The Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs last season on the back of Connor McDavid’s fabulous skills and stellar goaltending from Cam Talbot. McDavid’s point total is running in the range of 100 points over 82 games, but Talbot is miles from home. This road trip might help the defense tighten and the goaltending to find the range. Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula may return, Andrej Sekera is skating now. All that’s great, but wins now are the key. The losing streak is four, it’s getting late early.
Chicago has always had a great hockey crowd. In 1971, during the SC Finals, Chicago Stadium was a constant din. The television cameras delivered the games and the atmosphere was amazing. I cheered for the ‘Hawks, still bitter over the Bruins loss (revenge would never come, but Boston would win the 1972 Stanley). The Blackhawks are almost always interesting, that’s more than you can say about most teams. Edmonton has had reasonable success in recent seasons and badly need things to go well tonight.
DAY AFTER DAY, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 1-4-0, goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 4-1-0, goal differential +4
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-4-0, goal differential -8
This isn’t a pretty situation, the record is ghastly and the goal differential absolutely confirms there are problems. I don’t think the team is heartless, or lazy, but unlucky and inconsistent come to mind, along with some unanswered questions on RW.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- At home to: Winnipeg, Ottawa, Carolina (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual: 0-3-0)
- On the road to: Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Washington (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-3-2, 12 points in 10 games
- Current results: 1-4-0, 2 points after five games
This month is a mess, if the club runs as I projected for the rest of October they’ll finish 3-6-1 (seven points). That’s bad, but it is possible for the Oilers to finish with a worse record than 3-6-1. I don’t see an easy mark in the bunch. Cam Talbot is badly needed, starting tonight.
- Eric Gryba takes a lot of heat but his numbers have been excellent so far this season. He can defend and this season’s early days see him allowing just 21.57 shots for 60 minutes. Among men who have played four or more NHL games this season, Gryba ranks No. 2. We know the big man is playing third pair, but good things are happening during those minutes so far.
- Darnell Nurse continues to play well in the opening days of the season. Part of the improvement comes with better passing and more patience and we can take some heart in these numbers. If Nurse is running these kinds of numbers at Game 20, we’ll have a story. This is a big season for him, so far it’s been good news.
- Oscar Klefbom hasn’t scored yet and the first five games have shown his defensive weaknesses, but the numbers themselves are in a good place. Some of his decision making early has a Janne Niinimaa feel to it, and of course the offense hasn’t come yet. I’ll bet on Oscar every time.
- Adam Larsson has not performed as expected. I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s been poor, but he’s been in a few bad spots when the puck goes in the net. Oilers need more from him.
- Kris Russell’s numbers are good across the board, although he takes a beating Rel because all these numbers are elevated. I like him on LH side, Corsi doesn’t love him so 52 percent probably represents a high water mark for the season. Russell remains wildly unpopular with the math folks, I like players who can defend.
- Yohann Auvitu’s numbers are insanely good, they won’t stay that way and by eye he’s a little alarming. We’ll see him more and get used to things, I’d run him on the power play.
- The McDavid Line should have three men close to 2.00/60 or more, Patrick Maroon has had his chances but no goals yet. This table gives us a nice view of the fracture between the possession numbers and actual results. Connor McDavid—the best closer in the game—has a possession number of 65.79 and his team is being outscored 3-6 at 5×5. That’s an outlier’s outlier but we are here.
- The Nuge Line (Lucic-Strome) got healthy in a quick hurry in the Hurricanes game. This road trip might be the time for 29 to move to center. Three lines who have some offense might be key to a successful road trip.
- Leon Draisaitl is badly missed. I’m astonished people aren’t talking about this more. The amount of acid being poured out on the Edmonton Oilers currently suggests people have either lost their perspective or have an agenda. If you want to be an NHL general manager, then pursue it as a career. If you plan on staying on this side of the fence, perhaps tone down the hyperbole. If you were that smart, someone would have hired you by now. Pretty sure.
- Anton Slepyshev is going to find the range soon, that’s going to help.
- Kailer Yamamoto keeps playing well enough to get another game. This road trip will be a tell in my opinion. If he can stay with the McDavid line all week, perhaps cash a goal, then we’re going to talk about the young man getting more than nine games. The pressures that would send him to Spokane have not yet appeared, although Slepyshev could force the issue in the coming days and Caggiula is apparently close to getting back. Jesse Puljujarvi could also push with a big offensive weekend in Ontario.
STUBBORN KIND OF FELLOW
Peter Chiarelli’s theme for this season is “patience” but I wonder if he’s going to be forced into a move. I suspect the plan for the year involved surviving on defense until Andrej Sekera could return, and allowing one of the young RW’s to emerge as a legit scoring option. So far, Kailer Yamamoto (the most promising offensive option) is winning but his contributions aren’t substantial and Edmonton needs the McDavid line to shine.
At some point, PC will be forced to make a move. I’ve mentioned this before, but we should be prepared for an unusual move, as in Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev, others. If Chiarelli finds a suitable scoring RW option, I don’t think he’ll hesitate to pull the trigger and that could mean a young forward heading out of town.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning with Oilers and some interesting news for Edmonton soccer fans and players. We kickstart the day at 10, TSN1260:
- 10:20 Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Are the Oilers arrogant and lazy? Are they running some bad luck? Is this about the goalie?
- 10:40 Antony Bent & Kevin Possinant. If you’re involved in soccer, we have some news.
- 11:05 Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. Patrick Marleau plays his 1500th NHL game, and how often does a team win a division when starting 1-4-0?
- 11:25 Frank Seravalli, TSN. It’s too early to panic, yet the Oilers are in the basement. At what point does Peter Chiarelli make a move?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!