The postgame comments blamed the effort and the energy, but for me those things obscure the actual truth: The Edmonton Oilers don’t have enough good NHL players. Same as it ever was, although James Neal and Ethan Bear and Mike Smith have given the team added arsenal. If I told you that the only men who would be with the Oilers two years from now are 97, 29, 93, Neal, Kassian, Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Bear and one of the goalies, would you be shocked to your shoes? No. I don’t think you would be shocked at all. I listed 10 players, less than half the roster. So why are we blaming effort when we all know talent is the problem? Beats me.
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 Athletic, there is a Puck Drop Special offer here.
- New Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Philip Broberg increases his role; Condors’ Caleb Jones looks NHL-ready
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘I don’t think anyone’s feeling comfortable’: Oilers’ Holland pleased but cautious amid early improvements.
- Lowetide: Josh Archibald’s injury and limited replacements available puts some pressure on Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 4 reasons why the Oilers passed their first true test of the season
- Lowetide: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal are leading a quality Oilers second line
- Lowetide: Assessing the early season progress of Oilers’ defence and goaltending
- Jonathan Willis: A rare success during Edmonton’s long rebuild, why Oscar Klefbom is the model for finishing Oilers’ blue line
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi’s impressive Liiga performance headlines Oilers prospects this week
- Jonathan Willis: Can the Oilers afford to pursue Taylor Hall in free agency?
- Corey Pronman: Oilers No. 9 farm system.
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
OILERS IN OCTOBER
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, eight points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 8-3-1, 17 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in October 2017: 4-7-1, nine points; goal differential -9
- Oilers in October 2018: 7-4-1, 15 points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in October 2019: 8-3-1, 17 points, goal differential +5
The Oilers played poorly in the first 12 minutes, then started to push. Goalie Mike Smith took a shot in the jewels and was never the same. I was surprised at the lack of criticism in deciding to let him continue, there was very little postgame (that I heard). I like Dave Tippett, think he’s done a solid plus job so far, but that’s a move one could reasonably question. Smith did not look right at any time after the shot that felled him.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OCTOBER
- At home to: Vancouver, Los Angeles (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 2-0-0)
- On the road to: NYI, NJD, NYR, CHI (Expected 2-1-1) Actual (3-1-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia, Detroit (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 2-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Minnesota (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-1-1)
- At home to: Washington, Florida (Expected 1-1-0)(Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Columbus (Expected 1-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 7-6-1, 15 points in 14 games
- Current results: 8-3-1, 17 points after 12 games
I think many fans will fret over this last week, but for me this is what might have been expected all along. The 7-1-0 start skewed the mind, while the recent 1-2-1 run may be more in keeping with this team’s talent level. If Edmonton collects three points for every four games now to the end of the season, the final point total will be 70. I expect this team has more talent in them than that, but it’s also true that early run was unsustainable. I picked this team to finish with 88 points. They’ll get there with a 70, 34-33-3 run. I think that’s a fair reflection of this team. All numbers five-on-five unless noted and via Natural Stat Trick.
LINE 1 Leon Draisaitl-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian played 11:21, going 10-11 Corsi, 6-7 shots, 0-1 goals and 4-1 HDSC. The line was solid . Played 6:22 (1-1) against Aleksandr Barkov.
Leon Draisaitl had a goal, two shots, one HDSC and had an impact on the game. Connor McDavid had an assist, four shots and three HDSC, I thought he was terrific and a little unlucky. Zack Kassian had the good boots, had a HDSC (five for the line) and a takeaway. I don’t think this line was the problem.
LINE 2 Alex Chiasson-Nuge-James Neal played 7:28, going 7-6 Corsi, 1-3 shots, no goals and 1-1 HDSC. Played 2:27 against Barkov.
Alex Chiasson didn’t get much done, but Nuge drew two penalties and grabbed a PP assist. Solid in the dot as well. James Neal grabbed a PP goal, he now has 10 on the year. That draft pick is gone. This trio got more clean air than usual (Barkov was matched most often against 97 and Sheahan), it’s fair to expect more under those circumstances.
LINE 3 Jujhar Khaira-Riley Sheahan-Patrick Russell played 6:55, going 8-6 Corsi, 4-4 shots, 0-2 goals and 0-1 HDSC. Played 3:40 against Aleksandr Barkov, interesting Tippett chose this line to match up against Barkov when he decided to go away from power v. power.
Jujhar Khaira had a good look but again couldn’t deliver, Riley Sheahan had two HDSC’s and for me is the best player in the bottom six. Patrick Russell wasn’t overly noticeable. At some point I think Ken Holland may have to change this line a little, maybe run Tomas Jurco and Kailer Yamamoto to see if possession (and offense) improves.
LINE 4 Tomas Jurco-Markus Granlund-Sam Gagner played 6:24, going 4-7 Corsi, 1-6 shots, 0-1 goals and 1-0 HDSC. Granlund played 1:42 against Barkov.
Tomas Jurco had a HDSC and a takeaway, he’s easily one of the eight best wingers on the team. Markus Granlund had a takeaway but needs to do more. Sam Gagner was quiet on the evening but he does move the puck to good spaces.
