Well it seems these days like the only team that the Oilers can beat are the Chicago Blackhawks. Here we are with 16 games behind us, and the Blackhawks account for half of our tremendous 4 wins – 1 dominant win in the opener against the Flames, another in the second game of the season, against Florida that the Oil likely didn’t deserve and 2 good (if not great) performances against the Blackhawks. If you’re doing the math, that means the Oilers haven’t beaten anyone, aside from the Hawks, since the first two games.
How is Renney handling this? Well his mantra is “keep it simple, stupid”. While it doesn’t seem to be working yet, I do like what I hear from Renney so far. Sometimes guys just don’t get it, but you have to keep bringing them back to those basics (albeit cliché). MacTavish’s biggest knock was that he was too complex of a coach for his players… too many instructions… too many criticisms. Hockey might not be rocket science, but the average player isn’t anywhere near a rocket scientist either, so keeping things simple with a small set of goals isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
“What you have to do is help the players simplify the game by identifying two or three things they need to do well in order to have success,” Renney said. “It’s a lot easier coming back to the bench knowing, ‘I got pucks deep,’ than, ‘I got pucks deep, got in on the forecheck, came back hard, did my job in the defensive zone, started a breakout and hit the post.’
“You can appreciate that’s demoralizing. Obviously, it’ll freeze people and paralyze the thought process beyond that. It’s really important that, as a team, we keep things simple. Instead of looking at a list of 14 or 15 things they have to be exceptional at, lessen that to three or four.”
Tonight, hopefully (there I go again), the Oilers will continue their recent successes against the Chicago Blackhawks. They could use a bit of an ego boost after a loss against the Rangers that not only saw 8 goals against, but Ladislav Smid getting victimized by that swine Sean Avery.
The Oilers will likely see J.F. Jacques finally making his return to the Oilers lineup after struggling with back issues. He had surgery in the off-season and did play in the pre-season, but he hasn’t played a regular season game since February 10th. With the average player on this team being a small runt or a puff tart, injecting some fresh toughness into the lineup might do some good. One thing Jacques does well is hit, and that’s something that has been lacking. He can back it up with the fists as well, and isn’t afraid to stand up for a teammate.
Also likely in the lineup tonight is Sean Belle (replacing the concussed Ladislav Smid). He adds some much needed toughness and all around ability on the blue line. Everyone save for perhaps Theo Peckham and maybe Ryan Whitney have shown their struggles this year on the back end. Kurtis Foster has proved to be a bit scary to watch in his own zone and plays like he’s 5’10, 180lbs, not 6’5″, 226lbs. His offensive ability doesn’t seem to make up for the lack of defense and physicality. The same can also be said about Tom Gilbert, who’s struggled this year even finding that offensive game. These guys can still get it together, but since it’s not likely they’re going to grow a pair anytime soon they will need to be paired with someone who can handle those elements they’re missing if they’re going to last on this team. Jim Vandermeer was acquired for his toughness, but so far has only showed flashes here and there of being a physical presence (he hasn’t even fought once this season.. just once pre-season fight which I would score a narrow loss). Needless to say, Sean Belle comes at a good time. While he has had struggles with finding his offensive game at the NHL level, the other things he brings (physical presence and defensive play) seems to be in his nature. He’s also been a huge factor in Oklahoma City, and that confidence may spill over in his return to the NHL.
Is this not the longest GDT pre-game rant I’ve written? Lots to talk about (unfortunately mostly negative).
Prediction: another win for the Oil vs. the Hawks…
Eberle Horcoff Hemsky
Paajarvi Cogliano Brule
Hall Gagner Penner
Jacques Fraser Jones
Stalberg Toews Kane
Sharp Bolland Hossa
Kopecky Pisani Brouwer
Bickell Dowell Skille
LIVE GAME CHAT
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