As the Oilers are on this damnable ‘one game a week’ schedule, it’s pretty easy for your local blogger to run out of ideas for the daily news. Fortunately, the NHL lockouts have allowed me the opportunity to make chicken salad out of all manner of, ahem, things. Today we’re going to talk about what we would like to get out of this season.
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 Black Dog: Edmonton’s future is bright, but there are all kinds of questions in the present.
- New Lowetide: Evan Bouchard survives first game.
- New Lowetide: Ryan McLeod takes demotion in stride, while a Condo of Condors impress on opening weekend.
- Jonathan Willis: On AHL opening night, Caleb Jones and friends make it clear they want NHL jobs.
- Lowetide: Orange, white and blue October: In 1979, the Oilers rocked the NHL.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: After the death of his father, Sweden trip holds special significance for Adam Larsson, and one of his opponents.
- Scott Wheeler: How the eye test fails to properly evaluate Evan Bouchard.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Why the Nuge-McDavid-Rattie line has been so successful.
- Lowetide: The 2018-19 Oilers are in a period of transition.
- Jonathan Willis: How worried should the Oilers be about the preseason struggles of Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl?
Text from Scotty Bowman to me just now: "I have not seen a player accelerate like McDavid since Bobby Orr." #nowthatspraise
— Adrian Dater (@adater) October 15, 2016
The Edmonton Oilers need something else that makes them famous. Connor McDavid was a gift from the hockey Gods, there wasn’t any magic beyond providing him with ice, a stick and a schedule of games. What else are the Edmonton Oilers? That’s the number one priority for this hockey team over the next several months. There are other things I’d like to see happen before April.
- One of Leon Draisaitl or Jesse Puljujarvi driving a line that outscores opponents at 5-on-5. I have Leon scoring 25 goals and Pulju 18, but that isn’t as important as outscoring while each is on the ice. Edmonton needs to have something it can count on aside from McDavid’s line.
- A fourth defenseman who can join Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse as a legit top 4D option. I’m hopeful it is Matt Benning, but it could be Evan Bouchard or Ethan Bear or a mid-season addition. Would love to see that piece in place by next fall.
- A 20-goal scorer not named McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Draisaitl. It could be Puljujarvi, Milan Lucic, or maybe Ty Rattie surprises. I think it would be great to see someone else reach 20.
- Four lines the coach can trust. Todd McLellan likes to run four lines so it’s important find find 12 forwards who can be trusted. Tall order.
- At least one goaltender not named Cam Talbot to take a big step forward from current established levels. If Talbot flourishes, perhaps a shorter term deal at a reasonable number (I know, impossible).
- Improvement from both special teams.
- An overall goal differential that exceeds +10.
- A 50-goal season for Kirill Maksimov.
- Some kind of direction in regard to the coaching staff, be it replacing McLellan with Gulutzan or bringing back the group as currently constructed. Coaching turnover can be good but I do believe the MacT staff remains the class of this century. That was a long time ago.
- Similar to the coaching, I’d like to get some clarity on the management structure. Peter Chiarelli’s management group has established what I believe to be a solid drafting staff, and that’s a positive. On the other hand, the wild summers of 2015 and 2016 have severely limited the club’s ability to manipulate much of the roster. I think the Oilers have probably one major management move before McDavid gets antsy, and that might come summer 2019.
- I’d like to see the organization keep their powder dry through the entire season, holding on to all draft picks and the top prospects, dealing off quality only if a real contender. Trading veterans at the deadline might benefit if a bigger contract can be moved (if it comes that).
- If the Oilers are in contention for the Pacific Division title at the deadline, I would like to see Chiarelli be more aggressive this time. Again, no trading of the top prospects (Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto) but something beyond the top tier or even a second-round pick is possible if the team has a chance to push deep into the second season. I would like to see that happen.
Corey Pronman released his 2019 early list today (here) and it’s a fascinating read. I was curious about where he would rank Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram, and was surprised with each ranking. Fascinating read. I know you don’t like the idea, but as we discussed last week, the current Oilers remain in a period of transition. You don’t need to memorize the list, but it’s good to know there are so many ‘elites or better’ on the way.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- On the road to: Sweden to play NJD (Expected: 0-0-1) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Boston, NYR, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Washington (Expected 1-3-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Nashville, Chicago (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Minnesota (Expected 0-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 3-6-2, 8 points in 11 games
- Current results: 0-1-0, 0 points after one game
The first game of the season was poor, and proved the team still has the same issues that plagued a year ago. Cam Talbot, while solid, let in a goal or two you can’t allow and still win. With Connor McDavid on the ice at 5-on-5, the team was 1-0 in goals and were 50 percent Corsi for in the New Jersey game. Off ice at 5-on-5? Goals were 0-3 and 37.5 Corsi. High dangers were a disaster with (1-4) McDavid and without (1-6) McDavid, but that’s one game (the captain’s HDSC’s were 358-292 a year ago).
The schedule is a bear, but if you’ll notice there are several teams in the Pacific Division off to poor starts, Edmonton has a chance here if the club can grab something close to 11 points in the 11 October games. I’m never going to bet against a team that contains Connor McDavid, and that’s a fact. Edmonton needs some of those items above (Leon, Pulju, RHD) to come through pdq.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re back, baby! A full boat of fabulous guests and two town teams in the ditch! Holy hell the joint will be rocking this morning at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic. Oilers lose the opener but it’s how they lost (same old same old) that is such a concern.
- John Sigler, Saintswire, USA Today. A big win for the Saints and an historic evening fro Drew Brees.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. The Eskimos are absolutely in trouble now, we’ll talk about the CFL weekend and early NHL season.
- Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com. Andy Reid has morphed into a genius. Or something.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!