The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a similar spot to that of the Edmonton Oilers: Second division teams with lots of pieces, lacking balance, while building for a brand new day. Edmonton should beat Toronto to glory, but they should be ahead of a bunch of teams. The Oilers ‘you are here’ sign is a long, long way from Stanley.
A lot of my youth was spent talking about hair, and hair was a lot about the generation gap. All of my Dad’s friends and co-workers looked like Floyd Smith, and the Maple Leafs represented that generation well. Hard work all week, let loose on a Friday night, Saturday for the chores and shopping, church Sunday.
The next generation didn’t follow that line of thinking. Take Mike Walton as an example. As a young Leaf, he needed only age and weather to end up like Floyd Smith. Once Walton got traded to the Bruins, he started to resemble the 1970s. My Dad hated all of it, especially the Bruins. Hippies and hoods, he called them. He would argue with my brother (the eldest) about hair through the early part of the 1970s, but I only knew one thing for sure. I was not going to end up with a Floyd Smith haircut.
SOUTH PACIFIC! 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 -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-7-2 goal differential -1
- Oilers after 23, 2015: 7-14-2, goal differential -13
- Oilers after 23, 2016: 12-9-2, goal differential +9
G24 a year ago was a win for Edmonton, via the shootout versus eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsurgh Penguins. Edmonton will not reach our goal (15 points in 15 games) but could end up with 14 with a win tonight—close enough for jazz. With the sweet Colorado victory a distant bell courtesy the mad dogs of Phoenix, the Oilers arrive at this game at the corner of Queen and Bowie.
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS, BY 5X5 MINUTES TOGETHER
- Klefbom—Larsson 329 minutes (52.17 Corsi for 5×5/60)
- Sekera—Russell 226 minutes (47.46 Corsi for 5×5/60)
- Nurse—Gryba 182 minutes (53.64 Corsi for 5×5/60)
- Nurse—Benning 101 minutes (53.92 Corsi for 5×5/60)
- Sekera—Benning 82 minutes (55.33 Corsi for 5×5/60)
There are all kinds of things we can figure out from here:
- The top pairing is effective in possession, and have averaged 14 minutes together each game. Klefbom’s added offense is a nice touch, but there are calm moments in games now. I imagine this tandem will get better as the years go by.
- Sekera—Russell continue to be an adventure in possession, but they are two veterans who give the coach a feeling of calm. I think it might have something to do with the pairing’s 106 PDO, but we shall see. Sometimes these strange numbers hang up in the rafters far longer than predicted.
- Todd McLellan has made his choice on the third pairing, and he chose offense. Benning over Gryba is something Floyd Smith would never have contemplated and that’s for sure. Interesting to see the possession numbers so similar with Nurse’s two partners. Matt Benning isn’t giving up a thing in Corsi compared to Gryba, and he was golden with Sekera, too.
I would play Mark Fayne with Andrej Sekera and grab possession. I know this is akin to reefer madness, but the wacky abacus in my brain won’t shut up about that blasted possession number. Mr. Fayne is on waivers today, and with his salary there is every chance the streets of Bakersfield are in his future. The life and times of Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog taught me that there is more than one way to run a railroad, so the speed of Kris Russell wins this battle going away for Todd McLellan.
FORWARD LINES, SCORING CHANCES FOR PERCENTAGE
- Maroon—Draisaitl—Puljujarvi 76.47 SCF% in 70 minutes
- Lucic—McDavid—Puljujarvi 71.43 SCF% in 63 minutes
- Maroon—Nuge—Eberle 65.22 SCF% in 57 minutes
- Lucic—McDavid—Eberle 59.18 SCF% in 124 minutes
- Maroon—McDavid—Eberle 57.14 SCF% in 78 minutes
- Pouliot—Nuge—Kassian 55.17 SCF% in 97 minutes
- Lander—Letestu—Pitlick 46.67 SCF% in 57 minutes
The solutions for a successful line in Edmonton this year appear to be focused on Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Jesse Puljujarvi. Huh. This is just one view of the world mind you, but the Oilers should be able to cobble together two effective lines here.
Off day for Oilers:
What do u think?
