Category Archives: Hockey

eakins

What is Wrong With the Edmonton Oilers?

The Edmonton Oilers lost last night to the Los Angeles Kings, and now sit at winless on the season. They didn’t just lose though, they were embarrassed by the defending Cup champions. There is no shame in losing to a team that good, but it is the manner in which the Oilers went about getting their teeth kicked in that makes it a point for conversation.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

1. We’ll start things off with the defence in Edmonton.

Prior to last night’s contest, it was unveiled that head coach Dallas Eakins healthy scratched Jeff Petry. This was met with a resounding “What in the world?!” by anyone that knows anything because Petry is the Oilers’ best defenceman. It isn’t even close.

This comes after the Oilers demoted their other best defenceman to the AHL for reasons, I guess.

That left the Oilers, a team that needs everything to go right to win, starting the game against the best team in the NHL last year, with this:

Nurse – Schultz
Nikitin – Fayne
Hunt – Ference

When it could have been this:

Marincin – Petry
Nikitin – Fayne
Ference – Schultz

For absolutely no discernible reason, the Oilers handicapped themselves. Imagine if Vancouver went into Los Angeles and decided to scratch Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa for no reason. This is almost the same thing, and its the kind of decision that would get a coach fired for actively surrendering a win.

Eakins’ hasn’t been gifted with an all-star defence, but he hasn’t done himself any favours with it either.

It was blatant against Vancouver that Brad Hunt is not capable of playing 5 v 5 in the NHL.

  • His foot speed doesn’t allow for him to prevent zone entries because he has to use a Red Deer sized gap or else he gives up a breakaway.
  • He’s not strong enough or quick enough to win battles in the corners, behind the net or really anywhere along the boards which pins the Oilers in their zone.
  • And unless it is a perfect breakout with no forecheck, he’s unable to make a pass that allows the Oilers to transition in control of the puck.

Scratching Petry in favour of Hunt is not smart. A good team does not scratch a quality 5 v 5 player for a specialist role. Most of the game is played at 5 v 5. Only a few minutes are played on special teams, and Hunt is only useful on the 2nd unit powerplay.

2. The Oilers’ either aren’t taught a system, or the players ignore it

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_4nw9hnC9Q&w=420&h=315]

That is a great breakdown of how the Oilers just aren’t equipped and/or prepared to deal with good breakouts. I brought up last night with a friend how easily the Oilers get carved by a strong side break out.

To add to the video:

  • It starts with a pinch by Hunt, which isn’t a bad play here in essence. He looks to have the some support to avoid a massive blunder.
  • But it turns out bad because instead of playing the body or being aggressive, Hunt only 75% commits to the pinch and waves his stuck a whole bunch. That might work in the AHL where the winger is going to just hammer it up the boards blindly 95% of the time, but you’re not in the AHL anymore.
  • Then Joensuu (#6) decides to write a check his feet could never cash in by trying to hold the blueline while the Kings are in a full breakout. This compounds the failed pressure by Hunt on Richards. Yakimov also doesn’t do anything besides waste his breath.
  • This is where Hunt’s mistake is compiled again, as you don’t make that pinch when you have players like Joensuu and Yakimov as your support against the Kings first line.
  • Everything compounds even worse once the Kings gain the Oilers zone because Ference (#21) is the lone player vaguely in a defensive position, but since things were so hammy in the neutral zone, he has to back off and leave a huge gap that he has no chance of defending. If he doesn’t leave this gap, Kopitar has a partial breakaway.

This is something that comes down to a mix of bad players and bad coaching. A bunch of mistakes were made here by players just not prepared or poised enough for the situation.

Coaching comes in where the Kings didn’t catch the Oilers off guard with this line match up, and Eakins didn’t immediately get Nikitin and Fayne, or anyone else to be honest, for this play. He could have easily changed his players here, but didn’t.

This is where the mix of coaching and players come into play though. If the weak side forward (Yakimov) pressures hard back to Williams then nothing bad really happens. You probably give up the zone, but Ference can play up and Kopitar who justs takes it low and wide and it becomes a regular entry.

