The Edmonton Oilers folded like a cheap suit at the first sign of pressure last night, forgot their lessons, and assumed the losing position they know so well. Shameful.
It is painful to watch the Oilers these days, even and especially with the lead. A lead, usually two goals, means the next period will be terrible and if it isn’t then the third period will be, no exceptions. Galling? Passed that days ago. Worthy of a genuine primal scream? Did that the Saturday they lost to Calgary. No sir. Whatever else we should have expected from this season, the lack of attention to detail and abandonment of structure we saw last night in the third period simply can’t happen. It’s one thing for a line or pair to start running around, but an entire team? Good grief.
CRACKED ACTORS, 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: 2-2-1
- Oilers after 44 in 2014-15: 10-25-9, 29 points (-50 GD)
- Oilers after 44 in 2015-16: 17-23-4, 38 points (-23 GD)
That third period last night reminded me of my old 1967 Chevy Bel Air Supersport. I would be flying down the highway, burning gas and oil at about the same pace, wondering if any black and white (actually, dark blue and white) would come calling. I think we are close to the end of these Oilers, the unbalanced Oilers, and we are going to see a lot of changes in 2016. Hurry sundown, I am so very ready. I am so tired of this feeling, of these mornings, of absolute astonishment in these Oilers—not just the losses, but the inability to look like a team—I’m ready. Maybe SpongeBob had it right all along.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Darnell Nurse is Todd McLellan’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic—not a single shred of doubt in my mind. The results are not there, but the usage (22:28 EV, 3:09 SH and over 25 minutes overall) is fairly epic in its own way.
- When McLellan arrived in San Jose, he ran Vlasic heavy. In year one together, the defender played 23:54 a night (18:18EV; 2:56PP; 2:39SH; 28 shifts per game). Nurse isn’t playing as much (21:14 a night) but that was Vlasic’s third season and this is the freshman year for Nurse. The Oilers future No. 1 D is Darnell Nurse, no other reason to feed him these minutes unless the idea is to fast track the learning curve. I really like Darnell Nurse, but do wonder about the usage.
- Eric Gryba did a lot of good things to my eye, although the late penalty really hurt the team. There were good moments though, you can see why McLellan chooses him for those 15 minutes a night. Stops the cycle, impedes progress.
- Andrej Sekera played fewer minutes overall than Nurse-Schultz, I think that is a mistake and may have something to do with his partner. Sekera needs to be the 25-minute man, does anyone disagree?
- Mark Fayne is a good hockey player. I hope a team trades for him and he has a strong playoff this spring. He could be the Petry of 2016, although he is not the same player type. I talked to Travis Yost about Fayne to Ottawa yesterday, he loved the idea.
- Justin Schultz was 1-1-2 and showed what he can do when things are going right. I see Peter Chiarelli has made it known (via Darren Dreger) he would make 19 available. Finally coming alive offensively—and he is—may allow that to happen in the coming days. I have seen him pretty good in 2016.
- Brandon Davidson is going to get some criticism today, but I won’t rip him for that final play. He could have eaten the puck or taken a second to make sure, but he did not. Davidson would have to do that another 10 times in the same situation before anyone had a right to bitch about him. Brandon Davidson has been shelter from the storm all year, he has earned some cover on a mistake in overtime. Rookies make mistakes people, even really solid ones like Davidson.
AREAS TO IMPROVE, CHAPTER 50
- Todd McLellan: “We essentially give up four on the penalty kill, which is unacceptable.”
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl had his wheels on fire last night, McLellan gave him two new wingers and the whip came down. 1-1-2, a point on the PP and at evens, brilliant performance.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should have gotten more done with Hall, but it didn’t happen. I wonder how things shake out now, seems to me McLellan is likely to stay with Draisaitl-Eberle. Love the Nuge, he needs to do more, and do it more consistently.
- Anton Lander and his line had a reasonable night, we don’t expect offense from his line (this season) but a shot would have been nice. Part of the PK, they had a bad night overall.
- Mark Letestu had a strange night. He was on the ice for all but one of the goals (the first one) and would certainly be part of the PK issue. That blasted Vermette is a helluva player.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot had fantastic nights offensively. If the Oilers could have avoided the injuries this season, it may have been that brand new day we keep talking about every summer.
- Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell were good by the possession numbers, but didn’t generate enough chances and of course did not cash. It was a frustrating game for all, and I do wonder if we see this trio again tomorrow night. Where does Yakupov go?
- Iiro Pakarinen is impressing me more and more, hope he can stay healthy. Lauri Korpikoski was noticeable on GAs but nowhere else.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 12, 2016
Bad organizations do dumb things. On a completely unrelated note, Kevin Connauton is on waivers. His boxcar numbers (27gp, 1-7-8) suggest there is a pulse and Craig MacTavish would have knowledge of him (coached him when both were Chicago Wolves). He is having a reasonable season, and if Edmonton does claim him it would represent (imo) a change in thinking about Griffin Reinhart.
I think the plan probably involved GR spending a big part of the year in the minors once Leon was recalled. You may remember both men have enormous bonus opportunities in their contracts, but Reinhart’s chances of cashing in half a season would seem distant. I suspect they will recall him when one of the veterans is sent away (or placed on waivers and demoted) and that probably happens any moment after the AS break. Adding Connauton today would make this kind of transaction less likely. We wait. Waivers at 10, we will cover it on the Lowdown.
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) January 13, 2016
These kids breathe hockey, it is their life. I was struck not long ago by something Jaromir Jagr said about playing as long as he could. ‘What else is there to do?’ was the general point made by the veteran and I think most NHL players feel the same. This won’t be McDavid’s best birthday as an Oiler, I pray it is the last one he spends on the sidelines. It is crushing for us fans to be robbed of his brilliance. Too much pressure for a (now) 19-year-old? If you don’t think McDavid’s injury has impacted this team, there is nothing to talk about in this area. It is an awful turn, for player and fans, and one suspects a few more gray hairs have been added to Todd McLellan’s head during this time, too. Godspeed, young man.
Top prospect Carter Hart credits his success to eye-training and mental conditioning: https://t.co/bEEfJ4pcOw
— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) January 12, 2016
This is a player I plan to follow all year. When Nashville or Arizona takes him in the second round, it will not be a major story. Five years later? We’ll see. He is kicking ass and taking names in his draft year, while playing in a damned good league.
TSN will have 30 names by the deadline, the first look lacks a certain sexiness. From this list, I would enjoy seeing Kevin Shattenkirk a lot, have always liked Loui Eriksson’s game too. Vrbata down all seem to have some issues, Drouin could be a giant home run but I think the Oilers will avoid making a trade for unproven men this year.
Better? If you could add Brian Campbell to the group things would be far better, don’t know that the Panthers allow him to free agency. Anyone else a fit? I would include Mark Fayne on that list if I had my way, but one suspects he will be fired out of a T-shirt cannon between now and October.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
This morning at 10, we hit the air on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll talk last night, the PK, Bowie and the world out among the stars.
- Nathan Dempsey, Vimy Campus Director. Former NHLer will discuss (among other things) the rules over reaction to a clean hit. Are NHL teammates honor bound to answer after a clean hit? Even in a close game?
- Scott Cullen, TSN. We usually talk about everything, my plan is to discuss the coming NFL weekend and what Edmonton can get for their expiring contracts at the deadline.
- Matt Van Oekel, FC Edmonton. The big man from Chesapeake, Virginia joins us to talk about 2016 and his impressive year blocking out the sun in the Eddies net.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!