was trying to put the team on his shoulders and didn't take any crap from anyone. Not having him out there at the end of the game, after being the only guy on the ice all night who looked like he might actually win us the game, was a travesty. Horcoff wasn't too bad even if he did look like an ocean liner at times. I don't blame him for the penalty at the very end of the game. It made no sense based on what I saw live or on the replay. If anything Mike Smith should have gotten a penalty for losing his crap. Horcoff did get a great feed from Eberle that needed to be converted. He had all the time in the world and almost looked like he was so shocked he couldn't decide what to do with it. Horrible. Smyth at least took on Doan at the end a bit I guess. The rest of the game he looked useless, slow and uninterested. People give #94 the benefit of the doubt when it comes to effort. If that's all he's got, then he needs to hang em up. Badly.

- Nothing from these guys tonight. Hemsky's obviously hurt and while the spirit was willing, as evidenced by second and third efforts all night to make SOMETHING, ANYTHING happen out there, but the body is not cooperating. He didn't have a very good game and couldn't get passes through where he'd normally have been able to. Still a couple moments that could have swung things but not enough of them. I don't know what's up with Gagner. He's gone completely silent all of a sudden, losing pucks and not playing the compensatory physical game that usually accompanies his offensive lulls. He's just not creating anything and hasn't adjusted to getting open either. Magnus at least hit some holes with speed, hit a couple people and was okay tonight. He really didn't play well with the puck though. That whiffed slapper he took that wound up in the corner was just sad.

- I'd say early on Eberle was getting the chances and driving the bus a little. Hall took over this role at the end. The thing was, none of these guys were much good for any more than one shift in a row tonight. I don't know if it was effort with them but their execution was WAY off. Imprecise shooting, sloppy passing, carrying no speed out of our zone or into their zone...just nothing going tonight. Why they also took a bunch of lazy shots from the outside with no drive to the net and no chance of scoring was rather baffling. I'm not sure why these guys have suddenly lost the touch, but this looks eerily similar to earlier in the year when they just sort of short-circuited. They lost their roll at the absolute wrong time.

I'm not sure whether this team is tired or lazy at this point. It has to be one of them because that effort was pathetic. It is one thing to lose when a team shuts you down...that wasn't this game at all. They had nothing to give, didn't execute on anything and were outcoached badly once again. Way too many mistakes. This team has no excuse for being where there are in the standings right now...much less where they are likely to wind up.

I was never too optimistic that the Oilers would make the playoffs. Management has passed up to many chances to add depth to survive injuries and gives vets and rookies alike a kick in the pants when necessary. There are so many guaranteed jobs on this team right now. It really shouldn't be that way for a squad that has been easily the NHL's worst in the past few years.

And for the record...bouncing up 3 or 4 spots from the very bottom because some of your draft picks aren't 18 years old anymore is not progress.

Ugh...just sad and frustrating at this point.


2013 LMHF Report Game #17




Was I watching a different hockey game tonight? I'm really not understanding all these post game comments about Calgary "getting chances" and "taking it to us at points". They really make no sense to me. There was hardly any time tonight where this game wasn't under our control. We also didn't start all that well...even after Schultz had scored we were sitting back a little bit. After Hall's goal that changed. Calgary was terrible all night. They had nothing...especially in the defensive zone where they could not be bothered to stay in strong defensive position. This was glaringly obvious on the first two goals where the defenders essentially backed away from both Schultz and Hall. They did nothing to impede progress whatsoever.

Actual conversation right before the Oilers first goal:

LMHF#2 "You know who hasn't done anything lately?"
LMHF#1 "Justin Schultz?"
LMHF#2 "Yep."

He scored about 15 seconds later. You could kind of see what was going on in the play, but it was still really funny the way that worked out.

Another game where we get hosed by a lack of powerplays. We should have had them (not to the extent of the Vancouver game) and were not getting any calls. This has made a difference in the feel and indeed the score in the last couple of games. They're going to start again eventually as we're still doing what we need to in order that the penalties should be drawn.

Definitely a different feel in the building right now. You can tell people are getting excited again. The thing is that this excitement is fragile. Taking it for granted would be a major mistake, just as taking for granted the steps forward some of the Oilers players are taking by not getting them some reinforcements would be a major mistake.

Calgary fans are at least more respectful than Canucks fans in Edmonton. I love beating them, don't get me wrong, but man that was a horrible roster they had to watch tonight.


- The first period was probably his worst in a few games. He didn't allow any goals which is largely a credit to his defencemen. There were a ton of semi-juicy rebounds and no one got any of them in the open. They simply resulted in weak shots on net which he stopped. After the first though, he was very good. He settled in, controlled the puck and was ahead of the play rather than reacting to it. That's huge for a goalie and most evident on a save in the third period where he was across the net well in advance of a solid shooting chance. Great stuff. Not first star great (Schultz), but still exactly what we need.

- Very solid. Petry had one bad sequence in the second period where he got turned around and gave the puck away pretty badly (oddly right after nailing somebody) but other than that he was aggressive, well positioned and moved the puck. Can't really ask for much more from him. Smid was really good tonight. He was after all the Flames and especially Blake Comeau for some reason. He didn't take any crap and punished when he could. He was also solid with the puck and shut the play down effectively a number of times. Even blocked a tough one off his foot which the crowd gave him solid props for. Well done #5. Glad you'll be aboard for a few more years.