All it took was two mistakes, pinch by Hunt and whatever Joensuu tried, and its a Los Angeles goal.

It is pretty brutal all round, and you could excuse Eakins for bad players if this was just a one-off, but it isn’t. You can say “he didn’t coach that awful coverage” but you’re left to wonder “Well, what is he coaching since it happens every game?”

3. So why is Dallas Eakins the coach?

I’m not sure I have the answer to this. Bad players can still know what to do. They just don’t do it well.

I was asked if the Oilers system is “no system” and I felt like I had to agree. There were two break outs that happened back to back that demonstrated this quite well, unfortunately I don’t have YouTube powers.

When you watch the Kings break out, it is: strong side winger low, center support, weak side winger provides mid ice option and weak side D backs up the middle of the ice in case the play breaks. Almost every single time.

The Oilers do it differently: they tend to send the strong side D towards the strong side wingers spot (decides to pass to winger or center), center is pressing the blueline, weak side winger never crosses into the middle for support and weak side D is picking his nose.

The Oilers seem to have no idea what they’re doing to try to exit their zone, or go through the neutral zone, or what to do any time someone not named Taylor Hall has the puck in general.

So again, why is Eakins coach? Well, he coached the Toronto Marlies and got the hype train that comes with it. The Marlies weren’t a team that succeeded because of the young Leaf picks, even though that was the popular opinion. Eakins’ Marlies teams rode strong defensive forward career AHLers in prominent positions.

But he does not have strong defensive NHL forwards to make his system work, and thus you get all sorts of this.



4. So is it the forwards fault?

It is tough to say. A coach has to shape the players into better players, but he can only work with the players he’s given.

Craig MacTavish made a huge mistake by going into the season with a center ice of 1. Nugent-Hopkins 2. Arcobello 3. Draisaitl 4. Gordon. Centers serve as the core of any defensive system and having 2 rookies anchoring the middle six is living on a prayer.

This problem only gets worse when Nugent-Hopkins gets injured. Now, most teams are pooched without their top center, but no team is more pooched than Edmonton due to the sheer lack of anything else in the position.

So the next thing to look at is the wingers. Can they insulate the centermen? And the answer is a resounding “No.”

Pouliot and Purcell are veteran players and responsible enough defensively. Perron and Hall are both better than they get credit for, but no one is confusing them for Jiri Lehtinen any time soon.

That leaves Yakupov and Eberle.

I feel that people unfairly pick on Yakupov for not caring about defence, where I feel the issue is that he is honestly and wholeheartedly plain confused. You can see that he wants to be in the right defensive position, but he doesn’t know where that is. That is the coach’s job.

Eberle has managed to get away with being quite possibly the least defensively responsible forward on the Oilers for quite some time now and I’m not sure why.

By the point in his career, there is no way that Eberle doesn’t know his defensive positioning. And I think he does, but he prefers to cheat for the occasion that it pays off, but you can’t do that in the NHL.

Now this is anecdotal, as I tried some number digging and it was inconclusive, but the number of times you’ll see Eberle do a lazy loop or cheat to the inside and only give his defenceman a risky outlet is way more than any other forward on the Oilers.

5. So…?
Embedded image permalink

To pull off a center ice, or lack thereof, like the Oilers’ have, you’d need a St. Louis Blues group of top nine wingers. Anything short of that compounds the issues at center. Which compound the issues of the systems play. Which compounds the issues of the defence. Which compounds the decision making of coaching. Which compounds the issues of management.

I guess it is a good thing you can still say that the Oilers are “rebuilding” because if this anywhere resembles the finished product then I’d nuke it from orbit.

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Week 1 NHL Panic Rankings

Its too early for power rankings. If you’re doing power rankings after 2 games you’re getting ahead of yourself. How do you really know who is the best and who is the worst? Or the most “powerful”? The first place team in the NHL is the Montreal Canadiens with 6 whole points. Lets give it some time and do the panic rankings instead!

