Everything Else

To try and add to this would be the definition of overwriting, overthinking, overdoing the story, but that’s what we do around here.

Ever since the rumors started over the weekend that the Oilers brass has backed up an armored truck or six to the door of Ken Holland, and then it came to fruition, I’ve hardly been able to contain my glee. The Oilers evolution has moved from simply trying to cash in on the names of the past from their own organization to cashing in on the names of the past from other organizations. Resumes don’t matter as much as name recognition, and as long as the accomplishments on said resumes are at least 10 years in the past. It’s just so perfect. “Well, we tried hiring our famous alumni, so let’s try hiring someone else’s! That’s the ticket”

To be fair to Ken Holland and what awaits him, there is just about nothing anyone could do here. They have something like $13M in cap space, and need like, six wingers and three d-men. And a goalie. And that number could go down if they re-sign Jesse Puljujarvi, which they kind of need to because they can get him cheap. But things may already be broken between him and the team.

So essentially what the Oilers need, or needed now, is a GM who can be creative and unearth some real gems for real cheap. See things that others wouldn’t. They need this to extricate themselves from the mess their last GM put them in. Which is exactly the kind of mess Ken Holland created in the place the Wings brought in Steve Yzerman to Jazzy Jeff him out of.

Contracts to Andrej Sekera and Milan Lucic don’t look all that different than the ones given to Trevor Daley or Frans Nielsen. Again, to be fair to Holland, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Anathasiou, and Filip Hronek were found with mid-first round or later-round picks, and that’s going to be vital for the Oilers. If he can do that again, maybe two years down the road things will start to be ok.

But you wouldn’t bet on that, because Holland didn’t pick enough of them (until maybe recently) to keep the Wings from being also-rans for the last five years. It’s just so Oilers. A team that thinks its name still carries the most weight in the league and anyone associated with it receives gloss from that simply by being around goes for the only name outside the organization they recognize. Holland was never able to produce another batch of players after his first one, which he may have just stumbled upon anyway. That’s a common affliction in hockey circles, of course. We’re seeing it here with the Hawks, whose current regime was handed the core that produced three Cups and has struggled to feed the the production line behind it. Same for the Kings. The Penguins had to find a new GM to create a second reign.

The Oilers await their first wave, though. What they needed was an outside-the-box thinker, not someone who says, “Thomas Vanek could help.” Someone who can find a way to get out from under a bad contract or two and fleece another GM for a piece or two. Find another Mathieu Perreault or Nino Neiderreiter, a player who is highly effective, not expensive, and probably not rated by their team. What was the last trade Holland won? What was the last signing that portended to any kind of vision?

But vision isn’t what the Oilers do. Seeking headlines is, as well as perhaps satiating their ravenous press corps. Holland is a name everyone knows, he won a Cup or two once upon a time, and that’s all the research the Oilers did. “This will buy us some time,” had to be the overriding thinking.

It’s hard to think of another player the level of Connor McDavid who’s going to see his career chucked down the incinerator by his organization’s incompetence. There was the first batch of LeBron’s, but he was wise enough to fuck off before his prime went away. Mike Trout comes to mind, as the Angels scramble for shore or dock dragging around Albert Pujols and previous mistakes. That’s probably as close as you get, and they’ve each only seen the playoffs once.

At least Trout has the Southern California sunshine to bask in, and the thought that his team is actually trying. How McJesus would love anything on par with Shohei Ohtani. McDavid just as early sunsets and a biting wind, the emptiness between the ears of his bosses.

It would be sad if it weren’t so funny.

Everything Else

Piggybacking off our look at Patrick Kane’s season, it’s always fun to see how scoring has jumped up in the league this year. By now you know this, but let’s add some detail to it.

Last year, only three players broke 100 points, topping out with Connor McDavid’s 108. This year, nine players are on track to hit the century mark. As we discussed with Kane, he and Kucherov are on the way to over 110 points, No one’s cracked that since Henrik Sedin in 2010 (which totally went well for him after that). Last year, no one topped 50 goals. This year, five guys have a chance at it, with Ovechkin and Kane being almost locks and Skinner, Draisaitl, and Point having a chance if they get on their horse.

