That was a strange hockey game last night. If we tried to make a list of what went wrong, we would have to pack a lunch because it would take all day. Anders Nilsson is going to get the horns today, but my goodness he had a lot of company. Both teams were miserable in coverage, line changes and giveaways. Sometimes the hockey is ragged, last night was such an evening.
THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT, YEAR OVER YEAR
- 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: 4-3-2
- Oilers after 48 in 2014-15: 12-27-9, 33 points (-52 GD)
- Oilers after 48 in 2015-16: 19-24-5, 43 points (-23 GD)
Not a grand night, but I think we went into the evening with the belief this would be a tough one to win. Suspect any bad feelings this morning come from the feeling of hope those two third-period goals gave us. They are getting closer, but the lack of balance on this roster is real and spectacular.
- Individual High-Danger Scoring Chances: Leon Draisaitl (2); Zack Kassian (2); Taylor Hall (1); Benot Pouliot (1); Darnell Nurse (1); Iiro Pakarinen (1); Mark Fayne (1); Justin Schultz (1).
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Sekera—Fayne handled things well, for me Sekera was much better than the Florida game in terms of avoiding mental errors. A solid performance by this emerging pairing, the only quibble for me is their TOI trailed some others.
- Nurse—Gryba had difficult moments last night, but I don’t think they were the reason Edmonton lost the game. Plenty of blame to go around on this night, this duo gets their share. Nurse is running around a lot now, they need to get that side of his game under control. He is chasing the puck carrier to the moon, and that leaves the slot or another danger area exposed. Not good. When the puck carrier is at your blue line and you are next to him, that means a helluva lot of guys are between you and the goalie. Can’t play defense that way, not with this team.
- Davidson—Schultz are two ships going in opposite directions. Davidson was +3 during the blitz, we shall not be worrying about him for the next decade—unless his brain gets too big for his head. He was up against a good line and was wheeling a lot in his own end, but tried to make a difference—and often did. Schultz gets a large target for his role on any number of dog whistles, but I was especially unimpressed with his Moses impersonation when parting with Davidson to allow that rat fink Ryan Callahan a free lane to the net (Davidson took a penalty just in time).
- Just one point for the defense last night, Darnell Nurse shovel-pass to daylight that was more clearing the zone than setting up Mark Letestu.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl and his line had their moments, but also missed opportunities and lapses in coverage. With Nuge out, more has to be given, but I have a very hard time thinking we should expect Leon to provide even greater contributions.
- Mark Letestu and his trio performed well, ML was brilliant on his shorthanded goal and I thought moved the puck in a good direction. He isn’t fast or terrifically skilled or a lot of things, but he makes the safe play a lot and on this team that is very important.
- Anton Lander has played 178 NHL games. 71 percent in the dot, great on the PK. He is Erik Condra, without the offense.
- Matt Hendricks had a tough assignment and aside from the faceoffs (64 percent) there isn’t much to show for all the hard work.
- The centers scored two goals and that is good production. I think they performed pretty well all things considered. Look, they need Nuge folks, and he isn’t coming back. They were good considering their abilities and experience.
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Taylor Hall—Teddy Purcell looked good by the numbers and Hall sent a gorgeous pass to Leon for a goal. That said, Hall was -3 on the night and his coach was not pleased, although I think he could have used the Luba defense in a court of law. Purcell was part of the problem on the 0-1 goal.
- Pouliot—Eberle were part of a line with Hendricks that couldn’t get much going, although I saw Pouliot good in this game (believe it or not). He delays progress like a bugger for the opposition and I like his passing a lot. Jordan Eberle had one of his poorest games, one of those where he seems to be surprised when he gets the puck.
- Iiro Pakarinen had a helluva game, scoring one, assisting on another, hitting everything in sight and moving up and down the lineup like Casey Candaele in 1987. He was 8-2 with Letestu, 8-4 with Kassian, 3-6 with Lander, 3-2 with Hendricks, 0-1 with Hall, 1-4 with Eberle, 2-1 with Draisaitl, 2-0 with Purcell, 1-0 with Yakupov and 0-0 with Pouliot but did play 28 seconds with him (these are all evens Corsi events).
- Zack Kassian was damned impressive I have to say. If he keeps doing this, the stink eye I have been giving him (quietly, under the radar, but he knows something is going on) will fade away. I honestly thought he would have spaghetti legs last night but he played well start to finish. Got under Stamkos skin like a Tikkanen. Are we going to like Kassian? Is that how this turns out?
- Nail Yakupov was not as brilliant as he was in the first games back. Hurt early, he didn’t have the extra gear of the early games, and seemed to be unaware of his role on the winning goal. I really like Nail, but he needs to make that play if he wants to make a difference. Seriously. He should have been back on the play, to the point where the goalie would not lose control of his senses.