You won’t make the playoffs in October, but you can miss them.

by: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Welcome to the Panic rankings. I’m going to do my best to make this into a weekly feature where I focus on 10 teams/players/happenings in the NHL and rank them on the panic scale.

Warning: Humour and Hot Takes follow.

10. New York Rangers

First Derek Stepan breaks a fibula. Now Dan Boyle breaks his hand. A team that won because of their depth last year has had that very aspect depleted. They got rocked by the Leafs 6-3. Lucky for them they are in the worst division in hockey and can keep themselves above water on that fact alone.

9. Edmonton Oilers
oilsweater

They’re bad again. Lost the first game of the season. Sweater thrown on the ice. Lose to Vancouver. The defense is C+ and they for whatever reason put their best left handed defenceman in the AHL for one bad pre-season game. That Nikitin contract, oof. Good luck against an actual big boy team.

8. People who watched Chicago-Dallas on Thursday night
(Click here for highlights)

That game might have been the fastest regular season game ever. I lost weight just watching it. That game was being played on such a different level than any others that night it made the rest of the NHL games look like AHL contests.

7. In-arena reporters
fans

You gotta be careful now. The fans are coming for you! You’re under attack! The Russians have come and they’re attacking in Columbus! And in Philadelphia they’re getting touchy. Just trying to convince you to let your guard down. Might be time to invest in some bear mace.

Read the full Panic Rankings at Talking Baws

recap

NHL 2014 Preview: Complete NHL Recap

The NHL season has kicked off! FINALLY! But wait, are you ready? Have you read extensive previews? What about perfect predictions? What about mind blowing observations that will make you the smartest guy at the water cooler or the call-in show?

Behold! The 2014 total NHL Preview! Everything is perfect. Don’t believe? Then go read every article and see for yourself!

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Enjoy all my hard work!

NHL 2014 Preview: Metropolitan Division Off-season Report Card
metrodivision
Who’s going to make the playoffs? Who improved? Will the Penguins be actually good? Can the Isles or Devils return to the playoffs? Can the Rangers repeat their surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals? Will Columbus or Philadelphia hold onto their playoff spots? Will the ‘Canes become relevant?

NHL 2014 Preview: Atlantic Division Off-season Report Card
Atlantic
Can the Leafs or Senators return to the playoffs? Are the Bruins still top dog or will the Lightning take over? Can the Red Wings continue their playoff streak? Will Buffalo or Florida outsuck the rest of the NHL again? Can the Canadiens build off their deep playoff run?

NHL 2014 Preview: Central Division Off-season Report Card
central
Have the Blues done enough to overcome the Blackhawks? Are the Stars for real this season? Can the Wild hold it together? Were the Avalanche smoke and mirrors? Will the new-look Predators take a playoff spot? Just how bad are the Jets going to be?

NHL 2014 Preview: Pacific Division Off-season Report Card
pacific
Can the Kings do it again? Will the Ducks be able to overcome a roster overhaul? Was last season an aberration or the real Canucks? Which Albertan team will be better? Will the Sharks identity crisis make them better or worse?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to be Traded
traded
Who’s days are numbered where they are? Trade requests? Expendable? Are they worth trading for or are they overrated products of their systems?

You also get to read me totally whiff on Bobby Ryan.

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players Ready for Breakout Seasons
breakoutplayers
What players are set to break out? Who will have a star making season? Who is coming up on make or break territory? What is missing from a few players chances to become that star?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to Take a Step Back
top5stepback
What breakout players aren’t likely to repeat their terrific seasons? How hard will they fall back to earth? Why was last season all smoke and mirrors?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 “Change of Scenery” Players
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Which players are going to benefit the most in a new city? Which new signings are going to prove their worth and rebound? Which trades are going pay off? What players are going to make their managers look savvy?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Bounce Back Players
bounceback
Take a quick look at players coming off bad years that should be primed to comeback and have good years. While the title says 5, I actually include 8! That’s 8 for the price of 5. How can you not read it now?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 6 Stupid Myths in Hockey
nhlmyth
The NHL is full of myths. What are these dumb myths? This highly intelligent article will educate you and expand your brain thinking abilities in the realm of hockey so you won’t fall for shenanigans and silliness anymore!

