After 41 games, the Oilers sit with 37 points and are (last I looked) still in the Pac-7 playoff race. That is far better than figuring out the 30 best 17-year-olds in the Northern Hemisphere at the hockey. The star of the game was Cam Talbot, who was brilliant, calm and in the zone. Some of these Peter Chiarelli bets appear to be turning the corner. The story is only halfway home.


  • 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: 4-7-2
  • Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
  • Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1
  • Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
  • Oilers in January 2016: 2-0-0
  • Oilers after 41 in 2014-15: 9-23-9, 27 points (-54 GD)
  • Oilers after 41 in 2015-16: 17-21-3, 37 points (-21 GD)

Last night’s game represents progress to my eye, the Hurricanes are a disciplined and well coached team and they play a strong possession game. Edmonton spent long periods without the puck in their own zone, but there were actually few times when they lost their man outright—I was impressed with Edmonton’s attention to detail, it seemed better, more mature. In those moments when the defense could not contain, Cam Talbot was there to calm the storm.


oilers blue nov 30

  • Justin Schultz is getting better with his passing. I have noticed it two games in a row now, he is hitting the tape with more consistency—and leading his man with some open ice. He does not do it all the time, or even often—but it is improved. Seriously. For me, the last two games have been the most encouraging all year.
  • Darnell Nurse is fun to watch. Hammered Skinner senseless down low in the first period, and several times during the game he curtailed a sortie urge and re-set by starting the play over again. A nice progression from a young player, this Nurse-Schultz combination is very mobile and they had some of the few successful headman passes on the night. Darnell is still too much the rambler, but that will take time to iron out.
  • Andrej Sekera is a warm blanket on a cool January night. He passed and he shoveled and he hit and he blocked and he ran picks and he scored. I love his game.
  • Brandon Davidson’s possession numbers are caving, but that slide has an explanation. He is playing big minutes with Sekera and a lot of their work begins without the puck. When everyone is healthy, could they run Nurse—Davidson behind Klefbom—Sekera? The lefty police will no doubt park signs on the backs of pickups on Kingsway, but it is worth a conversation.
  • Brad Hunt had an interesting night to my eye. He has a little of the M-A Bergeron in him, good recovery even if he is beaten (Hunt did take a penalty but it was a tricky play to my eye, bouncing puck bounced just right). Five shots, he doesn’t seem to be hammering them currently, maybe trying to aim? Don’t know. This pairing cannot stand. Man.
  • Eric Gryba had a difficult evening, although he can help with the cycle. The Hurricanes are not long on talent, but their forwards are big and have nine arms. The big man could tie up opponents, but needed help to secure possession in many cases. He can defend, but like Fayne is not a help in the Ozone. Starting him there (with Hunt) is pure protection, McLellan needs a better third pairing—in fact, he needs Nurse—Davidson as the third pairing.


oil c nov 30

  • Leon Draisaitl was the most dangerous man on the ice last night to my eye. When he gets that big transport out on the highway, the crowd swells in anticipation. He is an absolute load, piled on top of another load. Leon led the team with three individual high-danger scoring chances.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was less dangerous but had some moments, skated miles and ended up with an assist in a 1-0 game. Todd McLellan seems to be matching his line up against the tougher opponents at home, good results for the line despite not winning the possession battle. He remains the best ‘place and chase’ forward on the team.
  • Mark Letestu had a good night in the defensive zone, I really like his ability to find the puck, gather it up and get it going in a good direction. Effective player, it takes time to appreciate what he brings but it is there.
  • Anton Lander was noticeable in a good way on special teams, but he was in chase mode all night on the 5×5. Edmonton needs offense from him. His big PP chance came on a clear shot from the point that he just failed to tip. He has had a pained expression most of the season, tempted to call him Grimace.
  • I always mention Matt Hendricks as a winger, but he was 9-2 in the circle last night.


oilers f nov 30

  • Teddy Purcell is a very imaginative player. Great passer, but he also uses the best club available (made a couple of chip passes that were effective as well as strong long passes) for each sortie and I think he could easily have had a couple of points on a button-down evening. His anticipation is very good, bet McLellan loves him.
  • Taylor Hall was fire as always, he had some nice looks and some dangerous moments. I think he was too unselfish in some cases (a drop back pass to Eric Gryba has to be a bad option no matter the situation) but he also skated miles in the name of defense. He is doing things without the puck we didn’t see a year ago.
  • Jordan Eberle had some good chances (one point blank chance Ward caught up high) and had the puck on a string. This line has been doing good things lately.
  • Benoit Pouliot seems to be returning to normal, his injury issue robbed him of some of the heavy play he provides for the line. Very good passer, I think that gets overlooked sometimes.
  • Matt Hendricks and Lauri Korpikoski had a tougher than average evening because that Nestrasil guy is really strong on the puck. Drove the defenders mad, too. I don’t really know him, but he is going to be around a long time if he plays like this every night. As mentioned, Hendricks was important to the team in the faceoff circle. Korpikoski had one nifty offensive play where he faked pass and drove to the net. Surprised everyone in the house.
  • Khaira and Klinkhammer were part of the Lander line and it wasn’t good. If Iiro Pakarinen is close to ready, we might see him slide in on Friday night.


