The best way to beat the Oilers? Beat up the Oilers
If there was one thing that came from Dallas’ 4-1 win over Edmonton last night, it was this quote from Steve Ott:
“These young guns, the Edmonton Oilers, are going to be very good in the near future. But we’re a hard-working club and we laid on the body all night.”
The final hit count from last night was Stars 47, Oilers 33. Ott, Mark Fistric and Jamie Benn combined for 17 -- more than half of the Oilers total. It was evident Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan instructed his team to up its physicality against one of the league’s smallest and youngest teams:
So the blueprint for beating Edmonton is out, which presents quite a conundrum for the Oilers.
Not that it’s an entirely new one.
This problem plagued the team last year as well. In response, GM Steve Tambellini acquired the likes of Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Andy Sutton, making Edmonton tougher to play against.
But solving the problem created a new one: How much can they actually play?
Hordichuk is a liability. That, plus a hyper-extended knee, has limited him to just four games this year (with an average TOI of 2:24). Eager can play, but doesn’t seem as feisty as previous years (the Edmonton Journal called his play this season “underwhelming.”) Sutton’s the only one of the three on the ice enough to make an impact, but injuries and suspension have limited his effectiveness.
As such, Edmonton’s starting to see the difference between “tough” and “tough to play against.” There’s no denying that Hordichuk, Eager and Sutton are all tough -- they combined for 19 scraps last year -- but outside of chucking knuckles (and in Sutton’s case, the occasional cheapshot), they don’t make anyone’s life overly difficult.
“With our assets there are ways to beat teams who come after us that way,” head coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Sun. “We have to make sure we play as physically as we possibly can. When we’re healthy we have enough to push back.”
The Oilers will likely get an opportunity to ‘push back’ tonight against Nashville. The Preds boast three very active hitters in Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo and Shea Weber (and have a very willing fighter in Brian McGrattan.)