The game starts at 5:30 tonight, I expect we’ll know Edmonton’s fate by 6pm local time. If the Oilers have no answers for the stack ’em and rack ’em at the blue line Jets, expect frustrated faces on the Oilers bench and another 1-0 or 2-1 game.
Sometimes your eyes tell you what you want to see, but I thought Connor McDavid started to push the river by the second period of Game Two. After feeling his way into the series during the first four periods, 97 looked more like himself. If my lyin’ eyes are telling the truth, this should be a fun evening for Oilers fans.
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’s the latest!
- New Lowetide: The 5 biggest stories from the Bakersfield Condors’ 2020-21 season
- New DNB: Oilers running out of answers to solve offensive woes
- New Jonathan Willis: Mike Smith great, Connor McDavid pointless as Edmonton digs a hole
- New DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi’s return to Finland primed him for Oilers success
- Lowetide: The seeds of Oilers’ 2015 orientation camp forms heart of current team
- DNB: ‘We need to bear down’: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl can’t carry the Oilers, going scoreless in Game 1 loss
- Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi scores, Leon Draisaitl thrives and Edmonton falls in Game 1 vs. the Jets
- DNB: Darnell Nurse is on ‘another level’
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi has arrived for the Oilers — again
- Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers need to do to beat the Jets
- Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report card: A regular season to remember
- New DNB: ‘The biggest transformation I’ve ever seen in an elite player’: How Connor McDavid took the next step
- New DNB: Are the Oilers botching Evan Bouchard’s development?
- New DNB: What Leon Draisaitl learned in Bakersfield
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson contract talks give us a glimpse into Oilers’ offseason plans
- Lowetide: Ideal Edmonton Oilers lines and pairings for the 2021 NHL playoffs
- Jonathan Willis:Oilers’ Mike Smith is putting himself in the all-time old-guy goalie conversation with a stunning season at 38
- DNB:What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
I have been watching the Toronto Maple Leafs with interest since Kyle Dubas took over as GM in May of 2018, and especially since Sheldon Keefe was announced as coach in November 2019. Why?
The NHL is a copycat league. The team that wins the Stanley this year will set the tone for summer shopping. The teams with the best chance to win this season (Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes) are strong on analytics and a pile of teams in the middle are also paying attention. It hasn’t moved the analytics needle here.
In parts of Canada, like Edmonton, it’s still knit one, purl two. The only way that changes in Edmonton, in my opinion, is for a Canadian team that has an analytics department to win Stanley. That may pressure change.
Edmonton’s bottom-six has been a black hole for a long time. One of the reasons it is currently a mess is the devotion to special teams. James Neal and Alex Chiasson are the PP options from the third and fourth lines, and pretty much all the rest are PK men. It means the five on five scoring gets a little lost. Here are the five on five points per 60 totals for the line Tippett deployed in Game One against Winnipeg:
- Kahun (1.22); McDavid (3.58); Puljujarvi (1.53)
- Nuge (1.15); Draisaitl (2.64); Yamamoto (1.28)
- Neal (1.44); McLeod (0.56); Kassian (0.97)
- Archibald (0.85); Khaira (1.67); Chiasson (1.29)
Main PK men are Archibald (2:10), Khaira (1:57), Nuge (1:54) and McLeod (1:05). Tyler Ennis (1.54 pts-60 five on five) would be a more substantial winger offensively, but half of the bottom six forward group PK and two more are on the PP. Kassian could be replaced but my guess is another PK man like Devin Shore or Gaetan Haas draw in over Ennis. Now, Toronto:
- Hyman (2.14); Matthews (3.05); Marner (3.07)
- Foligno (2.08); Tavares (2.22); Nylander (2.31)
- Thornton (1.53); Spezza (3.11); Simmonds (0.95)
- Kerfoot (1.63); R Nash (0.87); Mikheyev (1.29)
PK men are Hyman, Marner, Mikheyev, Kerfoot and now Foligno. I imagine Nash will draw in, too. The fourth-line totals are comparable, but Toronto has a major edge on the third line (and three skill wingers Edmonton can’t match).
Put another way, here’s a quick comparison using Edmonton’s centers and Toronto’s pivots five on five goal differentials:
- McDavid (64-48, +16); Matthews (54-29, +25)
- Draisaitl (55-33, +22); Tavares (37-28, +9)
- Khaira/Turris (21-33, -12); Kerfoot (23-22, +1)
- Haas/McLeod (8-15, -7); Spezza (24-19, +5)
I understand no Oilers fan is going to cheer for the TML. Believe me, I understand. But if you consider the amount of talent on Toronto’s roster, and how Edmonton populates the bottom-six forwards, it’s a gap analytics could identify in about three minutes.
I’m not anti-Holland, nor anti-Tippett. However, without a strong analytics department, not just gathering but most important identifying the way forward, the Oilers are a 1975 furniture store. The big decision is what colour they should choose for the delivery van, when the biggest question is should they pursue Blake Coleman or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in free agency.
Tyler Ennis sits, Zack Kassian plays. Whatever Dave Tippett is looking at today, it’s the wrong information. The Oilers are “going the wrong way” in the same way as John Candy and Steve Martin were in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
“How does he know which way we’re going?” Martin famously asked. Finally we have the answer. Kassian in over Ennis, and if they do pull Kassian expect Shore or Haas.
The Oilers need help. Perhaps Toronto does them a favour.