One of the themes for this season’s Oilers is the number of games they have been in, even very late. Although their record isn’t great, Edmonton has been in games, has taken points from games that would have been sure losses one year ago, and generally showed progress. This weekend marks the end of ‘paying close attention to the standings’ but the roster challenges are now fewer and obvious—and that is progress.
SPACE ODDITY, 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: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-2-0
- Oilers after 43 in 2014-15: 10-24-9, 29 points (-48 GD)
- Oilers after 43 in 2015-16: 17-23-3, 37 points (-22 GD)
You can see what this team lacks, and when Oscar Klefbom returns they will still need a veteran at the top of the roster to still the waters—and help the power play. These things are coming into view. Peter Chiarelli must identify the solutions that will work, without overpaying or using too many assets. Offer sheet remains my weapon of choice.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Davidson—Gryba were good together, Davidson made countless quick decisions with the puck. It was the kind of game Gryba stands out, bodies everywhere holy hell. As we have (I think) agreed all year, he can defend. Playing with Davidson, it seems to work. Small sample.
- Sekera—Fayne were solid, Sekera skated miles, made good passes, thinks the game so well. He iced the puck late, when the Oilers were trying to tie it and after a long period in their own zone. He seemed upset, don’t know why. I think I think that the Oilers would be good with two Sekera’s and Klefbom.
- Mark Fayne played well, even though he spent the evening up against giant forwards who know the cycle well and use their size as an effective tool. Veteran stay-at-home defensemen are people, too, I hope MF stays in the lineup for the road games.
- Nurse—Schultz were an adventure, poor Darnell coughed up the puck early, Schultz had his wobbly bits too. This was the weakest pairing to my eye, although they played the second and third most minutes on the game.
- Lots of soft lobs on the 5×4, not just Schultz but Sekera too. Ghastly. I think that was the game, right there. Edmonton’s power play is currently run by Mr. Magoo, and it is costing them games.
CENTER, LAST NIGHT
- Mark Letestu and his line were outstanding, scored the one goal on the evening, crashed and banged, holy hell they mixed it up. Battled along the wall, would not give an inch. After several weeks of poor possession, they fed the young line back and front.
- Anton Lander and his crew didn’t play a lot, and kept it simple by hammering it in and chasing. The puck was in a good way for most of their time.
- Leon Draisaitl did not have many moments. Leon made a couple of sublime passes, but nothing rhymed. They have gone cold. We need to remind ourselves that he is 20 and dry spells should have been expected after that white hot first half of the season.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his bunch had a good battle with a pretty nice 2line. Nuge was physical and engaged, looked effective in most areas including some good moments breaking up the cycle. I was not impressed with this line in the offensive zone.
- I was disappointed in the 5×4 and that includes four of the men here. Good grief it’s MacT all over again.
OK, on to hockey. No word from @NHLPlayerSafety yet but I'll be surprised if EDM's Matt Hendricks doesn't get a hearing for hit on Ekblad.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 11, 2016
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Korpikoski-Hendricks had a fantastic night, probably the best game Hendricks played (for me) as an Oiler. Dangerous hit on Ekblad, though, that could have been a bad injury.
- Hall—Purcell had their moments (the disallowed goal was a brilliant effort by Hall) but they couldn’t cash. Damn shame this line is cool, because a couple of goals this weekend would have been extremely valuable. The hit on Hall was right in front of me, he looked blank and then angry, glad he scooted back to the bench to gather himself.
- Pouliot—Eberle were fine, but there were no wow moments from the line and they did have the lesser hill to climb. I felt they were coming along before last night, hopefully the chime on the road trip.
- Klinkhammer—Pakarinen were part of an effective 4line, I don’t think we have seen that trio play more than they did last night. Pakarinen always looks like a player when I see him, he really gets in on the forecheck.
At the game tonight, heard some negativity about the Oilers being too careful with McDavid. I have to say it surprised me, and offer this reminder without further comment.
- Sheldon Souray: “I wasn’t even ready to play when I came here, but it was like, ‘We signed you, you go out and play.’ I hadn’t been cleared to play yet, but I was being questioned by the organization:‘When are you going to be able to play?’ Source
TEN BEST PLAYERS IN THE 2016 DRAFT
- (1) C Auston Matthews, Zurich Lions (Swiss-A): Franchise center. Another Eichel?
- (3) R Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (Sm-Liiga): Big man with electric skill.
- (2) D Jacob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Potential No. 1 defender.
