I have reached the conclusion that this Oilers season must be viewed as a cliff hanger—every game. Oilers fans, this season, demand that every game reach G7 SCF fever pitch. As a group, we are likely to be a grease spot in the Rexall parking lot (because the team has moved on, but we have not) by March, but the heart wants what it wants. My own personal view of this season is a little more relaxed, to be honest. There is clearly progress, but there are also jobs being won and lost—and some of the men emerging right now could be here for a decade or more. We are watching the foundation being built, right here, right now.
NICK OF TIME, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, goal differential -5
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-6-2 goal differential +1
- Oilers after 22, 2015: 7-14-1, goal differential -12
- Oilers after 22, 2016: 12-8-2, goal differential +11
G23 a year ago saw the Oilers saw the Oilers lose on the road to the Detroit Red Wings in OT. An unassisted goal by Iiro Pakarinen got Edmonton the point—it was Pakarinen’s second of the game. This afternoon, the Oilers have a chance to get back to even for November, and keep the 15 points in 15 games hope alive. It will not be easy, the Coyotes have special powers, causing the Oilers and their fans to get sleepy shortly after the face off. Arizona has copped a point in 24 straight games against Edmonton, a stat that Oilers fans are tired of hearing about. Does it end today?
- This is high danger scoring chances via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
- The third pairing has the best HDs, makes sense based on the qual comp they are facing. Also interesting both Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning are involved in the 5×5 offense. Nine goals from this group—10 if you all in all states—that translates to 37 for an entire season and would be a healthy increase over last season’s 24 goals from the back line.
- Oscar Klefbom has nice numbers across the board, I think he is clearly Edmonton’s best defenseman at this time. The game is slowing down for him and the Swede is gaining confidence. OK is on pace for 11-19-30 boxcars this season.
- Eric Gryba performs well in his role, defensive defenseman. I can’t see he and Mark Fayne on this team for an extended period so something has to give. One expects Fayne may get waived and spend some time in Bakersfield again this season.
- Adam Larsson is lagging just a little behind Klefbom in the HDs, but the offense is coming around a little and he is a good defender. His projected boxcars come in at 7-12-19 and that is in the range with expectations.
- Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell are struggling with the HDs but have posted some strong 5×5 crooked numbers through the quarter pole. Sekera has taken on the second pairing role and been effective, I still think Mark Fayne would be an excellent partner for him. What is that called? Depth. Edmonton may want to carry 8D when Fayne gets back. Seriously.
- HDSC numbers via NaturalStatTrick.
- Connor McDavid, good gracious. He ranks No. 1 in scoring, No. 1 in 5×5 points per 60, and the ice is tilted when he is on the ice. McDavid plays 21 minutes a night, meaning the Oilers have one period of every game they can count on being the better club. The goaltending buys them some help in the other two periods of the game, but what we need to examine now through season’s end is the other men at work and if they are doing enough when 97 is at rest. So far, no sir.
- Patrick Maroon has been a fabulous acquisition, the only criticism we can possibly make is that the big man is a bit streaky offensively. Welcome to the club. Anaheim is a pretty smart organization but they missed badly sending Maroon away.
- Jordan Eberle is right on track with his usual performance and he has been more engaged and aware of late with or without the puck. He has no one-timer left, and his goals come strictly now in close. I think we have reached the point where 25-goal seasons will not be enough, I am not one of those fans. I had a text to SSE yesterday saying more should be expected from Eberle because he is playing with McDavid. I pointed out this was not the case, but it does speak to the view of Oilers fans about this player currently.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is my kind of player. I still don’t know about the offense (he is leaving a lot on the table playing with McDavid) but the big lug is a supreme talent already in some very important areas. He also has a contagious joy about him, I have seen him get hit, knocked down and he comes up smiling. Howie Meeker used to talk about Frank Mahovlich exactly that way. Big Jesse is a thrilling rookie to follow and is on pace for 30 points, that is in the range with reasonable.
- Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Benoit Pouliot have to haul ass here at the 5×5, Edmonton doesn’t make the playoffs without strong numbers from each of them. Leon is on pace for 60 points overall, but at even strength is facing the soft parade. He needs to hammer it senseless.
LANDER IN CALIFORNIA
Photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved
It took Anton Lander some time to get to Bakersfield, but he posted 1-1-2 in his first game as a Condor last night. Bakersfield badly needs the offense, and AL stepped in on a line with Taylor Beck and Ryan Hamilton to make a difference. Jujhar Khaira is now odd man out, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff can cobble together a second scoring line with JJ as the pivot. Even with the college men down there, real talent is in short supply among the forwards.
Talbot is the second most important player on this team currently, and his performances have been impressive. He ranks No. 11 among goalies in save percentage (.921), No. 14 in even strength (.920) and No. 3 in PP SP (.932). Connor McDavid is going to win team MVP, but Talbot will deserve some votes, too.
A funny thing is happening in Bakersfield. David Musil is posting crooked numbers. Now, I cannot tell you this is a new gear, because Musil’s style does not lend itself to the offensive game. Still, numbers be numbers and here they are (even strength).
- 2013-14: 61gp, 2-8-10 .164
- 2014-15: 65gp, 2-9-11 .169
- 2015-16: 67gp, 3-9-12 .179
- 2016-17: 13gp, 1-4-5 .385
An impressive leap by Musil and we will monitor. In prospect terms, it would be better news if Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle or Joey Laleggia were experiencing a sharp spike in even-strength points, but we are here and Musil is showing a pulse. Expansion years are a good time to take a step forward, maybe Musil ends up in the LV organization.
We haven’t heard much lately, suspect that is a bad sign. Davidson would be inside my top 4D if healthy, but the gathering wind of injury is having some major impact. Is it enough to keep him out most of this year? Will that impact Edmonton’s and (and LV’s) expansion decisions? Probably.
Look, the Oilers should win today, but they could lose too. I encourage you to take a wider view of this season now, to sweat less about individual games and look at things week to week or even month to month. If Edmonton were to lose to Arizona today and Toronto on Tuesday, I can only imagine what comments sections on blogs would look like.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Oilers are 12-8-2 and have already had a 5-game losing streak. I sometimes wonder if people are worried about another one or hoping for it. It is a very weird season for this old man to observe a fan base that seems to have fractured along some truly bizarre lines. You all take care of yourself. Please.