The Edmonton Oilers hit the road to Denver (tonight) and Phoenix (Friday) before coming home for games on Sunday (Scottsdale) and Tuesday (Don Mills) to round out the month. This is going to be a fascinating week, as a playoff team probably goes 3-1-0 against this schedule. What will the Oilers do?
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH, 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, goal differential -1
- Oilers in November 2016: 3-6-1 goal differential -8
- Oilers after 20, 2015: 7-12-1, goal differential -8
- Oilers after 20, 2016: 11-8-1, goal differential +8
G21 a year ago featured fantabulous goaling from Anders Nilsson and no goals from the Oilers, a 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. I look forward to the day when looking back on the previous season involves more wins than losses—perhaps next year.
Darren Dreger of TSN is quoted as saying Ryan Murphy is being shopped and a Western Conference team is among those interested. I liked him a lot in his draft year, as did a lot of astute prospect watchers:
- Kirk Luedeke, Bruins Draft Watch: The most skilled prospect at the defense position in the entire 2011 draft, and you can make the case that he could be the most talented player overall. A 5+ skater on the 1-5 scale; explosive acceleration, dynamic top speed with extra separation gear. A master of his edges; can cut and turn on a dime and shake would-be forecheckers with ease. When he revs it up through the neutral zone, few can slow him down.
There are two things that give me pause these years later. First is injury—he has not been able to stay healthy. The second item is where to play him—third pairing RH side—and the Oilers are invested in Matt Benning and have Brandon Davidson in there somewhere, too. Could Murphy make enough of a difference at 5×4 to make the 5×5 risk worthwhile?
Laurent Brossoit photo by Mark Williams
I think we can agree the backup goaltending job (Oilers edition) remains up in the air, both this season and into the future. An interesting dilemma may lie ahead for Peter Chiarelli in this area. I will bet you a 2-4 that Craig MacTavish and the established management group love Laurent Brossoit—former Oil King, helluva trade to get him, good soldier. What’s the problem? Peter Chiarelli’s college hire Nick Ellis has the early edge in the numbers.
- Nick Ellis 6gp, 2.38 .931
- Laurent Brossoit 8gp, 2.53 .924
If Craig MacTavish were still GM, Brossoit would be here already—pretty sure. Nick Ellis is going to play in the AHL for at least this season, maybe next one too. I think this is a battle worth watching.
Corsica.Hockey does great work, when I retire first thing to do is to dig in and understand. One of the surface items I do get is the combos page—and the lines. If you list the Oilers lines based on anything (5×5 Scoring Chance Percentage is below), Patrick Maroon shows up early and often and with all three major centers.
- Maroon—Draisaitl—Puljujarvi 76.47 percent in 69 minutes.
- Maroon—Nuge—Eberle 62.50 percent in 26 minutes.
- Lucic—McDavid—Eberle 59.18 percent in 123 minutes.
- Maroon—McDavid—Eberle 57.14 percent in 78 minutes.
- Pouliot—Nuge—Kassian 55.17 percent in 97 minutes.
- Lucic—McDavid—Puljujarvi 50.00 percent in 35 minutes.
- Lander—Letestu—Pitlick 46.67 percent in 57 minutes.
- Lucic—Draisaitl—Pitlick 33.33 percent in 44 minutes.
Some very smart people are posting expansion rosters now, Craig Button (above) and Frank Seravalli among them. I find this interesting, and both lists are fascinating (I will post the Seravalli tomorrow as a preview to our conversation on the Lowdown). What we are likely to see is a series of trades before the deadline, with men like Fleury, Davidson, Dzingel, Silfverberg and others sent away. The typical expansion player is a fellow like Read, and I imagine we will see a mountain of trades after the expansion draft.
My guess is that a team like Edmonton will try to make a deal surrounding Benoit Pouliot or another expensive winger (I would protect Pouliot), but that the club will not be shocked if they lose Davidson. My other guess is that the worry early in the fall over expansion LV was Griffin Reinhart, and the current injury—while both vague and convenient—may not be enough to discourage the Golden Knights from drafting the big defender. GMs love the Reinhart type and there aren’t likely to be many available.
THE ART ROSS
It has been 30 years since Wayne Gretzky won his (seventh and) final Art Ross as an Edmonton Oilers center, and since then the club has had very few contenders. Since then, there have been close calls (Messier was second to LAK Gretzky in 1989-90, Doug Weight finished in the top 10 in 2000-01) but nothing close to Connor McDavid’s current run.
If you are a younger Oilers fan, allow me to impress upon you the degree of difficulty involving in winning this trophy. It is so rare to win the thing, almost impossible without a brilliant linemate alongside. For me, that is probably the biggest issue for McDavid in winning the Art Ross: Who is going to cash those passes? This is serious business and I don’t think we have the mixture figured out just yet, but you can smell the whisky burning down the copperhead road. I think Maroon/Puljujarvi might be it this season.
DESERT ISLAND STAT
If you had to choose one stat per position, what would it be? For me, I would pick even-strength save percentage for goalies, CorsiRel 5×5 percentage for defensemen and 5×5/60 for forwards, and would want to know where the players ranked across the league.
- Cam Talbot .922 (No. 16 among starters)
- Matt Benning 4.6 (No. 19)
- Eric Gryba 2.6 (No. 48)
- Oscar Klefbom 1.7 (No. 63)
- Adam Larsson 0.6 (No. 77)
- Darnell Nurse 0.3 (No. 84)
- Andrej Sekera -2.9 (No. 152)
- Kris Russell -8.6 (No. 188 out of 191 NHL defensemen)
- Connor McDavid 2.95 (No. 12)
- Tyler Pitlick 2.22 (No. 44)
- Anton Slepyshev 2.13 (No. 56)
- Jordan Eberle 1.87 (No. 90)
- Leon Draisaitl 1.82 (No. 98)
- Patrick Maroon 1.77 (No. 107)
- Jesse Puljujarvi 1.72 (No. 121)
- Mark Letestu 1.55 (No. 147)
- Anton Lander 1.47 (No. 160)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.38 (No. 180)
- Zack Kassian 1.28 (No. 200)
- Benoit Pouliot 1.11 (No. 242)
- Milan Lucic 0.83 (No. 295 out of 365)
For the Art Ross Trophy winner to be hauling around the No. 295 scorer at 5×5/60 and win the scoring championship is impossible. I think one of two things happens: Lucic finds his way, or Maroon moves back on the 1line. The other alternatives on LW are Benoit Pouliot (hard to score from the dog house) and Drake Caggiula. Seriously.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning with crazy people, 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Playoffs? It is possible! Plus, is McLellan trolling the media?
- Antony Bent, Soccer Insider. MLS playoffs and paint has to go in the right place.
- Don Landry, CFL.ca. Grey Cup week is just about the most fun you can have in Canada without getting arrested. Don is on the beat.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.