Once upon a time, they were three: The wild, the innocent and the E-Street shuffle. We came to know them as the most hopeful stars in the night sky. Farther along, through several seasons of poor crops, the people were gifted a new light, a new way. It came complete with a change in the weather, and new suits for every chore. It was not a subtle shift, but rather an earthquake complete. In the days after the rapture, we all knew something had to give, and maybe we all knew something about what it might look like—although we danced around it. We all knew things would be different once they sent away the human cannonball, but the fracture is growing and we might not ever get back.
And we are here, today. At the mall, staring at that damnable sign surrounded by 4,000 shops all selling shoes, probably, and trying to find some direction that makes sense. So many futures to be decided, and they are mostly kids again, and here we are coming up on Christmas already. Why do these long days of winter give us so little to be sure about? Hasn’t the population of this northern town suffered enough?And why do we care so damned much?
Ah, that’s the real trick, it only matters because you say it does. And matter it does. Circus town’s on the live wire, Game 29.
THUNDER ROAD, 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 -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
- Oilers in December 2016: 2-0-2, goal differential +2
- Oilers after 28, 2015: 11-15-2, goal differential -13
- Oilers after 28, 2016: 14-10-4, goal differential +9
G29 one year ago saw the Oilers win 4-3 in OT on a (you guessed it) Taylor Hall goal. The Oilers had a strong October, a wobbly November, and are setting up for a good December if they can keep this train on the tracks. The Philly game tonight and the game tomorrow night (all aboard, Nebraska’s our next stop) in Minnesota are big damned deals. And Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs some giddyup.
OILERS TOP SCORING FORWARDS, BY NHL RANK
- The Edmonton Oilers have two scorers inside the top 20 overall. That is a big deal you know. Hard to do, as evidenced by this team’s own past. In 1989-90, Edmonton’s Mark Messier finished No. 2 in scoring (129 points) and Jari Kurri finished No. 19 (93 points).
- If McDavid continues on this pace, he will finish 82, 32-73-105, and Leon will finish 82, 32-32-64. All these numbers via The Hockey News.
- Jordan Eberle takes a sound beating once a day from the genius pool on twitter, but once again the winger is on pace for 82, 23-38-61. Burn him!
- If the Oilers were delivering an average first line, their top three scorers would be inside the top 90 in the NHL. Edmonton has three men inside the top 30 (these rankings were from last night, before game action, so some numbers might be slightly altered) and four inside the top 90 scoring forwards.
- Milan Lucic projects just below 60 points (23-35-58) and as mentioned above quite a bit of that comes from the power play. ML is going to have a career year on the PP, his previous high being 14 and his current number being eight. He will get there.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins projection? 82, 12-26-38. If you want to follow Edmonton’s fortunes from now to the deadline, and keep track of a very important future, make RNHs player page a morning stop. Important season for one of my favorite Oilers. He is far better than this offensively.
- RNHs shooting percentage is 5.2, if it was near normal (say 10 percent) his numbers would be 8-9-17. Needs to get back where he once belonged, Loretta.
- Jesse Puljujarvi needs to play. Where would you put him? I like Lucic—McDavid—Leon and I like Pouliot—Nuge—Eberle. I further like Maroon—Letestu—Kassian. That leaves Hendricks—Caggiula—JP, and that I do not like. Maybe Pouliot with that group.
- Peter Chiarelli needs to make a trade. Pretty sure.
OILERS TOP SCORING BLUE, BY NHL RANK
- Andrej Sekera doesn’t get a lot of respect, but he is a fabulous hockey player. Ideally suited to the second pairing, he has done well this year in that role—and really developed chem with rookie defender Matt Benning.
- Klefbom—Larsson is the best top pairing I have seen, and one doubts the Oilers are going to optimize their personnel until those two are back in the saddle again.
- Kris Russell has become a media hammer lately, as in ‘if you don’t like Kris Russell, you don’t know hockey’ which is of course ridiculous. I don’t know a single fan, blogger or bon vivant who dislikes Kris Russell. Go Kris Russell! We are talking deployment, we are talking usage. Seems to be an attempt to demonize math these days, which is kind of crazy.
- Todd McLellan: “It’s a real good thing we had (Kris) Russell and (Eric) Gryba signed at the end of the summer because it gave us some depth. If you look at our D we’ve got the four veterans playing (Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Russell) and we have four veterans out (Gryba, Darnell Nurse, Fayne and Davidson). (Griffin) Reinhart, whom we consider a prospect, was hurt (his back) in the minors. We’re tapping our D 10 or 11 deep now. That’s good for our organization. We couldn’t do that in the past.” Source
I agree with this completely. It is always better to have veteran defensemen than to have kid blue—Denis Potvin was -16 as a rookie (on a team that was -65)—and it is important to remember that this version of the Oilers is +6 at 5×5 hockey. Someone is doing something right defensively. Here are the games played and minutes averaged by Oilers rookies on defense:
- Matt Benning 19 games, 16:57 ATOI
Allow me to compare that to one year ago:
- Darnell Nurse 69 games, 20:13 ATOI
- Brandon Davidson 51 games, 19:11 ATOI
- Griffin Reinhart 29 games, 18:04 ATOI
- Adam Clendening 20 games, 15:32 ATOI
- Jordan Oesterle 17 games, 21:41 ATOI
The Oilers will surely be playing more rookies than just Benning this season—they will play one of Simpson or Musil tonight—but generally speaking the fewer rookies the better. Especially when there are still so many youngsters who are not rookies in the fold. The 2005-06 Oilers had three rookies play defense—Matt Greene, Danny Syvret and Mathieu Roy—and they played a total of 38 games. Veteran defensemen: It’s the right thing to do.
- Saginaw Spirit Head Coach Spencer Carbery: “He’s a big defenceman that’s a really smooth skater that can rush the puck, that can go back for dump retrievals and break pressure. He stands out in that respect, so I think he’s very, very noticeable for a defenceman that’s 6-foot-4 and can move so fluently out on the ice.” Source
That is from a piece by Tom Gazzolla that appears on NHL.com right now. Very interesting item and worth your time. Niemelainen is not getting much done offensively this season, but he does have some ability to get the puck going in a good direction. I like the size/speed combination, and like this pick, although he is going to have much of his overall value on the defensive side. I know many of you don’t value that side of the game, but Niemelainen can contribute if all these words are true.
LAS VEGAS BUGSY SIEGELS?
Apparently the patent office doesn’t like the logo designed by the NHLs expansion team, so it is back to the drawing board. Good grief. This franchise is taking on a California Golden Seals aura, which is all well and good, but I doubt that is the goal. More on the Lowdown.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun show this morning, big brains and big ideas. Scheduled to appear beginning at 10, TSN1260:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. We are going to drill down on WGs latest article.
- Corey Pronman, ESPN. You knew it was going to happen sooner or later, we have our first look at the 2017 draft on the Lowdown.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Oilers blow up the chicken man in Philly tonight? Plus the LV expansion news.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!