In what was surely a pleasurable evening for all involved, Oilers’ fans, management, players and owner got a breath of fresh air in the person of Ken Hitchcock. Older than the hills and twice as dusty, the mind remains rapier sharp and that was on display last night. A few tweaks and mid-game corrections, plus a fantastic postgame avail, and hope returns to good old our town.
I have a confession to make: I miss Craig MacTavish as the Oilers coach. I try, honestly I do, but it’s like trying to find rhubarb pie that tastes like my mother-in-laws: Good luck! MacT coached 5-on-5 hockey like a man who knew what he was doing and there was a certain contentment in watching him match lines and trot out “The Suppression All-Stars” when all the other teams were trying to score. MacT treated his checking line like kings, and tried to turn skill players into Craig MacTavish the player. Complete madness of course, but it was comforting to know Edmonton would outscore opponents most nights in the big part of the game.
Pat Quinn was a shocking followup, kind of like when the Stones followed up the single “Let’s Spend the Night Together” with “We Love You”—a song you have never heard, and for good reason. Tom Renney was a good coach, he could have succeeded long term if the Oilers had been a more settled organization. Ralph Krueger never got a chance, Dallas Eakins is earning his next one with fine work in San Diego, Todd Nelson will get his chance someday.
Todd McLellan ended his Oilers coaching career with a winning percentage of .527, the highest since MacT. His seven career playoff wins as an Oilers coach rank him No. 6 (MacT is No. 3) among Edmonton’s 14 NHL coaches. Was it too long at the fair? Failure to adjust? I wrote yesterday at The Athletic about it, fairly certain he was caught between a rock and a hard place. We’re on to Hitchcock.
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- New Lowetide: With not enough talent, and outside the playoffs, Todd McLellan’s Oilers career ends where it began.
- New Jonathan Willis: The Edmonton Oilers get their 2018-19 quarter pole report cards.
- Black Dog Pat: It’s going to be a long winter.
- New Pierre Lebrun: The chance to coach his hometown Oilers was an offer Ken Hitchcock couldn’t refuse.
- New Jonathan Willis: Hiring Ken Hitchcock is Peter Chiarelli’s final chance to make his Oilers vision work.
- New Eric Duhatschek: Ken Hitchcock will be motivated by move to Oilers, now what can he get out of flawed roster?
- New Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Jonathan Willis: A list of which Oilers are likely to be traded.
- Tyler Dellow: Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner looks like a change for change sake
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 21
- Oilers in 2015: 7-13-1, 15 points; goal differential -9
- Oilers in 2016: 12-8-1, 25 points; goal differential +10
- Oilers in 2017: 7-12-2, 16 points; goal differential -18
- Oilers in 2018: 10-10-1, 21 points; goal differential -8
My ‘four year McLellan’ daily updates are now royally screwed, but we’ll keep going until I think of something else. Edmonton won in overtime last night in Ken Hitchcock’s debut. The team played a fairly complete game, although defensive miscues were evident throughout the piece. Oilers are in fourth place in the Pacific, one point behind Vancouver with two games in hand. A big win!
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 3-6-1, seven points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in November 2016: 3-6-1, seven points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in November 2017: 4-5-1, nine points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in November 2018: 4-6-0, eight points; goal differential -6
The gales of November are a thing in Oilers nation, however last night’s win gives the 2018 team the second best record in the McDavid Years (a-HA, it didn’t take me long at all). Important to turn this California road trip into whatever is the opposite of the Donner party.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 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 1-0-0)
- 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: 4-6-0, 8 points in 10 games
Edmonton could still post a point per game in November, it would involve a mammoth back end of the month. The California teams have struggled, so the Oilers should be able to get a result in a couple of those contests. Maybe Hitchcock will arrive at the Dallas pregame, talk a humble “we don’t belong on the same ice” verbal he used to use on Oilers fans, and then Edmonton will trounce the Stars in an epic example of poetic justice.
HITCHCOCK’S FIRST LINEUP
A couple of subtle changes, veterans on the third line (for hard matching) and a kid No. 4 line; Russell to the second pair with Nurse, Benning moved down. They aren’t major moves, but the first Hitch tweaks. He also ran McDavid heavy on the No. 4 line and they had success. That’ll mean some goals in the next games. Hitchcock’s presser is here, simply golden.
