The Oilers cheated on old Hoss last night, they came out with one of those glazed starts we’ve come to accept during the Wander Years. I expect the coach will have something for the group in the coming days, some “Effort for Dummies” slides and “Why Trains Run On Time” power-point presentations. Hitchcock doesn’t support porridge efforts, and he sure as hell won’t like last night’s video. The team is 1-3-1 against the Pacific, the general manager’s vision on display in California and not looking like a winner. This is where Hitchcock’s “I can help you” may become something like “maybe you need less ice time and more reflection” and that’s when the sweat starts running down all the cracks God gave you. It’s time for Hitchcock’s Oilers to get to work.
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. Outstanding offer is here.
- New Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi to the show, plus the sudden impact of Cam Hebig and Joel Persson.
- New Lowetide: Oilers No. 3 Prospect winter 2018: Tyler Benson.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Third line suits the eye of new Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock.
- Jonathan Willis: Can Ken Hitchcock save Milan Lucic’s Oilers career?
- Lowetide: A shot in the dark: What are the Oilers getting in Chris Wideman?
- New Justin Bourne: Why switching coaches provides short-term benefits for an NHL team.
- Lowetide: With not enough talent, and outside the playoffs, Todd McLellan’s Oilers career ends where it began.
- Jonathan Willis: The Edmonton Oilers get their 2018-19 quarter pole report cards.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 23
- Oilers in 2015: 7-14-2, 16 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2016: 12-9-2, 26 points; goal differential +9
- Oilers in 2017: 8-13-2, 18 points; goal differential -16
- Oilers in 2018: 10-11-2, 22 points; goal differential -12
Oilers finished 1-1-1 on the California trip, that’s close to expectation (I had reasonable at 2-1-0) but still disappointing after the promise of the victory in San Jose. The issue for Edmonton now is running with the pack, they can’t lose sight of the No. 3 spot in the Pacific Division. Currently, the team is three points behind Anaheim, with two games in hand. It isn’t fatal but the disappointment of November is palpable this morning in Oilers Nation.
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-6-2, 10 points; goal differential -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-6-1, 11 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in November 2017: 5-6-1, 11 points; goal differential -1
- Oilers in November 2018: 4-7-1, nine points; goal differential -10
As bad as previous Novembers have been, this one might be the worst since 2014 (that was the Dubnyk in Toronto, Nail in the Washington press box fall, team going 2-9-3). There’s a beautiful Neil Young song called “Helpless”, wonderful lyric and a haunting melody, with steel guitar (it’s actually lead with pedal, thanks Stephen Stills) that can make you weep given the right circumstance (3am, Crown Royal). That’s kind of where the fans are this morning, the men from town having frigged the rigging in broad daylight.
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 1-1-1)
- 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: 4-7-1, 9 points in 12 games
It’s difficult to see this season heading in a familiar direction, but the alternative is damned dangerous. Any fool can see the cracks and holes, but the team is at their outer marker on the cap and franchises that might trade a player of value for an expensive Oiler in return (plus the first-round pick) aren’t there yet, they haven’t made that decision at this time. Hell, Edmonton might be that team to trade players for picks in a month from now. Are you ready for ‘Sail on, Alex Chiasson’?
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Klefbom-Larsson were 22-16 in 14:28, 14-8 shots, 1-1 goals and 4-2 HDSC. Larsson can’t make that mistake, he just can’t do it. Honestly, I’m a big fan of the player, and there were other errors, but at that point in the game, you simply cannot allow the other team’s best forward a clear chance like that one. Shameful. Were 10-8 in 7:19 against Iafollo-Kopitar-Brown, and Brown should have gotten an extra penalty late when he tried to re-set Klefbom’s face on the PK. A poor night for Edmonton’s best defensemen. Went 10-6 McDavid, 12-10 without.
- Gravel-Wideman went 9-13 in 7:37, 4-5 shots and 1-3 HDSC. Were 4-3 with 97, so 5-10 without. Were 1-8 against Wagner-Kempe-Luff. Matt Benning probably looks a sight better to most Oilers fans this morning, I’d guess. Defense is a tough position to play, especially with skates on.
- Nurse-Russell were 9-17 in 11:36, 5-7 shots and 3-7 HDSC. Went 6-5 with McDavid, 3-12 without and that’s a concern. Nurse was 0-1 goals but that was Wideman’s mistake at the blueline, Nurse waving his lantern at a runaway train for Brown’s first goal of the game.
- Cam Talbot stopped 24 of 27, .889. I’m not sure he can be blamed, but they needed one more, unfair perhaps considering his stellar play early in the game.
- NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.
