Big Oiler news, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut about it. I love talking about all things hockey, but especially the Oilers and the fact is they’ve been one of the biggest train wrecks in the league of late, so all the more reason to talk about them. Anyhow, the Oilers have made their 4th coaching change in 5 years, but this one in my mind simply had to happen.
If you read some of my stuff on the Oilers then you know I jumped off the Ralph Krueger bandwagon pretty early on in the season. His big thing was motivation….so then why was such a young and talented team so flat for the large majority of their games? But that wouldn’t have bothered me as long as they were getting better and played more structured. But that wasn’t the case, they were eroding as a team as the season went on.
The PP in particular was troubling to me. On the surface you would say that they had a pretty good year on the PP finishing 8th. But if you paid close attention to them all year, you know that all the opposition had to do was win the initial draw and clear the zone and the man advantage was done, because the Oilers didn’t have a PP entry. Pee-wee teams have PP entries, and the Oilers didn’t. That’s pretty troubling for an NHL team I would say.
And it went beyond the PP. Their 5 on 5 play was horrific and THE reason they missed the playoffs. They never supported the puck when attacking and they didn’t seem to have any structure defensively. It wasn’t pretty, and people can talk about how it was “only 48 games”, but do you really want to risk another 82 when 48 looked THAT bad?
I’m not just saying this because Elliotte Friedman did Saturday night on HNIC, but I as well feel that with all that said about how sloppy the team was, this was more about Mac T finding a guy that he just simply liked a lot more from a coaching standpoint than Krueger. Ralph Krueger seems like a GREAT guy. It wasn’t the person I disliked in anyway. Not that I know the man, but he sure came off as a genuinely nice man and it’s too bad that it didn’t work out for him in Edmonton. Its the oldest cliche in pro sports but it is as true as any….this is a buisness.
Eakins isn’t just the guy who “will work well with the kids”. That is an added bonus no doubt, but the guy is a detail freak. Trust me when I say, Craig MacTavish wouldn’t hire a coach that wasn’t. Mac was maybe the most detail oriented coach in hockey during his tenure as Oilers head coach, so no coach that works for him is going to be sloppy. Eakins demands a 200 foot game out of his forwards, and he loves to pressure the puck which is a style the Oilers are perhaps best suited to play.
I’m sure a lot of media members in other markets are mocking the Oilers lack of stability. I completely understand why anyone would see it that way. But a new GM means changes. Mac T didn’t fire and hire all those different coaches. We can all crush Mac T if he doesn’t want to give Eakins 2 or 3 years to make his mark, but Krueger wasn’t his hire. He wants his guy behind the bench and I applaud him for it. He could have been the fair guy (as he pointed out in his press conference) and gave Ralph another season, especially this far into the offseason. But this isn’t about fairness, this is about what is best for his hockey team.
Will this move workout? Who knows. But Mac T isn’t screwing around. He has come out swinging so far this offseason in an attempt to make get the Edmonton Oilers over the hump of rebuilding and into a playoff team, and then from there a Stanley Cup contender. From the sounds of it, this is still only the begining. Of course we all know by now that Horcoff and Hemsky won’t be back, and Bob MacKenzie tweeted out Saturday night that he believes the Oilers are more likely to trade the 7th overall pick than use it. Whether or not the moves are the right ones long term I don’t know, but I would bet big money that Mr. Eakins will have a MUCH improved roster over what Mr. Krueger had to work with.
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