There are dozens of little things that bind Oilers fans together, and I understand most of them. The searing memory of Fernando Pisani damn near scoring third period G7 SCF 2006, the night the city won the lottery, the baffled moment we learned Jesse Niinimaki was going to be the first round pick, challenging Jeff Petry to be better in another town, sucking hind banana on any national game—especially Saturday night.
I understand you, I get you, I am you—save for one thing. I do not understand why Oilers fans are so damned angry about losing to the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are made to frustrate like a Jacques Lemaire comb over, and they do it well. If you are looking forward to a work of art tonight, well, that’s on you. If you are insisting on an Oilers win, what part of history don’t you understand? The Edmonton Oilers will make more mistakes than the Arizona Coyotes tonight. We should be lighting candles and praying to the God of luck—who is probably Dave Tippett.
ROB THE GLENDALE TRAIN, 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: 5-2-3, goal differential +1
- Oilers after 34, 2015: 14-18-2, goal differential -19
- Oilers after 34, 2016: 17-12-5, goal differential +8
G34 one year ago was a victory, a 3-1 final against the Winnipeg Jets, courtesy big efforts from Taylor Hall, Teddy Purcell and Justin Schultz. It would be the final victory of the calendar year for the 2015 Oilers.
There are 14 December games, and our line in the sand from those games (14 points) is certainly in range. That said, things can turn in a hurry, so having 13 points in 10 games (with four games to go) means this month has the potential to be very good.
- Number 7, Paul Coffey, is, along with Mark Messier, the most obviously changed of the Oilers. He has finally confessed that at the beginning of the year, when he was playing ineffectually and sitting out as many games as he was in, he was in constant terror of being sent back to Kitchener to play Junior A; because of his youth, he could have been.
- ”And if I’d gone down there, I don’t know if I would have ever made it back up.”
- Peter Gzowski, The Game of Our Lives, Page 228.
A lot can change from September to April. The Oilers have three young players of note finding their way as flat out rookie pro’s. They are different personalities (we don’t really know them because there are no Gzowski chronicles in the fast new world), they have different abilities and expectations.
Puljujarvi, the mannish boy, is being handled in a very specific way. He is likely headed for Bakersfield to spend much (or all) of the second half in the AHL. Why? More in a minute, I just want to make a point about his season compared to the other 2016 top picks.
5×5 60 2016 FIRST ROUND
- Matt Tkachuk 2.08
- Patrik Laine 1.97
- Auston Matthews 1.86
- Jesse Pulujarvi 1.70
You may say well he is playing with McDavid and Leon as his centers, and that is true. However, none of these rookies is playing on Kentucky Avenue, this is all Boardwalk and Park Place. One more point this season for JP puts him on par with Laine. The real difference here is in playing time (Laine has played 488 minutes to 246 for Puljujarvi, coming up on double).
I think Peter Chiarelli is going to go the ‘Leon route’ with Puljujarvi, sending him down after Christmas and then recalling the Finn later in the season. The magic number is 40, if JP spends 40 games here then he burns an RFA season. Tonight is G34. The only thing that could change it? The Pitlick injury. We wait.
MCDAVID 5X5 WITH VARIOUS WINGERS
We talk at length about who scores well with McDavid 5×5, but what about the other way around? Who does McDavid score well with? We know from our conversations lately that Benoit Pouliot is rock solid in this area, but let’s look at this season only, to see what we can find.
- McDavid with Puljujarvi 5×5: 5-3-8 in 78 minutes (5.77)
- McDavid with Maroon 5×5: 0-6-6 in 122 minutes (2.96)
- McDavid with Lucic 5×5: 8-7-15 in 346 minutes (2.60)
- McDavid with Draisaitl 5×5: 1-2-3 in 84 minutes (2.15)
- McDavid with Eberle 5×5: 2-6-8 in 254 minutes (1.89)
Everyone else is under one hour, we can’t really take much from those totals, and we have to be careful about all but Lucic and Eberle (imo). I have to say the Puljujarvi number is fascinating—why would you stay away from that? Huh.
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) December 21, 2016
Anton Slepyshev scored a goal and added an assist last night (3gp, 1-2-3 now) and is probably the top recall option once Tyler Pitlick is placed on IR. In his three Condors games this season, Slepyshev is a different player. He has 14 shots on goal, as a for instance, that kind of activity is a tell about his ability to play at that level (helps having Lander pass him the puck).
I sincerely believe there are three forwards in Bakersfield who can play NHL hockey tonight: Anton Lander, Anton Slepyshev and Jujhar Khaira. That is improved depth, haven’t seen it for some time.
BEST PAIRINGS 2016-17
Corsica is brilliant, but like the Bible, I understand very little of it. One thing I do understand, is that their pairings section offers great insight into what is working. Here are the most effective pairings so far this season, by Corsi for 5×5 percentage:
- Sekera—Benning 59.68 (136 minutes)
- Nurse—Benning 54.63 (113 minutes)
- Nurse—Gryba 53.64 (182 minutes)
- Klefbom—Larsson 51.13 (429 minutes)
- Sekera—Russell 47.04 (347 minutes)
There are some interesting pairings in there, and credit to the Swedes who are above 50 percent in spite of some tough sorties. Benning and Nurse show up well here, Sekera and Russell are not a strong tandem in possession but Todd McLellan clearly likes the results.
Each day online, millions of words are written about the Oilers, and many of those words focus on the Oilers’ failures, shortcomings and ghastly transactions. All fair, but I thought it might be nice to take a look at some 5×5 numbers year over year, just to see how much impact these failures, shortcomings and ghastly transactions are having on the season in front of us. To be clear, progress this season does not reflect on Taylor Hall’s exit, on Tyler Dellow’s leaving, on Teddy Purcell’s nifty passes being unavailable. This is not framing the issue in any way, this is just stating the facts presented to us by Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com. This year (last year), all 5×5.
- Goals For Percentage: 50.4 (44.3)
- Goals For Per 60: 2.27 (2.04)
- Goals Against Per 60: 2.24 (2.56)
- Shots For Percentage: 51.2 (48.5)
- Shots For Per 60: 30.9 (28.4)
- Shots Against Per 60: 29.5 (30.2)
- Fenwick: 51.5 (48.3)
- Corsi: 51.3 (48.8)
- Shooting Percentage: 7.35 (7.17)
- Save Percentage: 92.42 (91.53)
- PDO: 99.8 (98.7)
My question for you is this: Why aren’t we talking about these numbers more? Why, every day, do we see so much written about these damnable Oilers and their damnable losing?
I think it is Hall. I think we all have to come to grips with the dream being dead, the perfect storm, balls out, full throttle, sex and drugs and rock and roll utopia, snapped off in one quiet tweet. One for one, Hall for Larsson. Six words pierced the silence and landed as a full force hammer shot. We are fractured. I don’t think we are ever going to get back. All that is left is a nod, a heel turn, and then the long walk across the plains, roll credits and fin. Maybe we will meet again, maybe Stanley brings us together. The ties that bound us, this group that met in the days after the Marchant goal, in the time of HFboards and oilfans and the early blogs, have finally chosen two very different roads. We are talking past each other, even math has lost its meaning. Not even Connor McDavid can bring Oilers nation back together again. What might have been.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, a rocking show. TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Oilers in the desert tonight, will there be a peaceful easy feeling?
- Chris Peters, United States of Hockey. Caleb Jones and Team USA: Can they win Gold at the WJs?
- Kent Simpson, former Oil Kings color man and former pro hockey player. Kent played at the Spengler Cup, and his memories of the event, and the town, remain strong. We will chat about a truly unique Christmas event.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!