EDMONTON – It seems like whenever Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins fixes one mistake, a handful of new ones appear to cost his team badly needed wins.
“It’s like a game of pool, it’s basically what you leave on the table,” Eakins said Friday of the untimely and costly errors that have been killing the Oilers (3-9-2) through their first 14 games of the season.
The mistakes through the first half dozen games were repetitive ones that the coaching staff “squashed.” Now the miscues seem to be all over the place, and a lot of it the first-year Oilers coach attributes to inexperience and some players having different workloads or different responsibilities.
“A lot of times, it’s like you’re standing in front of a dyke and the holes are popping out and you’re trying to fill the holes as fast as you can,” he said. “But I’m glad they’re a little more scattered. The repetitive ones are hard to cure a lot of times.
“I can probably list 25 things we need to get better at. And know what, the Detroit Red Wings can probably list just as many. Every day there’s something you’re trying to get better at and every day it seems something new rears its ugly head.”
The Oilers are 2-6-2 their last 10 games and are home Saturday to the Red Wings before heading out on another four-game road trip. They were home for two games after a six-game trip that saw them play well for periods before sabotaging themselves with mistakes and a lack of competitiveness.
Forward Jordan Eberle said the mistakes are from a lack of thinking, players being on different pages and a lack of compete level.
“The first two you can fix,” he said after Friday’s practice. “The third one we’ve been trying to get going the last couple of days. It’s good we’ve had a couple of days to practise to get back on the same page.”
Forward Sam Gagner, who played his first game Tuesday after missing the first 13 with a broken jaw, said the team’s five-on-five game has improved.
“But at the end of the day we’re just making too many big mistakes that lead to goals,” he said.
Eberle, tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points, said eliminating those mistakes is the biggest challenge facing the Oilers.
“We have to clean up those five or six mistakes we make each game, usually three or four end up in our net,” he said. “We all kind of think offensively, that’s kind of a given with the talent we have, but we have to start thinking more defensively, think about keeping the puck out of our net.”
It’s been an interesting week at home for the team. While getting a chance to rest and spend time with families, they’ve also had to endure the wrath of fans and media, many who are already counting them out of the playoffs.
“I laugh when people say that, out of the playoffs and we’ve played 14 games. It’s ridiculous,” said Eberle. “It’s Nov. 1 and people are already counting us out. Columbus missed the playoffs last year by one point and they had a worse start than us.”
Defenceman Justin Schultz, who has had nagging groin pain, left practice Friday with some discomfort to his ribs. Eakins said he is likely day-to-day and if he can’t play the Oilers would have just five defencemen after sending down Denis Grebeshkov and Cory Potter earlier this week.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who missed the last few games with back problems, said he felt ready to return.