McDavid Freeway

It was one of those nights for the Edmonton Oilers, everything clicks and let the good times roll. It’s been skin tight for 28 games, so a laugher came as a welcome bonus for team and fans (and it was closer than the score indicates through two, and beyond). McDavid had four points, Leon had a couple of goals—and the badly needed secondary offense came via Alex Chiasson, Jujhar Khaira and Zack Kassian. The Flames will be here Sunday. Ken Hitchcock is 6-2-1 as Oilers coach. Dream baby, dream baby dream.  

THE ATHLETIC

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. 6 Prospect winter 2018: Cooper Marody
  • New Jonathan Willis: Ken Hitchcock’s turnaround of the Oilers takes another positive step as they climb back to a playoff pace. 
  • Lowetide: Oilers No. 5 Prospect winter 2018: Ethan Bear.
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: An early look at Edmonton’s readiness for the 2021 expansion draft.
  • 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 201512-15-2, 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: 15-12-2, 32 points; goal differential -1

What’s that old Dinah Washington song? What a difference a day makes? The 2018 crew finally catches the 2016 playoff McDavids (Hallelujah!) and sliced through that goal differential issue in one fell swoop. Music!

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: 3-1-0, six points; goal differential +4

Edmonton is enjoying a run now, especially at home. If they can put together a winning streak here (and that will involve staying healthy) we could see a Merry Christmas in our town. 

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM 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 1-0-0)
  • 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: 3-1-0, six points in four games

This month is going according to Hoyle, and the team is now on pace for something resembling a playoff record (82, 42-34-6, 90 points). Keep on truckin’.

DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT

  • Gravel-Benning were 10-10 Corsi for in 9:55, 3-5 shots, 2-0 goals and 2-1 HDSC. Gravel has calm feet, the Kings were foolish to let him go. I’m not sure about the future but for this season he’s going to keep a lot of kids on the farm. Benning had a solid game, although he played a smaller role than any other blue. Were 7-5 in 4:40 against Niederreiter-Staal-Zucker. 
  • Klefbom-Larsson went 21-19 in 18:06, 10-9 shots, 2-0 goals and 7-6 HDSC. That’s some unusual connection between shots and HDSC, don’t see that often (or ever?). Oscar spent some time with others when Larsson went for concussion protocol, notably 3-0 with Benning. The Swedish duo went 10-9 in 5:16 against Niederreiter-Staal-Zucker.
  • Nurse-Russell were 13-24 in 17:43, 7-14 shots and 1-1 HDSC, 1-5 HDSC. I would love to know what metrics the Oilers are using to evaluate this pairing. Nurse went 1-1-2, he is now behind only Oscar in points this year. Were 9-8 in 7:07 against Parise-Coyle-Granlund, 1-8 against the Staal line. Nurse is struggling, I wonder if we see Gravel take some of his minutes in the coming days. 
  • Cam Talbot stopped 31 of 33, .939. He played well. The first goal was a tough one, but he hung in there are delivered. Talbot’s SP under Ken Hitchcock is .925.  
  • NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com

FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT

  • Zykov-Spooner-Rattie played so well they passed the Brodziak line in usage. No goals but 2 HDSC. Spooner line was 9-3 in 9:52, 3-0 shots and 3-0 HDSC. Went 5-1 against Suter-Dumba. 
  • Chiasson-McDavid-Draisaitl were pure fire, going 25-25 in 19:37, 13-15 shots, 4-0 goals and 4-3 HDSC. Just incredibly skilled, awesome to see them in action. Went 12-13 against Suter-Dumba but 3-0 goals, all three goals a Rembrandt. 
  • Khaira-Nuge-Puljujarvi went 13-15 in 12:49, 8-6 shots, 1-1 goals and 3-5 HDSC. In a world where fans are begging Pulju to take charge it’s Khaira who is showing the skill. Nuge is scoring more often now, Khaira has a scoring streak, time to get the Finn to show some flare. Were 7-6 in 5:52 against Suter-Dumba. 
  • Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian were 9-13 in 9:25, 4-9 shots, 1-1 goals and 2-4 HDSC. Kassian scored, Lucic damn near scored (shock, awe). Were 5-6 against Seeler-Pataryn. This line was the No. 4 unit in terms of usage, as it should be. 

THE HITCHCOCK EFFECT

Books will be written on the impact of Ken Hitchcock in Edmonton, this season is already unique and headed in a promising direction. There are some nice player trends, he has both goalies in a good place and Kevin Gravel is helping to settle down the blue. Hitch is riding Oscar Klefbom heavily and having success doing it. 