Everyone would love to know the reason, and it seems pretty obvious. But follow my work and we’ll get there in the end. Where I’m kind of fascinated is that there are 13 players this season who have played over 30 games that are shooting over 20%. Last year there were four. So you see where this going.

The league-save percentage has dropped from .912 last year to .908 this year, which is the biggest drop seen since the season before and after the lockout. But as we know, back then there was a 30% increase in power plays, which led to a lower SV% simply because teams were killing off nearly six penalties per game (what?!). This year has actually seen a decrease in power play opportunities per team, from 3.04 last year to 3.03 this year. There’s basically no difference.

Which is why we don’t see a huge spike in power play production. Ok, Kucherov is in a class by himself with 39 power play points already, with the next highest total being 31. Last year, two players finished with more than 40 power play points (Kessel and Wheeler). Kucherov is obviously going to do so unless he has a stroke (and even then), and beyond that really only his teammates Stamkos and Point have a good shot at coming along for the ride.

So it seems most of the improvement is at evens. Last year, McDavid led the league in ES points with 84, and no one else had more than 66 (yeah ok he probably should have won the Hart again, huh?). This year, McDavid, Kane, and Kucherov are averaging just about an even-strength point per game, and a further four are on track to score more than 70 even-strength points per game.

So basically the argument comes down to whether it’s the new goalie pads leading to more holes for the league’s best snipers to find, or the crack down on slashing to open up more space and make it easier for players to get where they want to go. The fact that teams are averaging less shots per game this season than last (31.3 to 31.8 last year) would lean it more toward the goalies. And the fact that attempts per team, and scoring chances per team are a shade/tick down from last year would point to that as well. However, high-danger chances per team have gone up from 10.6 per 60 to 10.9. It’s about a 3% rise.

Which doesn’t sound like a lot. Teams averaged 9-10 high-danger chances per game last year, which means getting another one this year just about every three games, which if you carry it out it is another four to five goals per season.

So yeah, it’s the pads. But hey, it’s fun!

 

Everything Else

It was worrisome for a minute, but then the Blackhawks remembered they were playing the Oilers, and their confidence that they weren’t the shittiest team in the league, or run by the biggest dumbasses in the league, or from the most miserable, cold location in the league managed to just overpower a confused Edmonton team, who also suddenly remembered they were the Oilers. By the end, all Run CMD could do was watch. To the bullets!

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Things started well enough but then the last half of the first period went to shit for the Hawks. They took four straight penalties, some of which overlapped leading to 5-on-3s, and Leon Draisaitl was having his way with the Hawks, scoring two goals in about two minutes, both on power plays. The defense looked generally lost, and in particular Seabrook got absolutely smoked by Connor McDavid. I know that’s not shocking and shouldn’t even be news, but in real time it was ugly to watch.

– Prior to the penalties and the Hawks basically falling to pieces for a while, our favorite beneficiary of the Fels Motherfuck, Erik Gustafsson, potted his 11th goal of the year and it came…wait for it…on the power play. We talked about it on the podcast last night, and I’m telling ‘ya, someone is going to take Gus for a real defenseman and if the Hawks play their cards right, they can cash in off the results of this motherfuck. We’ll be waiting by the phone for the kudos and our share of the spoils.

– But enough of all that—five goals in one period! If it had been against any other team I wouldn’t have believed it. But this is the Oilers, and despite Ty Rattie have a good night with three shots, Draisaitl scoring twice and Connor McDavid being Connor McDavid, it still wasn’t enough. And once the Hawks rattled them with Hayden’s goal, a fourth-line goal that was the result of a quick passing play from Marcus Kruger early in the third, the Hawks just kept scoring at will. In fact is was a DLR in the span of one period, and Ken Hitchcock had no idea how to help his team respond. Which is hilarious, except when you think about a generational talent being wasted on this shit organization.

– And I have to say, I’m bummed FOR McDavid. Sure, he makes a shitload of money and no, I’m not actually losing sleep or anything, but it’s hard to see a game like this, and records like what the Oilers have, while also seeing his capabilities and not rue the fact they’re being so blatantly wasted in this mis-managed and poorly coached dumpster fire of a team.

