Friday, September 25, 2009

Four Words: Assistant Coach Adam Oates

After last night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Oilers' most glaring deficiencies should be immediately apparent to head coach Pat Quinn:

Faceoffs and the power play.

The Oilers had two power play opportunities in over time to win the game -- at that point tied at 3 apiece -- only to fold on a Tampa Bay powerplay with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game.

There was, however, a bigger story behind it. While the Oilers gave up two power play goals -- both to Martin St Louis -- they also gave up two goals off of clean faceoff losses.

To say that the Oilers were atrocious on face offs would be an understatement. It would be difficult to remember a draw that the Oilers did win, as opposed to just the many, many, many that they lost.

The Oilers faceoff numbers are as bad as they've ever been. But they haven't always been this way.

When the Oilers made their march all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, they did it partially on the back of faceoff domination. Shawn Horcoff, Mike Peca, Jarret Stoll, and (prior to his deadline trade) Marty Reasoner had the faceoff dot on lockdown that season.

The Oilers' faceoff domination was no coincidence. During the previous 2003-04 season (the 04-05 season was scrubbed due to lock out) the Oilers made a mid-season addition in form of the now-retired Adam Oates. Oates' addition to the team proved to be a revelation for the team's core of centremen. Over the next year Horcoff and Stoll, in particular, made huge strides toward being first- and second-line centres (the late-season addition of Petr Nedved certainly couldn't have hurt, either).

The Oilers' current crop of centremen -- in particular Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule -- have the potential to become excellent face-off men in their own right. In particular, many players have remarked on Cogliano's improved strength -- a real asset in the face-off circle.

Adding Adam Oates to Edmonton's admittedly already-crowded coaching staff could be a big help in this regard.

But if Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini are thinking about making this addition, they need to move fast. Oates has been working the Tampa Bay Lightning training camp as a power play coach, and has expressed interest in staying with the team if he gets an offer.

If he gets an offer to come to Edmonton and step behind the bench with the Oilers first, they just might be able to lure him away.

There's little question that they desperately need the help.

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