James Neal has 19 goals this season and is a big part of the Edmonton Oilers’ first half success. Seven of his goals are at even strength and 12 are on the power play, but they all count. One of the areas Ken Holland will want to increase the efficiency of his team is five on five production. It is not a strength for Neal, and that puts the roster in a tough situation.
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, less than two coffees a month offer here.
- New Lowetide: Is there real trade deadline value in the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect pipeline?
- New Lowetide: ‘Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes’ works as breaking news, drama and personality profile
- New Lowetide: Oilers prospects Evan Bouchard and Tyler Benson deliver best minor league performances in 20 years
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Hey, Sparky, can you do that?’: How the Oilers’ AHL video coach got his start as the Islanders’ mascot.
- Eric Duhatschek: ‘He’s special’: The people who know him best tell the story of how Leon Draisaitl took the NHL by storm
- Pierre Lebrun: Where all 31 teams stand one month before the trade deadline
- Lowetide: What do Connor McDavid’s best lines tell us about his optimal linemates?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: I was an AHL coach for a day: Here’s what I learned
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: Oilers player poll: From the serious to the silly, the players weigh in on best dressed, most superstitious and more
- Thomas Drance: Inside how ‘Okanagan boy’ Ken Holland helped bring back the Penticton Young Stars tournament
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers minor-league defenceman Brandon Manning suspended five games for racial slur
- Jonathan Willis: An updated list of which Oilers are most likely to be traded in 2019-20
- Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto gives Oilers a midseason spark, one of the best in team history
- Lowetide: With the Oilers’ minor-league goaltending not good enough, Ilya Konovalov might be the answer
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan show the upward trend of Ken Holland’s offseason moves for the Oilers
- Lowetide: Post-Christmas performance spike has Evan Bouchard pushing for an NHL job with the Oilers
- Lowetide: Central Scouting’s midseason list offers Oilers some strong draft options
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers’ road forward — and perhaps to a Stanley Cup — requires trusting the kids on defence
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Deciding what to do with Darnell Nurse, Mike Smith, Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s targets for his first trade deadline with the Oilers.
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s trade deadline options for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019
LINES TO START THE SECOND HALF
Oilers were on the ice yesterday (even the All-Stars) giving us an idea about the lines or pairings. Change may come in the next couple of days and there’s some evidence that the No. 1 line would be a good place to tweak. I like to run numbers from the last 10 games, gives us an idea about ‘what have you done for me lately’ and they aren’t pretty for two members of the top line. All numbers five on five, via NST.
LINE 1: James Neal [10, 1-1-2 0.86]-Connor McDavid [10, 4-3-7 2.62]-Zack Kassian [8, 0-2-2 1.01].
James Neal needs a hot streak, and goodness knows he’s capable. However, you can’t call them up on demand and it’s been a long time for Neal. Over the last two seasons, in 1414 minutes five on five, Neal has scored 10-11-21 (0.89) in Calgary and now Edmonton. He’s Boog Powell in 1976. Neal has some injuries and I do think he’s better than the numbers show over the last 10 games. He needs to hit a big fly or two. His on-ice goal differential (8-5) is better than both McDavid (8-8) and Kassian (4-6) during this period, I have no explanation for you. Kassian’s offense is low compared to the rest of his season but is not a tragedy if he can pot some goals in the next 10 games. McDavid is McDavid, shock and awe squared.
LINE 2: Nuge [10, 6-1-7 2.87]-Leon Draisaitl [10, 0-6-6 2.28]-Kailer Yamamoto [8, 2-3-5 2.58].
This line has eight goals between them five on five and we shouldn’t expect the same production in the next 10. Three things: Nuge has more torque on his shot, Leon is out of his funk and Yamamoto accomplished what he couldn’t two in the previous two seasons: Belong.
LINE 3: Joakim Nygard [10, 1-2-3 1.76]-Riley Sheahan [10, 2-3-5 2.90]-Josh Archibald [10, 2-2-4 2.35].
All three players are apparently in the plans for next year, and that represents three successful bets. Sheahan is not the player we saw early in the year, coming off an injury obscured his abilities. Archibald was outstanding with 97 when Kassian was out, wonder how long before we see it again.
LINE 4: Jujhar Khaira [6, 0-1-1 0.99]-Gaetan Haas [10, 1-0-1 0.69]-Alex Chiasson [9, 2-0-2 1.28] plus Sam Gagner [4, 1-0-1 1.31] and Patrick Russell [4, 0-0-0].
Just as the second line has drilled opponents over the last 10 games, the fourth line and extras have struggled. We should expect a little recovery over the next 10 from these five men. Not sure all of them will still be here.
ADDING TO MCDAVID’S LINE
One player who would be an interesting acquisition is Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson. Aaron Portzline has an article up about the contract situation, Anderson hasn’t played since December 14 due to a shoulder injury.
Anderson is perhaps an ideal RW target for McDavid’s wing: He’s skilled, big, tough, shoots the puck and plays a responsible game. 27 goals a year ago. A terrific target if healthy.
The ideal candidate is Chris Kreider. He brings power and speed and scoring ability, and is durable. He would require Holland dealing from the top of the prospect pool and I don’t see it happening.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning on the show, TSN1260 beginning at 10. The sports world has a heavy heart today, the death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant is on everyone’s mind. Carlan Gay from NBA Canada will join us to help put this event in some kind of perspective, to try and make sense of it. Jason Strudwick joins at 11 and we’ll chat Oilers-Flames, the recall of an enforcer and the message it sends, and about the race to the playoffs. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.