Category Archives: Oil Change

Surrender? Never! Oilers tell Oil Change’s newest episode

It’s a long and winding road, to be sure, but the Edmonton Oilers are not giving up on this season: they are not out of the playoffs yet. Not mathematically, that is.

And they tell this season’s third episode of Oil Change that they still have faith in themselves. It airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet West, 9 p.m. on Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific.

Just use your fingers and toes, the Oilers seem to hint: three wins, one loss, and again, three wins, one loss, and they’re in, and once they’re in, we all know, it’s a brand new season.

Why are you laughing? What they are talking about is a plain .750 winning percentage, nothing a good team can’t achieve.

That’s what history tells us, after all: last time the Oilers made the playoffs, with Ales Hemsky’s end-of-season heroics, they went all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. They would lose by one miserable goal (empty netters don’t count).

The tragic thing is they would never make they playoffs since then. The fact the winner that season, the Carolina Hurricanes, didn’t make it the next season either doesn’t count.

Oil Change is a series now in its fourth season, with a cult-like following growing by leaps and bounds. This time, it goes behind the scenes to remind us about a few shockers that had happened between the previous episode and now.

First, the shocker: Ladislav Smid, out of the blue, is gone. And not to just somebody. He goes to the People’s Enemy Numero Uno, the Calgary Flames. Why? So the Oilers can bring in Ilya Bryzgalov, a goaltender with a proven record, unlike the current Oilers’ Nr. 1, Devan Dubnyk.

That Bryzgalov brings in a bit of a baggage? Whose baggage is it? Definitely not Bryzgalov’s.

The fact he knows more about modern applied science than do most sports reporters (or reporters in general) is definitely to those reporters’ detriment, not Bryzgalov’s. And that he answers a question whether he’s afraid of his former NHL club’s next opponent by saying that he could be afraid of a bear he might encounter in a forest, not of a hockey team, well, now, that’s simply funny. Alas, it’s also something reporters who embellish the quote and make fun of it never grasped. Whose issue is that? Definitely NOT Bryzgalov’s.

In any case, Bryzgalov’s arrival seems to have stabilized the goaltending position to a degree.

A bunch of Oscar-aspiring Hollywood writers wouldn’t be able to script the next item on the agenda. Young defenceman Taylor Fedun shattered his femur in a freak play in an exhibition game in 2011. Many feared he would never make it back to professional hockey. Yet, here he is, scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.

This episode of Oil Change, just as many other episodes, takes us also on a few of much less publicized events. These are events that might deserve more attention than some of the games. They are less agonizing, to say the least. Wide-eyed kids at an Edmonton French immersion school who enjoy forward David Perron’s reading. Team captain Andrew Ference who grabs several teammates as they go toy shopping for disadvantaged children. And they also visit youngsters who attend the Inner City High School in downtown Edmonton.

Watching the brand new episode of Oil Change might turn out to be precisely THE pre-Christmas Sunday evening well spent. Try it.

Was October a month from hell? Oil Change lets you be the judge

If the Edmonton Oilers ever become as good as the documentary series, Oil Change, that has been following them for the last four years, they’d be sitting pretty on top of NHL standings.

The second episode of this season’s show aired on Sportsnet Sunday night. As has been the network’s habit, we can expect repeats throughout the month, till time for the next episode comes in December. Viewers south of the 49th parallel can catch it on the NHL Network. Come to think of it, it airs on NHL Network in Canada from time to time, too.

October was a month from hell for the Oilers, and Oil Change doesn’t sugarcoat it. But its behind-the-scenes looks do give us a key to a more detailed understanding of what does and what doesn’t ail the club. After all, most Oilers’ fans had known for a fact that their beloved team has turned the corner, at long last. Not that we should begin sketching Stanley Cup parade routes right away, but the optimism was palpably there, and pre-season games seemed to confirm it was well-founded.

Guess what: it wasn’t, and experts who warned in their pre-season assessments that the Oilers still had a ways to go must have noticed something that the fans haven’t.

What was it?

Oil Change lets head coach Dallas Eakins try his own explanation. Whether it is really valid, Oil Change wouldn’t say. It is a documentary, after all, not a soapbox for commentators.

