It would have been so much easier to play a solid game, grab a point, and lose in overtime. Alas, it was not to be. Edmonton gave up some weird goals, received uneven efforts, and made the coach mad. Yeesh! Enjoy your va-ca!
OUCH. "We had some guys who really participated and we had some passengers. The passengers let the rest of the group down" -McLellan #Oilers
— Rob Tychkowski (@Sun_Tychkowski) January 24, 2016
OY, 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: 4-5-2
- Oilers after 50 in 2014-15: 13-28-9, 35 points (-51 GD)
- Oilers after 50 in 2015-16: 19-26-5, 43 points (-27 GD)
All that effort and the record isn’t much better at all. They lost a lot of ground on that road trip, January remains somewhat salvageable but two more W’s would have been grand.
- Todd McLellan: “We have to get deeper in a lot of areas of our game. Tonight was a prime example. As soon as we got one line going and they target (Benoit) Pouliot and (Jordan) Eberle and Nail Yakupov immediately, they score early. Then we need to juggle our lines around again. We need to get deeper as an organization. We need to upgrade in a lot of different areas, whether it is strength, size, but also skill level, quarterback on the power play and things like that. We know that, but I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. I know we’re going to get better. I know we are better right now, and I know we’re going to get better.” Source
Todd McLellan is 50 games into his Oilers coaching career, and it sounds like he is still a game rooster. I wonder if he ever thinks of a safer career, like juggling lit sticks of dynamite. I don’t know what they are paying him, but—this season—it isn’t worth it.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Eric Gryba—Griffin Reinhart seemed an unlikely pairing but they were extremely effective last night. Now, GR caught the 9-0 Corsi bus with the Leon line, but you can’t explain away the numbers (or the visual). Both men looked good, and I think Gryba is earning another contract (if they can offload Fayne—who I would keep). Reinhart probably goes back to Bakersfield on Monday, maybe he has company on the plane.
- Sekera—Fayne are now over 50 percent Corsi for 5×5 for the season and it remains a mystery to me why they don’t play more. This is an effective tandem, and yet Fayne plays three fewer minutes at evens than Justin Schultz last night. I really like Todd McLellan as a coach, but whatever he is chasing here is a mirage.
- Nurse—Schultz was easily the least effective pairing while also playing the most minutes. Once in awhile I trot out the old ‘one year’s experience five times’ line and in the case of Schultz the giant hat fits. I think it is fair to question placing Nurse with him, not a lot of learning can be done from the wrong end of an open fire hose. I would like to see Nurse take some time off over the break, suspect he will get some sorties in the AHL. As I have mentioned a few times now, a night in the gondola would probably help, and a new partner is vital.
CENTERS, LAST NIGHT
- Leon Draisaitl scored a goal, was a going concern and certainly gives us hope for the second half and next year. Fantastic game when he was on the ice, each man on his line had a high-danger scoring chance and the trio totaled 10 individual shot attempts at 5×5. Impressive.
- Mark Letestu and his line had a couple of reasonable looks but couldn’t cash. It is interesting to see the 5×5 TOI and how it was shared last night—Matt Hendricks played in the middle too—and I do think we see a prominent role for Letestu with the Nuge down.
- Benoit Pouliot joined Leon with one high-danger scoring chance, but he was 0-4 in the dot and chaos spent the night with the 2line. These are difficult days for the trio, Edmonton is putting this gentleman in an impossible situation and robbing another line of an effective LW. When BP moved to portside, the world made sense.
- Anton Lander ended up spending some time between Pouliot and Eberle, as McLellan attempted to find a line that rhymed. They did not (2-6 at 5×5 Corsi), but the Swede did saw off with Hendricks and Korpikoski (4-4).
WINGERS, LAST NIGHT
- Hall—Purcell make beautiful music with Leon, I am going to miss the man from St. John’s when they deal him. The trio had Josi-Weber on their ass and smoked them, and it rained chances (GR had two slot shots) when the trio was on the ice. Both wingers (and the center) had one individual high-danger scoring chance (this is from War-on-Ice save TOI via NHL.com).
- Hendricks—Yakupov—Korpikoski were together and apart as the evening progressed, Korpikoski got the IDHDSC and Yak had three shots blocked and was not effective overall (the 2line was poorly compiled). Yakupov is one of two skill wingers who is really getting the short end right now because of the center situation, as with Eberle I don’t think major criticism is warranted at this time.