Cam Talbot had a splendid game, not only stopping everything but looking good doing it. There were dangerous chances, too—War-On-Ice had Carolina with 14 high-danger scoring chances at the 5×5 (Edmonton with only 7). Talbot’s EV save percentage is up to .910 (Nilsson .918) and overall he is .910 (ranks No. 24) among starters with 15 or more trips to the starting gate. I like both goalies in the Edmonton net, Talbot is beginning to look like the player Peter Chiarelli thought he was getting at the draft.


  1. G Cam Talbot—22GP, 2.76 .910, looking strong in the last 10 games.
  2. G Anders Nilsson—22GP, 2.91 .908, had some big games early.
  3. G Eetu Laurikainen—Back in NA, he was money in Europe.
  4. D Andrej Sekera—40GP, 5-10-15 and a splendid addition to the porous blue.
  5. D Eric Gryba—36GP, 0-4-4 satisfies the need for a big man on the blue.
  6. D Griffin Reinhart—12GP, 0-0-0 and toiling in the minors (probably until the deadline).
  7. C Connor McDavid—13GP, 5-7-12, he’s getting closer.
  8. C Mark Letestu—41GP, 5-6-11, useful as a utility player, won the 3C job from Lander.
  9. L Lauri Korpikoski—33GP, 6-4-10, surprising offense, erratic checker.

Miles to go, and of course we don’t give credit for McDavid (the people of the city of Florida get that), but if Talbot can move that .910 up in the second half, Sekera can stay healthy and deliver as he has, and Letestu can come in handy, then last summer will have had some meaning.

Nilsson was also a solid bet, I wonder if they sign both goalies with an eye to keeping LB in the minors one more year. Interesting dynamic, a good NHL team probably wants great depth and since Brossoit has one more year of waiver ineligibility, perhaps it is an option worth contemplating.

Lagesson has been solid-to-excellent all tournament long, and speaks to that crazy oncoming defensive depth Edmonton will have for the coming years. Much of the top 20 list was blue, I wonder if we see some of that depth sent away at the deadline or near the draft.

I was at the game last night, so have not had a chance to read comments past this blog and a few things on twitter. Seems to me there are a few posts that don’t recognize the Hurricanes as being a good team. Hey, sometimes and eastern conference team is poor, but to my eye this Carolina group is well coached, tight as Archie Bell’s Drells, and no fun to play against. I would call their style stifling, and they played a good road game last night. The Oil kept rear gunner Faulk off the PP scoresheet and that Talbot fellow was splendid. This was not a Rembrandt, but it was two points. There is much to be praised this morning, beginning in goal, and Sekera, the Leon and Nuge lines, too. Hendricks. This team is injured in very important places and they have major holes on the active roster. Won. Let’s give some credit.


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  1. dustrock says:

    Lois Lowe: A few music thoughts:– T.Swift is by far the biggest pop star on the planet, Justin Bieber is next. They are massive in a way that us old people (anyone over the age of 25 really) just don’t get. Honorable mention to Beyonce who has been killing it for 15 years. I am sure there are boy bands (One Direction? Are they still a thing?) that are popular but their fame never really lasts.– Kanye and Drake are the biggest rappers/hip hop stars on the planet and they pretty much determine and define urban style.– Adele is so talented that she can buck the industry trend by refusing to stream her latest album. She has the best voice in show biz.– The decentralization and democratization of the music industry is probably the greatest thing to happen to music ever.– Gruntruck is the best grunge band no one’s really heard of. They came out of the Seattle scene at the same time. One band that other people don’t usually associate with grunge is Smashing Pumpkins who released a number of excellent albums in the 90s.– New school punk rock starts and ends with Bad Religion. Their songs may only be three chords but they pack a ton into each one. The longevity of that band is incredible. They’re also fantastic live.

    Love this. Love the mention of Gruntruck as well.

    Here’s my top 40 songs of 2015 from Spotify if anyone’s interested. Not a ton of rock though.

