The Edmonton Oilers are making a lot of bets to begin the 2018-19 season, including three rookies, a former WHL sniper on his third organization and a tall tree from Finland by way of St. Petersburg (the one near Moscow). Gird your loins, pick something reasonable as the outer marker (I have 90 to 94 points) and see how they shine. You may hope for Stanley, but inside voices would be best.
The Athletic Edmonton is going to bring it all season long. Proud to be part of a lineup that is ready to cover the coming year. Outstanding coverage from a large group, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis, Lowetide, Minnia Feng and Pat McLean. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s your chance. Special offer is here, less than $3 a month!
- New Lowetide: The 2018-19 Oilers are in a period of transition.
- New Jonathan Willis: How worried should the Oilers be about the preseason struggles of Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl?
- New Jonathan Willis: Oilers bet on Ty Rattie paying off and other lessons learned from training camp.
- Lowetide: A transaction flurry as Oilers finalize 2018-19 roster
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Leon’s time to shine. This is an amazing piece, exceptional.
- Lowetide: Oilers waive Aberg, release Jerabek and stand at 25.
- Lowetide: Oilers prospects Berglund, Maksimov off to fine starts
- Lowetide: Is this the year an Edmonton Oilers player wins the Calder Trophy?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Evan Bouchard enlists former figure skater to help improve a weakness in his game.
- Jonathan Willis: Mikko Koskinen temporarily triumphs over Al Montoya, but the real battle for the backup role has just started
- Eric Duhatschek: Milan Lucic has made changes to try and get his swagger, and scoring touch, back.
- Jonathan Willis: What does the preseason performance of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto mean for the Oilers?
HOLD ON, HOLD ON, HOLD ON
- Todd McLellan: “It’s important to have a dominant #2 centre and we feel we have two of them. We have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl. So those aren’t bad options. So everybody wants to put Leon in that hole. We have a young fellow that was picked first overall in Nugent-Hopkins. He’s proven he can score in the league. He’s proven he can check. He’s reliable all over the arena. So there is that option. Obviously Leon being a bigger body and driving his own line on offence is a luxury that we have. And we’d like to play him there. We will start him there. But if it gets stale we can always move people around.” (Source John Shannon/Sportsnet via David Staples/Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal)
When I was first introduced to these words from Todd McLellan (via Matthew Iwanyk yesterday on TSN1260) it didn’t sit right with me. Connor McDavid spoke at length about consistency among linemates, the No. 1 line has been outstanding, and now the coach pulls out this idea on the anniversary of his resurrection shuffle from a year ago?
On further review, I think McLellan’s words are more about options as opposed to a specific line change he is looking at for this season. In yesterday’s game, both Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic were lanterns waving at a runaway train on the first goal against Edmonton. I suspect the coach could envision Nuge handling that situation more responsibly. Is it crazy for the coach to argue Nuge at No. 2 center gives the Oilers a better chance to outscore the opposition in 5-on-5 minutes? Even though the goals-for total might be shy? McLellan only has so many horses, you know.
What the Oilers badly need is for Milan Lucic to be productive on the No. 2 line—it’s going to be a big story this season because Edmonton’s coaching and management clearly want the big man to succeed there. It doesn’t help that the available left wingers (Jujhar Khaira, Drake Caggiula, Tobias Rieder) are something less than locks to score 20 goals this coming season. My kingdom for another Patrick Maroon on a ridiculously low contract. I remain convinced the Oilers will flourish if Nuge-Draisaitl are on the No. 2 line together. Need a Maroon-type for McDavid’s left wing. Maybe it’s Khaira.
TODAY’S LINES AND PAIRS
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Connor McDavid—Ty Rattie
- Milan Lucic—Leon Draisaitl—Kailer Yamamoto
- Tobias Rieder—Ryan Strome—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Jujhar Khaira—Kyle Brodziak—Zack Kassian
- Drake Caggiula—Alex Chiasson
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Darnell Nurse—Matt Benning
- Kris Russell—Ethan Bear
- Jason Garrison—Evan Bouchard
- Cam Talbot (Mikko Koskinen)
The No. 2 line and third pairing are the issues, no real doubt about it. Yamamoto looks good on other lines, but no one has been able to make anything rhyme playing alongside the two big men. Is there anyone who can? Maybe it’s Khaira. Lines via Bob.
- Todd McLellan on Russell playing Saturday: “Right now, I’m saying yes, I haven’t been told by the training staff and the doctor that he won’t be, so I’m planning like he is. There will be some evaluation done later today and we may know more tomorrow, but I have No. 4 penciled in tomorrow unless told otherwise.” (Source)
Having Russell on that third pair will be important on Saturday. Chances are the Devils will have Taylor Hall up against the third pairing as much as possible and you’d prefer an established NHL veteran with either Bear or Bouchard. Edmonton will have to make a roster move if Russell can play, suspect we see Drake Caggiula moved to IR (he has some issues with his nose).
THE CALDER TROPHY
Last week I wrote about Edmonton’s three Calder Trophy candidates (Yamamoto, Bouchard, Bear), arguing opportunity (especially in Yamamoto’s case) might trump all. Corey Pronman has his rookie rankings up here and you might be surprised by his thoughts on the issue.
I still think we see a trade soon, possibly Khaira for Petrovic and a pick, or something along those lines. If Larsson’s back is going to be an ongoing issue, if Russell isn’t 100 percent, we know there will be other injuries. Edmonton needs blue.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
I can smell the turkey already! It’s Thursday before the long weekend, so the party atmosphere arrives this morning at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Andy McNamara, TSN4Downs. The NFL season is safely underway, and most fans are aghast at their team’s stupidity and poor coaching. In other words, same old same old!
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl aren’t getting enough done at 5-on-5 so far, will the coaching staff remain stubborn on Lucic as No. 2 left wing?
- Jesse Cohen, All the Kings Men podcast. We’ll talk LAK and expectations in the Pacific.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Turkey is coming!