The Edmonton Oilers corrected their season with a 1-1-1 road trip, now it’s time to come home and win some games at Rogers Place. The club has five points after eight games and it appears this year’s script is going feature the team coming from behind to win the day. Or not. Points lost in October can dash hopes in the spring and that’s a fact. I think Peter Chiarelli owes it to his team to add some help, we’ll see if he agrees in the coming days.
PIKE’S PEAK, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 3-5-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-1-0, goal differential +12
- Oilers in October 2017: 2-5-1, goal differential -9
A little of this is strength of schedule, Edmonton has been playing some good hockey teams this year. Still, there was some wobble in net early and now the team can’t score goals. The Western Conference does not forgive, should the gales of November come early.
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: 0-3-0)
- On the road to: Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 1-1-1)
- 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: 2-5-1, 5 points after eight games games
For the first time since opening night, the Oilers covered the bet during an October chapter. Despite a faltering start to the year, two wins on home ice against Dallas and Washington would mean the month is merely disappointing, less than devastating. If the team can play as well as they did last night at home, I think they can do it.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson were 14-13 together Larsson was 5-4 with Darnell Nurse and Oscar went 5-2 in three minutes with Kris Russell. I liked the Swedish pairing, Oscar’s assist was a nice pass. The top pairing played mostly against Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary, going 15-10. A fine game.
- Nurse-Russell went 10-9 in 10:24, Nurse had the best Corsi for 5×5 among blue at just over 60 percent. Went 12-3 against Rust-Malkin-Kessel, I think that might have been Nurse’s best game. Terrific passing, calm feet, re-set well, I liked him a lot. Important to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves, but last night Nurse played top four minutes effectively. A plethora of smart people have told me privately Nurse is extremely unlikely to do that consistently in his career. I don’t know that Nurse will or won’t but he did last night. We’ll keep tracking this as the year goes along. Nurse wasn’t riding McDavid’s coattails either, going 7-10 with and 13-3 without (mostly with the Nuge).
- Auvitu-Benning were on the ice for the first GA and were not good (although they were 2-1 in HD SC). Went 9-11 Corsi and 4-10 in shots while not having an answer for the Penguins when they were wheeling. Peter Chiarelli needs to give his coach a little more on defense.
- Cam Talbot was the Oilers’ best, stopping 42 of 44. His save percentage has climbed all the way to .915.
- Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Maroon-McDavid went 22-12 together and hosted a plethora of right wingers. If I didn’t know better, it looked like the coach was sending out an s.o.s. or doing the Billy Martin*. Any way, Letestu (8-4), Yamamoto (4-4), Draisaitl (9-5) Kassian (3-1), Ryan Strome (3-0) and Drake Caggiula (1-5) joined the party on 97’s line. McDavid was 10-2 against Malkin, 9-11 against Crosby. My lord Jesus this young man is special.
- I love Kailer Yamamoto as a player but he isn’t cashing those 10-bell chances. He’s a doppelganger for Leon as a rookie (or vice versa, I can never remember) but we may be one year away from delivering magic consistently. Helluva young player.
- Lucic-Nuge-Strome went 9-10 (Looch) and 13-10 (Strome) with RNH. Trio went 6-7 against the Malkin line and 5-3 against the Crosby trio. I liked the line most of the night, save for 93’s two galling passing giveaways and Lucic missing the net on 3-on-3 in overtime. We’ll talk more about that play in a few minutes.
- Caggiula-Draisaitl went 11-8 together and 3-4 with Kailer Yamamoto as the most common winger. The Caggiula-Yamamoto combination went 7-6, no idea who was playing center for what segment.
- Pakarinen-Khaira-Kassian 2-5 in less than five minutes, Kassian got about one minute with McDavid and looked fine. This trio played less than half of the third line, McLellan was running up that hill.
*Billy Martin couldn’t get his Detroit Tigers out of a slump, so one day he decided to pull the batting order out of a hat. The result? His slugger hit leadoff and his shortstop (Eddie Brinkman) who couldn’t hit a lick was cleanup. They won, with the guy batting fourth getting it done. Source
MILAN LUCIC IN OVERTIME
There is a long history of coaches doing unusual things, so Lucic in the 3-on-3 may have been a hunch or maybe another winger blew a shoe. I don’t think running ML in a speed situation is a good idea, would rather see Patrick Maroon in the role. I’m not anti-Lucic, but putting him on the ice in that situation isn’t going to produce good results. The internet is drunk with people finding fault with the big man, but I’ll suggest the coach is the culprit in this instance.
LEON AT CENTER
I was on the Post-Game Show with Dean Millard (TSN1260) last night, he asked me where I thought Leon Draisaitl should play Thursday night. Answer? 2C. That’s my opinion. Now ask me where I think Todd McLellan will stick Leon. Answer: 1R. The general manager needs to go get some speedster who can score. The price could be painful, maybe Slepyshev, who might be a solid solution given the opportunity. That’s what a bad start to the season gets you and why balance is an important goal in summer.
WHAT IS IT?
