And so it was, on a January night in Toronto, when the veterans were bleeding enough to lose a winnable game, Ken Holland’s patience landed on the top line and provided a spark. The words after spark in that sentence may one day be “that lit the fuse” but we can’t know that yet. What we do know is that in one game, in one moment, Dave Tippett, being of sound mind and body, chose a gigantic Finn, 6.04, 201 pounds of unbridled enthusiasm, to run with the McDavid line. And it was beautiful.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Oilers Kailer Yamamoto is the real deal.
- New Jonathan Willis: Oilers risers and fallers: Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones among those stumbling early
- Lowetide: Oilers goaltending depth in a state of flux.
- Lowetide: Oilers’ No. 3 line has been a source of anxiety early this season
- Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: First impressions of Oilers after opener against the Canucks
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers opening night roster: A player-by-player breakdown
- Lowetide: Oilers risers and fallers and how they impact the opening night roster
- Lowetide: Will Ken Holland let it ride in goal for the Oilers this season?
- Lowetide: Oilers rookies with a chance to stick after one week of training camp
- Lowetide: 9 bold predictions for the Oilers’ season
- Lowetide: Early roster rumblings as Oilers open training camp
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers training camp: Forecasting the big roster battles
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s world juniors work offers clues about Oilers future
OILERS IN MONTH NO. 1
- Oilers in October 2015: 2-4-0, goal differential -4
- Oilers in October 2016: 5-1-0, goal differential +7
- Oilers in October 2017: 2-4-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2018: 3-3-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers in October 2019: 5-1-0, goal differential +6
- Oilers in Month 1 2021: 2-4-0, goal differential -5
At this point, I would suggest to you that the Oilers record placed against the team’s own past means making the playoffs is less than 50 percent. It’s a short season, Edmonton has already played one of the two bottom feeders (Vancouver) and managed only a split. The team is going through a tough time, including playing one goalie over and over and over again, a third and fourth line who are kind of a drag, and some special teams wobble. I think they make the playoffs.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MONTH NO. 1
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected: 1-1-0)(Actual 0-2-0)
- On the road to: Toronto, Toronto, Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-2-1) (Actual 1-1-0)
- At home to: Toronto, Toronto, Ottawa (Expected 2-1-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-5-1, 11 points in 11 games
- Current results: 2-4-0, 4 points after six games
I had the Oilers posting 11 points in 11 games, if they run even with my prediction now through the end of the month Edmonton finishes 4-6-1, nine points in 11 games. They’ll finish January in fifth place, two or three points out of the playoffs. This is not a tragedy, but the team will need to improve.
LINES LAST NIGHT
- Nuge-McDavid-Kassian played 14:16, 9-4 shots, 1-0 goals, 4-2 HDSC and 12-7 Corsi for five on five (Natural Stat Trick). These are great numbers, McDavid had five HDSC and Nuge 1. The line had 10 shots five on five, but Kassian had but one. He was pulled from the line late, we’ll see if it was a short-term demotion on Sunday in Winnipeg. McDavid was incredible, I’d rate this as his second best game of the year (Game 2).
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto played 14:04, 2-6 shots, no goals, 0-1 HDSC, 9-19 Corsi for five on five. The goal was shorthanded and the even strength play was not strong. The line had numerous good looks in the first period but couldn’t get it done five on five. Yamamoto was a demon on the forecheck, an example being the shortie by Draisaitl where KY started the sequence with good old pursuit and determination. Kahun is a smart player and he’s going to cash soon.
- Ennis-Turris-Puljujarvi played 7:34, 3-3 shots, no goals, 1-0 HDSC and 6-6 Corsi for five on five. Ennis had the high danger scoring chance, the line played their opponents straight up and for the third game in a row didn’t give up a five on five goal. That’a great trend. Turris took a penalty, and he’s quiet offensively. If he goes one more game (making it seven) with no points, I’m going to call him ‘the ghost of Jean-Francois Jacques’ as he’ll match JFJ’s first season in the NHL (7, 0-0-0).
