The first time the Oilers played the Canucks in an NHL game was on October 14, 1979. It was the third game of the season, Edmonton losing to Chicago and tying Detroit before the game against Vancouver.
Edmonton’s leading goal-scorer through two games? Blair MacDonald (two), Kevin Lowe, Dave Hunter and Mark Messier had single tallies. In the game against Vancouver, Risto Siltanen scored twice, Stan Weir scored his first of the season—and Wayne Gretzky scored the tying goal against Vancouver late in the third period. It was the first of his brilliant NHL career.
Tonight the Oilers have a chance to move into third place in the Pacific Division stand alone. The currently tight Pacific has Edmonton and San Jose tied for third, with 17 ROW and I believe the Alberta team owns the tiebreaker. Most of the teams in the division play tonight, so we could see some movement. For the Oilers, it’s win and you’re in.
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: With Oscar Klefbom’s injury, will the Oilers look in unusual places for a solution?
- New Jonathan Willis: Takeaways from Ken Hitchcock’s lineup decisions for the Oilers against the Flyers.
- Lowetide: No. 7 prospect Winter 2018: Caleb Jones.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How the Oilers Alex Chiasson is able to maintain his scoring touch.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How Connor McDavid became the world’s fastest skater.
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi as an offensive player and what that tells us about his future with the Oilers.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 6 Prospect winter 2018: Cooper Marody.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 5 Prospect winter 2018: Ethan Bear.
- 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 34
- Oilers in 2015: 14-18-2, 30 points; goal differential -17
- Oilers in 2016: 17-12-5, 39 points; goal differential +5
- Oilers in 2017: 15-17-2, 32 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in 2018: 18-12-3, 39 points; goal differential +4
The 2018 McDavids are now well clear of everyone but the 2016 playoff team. The 2017 Oilers would win two in a row to run the record to 17-17-2 after 36 games, before finishing 19-23-4 to land 36-40-6, 78 points. It’s such a thin line, the key is to stay away from a losing streak.
OILERS IN DECEMBER
- Oilers in December 2015: 6-3-0, 12 points; goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2016: 4-2-3, 11 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in December 2017: 6-3-0, 12 points; goal differential +8
- Oilers in December 2018: 6-1-1, 13 points; goal differential +9
December saved a lot of jobs and there are several Oilers (Mikko Koskinen, Alex Chiasson, Kevin Gravel) who are earning raises here or elsewhere. More on that in a moment.
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 2-0-0)
- On the road to: Colorado,Winnipeg(Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-0-1)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- 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: 6-1-1, 13 points in eight games
If the Oilers win tonight, they will have reached my projected point total (15) with five games to spare! Music!
This is a player Edmonton should be interested in, I’ve seen him make good NHL defensemen (Jeff Petry) look foolish. Opportunity knocks.
The problem with acquiring Burakovsky is that he’s making $3 million now and will need a new contract come summer. Edmonton’s list of players needing contracts is already fairly long:
- Mikko Koskinen, $2.5 million currently and earning a bigger raise with each win.
- Alex Chiasson, $650,000 and one of the best (if not the best) value deals in hockey.
- Jujhar Khaira, $675,000 and posting strong offense recently in a feature role (2-4-6 in his last eight games).
- Tobias Rieder, $2 million this season and playing an important role on the bottom six/PK when healthy.
- Cam Talbot, $4.1667 million and possibly heading for a deadline exit.
- Kevin Gravel, $700,000 on a one-year and earning the third pairing LH side slot in real time.
The cap is going up, but the Oilers already have over $67 million (projected) in contracts as they sit idling in the driveway. There’s $36 million for five forwards (McDavid, Draisaitl, Nuge, Lucic, Spooner), about $21 million for five defensemen (Sekera, Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, Nurse) and what will clearly be $5-6 million on goalies. That’s $62-$63 million on 12 men, or about half the roster.
KLEFBOM OUT 6-8 WEEKS
Another dagger for that blue line, already missing Andrej Sekera (who could return January after a rehab assignment) and Kris Russell (he might play as soon as next Saturday depending on who you’re listening to currently).
It sounds like the bet by the Oilers is this: Muddle through this week and then, when Russell returns, cobble together a top 4D you can trust. Here’s what I would like to see:
- Nurse—Larsson. This duo is playing so much right now the numbers are sagging, but there is a solid track record for the pairing. If Hitchcock can reduce their minutes, I believe they will prove to be best available from this group.
- Russell—Benning. In 166 minutes since 2016, this pairing is 47 percent in shot share and 50 percent in goal share.
- Gravel—Jones. It might sound crazy, but this pairing spent time together in Bakersfield and Jones’ wheels are such an advantage over Garrison’s experience. I expect to get some pushback, and that’s fair, but Jones, in my opinion, is a superior option to the slow boots of Garrison.
At this point, I’m not sure when Wideman sees the ice in an NHL game. He’s vulnerable to waivers when Russell returns, in my opinion.