I think we all know, in our hearts, the rising will come against Dallas, in the playoffs. Can’t tell you the year and can’t tell you series, but when this Oilers team rises it will be against the Stars, in Dallas, and I will cry. Guaranteed. As for tonight, the Stars have been hammering Edmonton for a long damn time, and the Oilers are not good enough to beat them without great goaltending, a tired opponent, brilliant effort and luck. That is a helluva lot to call upon in one evening.
I'm gonna laugh when the Oilers make the playoffs this year, and all the people off the bandwagon want back on.
— Megan (@mig14) December 3, 2015
Megan took some heat online yesterday, but this isn’t as insane a bet as some would lead you to believe. Edmonton plays in a ghastly division and even today are just seven points out of a playoff spot. Anyway, I am going to hold on to this tweet and if this bet comes in then all must acknowledge Megan is the superior hockey mind. Do you think there is a slight chance the Oilers can make it? Let me know in the comments section.
Oilers are 5-5-1 at home after 26 games, need to close that gap during this home stand. Tonight will be the toughest game, with contests against Buffalo and San Jose more winnable. How tired will Dallas be tonight?
SHAPES OF THINGS TO COME, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 1-0-0
- Oilers after 26 in 2014-15: 6-15-5, 17 points (-37 GD)
- Oilers after 26 in 2015-16: 9-15-2, 20 points (-15 GD)
Game 27 was a 2-1 win against San Jose a year ago, so this turtle race could heat up (no need for slow-motion replay) depending on tonight and the result.
HEART FULL OF SOUL
This is Jujhar Khaira (with Leon). The young forward received his first call to the NHL last month and has been taking a regular shift since then. Khaira is a rugged player, and at 6.03, 215 he is a bigger man than many of the established forwards in Edmonton.
I wanted to re-visit some of the reporting from this week (sorry) because for me the idea that Peter Chiarelli is going to have a bigger group next season rings true. As a long-time fan of both teams, I would think the following to be true:
- The current group of forwards is going to see some size added on the skill lines
- We could see two big men, we will call them Lucic and Horton, added
- The current group of forwards is miles better than PC has seen so far.
I think the things we are reading now from the MSM are based on the now, and if and when the coach and manager see RNH good, see these forwards good, then the speculation will subside. It took me pretty much this week to suss out the following:
- Peter Chiarelli is still evaluating the Nuge, and is basing his opinion of him on this season only. That is encouraging, as I bet he will see the Nuge in a far better light by the end of the season. I am very confident in saying that, as RNH was quality before his illness and the line shuffles.
- Todd McLellan believes in Nuge and that may carry the day.
- The people who advise Chiarelli, the men have seen Nuge from the beginning, should be doing a better job of informing their GM. He is going to look a fool if he makes a trade from this position.
Now, Nuge on board doesn’t mean Eberle is here next season and as a Bruins fan, I can tell you that the Stanley team in 2011 featured several men who came in at Khaira-or-larger pants:
- Milan Lucic 6.03, 235
- Nathan Horton 6.02, 229
- Shawn Thornton 6.02, 217
Chiarelli’s Bruins also had several agitating forwards (Brad Marchand, Greg Campbell). Here are the current Oilers forwards who have enough size to be included at the outskirts (or better) of the conversation AND enough skill to play when the game is still in doubt:
- Leon Draisaitl 6.01, 214
Suspect there is a germ of truth to all of this chatter about switching up the group, for me this is a story with legs. I don’t believe the Nuge portion holds water because at some point Peter Chiarelli will see Nuge good and get comfortable with him as a David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron (not saying Nuge is that guy but he does have a range of skills). By the way, extreme danger in trading Eberle, the Oilers need that scoring and he has tremendous hands. Be careful here, Peter Chiarelli. Sometimes in life you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone (my thanks to famous blogger Joni Mitchell for the wording).
