If we created a word cloud for this blog since 2005, the big and bold words would be down and out. I think “nadir” and “darkness” and most of the lyrics to the Edmund Fitzgerald would be there, along with a photo of a young, beautiful and sad eyed Bonnie Raitt. Sometimes in life you spend so much time doing one thing, people tend to typecast you. Can this blog shake the blues? There’s never been a need to find out. Perhaps that will change.
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 $3.50 a month!
- New Lowetide: Everything’s coming up Oilers as young AHL hopefuls in Bakersfield hammer Flames’ farmhands.
- New Dan Robson: Bringing a commitment to telling untold stories to The Athletic.
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi gets scratched, so what’s next for Edmonton’s lottery winger?
- Tyler Dellow: Oilers treading water despite tough schedule, but still struggle to score without Connor McDavid.
- Jonathan Willis: Connor McDavid finds another gear, but Oilers still lack scoring on the wing.
- Cat Silverman: How Laurent Brossoit found his way back to NHL form.
- Lowetide: Todd McLellan finds a suitable spot in the order for Milan Lucic.
- Jonathan Willis: Four reasons why the Oilers should return Evan Bouchard to junior.
- Lowetide: Drake Caggiula might be hearing footsteps as the Oilers look for offence to replace injured Ty Rattie.
- Lowetide: Kirill Maksimov is tearing up the OHL, three Condors fly high.
- Lowetide: Peter Chiarelli’s race against time.
- Daniel Nugent-Hopkins: Asking McDavid to take on Bergeron line at home shows what Oilers are missing.
- New Daniel Nugent-Hopkins: Remembering Ron Chipperfield’s brief and hellish time as captain of the Edmonton Oilers.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Grant Fuhr talks about his journey, drug use and the state of goaltending.
- Lowetide: Math offers a surprising option for Leon Draisaitl’s struggling No. 2 line
OILERS IN OCTOBER
- Oilers in October 2015: 3-7-0, six points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-1, 15 points; goal differential +9
- Oilers in October 2017: 3-6-1, seven points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in October 2018: 6-3-1, 13 points; goal differential -1
I picked the Oilers to finish with 90-94 points, that would mean 11 points in the first 10 games. This year’s team has 13 points and stand secord in the Pacific Division (one point behind the Sharks with a game in hand). The early panic of the two opening games is a seemingly distant bell, the gnashing of teeth over youngsters in the pressbox is an conversation most fans are less angry about this morning. If you’re a glass half empty sort, it’s probably easy to overcome these last eight games and find a downbeat. Breathe deep, the gathering gloom. If you’re a glass half full type, here comes the sun. Seems like years since it’s been here.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 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 2-1-0)
- At home to: Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Washington (Expected 1-3-0) (Actual 2-1-1)
- On the road to: Nashville, Chicago (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 2-0-0)
- 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: 6-3-1, 13 points after 10 games
One game left in a month we discussed at length over the summer. In my wildest dreams it never occurred to me this Oilers team would drill this level of competition this badly. Music! The final game of the month is against the Wild, who are 6-2-2 on the year. There are hits and there are misses, I was nowhere near actual factual.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Russell went 16-14 in 15:42, 8-8 and 1-0 in goals. The duo was 3-1 in scoring chances, Russell was sending strong outlet passes and Nurse skated the puck to safety several times. Duo got caught out of position briefly a few times due to good sticks by Chicago forechecking, but recovered well. Both men lack offensive flair, but as Adam Larsson has shown, passing the puck up smartly can gather assists. Were 5-6 in 6:40 against Ladd-Anisimov-Kane. Went 5-8 in 6:58 with McDavid, you’d like a more creative pairing out there with the captain but this duo has settled down a problem area from early in the season.
- Klefbom-Larsson were 18-17 in 18:06, 8-12 shots and no goals, 2-1 in HDSC. Went 7-13 against Kohun-Toews-Debrincat who were a handful. Shots were even more severe (3-9) but the Toews line was effective all night long. Larsson made some impressive outlet passes, Yawney is having success. All six defensemen looked a little ragged from so much hockey in 24 hours but managed to win the day. If I had a vote, Oscar Klefbom would be going to the All-Star game. Seriously.