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 28, 2016
Todd McLellan has the No. 2 choice above (McDavid line), and the No. 1 option above with Eberle sliding in for JP. Interesting. Pouliot-Nuge look good above, and adding Slepyshev in over Kassian gives the team more speed on a skill line—always a good idea. The No. 7 option is the 4line, with Hendricks in for Lander. Sound reasonable? I like the lines as published yesterday, let’s see how things look tonight against Toronto.
Guy Flaming and Taylor Medak from the Pipeline Show spoke to Western Michigan coach Andy Murray on the weekend. The update on Aidan Muir: He is out long term with nerve/tendon/ligament damage on the wrist. He’s undergone surgery. This is what Murray said about Muir’s progress since his arrival:
- Andy Murray: Aidan had a real good freshman year for us, second year for whatever reason, focus was not there the same way. He struggled last season. This summer, he took a huge step forward, refocused, prepared really well and was playing as well as anyone on our team when he got hurt. He’s going to come back, he’s got a chance. He is a big forward and he has some belief in his game. Source
Muir is listed at 6.04, 212 on the Western Michigan site. The PF would certainly fit in with Peter Chiarelli’s template for wingers, and the team could step off several pro players next summer. RFAs include Iiro Pakarinen, Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander, Jujhar Khaira, Mitchell Moroz, Bogdan Yakimov, Jere Sallinen, Zack Pochiro, with the only F UFA being Matt Hendricks.
The Oilers have very few forwards who are bubbling under in college, junior or pro. Peter Chiarelli could sign any of Muir, Tyler Vesel, Evan Campbell and he could add Tyler Benson if he makes the big club in 2017-18—which seems a stretch. What does that mean? I think we see another active spring and summer in college free agency. I also think there is an excellent chance many of those RFAs return.
HEARTACHES BY THE NUMBER
We won’t know for sure about the lineups until Mike Babcock tells us, but Leon’s trip up the depth chart to 97’s line could see a few sessions tonight. Leon Draisaitl is going to be important because he can move up and down, and across, on the skill lines.
- Connor McDavid 3.23
- Leon Draisaitl 1.79
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.41
- Mark Letestu 1.37
- Drake Caggiula 1.01
RNH is off the rails a little offensively, Edmonton badly needs the veteran to deliver some kind of 5×5 offense (his shooting percentage is currently beyond belief, one goal on 52 5×5 shots). I don’t see him hitting line drives of late, so that might be a longer term item. Leon? Well, he is moving north and Edmonton badly needs him to keep on keeping on.
TROUBLES BY THE SCORE
5×5/60 Left Wingers
- Matt Hendricks 1.58 (in just 38 minutes)
- Patrick Maroon 1.55
- Milan Lucic 1.46
- Benoit Pouliot 1.01
5×5/60 Right Wingers
- Tyler Pitlick 2.01
- Anton Slepyshev 1.95
- Jordan Eberle 1.85
- Jesse Puljujarvi 1.68
The LWs should be a good group, Lucic is finally posting some crooked numbers at 5×5 and is on pace for 82, 25-32-57. Maroon hasn’t scored much lately but he will at some point, possibly tonight. Pouliot is the concern here, this is a helluva slump he is in. If he is healthy, one should expect a breakout and then some real sustain (like Hendrix at Woodstock) over a couple of weeks.
Right wing has the maligned Eberle (headed for something like 82, 25-36-61) along with three talented kids trying to make a go of it in the big city. I like JP on any line really, but he needs to score on those beautiful McDavid gifts.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Another fun show today, with smart people with sharp hair! TSN1260, 10 this morning, scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. Las Vegas has a name and a lot of chatter about possible players. Plus, McDavid plays on national television in the USA for the first time tonight.
- Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation. The Oilers were 2-1-1 last week, but people are angry. Jon will explain why, and we will discuss market correction and where we should reasonably expect the team to settle in the Pacific Division.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. A classic Grey Cup in Toronto, Leafs—Oilers tonight, building teams up front before the back end is taken care of and why it is difficult.
- Jeff Veillette, Leafs Nation. Dougie Hamilton rumors have Toronto agog, that mean old Kadri, how much does Mike Babcock think Connor McDavid should play?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Fun lineup!