- Neal-Shore-Archibald played 4:54, 0-3 shots, 0-1 goals, no HDSC and 2-3 Corsi for five on five. The goal against at five on five was real Keystone Cops stuff, Archibald couldn’t move the puck up the wall, Larsson got intercepted but Neal and Shore heard the same dog whistle and were long gone like a pair of tugboats heading for open water. Back at base Koekkoek performed Swan Lake through the slot as a warmup act for the Toronto goal. Shiza that was stunning.
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi played 2:30, 4-0 shots, no goals, 1-0 HDSC and 8-0 Corsi for five on five. It was impressive. Now, don’t get mad if we don’t see this Sunday or for a month of Sundays. It’s happening naturally and no one is pushing the big Finn. One day, we’ll make a list of all the kids who didn’t get their 2:30 with the big line on a Friday night in the big smoke, age 22.
PAIRINGS AND GOALIE, LAST NIGHT
- Nurse-Bear played 17:22, 8-5 shots, 1-0 goals, 3-2 HDSC and 12-10 Corsi for five on five. Bear got the assist, passed the puck and battled. Toronto’s forwards constantly tried chipping it past Bear and then attempt to beat him to the puck, suggesting to me Bear’s footspeed may be seen as an exploitable weakness. I thought he did well, but something to keep in mind as these ‘every second day’ games keep wearing down the blue. Nurse skated miles, played 24 minutes. Good pairing.
- Russell-Barrie played 16:23, 4-8 shots, no goals, 0-2 HDSC and 12-19 Corsi for five on five. Russell turned the puck over that led directly to the Toronto zone entry that would eventually force the Shore penalty, and the late PP goal by Tavares (game winner). Barrie played over 25 minutes, leading the team, but I don’t think he got enough accomplished to warrant the time. He is plodding on the five on five, Edmonton needs him to make quicker decisions.
- Koekkoek-Larsson had some tough times, notably the second Toronto goal where Larsson had two chances to clear the puck out and didn’t get it done. Played 9:06, 3-3 shots, 0-1 goals, 2-0 HDSC and 7-8 HDCS. Now, I will tell you this is a good line for what was clearly the third pairing on this night. I know the goal looks bad, but (those who are veterans of this blog know what’s coming) single events can have enormous impact while also being single events. Both are good NHL defensemen. That was not a good play. Two of the forwards left the zone like they were marching in the May Day parade at the Kremlin, but the defense always gets the firing squad.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 25 of 28, .893 and I thought he played well enough to give his team a chance to win. Again.
When I was young, I would listen to the radio late into the night. 2-3 in the morning. America had super stations back then, KOMO in Seattle, KSL in Salt Lake, KOA Denver, others. Their late night shows were incredible talk shows, guys who were way out there and who had strong followings. That’s where I found Larry King, I believe on the Mutual broadcasting network. He was engaging, funny, and willing to talk about damn near anything. I loved his show. He went on to become a suspenders legend on CNN, had a fantastic cameo in a movie about bees, and he was married eight times to seven women. He was a reason I got into radio, and I’m sad to see him pass. He lived a long and interesting life, and surely earned the Paul Anka nod (My Way). Rest in peace, Larry King.
The 2016 draft gets weirder by the day. The Winnipeg Jets traded Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois has (and can) played against elites in the past (Puck IQ), but didn’t do it much in 2019-20. I imagine the Jets will have him on a feature line soon. Laine (again Puck IQ) has played substantial minutes against elites in each of his four seasons and has bled each time. Jack Roslovic is a really good young player, the third-round pick gives the deal an hfboards kind of feel. I love these big trades! I also suspect both general managers got something they love from a situation that had reached a point of no return. Don’t sleep on Roslovic. He could be a very good NHL player for a long time.