The Edmonton Oilers rely heavily on Connor McDavid every game, every night. That point was driven home—as if we didn’t already know—in Dallas last night. I saw some hard work in the first two periods, combined with some dumb bad luck and curious decisions. The third period was a mess around, and the Oilers saw two points fly into the Texas night. All that hard work of the first two weeks under Hitchcock gives the team a little breathing room, but they’ll need to pull a win from the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night. I’m glad to see Jujhar Khaira find the scoreboard, he’s around the puck more these days and it is paying off. Let’s have a look at the numbers.
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- New Lowetide: Ken Hitchcock’s ‘to-do’ list of miracles a long one, involving 30 percent of the Oilers roster.
- New Jonathan Willis: Leon Draisaitl needs his own line and other lessons from a McDavid-less Oilers loss
- 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: 13-12-2, 28 points; goal differential -6
I don’t think there’s much to say about the loss, beyond it could have been worse. Through most of two periods, the shorthanded Oilers kept up while not offering much in the way of a counter attack. It reminded me of distant days gone down, cheering for overwhelmed expansion teams and trying to pick out one or two positives. On this night, for me, goalie Koskinen, Leon, some moments from Jesse Puljujarvi and Khaira scoring were the main takeaways.
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: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential -1
A disappointing start to this short road trip and losing the captain to illness is no fun at all, but I did look at the evening as an opportunity for some of the youngsters (and less established players) to impress. More on that in a minute.
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 0-1-0)
- 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: 1-1-0, two points in two games
The Vegas win allows a little room to breathe but a win against St. Louis is important now, plus another on the weekend against one of the Wild or Flames. One hopes the captain returns in Missouri.
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Gravel-Benning were 7-3 in 6:34, 4-0 shots, no goals and 2-1 HDSC. It’s a classic old school pairing (mobile defender with coverage issues paired with slower, shutdown type) and for the most part things seemed under control. Benning took a penalty after trying to beat the forechecker around the net, he doesn’t have the speed to do that maneuvre but the alternative leaves him in a lump in the corner. Went 2-2 in 4:12 against Janmark-Dickinson-Ritchie, who for some reason were the offensive catalysts in the first two periods.
- Klefbom-Larsson went 24-16 in 18:24, that’s a monster amount of 5-on-5 time, 11-9 shots, 1-0 goals and 4-0 HDSC. Oscar left the barn door open down the left side (although Lucic blew a shoe and Brodziak threw a pick on 77 to set it up), that was the big play while they were on the ice at evens. Against Benn-Seguin-Spezza, Klefbom went 8-6 in 7:31.
- Nurse-Russell were 7-11 in 12:31, 2-4 shots no goals and 0-1 HDSC. Were 2-5 in 5:16 against Benn-Seguin-Spezza. Nurse wasn’t sharp at all, but I thought Russell made several impressive defensive plays.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 21 of 24, .875. He made several outstanding saves and (imo) the goals against were either ridiculous chances or fluke change of directions that left him vulnerable.
- Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Lucic-Leon-Chiasson went 15-6 in 10:39, the big player being Draisaitl. 5-2 shots, 1-2 HDSC, and Leon picked up an assist with Khaira-Rattie (5-3 in 5:34) on a night when he was truly double shifted. Draisaitl faced Lindell-Heiskanen 18-5 in 14:01, also 15-3 in 9:25 against Nichushkin-Faksa-Pitlick. For all the good numbers, this line didn’t get enough HD looks. If this team had better wingers….
- Caggiula-Nuge-Puljujarvi went 8-19 in 11:06, 5-10 shots, no goals and 2-3 HDSC. The line had moments, like Puljujarvi getting two fantastic looks on a bouncing puck in the third, but couldn’t find the range. Caggiula took a high hit from Jamie Benn that was a penalty all day but didn’t get the call (he also got high sticked by Benn earlier in the game). Nuge went 7-9 with Rattie, 3-3 with Patrick Russell, 3-3 with Lucic. Nuge went 5-14 against Benn-Seguin-Spezza, 5-14 against Bayreuther-Polak.
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian were 11-11 in 9:37, 5-5 shots and 0-2 goals, 3-2 HDSC. Kassian is a player I like but he can’t take penalties at his current rate. Khaira scored, Brodziak had two great chances but the center picked Klefbom on the second goal against. Khaira was the one bright line on the line.
- Leon, Pulju, Khaira were my picks for best among forwards. Hitchcock mentioned Ty Rattie as a doer in the postgame as well.
2019-20 SALARY CAP
According to Gary Bettman, the 2019-20 salary cap is going to be around $83 million. That’s a break for Edmonton, according to PuckPedia, the Oilers have about $66 million tied up in 14 players, with Mikko Koskinen, Cam Talbot, Alex Chiasson and Kevin Gravel headed to free agency. RFA’s include Jesse Puljujarvi, Tobias Rieder, Jujhar Khaira, Ty Rattie. This summer, Peter Chiarelli will have room to wheel. That makes some of you nervous, others hopeful.
Ideally, a team has its entire first line over 2.00/60 at 5-on-5, and then a second line pushing for 2.00/60 in the discipline. For me, the bottom six can be considered successful if a player is posting 1.50/60 or better. Those things understood, there are some successes in Edmonton right now:
- Connor McDavid 2.29
- Leon Draisaitl 2.29
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.69
- Alex Chiasson 1.67
- Drake Caggiula 1.59
- Jujhar Khaira 1.53
- Tobias Rieder 1.53
- Ty Rattie 1.12
- Kyle Brodziak 0.73
- Ryan Spooner 0.70
- Jesse Puljujarvi 0.67
- Kailer Yamamoto 0.40
- Milan Lucic 0.38
- Ryan Strome 0.34
- Zack Kassian 0.24
I count about four guys doing the job here, but in all honesty there’s a lot to praise. McDavid and Draisaitl are well over 2.00/60, Chiasson and Caggiula have taken advantage of some opportunities and are scoring at terrific rates based on their own pasts. Nuge is sliding away from 97, but that’s to be expected and I do think Khaira and Rieder are above the Mendoza line.
After that, we have the trouble areas. If a team of fourth liners play third line minutes but don’t score? You’re just rewarding fourth liners with more empty minutes. As I wrote in my piece for The Athletic this morning, Ken Hitchcock didn’t come here to maintain status quo. This will not stand. Man.
Can Hitchcock cobble together eight wingers to go with McDavid, Nuge, Brodziak and Spooner? Welp, it’s going to be a process. Draisaitl-Chiasson, Caggiula-Puljujarvi, Lucic-Kassian and Khaira-Rattie/Russell will augmented by Rieder and Valentin Zykov in the coming days.
I don’t think it’s enough, and believe Hitchcock is going to be pushing for another shooter. If McDavid-Draisaitl come off the ice, then Nuge-Tarasenko need to be their replacements. I can see Hitch pushing that idea heavily in the coming days. Note: This does not mean I am endorsing a trade, in fact I suggest keeping their powder dry.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show with much to discuss, we get rolling at 10 this morning on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic. Takeaways from last night’s game and what the future may bring.
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. WJ rosters and who did and did not make the list.
- Chris Daniels, King5 Seattle. Seattle’s NHL expansion.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!