In the fall of 1972, the Montreal Canadiens had four left-wingers who were breaking into the lineup. The 1960’s portsiders—John Ferguson, Gilles Tremblay, Dick Duff—were all gone and there was a need for new blood. The 1971-72 group (Frank Mahovlich, Marc Tardif, Rejean Houle) was super talented but the Big M was growing old and there was a need for additional talent. Sam Pollock’s Canadiens were so talent rich that even Hall of Famers had to enter as part-time players.
So it was, that in 1972, Steve Shutt, a brilliant offensive winger with a cannon shot and a fantastic two-way reputation, had to wait for Chuck Lefley and Murray Wilson to have their auditions. Yvon Lambert, who was a fine player too, had to wait in the minors. I honestly wonder if Lambert would have made it at all had the WHA not stolen the stunning talent that was Marc Tardif.
Oilers fans are watching auditions on right-wing this fall and winter, there’s some fabulous talent here. Jesse Puljujarvi could be here 15 years from now tearing up the Pacific Division. Jujhar Khaira, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, Kailer Yamamoto all bring something to the conversation, and some will emerge as NHL Oilers. We’ll never see auditions like the ones Sam Pollock cooked up in the first expansion era. It was, pure and simple, insanity. Steve Shutt waiting in line? The hell you say.
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- New Lowetide: Jones, Bear and Mantha
- New Jonathan Willis: Andrej Sekera
- New Jonathan Willis: Brandon Davidson
- Lowetide: Year-end taking stock
- Lowetide: Should the Oilers trade their 2018 first-round pick?
- Jonathan Willis: Rejuvenated Oilers set sights on post-season.
- Corey Pronman: Team Canada WJ preview.
- Lowetide: Connor McDavid: The Athletic’s Person of the Year!
- Lowetide: Anton Slepyshev
LONG DECEMBER, YEAR AFTER YEAR
- December 2015: 6-3-0, goal differential -3 (12 points)
- December 2016: 4-2-3, goal differential 0 (11 points)
- December 2017: 6-3-0, goal differential +8 (12 points)
AFTER 36, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 15-18-2, goal differential -17 (32 points)
- Oilers 16-17: 18-12-5, goal differential +9 (41 points)
- Oilers 17-18: 16-17-2, goal differential -7 (34 points)
Vancouver beat the Oilers 2-1 in overtime 2015, Taylor Hall with seven shots on goal. Last season, it was a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose. A win tonight gets Edmonton back to fake .500, although counting your chickens would be unwise. Montreal brought the good stuff out west based on last night’s game.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DECEMBER
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected: 0-0-1)(Actual: 1-0-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Toronto, Columbus (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: Nashville (Expected 0-1-0)(Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Minnesota (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: San Jose, St. Louis, Montreal (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 2-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg(Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Chicago, Winnipeg(Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-6-2, 12 points in 13 games
- Current results: 6-3-0, 12 points in nine games
My October prediction (5-3-2) was too positive, November (7-7-2) was close and now it appears I underestimated the team. In my defense, moving Leon to center, adding Brandon Davidson and the emergence of several kids who were auditioning (Puljujarvi, Khaira) helped in a big way. This has been an encouraging month for the Oilers.
The Lehkonen-Plekanec-Gallagher line had 80CF% against the Flames.
They also had 100 SCF%.
11 scoring chances for, 0 against.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 23, 2017
Gallagher is a player to watch tonight, he’s skilled and an agitator and has a motor that won’t quit. Max Pacioretty is my favorite Habs skater but he had a fairly poor game by my eye in Calgary last night. Could be bad news for Edmonton. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Carey Price in net. I can’t cheer against that guy. Not ever.
The Oilers have belly flopped spectacularly on Saturday nights in recent years, payback for the delicious “roadkill Saturdays” of my 20’s when Edmonton would lay waste to some fumble goalie wearing a Habs or Leafs sweater. Bring back those days, please and thanks.
5X5 SCORING, FORWARDS (NHL RANK)
- No. 9 Connor McDavid 2.76
- No. 14 Leon Draisaitl 2.59
- No. 28 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2.38
- No. 34 Milan Lucic 2.31
- No. 53 Patrick Maroon 2.06
- No. 118 Ryan Strome 1.56
This is among regular forwards (400+ minutes) and reflects a fantastic run at 5×5 by Edmonton’s top three centers and top two left-wingers. No right-wingers, although Puljujarvi (2.06/60 in 233 minutes) is trending in a good direction. The Oilers need a more dynamic right-wing as well, and Strome needs to push that scoring number closer to 2.00/60.
Based on various sources (Bob, Fussy Britches) seems like the Oilers may be on the verge of one or more trades. My list includes a sniper (probably RW, as per above) a checker for the PK (also RW), a RHD (probably in summer) and possibly an upgrade in goal. Bob seems to be honing in on a scoring winger, although Elliotte Friedman doesn’t think the Oilers have the trumpets to acquire Mike Hoffman (and that is reasonable, assuming PC doesn’t trade the first-round pick). I’ll have Simon Boisvert on Saturday Sports Extra today to discuss.
From all manner of sources, good bad and indifferent, it’s a good guess Slepyshev is on his way out of town. What does that mean? A winger is coming in, but it’s probably two separate trades and the target may not be Hoffman. The search begins anew.