They should never have let Charlie Huddy go. The year they did it, Craig MacTavish stood in front of a microphone and told us he’d been too long at the fair. I was a little upset about his resignation, because MacT was a good teacher for fans and a very funny man. In terms of entertainment, MacT was one of the best coaches in the history of the game, and he could coach a team at even strength just like ringing a bell.
I heard a rumor (that should be Edmonton’s theme song) right away they were going to keep Charlie Huddy from the staff and let everyone else go. Important, because Huddy was bringing along the blue (taught Laddy Smid the backdoor play, the single most difficult chore in the history of man) and fun veterans like Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov. Huddy had applied an extra coat of tinfoil on Grebeshkov and that group was coming along.
A good defensive group is a Godsend for an NHL team and it takes time to move a mountain. Huddy was (is!) good at getting the best out of his defense and the Oilers benefited from his expertise for the first eight seasons of this century.
I don’t know Jack Diddly about Jim Johnson but do know these defensive chemistry sets take a long time to develop and year two is better than year one and on it goes. Fans want everyone fired and I get that, but I’ll tell you Charlie Huddy helped and he seemed to have a better group every year (except after they traded Pronger, no man could overcome that). Fire the mall if you must, but relationships build and starting at Mile One has its own challenges across the board.
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- New Lowetide: Expect the unexpected.
- Lowetide: What went wrong for Peter Chiarelli?
- Lowetide: Making the deadline calls on free agents
- Minnia Feng: The little things that make hockey beautiful
- Lowetide: Oilers have no Andrew Mangiapane to recall
- Lowetide: Connor McDavid: The Athletic’s Person of the Year!
RED RUM, YEAR OVER YEAR
- January 2016: 2-2-0, goal differential -1 (4 points)
- January 2017: 2-2-0, goal differential -2 (4 points)
- January 2018: 1-3-0, goal differential -12 (2 points)
Goodness this is a difficult post-Christmas run. The Oilers aren’t close, as reflected in the goal differential we’re seeing in January. There are only six more games this month, I may have to start referencing the Donner party again.
AFTER 43, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 17-23-3, goal differential -25 (37 points)
- Oilers 16-17: 21-15-7, goal differential +6 (49 points)
- Oilers 17-18: 18-22-3, goal differential -23 (39 points)
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DECEMBER
- At home to: Los Angeles, Anaheim (Expected 0-1-1) (Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, Arizona, Vegas (Expected 2-2-1) (Actual 0-2-0)
- At home to: Vancouver, Buffalo, Calgary (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 4-4-2, 10 points in 10 games
- Current results: 1-3-0, two points in four games
We’re off the grid now, this team might lose all three games before the break. There are no breakout passes, there is no coverage, scoring chances occur mainly via brilliant individual efforts and they are rare indeed.
Connor McDavid was brilliant, Darnell Nurse was high event, I’d bring back Mike Cammalleri next season over some of the younger wingers, Yohann Auvitu is a pretty interesting player and this team is just waiting to lose right now.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Benning went 11-14 in 13:01 together, 0-1 in both GF and HDSC’s. I think both men are playing better than they have in recent weeks, seem to be recovering and heading in a better direction. We may not see the six true blue healthy together this season. Went 11-4 against Bouma-Panik-Wingels, 1-7 in 4:40 against Hartman-Schmaltz-Kane.
- Nurse-Russell were 13-21 in 15:34, a trying and high event afternoon. Were 1-2 in GF, 2-6 in HDSC’s. Both men played a high risk game, both men need to have calm feet in order to be successful. Nurse has struggled since Christmas, might be time to move him down to the third pairing for a couple of weeks. Paring were 8-19 in 11:21 against the Kane line, that’s the heart of the order. Safe to say the Swedish pairing needs to reform and take on these giants.
- Davidson-Larsson were 4-12 in 13:00, going 0-1 GF and 1-2 HDSC’s. Oilers seem to be running two shutdown blue on the same pairing quite a bit lately, I would prefer the Swedes together and Nurse with Benning. That leaves Davidson, Sekera and Russell as the other pairing. Were 4-6 in 5:22 against the Toews line, 0-1 against Kane.
- I’d suggest Quenneville was fine with McLellan running Nurse-Russell against the Kane line and so both men basically hard matched. That’s the only way I can see arriving at Kane’s icetime breaking 11:21 Nurse-Russell, 4:40 Klefbom-Benning and 2:55 Davidson-Larsson. I’d run Klefbom-Larsson starting now.
- Cam Talbot stopped 25 of 29, .862.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Khaira-Strome-Cammalleri went 11-3, 1-2 in GF and 0-1 in HDSC’s. My opinion is that Cammalleri looked good, while the other two gents were shy without the puck on goals against. In the comments section there was some disagreement about Strome’s guilt, so I will reiterate my opinion on Strome’s role in the GA may not be universal. Line did well in possession and did not do well in execution.
- Auvitu-Letestu-Kassian was a nifty little line, Auvitu adds a “suicide bomber” element to the trio and gets Letestu out of the house. Went 7-7, 0-1 GF and 1-0 HDSC’s.
- Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl were 16-20 in 15:31, 0-0 GF and 4-2 HDSC’s. The fact this group didn’t win the possession battle in what should be an important game tells you the goose is cooked. Went 13-14 against the Toews line. Leon’s in a little danger here imo, despite having a good season to my eye. One of my theories about the Hall exit pertains to performance after the season was lost, and LD’s contract makes him a possible early trade option (saving Nuge and Oscar). The young man is going to have to perform well in nothing road games through Easter.
- Lucic-Nuge-Puljujarvi faced Everest. Went 9-20, 0-1 GF and 0-5 HDSC’s. Of course they faced the Kane line (11:58) and went 9-20 against them, and you cannot
- Kane played 10:55 against Nuge (22-6); 4:40 against Connor McDavid (4-3), 2:40 against Strome (0-1) and 1:09 against Letestu (0-0) at 5×5. The Nuge line was sacrificed in the name of McDavid’s line providing offense, offense that never came. That is confirmation that the season is dead. Hallelujah, amen.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) January 8, 2018
I expect we’ll see Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe and Keith Gretzky in more prominent roles, Chiarelli (who has already muted himself/been muted) probably takes on some kind of advisory role in an organization that most closely resembles the Hotel California.