– But before it sounds like this was just another example of the Oilers fucking up royally, let me state for the record that the Hawks got their shit together and played better as soon as the second period started. They came back from the first intermission being on the PK but killed off the last of that string of penalties, and they bounced back from being underwater in possession in the first period to a 60 CF% for the second. The Kane-Toews-Caligula line in particular had a number of strong shifts in the offensive zone. Ward had a highlight reel save against Rattie to keep it 2-1. They played WELL during the second and just carried that into the third, which is when it translated into goals.

– The second line looked really good tonight as well. They only scored one goal (only! We can say only one because there were so many!), but they had a 67 CF% and had strong shifts all night. And not only did Dominik Kahun get an assist on Strome’s goal, he got one of his own in the barrage later in the third period.

– You know I love to complain about the defense, but get this: every Hawks defenseman had a 50 CF% or better, and as a team they only gave up 27 shots tonight. Despite the incident of McDavid lighting Seabrook on fire, and some early struggles during the bad half of the first, this was actually a relatively competent defensive effort. Is this the end of days?

So here we are talking about the Blackhawks being three points out of a playoff spot. Let that insanity sink in. To be completely honest, I don’t think this is actually a playoff team, and what we’re seeing is them benefiting from shitty opponents, a good power play, Patrick Kane, and a large dose of luck. But whatever, they’re on a hot streak right now and are beating the teams they should be beating. So I’m not going to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and let’s enjoy it while it lasts. Because it won’t last. Onward and upward!

Beer de Jour: Slalom King, Crystal Lake Brewing

Line of the Night: “The senior citizen behind the Oilers bench…” –Foley, attempting to throw shade at or be polite to Ken Hitchcock, I’m still not sure which…

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 20-24-9   Oilers 23-24-5

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: WGN

EdMo Dee: Oilers Nation

The Hawks conclude this post-break, three-game road trip in the NHL’s “Beyond The Wall,” the hellscape that is Edmonton, Alberta (I assume). And when I say hellscape, I really mean the team that you’ll find there. Though a city that cold can’t have that much going on, no matter how much oil money flows or freezes in the streets. I’m sure the Hawks will thank the schedule makers for a five-day trip that spans three timezones and a collective temperature of “go fuck yourself.”

You may have heard about the Oilers, Biggest laughingstock in the league, despite having two more points than the Hawks. If the Hawks were to win tonight most Oilers fans would take being level on points with them as rock-bottom, just to give you a clear vision of what the Hawks are right now. Have the best player in the league as well, these Oilers. Can’t seem to make that count. Recently fired their addled GM two years too late. Now everyone is waiting with giddy excitement to see what drunken, near-sighted clown they hire next. He’ll almost assuredly have played on the Oilers in the 80s, because the one time they tried not to do that they ended up with Peter Chiarelli and his bent vision of reality, which basically involved whatever signing caused him to grab his groin aggressively. So clearly they have to go back to what didn’t work before. God bless this organization.

On the ice, the Oilers have center-depth and literally nothing else. Run CMD, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are by far their three leading scorers, and at various times this season have played with each other. Now they’re all back at their natural center positions, but when you look at what surrounds them it’s enough to make your food turn septic in your digestive track.

Milan Lucic is “skating” with McDavid, except you can’t call what Lucic does skating anymore so much as “thrashing about as the air currents push him ever so slightly.” Alex Chiasson is a second-line winger. Jujhar Khaira and Zack Kassian are somehow on a NHL third-line together instead of loading up on Skittles at a truck-stop somewhere during an AHL bus ride. “Putrid” doesn’t even come close to starting to describe this, and now you know why they are where they are. They’ve broken Jesse Puljujarvi, if he was anything to begin with, and he’s skating with Kyle Brodziak and Brad Malone in a chilling vision of what the future as a tomato can will look like.

