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"Oilers Hockey": A Sacred Cow?

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12-31-2003, 07:51 AM
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"Oilers Hockey": A Sacred Cow?

There has been some discussion in several threads over the past while about "Oilers Hockey", which is generally taken as: a) make everyone skate really fast, b) forecheck aggressively, and c) no neutral zone trap/left wing lock for us, we're hockey purists. These elements combine for exciting entertainment, goes the argument, and it's the way the Oilers have always played.

If this is the case, does the Oilers braintrust cling too blindly to a strategy that is not sustainable? Are Oilers fans the equivalent of conservative fundamentalists? Sure, you can play firewagon hockey when you've got guys named Wayne, Paul, and Jari wearing the Oildrop, but when you've got guys named Cory, Ethan and Scott on your powerplay against tight checking squads featuring ballooning goalies, maybe your organization's thinking needs to evolve with the times. I'm thinking that the Oilers are clinging too much to an antiquated idea of "Oilers Hockey", to the detriment of today's team.

There are several arguments for preserving the current style of "Oilers Hockey". The first is that it's more fun to watch the Oil lose a game 6-4 in a game filled with odd-man rushes and lots of scoring chances on either side of the rink, compared to watching them win a lot of games 2-1, but with a style slightly less interesting than a government report. Discriminating Oilers fans demand entertaining hockey, and not the dreck that has made the NHL so dull. If the Oilers play boring hockey, proponents of "Oilers Hockey" posit, fans will stop watching the game.

A second reason has to do with the ice at Northlands/Rexall. With good, fast ice, the Oilers need to draft and develop skaters who can take full advantage of playing half their games on a sheet that gives full advantage to the speedy. The Oilers are traditionally known for drafting good skaters, and the ice surface is frequently mentioned as a link to this strategy.

A third reason is that the Oilers have traditionally played "Oilers Hockey", and it's a value that permeates the organization populated by alumni like Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Charlie Huddy, and Jeff Beukeboom. These 'graduates' of the Oilers School of Hockey are perpetuating their own views of how hockey should be played on the current generation of Oilers in both content and structure of today's team.

I don't think these views stand up, and here's why. I'm pretty sure we'd still cheer for the Oilers if they won in boring fashion: the Wild sell out every game, and you can't say those fans are not sophisticated. The fast ice argument is a strong one, but how do you explain guys like Cross, Ferguson, and Oates? The tradition argument, I think is also unsustainable-your team has to adapt and adjust to the reality of the times, and I wonder if the Oilers wouldn't be better off adopting a different style of play, while still holding to venerable Oiler values like hard work, sacrifice, and committment-traditions that hold up no matter what style of game you play.

If "Oilers Hockey" is a sacred cow, I say it's time for a BBQ.

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12-31-2003, 02:18 PM
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Two seasons ago the Oilers set a team record for the least goals allowed in a season and finished the season second in goals against in the league. They managed to do this on the strength of good back checking, aggressive defensive play, aggressive shot blocking and solid goaltending and still they were able to play an exciting brand of hockey, and most importantly, they did it without resorting to the trap. If the Oilers goaltending could pick it up a notch and the team could focus on providing that same kind of solid responsible defense each night, but yet turn up ice at full bore when they got puck possesion, there's no reason that this team couldn't do it again. For the most part though it seems to me that the Oilers defense is not nearly as aggressive as it was a couple of years back and other than the odd exception, shot blocking has become quite rare. Maybe getting Ulanov up here again for a few weeks wouldn't be such a bad idea, seeing how he seemed to lead the shot blocking brigade by example when he was here. The trap might be the easiest way to provide good defense, but it's not the only way, and the alternatives are far more exciting to watch.

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12-31-2003, 02:41 PM
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I have asked myself this question many-a-times, entertainment vs. success. At the moment, we are doing both at a mediocre level. My problem with Edmonton is their inconsitencies throughout the organization.

Problem 1: Toronto RR play a different style then the Oilers do, shouldnt our farm club play the same system the Oilers do to make the transition easier for call-ups.

Problem #2: Too many guys in suits behind the bench. I think that there's alot of lateral delegation in our coaching staff. It is more of a support network then a coaching staff IMO.

Problem #3: We don't have the 7 guys we need to contend. I heard this from everyones favourite sports analysist Pierre Mcguire. A contender needs a #1 goalie who can steal you 10+ games a year. 2 solid defenseman; one vicious guy who's solid defensively, and one who leans more to the offensive side, but is still solid in his own end. You need a solid top line who can score consistently and lastly, you need a shut down centreman. A dream line-up could be...


I think that Edmonton still needs the goalie, the offensive Dman, the bona fide #1 centre, and the shut down centre we lost to CBJ. If we lose Jason Smith, then we are basically starting from scratch.

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12-31-2003, 03:15 PM
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We're not playing "Oilers Hockey" anymore anyway. It's kind of a moot point. When we win sometimes we do (my earlier argument we skate+we forecheck=we score=we win has held true this year, it can't be denied) and this team is not going to win 2-1 games, so why try?

Last edited by LoudmouthHemskyfan#1: 12-31-2003 at 03:21 PM.
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