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 7 New Signings Under Pressure
bust contracts
Which players are under the most pressure? Who holds the most potential to bust and be an expensive waste of space? What hope do these players have? What was the general manager thinking?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 10 Absolute Worst Contracts
worst contracts
Which players hold the 10 worst contracts in the league? A better question… what teams were dumb and gave out the 10 worst contracts in the NHL? Just how bad are they? Is there any hope for these teams/players/fans at all?

NHL 2014 Preview: Made Up Summer Awards
summer
What teams are the winners of my completely fictional awards? Who is improved? Who is bad? Which teams are on hallucinogenic narcotics? Who looks the nicest?

NHL 2014 Preview: Preseason Awards Predictions
nhl_trophies20135301
Who is gonna get which piece of hardware? Who will score the most? Be the best defenceman? Stop pucks the best? Use the best coaching voodoo? Which team will be the absolute best and give fans eternal bragging rights?

I loved writing these! I hope you enjoy them too!

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NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Change of Scenery Players

This off-season roughly 90 full time NHL players have switched teams. That is a lot of players to change scenery. So why not profile which ones will benefit the most? That sounds like fun. Who is going to make the biggest leaps forward or regain their form in their new city?

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Honourable Mention: Olli JokinenDerek RoyMike Ribeiro - Nashville Predators, Centers
royribsolli
I was considering giving a couple of these guys their own spots, but decided to lump them together since they are all on the same club and will be stealing minutes from each other. Makes it tricky to predict who will boom.

It’s safe to assume that at least one of them will be the new first line center and will play with James Neal. Likely one of Roy or Ribiero, and they stand to get a lot of minutes and opportunity to produce. The other two centers will likely anchor the second and third lines in some capacity, with some time on special teams.

New Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been known for more of an open system, and anything in comparison to Barry Trotz’s system will be more open, so you can expect to see some more offence coming out of Nashville. Ribiero and Roy should have extra motivation as well considering they are on one year contracts.

5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks

Things that the Canucks have desperately needed: right handed right winger with shooting ability.
Things that Vrbata, 17, brings to the table: being a right handed right winger with shooting ability.

The gameplan in Vancouver is to play him alongside the Sedin twins which should bode well for him. He’ll also get every opportunity to help improve Vancouver’s dreadful powerplay that was missing right handed options last season.

If he was able to score 20+ goals in Phoenix, he should be able to flirt with 30 this season. He just needs to learn to keep his stick ready and in preseason he has been doing just that.

He’d be higher on this list if he wasn’t coming off an okay offensive year.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

breakoutplayers

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Breakout Players

The NHL Preview series continues with the players most likely to have break out campaigns. The kind of seasons that launch them from a regular player to a star player. Go from “a guy” to “the guy”.

So I set a little criteria for this. First, the player has to have not scored 20 goals or cracked 40 points in a season. Second, they had to be 25 or under.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Time to rock’n’roll.

Honourable Mention: Nail YakupovEmerson EtemRyan Strome
hmbreakout
Yakupov: Had the Oiler’s felt so inclined to drop a few spare pennies on someone like Derek Roy then you could pencil Yakupov in for a solid season. Right now, the second line centre looks to be Mark Arcobello or Leon Draisaitl. Mixed with a coach who seems to have no idea how to properly deploy the talented forward and you don’t have a recipe for success.

Etem: He hasn’t quite been able to break through and prove he’s got the scorers touch he showed in junior and the minors. Anaheim lost almost the entire middle of their forward roster this off season so a spot on Ryan Kesler’s wing would provide him with a great opportunity in the top six, but Kesler’s not known for sharing the puck. Things just don’t quite appear to be falling into place yet this year.

