The strangest firing of a coach—technically a demotion—saw Al MacNeil take over as head man of the Nova Scotia Voyageurs only weeks after coaching the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1971. MacNeil’s crime? Correctly identifying that John Ferguson was eroding (replaced by Bobby Sheehan for a time, and then carried to the finish line by a young Rejean Houle who played wing on the other side and did all the checking) and that there were nights when the Habs had three centers better than Henri Richard.
One minute MacNeil was saying “I have no comment on my decision to bench John Ferguson”, the next minute Henri Richard said “(MacNeil) is incompetent. The worst coach I’ve ever played for” and bam! Scotty Bowman is the new head coach in Montreal. Firing the coach is the easiest, and therefore the busiest, way of addressing a team’s shortcomings. Todd McLellan’s Oilers have been an opportunity missed so far, we’ll see if today brings any news. My guess is we’re close to a move, with the season in the balance and recent performances so very poor. No one likes to see people lose jobs, but there is an inevitability about this situation hanging in the Edmonton air this morning. The Oilers spent the weekend worrying about Matt Tkachuk and what Ryan Strome didn’t bring, and they gifted four points to the enemy. Very bad.
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- New Jonathan Willis: A list of which Oilers are likely to be traded.
- New Tyler Dellow: Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner looks like a change for change sake
- New Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
- Jonathan Willis: Tobias Rieder will miss a critical month, creating problems for Edmonton but opportunities for its players.
- Tyler Dellow: If nothing changes, Oilers should buy out Milan Lucic next summer.
- Lowetide: The past, present and future of the Andrej Sekera contract.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Elmer Benning on his 47 years as a scout (excellent article).
- Jonathan Willis: After several failed attempts to fix their issues on the wings, it’s time for the Oilers to explore the trade market.
- Lowetide: Connor McDavid, a 50-goal season and chasing Phil Esposito’s magical 1970-71.
- Lowetide: Oilers send Puljujarvi and Yamamoto to Bakersfield; recall Marody
- Lowetide: Oilers trade options: Dealing from strength is finally a possibility.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson were 15-12 in 18:21, 13-8 shots, 0-2 goals and 4-3 HDSC. A weird weekend, the top pairing was porous, Larsson had three shots to Klefbom’s two and Oscar blocked five shots! Duo played in some poor luck but need to be better. Karlsson line went 7-5 Corsi 5-on-5 with a pair of goals against the Swedes.
- Garrison-Russell went 8-13 in 11:19 together, 2-6 shots, 2-5 HDSC and no goals. Russell is more effective on third pair, I like him with Kevin Gravel more than Garrison. Pair were 3-6 against the Tuch line but were also 1-0 in goals.
- Nurse-Benning were high event and that shouldn’t be their role. Were 10-19 in 13:58, 5-9 shots, 2-2 goals and 2-3 HDSC. The Benning pass to Drake Caggiula was a Monty Python sequence and an instructional video for ‘is our children learning?’ Gack! Were 3-8, 1-1 goals against the Eakin line. The pairings minutes were reduced on the weekend, partly due to Nurse’s Saturday night fight.
- Cam Talbot stopped 25 of 31, .806. I think he is a little lost these days, but the Golden Knights are a fine shooting team. Doesn’t matter of course, Mikko Koskinen is eating his lunch. Still, I’m not going to bury Talbot, Edmonton still has a chance and they’ll need him. Talbot is bleeding free-agent dollars now though. Man.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Lucic-Marody-Russell is the least likely combination ever, but were 15-8 in 11:40, 9-4 shots and 5-1 HDSC. I mean honestly. Went 9-5 in five minutes against McNabb-Miller. I wonder what Tyler Benson would look like on this line.
- Caggiula-McDavid-Draisaitl were 18-17 in 16:31, 10-9 shots, 2-2 goals and 5-4 HDSC. Went 11-3 against Engelland, 11-7 against McNabb, 9-4 against Holden and 5-7 against Miller. McDavid looked frustrated for much of the game, perhaps trying to do too much. However, he also did some things that were other-worldly.
- Spooner-Nuge-Chiasson were 7-15 in 10:21, 6-6 shots, 0-1 goals and 0-3 HDSC. This line isn’t working so far, Nuge can’t seem to pass the puck lately and Spooner is serving as an alarm for impending doom when stepping on the ice. Lordy.
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian were 1-12 in 12:16, 0-1 goals. Disaster. 0-5 HDSC. Barf.
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- Ryan Spooner: He’s a good NHL player but in two games Spooner is showing up in some bad video. He lit the runway for Pacioretty while never impacting a thing. Classic ‘also in photo’ play.
- Ty Rattie was a healthy scratch.
- In the two games since Ryan Strome has been traded, the PK hasn’t been able to keep opponents off the scoresheet.
- Cooper Marody did some good things with the puck last night.
- Leon Draisaitl is a fine young player, needs a little more refinement without the puck but he’s going to have a long successful career as an above average NHL player. In my opinion.
- Zack Kassian isn’t as noticeable as Patrick Russell.
- Alex Chiasson sure scores goals a lot.
OILERS AFTER 20
- Oilers in October 2015: 7-12-1, 15 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in October 2016: 11-8-1, 23 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in October 2017: 7-11-2, 16 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in October 2018: 9-10-1, 19 points; goal differential -9
The 2018 team is now closer to the 2017 edition than the playoff group of 2016. The current Oilers are on pace to finish about the same as the group from last year. The 2017-18 team was 36-40-6 for 78 points, this year’s team would come in about 37-41-4, 78 points. That’s going to get everyone fired. This season needs a turnaround quickly, that usually means a coaching change.
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 3-5-1, seven points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in November 2016: 2-6-1, five points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in November 2017: 4-4-1, nine points; goal differential +3
- Oilers in November 2018: 3-6-0, six points; goal differential -7
The gales of November have been a consistent issue for McLellan’s Oilers, the team is bleeding out in real time. What’s more, and this is going to be an issue for this week, much of the future is in Bakersfield. Is that a good idea? Does playing the complementary players above (Spooner, Patrick Russell) give the team productive time to further develop Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto? Or are they the first two men back from Bakersfield when the change comes.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NOVEMBER
- At home to: Chicago (Expected 1-0-0) Actual (1-0-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 1-3-0)
- At home to: Colorado, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Los Angeles (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 8-5-1, 17 points in 14 games
- Current results: 3-6-0, 6 points in 9 games
This isn’t yet a complete disaster and it cannot be one. I have the Oilers winning three more games this month, that gets them to 12 points in 14 games. You can recover from that kind of a run, but man it can’t be worse than 6-8-0 on November 30.
I believe the Oilers are going to replace the coach in the coming days. A strong trip to the west coast could save Todd McLellan’s job but we’re not even sure he’ll be on the plane. My stated opinion has been this all along: He didn’t have the horses. I can’t tell you how much impact he had on the trades that sent away all the goals, but if we agree the coach coaches and the general manager procures, then firing the coach today means ownership didn’t aim high enough. In my opinion.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we’ll kick start Grey Cup week in Edmonton! Scheduled to appear:
- Cameron DaSilva, Ramswire. We’ll preview Chiefs-Rams.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Oilers in peril, Grey Cup week gives us a dynamite rematch.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Stay close to your electronic devices, we might see something.