DEFENSE LAST NIGHT
- Gravel-Benning were 11-5 Corsi for 5-on-5 in 10:40, 4-4 shots, 0-1 goals, 1-2 HDSC. Gravel looks calm and under control, really liking his game and hoping the Oilers keep him in the lineup. Benning fell on a two-on-one (that became a breakaway), got the stick knocked out of his hands by rat fink Thornton so Benning was out of the play on the pass to Sorensen for the goal. I like him but the new coach has no track record, needs to be better. Pairing went 5-3 in 5:07 against Sorensen-Rat Fink-Lebanc.
- Nurse-Russell were 11-17 in 17:42, 5-9 shots, 1-1 goals, 3-5 HDSC. I honestly don’t know what either man was doing off the faceoff on the Donskoi goal, if there’s a guess allowed it would be they both thought it was man to man coverage the new coach wanted but who the hell knows. Didn’t look good. Nurse was on for the Couture goal but he got the minus Klefbom earned. Went 7-9 in 10:24 against Kane-Pavelski-Donskoi, that’s one tough line baby.
- Klefbom-Larsson were 8-13 in 17:24, 3-5 shots, no goals (together) and 1-1 HDSC. The play everyone will use against Larsson came because Oscar didn’t get the puck deep on his change. Complete breakdown and Larsson got caught badly by Couture. I didn’t like the goalie on that play, either, but Klef needs to be more careful. Went 5-4 in 8:40 against Meier-Couture-Hertl, who are also a helluva line. Larsson made a nifty pass at the blue line on the McDavid goal.
- Mikko Koskinen is the starter for Edmonton until further notice. Stopped 22 of 25, .880, but several were of the 10-bell variety.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Caggiula-McDavid-Draisaitl posted seven points, were 19-13 in 19:13, 10-8 shots, 2-1 goals, 4-3 HDSC. Holy hell Hitchcock ran these guys heavy, 24 minutes for 97. Went 13-10 in 16:53 against Vlasic-Braun, good lord that’s a hard match (in every possible way). Caggiula is on pace to score 32 goals, appears to be winning that LW job. How long can he keep it? Career high is 13 goals.
- Spooner-Nuge-Chiasson were 9-10 in 11:31, 3-4 shots, 0-1 goals and 0-2 HDSC. I liked the line, although they were quiet offensively (the Nuge goal aside). Were 4-5 in 9:01 against Dillon-Karlsson. Spooner is starting to show the skill that Edmonton badly needs from the second line, suspect he’ll cash in California.
- Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian was an interesting wrinkle by Hitch, a veteran checking line. Went 6-7 in 11:22, 5-4 shots, 1-0 goals and 3-2 HDSC. Impressive showing in their first time out. Went 3-5 in 8:25 against Dillon-Karlsson. Lucic played a strong game on the forecheck, Hitchcock praised him while also saying there was too much talk about goals. Reminded me of Buck Rodgers talking about Otis Nixon’s inability to hit the ball on the ground to take advantage of his speed (Otis hit lazy flies all the live-long day).
- Khaira-Marody-Rattie were 5-4 in 7:40 (McDavid stole four of Marody’s minutes), 2-2 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC. Went 2-3 against Karlsson-Burns. Hitchcock mentioned not remembering one player’s name during the game, and that player missing shifts. Had to be Marody, took me back to my own hockey career although the coach damned well knew my name!
- Khaira-McDavid-Rattie were 4-0 in 2:12, 3-0 shots, 1-0 goals and 1-1 HDSC. It’s an interesting little addition to the batting order, Hitch in an everything old is new again mode.
Condors lose 4-3 to the Colorado Eagles. Thoughts on the game … Puljujarvi was arguably the team's best player. He was all over the ice, engaged, and tried to make something happen on every shift. Quite different than what he's showed with the Oilers. 1/
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) November 21, 2018
Nugent-Bowman has a terrific tweet thread, click and read a substantial update on the Condors game last night. As for recalls, Hitchcock talked about grinding and loves the forecheck, so names like Jesse Puljujarvi and (in my opinion) Joe Gambardella are going to be in the mix of possible recalls. Gambardella was a demon on the forecheck in college, that’s Hitchcock’s kind of player. Daniel’s report suggests Yamamoto had a tough game, perhaps he stays longer in Bakersfield.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260. It’s a firehose week in terms of stories to cover so hang in there as we bring it all to you. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. Our friend was writing the game review deep into the night, until there was just him, some chickens and the coyotes. We’ll get him going at 10:20 this morning.
- Sean Shapiro, The Athletic. Sean has written some fabulous articles on Hitchcock and his use of analytics, we’ll get some inside stuff this morning.
- Jon Campbell, Oddshark. Grey Cup odds, Rams/Chiefs Super Bowl, Oilers under Hitchcock a better bet?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!