Up front, he’s running McDavid, Leon and Nuge hot and heavy, using everything at his disposal (coming back from television timeouts with his top line, et cetera). 

The next step is to figure out the wingers, and last night Hitch’s usage may have reflected the future. Khaira looks like he may have popped (2.82 5-on-5 points-per-60 under the new coach), at least in the short term. Here are the 5-on-5 numbers for last night’s wingers:

  1. Leon Draisaitl 20:27, 2 goals, 5 shots, 2 HDSC.
  2. Alex Chiasson 17:55, 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 HDSC.
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi 13:07, 2 shots.
  4. Jujhar Khaira 12:46, 2 assists, 1 HDSC.
  5. Zack Kassian 11:31, 1 goal, 1 shot.
  6. Ty Rattie 10:48, 1 shot, 1 HDSC.
  7. Valentin Zykov 10:45
  8. Milan Lucic 9:58, 1 assist, 2 shots, 1 HDSC.

In order to stay in the lineup, a player has to be productive. There was a play last night that shows Puljujarvi still has some learning to do. Nuge received a lovely pass and drove down the left side looking for JP in the slot—and I swear he was headed there. Somehow, by the time 93 sent the puck to the slot, Puljujarvi hadn’t made it, and a Minnesota player got between the puck and the Finn. Puljujarvi needs to drive to the net with authority there. If he does, he’ll score, sure as hell. 

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212 Responses to "McDavid Freeway"

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  1. Scungilli Slushy says:

    Jaxon:
    Screwing around on CapFriendly… dumped contracts to fit Karlsson and Duchene on the roster next year.

    https://www.capfriendly.com/armchair-gm/team/945559

    Duchene – McDavid – Puljujarvi
    Khaira – Draisaitl – Zykov
    Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Yamamoto
    Benson – Marody – Rattie
    Brodziak

    Nurse – Karlsson
    Klefbom – Larsson
    Gravel – Benning
    Jones – Bear

    Koskinen
    DeSmith

    Caggiula, Spooner, Sekera, Russell, Kassian traded for Fonstad, Gruden, Ho-Sang, Morrison, Popugayev. Not a lot of thought went into making the trades realistic. I was just trying to dump contracts to teams with lots of cap space for picks/prospects. So if we have to take any salary back, then we can’t afford the cap hits on Karlsson, Duchene and DeSmith.

    Lots of options for sure. Perhaps a new GM might do something like this.

    My quibbles with the roster are minor but these:

    I have UFA PTSD. Signing a then 29 YO D that has had massive reconstructive surgery to a 7 year 10M contract (which it will be), no thanks.

    Bouchard will be on the team next season, unless he completely craps the bed. Because Oilers, because agent.

    LW Zykov replaces Lucic (see below) and Chiasson is re-signed to a good contract.

    My fantasy roster includes Lucic getting 15 goals and being traded to the Yotes because Chayka loves his underlying numbers and wants the rest he brings, including cap floor advantages with decreasing cash payout, and Talbot regaining starting goalie SV% and being traded for a first or good 2RD, and the Oilers winning the Cup :). Crazier things have happened.

  2. Bling says:

    OriginalPouzar: I’m not sure I appreciate the tone – I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that I’m inferring conversation and aggressiveness by mistake……

    Yes, I think he’ll be in the conversation along with the other guys I mentioned – he’ll be 22 with 3 full years in the best league in Sweden and playing top pairing minutes effectively this year. He has continued to improve year over year and within each season.

    I assume he’ll need a year in the AHL (if he ever actually does make the NHL) but he will compete with other others I’m sure so, yes, I would say “snowballs’ chance in hell”.

    I think that in many ways the SEL is actually a tougher league for young D than the NHL.

    Look at the numbers Karlsson and Klef are putting up / have put up in the NHL compared to their SEL stats.

    If you are an effective d-man in the SEL at a young age, you have a good shot at being an NHL’er IMO.

  3. SwedishPoster says:

    Andy Dufresne: In your opinion, is there a comparable for Persson to any Swedish defenseman who has made it in the NHL?

    What type of player Joel Persson is? This type of player, https://twitter.com/i/status/1050471164081053696

    It’s from a game earlier this fall. As for a player comparison out of Sweden it’s hard to not see shades of a pauper’s Erik Karlsson but the NHLer he most reminds me of is Tyson Barrie.

    Will be really interesting to see how he solves the NHL. The hands, vision and skating are all certainly there. It will come down to how he handles the defensive side, his positioning is mostly fine but how will he handle the physical part? He gets outmuscled quite easily so will have to rely on smarts and stickwork.

    He made team Sweden for the second straight tournament btw. That international experience will be very beneficial as the game differs quite a bit from the SHL. The quality is obviously higher as well.

