The Oilers cliffhanger season enters its third chapter tonight as the team hosts Vegas. An October surprise (6-4-1) gave way to a devastating (for many, including the head coach) November (6-7-1). We’re on to a long December, with reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.
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- New Lowetide: Finding Ken Hitchcock’s Oilers more productive wingers: Hard target search.
- New Dom Luszczyszyn: 31 Stats (Oilers content).
- New Jonathan Willis: Edmonton’s waiver gamble on Valentin Zykov is one with the possibility of a surprisingly high-end payoff.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 4 Prospect winter 2018: Ryan McLeod.
- Jonathan Willis: Like Rome in its war with Hannibal, Edmonton needs a Scipio Africanus.
- Daniel Nugent Bowman: Lessons learned at Sherwood Park help guide Ken Hitchock’s attempt to turn the Oilers around.
- Lowetide: Oilers need a first-shot scoring winger and Ryan Spooner isn’t it. So, what’s next?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What Oilers want to see from top prospects Puljujarvi and Yamamoto
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi to the show, plus the sudden impact of Cam Hebig and Joel Persson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 3 Prospect winter 2018: Tyler Benson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 26
- Oilers in 2015: 9-15-2, 20 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2016: 14-10-2, 30 points; goal differential +8
- Oilers in 2017: 10-14-2, 22 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2018: 12-11-2, 26 points; goal differential -5
This is a big month for Edmonton, who begin December in the No. 5 spot in the Pacific—with an explanation. The Oilers are three points behind Vegas, with two games in hand. A win tonight in regulation and the team would be a single point behind while maintaining the two games in hand. That would be a good spot.
OILERS IN DECEMBER
- Oilers in December 2015: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in December 2016: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +3
- Oilers in December 2017: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in December 2018: 0-0-0, 0 points; goal differential nil
A fine start all around for the McDavid Decembers, Vegas is coming in with five wins in a row and a lot of things straightened out. The Oilers have things to recommend them as well, but set your expectations proportionate to the challenge.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DECEMBER
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 0-1-0) Actual (0-0-0)
- On the road to: Dallas, St. Louis (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Minnesota, Calgary (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Colorado, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, San Jose, Winnipeg (Expected 2-2-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-6-1, 15 points in 14 games
- Current results: 0-0-0
I was too shy in October, too aggressive in November, hopefully this time around I’ll have it right. The schedule, as I see it, is more difficult than October but easier than last month, but we all know how that turned out.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Oilers prospects in junior had a strong night in the OHL Friday, with Evan Bouchard picking up two assists (now 10, 4-10-14 with 48 shots), three goals for Kirill Maksimov (now 23, 16-14-30 with 107 shots), Dmitri Samorukov had an assist (25, 0-10-10) and 1-1-2 for Ryan McLeod (23, 7-19-26). In the Q, Olivier Rodrigue stopped 18 of 21 for Drummondville Voltigeurs and now has a .907 save percentage and a 15-5 record on the season.
THAT CRAZY TRADE MUST HAVE RICOCHETED
The trade that would not die has another chapter left (at least!) after Edmonton claimed Valentin Zykov on waivers Friday. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, because we have much to discuss, but I had fun following progress over the last five years. The original trade(s):
- First trade: Edmonton trades 37th overall (Valentin Zykov) to Los Angeles for 57th overall (William Carrier), 88th overall (Anton Slephyshev) and 96th overall (Kyle Platzer).
- Second trade: Oilers trade 57th overall (William Carrier) to St. Louis for 83rd overall (Bogdan Yakimov), 94th overall (Jackson Houck) and 113th overall (Aidan Muir).
And now the NHL games played and boxcars:
- William Carrier 105, 11-6-17
- Anton Slepyshev 102, 10-13-23
- Valentin Zykov 25, 4-7-11
- Bogdan Yakimov 1, 0-0-0
It became obvious early on that these four men would be the most interesting and now we’re down to Carrier and Zykov in North America. I think Edmonton made an astute bet yesterday, it was a surprise only because the team had passed on other, similar options previously. I think this fellow has a chance, maybe not at the same level as Pontus Aberg, but a chance.
RYAN SPOONER VERSUS VALENTIN ZYKOV
Peter Chiarelli is so unpopular among Oilers fans the good things (this season: Mikko Koskinen, Alex Chiasson, Kevin Gravel, Tobias Rieder) get overrun by the stunning misuse of assets. A fine example is the table above. Edmonton gave up a low-event center in Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner, whose season in 2018-19 has the look of ‘buyout/signs in Minsk’ next step. The waiver claim of Zykov has a chance to be quality, making the previous Strome trade unnecessary, except of course that trade happened, and landed another possible buyout deal on the roster. It’s like watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.
EDM got their coach fired but it's not like they've ever really been that bad this year. At least, not by /stats/. pic.twitter.com/XSD4pIJHvC
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) December 1, 2018
This year’s Oilers are so interesting because, taken as a whole (above) there’s a positive story to tell. However, the major issue for this team, now four years running, is McDavid on versus McDavid off. Here’s some facts worth pondering:
- Corsi for 5-on-5: 50.67 (No. 12 overall)
- Corsi for 5-on-5 with McDavid: 54.29
- Corsi for 5-on-5 w/o McDavid: 48.30
That’s a better number than it has been at times in the past, and the bet is Hitchcock will find a way to get that thing to 50 percent with 97 at rest. That’s the Katz bet, the desperation of the organization having reached a fever pitch. Let’s look at goals:
- Goal differential 5-on-5: (38-45) 45.78 (No. 24 overall)
- Goal differential 5-on-5 with McDavid: (19-14) 57.58
- Goal differential 5-on-5 w/o McDavid: (19-31) 38.00
Part of this is luck, part is ability but the bottom line is the team’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage is No. 28 overall (6.08, all of these numbers via NaturalStatTrick). Part of the problem is some of the wrong players (blue) are shooting a lot (Klefbom, McDavid, Nurse and Nuge are the only men above 50 shots 5-on-5). One area that has been correcting nicely? 5-on-5 save percentage, now 92.39 and Edmonton ranks No. 13.
Shots against per 60 are now 29.48, that’s No. 8 league-wide. Since Hitchcock took over, that number is 25.62 and the team ranks No. 5. Goals against per 60 under Hitchcock at 5-on-5? No. 3, at 1.42/60. The goals for (1.18/60) are the issue, thus the reason for acquiring Spooner, Zykov and possibly recalling Yamamoto and or making a trade for an established scorer.
I want to take a moment this morning to talk about the dangers ahead for this organization. My item for The Athletic this morning talks some home truths about the roster and the realities of having a coach like Ken Hitchcock at the helm. It’s good, because he’s pushing to find ways to win hockey games even when he’s sleeping. It’s bad, because Hitchcock isn’t terribly concerned with what tomorrow brings, and that’s where he and Peter Chiarelli may have to spend hours talking about balance between winning teams and building teams.
If we were talking about Toronto, this issue is easy. If the Maple Leafs decide (and they may) a righty blue who can move the puck is necessary, we’re going to see “Toronto trades Kasperi Kapanen to Minnesota for Jared Spurgeon” and the Maple Leafs can afford that trade (note: I’m not suggesting it, just using it as an example, the deal wouldn’t work unless Toronto included Nathan Horton and that isn’t happening).
Edmonton can’t afford to make that move, for two reasons. First, no young and expendable player has performed close to Kapanen’s output this season. Second, the Oilers need all of these young players to blossom in-house, to become part of the solution here.
I believe this to be true: The Edmonton Oilers need to keep their powder dry. Ken Hitchcock? He wants to win. We are here.