We seem to have reached one of those damnable moments where we can make statements of certainty but cannot agree on their importance. What’s more, we know our views on solutions are unlikely to match the views of the organization.
- The Oilers are shooting in awful luck.
- The Oilers don’t have enough quality forwards on the roster.
- The club needs another defenseman.
All of these statements are true but I’m not sure any of them individually means the Oilers will miss the playoffs. I think CMD could outscore a lot of mistakes if Cam Talbot continues to play well, and that was enough to make the postseason a year ago. One of the things that seems to be happening on this blog and elsewhere is a progression to a few different conclusions:
- The Oilers roster is woefully short of good enough, the bet on youngsters has been a miserable failure.
- The general manager didn’t do close to enough over the summer.
- The coach bleeds points via decisions like Milan Lucic playing 3-on-3.
Ask my opinion on all three. The answer? Yes, all three points have merit to a greater or lesser degree. Now ask me if I think it will impact the employment of Peter Chiarelli or Todd McLellan. As is the case with the Leon at center question above, my opinion and the reality of the situation are miles apart. Peter Chiarelli is going to write his own script and that’s as it should be for any general manager. The pressure on him is enormous but he was also at the helm during the 103-point season one year ago. Can he fix this team in time?
When Whitey Herzog took over the St. Louis Cardinals they were a middling team without much personality. He traded enormously popular Ted Simmons (a tremendous hitter and a good not great catcher) while bringing in a plethora of speed, defense and pitching.
- Retro Simba: Herzog, who doubled as the Cardinals’ general manager, traded 13 Cardinals and received 9 players in return in 3 deals, with the Padres, Cubs and Brewers. The biggest stunner was the last one: popular catcher Ted Simmons, the soul of the team, was traded with pitchers Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to the Brewers for pitchers Lary Sorensen and Dave LaPoint and outfielders Sixto Lezcano and David Green. Source
Herzog had taken over one third of the way through the 1980 season and actually left the team as manager to scour the minor league system mid-season in an effort to get a head start on the 1981 campaign (Red Schoendienst took over the day-to-day managerial duties). That winter, Herzog hit on most of his trades, adding Darrell Porter (free-agent catcher who could handle a pitching staff), Gene Tenace (who came over in an enormous trade with San Diego), Bruce Sutter (who was an unhittable closer). In December 1981 he added Ozzie Smith (the best defensive shortstop of his era, possibly ever), and a couple of months previous to that fleeced the NY Yankees out of Willie McGee.
Whitey traded the most popular Cardinals player (Simmons) on December 12, 1980 and won the World Series on October 20, 1982 (Bruce Sutter with the save). On the night he won, Cardinals fans didn’t give a hoot about Ted Simmons (who went 0-for-4 in that game batting cleanup for the other team, the Milwaukee Brewers). It all happened just this way.
Last night, on this blog, people were so upset about the overtime loss in Pittsburgh the name Taylor Hall resurfaced and we boxed that around for a time. That’s going to happen when a team inside the Stanley Cup window starts 2-5-1 and that’s the only real danger for Peter Chiarelli. As mad as some fans were (and are) about some of his trades, winning the Stanley Cup will wash away all sorrows and we’ll dance away the heartache on the day. On the night he wins Stanley as Oilers general manager (should it happen) a small percentage of fans may bring up the name Taylor Hall in a derisive fashion, but who on earth will care?
You have to do the things required to put yourself in position. Win. So far this season PC’s plan isn’t working. The faith shown in players like Matt Benning, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula and Jesse Puljujarvi is not bearing fruit. I think Peter Chiarelli is as aggressive in his own way as Whitey Herzog back in winter 1980. I don’t know if the correct answer is cutting bait on some of these youngsters in their new, more prominent roles, or if it’s better to stay the course.
I do know that Peter Chiarelli’s front office houses all kinds of strong personalities and lack of success is poison for any front office. Will we see Wayne Gretzky as the Oilers next general manager? A return of Kevin Lowe? Craig MacTavish? You can laugh if you wish but all three men are inside the organization at this time and all three men have shown a desire in the past to hold the highest jobs in the game.
I think we’re miles from a crisis in the Oilers front office, to be honest. A 2-5-1 start can easily be overcome and the goaltending is correcting in a big way. The year Herzog took over the team, St. Louis had 72 wins. Two years later, 92 wins and the World Series. The year Chiarelli took over the team, Edmonton had 70 points. One year later, 103 points. This year? Five points in eight games. There’s urgency here and I’m not certain the solutions are going to come from inside the organization. What would Whitey do? He’d make a move to help his team. Today. Right now this minute.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we’re bringing the high heat from the opening pitch! TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. Is this about quality, depth, luck, bad bets, a quiet summer or all of the above?
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. World Series Game One was splendid as October baseball shines like a diamond.
- Don Landry, CFL.ca. Eskimos the hottest team in the CFL (again) but how far can they go in the playoffs?
- Guy Flaming, The Pipeline Show. If CHL players are allowed to compete for roster spots in the Olympics, will they be competitive? What does this do to the World Juniors and to the CHL clubs these men won’t play for over an extended period?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. We’re loaded!