It all goes by so quickly. Connor McDavid looks like Opie’s older brother, like the middle kid on My Three Sons, like the kids who hung around with my son playing PS or Xbox on any given weekend when the entire gang was in high school. A few years down the line? Maturation, and for Oilers kids, extreme frustration. Turn north, Mr. Chiarelli, it’s the right thing to do. Make your trade on this road trip count, address the blue, bring clarity to the muddy 3 and 4 lines. Godspeed.
OILERS EARLY, SEASON OVER SEASON
- 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: 3-4-1
- Oilers after 20 in 2014-15: 6-12-2, 14 points (-25 GD)
- Oilers after 20 in 2015-16: 7-12-1, 15 points (-8 GD)
Game 21 a year ago? A loss. A 7-1 loss that featured your basic Blackhawks nightmare (Toews, Kane, Hossa) and it was a miserable evening. Click if you like, I’d pass.
OILERS FORWARDS IN A BOX
I don’t have to tell you about the pairs (Hall-Leon, Nuge-Eberle, McDavid-Yakupov), that’s what we’re all talking about everywhere. It’s also true that McDavid-Eberle is an interesting possibility, suspect Todd McLellan would like to run that for about 20 games. One thing we should probably talk about in December? Who gets the final spot on the skill lines:
I’d say Hendricks has the inside track at this point, but a strong run during December by Pakarinen or 10 Bakersfield goals from Slepyshev (scored yesterday, plus iron) could make things interesting. I’m still not buying three scoring lines or unicorns, but you can see the talent here when everyone’s healthy. Fun future ahead I expect, McLellan’s teams are usually highly watchable and this is a can’t miss group.
We’re ‘after 20’ and it’s kind of fun to guess about who might make the cut and who isn’t going to, plus I’ll add a third category for possibles:
- Mortal Locks (8): McDavid, Hall, Nuge, Draisaitl, Eberle, Pouliot, Yakupov, Hendricks
- Down the Line (3): Lander, Gazdic, Miller
- Call me Maybe (6): Purcell, Korpikoski, Pakarinen, Slepyshev, Klinkhammer, Letestu
I’ll tell you one guy on the cmb list who could find his way back: Teddy Purcell. He’s playing very well and has moved way up the table in some important categories. Skating really well, too. After 20, the one guy who went from my mortal lock list to down the line? Anton. Man, hurts to say it but he has the same issue as Magnum PS: Offense.
It goes without saying that one of the mortal locks could get moved out for a defender, so I’ll list ‘inner circle’ untouchables as McDavid, Hall, Nuge, Draisaitl and stop it there. In Gods we trust, all others could be catching a bus in Brooklyn just like the Duke did decades ago.
OILERS BLUE IN A BOX
The information for these items comes fro BTN (5×5, 5×4, Rel), HockeyAnalysis.com (5x5CF) and War-on-Ice (On-Ice SC). I think we were all reminded of their exceptional value the other night, that’s a lot of work brought to our collective doorsteps free of charge. Let’s run the ‘after 20’ for this bunch.
- Mortal Locks (3): Klefbom, Sekera, Nurse
- Down the Line (2): Gryba, Ference
- Call me Maybe (4): Davidson, Fayne, Schultz, Reinhart
Among the call me maybe’s, I’d pull back Fayne then Davidson then Reinhart, but understand many would not have that order. Davidson is a fascinating player in this group, literally no idea if he’s as he looks. I think the Oilers have 62 more games and he should be in most of them. Seriously. Need to find out. My inner circle for blue rhymes with the mortal locks above.
Since forever really, an Oilers road trip meant showcasing some player or another. You head east with 23, and come back with the rights to Denis Grebeshkov. Any spike in playing time might be a tell, or sudden insertion into the lineup, tips the hand of our local GM. Justin Schultz will be activated on this trip and I do wonder about Mark Fayne’s future in Edmonton—he would have value out east and is playing well now (or at least most of us believe he’s playing well). If I’m making a list of ‘most likely to be traded on this road trip’ it would go like this:
- Justin Schultz
- Mark Fayne
- Eric Gryba
in that order. The Fayne-Gryba item is real in my opinion, once Schultz gets back Todd McLellan may move Sekera back over, but he’s been good with Nurse and if that duo continues to play well someone is going to sit. Gryba’s being a feature player on the third pairing may tip PC’s hand about the future (meaning it’s one of the two other guys listed). If Fayne’s TOI spikes, or Schultz is activated and plays 23 minutes, we may have our answer. Peter Chiarelli isn’t going to pay Justin Scultz $5 million a year. Seriously. The return? Well, it could be a better RH defenseman but I don’t think Chiarelli is done with the forwards yet.
WHAT WILL PC BE LOOKING FOR?
I think his shopping list is threefold. There’s a vagueness about the 3 and 4 lines, and Chiarelli’s Bruins didn’t have a vague line ever. Rugged, responsible and with some offensive acumen, that’s the idea for PC’s support lines. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Edmonton returned with a Chris Kelly ‘Swiss Army knife’ or a bigger winger with some jam and a little more offense than Klinkhammer or Gazdic. This is far from the Chiarelli final final.
- RH defenseman with a range of skills and the ability to wheel. Steve Staios in his prime, maybe a little faster.
- A Pisani type for the third line, but a physical Pisani with speed. I don’t think the Oilers are completely satisfied with depth wingers not named Matt Hendricks.
- A replacement for Anton Lander. It’s coming, or he’s turning it around, but the longer we go the more likely it comes.
Leon is showing he can push the river, and added to Hall that line should be able to roar with Toby Petersen along for the ride. Leon the Point Farmer delights the eyes because we’re not used to seeing a giant standup freezer on skates move so quickly, but he can and he does at both ends of the ice.
Added to the other insane talents, one of these pairs (with their third man) should see the soft underbelly of NHL teams, and honestly the third pairings and fourth lines on some of these teams is amazing. I mean like ‘the Edmonton Roadrunners starting lineup for tonight’ amazing. Shock and awe await, as German Engineering makes his way around the eastern seaboard. If the Oilers win the lottery next spring, with all of this talent, Ed Snider starts his own league. Book it.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
This morning at 10, TSN 1260. NO IDEA what we’ll talk about!!!!!! Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. Trade winds and panic in some NHL boardrooms as the season drifts away.
- Brian King, NonStopSportsPicks. King has been saying the Eskimos were a Grey Cup favorite since early in the season, damned if he didn’t call it right.
- Sunil Agnihotri, Copper & Blue, The SuperFan. Oilers hit the road with an obscure starter in goal, three rookie blue in the everyday lineup and a third line center who makes a punch and judy look like Babe freaking Ruth. Ah, kids. You never stop worrying about them.
- Andrew Bucholtz, 55-Yard Line. The Eastern Final was a classic, do the Eskimos have anything to fear fro the Redblacks? Henry Burris was a rookie in this league before Ralph Brock, what could go wrong?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide twitter. See you on the radio!