Saturdays in winter. We had to milk and feed the goats, and we had to make sure there was enough coal (we had a giant bin that needed to be full) for the day. It was dark much of the morning, the single outside light flooding the backyard and letting everyone know for miles around we were home. When we were young, coming back from Grandma’s or the Kingdom Hall, I would feel a warmth come over me when we’d turn the corner at the Alan Store and see the light shining at home. It meant the goats were okay, the dog was fine, and we’d be warm soon.
In the winter, 17 miles north of Maidstone, the one constant was cold. Extreme cold. My brother and I would set up two sawhorses, place two 10-gallon buckets inside (they were the goalies) and commence hammering those buckets with pucks for hours. We wore ski-doo boots, liner inside and two sets of wool socks. Still froze our feet, damn fools. As my brother got older, found work and money and cars and girls, it become a solo pursuit. I set up just one saw horse, and got to be Orr all the time. I missed him though, it’s never the same without your brother.
Saturday afternoon brought Bugs Bunny at 5, followed by Hockey Night in Canada. My Dad would hang around to see who was playing, if it was Boston versus Toronto or Montreal against Chicago, he was in. Minnesota? St. Louis? Mom could talk him into a game of cribbage over at the table, where he could hear the game and run over if Mahovlich scored. Me, I loved the expansion teams, especially the green group (Minnesota, Oakland) and new names like Frank St. Marseille, Juha Widing and Bill Goldsworthy. Most of all, I loved the Bruins and Bobby Orr.
Saturdays in winter. It’s hockey’s big day. In my mind’s eye, that single outside light still shines and lights up the night, bringing the sawhorses, the goats, my brother, Mom and Dad, the memories, just a little closer. Saturdays in winter. I can’t wait for the hockey game.
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: Gauging the Edmonton Oilers’ needs and tendencies for the 2019 NHL Draft
- Jonathan Willis: Forecasting Oilers junior prospects based on their statistical performance
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects, Winter 2018
- Jonathan Willis: Analysing the risk of heaping heavy minutes on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
- Lowetide: Oilers midseason report card, brought to you by the letter ‘F’
- Jonathan Willis: Unlikely scorer Jujhar Khaira has forced his way up the Oilers’ lineup on merit.
- Black Dog Pat: There’s no in-season balancing for the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: From 2 to 98, Oilers share the stories behind their jersey numbers.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 10 prospect Winter 2018: Dylan Wells.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 9 prospect Winter 2018: Joel Persson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 8 prospect Winter 2018: Kirill Maksimov.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 7 prospect Winter 2018: Caleb Jones.
- 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 45
- Oilers in 2015: 17-23-5, 39 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2016: 23-15-7, 53 points; goal differential +4
- Oilers in 2017: 19-23-3, 41 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2018: 21-20-3, 45 points; goal differential -11
Damned Coyotes are on a bit of a run now, I’ll talk to Cat Silverman about the team’s season on SSE at 1:20 this afternoon. I think Edmonton has to hit 15 points in January, meaning the team needs to go 4-1-1 in the final six games. Borderline impossible. If the club can do it, the record at the end of January would be 50, 25-21-4, 54 points (trajectory: 89 points). Hard nose the highway.
OILERS IN JANUARY
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-2-2, six points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in January 2017: 3-3-0, six points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in January 2018: 2-4-0, four points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in January 2019: 3-2-0, six points; goal differential -4
A chance to go two games up for January as we approach the midway point in the month. The goal differential is a key element this month, things should recover when Klefbom returns.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN JANUARY
- On the road to: Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 2-2-0)
- At home to: Florida, Arizona, Buffalo (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary, Carolina, Detroit (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 4-5-2, 10 points in 11 games
- Current results: 3-2-0, six points in five games
This coming week offers the team a chance to get some points before the challenge that the Flames represent to everyone this year. I think the Buffalo and Vancouver games will be far more difficult than some fans believe.
Edmonton is getting some breaks, though. Anaheim lost again last night, and if the Oilers win tonight (and Minnesota loses) the club will have the same number of points as the No. 8 seed Wild (who would have a game in hand). Minnesota is on pace to finish with 87.6 points, so maybe the actual number to make the playoffs is lower than we’ve been projecting.
A LIST OF CANDIDATES
How many forwards on the current Oilers depth chart should return next year? Without regard for cap hit or term, how many? I think the answer is both startling and key to finding a successful path forward for the organization. Here’s my answer:
That’s my list. Now, we’re going to add some more names here, but I wanted to pare it down to start, just showing the group who have delivered enough offensively (and without the puck) to return on merit. The cap hit for this group next year is $27 million plus whatever Khaira and Chiasson will cost via free agency. Remember, we’re not bringing anyone back because we have to, we’re just interested in bringing back regulars who have earned it.
What about the kids? I mean, you can’t have five kid forwards every year but surely some of these characters can help?
I believe Puljujarvi has shown enough to be part of next year’s team, your mileage may vary. I think Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Benson may get there but the organization can’t count on those men starting next fall based on their current resumes.
So we’re looking to find a top nine the team can afford to fit under the cap that we’re certain will be a contender. I’m going to use UFA examples:
How can the Oilers afford this lineup? Trade Milan Lucic and Andrej Sekera. Failing that, draft and develop. It all comes down to this: As much as you’re upset about wasting another year of Connor McDavid, a poor move now that brings in expensive veterans in exchange for picks and prospects could turn four unproductive McDavid seasons into eight. This is damned serious.
So if you can’t get there from here, what’s the answer? Well, in my opinion, you try to solve problems with long-term solutions. If you’re the Oilers, that means you might need transitional talents to get you there, but you do have players on the way who should be 5+ season solutions:
I’ve targeted Ehlers because the Jets (imo) are going to need to make a big trade. Edmonton has pieces (including a high pick in 2019’s draft) that may appeal. This would be a summer trade. I’ve also moved Leon to the No. 2 line, he could easily be moved back to center. I have two substantial offensive lines and what should be a reasonable checking group with some offense.
Now. What to do with Milan Lucic, Kyle Brodziak, Ryan Spooner, Zack Kassian? Trade what you can, buy out someone (Spooner most likely) and then play the rest on a fourth line or sit them in the pressbox. If one of these men shows a turnaround, by all means elevate them. You can’t count on it though, and I think that’s what we’re going to see come the fall.
By January, maybe Benson and Yamamoto are tearing the cover off the ball in the AHL and you can bring them in as plug-and-play options with miles in front of them at value contract totals.