A bad night for a goalie who hasn’t had a good one in some time. He may need more B-12. He may need a trip to Bakersfield in the next while. Perhaps bring up Laurent Brossoit for a few games? Seems like a plan. Todd McLellan may feel differently. There is pressure here, tomorrow is not promised to Todd McLellan. If he is in this same position next season, the Oilers will be into their second decade of losing and the coach will have spent 18 months trying to get up that hill. No sir.
- Pierre Lebrun: I don’t think Edmonton – in fact I know – they were not shopping him. I don’t think that was a priority for them, was to trade Nugent-Hopkins. But it doesn’t prevent other teams from checking in, because he’s a young center. Source
Interesting. This runs counter to what Mark Spector said less than a week ago (and we discussed at the time):
- Mark Spector: Chiarelli had no comment on this report, neither confirming nor issuing a denial when reached. And of course, Nashville general manager David Poile chose to deal Jones to Columbus for Ryan Johansen instead. What it tells us is that Chiarelli sees Nugent-Hopkins as the one player from the Oilers former core that can command the greatest return — yet at the same time is expendable. Source
This Nuge thing has always left me scratching my head, because (as the link indicates) Spector is in fact a credible source. It would be easy for me to write ‘Spector doesn’t know what he is talking about’ but in the time I worked with him that was not the case. At all. Mark Spector has connections, gets major stories, and I do not recall one of them that came back and bit him.
That is what is strange about this story. Spector says Chiarelli had no comment, and I believe him. That tells me Nashville was the source, but the Oilers would have known this story had legs (it has been around awhile) and then chose to do nothing (Lebrun’s verbal seem coincidental to the overall story and how it is playing out in Edmonton). Here is what I think I know:
- Mark Spector didn’t make this up. He wouldn’t jeopardize his relationship with Peter Chiarelli (Spector has gotten every major story since PC arrived in Edmonton, scooping Jim Matheson, Terry Jones and many others) over this, because it is not a major story.
- Mark Spector has written on this subject more than once. Whoever his source is, it is a trusted one and I would guess he either has a second source or someone else who heard the same thing.
- Nashville may have had a reason to get Nugent-Hopkins name out there (selfish ones) in terms of exciting the locals over Seth Jones or perhaps indicating to Columbus there were other suitors.
- The Oilers did nothing about the story, let it sit out there building, for some time.
I would like to think Peter Chiarelli knows the full value of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a player. I would like to think the organization has an idea about how ridiculous it would be to send him away for defensive help this soon in the careers of Leon and McDavid. I have to tell you that I am not confident of that fact this morning. The way this story rolled out, hung in the air, and was not addressed for a long period tells me either something did happen with Nashville (beyond a simple phone call) or that the Oilers are fine with their center flapping in the wind like one of those big Canadian flags at the highway Husky.
I have defended Peter Chiarelli because of his (mostly) good work in Boston, but the way the Nuge reports have been handled leaves me flummoxed. I think Peter Chiarelli has some things to learn about this market. Perhaps he can ask Mark Spector the next time the two men are in conversation.
- Todd McLellan: “He broke a bone in his knuckle and we thought he’d be back in five days … we look like morons. He got hurt originally on Glen Sather (banner) night. That was like four years ago (Dec. 11). He might be out two months.” Source
Very discouraging. We talked in summer about the lack of balance, and we absolutely discussed life without Oscar or Sekera and what it would look like. That is one reason I have a hard time getting too angry at the defense last night. What should our expectations be? Imagine this team without Brandon Davidson. Balance. Depth. The Oilers haven’t been close to having it on defense since the fall of 2006. Who does this? Only the Oilers.
- Scott Zerr: Not once has he had a game where you’d be convinced he’s ready for consistent NHL work. His lack of dominance at this level is very unnerving. If he doesn’t put something together after the all-star break, more in-depth concerns will emerge. Source
This is something to watch, because the verbal from Peter Chiarelli has been that GR is close and that we should see him in the next little while. In the days before Chiarelli, the GM would call up the touted defender and play him, in the hopes he turns it around. What is likely to happen in a case of this kind? If Reinhart can’t perform better than the man he is replacing, the fans are going to turn on him. No. It is better to keep Reinhart on the farm until he is comfortable and delivering consistent performances. When will that be? We wait.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show this morning, TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Bruce will explain to us last night’s game. He may need extra time.
- Kurtis Mucha, Donnan and Vimy Hockey. Get your goalie questions to me, we talk about them at 10:40.
- Michael Tanier, Bleacher Report. NFL weekend and some recent hirings.
- Corey Graham, TSN 1260. The Oil Kings try to find consistency.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide twitter. Talk soon.