It’s not any better on the back end. This is a team that traded FOR Brandon Manning, remember. And he plays. Adam Larsson is parading around the top pairing with a Kings castoff. Darnell Nurse will occasionally flash the modern-Pronger bit we thought he was destined for, and then remembers he’s spent almost all of his career with Kris Russell and retreats into sadness done in blue and orange again. Andrej Sekera wanders the arena looking for whatever fell off of him this week. It’s bleak.

And when the Oilers have threatened to be good in the past, it was because Cam And Magic Talbot could bail them out. He hasn’t this year, and this is where they are. They’re trusting Mikko Koskinen, a 30-year-old whose flights got crossed up and ended up signing here from the KHL rather than try and figure out how to rebook. In Chiarelli’s final act of lunacy, he re-signed Koskinen for three years to kind of just stand there, which is what he does. But his .908 is better than Talbot’s .893.

The Oilers tried to salvage this by hiring Ken Hitchcock midseason, because his track record of success is so blaring over the past 12 years. They’ve gone 14-14-4 with Hitch, a massive improvement over the 9-10-1 they managed with Todd McLellan. You know it’s bad when Hitch is longing for Jay Bouwmeester and Alex OrangeJello again. He gave up his Civil War reading for this?

This is maybe the biggest mess in the league, and whatever stooge they install as GM is going to find it nearly impossible to extricate. There’s barely any money coming off the books in the summer, really only Talbot’s $4M+ hit. And this team has no wingers. Lucic is in Seabrook territory at this point, and Kris Russell isn’t far behind. That is if the Oilers were inclined to move Russell, but they still seem oddly infatuated with him, mostly to sneer at most of the hockey world pointing out he sucks.

And really, that’s all the Oilers have been for nearly three decades now. Most of the hockey world has been pointing out they suck since 1991, and they still point and gloat about five Cups won before most of you could form a sentence. They’re convinced that run that started 35 years ago still makes them ahead of the game and won’t hear otherwise. This organization has accomplished exactly dick since their glory days, save one goofed Final appearance the first year of the lockout when nothing made sense and is something Chris Pronger clearly erased from his memory (the Blues traded him for Eric Brewer, by the way. Take a moment to think about that).

Anyway, tonight’s challenge is simple enough. Hitch will throw McDavid out against Keith and Seabrook as often as he can, unless he still thinks it’s 2013, and he might. Failing that, Forsling and Gustafsson will be similarly tortured. If the Hawks can somehow keep McJesus on a leash, they should have a good chance at this one. The Oilers recently gave up four power play goals in a game, so the Hawks’ PP should barely be able to keep from slobbering when they get their chance.

As for the Hawks, no word yet on who starts but one would hope Delia gets wheeled back out there. Ward’s had two decent starts in a row though and we know Coach Cool Youth Pastor will shit himself if he has to tell any veteran other than Chris Kunitz anything bad, so you never know. Perlini should stay in ahead of Kunitz, but that’s about it.

As we said at the weekend, the schedule is pretty shitty now, so if the Hawks are insistent on chasing playoff spots that don’t really matter, this is where they’ll make their run. With the Canucks and Wings at home next, they could actually put together a substantial winning streak. Then again, this is just about the same outfit that got worked by the Wings at home last year. The Hawks have lost to the Oilers twice already this season, but hey, they’re both under .500 so maybe they’re not good enough to beat anyone three times.

We’re in this together.

 

Game #54 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Matt Henderson is one of the writers at Oilersnation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @archaeologuy. 