Nice, calm start for the Oilers here. Structure! Music! #killme
— Lowetide (@Lowetide) November 26, 2018
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Spooner-McDavid-Draisaitl went 17-11 in 11:13, 8-5 shots, 0-1 goals and 5-3 HDSC. McDavid played with 10 forwards last night, everyone but Nuge, as Hitchcock worked tirelessly to find clean air. I know you’re probably mad at Hitchcock this morning, he isn’t Jesus and he isn’t even the Beatles, but he’s a smart man who knows a lot about NHL hockey. I’m hoping you give him a chance to find things that rhyme. Went 16-8 against Doughty-Forbort. McDavid asked questions patiently last night, suspect these losses are having an impact.
- Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian were once again the second best line, going 11-15 in 9:30, 7-7 shots, no goals and 3-3 HDSC. If one of those crazy pucks had gone in we’d be having a different conversation. Went 6-4 in five minutes against Phaneuf-Ladue. I thought Kassian had some jump in this game, hope he keeps going. Everyone is made at this line, but not me. Lucic is badly overpaid but has found his role on the team and is pursuing it with abandon.
- Rattie-Khaira-Puljujarvi were 3-3 in 3:37 (it was really just JJ and JP), with Rattie-JP going 1-7. Rattie and JP were 1-4 with Nuge. Khaira and Pulju took penalties. Marko Dano was on waivers the other day, Oilers didn’t take him and that’s fine, he’s certainly not Superman. Could he help here? I think he might.
- Caggiula-Nuge-Chiasson went 8-14 in 9:01, 6-7 shots, 1-1 goals and 1-5 HDSC. This is where the team needs to add a scorer, and someone who can help Nuge push the river. I know you won’t agree, but if this line had a Mike Hoffman, I think this team makes the playoffs. Seriously. Went 8-13, 1-0 goals against Muzzin-Martinez.
- Power play looks better, Leon down low with 97 along the wall and they can wheel. Still relying too much on Klef’s point shot but Nuge is doing good work on the other side plus he and McDavid can and do switch out. Chiasson is a Godsend, he’s not Ryan Smyth but is a game rooster with some tipping skills.
- McDavid was beyond fantastic last night, passing Doughty with ease and showing his electric skills. The postgame questions were salty but he handled them well.
- I’m writing on Ryan Spooner today at The Athletic, probably up tomorrow. One of the things that makes him stand out on this roster is his similarity to Drake Caggiula. Not in style, but in being a complementary player. Given enough time with McDavid, I’m sure he would produce some offense. It isn’t ideal.
- Jesse Puljujarvi’s third period, brief as it was, looked far better than the rest of his season. Physical, involved and in the parts of the ice where things were happening. Small victories are big steps. Hitchcock’s major card trick in the last 60 games will be in getting one of these centers to trust the big Finn. Last night was the first small step, seems to me Hitch has decided to pair Khaira with him to start.
- I mentioned supporting Hitchcock above, and you might think I’m joking but it wasn’t meant to be one. Oilers fans, many of you, blamed McLellan heavily while (in my opinion) overlooking the massive roster issues. Those issues remain. The calls are coming from inside the house, but the priest took the wrong guy away! Roster issues are the problem here, ladies and men, and they all have no-movement clauses. And I’m a Chiarelli guy! I was pleased they brought him in, convinced he’d find a way, impressed by the Sekera signing and Talbot trade (although the Reinhart trade was wrongheaded and was known to be in real time). I’m not one of those folks who picks out one deal and hammers it like Dick Pound at an Olympics drug avail, but sooner or later you develop a past. Edmonton has to get a scoring winger but can’t trust the general manager with making a fair deal. What’s that spell?
5-on-5 points-per-60 (Forwards)
- Connor McDavid 2.47
- Leon Draisaitl 2.45
- Alex Chiasson 2.18
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.80
- Drake Caggiula 1.68
- Tobias Rieder 1.53
- Ty Rattie 1.29
- Jujhar Khaira 1.21
- Kyle Brodziak 0.90
- Jesse Puljujarvi 0.47
- Milan Lucic 0.46
- Kailer Yamamoto 0.40
- Ryan Strome 0.31
- Zack Kassian 0.30
Before you spend the day thrashing Ken Hitchcock, have a long look at the group from No. 5-14. Your day will be spent hammering on keys thrashing the coach for leaving Lucic out with 50 seconds left in a game that had no stoppage from 4:04 to the tying goal. Hitchcock? He needs to find wingers who can score goals from the group 5-14. I would respectfully suggest you give the coach a freaking break online this day.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, scheduled to appear on a fluid morning (we’ll be trying to get someone from Calgary to answer their phone). Scheduled to appear:
- CFL guest from Calgary. Stampeders are the redemption story of this decade.
- Andy McNamara, TSN4Downs. Browns win! Eagles win! Vikings win!
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Grey Cup, Oilers, week to come.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!