Friday, October 16, 2015

Oilers taking steps forward on the ice, not scoreboard

Losing sucks.  You spend all summer hitting the weights, puking your guts up running stairs,
taking baths in ice swimming in water and you still lose.  That is the story of the Edmonton
Oilers and familiar story oil fans have seen year after year.  The good news is the way the
Oilers are losing is a lot better than they have lost in the past as there is more compete,
more structure and a willingness to engage the other team, all that have been missing for
the past ten years.  The only reason this has not resulted in more wins is because the Oilers
played some pretty darn good teams in their first four games.  St. Louis is a bully of a team.
They don't back down from any battles, play solid position hockey and will impose itself on
the other team because it can.  Nashville has a goalie you just don't score against and some
pretty big, mean dmen who many of the Oilers would just bounce off of if they hit.  Dallas has
forwards which make the oil dmen look like pylons.

It isn't realistic to expect a young team learning another new system, still thinking the game is going to be able to beat those types of teams on a consistent basis.  Oiler fans like myself have to take solace in the fact players like a Yakupov and Shultz are playing much better defensively. If you look at positional play you will notice that the Oiler players are learning to cluster together in order to provide solid puck support.  They seem to be cutting the ice in half which reduces the open shots in the middle of the ice which has plagued the team.  There is some progress being made..

What concerns me is none of the Oiler top draft picks have become the offensive dynamos we all believed being a number one draft pick meant.  Yakupov has a great shot but he seems to hit the goalie or miss the net too often leading to a breakout on the other end.  I don't know if it is confidence with him, thinking too much or he simply does not have an accurate enough shot.  Yak doesn't seem to find open space enough to give a guy like McDavid an open passing lane.  Hall works hard, skates fast and has some good plays but sometimes he can get bullied out of a game.  Nobody fears hitting Hall because he lacks the Mark Messier lose your marbles, beat you to a pulp gene.  Against Dallas everytime he touched the puck Hall was getting hit.  If were coaching against Hall I would have
my team get physical with him every time he touches the puck.  RNH has turned into a decent two way center, exactly what you want from a first overall pick.  You know he will make a good solid play but without Eberle his offensive game is very limited.

as for McDavid.. he doesn't count because he is in his first year.  Frankly you don't really have to worry too much about the kid as he does many of the things that it takes years for most people to figure out.  He back checks relentlessly, not afraid to mix it up and does play with a small edge.  McDavid might not wear a C but there is someone you can see other players wanting to follow, just in how he plays the 200 foot game.  In many ways McDavid is light years ahead of the other first round picks in the way he does things on the defensive end.

I think it is fair to say we won't be the flames or avalanche this year and in order not to lose one's marbles as a fan I think we all have to lower our expectations for this team.  Small improvements which in theory should lead to big improvement in years to come... in theory for teams not named the Oilers.

Graham Iceman

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