Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke at length this morning about some of the changes the coaching staff has made over the course of the season. After the team’s rough start to the year, Eakins had to take a step back and figure out just what fit better with the current roster and how to tweak his systems to their game.
Eakins says implementing his swarm defence right away was a ‘mistake’.
“I know exactly how we have to play now,” he said said. “I think the only thing I’ve really changed is listen, as a coach you can do one of two things. You can try to take the square pegs and put them into round holes or you can find the system that’s right for your group. I know the one mistake I made with our group was implementing that swarm defence to start the season. We weren’t ready for it, it left us exposed, it left our goaltending exposed and that’s on me. I take full responsibility for it. So when you get to the point in the season, and it was fairly early on, that you know this isn’t going to work you can do one of two things as a coach. You can go, you know what? Screw you guys we’re going to keep doing this until we get it to work or we can move to something else that’s maybe better for the team.”
So Eakins decided to take the second approach and change things up, which he says has been a good adjustment for the team.
“I knew in my heart at that time that it was time to move on and so I made the change. I think we’ve adjusted quite well, we need to add one more tweak to what we’re doing and it’s just an aggression thing now. But we won’t move to that until training camp. We’ve upped it a little bit but the next step will be next year. I think that’s the one thing I know for sure. The only other thing that’s happened here and this is one you don’t know as a coach until you get into it, we had to totally reset this group on the way they viewed themselves, the way that they thought they were going to play the game, the way that they thought they were built and the biggest thing were the habits. The only good from our suffering this year has been that we’ve been able to take as a group, as individuals, take a hard look at the good teams and what they’re doing and our group fully understands how we need to play, what our identity needs to be moving forward and that’s about the biggest bit of encouragement I have moving forward.”
Getting his players to play with more aggression on the forecheck was the next step in his constant tweaking. The team exhibited some success on that front on their recent road trip.
“It was the next step. I believe in bringing things.. I guess I equate it to school You’ve got to learn to add and subtract before you move on to multiplication… We started with our forecheck and as we learned more about ourselves, we were at a time where I thought it was time to go with it. We need more offensive zone time, we have to find more offence and that’s a way to do it. It hasn’t just been the top line there, it’s been our whole team. They’ve been very aggressive, our (defencemen) are up and that’s something that we’ll firmly continue forward.”
Goalie Viktor Fasth has had a rough season. Following a solid season with the Anaheim Ducks, Fasth suffered an injury that would allow him to play just five games this season with that club. Then, following a trade to Edmonton, he would hurt his neck in practice and miss some time with his new team.
Fasth is just looking to put this season behind him by finishing it up strong and moving on to next year.
“After every season, you want to end with a good feeling and you’re looking forward to next season with some good memories,” Fasth said. “I mean, the start of the season or most of the season has been a struggle for me with injuries and of course you want to end on a high note here.”
Fasth has played in five games for the Oilers since being acquired via trade and has a 2-1-1 record with a 2.83 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He gets the start tonight against his former team.
22-year-old forward Tyler Pitlick has been banged up this season. Twice injuries have cut his time in the NHL shorter than he’d like. Now recovered from his latest knee injury, Pitlick could play tonight against Anaheim.
This season has been a challenge for Pitlick who earned his first NHL call up early in the year but has played in just eight games due to those setbacks.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I want to be at the best of my ability so I can play my best and show them what I got but I’m just glad it was a minor thing this time and not something that’s going to put me out a while. I guess there’s a bright side to it I guess.”
With four games left in the season, the young prospect wants to show the organization everything he’s got and he knows this last week is a big one.
“They’re huge. I’ve got to give it everything I have, show them what I got and it’s going to lead up to next year. I’ve got to have a few good games.”
|Kellen Jones (left) and Connor Jones (right) were Hobey Baker Award finalists.
The Oklahoma City Barons have signed forwards Connor Jones and Kellen Jones to amateur tryout contracts, General Manager Bill Scott announced today. The pair have also signed AHL standard player contracts for the 2014-15 season. The twin brothers hail from Montrose, British Columbia and competed collegiately at Quinnipiac University.
Kellen was selected in the seventh round (202nd overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
He appeared in 40 games as a senior, scoring 42 points with 18 goals and 24 assists. He had a +12 plus-minus rating. He became the 21st player in Quinnipiac’s Division I history to reach the 100-point mark, and 35th all-time, after finishing his career with 54 goals and 71 assists for a total of 125 points in 157 games played.
Kellen appeared in 43 games for the Bobcats as a junior. He was third on the team with 13 goals and 14 assists. His five points in the NCAA Tournament ranked eighth among all participants. He had three game winners on the year and finished with a +10 plus-minus rating. He scored a goal in the Bobcats’ NCAA Frozen Four semifinal win over St. Cloud State. Quinnipiac finished national runner-up to Yale. He was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team.
Connor appeared in 40 games as a senior and had 38 points with 15 goals and 23 assists. He also posted a +15 plus-minus rating. He became the 20th player in Quinnipiac’s Division I history to reach the 100-point mark, and 34th all-time, after finishing his career with 49 goals and 80 assists for a total of 129 points in 156 games played.
