The Edmonton Oilers are still building their team, still searching for more pieces for the McDavid cluster. Logic and reason suggest this is ‘go time’ in the last season of Connor McDavid’s entry-level deal but there are so many unanswered questions on the roster, that may not be possible. It’s a difficult road for any manager, Peter Chiarelli (so far) deciding to find out about the kids. Perhaps it would have been easier to sign Cody Franson and Jaromir Jagr, to make a trade for Josh Leivo. The plan, as we stand here today, is to find out what’s cooking internally with the department of youth at the NHL level. That takes time and the organization is burning daylight.
How many roster spots can you devote to unproven players and still contend for the Stanley Cup? You can allow for Andrej Sekera on that second pairing and if Leon is healthy then the RW situation is not really dire. I don’t think there’s a lot of resistance to the following statement: The Oilers don’t look like a contender. Not today. The club is still building, and the Sekera plus Leon injuries are driving that home harder than the Stones’ rhythm section.
THE WHO, BY NUMBERS
- HD SC 5×5: 15-4 (78.95 percent)
- SC 5×5: 32-13 (71.11 percent)
- Corsi for 5×5: 71.35 (66.98 percent)
- Source: Natural Stat Trick
The numbers from last night are a sick joke. Some of it score effects, some of it a reflection of one team’s precision and another team’s inability to finish, some of it on goaltending both ways. Edmonton’s goalies have been the lesser in most every game this season, and at the other end Edmonton’s snipers are making every G they face look like Bernie Parent. It’s a helluva slump, plus some other things, but these numbers are silly majestic bordering on mocking this Oilers team. How can a team lose so badly on the scoreboard and win possession this severely?
IT DON’T COME EASY, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-4-0, goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2016: 3-1-0, goal differential +2
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-3-0, goal differential -6
No way to sugarcoat this start, the Oilers look as out of time as they did in the Quinn, Renney or Eakins era. Each sortie defended looks like a dance of strangers, and in offensive sojourns, nothing rhymes. But, and this is important, this bleeding team has the puck going in a very good direction. They are in a shooting slump and the goaler isn’t consistent. Even if they don’t change a thing, and they should add a RHD and a veteran RW, this team is going to have far better days. The question is ‘will it be enough?’ and I am not in possession of that answer.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- At home to: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Carolina (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 0-2-0)
- On the road to: Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Washington (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-3-2, 12 points in 10 games
- Current results: 1-3-0, 2 points after four games
There’s still no reason to panic and in fact there are some good arrows emerging (more to come). What is becoming obvious is this: Peter Chiarelli is going to have to decide how many experiments he’s willing to run during the final entry-level year of Connor McDavid. He may have taken on too many projects and once again an Edmonton general manager leaves the train station lacking depth and balance.
DEFENSE LAST NIGHT
- The numbers are fantastic but in reality there were significant mistakes and they were costly.
- Nurse—Russell had a good night to my eye, the pairing were on the ice most at 5×5 and for the most part the puck was headed in the right direction. Certainly good enough to get another shot in my opinion, don’t believe either man can be blamed for last night’s loss.
- Klefbom—Larsson had an adventure on many shifts, Larsson got the goal but he made both coverage and passing misplays on the evening. Klefbom was the better part of the pairing for me, he was his usual calm self with the only real criticism being the pairing couldn’t get the puck up ice consistently.
- Auvitu—Gryba were about what we thought they might be, Auvitu brought some chaos and Gryba was a little late on several plays. The first goal against featured Auvitu losing his mark and Gryba defending air. This isn’t going to be a successful pairing in my opinion.
- Cam Talbot is starting this season in a similar fashion to the one he played in the first season with the Oilers. He’s a talented player but is giving up at least one goal a game that he shouldn’t, and that may mean more time for the backup goalie. Laurent Brossoit gave up a couple himself but has earned a start.
- Maroon—McDavid—Yamamoto were fabulous in possession and the line engineered the goal. Maroon is effective, as he was a year ago, but those 10-bell chances don’t appear to be happening. McDavid is brilliant, don’t touch a thing. Yamamoto? He was good to my eye, certainly earned another game.
- Lucic—Nuge-Kassian did well in possession and Nuge was excellent in the faceoff dot. The second line has to bring more danger than this unit did last night.
- Jokinen—Strome—Slepyshev got a little more done than the second line in my opinion, both wingers appeared in some good places. Strome isn’t getting to the game enough, something needs to happen for him.
- Khaira—Letestu—Pakarinen were fine, I will say that Mark Letestu isn’t impacting the power play much and at some point we might see Strome or Yamamoto grab that job.
- Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Last week a lot of people were calling the Oilers lazy but I didn’t really buy into it. These are errors of execution at both ends, made more difficult for three reasons:
- Cam Talbot has some wobble in his game
- Injuries to Andrej Sekera and now Leon Draisaitl leave this team far less than they were in the spring
- Auditioning kids in so many areas is never a going to help you win hockey games.
All of this is fixable. Talbot will be fine, Sekera and Draisaitl will return and the kids will rise and fall, finding their way. The thing to worry about? The playoffs. Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract may expire without a trip to the second season if the club doesn’t right the ship soon. Losing points in October brings pain in April and the Oilers don’t look like a team about to go 3-0-0 this week. Balance: It’s the real thing. The Edmonton Oilers should try it some time.