The Edmonton Oilers are appointment viewing now, we are all-in come what may. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight can finally swing on a star. We can dream of playoffs and scoring championships and awards shows with Oilers content, don’t recall doing any of that last January.
In starting the January schedule safely inside the playoffs, these Edmonton Oilers have established that they are different from the teams of yesteryear. There is a push to reach the second season, the bright new day, and this is serious stuff. Do they have enough to get this vehicle motorvating over that next hill? Strap it on, folks, this is going to be a wild ride. You can call it new balance, I call it no balance, doesn’t matter now. Kick out the jams!
HELLO! HURRAY! 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: 7-2-5, goal differential +3
- Oilers after 38, 2015: 15-20-3, goal differential -23
- Oilers after 38, 2016: 19-12-7, goal differential +10
G39 one year ago was a helluva tilt, a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Cam Talbot stopped 34 of 35 on New Year’s Eve at Rexall, and that team tried I know they did, but it was not enough. Again. Edmonton can win No. 20 this evening, about three fortnights before their usual claim on the position.
Over the holidays, I received several comments via email and dm in regard to Connor McDavid and his slump. Whenever a player goes through a downturn, we ask ourselves a series of questions: Is he hurt? Is he 40? Did his shooting percentage go down?
A-ha! That last one is at least part of the problem.
- October 2016: five goals on 22 shots, 22.7%
- November 2016: six goals on 43 shots, 14.0%
- December 2016: three goals on 46 shots, 6.5%
- Overall: 14 goals on 111 shots, 12.6%
McDavid is shooting more as the season rolls along (good!) and his shooting percentage normalized from unrealistic October totals. Now, there is some uncertainty about McDavid, because we don’t really know what his career shooting percentage is going to be due to small sample size. I always like three years of evidence, and since we don’t have OHL shots on goal we have 83 NHL games of evidence. So far in his NHL career, McDavid has a 13.9 percent shooting percentage, and that seems like as reasonable a guess as any. So, with 111 shots this year, and with a 13.9 percent line in the sand, we should expect 15.4 goals—and we have 14. All good, save for December’s regression. He is not hurt, he is not 40, and we await the next hot streak. Cool?
WHAT ABOUT THE ASSISTS?
He leads the league in assists. Seriously.
TONIGHT TONIGHT TONIGHT OH HOH
You know, something happened during December that used to happen all of the time. I had actually forgotten the feeling. Calm on the day of a game. Now, there are times (1987 G7, 2006 G7) when you can pretend you are calm, but no one is fooled because all of your sphincters are tights as a drum. In the last 10 years, sweet misery was the order of the game day, so I had little chance to feel calm. Halfway between contentment and devil may care, I find myself there most game days now. If the Oilers win tonight, music! If they don’t? Well, maybe that motivates PC to plug a hole or two by the deadline. It had been so long since I had that feeling, that when it arrived last month it was like seeing an old friend after many years away. If I start stopping off to buy a 2-4 on a game night, my wife is going to think I am Benjamin Button.
I always liked Sam Gagner, felt in his first training camp they should have sent him out. My friend Louise argued the counter, and turned out she was right. Samwise was a smart, talented guy, and I think he would have thrived here (in a soft minutes role) if not for Pat Quinn and all of the other coaching changes. No matter, he found his way to Columbus, where 4Cs can also be key power-play pieces. I do not think it will be wise to sign him in free agency, but am very happy for Mr. Gagner in his new role. If the Oilers don’t want him to score on them, easy. Don’t take a penalty!
HIGH DANGER SCORING CHANCES, DEFENSE
I haven’t posted much on HDSCs lately, trying to get my head around the accuracy of these totals. I am using NST but am open to other sources. There are a few points I would like to make here.
- Matt Benning is the No. 5 defender in terms of facing elite opposition according to WoodMoney (here), and ranks as third pair in TOI/game against the top opposition. That said, he is killing the opposition and (as you can see via the link) is in fact facing tougher opposition about four and a half minutes a night (before the Van game). Major story of the season.
- Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are two more young defenders finding their way this season, with the numbers for both showing progress. Some miles to go, but good arrows both, and Oscar is playing the elites a lot.
- Andrej Sekera has been the team’s best defenseman this year. Full stop.
- Kris Russell has the lesser of the DFF, Corsi and Scoring chances, but we often mention those things without acknowledging the lefty-righty issue. It might have something to do with the difficulty in actually identifying the amount of alterations required to make things even, but we should be at least mentioning that issue every time we discuss Russell.
- Adam Larsson is strong with Oscar Klefbom in HDSCs (95-95, 50 percent) and 26-43 without OK. I think that pairing has real value.
HIGH DANGER SCORING CHANCES, FORWARDS
- Connor McDavid is lapping the field in everything 5×5 associated with this team. I read from time to time about how awful this team would be without him, but the point is 97 is an Oiler. Impossible to separate everything that has happened since his arrival with his arrival. My goodness that is an impressive HDSC total.
- Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian are also above 50 percent. Kassian has played just 19 minutes with McDavid, so his number is bona fide. Maroon has played more with 97 (135 minutes) and should probably be portside more. CM is 1-7-8 in those 135 5×5 minutes, giving him a 5×5/60 scoring total of 3.54 with Maroon. All day. ALL day.
- Milan Lucic has spent 406 minutes with McDavid, Eberle 322 minutes.
- Leon Draisaitl isn’t quite the Hall replacement some believe he already is, and his total in this discipline gives us some proof. That said, Peter Chiarelli’s bet that someone (it is Leon) would be able to step up worked to the point where Edmonton does have enough remnants to cobble together a second scoring line most nights. Leon’s wowy away from McDavid? 48.8 Corsi for 5×5 percentage, 1.92 5×5/60 scoring. He is not yet pushing the river, but LD is a strong option for Todd McLellan.
- Anton Lander is back, glad for it. Suspect he will be most valuable in checking and PK. Ideally he runs on the 4line.
Oilers lines today:
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 1, 2017
I like these lines plenty, gives Lucic and Leon a chance to develop more chem and gives McDavid a different look on left wing. Increasingly I am wondering about Jesse Puljujarvi and his handling. Why not throw him up there with McDavid? Either way, I am pleased to see the coach tweaking the top line, the trio were still getting chances to my eye but sometimes a change is as good as a rest.
OILERS 5×5 TEAM STATS (LAST YEAR)
- GF/60: 2.24 (2.04)
- GA/60: 2.14 (2.56)
- GF Percentage: 51.1 (44.3)
- Shots for 60: 30.6 (28.4)
- Shots Against 60: 29.4 (30.2)
- SF Percentage: 50.9 (48.5)
- Fenwick: 51.3 (48.3)
- Corsi: 51. 2 (48.8)
- Shooting Percentage: 7.33 (7.17)
- Save Percentage: .9273 (.9153)
- PDO: 100.1 (98.7)
How much of that is McDavid? Plenty, don’t kid yourself. Does it matter? Not really. Once Connor McDavid was secured as part of the Oilers, he was always going to be a big part of whatever improvement the team could manage. Do the Oilers rely on 97 too much offensively? Oh yes, no doubt in my mind. However, in the last 10 games this team has been able to win without McDavid leading the charge offensively (Leon has, 10gp, 3-8-11 to McDavid’s 10, 3-4-7) and Cam Talbot (.934 in going 5-1-3) has been the team MVP. I am enjoying the hell out of this season, despite the worries and the lack of clear 60-minute wins. Those worries will be solved and regulation wins will come in due time. You have to learn to walk before you can run, and that’s a fact.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We are back! I missed doing the show and today it is four hours! All starts at 10, TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. Scott is in Nashville for the return of Shea Weber.
- Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation. Jon has predicted the Oilers to make the playoffs all season long, does he still feel the same? Plus line juggling at Leon.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. Oilers in Columbus, plus Leafs-Red Wings outdoor game and Matthews comparables as a rookie.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!