Strome: The talent and the ability is there but unfortunately for him, the Islanders added some quality players to their forwards with Mikhail Grabovksi and Nikolai Kulemin. All of a sudden playing time in the top nine has become a bit more sparse. Its not impossible to see Strome start the season in the AHL again and that keeps him from making the list.

5. Zack Kassian
kassian
He proved last year to be a positive possession player, even without any real playing time with good players. He posted a points per 60 minutes and an individual points percentage that had him as one of the top players on the Canucks, and well ahead of former centre and “star” player Ryan Kesler.

On paper, the Canucks look to have only one other right handed shot in their top six, and with the proven futility of Jannik Hansen anywhere but the third line, you can pencil Kassian into the second line and second powerplay unit on opening night.

All that with a coach more committed to an open style should be indicative of success. If new Canucks’ head coach Willie Desjardins is willing to let Kassian go wild, even if it means some giveaways and bad penalties, then the stage is set for Kassian to prove why the Canucks traded for him.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

traded

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players Likely to be Traded

Everyone loves trades in the NHL. They’re so exciting. Everyone gets to judge who won and who lost? “Oh that team is so stupid!” “Wow that team is so smart!” “Why couldn’t my team do that trade?” If you cheer for a team involved you get strangely defensive of the move regardless of how good or bad it was. So why not profile the top five players that could be traded this season?

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Just going to stick to some of the bigger names out there.

5. Dustin Byfuglien, Defence, Winnipeg Jets Byfuglien This is a weird situation. He hasn’t asked out and he’s been the perfect soldier publicly, but there have always been rumblings. His relationship with new coach Paul Maurice is also a little wonky.

He wants to play defence. Maurice continues to play him at forward, but only on the third line. The team seems to have no idea what to do with him, despite the fact he’s probably their greatest weapon. With another losing season on the horizon, you have to wonder if things come to an amicable end.

He’d have no shortage of suitors on the trade market and Winnipeg could get a solid return.

Suitors: New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings

4. Johnny Boychuk, Defence, Boston Bruins Boychuk is a good player on a contending team on a very reasonable contract. Why would he be traded?

The Bruins are in a cap crunch and are desperate for some scoring in their top-six and general forward depth that is good and not bad. Things are so thin up front their most recent draft pick, 25th overall, has been talked about as making the team.

With the emergence of the depth defenceman on the Bruins beginning to break through and Boychuk’s upcoming UFA status, he makes for the kind of trade chip a team would use to push for a championship in a mid-season trade.

Suitors: Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche

Read the full article at Talking Baws

IHOCKEY-WC-HUN-KOR

Automatic berth for South Korea olympic hockey teams, in 2018

Mens and womens teams will compete against the likes of Russia and Canada at home at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. Last time the IIHF granted the host nation an automatic berth was in 2006, in Turin. The home team went 0 and 3 together with two respectable ties vs Switzerland and Germany. The game against Team Canada ended in a 2:7 loss. Not too shabby for a team that now isn’t good enough to qualify for world championships these days.

Since Turin, the host nation had to qualify. Canada and Russia easily did that in 2010 and 2014. So why did the IIHF do an about face? Like with most things it probably came down to money. If the host nation invests in the sport and fosters interest in hockey during the four years leading up to the Olympics and possibly beyond, it is a win for the IIHF. South Korea isn’t a traditional hockey market by any means, and this may be a chance to change that.

What would the games vs Canada, USA and Russia look like for South Korea mens and womens teams? Blowouts and embarrassment to the host nation in this event will do little to further the aims of the IIHF. You can’t pay for respect, you must earn it. It took Switzerland twenty, plus, years to become a fixture of international hockey. The world isn’t going to end if South Korea is not in the Olympics for hockey.

britfight

VIDEO: British Announcer Delightfully Delivers Play-by-Play of Line Brawl

A good announcer is a gift to sports. The power to be able to take a miraculous play and give it a perfect play call. It is a talent that too few have. Lucky for us, the 2nd tier of the English Premiere Ice Hockey League has one of these gifted announcers.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde via TalkingBaws

In a recent bench clearing brawl between the Basingstoke Bison and the Peterborough Phantoms, a delightful chap narrates the highlights and has become to only voice ever worthy of calling another bench brawl again.

