In going 2-2-0 last week, the Edmonton Oilers showed us what might be ahead, and then reminded us of how long the road to glory is when you cannot play defense. Oiler fans, who haven’t had four actual defensemen to cheer for at the same time since 2005-06, were disappointed but not surprised. This cannot stand, man. Except it will. The Oilers need some help on defense, have since Smid was a baby.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) February 3, 2016
DIAL M FOR MURDER, 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: 4-5-2
- Oilers in February 2015: 5-6-1
- Oilers in February 2016: 2-2-0
- Oilers after 54 in 2014-15: 15-30-9, 39 points (-56 GD)
- Oilers after 54 in 2015-16: 21-28-5, 47 points (-29 GD)
It was a horrible weekend, Edmonton losing to Montreal and the Islanders by a combined 13-2 score. National television game was poor, and the kicker game in Brooklyn leaves us here. The Edmonton Oilers remain addled defensively and anything resembling structure is a fleeting thing. They were 2-2-0 on the week, that was my prediction, but the way they did it was both exhilarating and aggravating.
- Sekera—Fayne run well together, I think that should be the de facto first pairing for the rest of the year. When Klefbom returns, run him with Davidson. Seriously. For me, even during yesterday’s debacle, this pairing has logic and reason. I would absolutely be pleased to see this pairing line up together opening night 2016.
- Davidson—Gryba were good when together (5-5) and Davidson was even better apart. He went 4-2 with Schultz, 3-1 with Reinhart and 1-0 with Fayne. Smart player, he was out there for 25 total minutes and they should have double-shifted him. Lordy.
- Eric Gryba was 5-5 with Davidson, 2-9 with Griffin Reinhart and 0-1 with Justin Schultz. The big man was not effective with GR, and everything made sense with Davidson. McLellan has his second pairing rock until Klefbom gets back.
- Reinhart—Schultz was not good (2-6) but we kind of knew that before it started. Credit Todd McLellan with getting them away from each other (played 4:03 together) but Andrej Sekera couldn’t help Schultz either (2-4 in 5:32 together) and of course he couldn’t help other places.
- Reinhart—Gryba (not listed above) went 2-9 in the true bollocks pairing of the afternoon. Reinhart’s most effective partner this season? Brandon Davidson, and that is something of a trend for the team’s defenders.
- Darnell Nurse sat out, suspect we will see him on Tuesday. Will he have a new partner? I am honestly surprised Adam Clendening hasn’t played more. Will he draw in tomorrow?
OILERS CENTERS, YESTERDAY
- Matt Hendricks and his line won the possession battle in the lower regions of the game. He was 64 percent in the dot, he was -1 and his wingers were even. He wasn’t the problem.
- Connor McDavid scored a goal (the only point in the game), was -2 and almost won the possession battle overall against JT. I will call that a solid effort for McDavid, your mileage may vary. I like this line but worry they will use a game like this to tinker. Keep it together, Mr. McLellan, Pouliot is good there.
- Leon Draisaitl and his line got five shots, were -5 as a group and saw deHaan—Hamonic while McDavid saw Leddy—Boychuk. I honestly don’t know the better pairing, but the high-danger scoring chances favored McDavid’s line and the Leon trio seems a tad slow. I wonder about injury to the big man. There were several frames that showed LD wasn’t his usual hard-working self, especially on the back check (the entire team failed in this area, what a shambles).
- Mark Letestu has not been effective for several games. I fear Nail Yakupov will pay the price.
HIGH-DANGER SCORING CHANCES
- Connor McDavid 3
- Iiro Pakarinen 2
- Zack Kassian 2
- Jordan Eberle 1
- Justin Schultz 1
Interesting because of the names here, but also interesting because of the names not on display. I am a big fan of the Hall cluster, they need to be better and more consistent. The group misses Nuge, too, something I didn’t mention in the Leon comment. When a 20 and 19 year old are playing 27 of your big EV minutes, that is going to be a tough afternoon a lot of the time—especially a team with the array of centers available to the Islanders.
- Iiro Pakarinen had two of Edmonton’s very few high-danger scoring chances, won the possession battle in a horrible game and finished even with three shots and a takeaway. Insanely bad game for his team, but I count him (along with Davidson and McDavid) as one of the men on the ice who gave a damn. Lauri Korpikoski. Trust him to break out with a spike in possession during Armageddon. Lordy. The man is opposite George on skates.