J. Schultz-N.Schultz
- Nick was probably as good as I've seen him play in a long time. He was a lot more decisive with the puck and didn't get caught out of position defensively. Calgary didn't really push the play so he didn't have to deal with intense pressure very much, but he did what he needed to. Justin was really good. He scored a really nice goal, making a good read to jump into the play, then took advantage of the time to make a nice little move and finish with authority. His assist on the Hall goal was a great little read which teed the play up perfectly. I didn't catch his second assist. What I did catch was a few defensive plays he made, especially in the second period, which were excellent. He was using his body to separate the man and play the puck just like Joni Pitkanen used to. I suspect this will become a larger part of his game as he matures and improves. Really strong and important game for him that will hopefully get his offensive game rolling.

- Whitney had some positive moments tonight mixed in with some instances where he got caught standing around pretty badly. He didn't really make the offensive effort to balance it out but also didn't cost the team so I'd call it just a mixed bag. Potter was pretty much the same way, though more physical in the corners than #6. Good enough, yes, but we need to improve on these two if we're going to get anywhere.

- Generally quiet night for these guys. They had a couple productive offensive shifts in the third but were otherwise not particularly interesting. Less physical play than in previous games. Smyth was probably better than he has been lately. More skating to pucks and less reaching out his stick...though he did make some absurdly lazy efforts in the second period. Petrell got a slapper away but otherwise didn't stir up anything interesting. Brown made a nice pass at centre ice that I remember, but otherwise I spent the evening laughing at some of the plays that he made in the corners. Really, really weak puck retrieval.

- Very glad to see #64 get a goal. It wasn't the greatest shot in the world but it was strong enough to get through and that is all that matters. He was going to the right places more often than usual tonight and was rewarded with some nice shooting chances. He nearly beat MacDonald clean on a good, hard shot in the second period. Picking up an assist on Jones' goal was largely just a bonus I imagine. He is still having some trouble reading the play to use his acceleration and beat people. Too often he waits too long. Sometimes this is just out of caution and trying to be defensively responsible (on one of the shift specifically he dropped back low, stole the puck, then skated it out of trouble very nicely), but other times it is because he is too late to make up his mind to be aggressive. The coaches will hopefully catch this on tape and make a suggestion that he fly the zone every now and again...but I don't exactly think Buchberger will catch that. Horcoff was pretty solid tonight. He was in good position, moved the puck okay and had a couple chances. That full windup slapper he took was pretty weird to say the least. He actually got some power behind that. Those of you who've read for some time know that I am far from Ryan Jones' biggest fan. I will give credit to him for a 2-point night, and especially the quick little pass he made to Yakupov to set him up. The thing is, he was still leaving the zone too early and playing the wrong spot in the offensive zone tonight. He also botched a ton of clean chances to move up ice when the D or one of his linemates got him the puck at center. He had serious problems controlling the puck. Replacing him with a higher quality option could make this line go in a big way.

- Another quiet statistical night for this line but for the most part they were quite strong. They were only credited with 4 shots but that seems really low. Positionally, they were solid in all three zones, not losing the puck in any dangerous spots. They moved the puck around effectively, drove in effectively but just couldn't pull the trigger on the chances they were getting. Magnus was skating well, but does need to keep his head up as the Flames started targeting him to some degree. Gagner was a little out of his usual lanes and that meant that he didn't get the free space to shoot that he usually does. He was very strong on the boards, both in the offensive and defensive zones, clearly making an effort to get there and make plays. Hemsky was pretty decent, getting shots away and moving the puck forward. I don't know what is wrong with him but if it is true he has a nagging injury I'm glad the coaches took the opportunity to get him some rest at the end of tonight's game. He's been hit fairly hard in a couple recent games and I'm hoping it is nothing major. We need #83 and the leadership role he plays on this line going down the stretch.

- A bit of an off game for these guys, but certainly good enough which is what matters. I figured Hall would simply one-time the puck or make a quick release play on his goal-producing chance in the first. It was almost awkward to take that backhander but he took a great one so it didn't matter at all. Hall also missed on a great little wrist shot chance in the first, and had Eberle inexplicably rush a pass and miss him later that period. He was free and clear. #4 has definitely been reading these chances to go on the fast break much better as of late. His play calmed down after the first and it looked like he as well as his linemates were rushing passes a little bit for the rest of the game, but you also got the impression that energy was being held back a little bit. I'm fine with that to be honest when the game is going like this one did. Eberle was pretty solid aside from that pass. He got to the slot and had some really good chances to score but just couldn't make it happen. No worries now that he's playing better again. Hopkins was a bit of a mystery. Somewhat like Yakupov, he wasn't beating anyone clean and had more problems getting his shot on net tonight. I hope he's working on that. Defensively though, he was excellent.

No complaints from me. If we want to spend the rest of the year getting out of the gate like the last two games we'll be fine. Either we'll score a small bunch and then make the other team take the game from us or we'll just keep the pressure up until we collapse them.

One thing to remember is that good teams do indeed ration energy. They take easy wins and often back off a little bit. We've basically played two hard periods in the last two games. That could really pay off in the coming games. The only counter to that is not picking up bad habits. I didn't really see any on display tonight.