With the calendar now having turned to March, the Oilers are now entering month five of irrelevance as far as the Western Conference playoff picture is concerned. They will once again be in the running for the top overall pick, depending on how the lottery balls bounce. But in their only visit to the United Center this year, the Hawks can ill afford any pity on even such a revoltingly piteous group as the Oilers.
This past off season the Oilers were finally thought to be joining the 21st century of hockey by hiring Tyler Dellow in their front office and signing two more analytic darlings in Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne to multi-year deals. All three have been disastrous failures, with Dellow’s in particular being the most hilarious. Not that anyone in the statistical community would ever acknowledge it, as the excuses were built in. If by some miracle the Oilers had turned the ship around, it would all be attributed to Dellow’s infuence in the front office. Since they obviously have not, it’s been the endemic ineptitude and the cultre of the Oilers that are to blame for the lack of the analytics movement not helping matters, and surely Dellow has been prevented from doing all that he wanted to do. That’s not to say that his writing prior to joining the team was completely specious, but being the prick he’s generally shown himself to be under the moniker of mc79hockey both on social media and on his blog certainly lessens the impact of it (speaking from experience). Worse still have been the countless acolytes he has spawned, all cluttering an already cluttered field of hockey analysis with completely made up statistics with zero context or explanation to go with them, all in the hopes of getting hired by a team (*cough* Steve Burtch *cough*).
As for matters on the ice, things remain the same as they have for the last 5 years and running for the Oilers. They’re top heavy with talented forwards with first round pedigree, and have a comical defense with no positioning whatsoever playing in front of below replacement-level goaltending. That there were rumbings of trading franchise cornerstone Taylor Hall earlier this year shows just how out of touch the organization is, because if there’s one horse that they shouldn’t let leave the barn it’s Hall. Hall’s numbers might be way down this year (only 30 points in 42 games after 80 points last year), but he’s really only the only forward that’s been shown to be able to carry any kind of load in scoring despite all of the first round promise elsewhere. Nail Yakupov is at least avoiding getting healthy scratched this year, which is a step up for him, but has been better of late even if the stats don’t reflect it.
With the Oilers sole possession driver from the blue line now gone in Jeff Petry, the less said about the Oilers defensemen the better. The same goes for the goaltending situation, with none of the three men who have seen time in the crease this year (Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, Richard Bachman) even sporting a .900 overall save percentage.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the world will get its first look at Andrew Desjardins not only in a Hawks uniform (sadly not wearing #69), but also on the third line, a place where he never, ever played with San Jose, a team whose bottom six has Mike Brown, Adam Burish, and John Scott. And this is in favor of Teuvo, who had one of his more active games on Monday against Carolina. Yes, it’s the Oilers and it shouldn’t make a difference, but this is Quenneville at his absolute Quennevilliest.
Neither Johnny Oduya or Trevor Van Riemsdyk are ready for game action yet, so look for the pairings to remain the same, with each one containing a safety net for a riskier partner. Expect a sharper performance out of Kimmo Timonen, who only had a couple yips on Monday and should be afforded every opportunity to iron his game out after not skating for nearly a year. Corey Crawford gets the start because it’s now March and one of the tenets of Quennevilleism is to yank a goalie’s crank with odd spot starts for a backup until giving the #1 all of the action during the home stretch.
Last night the Metro division did the Hawks a solid by giving both the Preds and Blues regulation losses. A win tonight puts the Hawks two points back of St. Louis and six back of Nashville with 16 to play, neither of which are insurmountable. And with Minnesota in the middle of an extreme regression to their mean, wasting points like this as the Hawks did with Phoenix would be folly. Take advantage of the schedule. Let’s go Hawks.