The Edmonton Oilers came out flat as a pancake and it went downhill from there. During the 2016-17 season (so far), I recall only one other game that was this poor—that an early season tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Aside from cliches like teachable moment and implying flu, I have nothing to offer you this morning in the way of a feelgood. We know Columbus is a wonderful team, but it is also right and good to say the Oilers did not give themselves a great chance to win the game. They were poor.
FINAL RESULTS FROM OHIO, 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: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
- Oilers in December 2016: 7-2-5, goal differential +3
- Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2, goal differential -5
- Oilers in January 2017: 0-1-0, goal differential -2
- Oilers after 39, 2015-16: 15-21-3, goal differential -24
- Oilers after 39, 2016-17: 19-13-7, goal differential +8
I don’t really see a need to run all the numbers, suffice to say no one looked so good that they earned a large mention beyond (for me) Cam Talbot. You may have read that Benoit Pouliot made a terrible pass and should be sent to Siberia, but for me he remains a solid NHL player having a poor NHL season. Filet away, I see no reason to back down on the issue beyond acknowledgement that he is in a dreadful period of absolute vapor lock.
You may say ‘how in hell can you defend Pouliot after last night?’ and comes my answer: If you believe in something, then one night, or even 30, or really even a season, should not alter what is established. I know it sounds stubborn, but I learned from Pete Rose’s 1974 batting average that sometimes things can go sideways for an entire year. Also, we know this: single moments and events can have super importance while being exactly single moments and events.
BENOIT POULIOT 16-17 (15-16)
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.06 (2.05)
- 5×4 points per 60: 0.00 (3.75)
- Corsi for % 5×5: 49.5 (51.0)
- Most Common Linemates: RNH, Kassian, Caggiula, Puljujarvi
- Opposition: 152 minutes v. elites, 157 minutes v. mid-level, 87 minutes v. dregs
- Corsi Rel: -1.5
- Shots on goal/percentage: 44/11.4 (109/12.8%)
- Boxcars: 34GP, 5-2-7 (55GP, 14-22-36)
- Sources: Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, Woodmoney, Hockey-Reference
This is a fascinating player card. Benoit Pouliot, despite all of his troubles this year (and they have been many), is still around 50 percent in possession, still plays tougher minutes reliably and is still scoring on 11 percent of his shots. He is not scoring enough, he has taken some costly penalties, he made a bad pass last night and has been the wayward wind way more often this season.
Oilers fans and media are not onside with Benoit Pouliot today, and I think we can probably make an educated guess about how the coach feels based on handling and usage this season. I always ask a series of questions about a slumping player: Is he injuried? Is he 40? Is his shooting percentage spiraling downard? In the case of BP, the answer is no.
The problem, as near as I can tell, is that Pouliot is no longer playing with McDavid and Eberle (he had success there one year ago) and is scoring at slightly lower levels with the Nuge year over year:
- Pouliot with Nuge 2015-16: 4-3-7 in 262 minutes (1.60 5×5/60)
- Pouliot with Nuge 2016-17: 4-1-5 in 219 minutes (1.37 5×5/60)
Folks, Benoit Pouliot’s play this season has cost him his job. Pretty sure. The easiest thing in the world for me to write today would be a damnation of this player and for this blog to join the parade of critical verbal available pretty much everywhere else.
I won’t do it because it doesn’t make sense. Benoit Pouliot is having a bad season and maybe he has in fact lost a step and this is his future. From what I can see, this is a player who simply cannot get one damned thing to rhyme, kind of like the 1969-70 Montreal Canadiens. You can call me stubborn, you can call me worse, I see no good reason to bury Benoit Pouliot today beyond the need to follow the crowd. Which, in a very real way, is the worst reason on earth to base a decision.
I have been hammered by commenters and observers before (one day I will roll out the venom parked at my doorstep in the days following the Pronger trade to Anaheim) but having the courage of your convictions is an important thing, even in regard to something as seemingly inconsequential as an NHL player in a downward spiral. Benoit Pouliot surely will be leaving town soon, and many Oilers fans will rejoice. Me? I will want to know the team that takes the risk, because it will tell me that general manager is a pretty smart fellow. Seriously.
NOW, A WORD FROM THE COACH
- Todd McLellan: ”It was a great test for us. For me it was a playoff-type environment, and we had some go-to people that were invisible. We’ve got to get them up and running and they have gotta understand, as we get further in, and we get to where we want to go eventually, you have gotta show up.”
I have some time for Todd McLellan’s point of view here, and as we will see in a moment at least two of the names are known to those around the team (based on a tweet from a credible source). I think there are two issues impacting the coach right now, in terms of forwards. Here is one.
Eberle, Pouliot top this list. Coach has had enough. https://t.co/HFdN5xxRJY
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) January 4, 2017
Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot are the targets on many levels, this blog is not prepared to throw either man under the bus. Rather, I would point to the problem Todd McLellan has that has gone mostly unreported. Ahem.
OILERS FORWARDS EVEN-STRENGTH TOI LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl 17:38
- Connor McDavid 17:04
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 15:22
- Patrick Maroon 14:21
- Jordan Eberle 14:12
- Drake Caggiula 13:39
- Milan Lucic 12:25
- Benoit Pouliot 12:15
- Zack Kassian 10:49
- Jesse Puljujarvi 9:14
- Matt Hendricks 7:38
- Mark Letestu 6:36
Now. You can argue that the big problem here comes from Eberle and Pouliot, but I would argue that the names in italics are a bigger issue. Last night was a perfect example of the problem. Todd McLellan, of sound mind and body, is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore! So, he casts about for people he can use while benching as many veterans and he can find—and finds two flat out rookies plus a slow fourth line. This is not good.
And you can argue that Anton Lander should be in there, but he is no fast train, either. Tyler Pitlick is out for the year, Anton Slepyshev is in Bakersfield and on it goes. What is the solution? Balance.
The NHL is a faster league now, so that 4line Todd McLellan is rolling out now cannot stand against a team like the CBJ. However, if he the coach had been able to insert Anton Slepyshev and Tyler Pitlick last night, then at least the speed issue would not have been as severe.
Balance: It’s the real thing. Now, more than ever.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy, still developing show this morning starting at 10 on TSN1260. I have confirmed Bruce McCurdy from Cult of Hockey and Chris Peters from the United States of Hockey, with more to come. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!