What happens then? Well, I am seeing a tremendous number of people saying (this is on twitter) ‘trade Nuge and run McDavid and Leon as 1-2 centers’ and folks that is absolutely crazy.
HONEY IN YOUR HIPS
The reason Edmonton is having problems with their forwards is all about injury, not size or big teeth. Running teenage centers up and down the depth chart isn’t going to make things better. I think Peter Chiarelli will run a bigger club next season, but he will realize his forward group is manna from heaven for a new GM, despite the results of the first 26 games. This is a marathon not a sprint. The Oilers wingers include Benoit Pouliot (6.03, 200), Taylor Hall (6.01, 201) and Leon can play over there too. I think the Oilers may go hard for a Lucic or Byfuglien this summer. There is already a helluva group of forwards here, people. I do think Peter Chiarelli is going to change the look of them and that will include skilled wingers with size. I am confident Nuge will prove himself to the new regime, and would suggest they review video from previous seasons to get some background on him. This is certainly important enough to do some actual work.
- Brandon Davidson is injured right now (or he was) but upon return I wonder if they try him up the depth chart. As I mentioned during the prospect series, we don’t know what he is yet, but he could be a very important piece. We know Brandon Davidson does a lot of things that are useful, but we don’t know how high up the depth chart he can do them.
- Oscar Klefbom is having a fine season when you take into account who he is playing against, just 100 games into his career the young man is climbing Everest. A lot of the criticism laid at Klefbom’s feet is similar imo to what is happening with Nuge: These are extremely talented young men with the aptitude and physical gifts to take on enormous tasks at a young age. Punishing them for it is insane, and I was happy to see Todd McLellan say basically exactly that about Nuge early this week. He may have to dust off that speech for Klef later in the year.
- Andrej Sekera is a veteran NHL player who took some time to settle in (no Oiler defender had a good start) but is playing well now. He is going to have a tough time against big men (we saw that on the second Bruins goal) but he is quality and I am thrilled he is here.
- Mark Fayne is an effective defender (despite not delivering much offense). A lot of the metrics being used (David Staples, G Money) shine a bad light on him, but for me the CorsiRel remains the best way to look at defensemen (although the high danger stuff G is doing holds great promise, I can’t endorse it yet. Something missing to my eye, can’t identify it which should rightly enrage you), but I’ll bet on Fayne as being one of the four best men available to Todd McLellan.
- Darnell Nurse may need a break from the tough minutes, his Rel is now below Griffin Reinhart and he has been leaking for a few games now. There is no sin in it, but there is a very difficult decision and conversation ahead if this continues. I would try him on the third pairing and move up Davidson, if healthy.
- Leon Draisaitl has been going through a dry spell recently and his numbers are still insane. What a season.
- Taylor Hall has earned MVP consideration. He won’t get it, but watching him every night has been an extreme pleasure. What a player.
- Teddy Purcell deserves your respect. This is a guy who fell down to the 4line for a minute or two, but has made himself into a major part of the team. I know they won’t bring him back, size will win the summer, but he at the very least earned a contract for next season in the NHL.
- Connor McDavid is an important part of the team and an impact player. I saw several national broadcasters this week saying ‘I don’t want to hear about the impact of losing an 18 year old kid on their season’ and that completely misses the point. The Edmonton Oilers have a generational talent who showed his exceptional talent in a baker’s dozen games. There CANNOT be any other way to look at it! For Christ sakes national media, they lost a point-per-game player and you are saying that’s no reason to struggle? Please run tape of what you say after your show, because you are sounding like idiots.
- Matt Hendricks has been a very important part of this team, playing up and down the depth chart. I was pleased to see him cash the other night, that secondary scoring is fabulous.
- Jordan Eberle’s underlying numbers are beginning to climb, ever so slowly. He is getting closer, maybe that shootout goal sees him catch a fire.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs to score more points at evens. That’s the only criticism I have, the man plays tough opponents, never bitches, works in all situations and has a 200-foot game. Shame on those who are casting him as anything other than a brilliant young NHL player.