The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have been going in different directions since Valentine’s Day. On February 14, Edmonton was 9-7-0 (18 points) and had a three point lead on the Flames (7-6-1, 15 points) but two games in hand.
Since then, the Oilers have delivered a scorching 16-7-2 record (34 points in 25 games); Calgary 9-15-2 (20 points) and have a game in hand. For this season, it’s all over but the trade deadline.
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: What would the Oilers sacrifice if they traded their 2021 first-round pick?
- DNB: A year without Colby Cave
- DNB: To play them together or not? 97 and 29
- Lowetide: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- DNB: Q&A: Oilers GM Ken Holland on trade deadline needs
- Lowetide: Evan Bouchard’s season of inactivity — what is the risk for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Oilers futures watch — how new arrivals are making an impact at AHL Bakersfield
- New DNB: What I’m hearing about the Oilers ahead of the trade deadline
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ big decision on defence — Caleb Jones or William Lagesson?
- Jonathan Willis: Finding the ideal centre for the Oilers at the trade deadline
- Lowetide: Oilers March report card
- Jonathan Willis: Who says no? NHL execs evaluate your Oilers trade proposals
- Lowetide: How the Oilers could benefit at the trade deadline from relaxed quarantine rules
- Lowetide: Every major transaction Ken Holland has made as Oilers GM
- Jonathan Willis: Five questions the Oilers need to answer by the NHL trade deadline
- Lowetide: Where does Zack Kassian fit on the Oilers, now and in the future?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ midseason depth chart informs their needs for trade deadline and beyond
- Jonathan Willis: A position-by-position look at the Oilers after 30 games
- Lowetide: How will Oilers GM Ken Holland make room in the lineup for Evan Bouchard?
- Lowetide: Are the Oilers and Elvis Merzlikins a trade match?
- Lowetide: Why Oilers GM Ken Holland shouldn’t wait for the deadline to make a trade
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
- Lowetide: Why are some Oilers fans hesitant to give Darnell Nurse his due?
- Lowetide: Top trade targets for the Oilers at the 2021 deadline
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers 2021 trade value rankings
- Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
OILERS AFTER 42 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 17-22-3, 37 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2016-17: 21-14-7, 49 points; goal differential +5
- Oilers in 2017-18: 18-21-3, 39 points; goal differential -21
- Oilers in 2018-19: 20-19-3, 43 points; goal differential -6
- Oilers in 2019-20: 21-17-4, 46 points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in 2020-21: 25-14-2, 52 points; goal differential +15
I think the strength this team has shown will compel general manager Ken Holland to add something, no idea what it might be. I don’t know what he’ll address. More worrisome, no one knows what will spring a leak after the deadline.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN APRIL
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Ottawa, Ottawa, Calgary (Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 2-0-1)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver (make up game) (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected April record: 8-4-0, 16 points in 12 games
- Actual April record: 3-0-1, 7 points in 4 games
I expect a physical game by Calgary tonight, lots of effort and Edmonton will earn the two points should they land on the Oilers side of the ledger. Blowout? I don’t think so.
POSSIBLE LINEUP TONIGHT
- Draisaitl [2.82]; McDavid [3.09]; Puljujarvi [1.12]
- Shore [1.45]; Khaira [2.25]; Archibald [0.92]
- Kahun [1.31]; Turris [1.16]; Yamamoto [1.60]
- Kassian [1.10]; Haas [0.78]; Chiasson [1.09]
This is five on five pts-60 and the lines Dave Tippett ran in the third period against Ottawa. If the decision to keep 97-29 together holds, then I think this is probably the best possible arrangement. If they split the big men, I’ll be fascinated to see who runs on LW on the top two lines.
- Nurse [49.80]; Barrie [48.34]
- Russell [45.77]; Larsson [45.05]
- Jones [53.72]; Bear [52.76]
This is five on five shot differential and the Oilers have been going the wrong way for some time. From February 1 to March 15, Nurse (52.14) and Barrie (53.32) posted strong shot totals but things have gone awry in the last few weeks. For the season, the Russell-Larsson pairing have a 44 percent shot differential and are 6-7 goals. Jones-Bear has good possession numbers and are 1-3 goals in 100 minutes. I’d like to see Jones-Larsson and Russell-Bear for a stretch.
Lavoie (now No. 50) scored his first AHL goal in his third game last night, it was a nice goal. Max Gildon is worth trading for, he’s excellent with the puck and has a real presence. Markus Nielemainen got hurt early. Ryan McLeod owns the puck for long stretches, even on nights when he doesn’t score.
FIRST 40 GAMES AS A REGULAR
I don’t write about it much anymore, but have always believed NHL teams owe a full shot to their legit prospects. I used to say “teams need to give prospects 500 at-bats” which is a full season, but the nature of the NHL today is 250 at-bats might be all the coach can afford. Here are Edmonton’s legit forward prospects since Sam Gagner, and the two latest entries ranked alongside the last 14 seasons. Not all of these are rookie seasons, I’m listing the first year a player was given a full chance as an actual regular:
- Connor McDavid 2015-16: 40, 14-29-43
- Leon Draisaitl 2015-16: 40, 12-25-37
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2011-12: 40, 13-22-35
- Jordan Eberle 2010-11: 40, 9-16-25
- Taylor Hall 2010-11: 40, 12-11-23
- Nail Yakupov 2012-13: 40, 10-13-23
- Linus Omark 2010-11: 40, 3-16-19
- Kailer Yamamoto 2020-21: 39, 8-10-18
- Sam Gagner 2007-08: 40, 3-13-16
- Jesse Puljujarvi 2020-21: 40, 9-6-15
- Jujhar Khaira 2017-18: 40, 8-7-15
- Magnus Paajarvi 2010-11: 40, 4-11-15
This a wildly unfair list of course, most of the names were either No. 1 overall or top 5 picks. That said, both emerging RW’s will need to find ways to pump their offensive totals in order to remain on a skill line. One final question: Why couldn’t the Oilers make it work with Yakupov and Omark? I know both men lacked a complete skill set, but a more mature club would have found a way. I believe that to be true. You can’t just let offense walk, it’s too valuable.