So, we're going to go in a bit of a different direction tonight. The approach I'm about to take doesn't absolve the players at all but there are some things that need to be said and I'm going to say them. Seriously considered not posting anything tonight. That was bloody embarassing and even more so with the crowd composition at a Leafs game. We couldn't even boo the team off the ice because of all the season ticket holders who are either part time fans or gave their tickets away.
Dallas Eakins is making too many mistakes and being outcoached night-in, night-out. Period.
Listening to him defend the team after the game, claiming that they only battle they lost was the execution battle...it was either a lie, delusion, or the man is incompetent. His team had one strong period, and even then they were disorganized. This guy is caught up in the "shoot and shoot from anywhere" game plan. It doesn't work. 30 of the shots tonight should be classified as turnovers. This team had so few quality chances it was amazing. He claimed they didn't get dominated...having that many odd man rushes generated against you, and having your goaltender have to make that many toe saves means you were dominated. I didn't mind Bachman tonight aside from the Kessel 2nd period goal as he got caught napping. He probably made 10 absolutely excellent saves, moved the puck to his team and played another calm game in the net.
Putting Gagner straight onto the top line was a mistake. He was going to be rusty and miss some chances at the very least. Even if you're going to take that chance, you surely don't give him the other team's best line as a defensive assignment right off the hop. They were set up to be destroyed and they were.
Eakins also has a foolish connection to the Yakupov-Eberle duo. He defended them after the game...one in which they'd just hung up their second -4 in a short time. Anyone watching (except the Coach apparently) can see that they do not feed off each others' games at all. Both did a few nice things individually, but they are never in the right place to keep puck control. They don't cover for pinching defencemen well at all and get exposed. They don't generate shots from the slot. Terrible and it is Eakins' job to notice.
Am I the only one that took the lesson from Kessel's adventure with John Scott earlier this year? If Eakins wanted to get Kessel off his game right from the get go, he should have sent Gazdic to shadow him the first shift and let him know how things are going to be. Instead, his ideal use of his "enforcer" is to go for a leisurely stroll on one shift with Colton Orr after Gazdic had already stopped finishing checks.
I'm not as hung up on icetime as the media seems to be at this point, but if players aren't producing or are getting owned, you don't just keep sending them to the wolves.
I give him credit for benching Petry after that incredibly stupid giveaway. That was just a horrible play. I do wonder though - would he have benched him if he hadn't had 7 D?
And that play leads me to another point - I am starting to wonder about Eakins' breakout. Way too many passes are going up the middle. This happened specifically with Jones in MTL (after which he was promoted to the first line...) and Petry tonight. I also noticed that the D are specfically looking up the middle to the point where it almost appears that Eakins has preached this as a first option. I could see this MAYBE catching AHL teams off guard, but it is a recipe for giving the other team easy goals in the NHL. The two options seem to be either to pass up the middle (often to no one) or bounce it out off the glass (after which the other team counterattacks) - I'm sure any of you who have every played the game see the problem with this.
As an offensively gifted team, you probably noticed that the Leafs don't really dump the puck that much, and drive up the middle whenever they can. The Oilers keep talking about getting the puck deep and chasing...it doesn't work with this roster (or many rosters in the current NHL). This is a rush team. They need to hold the puck and create multiple attacking levels which break down the opposition D to create passing lanes. We're seeing none of that right now. It is abundantly clear that this is not part of the gameplan. The gameplan is to either dump it or fire shots from so far out wide that they just create rush opportunities in the other direction. Again, this is something anyone who has played the game for any length of time knows you just don't do. Giving them freebies is terrible.
Eakins doesn't get it. He doesn't understand his roster or the NHL. What Dave Poulin said on the radio before the game is interesting to me...he said that Eakins is very very stubborn. This can be a great thing - unless what you're being stubborn about is wrong - which it appears to be.
This game exposed our game planning, roster decisions and lack of ability to adapt. Sure we need execution as well...but you get what you set - and we're set up incorrectly from the get-go. That's why the Oilers have not controlled a hockey game all year.