- (4) L Matthew Tkachuk, London Knights (OHL): Great possession player, tremendous vision.
- (5) W Patrik Laine, Tappara (Sm-Liiga): Skilled forward, terrific release.
- (6) R Alexander Nylander, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): High skill, terrific offensive prospect.
- (7) R Julien Gauthier, Val D’Or Foreurs (QMJHL): Monster scoring winger.
- (9) D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Complete package, only question is how much will he bring offensively?
- (8) R Alex DeBrincat, Erie Otters (OHL):Small sniper.
- (10) D Olli Juolevi, London Knights (OHL): Very fast defender with range of skills.
- Todd McLellan: “I thought that’s as good a response to physicality I’ve seen from our team this year and probably in my seven years in San Jose when we played Edmonton.” Source
There are certain elements of the fan base who seem to think hammering people means wins. I haven’t read any proof that hits or intimidation result in wins, but am willing to read any links you provide. I am not one of those who puts no value on the physical side of the game, but I am bewildered by anyone who walked away from last night’s game thinking the Oilers didn’t man up. One more thing: Back in the olden days, when a hit like the Hall item happened, you didn’t see a charge toward the offending player. It was more ‘take a number’ and that player would be challenged at another time, when the game state was not in question. The ONE thing you did see back then was a reaction to goalies being hit—that was going to be met with extreme force.
I think some fans want to see RNH break his hand or Eberle slash his way through the brush, but this isn’t a reasonable thought. The Oilers have employed hooligans in the past, may well do it in the future. I was fine with last night’s response, the Hendricks hit aside. Todd McLellan was fine with the effort in that regard and we move on. RNH, Eberle, Hall, Leon, Schultz, Sekera, others, all must use the brains that God gave them to evaluate a situation. None of those men is going to do much good with pure physical violence, but each can do more in the skill department—especially on the power play. That is your lead this morning, men. If you are chasing the ‘physical reaction’ story from last night, you have missed the lead, gone past below the fold, and are now buried after the entertainment section. Unless you yourself are trying to set the agenda, talk of physical force this morning wildly misses the game story from last night. The story is:
- Rookie makes mistake
- Another one goes in
- Team climbs part way back with hard work
- Skilled men get several 5×4 opportunities and waste them all.
- Because of the loss, no one is discussing an insane evening in possession.
- 5×5 Individual Scoring Chances leave us disappointed with several stars. War-On-Ice numbers: Letestu (2); Hall, Eberle, Pakarinen, Lander, Klinkhammer (1). If your favorite player’s name isn’t there, you are allowed to be disappointed in them. Florida is a very good team, but the Oilers had several chances to at least gain a point. As mentioned above, points are not as important now that Edmonton is no longer in a position to push. That said, their record of staying in games until very late is a solid back story—it is something to watch for as the season rolls along.
David Bowie spoke to the freaks and outcasts of the world, and I was one. For a young male looking for shock value, he was ideal (my Dad insisted that the album cover for Diamond Dogs not reside in our house in Maidstone, SK. Seriously) and unlike Alice Cooper and T. Rex and others, Bowie’s lyrics spoke to me. If you were an outcast in 1974—or I imagine 1984—you had to be drawn to Bowie. He reincarnated seemingly every year, going from Starman to Rebel Rebel to Young American to Heroes and beyond. A few years after our Diamond Dogs run in, my Dad and I watched a television show that featured Bowie singing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ with Bing Crosby, and we both could barely believe it. As with most things he touched, it was brilliant and original.
I don’t often get choked up about celebrity passings, suspect they have their issues same as us. Sometimes—John Candy, Princess Diana, Bowie—it hits hard and knocks the wind from you. Today is such a day. David Bowie meant a lot to me when I was 14, and he means a lot to me today. There aren’t many people in the world who have that kind of impact on anyone, without ever really knowing them.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy day on the show, as we get back to the action after a couple of weeks of sporadic duty. TSN1260, starting at 10. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. Ovechkin 500 making good time, how high can he go? Plus the Panthers and Dallas hits a wall.
- Scott Zerr, TSN1260 and Oilers Nation. With a suspension to Matt Hendricks possible, is now the time to recall Zack Kassian? We’ll find out how far away he is now.
- Sunil Agnihotri, Copper & Blue/The SuperFan. Oilers last night, what we can expect from this week and does he think they will finish 28-30?
- Corey Graham, Oil Kings PBP. WHL trade deadline passes and the Oil Kings didn’t make a splash. Were the prices too low?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!