James Neal had an interesting season. He had a four-goal game against the New York Islanders after scoring two against the Los Angeles Kings at the beginning of the year. He followed those two games with another goal against New Jersey on October 10, another against Chicago on October 14 and yet another against Detroit on October 18. Through eight games, Neal had nine goals. Incredible.
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: What does Jesse Puljujarvi’s Liiga season tell us about his future?
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How Oilers plan to help arena workers unclear with games postponed
- Lowetide: NHL season on hold might impact Oilers evaluations, summer plans
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: Key questions surround Oilers in wake of NHL’s coronavirus suspension
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Murat Ates: ‘It hits you so hard’: Health crisis puts vital Oilers-Jets game in perspective
- Jonathan Willis: Mikko Koskinen vs. Mike Smith: Who starts Game 1 for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has found a home as a winger
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: GM Ken Holland on Oilers’ playoff push, offseason plans and Hart thoughts
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers observations: Mikko Koskinen comes through in offensive power outage
- Jonathan Willis: Evan Bouchard, Tyler Benson and more: 20 observations on the Bakersfield Condors
- Lowetide: Caleb Jones represents Oilers template for development success
- Jonathan Willis: Rookie pros Dmitri Samorukov, Kirill Maksimov learning in Oilers’ system
- Lowetide: Oscar Klefbom’s return and usage a key element for Oilers stretch run
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How ‘little firecracker’ Josh Archibald went from unknown to vital with Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Determining Connor McDavid’s linemates remains a pressing and perplexing problem
- Lowetide: Reasonable expectations for Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis over the next 15 games.
- Jonathan Willis: Ryan McLeod offers the Oilers size and speed. But will he score in the NHL?
- Jonathan Willis: Which players pose the biggest threat to Leon Draisaitl winning the Hart Trophy?
- Lowetide: How the Oilers deadline deals might alter summer plans
- Jonathan Willis: Splitting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl saved the Oilers’ season
- Lowetide: Is the OHL still the Oilers’ primary resource at the draft?
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ 2017 draft and the value of waiting five years
In the first month of the year, James Neal scored eight power-play goals in less than 49 minutes (via NST). He would score four more PP goals in the following 109 minutes. In October, Neal averaged about 3.5 minutes on the power play; from November to the suspension of play, he averaged a little over 2.5 minutes with the man advantage. For the season, he ranks No. 2 in goals per 60 on the power play with 4.55 goals per 60 (Evander Kane) among forwards who have played 100 or more minutes. That’s an outstanding number.
Neal’s five on five performance over the last two seasons has been well documented. He’s eroding. However, in 296 five on five minutes with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he scored four goals (.81 goals per 60) and a Corsi of 51.8 percent. That goal rate (.81 per 60) would rank him No. 112 among NHL forwards who played 400+ minutes at five on five this season. That’s at the top end of the average second line forward in today’s NHL. Is that a role Neal can play next season?
On February 11, about one month ago, the Oilers signed winger Joakim Nyard to a one-year extension. The fast train has endured a couple of injuries in his first NHL season and the goals (three) haven’t come easy.
It’s fairly obvious there’s a player here. Nygard’s 1.27 points-per-60 at five on five is shy, but his shooting percentage (2.7) is bound to improve. He owns a 50 percent shot differential at five on five, and a 50.9 DFF percentage against elites. My guess is he’ll be one of the four left-wingers (Nuge, Ennis, Athanasiou, Nygard?) next fall. Note: I think Khaira will be on the team in the fall, as a center.
THROUGH THE PAST, DARKLY
2009 summer “MacT in a Box” post: This coach has shown a very specific and obvious tendency towards defense even in regard to rookie forwards. Fernando Pisani is a guy that may have been passed over (or taken longer to arrive) based on draft pedigree and both the 06-07 and 07-08 teams have had some young players hitting below the Mendoza line and still getting their at-bats. MacT loves forwards who can play solid postional games, and even when discussing kids like Gagner and Nilsson will make a point to mention that they have to ensure the offense they’re generating isn’t exceeded by what they’re giving up. A kid like Gagner is going to benefit heavily from this kind of coach, in a way someone like Rick Nash is only now getting around to in his career. Note from 2020: MacT would not coach Gagner in 2009-10.
1983 Fall TC
“Sammy Pollock used to say all jobs are open in Montreal but who was he kidding? Nobody was going to take Larry Robinson’s job or Guy Lafleur’s. In our camp I refuse to tell the players that. But I’d love it if somebody took a job away from a returning player. If that happened, that would make our team stronger.” Glen Sather, fall 1983
Tomorrow, I’ll have a prospects item for you at The Athletic and we’ll chat about the 50-man here. I don’t like to brag (seriously, I hate it) but this is kind of my wheel house. As a Dad, I was expert at keeping my kids amused during long, boring road trips. I hope you’re not offended by my comparing you to children. Unrelated: Who is up for a sing-a-long?