In any case, according to Eakins, some of the system changes might be difficult to adjust to as it is, and players’ muscle memories might encounter hard times trying to do the coach’s bidding. As he put it, a player might be trying as hard as he can to do what his coaches told him to do, but – from time to time – he might slip to old and tried habits whether they used to be successful or not. That, says Eakins, is quite understandable. Changing muscle memory simply takes time.

To the show’s credit, not all is doom and gloom.

Joey Moss celebrates his 50th birthday, and Oilers’ players prepare a celebration in style: they gather in Ryan Smyth’s house and surround a wrestling rink where two professionals fight, much to Moss’s enjoyment: professional wrestling is his second-most popular spectator sport.

Much laughter and joy. So much laughter and joy, in fact, that a viewer might ask: are these guys whistling as they walk past the graveyard?

Not really: they go out and deliver a present that Joey Moss must be enjoying the most: down by three, on home ice, to boot, they end up defeating the New Jersey Devils, vanquishing Martin Brodeur in the shootout.

It is most unfortunate that they do not continue winning on a more consistent basis.

All the nibs are in agreement that what ails the Oilers at the moment is inconsistent defence and even more inconsistent goaltending. Oil Change investigates whether the U.S. Marines are coming, and if so, when and whence. Its Aquila Productions crew visits the Oilers’ AHL farm team in Oklahoma City just in time to witness how its group of young defencemen is settling down, signing living quarters leases, practicing and playing. The Barons’ GM Bill Scott is of the view that some of his club’s defencemen are getting quite close to being ready for the show, while head coach Todd Nelson provides further details.

Young defencemen Milan Marincin and Oscar Klefbom tell us what the Oilers’ coaches have asked them to do to get ready for the show.

An almost forgotten name pops up: Oil Change visits with goalie Tyler Bunz. He is now playing for the Bakersfield Condors of Bakersfield, California, an ECHL affiliate of the Oilers. The 2012 Del Wilson Trophy winner for the best goaltender in the WHL (Medicine Hat Tigers), picked 121st player overall by the Oilers in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft, is even more removed from the NHL than his colleagues in Oklahoma City, but he’s fighting hard, with his eyes firmly set on his life goal: making the Oilers.

One trend where this season’s Oil Change differs monumentally from its previous three seasons: its crews spend more time with individual players outside of the rink, telling us their stories.

Many might have heard of Andrew Ference’s obsession with the environment, but watching him work in his basement, preparing the right mix for compost to be used in his backyard next spring, now, that’s a sight. And spending time with him and school children, with whom he shares a presentation on what happens to our garbage after it’s been taken away by garbage trucks, as enlightening a scene as can be.

Also: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins meets his brother Adam in Montreal. Adam is five years older than the Oilers’ young centre. He studies kinesiology (some describe it as treatment by movement) at Concordia University. He also became a regular defenceman on the school’s hockey team, Concordia Stingers. As a walk-on, too.

The older brother helped his younger sibling with his rehabilitation practices over the summer, trying to help him recover from a shoulder surgery. But, they both agreed, laughingly, other than that, they’ve always competed. And Ryan says it was his older brother’s example that made him the player he is today.

Many a fan is asking: what’s wrong with Nail Yakupov? This segment features the two games that his coach sent him to watch from the press box, but Oil Change found Slava Malamud, a Russian journalist with the Sport-Express newspaper who attended a few Oilers’ games. Malamud has been watching Yakupov since the young phenom’s junior years, and he offers some precious insights.

This episode is, again, a fast-paced production, filled with the sounds of the game, including the chatter on and off the bench (sub-titled, on occasion, so we know precisely what is said), great music selection, only a few words of narration, sharp camera work and editing.

Great entertainment, not only for those who love hockey in general, and the Edmonton Oilers, in particular. A fascinating teaching tool to help us understand what makes a team tick (and what doesn’t, too).

Oil Change’s second installment this season features October from hell

The first month of this NHL season was a month the Edmonton Oilers would rather forget, and that’s putting it mildly.

Oil Change, the television documentary that has been following their ups and downs with unique backstage looks, for the last four years, will provide us with more insights Sunday, Nov. 17, on Sportsnet.

Here are the times as provided by Sportsnet: 9 p.m. Eastern time on the East and Ontario regions, 7 p.m. Mountain on the West region, and 9 p.m. Pacific on the Pacific region.