[Video]

The best lines are undoubtedly:

  • “‘[The netminder] takes a bitter exception to this.”
  • “[The goalie] wants more than words, creating a nice little mel-aye…”
  • “[The referee needing] his extended notepad.”

In North America we’re used to far more of a “Fight! Fight! Punch! Fight! Punch! Wow! Oh!” style play call. Much less eloquent.

European announcers also seem more willing to let the video do the talking, resisting the urge North American’s have of describing every micro-action to happen. I really appreciate that.

Left: cross section of the hockey helmet, much less pading vs Right: 5 star rated football helmet

In the future, hockey helmets won’t be sexy

According to New York times, hockey helmets will now have a standard, 5 star rating system and it won’t make them sexy. More padding is required in the helmet to reduce the probability of concussions resulting from direct blows to the head. Viginia Tech scientists already tested and ranked the 23 available helmets for football. Those rated 5 stars have the best chance of preventing a concussion during impact. The key to safety is the amount of padding in the helmet and that will make helmets larger and more round, not something professional hockey players will want to see on their heads, unless they want to look like the Great Gazoo.

Sales of the NR and 1 star football helmets plummeted as parents moved to higher rated helmets to ensure better safety for their children. This forced football equipment manufacturers like Riddell to change course and offer more effective helmets to consumers. Will this happen in hockey? It is hard to say, as far the large hockey equipment manufacturers go so far, they are skeptical. Looks trump safety with the pros, who only recently, despite overwhelming evidence that visors save eyes, started wearing eye protection on their helmets in droves.

Will looks trump safety with hockey parents? We will see. At the end of the day parents are the ones buying hockey helmets and if they aren’t as safe as they’ve thought the manufacturer fastest to market with such a product may win a large amount of business.  The NHL is home to 700+ customers, while minor hockey registrations are north of 600,000. Someone will do the math correctly on this soon.

Left: cross section of the hockey helmet, much less pading vs Right: 5 star rated football helmet
Left: cross section of the hockey helmet, much less padding vs Right: 5 star rated football helmet
Stanley Cup Celebrations

A Second Season for the Ages

Congratulations are in order. Not only for the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, but also for the NHL fans. Through a record of 93 games, we witnessed one of the most entertaining playoffs in the league’s history. As if the quantity wasn’t enough, nearly every game and series was a nail biter, often coming down to the last bounce of the puck.

 

Now comes the tough part. Withdrawal will set in as you scroll through the TV guide aimlessly every 5 minutes. Looking out your window will only make you realize just how much you have neglected your yard in the last two and a half months. You can struggle to get your adrenaline rushes back as you push your mower through the foot long grass, reminiscing on the seven (!) game sevens or attempting to create a scenario where the San Jose Sharks find a way to close out their seemingly insurmountable stranglehold of a 3-0 series lead.

 

This was just one of the countless storylines that made this year’s playoffs memorable, even if you didn’t have a horse in the race. Did Iginla choose the right team? Would Teemu’s career finish on a high note? Could King Henrik’s eyes get any dreamier? There was the sobering reminder that life is more than just hockey with the passing of Martin St. Louis’ mother and how that tragic experience seemed to inspire the Rangers to rally around him, completing the series comeback. Think of the overtime magic we witnessed, through Patrick “Showtime” Kane’s dirty backhand in tight.

showtimeHow else could the playoffs have concluded but with Alec Martinez living every hockey players dream, scoring the Stanley cup clinching goal in front of the home crowd?

 

It seems that the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs consistently brought us a story, highlight, or talking point that would have the hockey world buzzing. Now that it is all over, let us know what stuck out for YOU in what truly was a second season for the ages.