When it comes to their record, the Edmonton Oilers haven't had much success under first-year coach Dallas Eakins. At this point it's hard to tell how much of that is because of his abilities as a coach, and how much of that is because he joined an organization that sometimes seems to have a hard time getting out of its own way and has been an unquenchable dumpster fire for the better part of the past seven years.
The only thing that seems clear at this point, win-loss record be damned, is that he isn't going to be held down by conventional wisdom. He has some fresh, new ideas, and he seems to understand the way the modern NHL game is played and, most importantly, why teams win or lose.
That was on display Tuesday night following yet another Oilers loss, their fifth in a row and 10th in their past 12 games, when his team had its toughness and physicality questioned against the Vancouver Canucks. The thing is, it wasn't a terrible game by the Oilers. They didn't play perfectly, but they played a really good team close, hit a couple of posts behind Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, were in the game for most of the night and lost by a single goal. Sometimes those go your way, sometimes they don't. As far as Oilers games in recent years are concerned, this was probably one of their least objectionable losses.
But that didn't stop Eakins from being fed to the wolves after the game.
Here is the entire exchange at the end of his press conference that focused on the number of hits the Oilers were credited with, whether or not they did enough to answer to Zach Kassian, and if that was enough for Eakins' liking:
The money line: "You know what the perfect game is? The perfect game is no hits. You know why that is? It's because you have the puck. You don't have to hit anybody. You have the puck. Stat sheet said we outhit them 28-13. Would I have liked more hits? I don't know, I thought we were good tonight."
After the line of questioning continued and his patience grew thinner, he added "Well we'll try to up that to 40-13. Would that be better for you? Or would that not be enough? Sixty?"
Here's a fact about the NHL: A team's quantity of hits has nothing to do with whether they win or lose, and this is especially true for teams that win the Stanley Cup. Hits have nothing to do with whether or not they are "tough" or "soft."
Most teams that win -- and again, this true for Stanley Cup winners -- don't register a lot of hits. There are exceptions to this based on a team's style of play (if they're a dump-and-chase team like Los Angeles or Pittsburgh, for example, they're probably going to be successful and still have a decent number of hits), but for the most part teams that contend for the Cup and end up winning it are usually near the bottom of the league in hits.
It's not because those teams are soft, or because they don't want to play physical, or because they're not good at it. It's not that hitting your opponent is bad.
It's because teams that win have the puck as much as possible and are never in a position to hit people.
The purpose of hitting your opponent is to separate him from the puck so you can get possession of it. If your team already has possession of it and doesn't give it up, you're not going to need to do that. That's why the past eight Stanley Cup winners have ranked 30th, 2nd, 21st, 25th, 6th, 25th, 10th, and 25th in the league in hits. That's why the Chicago Blackhawks )the most successful team in the NHL over the past two years and the defending Stanley Cup champions) have registered fewer hits than any other team in the league over that stretch.
As an organization the Edmonton Oilers have laundry list of problems they need to correct before they can climb out of the NHL's basement.
Their lack of hits in any one individual game should not even be on the list.