For most of the century, playing in Dallas is a waste of time for the Edmonton Oilers. They made enough errors to lose last night, played well enough to keep the faith, and lost a young defenseman who is one of the best things about the season. Our youth, who are consistently derided for lack of maturity, watched the Dallas youth try to score from the moon late with a yawning, empty net—content in the knowledge they had nothing to fear. One day, out in the distance, revenge and redemption sit waiting alongside Dallas Stars tickets cheap as chips. On that day, on the day the Oilers own Dallas deep in the heart of Texas, you and I are going to drink tequila until Mike Keane crawls out of the bottle.
"We've got a better structure now, played a better team game." Coach McLellan, reflecting on #Oilers first trip to Dallas in October
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 22, 2016
FUNNY HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY, 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: 4-4-2
- Oilers after 49 in 2014-15: 13-27-9, 35 points (-49 GD)
- Oilers after 49 in 2015-16: 19-25-5, 43 points (-24 GD)
Todd McLellan: “The effort on the back end of a road trip & a long couple weeks was strong.”
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Andrej Sekera is such a talented player, wish we had three more like him. Some day. He had a grand game in Dallas, playing against the Trunk Line. He battled that trio well (8-11 Corsi) and was one of the best Oilers on the night (along with Kassian, Yakupov, Davidson before the injury).
- Brandon Davidson is such a terrific find, like rum ham in the middle of the ocean. He was great again until the injury, and if he is out any length of time this team will have suffered another crushing injury blow. Excuses are just that, but we are long past being able to shoo away this injury bug as something all teams endure. I am absolutely pissed off at the injuries this season, absolutely derailed progress and robbed us of so many wonderful stories. Dammit all, anyway.
- Mark Fayne is not a great puck-moving defenseman, but he can defend. He has trouble against fast teams with great skill, and Dallas is such a team. If you review only the goals against, he shows up but not in a good way. If you view only the high danger chances, again he is there. When a defensive defenseman has a night like this one, it isn’t good no matter the Corsi.
- Justin Schultz was one of the goats on the 0-1 goal, and had (to my eye) a difficult night in the decision-making department. I have said this many times, ordinarily calm feet for a blue is a very good thing, but not when you are about to get run over by a train.
- Eric Gryba is a similar player to Mark Fayne, but I think he has a better chance to stay an Oiler than Fayne. He struggled alongside Nurse, but was better elsewhere, and even though he has the same speed issues as Fayne, his wingspan and gritty play made him more effective. I know many of you can’t stand him, I like him enough to be pleased should he return.
- Darnell Nurse had an extremely tough night, and this is the instant they should let him see the game from the gondola. There is no sin here, and as I mentioned previously even a trip to the AHL isn’t surrender. Klefbom played damn near 50 AHL games at 20, Nurse needs to have the game slow down for him. Right now, it must be going 500 miles an hour.
— Derek Van Diest (@DerekVanDiest) January 21, 2016
- Teddy Purcell on Pouliot’s own goal: “Benoit [Pouliot] is trying to do the right thing. He’s on the defensive side of his man. He’s good at tipping those pucks and he usually scores those for our team, but it was just bad luck. He was trying to do the right thing. That’s a tough one to go in, especially with two minutes left in the period when we are heading into the third.” Source
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- The Leon Draisaitl Project fought the Benn line well (8-5 in about four minutes) and the numbers suggest a good game. Alas, they could not cash and the Oilers need this line to be heroes every night. The trio was also 8-4 against the Spezza line, that is some damn good Corsi.
- Benoit Pouliot grabbed an apple on the Yakupov goal but he also tipped in the winning goal on a perfect deflection. Shiza happens. I don’t like him at center, but that probably comes from viewing 400 good wingers turned into poor centers during the MacT era.
- Mark Letestu and his band went 7-5 against Benn in almost four minutes (McLellan rolled his lines in pursuit of fresh legs) and for me they were the best line for Edmonton. More when we discuss the wingers.