- Kassian—Pakarinen were solid to my eye, although the good chances eluded them (one individual high-danger scoring chance for Kassian). Their night was reflected by a partial breakaway for Kassian, who was flagging when he got the puck, got caught, and the puck trailed away. No chance, no penalty. I like this duo.
- Jordan Eberle will get some criticism today, but I look at his centers (2-0 with Leon, 0-2 with Letestu, 5-9 with Pouliot, 1-0 with Hendricks, 2-6 with Lander) and believe the Oilers could probably have predicted this result based on the pivot available.
In what can only be described as a giant ‘fuck you’ to his critics, Griffin Reinhart had a helluva game, by eye and by math. This has been a trying season for the youngster, but the game he played looked calm, effective and with pace. He jumped into the play late for two great chances (didn’t cash) and picked up his first assist as an Oiler on the Leon goal.
Where does he go from here? Interesting question. I always envisioned GR as third-pairing partner for Brandon Davidson next season, and we should NOT read anything into one game. That said, Eric Gryba and Reinhart offer an interesting possible pairing for next season. Lots of time to discuss, and they still need a power-play shooter, but what about this?
I think that might work. Edmonton would need to trade Mark Fayne, walk Justin Schultz, LTIR Andrew Ference. Possible? Sure. Probable? Don’t know. The Ducks have been clearing away contracts and roster spots of late, wonder if they have a big ticket acquisition in mind? I thought Steven Stamkos might be the target, but perhaps Jordan Eberle? Vatanen is an interesting option. We wait.
WHY CAN’T THE OILERS DEFEND?
Plenty of heat on Darnell Nurse these days, and as mentioned above I think he is playing too much and should spend a game or two watching. Even when he is the right place, the game is going too fast at this point and he is unable to catch up. In MLB, when a hitter is in a slump, they sometimes say he has a hitch in his giddyup, and that fits what I am seeing.
The truth, though, is this, and is applies to all of the Oilers at this time.
- Darryl Sutter: “The big thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and backcheck, and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We don’t play in our zone, so there’s not much defending. I’ve coached in three decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”
The Edmonton Oilers don’t take care of the puck and they haven’t done it for years. Errant passes, chips to the blue line that don’t get out, other teams cycle and wheel until the defensemen are dizzy and the goalies are Hamilton Bulldogs.
MCLELLAN AND CHIARELLI
One of the things that has delayed progress this season (imo) is the new management group’s curious evaluation of the defense. Mark Fayne spent time in the minors, Nurse—Schultz was the top pairing last night—these are unforced errors and contribute to losing.
The fan is generally regarded as an onlooker, an interested but unqualified observer of his favorite team. We tend to blame Scott Howson and Craig MacTavish for Nikita Nikitin and Andrew Ference, but this new management group has devoted an enormous number of at-bats to defensemen who do not fit that Sutter quote above. Here is the TOI per-game total for Edmonton’s defensemen this season, and the problem—as we the fans saw it—to begin the season:
- Oscar Klefbom 21:53—too young for the role given
- Andrej Sekera 21:28—no criticism from fans beyond wishing he could pair with Petry
- Darnell Nurse 21:04—too young for the role given
- Justin Schultz 20:15—one year’s experience (now) four times
- Brandon Davidson 17:55—Depth defender (all but David Staples missed on this one)
- Eric Gryba 17:44—too slow for the Western Conference
- Mark Fayne 16:34—fans I know were fine with him
- Griffin Reinhart 16:21—inexperienced, and his skills are duplicated multiple times
- Nikita Nikitin 14:46—his wheels won’t turn
- Brad Hunt 14:10—chaos incorporated
- Andrew Ference 13:03—erosion is a bitch
I think the fans would have been a better group of advisers than previous management, and I do think fans should worry about this summer. The Chiarelli—McLellan tandem has been slow to recognize their best veterans, and as of last night stubbornly played Nurse—Schultz over Sekera—Fayne.
Which begs two questions:
- What exactly are Chiarelli and McLellan searching for here?
- How does that search address the words of Sutter above?
At this point, I am prepared to be genuinely concerned.