Snow in San Anselmo
My waitress my waitress my waitress
Said it was coming down
Said it hadn’t happened in over thirty years
But it was laying on the ground
But it was laying on the ground
Now, I believe the Edmonton Oilers have some fine things, and I know about regression and random and luck and frustration and rage and demon liquor and maybe even a little about madness. I know this is the year we should head north, and I have taken care of my boots and brought in plenty of supplies and there is more than enough wood and whisky to last us until spring. But a man needs faith and a man needs hope, and it is running a little low with the long December coming into view. Heaven help us.
HARD NOSE THE HIGHWAY, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in November 2016: 2-5-1 goal differential -9
- Oilers after 17, 2015: 6-11-0, goal differential -10
- Oilers after 17, 2016: 9-7-1, goal differential +1
This is painful. Not exactly like personal failure, more like watching one of your children try their best, and fail (it is excruciating) at something others do easily. Blowing this start is beyond mere flesh wound. Frankly, management should have stepped in by now—and should today, now—but this is us. November totals: five points in eight games, the 15 in 15 dream seems like a distant bell. Is there a silver lining? Well, they played well in a lot of important points in the game. HDSC: 17-8, including a glorious 11-3 count in the second period where the Child King was fire but could not turn the tide.
DEFENSE LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom—Larsson had a great night in possession and in HDSCs, including 12-0 with Lucic. The duo lined up against Nick Ritchie—Ryan Getzlaf—Corey Perry (13-0). The pairing had five shots on goal, and Klefbom played five minutes on the PP and two on the PK. Save the score, a poor KLefbom pinch and some errant PP shooting, I think he had a fine evening. This was Larsson’s best game in some time.
- Nurse—Gryba had a strong night by the numbers (7-1 with McDavid) but Nurse was a dash three and that is not a good line on a nightly resume. I really liked elements of his game (he moved to the middle for a better angle using a Savardian spinnerama), but in several instances he lost battles or left too much air between himself and the enemy. Gryba is a solid partner for Nurse. They were 6-2 in an extended run against the Kesler line (5:49) but only 3-4 against Getzlaf.
- Sekera—Benning were 1-6 against the Getzlaf trio and the rookie spent a bunch of time behind his own net ciphering a suitable outlet, to no avail. This club needs Brandon Davidson back soon. I like Benning’s future, but Sekera needs to take on more of the load. The first goal against had several authors, but our man Reg did not play it well.
- Cam Talbot needs to keep this team in games longer. I am not pointing the finger at him on a specific goal, but the goalie’s job is to keep it close—he didn’t do it last night and this team needs him to be a superhero every night. That’s the gig.
- Natural StatTrick
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Maroon—McDavid—Eberle had a good night in terms of possession and chances, and 97 moved all over (4-0 with Leon) in an effort to find some clean air. That breakaway was the best chance and McDavid went 10-7 against Kesler but only 1-2 in HDSCs. NHL teams are checking him hard now, he may get a break in LA if Kopitar doesn’t play. Nine shots for the line, I am not overly concerned about their being shutout against the Ducks. There was a point in the second period where CMD went to another level, but he could not cash. After that, he seemed more frustrated than effective, the first crack I have observed in the young man’s mental armor. When he breaks out, some team is going to pay and pay and pay again.
- Lucic—Nuge—Slepyshev did well in possession and did have some chances (Nuge missed a gorgeous chance, the dog is still on the ceiling I yelled so loudly). They went 12-8 against the Getzlaf line, 3-3 in HDSCs. Despite this, the line did not cash and they need to. Lucic drilled a post, would have liked to have seen both chances cash. I think this was easily Slepyshev’s best game since Carolina. Pitlick went 7-3 in 4:49 with RNH, Slepy went 13-7 in 8:52 with Nuge.
- Pouliot—Draisaitl—Kassian got the goal (a solo Leon) and they went 15-7 Corsi (and 7-3 HDSC) against the Vermette line. Was there a second goal out there? Pouliot took another Ozone penalty and Kassian was probably the best winger on the team last night.