PAIRING ONE Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear played 18:37 together, 18-13 Corsi, 8-10 shots, 1-4 goals and 6-1 HDSC. That’s an impressive stat set, one guesses you don’t see the goals and HDSC numbers for the same pair often. Played 7:42 (1-1) against the Barkov line. Six offensive and six defensive faceoff zone starts.
Darnell Nurse had a shot, two HDSC and was physical against Panthers throughout the game. I didn’t like how easily he gave up the blue line on the first goal, but suspect that’s a shot most goalies (and Smith when healthy and focused) grabs. Ethan Bear had an assist and a giveaway, which led to a goal. This is rookies. This pairing took the golden sombrero in plus minus.
PAIRING TWO Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell played 18:34, going 17-20 Corsi, 7-8 shots, no goals and 2-1 HDSC. Eight offensive and three defensive faceoff zone starts. Played 5:19 against Barkov line.
Oscar Klefbom had two shots and three takeaways, plus a couple of giveaways. He had calm feet and skated miles, for me this pairing, despite being the second duo, executed better than the top pair. Kris Russell had a couple of stellar defensive plays, and he drew a penalty. I don’t think this pairing at five-on-five was the problem.
PAIRING THREE Brandon Manning and Matt Benning played 9:30, going 7-9 Corsi, 2-7 shots, 0-1 goals and 1-3 HDSC. One offensive and five defensive faceoff zone starts. Played 2:10 against Barkov.
Brandon Manning had one giveaway and a takeaway. Matt Benning had some looks and passed the puck well, but wasn’t noticeable.
GOALIE Mike Smith stopped 10 of 13, .769. He took a rocket off the sprocket and couldn’t breathe for a time. Been there. In the first several seconds, he would have awaited, no welcomed death. That would be followed by a cold sweat all over his body, then a light breeze would pass by, informing him he would live. He would have laughed nervously about have survived such a traumatic experience, and then assured all around him he was fine. I don’t think he should have been allowed to start the second period.
GOALIE Mikko Koskinen stopped 13 of 15, .867 and that included several HDSC. Why they didn’t start him is a mystery to me. That was the play here.
OILERS 2019-20 [2018-19]
- Corsi for five-on-five: 48.05 [47.98]
- Fenwick five-on-five: 48.59 [47.75]
- Shots for five-on-five: 48.51 [47.59]
- Goal differential five-on-five: 46.67 [45.06]
- Shooting percentage five-on-five: 8.08 [7.66]
- Save percentage five-on-five: 91.30 [91.52]
- PDO five-on-five: 994 
This year’s Oilers are a little better in Corsi, Fenwick, Shots, Goal Differential, Shooting Percentage. Last year’s Oil were slightly better in save percentage and PDO. You’re wondering about McDavid on and off at five-on-five?
- Connor McDavid ON five-on-five: 14-7 67.0 [77-75 50.7]
- Connor McDavid OFF five-on-five: 7-17 29.0 [69-103 40.1]
After a reasonable start the ON/OFF numbers have corrected and then galloped past last season. Let’s have a look at RNH on and off, I’m going to take the McDavid minutes out of each season.
- Nuge ON five-on-five: 6-4 60.0 [29-37 43.9]
- Nuge OFF five-on-five: 15-20 42.9 [117-141 45.3]
It’s early, and this is a small sample, but the second line does appear to be better than the truck stop baked beans poor Nuge had to play with a year ago. By the way, McDavid+Nuge on is 20-11 (64.5) and McDavid+Nuge off is 1-13 (7 percent). Lordy.
CORSI FOR FIVE-ON-FIVE (FWD)
- Alex Chiasson 52.55
- Tomas Jurco 52.02
- James Neal 51.84
- Nuge 51.03
- Zack Kassian 50.3
- Leon Draisaitl 49.6
- Connor McDavid 49.4
- Patrick Russell 47.53
- Markus Granlund 45.96
- Riley Sheahan 44.19
- Josh Archibald 43.70
- Gaetan Haas 43.48
- Sam Gagner 42.86
- Joakim Nygard 42.67
- Jujhar Khaira 41.85
- Colby Cave 26.19
All numbers NST. McDavid’s true line in the sand for the No. 1 trio is likely Kassian, 97 and 29 go roster walkabout and it’s a drag. Ken Holland may not want to recall Cooper Marody, Kailer Yamamoto or Tyler Benson before Christmas, but it would be a good idea to have a long look at the guys who are running in the 40’s here. Sheahan isn’t coming out of the lineup and Granlund is also a centre on this team (via Dave Tippett) but wingers not named Jurco who play bottom six need to send pucks in the right direction more often. Goals may come as a result.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE!
We’re back! It’ll be a busy Monday starting at 10, TSN1260. Chris Meaney from The Athletic Fantasy will drop in to chat at 10:20, we’ll talk NFL weekend and the flurry of recent trades. Michael Bradburn from The Score will talk World Series (the Nats had a bad weekend) and Jason Gregor will pop in just after 11 to chat Oilers and Eskimos. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!