- Anton Lander can play the hockey, I swear. This blog’s author is often (rightfully) harpooned for defending the Marc Pouliot’s and Jani Rita’s long past the death of their Oilers career, but I see no reason to change my views even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Anton Lander is an NHL player—not a perfect one, not even a top 9F on a good team, maybe. I think the Oilers cast about in summer to find a replacement, but for me he brings enough to earn a roster spot. I suspect defenders of Lander will drift away and he will become a dark meme (‘hey Lowetide, I see Lander is in the Austrailian Outback League haha!’), but this spot on the internet will defend him true. My sail on article is complete.
— Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) January 22, 2016
- Todd McLellan on Matt Hendricks: “That’s a lot of courage to be in that lane. He needed a couple of minutes, recovered and was right back at it. He drives our team when it comes to that sacrifice level and recovery level. It was nice to see.”
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Teddy Purcell can play on my team any time. If you isolate his shifts these days and ignore the rest, the Edmonton Oilers are playoff team. Seriously.
- Nail Yakupov skated miles, cashed, and I thought played a pretty strong game last night. He needed it, as McLellan’s tone was not good before the game (and Yak began the evening batting eighth). In a league starved for goals the man can cash.
- Taylor Hall looks like a man who could use a break, and I bet the All-Star weekend gives him a shot of energy for the second half of the year. You can see his frustration in losing another season, but the Oilers needed him to be Chance last night, and he wasn’t at his best.
- Zack Kassian has quickly established himself as a useful winger and gives the Oilers a different look. We have talked forever about bringing in a big, gritty forward for the skills line. My caveat has always been that this fellow needs to be able to actually play. No Jacques, no Winchester, no way. Kassian appears to be said player, able to move the puck in a good direction while also putting the fear of God in opponents. Bet Chiarelli signs him before May long weekend.
- Jordan Eberle had a loud post and some good looks last night—I thought he and Yakupov had some good moments—but it is clear that line misses the Nuge. Eberle’s season so far has been frustrating, but it is a reflection of his skill and determination that he remains on track for a 20-goal season. He is a helluva hockey player.
- Iiro Pakarinen is a nice bookend for Kassian, as the Finn is also a little bit crazy. Rambunctious on the ice at Spinner Spencer levels, he is also increasingly effective in important areas of the game. I think McLellan probably loves him.
- Rob Klinkhammer is a game rooster but when the puck is headed in a bad direction and you are chasing the Dallas Stars, hard work and determination only gets you so far.
- Matt Hendricks is my hero.
— Andrew Johnston (@TemujinBC) January 22, 2016
Honest to Christ, it is mind boggling now. Are you kidding me? It’s like the hockey Gods are telling the Oilers to improve their defensive depth or else. Good lord. I mean really. How is this fair? A quick look at possible recall candidates:
- Griffin Reinhart: Peter Chiarelli said recently he would get a shot in the second half, this could be the beginning of the look. He is 14, 1-4-5 Even in Bakersfield and +4 in his last two games.
- David Musil: He looked good to me in the Monday game, and remember he was pretty good in his early look a year ago. Part of the reason for this season has been looking at what is available to the new coaching staff, so this might be the time for Musil.
- Jordan Oesterle: Speedster has improved his offensive game (2-4-6 +4, nine shots in his last four games) and has the best wheels in the group I am discussing here. Substantial chaos alert.
- Niki Nikitin: Heh.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We have all the sports today, beginning at 10 TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. We will discuss Canada’s NHL teams, Hendricks manhood, Blue Jays.
- Jeff Hauser, Radio Hauser. NFL weekend should see Tom Brady punch his ticket to the Super Bowl again. The other game is the potential classic.
- Paul Almeida, SSE. Paul will answer several medical questions, including the one about the Oilers screwing McDavid over because he is ready to go now.
- Antony Bent, FC Edmonton. Team Canada callups from the Eddies, signings and transfer window news and rumors.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!