Write these times down as this upcoming episode promises a lot for Oilers’ fans to frown upon. But it promises moments to enjoy, too.

Of the 14 games the Oilers played in October, nine took place on the road, six of them in the east, a region where the Oilers have traditionally had difficulties.

Why?

Who knows?

In any case, their head coach Dallas Eakins has maintained throughout the ordeal that his club is better than its October record seems to indicate. Whether he knows something the rest of us don’t, only future will tell. It would be good, not only for the Oilers and their fans, but for Eakins, personally, too, if he is right.

As is the tradition of Oil Change, we’ll see in this episode scenes mostly hidden from general view when and as they happen.

For example: a morning off in Montreal, with top centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his brother Adam, a student at Concordia University. Or the Oilers celebrating their beloved, long-time dressing room attendant Joey Moss’s 50th birthday with a laugh-filled pro-wrestling show at Ryan Smyth’s house. Or a group of the team’s young stars having some four-wheeled fun in the parking lot outside Rexall Place during a TV commercial shoot for Ford. And a glimpse of some young prospects on the Oilers farm teams in Oklahoma City and Bakersfield, as they are chasing their NHL dreams.

Many fans could be forgiven if they ask: who are these guys? Mark Arcobello, Will Acton and Luke Gazdic, classic underdog success stories, all of them. Or fellow rookie Anton Belov, who passed up much bigger money in Russia’s KHL this year to try to make a name for himself as an NHL defenceman. That he might earn himself an invitation to join Team Russia at the Sochi Olympics in February would be an added bonus.

And what’s wrong with Nail Yakupov? The first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has been struggling as an Oilers sophomore, ending eventually as a healthy scratch for the first time in his starry career.

Edmonton’s award-winning Aquila Productions has created the entire Oil Change series that has developed a healthy, cult-like following across the entire North American continent.

If previous seasons and installments are any indication, we have great television to look forward to.

Oil Change opens new season with a bang

This year’s Edmonton Oilers’ first-round draft pick was Darnell Nurse. A defenceman, and, as this season’s first episode of Oil Change mentioned, he was the first defenceman the Oilers picked with their first selection since 1989, that is, a quarter of a century ago.

Oilers’ fans should hope this year’s pick would turn out better than his predecessor: Jason Soules would never make an NHL squad. Neither in Edmonton, nor anywhere else.

The fourth-season television documentary premiered on Sportsnet Sunday. It’s going to see a number of repeats before time for the second episode rolls around in November.

It takes off where last season’s Oilers left off, documenting the monumental crash that left the club on the outside of the playoffs picture yet again, looking in with longing and more than a bit of anger.

Oilers’ faithful will remember the avalanche of changes: general manager Steve Tambellini gone, new general manager Craig MacTavish introduced, Scott Howson coming back to take care of player development again, Ralph Krueger gone in a rather sensational twist of events, to be replaced by Dallas Eakins and an unconditional air of no-nonsense approach to life in general and professional sports in particular descending upon the club.

Just keep your cameras rolling and you’ve got a gem of a documentary, right?

Wrong.

Aquila Productions’ creative crews, experienced in producing what has become a series with a huge, cult-like following, both in Canada and in the U.S., know that even improvisation requires structure. What they have achieved is breathtaking. They have created structures where even an experienced film and television watcher would be hard put to find the seams.

Opening with the doom and gloom of last spring, we get to see the behind-the-scenes action before this year’s draft. The club is in a different position than it had been the three previous years: no Nr. 1 pick this time. This opens avenues to an altogether different decision-making process. Does the club select a player who, it thinks, would be the best available no matter what position? Does the club select a player who, it thinks, would fill its particular needs best in the near future? Does the club opt to trading this draft pick for an established player who might (and, then again, might not) fit its needs immediately?

Through the three previous seasons of Oil Change we got used to the Aquila people getting access not many other crews have got anywhere else. This season is different. Not that there isn’t as much access to behind-the-scenes processes. It’s a different kind of access. Judging by the first episode of this season’s Oil Change, the access is organized so as to tell the real story better.

There have been numerous compelling stories during and after the free-agency frenzy, during training camp, during pre-season games, and Oil Change makes sure we witness them as they happen.

Telling the Oilers’ story better than the previous three seasons of Oil Change had, now, that is a most difficult proposition. The Aquila people have been always pushing themselves to be better than they had been the last time out. But there are limits, are there not?

