Nothing personal, just business. There’s every chance this doesn’t end well. Tomorrow night, Taylor Hall will be at Rogers Place with the New Jersey Devils. A player who spent a lot of his youth trying to push the Oilers to the second season has a chance to say thank you to the management team who sent him away. I imagine he’ll be motivated.
- Todd McLellan:“Tonight was a pretty competitive night against the Stanley Cup champs, but we have to win games.”
PIKE’S PEAK, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in November 2015: 1-0-0, goal differential +2
- Oilers in November 2016: 0-0-1, goal differential -1
- Oilers in November 2017: 0-1-0, goal differential -1
The Oilers begin the month with a losing effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Late in the second period, with the game 2-1 Edmonton, a pinch from the blue resulted in a two-on-one and that’s all she wrote. It’s one game in a long season, in and of itself really isn’t much at all. However, when the club is faltering and losing touch with the playoffs this early in the year, it’s far more lethal. This is the point in the movie where someone shakes the hero out of his malaise and tells him to wake up! Alas, the Oilers are awake, and losing fully conscious. I blame the bets on the value contracts, your mileage may vary.
AFTER 11, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 4-7-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers 16-17: 7-3-1, goal differential +7
- Oilers 17-18: 3-7-1, goal differential -12
The Oilers are now eight points behind their pace of one year ago, and that is beyond alarming. We’ve talked about the problems, the coach has identified the problems, and yet we saw Edmonton lose last night (partly) due to special teams and lack of secondary scoring. I mean, we can go all year like this, right? As I mentioned on the Lowdown yesterday, Edmonton needs some of those ‘value contracts’ to step up and they aren’t cashing much 11 games into the year. A month from now, it may not matter. We’ve been saying the next game is a must-win for awhile now, men.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NOVEMBER
- At home to: Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Detroit (Expected: 2-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: NYI, New Jersey, NYR, Washington (Expected: 1-2-1) (Actual: 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vegas, St. Louis (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual: 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, Buffalo, Boston (Expected 2-2-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Arizona, Toronto (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-7-2, 16 points in 16 games
- Current results: 0-1-0, zero points in one game
As mentioned yesterday, I didn’t think the Oilers were tight enough to beat Pittsburgh. The Devils and Red Wings have less talent, but that doesn’t mean these are easy wins for Edmonton. In fact, the Devils are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, could show up the Oilers tomorrow night. We’ll likely see some changes and at this point possibly a Jesse Puljujarvi recall, as the big winger scored a goal last night (now 8gp, 1-3-4 in Bakersfield).
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse—Larsson went 16-23 together, much of it with the McDavid trio. Sawed off at 1-1 goals 5×5, facing the Sheary—Crosby—Hornqvist line (12-17 Nurse—Larsson against Sid). Nurse hit a post, pinched on the Sheary goal (some blame him, looked like he was doing his job), Larsson was last line of defense on two-on-one and couldn’t interrupt the puck. For me, Larsson is the culprit, you may think that’s harsh but he took neither pass or shoot. Also in photo on the winner, he did miss a practice but you need him to make those plays. I think Klefbom is a better option for Larsson.
- Klefbom—Benning went 9-12 together, including 6-8 with the Nuge line. The group faced Kuhnackl—Evgeni Malkin—Bryan Rust/Phil Kessel about six minutes, going 4-6. I like the pairing, but they were 0-3 in high danger scoring chances.
- Auvitu—Russell were a quiet duo, going 9-5 and 5-1 in scoring chances. I know Auvitu is an acquired taste, but the numbers for this guy are incredible. He wasn’t getting just offensive zone faceoffs either. It’s early in the season and we haven’t seen him much, but the numbers are good. Went 8-2 with the Strome line, pairing faced Guentzel—Sheahan—Kessel (5-6). We may see these two Friday, Devils have some fast trains.
- Russell 11:12 5×5. Lordy.
- Cam Talbot stopped 27 of 30, I thought he was excellent. Even-strength saves are good, the entire penalty kill is a mess.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Caggiula—Strome—Slepyshev had a good night in possession and the three men delivered 7 shots. Went 10-7 as a line, got a slight face-off push and were 4-2 against the Sheahan line. I don’t think the coach has grand plans for this unit, but it will be interesting to see if they get another game. Caggiula had his best game of the year. McLellan said they were dangerous for the most part in the post-game media avail.