- Defensive zone faceoffs: Letestu line 6, Nuge line 3, McDavid line 3, Leon line 2.
WHO IS TO BLAME?
Blame is too strong a word in my opinion, especially for the players. Cam Talbot has to be Superman, or at least Daredevil, for this team to run. He is not close to that level now, but for me the right choice is to keep playing the No. 1 man.
The mental mistakes are also costing them (Lucic didn’t get the puck deep and the defense was addled on goal one) and coverage is a mixed bag. The offense will come if the group keeps getting chances but you want to see some goals from the Nuge and Leon lines in coming games.
I thought Edmonton would push in the third period but they were flat as flat can be, and if I am Todd McLellan that might be the most concerning thing. This team is in a tailspin and the solutions need to make themselves known. Last night, with the team down by two goals, we all expected a push but there was nothing close. The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound and a wave broke over the railing. That should trouble all souls on board.
Todd McLellan may have to move Leon to Nuge’s line, pretty sure, maybe put Lucic on the port side and see if the three strugglers can get it done together.
The alternative is running Eberle with Nuge and Pouliot, that might work too, has in the past. A lot of this is just bad luck and random madness, but coaches get fired over losing streaks and—while that won’t happen here—the pressure on coaching and management in Edmonton must be enormous this morning.
THE OTHER NEXT STEP
Peter Chiarelli probably guessed Jesse Puljujarvi would be helping a little more offensively by now, and he may have to bite the bullet and find an outside solution. I don’t necessarily believe that he will, but at some point the bleeding will have to stop and honestly there are reasons why these lines are struggling. As great as the Tyler Pitlick story is for us fans, chances are the young man isn’t going to score 20 this season—nor will JP, Zack Kassian, Anton Slepyshev or Taylor Beck. It is time to add a productive RW, or move Leon over.
CONDORS PLAY TODAY
At 11:30 our time this morning, the Bakersfield Condors play a home game against the Manitoba Moose. The real story so far for the Condors is the goaltending, with Laurent Brossoit and Nick Ellis performing very well. Here are the (estimated) even-strength points per 60 so far this year via Prospect-Stats:
- Matt Benning 2.04
- Frankie Simonelli 1.34
- David Musil 1.11
- Jordan Oesterle 0.94
- Joey Laleggia 0.85
- Dillon Simpson 0.77
- Ben Betker 0.61
- Mark Fraser 0.33
- Griffin Reinhart 0.00
- Bryce Aneloski 0.00
- Jujhar Khaira 5.5
- Taylor Beck 4.06
- Ryan Hamilton 2.40
- Mitch Moroz 2.12
- Scott Allen 1.67
- Josh Currie 1.47
- Kris Newbury 1.44
- Braden Christoffer 1.41
- Patrick Russell 1.30
- Joey Benik 1.13
- Jaedon Descheneau 0.83
- Kyle Platzer 0.53
- Greg Chase 0.00
- Kellen Laine 0.00
- Joel Rechlicz 0.00
- Jere Sallinen 0.00
Prospects who are performing at or above expected scoring levels are underlined, but of course this is early days—David Musil will not be at 1.11/60 by season’s end. Those forwards need some additional prospects and we could see Drake Caggiula and Jesse Puljujarvi there by the end of the week.
I had a bunch of people asking me about this after last night’s game. I will start posting on the draft when all hopes of a playoff spot are gone—this is in keeping with the past on this blog. Last season, my first draft post came on November 8, my guess is it will be some time in 2017 this year.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun show today, plenty of hockey talk and an open segment for you to vent. 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Finding open air for McDavid, getting Nuge, Leon and Lucic rolling and getting more stops from the goalie. Plus, a look back on a time when watching a team build and rise allowed the imagination to run wild.
- Simon Boisvert, prospect insider. We will talk of Bakersfield, and some of those prospect blue bubbling under in the CHL and college.
- Sean Woodley, TSN1050 Toronto. The Raptors are 7-3 in their first 10 games and have the look of a team that will contend for a spot in the eastern semi’s.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!