  2. stevezie says:

    Lois Lowe: They are massive in a way that us old people (anyone over the age of 25 really) just don’t get.

    I think you have it backwards. They are unmassive in a way people under 25 don’t get. For example, who was the biggest pop star in 1988. Madonna? MJ? Even if you hated those two, there was no way to avoid them. They were everywhere, if you engaged with popular culture at all you were going to hear their songs and see their videos whether you wanted to or not. Even if you are old.

    I can name 2 Beiber songs. Taylor Swift is cool so I know her more, but the top of the pops has never meant less.As much as we (rightly) bemoan traditional media power being held in fewer hands, the internet means we need them less than ever before.

  3. stevezie says:

    speeds: Depends where the pick ends up, would it be crazy to move JE for a D and draft JP if the pick is that high up?

    That’s not a crazy plan. I like JP a lot.

    It’s not my plan A though, I’m just nervous about moving the window back in any way. That said my plan A (trade the pick this week for D help) probably can’t be done, so we will need to work our way through the alphabet.

  4. B S says: second star of the night was Mrazek with a 22 save shutout. Sometimes the Oilers are the Rodney Dangerfield of NHL.

  5. stephen sheps says:

    Bag of Pucks: Discussions of art are always going to verge into the subjective, but you’re onto something with Pearl Jam as a great ‘band.’ Like The Hip, they seem to be a true collective, successful in submerging individual ego to maintain a ‘band of brothers’ ethos. Touring Band is one of the best music DVDs I own.

    Discouraging words from McCready yesterday however. No plans for the band to record in 2016 OR 2017. Could be the early warning sign that Vedder’s going solo.

    hmmm… not sure where you got that PJ info from given the recent tour announcement for 2016 and the anniversary celebration they have planned. (Don’t mind me… just a 10 club member since jr. high). Man oh man do I love seeing them play, even if they haven’t put out a great record since Riot Act in 2002. Possibly the greatest show I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot of concerts, gigs, house shows etc etc, was in 2006 when PJ and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played a 6 night stand together, PJ as the opener. Saw them on the final show of the mini tour in Denver. Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell played with them for their encore, which included a cover of the byrds “so you want to be a rock n roll star” Eddie came out and sang “the Waiting” with the heartbreakers, and then “American Girl” for the encore. Both bands finished with a rousing cover of rainy day woman no. 12 & 35. You can’t make that stuff up. It was perfect… Anyhoo… 2016 tour news:

    2-0 in 2016, Talbot playing like he should, Sekera playing like he should, McYak set to return any week now. While I am en route back to a city that I hate to a job that has no chance to exist (for me) beyond July, (academia is the worst and any suggestions on how to get out and join the real world would be appreciated) I am strangely excited about the Oilers future. Silver linings I suppose, but I’ll take what I can get…

  6. stevezie says:

    stephen sheps,

    I liked the self titled album better than Riot Act, but agree that the last couple have just been somewhere between fine and good.

    Which ain’t bad.

  7. stephen sheps says:


    Yeah, Avocado (self titled) has some gems, that’s for sure – and I agree, even an average pearl jam record is going to be better than a lot of other bands best stuff. I just found the last couple to be a bit predictable and safe, you know? Certainly not bad, just safe… To me, Riot Act was the last album that they took a lot of risks, both in terms of production, song structure and some of the statements they made. It ended the “Pearl Jam as art rock band rather than grunge band” cycle that started with Vitalogy and No Code, which are still my favourite albums of theirs. I miss when they took risks. I’ll happily still see them this year though – making Atlanta potentially my 6th city to see them in.

  8. Really? says:


    An absolute shame that NHL hockey cannot match WJC games for excitement and effort. Some of the hardest working games I have ever seen have been WJC games. I rarely can say the same about effort at the NHL level.

  9. speeds says:

    Yegfoundation: It’s not crazy to move a forward for a Defenseman but it is crazy to expect a draft pick to replace the traded forward.

    I get that, at same time if you could move JE for hamonic (not claiming that would happen or be the whole deal) and draft JP,you also have a.bunch of extra cap room.

  10. speeds says:

    stevezie: That’s not a crazy plan. I like JP a lot.

    It’s not my plan A though, I’m just nervous about moving the window back in any way. That said my plan A (trade the pick this week for D help) probably can’t be done, so we will need to work our way through the alphabet.

    I hear that but also think that the past years of missed playoffs are a sunk cost – deals needs to be evaluated on their own merits and without baking in frustration and impatiencethat comes with Edmonton’s past few years.

  11. Professor Q says:

    B S: second star of the night was Mrazek with a 22 save shutout. Sometimes the Oilers are the Rodney Dangerfield of NHL.

