After a 4-1-1 run with new coach Ken Hitchcock at the helm, the Edmonton Oilers head out on a road trip with a chance to land in a playoff spot before returning home. The goaltending of Mikko Koskinen (save percentage .928, ranks No. 6 among goalies with 10 or more appearances), steady play and calm feet on the blue (three GA in the last three games) and enough offense from Connor McDavid and company have things looking better. There’s still much work to do, but some of the department of youth are pushing and there’s a chance they will be established by Game 82.
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- New Lowetide: Oilers farm team in Bakersfield coming to a boil with quality prospects, most exciting farm team in decades.
- Lowetide: Finding Ken Hitchcock’s Oilers more productive wingers: Hard target search.
- Dom Luszczyszyn: 31 Stats (Oilers content).
- 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 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 27 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015: 10-15-2, 22 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2016: 14-11-2, 30 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in 2017: 11-14-2, 24 points; goal differential -12
- Oilers in 2018: 13-11-2, 28 points; goal differential -4
The Oilers of 2018 can almost catch the playoff crew with a win tonight, and suddenly it’s possible to discuss the postseason and adding talent at the deadline. While it’s fun to dream, there is plenty of work to do, and the most compelling story (for me) this week involves players auditioning for roles. Some of these bets are gaining traction.
OILERS IN DECEMBER
- Oilers in December 2015: 2-0-0, four points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in December 2016: 2-0-0, four points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in December 2017: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in December 2018: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +1
December is 14 games long this season, we’ll reach the halfway point in the campaign shortly after the new year. The one playoff team in this group made it by winning 47 games, that should be the goal this season. Edmonton sits at 13 wins now, meaning 7-10 wins this month should be the goal. Can Edmonton get there? That would seem to be too much to ask. Team is on pace now to finish 41-35-6, 88 points. They’re close to my projected 90-94 points.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DECEMBER
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 0-1-0) Actual (1-0-0)
- 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: 1-0-0, two points in one game
My projection has the Oilers finishing the month 19-17-3, 41 points and on a trajectory for 40 wins and 86 points. I have the team going 2-2-0 this week, maybe they’ll make some inroads over the next seven days. Although I do not condone such action, it’s likely there is growing pressure on management to add pieces to help the cause.
PACIFIC DIVISION UP TO THE MINUTE
- Calgary Flames 27, 16-9-2 (34 points) (.630 points percentage)
- Anaheim Ducks 29, 14-10-5 (33 points) (.569 points percentage)
- San Jose Sharks 28, 13-10-5 (31 points) (.554 points percentage)
- Edmonton Oilers 26, 13-11-2 (28 points) (.538 points percentage)
- Arizona Coyotes 25, 12-11-2 (26 points) (.520 points percentage)
- Vegas Golden Knights 28, 14-13-1 (29 points) (.518 points percentage)
- Vancouver Canucks 29, 11-15-3 (25 points) (.431 points percentage)
- Los Angeles Kings 27, 10-16-1 (21 points) (.389 points percentage)
Oilers have some games in hand, so the best way to express things is via points percentage. A 4-1-1 run helps big time but this month remains vital to the team’s success. A win tonight in Dallas gives the team a .556 points percentage, vaulting Edmonton into the No. 3 slot and technically a playoff position. Either way, there’s a race in the Oilers are in it.
- Draisaitl—McDavid—Chiasson. In 46 minutes, line is 50-45 in Corsi events 5-on-5 and 1-1 goals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shuffle, Caggiula with 97-29 is 6-4 and 59 percent. All numbers Corsica. The Hitchcock defensive strategy is being blamed for McDavid’s reduced output (2-5-7 in six games) but you can’t draw any real conclusions on a small sample size (and 7 points in six games is very good). The captain may be headed towards a higher percentage of his offense coming on the power play, however.
- Caggiula—Nuge—Puljujarvi. In 31 minutes, 30-39 in Corsi events and 1-1 goals. I expect Tobias Rieder lands here when he returns, with one of the current wingers getting bumped. Both men have delivered some offense during Hitchcock’s six games, the possession number isn’t grand but we’re early.
- Lucic—Brodziak—Kassian. In 63 minutes, they are 60-56 in Corsi event and 0-0 goals. The lack of offense on both sides is a positive, but Hitchcock is going to want at least some offense by playoff time. Pressure is on all three men to cash on some of those scoring chances (and they have gotten them).
- Khaira—Spooner—Rattie. In seven minutes, they are 53.85 and 1-0 goals. I think this will eventually be the No. 3 line (certainly by playoff time) and am cheering for all three men. The next challenge (aside from winning games) will come when Zykov’s visa is worked out, then another challenge when Rieder returns. Patrick Russell is back on the roster but doesn’t offer a huge challenge in my opinion.
Most of the bets have NHL experience, a player like Alex Chiasson is beyond expectations (by some margin) but was an established NHL player before the season. The area I want to talk about today is that group who were not established before the 2018-19 season and their progress so far.
Although he has just two goals on the season (after getting 12 a year ago), I’m pleased Jesse Puljujarvi is playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I imagine we’ll see Kailer Yamamoto here soon enough, although part of me wonders if the team flushes the development side on RW and grabs a veteran scorer.
I remain convinced the organization would be better off building through their own youth program this season. That means playing Puljujarvi with Nuge and (eventually) Yamamoto with McDavid:
- Koskinen (Talbot)
That’s my recommendation. Stay the course, keep the powder dry. I thought you knew, but read in the comments yesterday that I’d been ‘pushing’ for a trade. I’m not pushing for a trade at all. Rather, I believe the Oilers are ill-suited to a major deal at this time for short-term improvement. No sir. Stay the course. If the team makes the playoffs, and ownership wants to keep management in place, then proceed at that time. Not one more asset out for quick improvement at the price on long-term advancement. It’s the right thing to do. I do not believe the owner agrees, and because of it I have been talking about a trade. I think it would be shortsighted to do so.
5-ON-5 SCORING WITH HITCHCOCK AS COACH
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2.16
- Leon Draisaitl 1.63
- Connor McDavid 1.54
- Drake Caggiula 1.40
- Jesse Puljujarvi 1.38
- Jujhar Khaira 1.26
- Oscar Klefbom 1.01
- Ryan Spooner 0.92
- Kyle Brodziak 0.84
- Alex Chiasson 0.72
- Adam Larsson 0.50
Nuge has enjoyed a nice run in these days, both Caggiula and Puljujarvi have contributed and the fourth line got a point. Brodziak the only member of the No. 3 line on the board.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we kick off another week with something close to a snow day. Interesting guests, ideas for passing the time while cocooning, and scheduled to appear:
- Sean Shapiro, The Athletic Dallas. Stars are in a playoff spot courtesy an 8-3-1 record at home. We’ll preview tonight’s game from the other side.
- Daniel Gallen, Penn Live. The Eagles play Washington in the Monday nighter, incredibly Philadelphia has a chance to make the playoffs after a most mediocre beginning and middle of the season.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Oilers with a big week on the way, Caggiula showing well.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!