Although 2018-19 was Connor McDavid’s most challenging year since his rookie campaign, the quality of his time on ice was obvious. When on the ice with Leon Draisaitl at even strength (888 minutes), Edmonton outscored opponents 75-60 (55.56 percent). Music!
When McDavid was on the ice (at even strength) without Draisaitl? Goals were 22-34 (39.29 percent) and that’s a concern. Draisaitl without McDavid? 19-30 (38.78 percent). Oilers without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice at even strength? 64-85, 42.95. What the hell? Exactly.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto has the talent to win a job with the Oilers on merit, if he’s healthy.
- Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi still has upside and the Oilers’ patient approach is the right one
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Dave Tippett on rounding out his coaching staff, fixing Oilers’ special teams and using Connor McDavid
- Lowetide: Handicapping the Oilers’ young defencemen and their chances of replacing Andrej Sekera
- Lowetide: Is Kirill Maksimov progressing as the Edmonton Oilers’ next great hope for a true homegrown sniper?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers ease pressure on crowded defensive pipeline by trading John Marino to the Penguins
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2021-22 Oilers might look like after their steady build toward contender status
- Lowetide: Joel Persson is ideally situated to win an opening night roster spot with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2019-20 Oilers might look like without trade missteps.
- Lowetide: Finding the best candidates for the final two spots on the Oilers skill lines in 2019-20.
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ opening night lineup, line combinations and more.
- Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
THE WHO BY NUMBERS
The Oilers a year ago were so bad that the McDavid double shifts went for a powder. McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played together for 351 minutes (even strength, without Leon) and were outscored 16-19 (45.71).
McDavid with Draisaitl and Kassian at even strength? 27-22 in 292 minutes. McDavid with Kassian and without Leon? 4-7 in 145 minutes.
McDavid with Draisaitl and Chiasson at even strength? 19-15 in 263 minutes. McDavid with Chiasson and without Leon? 2-5 in 41 minutes. All of this is available via NaturalStatTrick and is a fascinating look at a frustrating season.
James Neal is an obvious option to add to either the McDavid or (likely) Nuge line, Edmonton needs him to shoot the puck 200 times and post something close to a 10 percent shooting percentage. Neal delivered 141 shots last season, suspect he’ll pass that total (if healthy). I am close to the end of the RE estimates and still haven’t decided on Neal’s power-play time.
I think Tippett will try Neal with Nuge on the second line, that’s the logical solution. Part of the issue is Nuge’s performance last season with possible solutions. At even strength, his goal differentials with partner: Sam Gagner (6-12 in 130 minutes); Zack Kassian (13-10 in 193 minutes); Jujhar Khaira (8-9 in 185 minutes); Alex Chiasson (13-15 in 315 minutes).
So, I think Tippett might look at the math and the tape and decide to go Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian, secure in the knowledge the trio were 27-22 in about 300 minutes of even strength time.
He might also decide to run Nuge with Neal and Chiasson, two more veterans. He said as much recently. Now. We know there are a bunch of options, veterans and kids, pushing for playing time on skill lines. Who would be first on your list?
We’ve been discussing Gaetan Haas as the possible third line center, although Dave Tippett did tell Daniel Nugent Bowman that Sam Gagner played some pivot for him in Phoenix. Jujhar Khaira was also mentioned recently.
I wonder about a Khaira-Gagner combination on the No. 3 line, with Gagner taking RH faceoffs and Khaira the LH faceoffs. Khaira is unable to win enough faceoffs against either left or right to be considered a strong option. I think there’s something to Khaira, he’s a worthwhile third-line option. Right now, it’s more about Haas than we’d like it to be, Holland clearly values him.
TIPPETT ON TYLER BENSON
“Tyler Benson is one of those guys. He could come in here and find a niche and push somebody out or push somebody down in the lineup. I’m hoping we have situations like that because that makes your team better.” Source
This quote has been made in one form or another by every Oilers coach since Slats. It’s a good sign, these young prospects are close enough to be evaluated seriously, and in some cases might win jobs. Important to recognize what is happening here: The head coach is discussing Benson on the NHL roster, pushing more established players down the depth chart.
TIPPETT AND KHAIRA
One of the things I’m looking forward to this winter is Tippett’s usage of players who can help but are not complete players. Brad Richardson, Jordan Martinook, et cetera. I think Khaira and Josh Archibald are two candidates and hope Tippett has enough time to see Matt Benning and what he can do to help a team.
Buck Rodgers, the old Expos manager, rebooted so many careers simply by not worrying about what the player couldn’t do, and focusing on strengths. Otis Nixon hits popups to shortstop? Well, he can bunt and run fast enough to beat out infield hits, and we can pinch run him when he isn’t in the lineup. Same with Rex Hudler. He straightened away Dennis Martinez and turned Tim Burke into a solid closer. I believe Dave Tippett will impact a few players that way.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun Friday to end the week and kickstart the long weekend. TSN1260, beginning at 10. Steve Lansky will be by to talk Jays at the trade deadline and a huge Argos win. Schuyler Dixon covers the Cowboys for AP Dallas-Ft. Worth and we’ll talk Cowboys. Matt Iwanyk will stop in to chat about tomorrow’s game (Esks-Stamps) in which the winner will be in first place.