Connor played 37 games as a junior and was second on the team with six power play goals. He finished the season with 12 goals and 14 assists. He led the team with five game-winning goals. He also had three assists and one goal during the Bobcats’ NCAA Tournament run. Connor was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team.
The brothers were each nominated for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as seniors. They were named the team’s Co-Most Valuable Players as sophomores. Connor was named to the ECAC second team and chosen as Rookie of the Year by his teammates as a freshman.
The Edmonton Oilers American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, earned a huge 5-4 shootout win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
The victory gives them 73 points on the season, putting them two back of the 7th (Rockford) and 8th seed in the Western Conference (Charlotte).
The Barons continue their playoff push with two critical games against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday and Sunday at home in OKC.
The win was also marked by pro debuts for two Oilers prospects; Jujhar Khaira and Greg Chase. Khaira, a third round pick (63rd overall) by the Oilers in 2012, finished the game -2 with two shots on goal.
Chase scored his first professional goal, the game-tying tally at 15:35 of the third period. Chase was selected 188th overall (7th round) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He finished the game +2 with three shots on goal.
The Barons have seven games left in the regular season.
The Oklahoma City Barons announced today that they have signed Mitch Holmberg to an AHL Standard Player Contract for the 2014-15 season. The news came after the team signed the winger to an Amateur Try Out (ATO).
In addition to signing Mitch Holmberg to an ATO, the #OKCBarons have signed him to an AHL SPC for 2014-15.— Oklahoma City Barons (@okcbarons) April 2, 2014
5-foot-10, 175 pound Holmberg has played for the Spokane Chiefs since 2009. This season, he had 118 points (62-56-118) in 72 games for the WHL team.
Holmberg, 21, will report to the Barons to help them in their pursuit of the AHL playoffs.
The Oilers announced earlier today that Jujhar Khaira has been assigned to Oklahoma City. The Barons also announced that they have signed three other players to amateur tryout contracts (ATOs): Greg Chase, Mitch Holmberg and Josh Winquist.
Chase is an Oilers draft pick, while Holmberg and Winquist head to OKC on AHL-only deals.
Oilers assign Jujhar Khaira to OKC. Barons sign three others to ATOs. Read more: http://t.co/JQUO0Fc5A4— Oklahoma City Barons (@okcbarons) April 1, 2014
From the Barons Press Release:
Khaira was selected in the third round (63rd overall) by the Oilers in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and recently completed the WHL season with the Everett Silvertips. In one season with the Silvertips, he registered 44 points with 16 goals and 28 assists. In five playoff games, Khaira had four points, including three goals.
Prior to playing in Everett, the Surrey, B.C., native spent one season at Michigan Tech. He was the third leading scorer as a freshman with six goals and 19 assists.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native was selected in the seventh round (188th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He played in 204 career games for the Hitmen and registered 162 points with 58 goals and 104 assists. He played in 28 career playoff games for Calgary and had eight goals and 13 assists.
Chase joins the Barons after playing four years for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He scored 85 points this past season with 35 goals and 50 assists in 70 games played. He had nine points (4-5-9) in Calgary’s six-game loss to the Kootenay Ice in the WHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Chase was a member of the 2012 Canada Pacific U-17 team at the U-17 World Hockey Championship.
Holmberg recently finished his WHL career with the Spokane Chiefs. He played in 72 games for the Chiefs this season and had 118 points with 62 goals and 56 assists. The Chiefs alternate captain also had one assist for Spokane in the WHL Playoff series against Victoria. He earned the WHL’s Bob Clarke Trophy as the league’s top scorer and was a first team all-star. Holmberg leaves Spokane as the Chiefs top career goal scorer.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native has spent his entire WHL career with the Chiefs. In 314 career games, he has 296 points with 147 goals and 149 assists. He has played in 41 career postseason games with 20 goals and nine assists.
Holmberg was a member of the 2010 Canada Pacific U-17 team at the U-17 World Hockey Championship.
Winquist played with Khaira in Everett, where he was an alternate captain. Winquist appeared in 67 games for the Silvertips and had 93 points with 47 goals and 46 assists. He had four points in Everett’s playoff series this past season.
The St. Albert, Alberta, native has played in 301 career WHL games. He has 216 points (101-115-216) in five seasons with the Silvertips. He’s appeared in 21 career postseason games for Everett, registering 14 points with seven goals and seven assists.
Oilers head coach Todd Nelson mentioned on Oilers Now with Reid Wilkins on Monday that centre Will Acton was about to be recalled to the Oilers.
The Oilers have been playing short forwards of late and the season-ending shoulder injury to Luke Gazdic necessitated the recall.UPDATE: Read the official press release.
The Edmonton Oilers announced today that winger Luke Gazdic is undergoing surgery to repair a shoulder injury this week. As a result, he will be out for the next six months.
Luke Gazdic will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery this week and will be sidelined approximately six months.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 31, 2014