The Edmonton Oilers once had a coach who was an outstanding tactician and excellent strategic planner. He was dedicated to teaching the art of own-zone play, from his end out, matched lines, tried to create matchup edges, used FOGO when he needed to, and generally obsessed about squeezing every advantage out of every game. Throughout the first four years of his tenure, he was limited by ownership's tight wallet and unwillingness to pursue enough good players to fill out a roster. He spent his last three years in Edmonton watching as his General Manager demolished the roster, trading and giving away most of the real NHL players, leaving a roster of re-treads and kids that was so lacking it drove the coach to the brink. The coach had something resembling a real NHL roster for three months of his nine years, and during those three months, he went to a Stanley Cup Final. But fans never appreciated him, calling for his head from his second season through the end, screaming for a coach that would just let the young players play and take over the team. The fans hated the way he stifled creativity to coach a defensive style of hockey.
This is our penance. Edmonton Oilers' fans are being punished for the way they treated that coach. They've been handed exactly what they screamed for all of those years: coaches who don't care about matchups, who don't mind the entire team ignoring defense, who have no problem getting goons on the ice against first lines with the last matchup and who never stifle creativity in favor of responsibility.
Today's penance is 48 Ralph Kruegers.
Justin Schultz was excellent with the puck and below par without. The with the puck performance was enough to outweigh his away-from-the-puck play and it's probably going to be like that for the rest of the season. Schultz is willing to carry the puck into places that the rest of the Oilers' defense can't even imagine, and he creates tremendous coverage problems for the opposing defense. His ability to pinch low into the faceoff circle is going to get him in trouble against good, counter-attacking teams, but when he pulls it off, the defense is caught with their pants down. Schultz has also changed the power play - rather than waiting around for a shot, he's firing at the net. With all of that talent on the ice - putting shots on net is going to make the Oilers power play a force.
After lauding Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for being so good in the faceoff circle against the Canucks, they combined to go 9-30 against the Flames. It's early, but Gagner is down to 40% on the dot, a pretty significant dropoff from his 47%+ last season. Hopkins has won 44% - the two of them are going to have to be better, especially if they're going to continue to center "the big lines". Gagner had a very good game outside of the faceoff circle, but he's a center - the faceoff circle matters.
Speaking of Hopkins - his line had no interest in backchecking or playing deep into their own end on defense. Perhaps it's time that line stopped believing their own headlines and remembered that hockey starts at your own end line and goes the other way. If they're going to play an all-offense style, Krueger's devil may care attitude about matchups is going to continue to bleed goals all year long.
Ugh. I'm usually not a bag-skate guy, but until these kids learn how to backcheck, they should be doing non-stop suicides.— Andy Grabia (@agrabia) January 27, 2013
At this point it's flagellating a dead horse, but Ryan Whitney's lack of mobility was on full display in the second period when he tripped Jiri Hudler. He couldn't keep up behind the net, and when Hudler turned to go the other way, Whitney tripped him because he couldn't turn to pursue. To see the extent of the problem, watch how Whitney has to turn - he can't actually turn his feet, he has to hop into the air to redirect himself.
So Ryan Whitney's "new 100%" is cam barker— OilerLand (@OilerLand) January 27, 2013
Ralph Krueger has been an early-season mess, and yeah it's only a couple of games, and yeah, he's a new coach, but he's missing a whole bunch of the basics, just like Pat Quinn and just like Tom Renney. His biggest faux pas was dressing Darcy Hordichuk, his second-biggest mistake was putting Darcy Hordichuk on the ice. Hordichuk promptly took a penalty and the Flames scored. It was relatively easy to predict and that goal against is directly on Krueger's head. Krueger's second mistake was allowing the Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle line on the ice against the Jerome Iginla line, ever. Iginla's line pasted the young line, and did so repeatedly.
Thanks for coming out, Darcy Hordichuk. Every minute you're on the ice is a minute the Oilers are losing the battle. Your contract can't end soon enough.
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★ - Justin Schultz
★ - Jiri Hudler