Not really. The story keeps changing and developing, the production crews have to keep up, and they have to keep in mind that they can’t succumb to the wish of making stories more interesting than they are in reality just to keep up with the Joneses.

Speaking of the Joneses, the last couple of seasons have seen an increasing number of made-for-TV shows that follow the ups and downs of their favourite clubs. Some of them are better than others, but there are two qualities that distinguish Oil Change and keep the Joneses in the dust. One is passion, the other is storytelling.

Passion can’t be taught. It either is there, or it isn’t. And the storytelling? Yes, you can teach the theory of storytelling, but can you learn it as a practical ability?

As has become its trade mark, this season’s first episode of Oil Change presents its story with sharp cinematography, brisk editing, smart mix of music and real sound, and as few words as possible. Pictures, after all, are worth thousands of words.

The first few weeks of this NHL season haven’t been all roses for the club. These weeks of blood, sweat and tears will be the topic of the second episode of Oil Change. The Oilers might (and might not) meet the lofty expectations so many fans have had.

One thing we know for sure: there will be no sugar-coating. Not from Oil Change, there won’t.

Oil Change skates back

Oil Change is back on Sportsnet. Entering its fourth season (third on Sportsnet), the series has developed a cult following across the continent.
Watch for it Sunday, Oct. 20. If the American League baseball game 7 doesn’t happen (or if it ends on time), this season’s Oil Change premiere will air at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific. Baseball’s game 7 would move Oil Change all the way to 1 a.m. nationally (meaning all channels: East, Ontario, West and Pacific).
There will be replays Sunday at 9 p.m. Mountain Time on the West channel, and at 9 p.m. Pacific Time on the Pacific channel.
And, of course, there will be replays throughout, until Episode 2 comes along in November.
This season’s Oil Change opener will have its plate full with events that happened since that fateful day when the Edmonton Oilers missed the playoffs. On April 13, they had drubbed their arch-enemy, the Calgary Flames, and were sitting pretty. It would take just a dozen days for them to lose the next five games and be out of it, no questions asked.
Next thing we knew, general manager Steve Tambellini has become a former general manager, with Craig MacTavish taking over.
Oil Change’s first segment will concentrate on the wild days, weeks and months that followed.
To begin with, MacTavish announced he was impatient and all and sundry should expect some pretty bold moves. Luckily, he didn’t specify when those bold moves would be forthcoming.
But come they did, and most of them were not really expected.
With head coach Ralph Krueger’s support and understanding, MacTavish started looking for an associate coach. He found a kindred soul in Dallas Eakins and realized he was talking to a full-time coach, not an associate. That was the end of Ralph Krueger.
In short order, the Oilers would choose Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound Darnell Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., with the seventh pick at the NHL Entry Draft. That would be the first time Edmonton took a d-man with their first pick since 1989 when they picked another Hamilton native, Jason Soules, 15th overall. Soules’s NHL record is perfectly clean, as he never made it. What about Nurse? Future will tell.
But the summer fever didn’t stop there. Captain Shawn Horcoff went to Dallas. The Oilers’ 2009 first round draft pick Magnus Paajarvi went to St. Louis, both through trades. Gone were also pending UFA’s such as Ryan Whitney, Nikolai Khabibulin and Theo Peckham. The Oilers have gone out to pick up several players they are describing as significant. Free Agency brought them defenceman (and new captain) Andrew Ference, centre Boyd Gordon and back-up netminder Jason LaBarbera. The Horcoff trade delivered defenceman Philip Larsen, while Paajarvi’s departure resulted in the arrival of winger David Perron. By summer’s end, almost half of the roster had changed.
Oil Change tracks the team’s busy summer and follows the Oilers into a much-anticipated September training camp. It shows pitched battles for jobs on the blueline and third and fourth lines. Highlights of camp include the sparkling play of rookie d-man Nurse and several other young propects, a move by star winger Taylor Hall to centre as the club’s number one pivot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still rehabbing from last spring’s shoulder surgery, and the emerging on and off-ice leadership of former Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference.
The first episode culminates as camp and the exhibition season close. It shows how coach Eakins had to approach some difficult final roster decisions. The Oilers sell out their regular season opening night game at Rexall Place against the Winnipeg Jets.