- Garrison-Benning were 8-18 in 9:40, 5-9 shots, no goals and 2-2 HDSC. Duo played the most minutes for a third pairing in a few games, mostly because of the back-to-back. Were 4-6 against the Kane line and I would say this was the best effort by Benning this year. Not a difficult bar, but he seems to be coming out of it.
- Cam Talbot was the Oilers best player, stopping 31 of 32, .969.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian were the No. 1 line according to the captain, scoring a massive goal in regulation and winning the possession battle. Were 11-6 in 8:07, 6-6 shots and 1-0 in goals. There’s an old saw about winning if your fourth line scores and it held true for Edmonton last night. 3-1 HDSC. Were 6-3 in 3:49 against Gustafsson.
- Lucic-Strome-Caggiula went 12-9 in 10:45, 5-4 shots, no goals and 2-1 HDSC. I like the line but they have to score at some point or they’re headed for the glue factory as a trio. Went 11-7 against Manning-Davidson, it felt like the line could easily grab possession at times. Strome had a nice look in front, Lucic has been goalmouth several times lately but can’t seem to get his fingers on the frets.
- Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson posted 6-8 in 7:15, 3-4 shots, no goals and 0-1 HDSC. Leon set up Rieder on a slow developing two-on-one, just couldn’t get it done. It was a Doug Weight style dish though and then LD did it again in overtime. I would give my left nut to be able to pass as beautifully. It’s an art form.
- Nuge-McDavid-Yamamoto delivered 11-17 in 14:21, the entire line looked tired most of the game. 97 went 6-8 shots and 2-0 HDSC with 97, McLellan dropped Yamamoto at times (Leon 1-4 with the captain in less than three minutes) and of course McDavid drilled the puck home in overtime on the only chance he’d need to make a difference. Ty Rattie is missed, pretty clear. McDavid went 9-20 against Jokiharju, 11-17 against Keith and 4-5 against Seabrook. He and Jokiharju appear to have flipped at some point.
I used to love reading Rolling Stone album reviews, partly because they took country albums seriously and partly because there were no others doing it. I kind of gave up when Dave Marsh started changing Beach Boys lyrics to make Brian Wilson look like a genius (he didn’t need to) but the magazine gave fabulous album reviews from 1974 to 1984. I kind of drifted away when the phrase “important album” became a common term.
I think it’s fair to call these recent victories important to the Oilers organization, and to Todd McLellan. I have always felt the head coach is only as strong as his roster and 3+ years in there’s nothing close to balance for your Edmonton Oilers. That’s not to gloss over several curios, but you can’t (in my opinion) fire the coach for failing to win with mad dogs and Englishmen.
Anyway, these recent wins were massive for McLellan, any fool can see it. An October record such as the one I projected could have been the final weeks of his coaching career in Edmonton. Now? I expect we may see a roster tweak here or there, but as long as this team is in contention for a playoff spot, the coach and general manager will survive.
Are there any pressure points? Yes. Peter Chiarelli is going to have to send Jesse Puljujarvi to Bakersfield, that might happen this week. I don’t believe they’ll trade the young man, and I don’t think he’s been poor, but circumstances have conspired against him. Send him to California, let him hammer goalies and score goals, give him a feel for success.
The other issue is Kailer Yamamoto. In my opinion he earned the NHL job but hasn’t been able to click with 97 and 93. Moving him down when Rattie returns will hopefully solve it, but sending both young wingers down is an option. I wonder if we see the general manager reach out and acquire a veteran.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re back with a fun and busy Monday, trying to catch up to the happy train known as Oilers nation. At 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Gabe Lacques, USA Today. The Boston Red Sox might be the best baseball team of this century, and possibly a few decades before. We’ll chat with Gabe.
- Andy McNamara, TSN4Downs. A crazy NFL weekend makes some things clearer, leaves others in a London fog.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. The Eskimos are out, how deep will the changes be? Despite that fact, the Grey Cup is coming to Edmonton and will be a blast! We’ll also chat Oilers.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!