    Well that’s just some B S…

  12. Woodguy says:

    JorgeR04: Damn, this is exactly what I asked for and now I’m torn!If I was betting and getting money line odds I’d take it but you really think there is a greater chance STL loses than Vancouver?This season, STL has only lost 1/3 of the “scheduled loss”.LA is 12-6 at home and STL is 10-7-2 at home so that looks promising..

    If you’re right, I look like a genius, but I am too damn risk averse for gambling!

    You make good points, especially because VAN is bad.

    I don’t like that game much though since TBY plays here the night before.

  13. Quinlan says:

    Kiltymcbagpipes: LW Matthew Tkachuk would appear to be a Chiarelli type ala Lucic or Horton who would also fill a need. He has all the tools and may be a better ‘fit’ for Tmac’s system than the others mentioned. Great all round game plus pedigree. IMO, he’s the guy we should be hoping for.

    Are you basing your assessment on Tkachuk on what you’ve seen, or what you’ve heard?

    There’s a lot of verbal out there that he’s some physically controlling player like his father was – he’s not. He’s tenacious and annoying and skilled, but not all that physically dominating. He’s able to bully his peers – I just don’t see it in the NHL. If he was 3 inches taller with a more projectable frame then maybe.

    Let me add, Lucic wasn’t a top 3 pick (and isn’t in a re-draft either). He brings a lot of things, but truly elite skill is not one of them. Laine and Puljujarvi are in a different, higher ballpark than Lucic or Horton.

    As to who would play better in Tmac’s system – that’s completely unknowable at this point. Really.

    I’d argue the best player of the three would fit best into Tmac’s system… whomever that might be. Not much of a definitive answer, but the question doesn’t really allow for much else.

  14. dangilitis says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    Is it an unspoken rule that we must mention RNH ‘skated miles’ on those nights when he didn’t impact the scoresheet in regulation?

    Speaking of C production, if you were Bogdan Yakimov and you happened to notice that Anton Lander has 0Gs, 2As, -10 to show for 40 games of employment, would you question whether you’ll ever get a call-up to the dance?

    We’ll know this team is a viable playoff contender when results matter, and not just effort.

    These boys aren’t paid to skate miles or be good in the room. They need to put the biscuit in the basket. Fortunately the Lander problem will be solved upon McDavid’s return. Letestu as 4C? That’s progress.

    When he didn’t impact the scoresheet “in regulation,” on a night when 1 goal was scored and he got the primary assist – seems to be cherry picking a bit here, no?
    For RNH, If he can’t crack the 60 pt/season barrier in his career, I would call it an underwhelming return for a #1 overall draft pick no matter how many miles he skates against hard opposition. I can make that statement and still assert that RNH is incredibly valuable to this team.

    For forwards with over 30 GP this season, he is 65th overall in points per game, meaning that despite what Kelly Hrudey thinks, that is equivalent to an average NHL team’s 2nd to 3rd best scoring option. This number does not even apologize for the fact that his line has only started to gel over the last 10 games, or that he is a more complete 2-way player.

    And to your point on Lander, I am definitely not a fan of his work this year. But Yakimov is a horrible example of someone deserving of a call up. If you send Lander down (which I would not be opposed to under the right circumstances), he will likely light up the AHL again. If you want to talk about earning NHL time, flying halfway across the world does not guarantee that you play in the NHL. 7 pts in 19 AHL games isn’t exactly blowing the doors off, would you agree? Andrew Miller, on the other hand, has 79 pts in his last 84 AHL games. If you want to talk about someone earning a try out in Lander’s place, that would be my candidate, so long as he has been working on penalty killing.

  15. dangilitis says:


    LAK +12
    ARI +2
    SJS 0
    ANA 0
    CAL -1
    VAN -2
    EDM -5


    CBJ 0
    BUF +2
    EDM +3
    VAN +6
    CAR +6
    WPG +6

    So a win would be if/when the Oilers are closer to a playoff spot than the cellar?

  16. Ca$h-McMoney! says:


    Oh the Yakimov debate again.

    If a player scores fewer than 0.5ppg in his draft +3 at the AHL level, and doesn’t get a callup, and that justifies flat out taking his ball and going home, he’s probably not the answer. Doesn’t mean Lander is or isn’t.

    I like Yak. I would like to see him continue to develop. I hope he finds his game in the KHL and comes back, eventually. But if this is him having a temper tantrum about not getting a callup, when he hasn’t earned one, then I’m not going to lose sleep over him leaving.

    Just to clarify, this is my way of aggressively agreeing with you.

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