  4. Wilde says:

    The Gunner’s Dream -> Paranoid Eyes is my favourite sequence on any Pink Floyd album

  5. OriginalPouzar says:

    Genjutsu: If Joel can step in and be an effective 2RD and solidify Nurse the D could be the strength of this team. Especially if Sekera can return to form.

    It would also mean almost 6 million in the press box in 7 and 8 D men.

    A man can dream.

    Bouchard, Bear, Persson, Berglund – all of them should have legit shots at making the team next year on the right side of the defence – with that said, I think its a stretch to think that any of them could come in an play a solid 2RD game. I forsee one of them being a 3RD with a solid 3LD partner in Russell or Sekera.

    Bouchard has the pedigree to fill that 2RD spot within a few years but we are likely to have a hole there next year again unless we fill it externally – given our prospect profile, I think any excess cap should be spent on a top 6 winger over a 2RD given the likelihood that 2RD can be filled internally in time but a top 6 winger is less likely (each of Marody and Benson likely top out as middle 6 guy or bottom 6 guys, I don’t know what becomes of Jesse and Yamamoto and Maksimov and Safin are wildcards and McLeod is the 3C of the future).

  6. Wilde says:

    I think Persson steps in at 3RD sinks the fangs into the soft competition if they let him, and is a legitimate threat to move up quickly.

    He’s at 1.92 points per hour all-sit in the SHL, which translates to over 1.10 pts per hour in the NHL.

    That would put him at around 80th in the NHL, 2nd on the Oilers behind Klefbom.

    Noted offensive contributors that puts him above are Ryan Ellis, Dougie Hamilton, Colin Miller, Dmitri Orlov, Kevin Shattenkirk, Colton Parayko.

  7. Wilde says:

    Which I’ve written about before, the fact that a weakness of this team is that they don’t slay soft opportunities this year like the Benning pairing did in 16-17.

    [And Yohann Auvitu in 17-18]

  8. Wilde says:

    Also, I’m sure Cooper enjoys the paycheck but they really should send him back down. He’s the Condor’s 1C and a legitimate driver.

    He is also NHL ready – which I began to suspect he would be when I was researching my piece about his parallels with Colin White and others – but again if you’re not going to play him it doesn’t matter.

    One thing I’d like to see tried is Gambardella coming up. You could airlift him straight onto the Brodziak line in place of Lucic and all that would happen is you’d get more speed and scoring. He plays the exact game they play, turns pucks over and the offense is there now. I think he’d increase their shot share, zone time, and scoring all at once with limited troubles transitioning.

    He’s at 3.13 (estimated) p/60 5v5, 2.88 primary. Put that through the NHLe (0.47 per 2017 Vollman) and you get 1.38, which puts him behind 97, 29, 93, 16 and 91 on the Oilers and at a rate that’s representative of a meaningful contribution from the bottom-six on any team.

  9. ArmchairGM says:

    OriginalPouzar: Hitch was express

    All aboard the Hitchcock Express!!

  10. Glovjuice says:

    Wilde:
    The Gunner’s Dream -> Paranoid Eyes is my favourite sequence on any Pink Floyd album

    Actually, this really is as good as anything they have ever done. You and I are certainly attracted to the same type of melodic structure.

  11. OriginalPouzar says:

    Wilde:
    Also, I’m sure Cooper enjoys the paycheck but they really should send him back down. He’s the Condor’s 1C and a legitimate driver.

    He is also NHL ready – which I began to suspect he would be when I was researching my piece about his parallels with Colin White and others – but again if you’re not going to play him it doesn’t matter.

    One thing I’d like to see tried is Gambardella coming up. You could airlift him straight onto the Brodziak line in place of Lucic and all that would happen is you’d get more speed and scoring. He plays the exact game they play, turns pucks over and the offense is there now. I think he’d increase their shot share, zone time, and scoring all at once with limited troubles transitioning.

    He’s at 3.13 (estimated) p/60 5v5, 2.88 primary. Put that through the NHLe (0.47 per 2017 Vollman) and you get 1.38, which puts him behind 97, 29, 93, 16 and 91 on the Oilers and at a rate that’s representative of a meaningful contribution from the bottom-six on any team.

    After last year, I essentially gave up on Joe G. ever having an NHL career but he has materially increased his game this year and has been very good. As an older prospect, he doesn’t have a ton of time to “make it” but he’s put his name in the conversation along with Russell and Malone for that type of call-up.

  12. 106 and 106 says:

    Wilde,

    Guys he gets 7x more money to ride the pine.

    He doesn’t want to get sent down. He’s probably buying a house with the next two weeks of pay.

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