The disappointment of last night—Oilers now 6-11-0 on the year—is that the Arizona Coyotes should be a team Edmonton can beat, or at least battle to a draw. If Edmonton merely improves their record against Calgary, Arizona and Vancouver from a year ago and the song remains the same in the other 26 markets—it’s still music. The Coyotes are a tough mark for this team, have been for a long time. The flu is apparently with them, and that’s a factor if not an excuse. One way we can judge performance looking for flu’s clues? Compare it to previous performances.
OILERS BY THE MONTH
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 2-3-0
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015:
I look at the November and December records and see enormous opportunity for Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli. Despite injuries and uneven play, if they can reach the 41-game mark at (something like) 16-20-5 there will be some progress to talk about for this team. McDavid should be close, perhaps the goaling and defense will be more clear, and the idea of getting to .500 will be something the team can work toward. If they arrive at half-time at 9-27-5, I’ll be telling you about the Tkachuk boy and we’ll be looking forward to seeing the next Petry sent out of town. I’ve said it many times, but the act of turning north is an important one. Vital, because it gives you something to build on for the following season. Injuries, flu, what the hell ever, other teams deal with them and win more than 24 games a season.
— Marty Klinkenberg (@globemartyk) November 13, 2015
Part of the problem for Oilers fans is that these days without the boy from Thunder Road can’t possibly pass quickly enough, and yet they are vital weeks to the season. If Edmonton can hang around in November and December, then the early part of 2016 should offer some hope. The club cannot afford a long losing streak this season. So far in November, they’ve been able to win a couple of games and hold back the water. We’re on to LA.
OILERS BLUE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom—Fayne were 5-2 versus the Hanzal line (that’s a good line) and 4-1 versus the Domi line (that’s an emerging line). They also had the most defensive zone starts.
- Gryba—Davidson enjoyed the most success among the three pairings, Davidson’s speed a nice match for Gryba’s size. They went 9-1 against the Hanzal line and 5-4 versus the Domi line.
- Nurse—Sekera were 5-8 versus Brad Richardson and didn’t play the entire game together. By TOI, Nurse played more than anyone at EV but there were struggles in there (2-6 Boedker, 2-5 Domi, 2-2 Vermette, 5-6 Martinook, 5-5 Doan). Nurse was the only -2 on the team. You may read about the value of sending Nurse down, I don’t think one game of struggling merits such a severe penalty. He’s playing a feature role and had a tough night. Allow me to list all of the Oilers’ defensemen who have been excellent every night of the season:
OILERS CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Mark Letestu was part of a dominant line (Pakarinen, Yakupov). He had two individual scoring chances and three shot attempts according to War-On-Ice, showing a nice spike in the offensive zone. He was 8-1 versus the Vermette line—that’s good. This is all (the entire look at last night) 5×5. The downside? I didn’t see—at any time—a play I would consider extremely dangerous for. Mark Letestu is not a gifted offensive player, but he needs to be better when Chance comes calling.
- Anton Lander was part of the Eberle and Purcell line. He had three individual scoring chances and four shot attempts according to War-On-Ice, continuing a trend of reasonable chance/shot performance. He’s hitting some line drives now, but they are finding leather (to my eye). He isn’t a .330 hitter so these slumps weigh heavy on his role with the team, Anton needs a goal.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may have had the flu. He had one shot attempt and didn’t move the needle much—Todd McLellan mentioned it was a tough night for those who drove all night (is that all right?) during the Anaheim game. Nuge was one. His line was 7-2 against Hanzal and 3-6 against Richardson, and McLellan moved him down from the top line during the game—again suggesting (t0 me) he wasn’t 100%.
- Andrew Miller had Slepyshev and Luke Gazdic as his helpers, and when I say helpers that’s not what I mean. They were 2-6 against the Gordon line and did some standup during one of the GA. I think Miller might be a hockey player, but have to say the visual of him trying to get the puck from John Scott is going to stay awhile.
OILERS WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Nail Yakupov looks good by the Corgi’s but to my eye there was a lot of jitterbugging without a lot of substance. He had one individual scoring chance and two shot attempts according to War-On-Ice, suggesting that—despite the zone time—not enough was happening. Iiro Pakarinen had no individual scoring chances, but three shot attempts, meaning that Pakarinen and Letestu were far more productive offensively on the line than Yakupov (who would be the driver by any estimate). Weird.
- Teddy Purcell and Jordan Eberle are part of the Lander line, that’s a trio that seems pretty close to breaking out (although McLellan did draw Ebs farther up the food chain at points in last night’s game). Purcell had no individual scoring chances and one shot attempt according to War-On-Ice, Eberle was more productive, two and three.
- Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall played most of the night with Nuge but also a little with Eberle. Leon had no individual scoring chances and one shot attempt, and Hall had four and seven!!! That’s insane production. From now on, when someone rips on Taylor Hall, you must shun them. It’s the only way. If people remain unsure of Taylor Hall, they either don’t know hockey or are looking for attention—there’s no neutral ground.
- Anton Slepyshev and Luke Gazdic were with to Andrew Miller. Slepyshev went one and two, Gazdic one and three on the de facto fourth line, and that’s pretty good production for that group—and yes I saw the play. We’re not looking at single moments here—they of course have enormous importance—but rather the state of affairs on the large canvass. That said, the goal where Gazdic played defense points out one of the flaws in roster construction, and there’s no neutral ground on that, either.
OVERALL INDIVIDUAL SC’S AND SHOT ATTEMPTS
- Lander—Purcell—Eberle: five individual scoring chances, 8 shot attempts
- Nuge—Hall—Draisaitl: four individual scoring chances, 9 shot attempts
- Letestu—Yakupov—Pakarinen: three individual scoring chances, 8 shot attempts
- Miller—Gazdic—Slepyshev: two individual scoring chances, 5 shot attempts
I think Todd McLellan would probably do well to continue with that Lander line as above, and hope Pouliot can draw back in to help the Letestu line. If they do have the flu, best to include out the entire game—save Hall (four individual scoring chances) and Anton Lander (three). The Swede is in the middle of an 0-for-30, but if you’ve followed baseball it’s easy to project a nice 13-for-20 streak on the way. I don’t know that Peter Chiarelli stays that patient. We wait.
THE MONEY RAN OUT, THE ENGINE BLEW
- Todd McLellan: “I thought the willingness and want to push was there. I didn’t question that at all. I just think that when we pushed the gas pedal, there was nothing there. When they got to four, you could feel it. We’ve had so many runs at comebacks and this one got away so far where we just couldn’t do it any more.” Source
McLellan isn’t going to talk about this, but the Oilers as they sit idling in the driveway aren’t the team envisioned at the start of the season. Lots of injuries (McDavid, Schultz, Hendricks, etc) and lots of kids (that blue line is oh very young, what will they leave us this time?) means lots of coaching and lots of learning opportunities.
I didn’t expect the playoffs and maybe all of the injuries and inexperience are going to me 75 points and 30+ wins instead or a higher number. They cannot end the season at 24 wins, there must be a turn north. We’re reaching the point where Peter Chiarelli will need to make a trade to shore up the team.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we kick some radio ass. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. Will the Oilers fans recover from the McDavid injury before McDavid recovers from the McDavid injury?
- Marc Majeau, TSN1260. A wide range of topics from the coolest guy I know (very cool, I think it’s bad circulation).
- Lyle Richardson, Spector’s Hockey and Bleacher Report. Trade rumors are out there, how many are true?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.