- Pouliot—Eberle had a frustrating weekend and if you run back over the two games this line didn’t get a lot of breathing room. Looks like teams viewing tape from earlier in the week decided to manhandle the trio and it worked. Edmonton needs that power play to punish opponents, and it would help if the refs called the rule book. I sometimes wonder if a team watching the Oilers would make a push for Pouliot. He is a solid scorer, and he disrupts the opposition when they are trying to get their engines started. Lots of fans focus on the penalties, but if you count the number of sorties interrupted by sly interference, a stick in the right place, or stealth staying in the zone to outnumber the possession team, it is a lot. People will crap on Pouliot for the own goal, and I get that it is frustrating, but for me Pouliot is a keeper and putting up with some hanging threads is well worth it for what he brings. I feel as though the Pouliot Fan Club is not a large one these days, it is a shame.
- Hall—Purcell did not deliver any high-danger chances, but Hall did have a couple of moments and Purcell one, too. I don’t worry about this line beyond the idea that Leon might be nursing an injury of some sort (no evidence, just viewing). They need to be better, though.
- Kassian—Yakupov were not effective with Letestu and I suspect this line gets a tweak. Kassian and Yakupov spent some time with Hall, Leon and McDavid—separate and apart—but nothing rhymed.
TODD MCLELLAN, NOT HAPPY
"We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and we came in here and responded in a very inappropriate way." Coach McLellan
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 7, 2016
— Marty Klinkenberg (@globemartyk) February 7, 2016
- Todd McLellan: ”There are a number of young players who are trying to break into the league and create careers, are they passing the grade? I don’t know. There is a number of players who are trying to hold on and survive, are they doing what they need to do? It is a critical time in the season. And then there are others who have reputations, whether they are really strong or somewhat weak, you have an opportunity to change it or grow it and they let that go today.” Source
Well, those are interesting quotes from the coach, and there was another one that involved ”transactions” and ”Bakersfield”—the coach is clearly unhappy with someone. WHO could they send down? Well, if they want to avoid waivers, it is a small list. If waivers are no issue, there are a few candidates:
- G Anders Nilsson—Hasn’t had an effective game since December 6.
- D Justin Schultz—If there is interest, why quibble over a third or a fourth?
- D Anton Lander—He hasn’t played in two weeks, perhaps he can head down on a conditioning stint.
Beyond that? The team could send Griffin Reinhart down and we may see it. Darnell Nurse? I can’t see it, he remains one of the six best options for this team. Adam Clendening? Seems less than sporting to waive him after only a quick look. Who could we see getting called up?
- G Laurent Brossoit—They probably want to have a look anyway.
- D Jordan Oesterle—Speedy defender is earning a look.
- D David Musil—May get a cup of coffee before April.
- L Luke Gazdic—Has played well during demotion.
- F Jujhar Khaira—He gave the team good minutes during his first recall.
- R Tyler Pitlick—Back, healthy and effective in his last 10 games.
- R Rob Klinkhammer—Enjoying a strong run in Bakersfield.
Important NHL countdowns:
Trade Deadline: 21 days
Draft Lottery: 68 days
Entry Draft: 137 days
Free Agency: 144 days
— Platinum Seat Ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits) February 8, 2016
If the Islanders are going to deal Travis Hamonic, the Oilers should be front and center in the conversation. Do we all agree? I hope we do. That said, I am finding it increasingly difficult to engage people on the subject. Why? The issue-framing is ridiculous. In a negotiation, when you are dealing from a point of weakness, you are going to overpay. If fans expect Peter Chiarelli to acquire Hamonic or Sami Vatanen or Jonas Brodin for even 80 cents on the dollar, good luck.
It is likely Oilers fans balk at the price eventually paid. I learned that lesson when Edmonton went to market in an effort to deal Billy Guerin and Dougie Weight. They were dealing from weakness and ended up with Anson Carter and Jochen Hecht (respectively) and a bunch of other pieces.
When the Oilers grab that defender to go with Sekera—Fayne/Klefbom—Davidson? It will cost a pretty penny. Brace yourself.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun day on the show with very smart people. TSN1260, begins at 10 this morning:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. The week after the AS break was weird, really weird.
- Brian King, NonStopSportsPicks. PDO talks about the Super Bowl and CFL free agency, and I will give him three minutes to fix the Oilers—but he will only need two.
- Sunil Agnihotri, The SuperFAN and Copper & Blue. A crazy week for Edmonton, 2-2-0 never felt so awesome while also being so horrawful.
- Jeff Hauser, SB Nation and Radio Hauser. He predicted the Broncos to win it all and has been on the Lowdown for many weeks telling us. Today? We congratulate him.
Text 10-1260, @Lowetide on twitter and I do read the comments here as I can during the show. Should be a blast, my thanks to Rex for the Lost Weekend idea.