- Maroon—McDavid—Draisaitl went 14-18 together, had eight shots on goal and four points. Ran against the Crosby line (11-17) and Dumoulin (9-8). McLellan likes the power matchup, and they were 1-1 head-to-head. The only play left for the coach is to move Leon down, that may coincide with a JP recall.
- Lucic—Nuge—Yamamoto got the one point, Nuge on the power play. Four shots for the line, suspect we may see Yamamoto sent back as soon as today. Went 2-6 against Malkin, that’s an impossible matchup for RNH with a rookie imo. Not fair, McGee.
- Pakarinen—Letestu—Kassian went 3-4 in a low-event evening. Kassian’s breakaway out of the penalty box would have been nice and Letestu just missed a glorious PP opportunity. Went 0-4 against the McKegg line, who don’t look like much but worked like buggers and won some battles.
- Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
- LC Connor McDavid 11gp, 5-8-13. On pace for 97 points this season, an incredible talent delivering every night against increasingly difficult competition. Starting to hear grumbles from certain segments of the fan base, those of us who saw it with Hall, Nuge and others know where this is headed if success eludes the franchise. Please believe me when I tell you: The Oilers have a bunch of problems, this guy isn’t one of them. He’s a bargain at $3.775 million (including all bonuses).
- L Patrick Maroon 11gp, 4-5-9. On pace for 30 goals and 67 points, he’s a big part of the hockey team and currently on a quality run. There was a contract rumor earlier, haven’t heard much lately. Making $1.5 million and an extreme bargain.
- RC Ryan Strome 11gp, 1-3-4. I’m not as down on him as many are, for me Strome has shown glimpses and is still settling in. Still, on pace for just 29 points and he’ll need to boost that total. I think the club may end up using him more on special teams (as a center).
- R Kailer Yamamoto 8gp, 0-3-3. On pace for 30 points, but I think we’re reaching the end of his 2017-18 NHL season. He is still doing good things (drew a penalty last night) but not enough of them to stay. Including bonuses, he’s at $1.155 million.
- LD Darnell Nurse 11gp, 0-3-3. Nurse has taken another step forward this season and at a time when the organization badly needed it. I definitely count him as a positive value contract, he’d make $1.713 if all of his bonuses cash this year. Projects to 22 points.
- RC Mark Letestu 11gp, 2-0-2. He’s having the same kind goal-scoring impact as one year ago (on a trajectory for 15 goals) but remains a bargain at $1.8 million.
- RD Matt Benning 8gp, 1-0-1. He struggled early and appears to be back to previous form. $1.225 million with bonuses all in, I like him as a bet for real value.
- L Jussi Jokinen 9gp, 0-1-1. Making just $1.1 million, this seemed like a solid bet and may yet turn into one. Jokinen isn’t playing currently, but for me is one of the 12 best forwards on the roster.
- LD Yohann Auvitu 5gp, 0-0-0. No boxcars yet but the fancy stats are strong as they come into view. Not certain what coach McLellan will do with him but there’s a player here.
- L Drake Caggiula 6gp, 0-0-0. Making $1.35 million if all of the bonuses are reached, coming on now and we’ll see how much offense he can bring.
- LC Jujhar Khaira 6gp, 0-0-0. He is at $675,000 so it won’t take too much to cover the bet. One area he could make himself useful is the PK, he did quite a bit of it in Bakersfield.
- R Iiro Pakarinen 8gp, 0-0-0. He’s making $725,000 and the coach likes what he brings. Among the many bottom 6F’s yet to score.
- R Anton Slepyshev 8gp, 0-0-0. Appears to be crawling from the wreckage, had a good night on the Strome line against Pittsburgh. He is not a proven scorer, has some nice tools.
- RD Eric Gryba 9gp, 0-0-0. Making $900,000 and playing most of the games, I’ll count Gryba as a value contract while also agreeing he is better served as a 7D.
- Value deals overachieving: Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon, Darnell Nurse
- Value deals delivering: Mark Letestu, Matt Benning
- Value deals under delivering: The rest
The men being paid in full are another category and there are players (Milan Lucic, Kris Russell, Cam Talbot, Swedish blue) who need to do more. I’m confident most of these men will recover to previous levels, but the number of value contracts under water is a massive drag on the roster. Perhaps Slepyshev will break out on Friday.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260. A lot of ground to cover and what a week in sports! Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Last night’s game and the New Jersey Devils coming to town.
- Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. Oilers in early trouble, is there a move that makes sense?
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Are there any trade winds blowing?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!