The Edmonton Oilers return from a quick two-game road trip (1-1-0) facing a difficult weekend against the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. The team is 5-2-1 under Ken Hitchcock and looking to improve its record against the Western Conference and Pacific Division.
Cooper Marody has been recalled from Bakersfield, with Patrick Russell going to California with an aching in his heart. Drake Caggiula has an injury that could involve significant time away from the active roster, but Valentin Zykov will play tonight.
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: Oilers No. 5 Prospect winter 2018: Ethan Bear.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: An early look at Edmonton’s readiness for the 2021 expansion draft.
- New Jonathan Willis: An $83 million salary cap opens up possibilities for the Oilers.
- Lowetide: Ken Hitchcock’s ‘to-do’ list of miracles a long one, involving 30 percent of the Oilers roster.
- 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.
- 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 29 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015: 12-15-2, 26 points; goal differential -10
- Oilers in 2016: 14-11-4, 32 points; goal differential +5
- Oilers in 2017: 12-15-2, 26 points; goal differential -10
- Oilers in 2018: 14-12-2, 30 points; goal differential -6
You want to believe this year’s team will nudge closer to the 2016 playoff McDavids but there are of course those small details best described as “McDavid Off” for your Edmonton Oilers. Ken Hitchcock is something close to a Godsend, but his string of miracles must continue. I can’t give you colors today, WordPress has made some changes and God knows when I’ll find the Crayola section.
OILERS IN DECEMBER
- Oilers in December 2015: 4-0-0, eight points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in December 2016: 2-0-2, six points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in December 2017: 2-2-0, four points; goal differential +3
- Oilers in December 2018: 2-1-0, four points; goal differential -1
It’s go time for this year’s team, badly need to rebound from the disappointment of November. Interesting to see the previous clubs post impressive goal differentials compared to their season total to this point in the campaign. One of the things I’d like to see from December is a positive overall goal differential.
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 1-1-0)
- 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: 2-1-0, four points in three games
I expected a 2-2-0 week for the Oilers, the toughest road coming this weekend. Minnesota played last night, I projected Edmonton to take advantage.
YOU MAKE THE CALL
I sense the fanbase is both curious about how this year’s novel is going to turn out (my guess: a dozen people stab the villain and Poirot decides he can’t charge anyone with murder) while also looking forward to seeing how Scoobs is going to get out of this jam come summer.
So, let’s talk about it. If you were given the opportunity to run the Edmonton Oilers, what would you do? How would you find your way out of the darkness?
I think the first thing to identify is the inner circle of the cluster, led by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom. Next, identify the players who are untradeable and likely here until the lockout in 2020: Milan Lucic.
Next there’s a group who are likely to be retained, but don’t quite reach that inner circle: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi. Added to that is the group who have some relief from no movement and could be dealt in the summer: Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell.
Next we have a group of veterans who are NHL players but are signed to contracts that exceed actual value: Ryan Spooner, Zack Kassian, Kyle Brodziak.
That’s followed by role players who fill spots on the roster and sometimes play elevated roles: Jujhar Khaira, Matt Benning, Ty Rattie, Valentin Zykov.
After that, it’s free agents who you may or may not want to sign: Alex Chiasson, Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen, Chris Wideman, Jason Garrison, Kevin Gravel.
At the end of the line, there are hopefuls in the minors and in junior. Names like Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod, Ethan Bear and others who are either NHL-ready or matriculating in that direction.
What does your 2019-20 Oilers lineup look like? If you post yours in the comments section I’ll grab one or two for discussion in the Saturday post. Here’s mine:
- Jakob Silfverberg—McDavid—Kailer Yamamoto
- Khaira—Nugent-Hopkins—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Lucic, Brodziak
This unicorn center lineup uses the Dave Keon (young wingers), Norm Ullman (veteran wingers) theory in order to increase scoring. Nuge as Keon. Lucic and Brodziak are listed as extra forwards but as you know those players get a lot of games, too.
DRAISAITL AS THE MODERN MAHOVLICH
I keep reading about Leon Draisaitl as being lazy or slow—or both, and I have to say it’s baffling to me. There are worthy criticisms of the player, his coverage and defensive reads have me thinking he may well play his career on the wing. He also fades later in shifts and his shift lengths are 55 seconds and maybe they should be shorter (Barkov and Kopitar, also big men, are 49 seconds).
Lazy? I don’t think so. I’m reminded of Frank Mahovlich, who was often criticized for the same sins. Big Frank had a long stride and often looked like the wind blew him into scoring position, but he did in fact work hard at the game of hockey. As does Leon.
We can agree the Oilers should have better depth and that Leon’s usage is beyond reasonable (as is the case with 97 and, increasingly, 77). I believe Leon Draisaitl is an outstanding NHL player, and the numbers (on pace for 88 points) confirm.
Cooper Marody earned another recall on Thursday, coming off a brilliant three-assist performance against the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday. He is skilled, right handed and along with Valentin Zykov could give the Oilers a very different look on the power play.
CAGGIULA ON IR
In the late summer, I had a longer look at Drake Caggiula’s Oilers career and found something interesting. I looked for a 40-game period where he had a full stretch of games in a specific spot in the batting order. Never happened. Injuries, playing out of position and being yanked up and down the lineup meant getting a clear view of the player has been impossible. I’m not suggesting we are looking at an impact player here, but his injury this time comes during a period where he (in my opinion) was playing some of his best hockey as an Oiler. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and for Caggiula injuries are eating up a substantial amount of his career.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning, all starts at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. We’ll chat Rockin’ pneumonia and the McDavid flu, what Dad wants for Christmas and the possibility of a Flames-Leafs final.
- Andrew Peard, Oil Kings PBP. It’s the Teddy Bear toss game tomorrow, we’ll find out when Fix-Wolansky will score.
- Matthew Iwanyk, TSN1260. Should the Oilers trade that 2019 first-round pick for a first-shot scorer?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!