So the Oilers finally got around to firing Peter Chiarelli. Is there genuine hope now? Or is the fear he may have broken this thing beyond repair? What can a new GM conceivably do immediately?
Hope is hard to kill and the Oilers still have McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, and Klefbom. It’s not many pieces, but the high end talent is there. I don’t think the team is broken beyond repair, however, it’s going to take a lot of work to remove the anchors that Chia added. Russell and Lucic make up $10M on the Cap and they’re 3rd pairing/line quality at best. The new GM needs to start finding reasonable talent on the wings and a right shot defender to keep Bouchard pushed down the order.
Did Cam Talbot simply die of exhaustion?
I wish I could reasonably explain goalies. They’re weird. I don’t think it’s exhaustion. At least not from playing. His twins were born and his game disappeared. My guess is the changes to his life have more to do with the erosion of his play than because he played too many games. It’s jut a guess though. Goalies are Voodoo.
We always ask about him, because we were fascinated by what he could be, but what has Darnell Nurse looked like under Ken Hitchcock? Is he just never going to be the world-altering beast we thought?
I don’t think he’ll be a world altering beast, but he’s played reasonably well under Hitchcock. Because Klefbom has been hurt it’s forced him into the PP and he’s been picking up points at a solid rate. He has better tools than a lot of players. He’s a plus skater and has a mean streak. I think he’ll be a great 2nd pairing defender. I don’t think that’s a knock on him. If he wants to take the next step he needs to keep working on his outlet passing. He usually skates it out but if the passing improves he could unlock that next level.
What’s the deal with Jesse Puljujarvi? The Oilers seem intent on keeping him in the AHL but Oilers fans tend to think he’s getting screwed a bit. 
I’m a big Jesse Puljujarvi fan. He’s a bit like Nurse in that he has unreal physical tools. The Oilers unquestionably screwed up with his development. He never should have seen regular NHL time until this season but the Oilers started the clock on his ELC and his UFA status when he was 18. He ought to have been in the AHL playing 18-22 minutes a night in a top line role learning how to be an offensive difference maker in North America. He has some bad habits that need to be fixed like shooting from way too far out on the rush, but he also has solid defensive awareness. I can’t tell you what his ceiling is anymore, but I think he can still turn into a solid top-six winger.
How does this all play out? Do the Oilers make a deal at the deadline and make the playoffs? Or just more a mess?
Anything can happen, but I fail to see how this team makes the playoffs. If they are trading at the deadline it should be as sellers. If they can move salary from next year out while keeping that small core intact then that’s a huge plus. This team is closer to Jack Hughes than they are being a legit playoff team. If that changes then something miraculous happened.

 

Game #54 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

This is one of the absolute strangest games to try to recap. The Hawks played pretty bad but the numbers don’t seem to bear it out. Let’s dig in.

– So, the Hawks CF on the night was 50.53%, which bears out a pretty evenly played game. But if you click that Natural Stat Trick link above and find the game flow chart, you’ll see that it took until the Hawks were down 4-1 for them to even start making substantial progress on bringing this back to even. Folks, we call that score effects. This was a piss poor performance from the start and they got shitbrained by a team that realistically shouldn’t be that much better than them. That’s bad.

Cam Ward is a huge reason why the game went south so quickly, but it clearly couldn’t all be hung on him. He was awful in net, but that only compounded the problems – it might not have mattered as much how bad he was playing if it weren’t for the fact that the Hawks were playing like dog shit in front of him. Still, we knew that Ward was a bad signing when it happened, it’s continued to show as a bad signing since, and tonight was one of his worst games of the year. Luckily there are only 34 games left, and he probably will play less than half of them. So we have that going for us!

Slater Koekkoek is awful. I don’t even need to see more of him to reach that conclusion. The numbers showed it before he got here, and it just took one night of watching him before we saw it. I don’t even give a shit that he had a 60% CF at 5v5. I don’t want him around.

Patrick Kane is so wasted on this fucking team. He’s arguably the most wasted player in the NHL, and that says something considering Connor McDavid is still stranded in freakin’ Edmonton. But it’s clear that Kane is still one of the top-5 players in the game, and as Sam wrote last week he might be having his best season ever, and yet he’s wasted on this team that is approaching the inarguable status as the worst team in the league. Eat at Arby’s.

Everything Else

Something I like to do at the landmarks of every season. Most of these are the players that should win certain awards on analytic bases. But they probably won’t. And remember, the “quarter-pole” is when there’s a quarter of the race or season left, and you’ll hear plenty make this mistake. Including Pat Foley on Sunday night, which should never happen considering who is broadcast partner is. Anyway…

Hart Trophy – MVP: Conor McDavid or Patrice Bergeron

The problem with MVP debates in every sport in this country is that they split between “Player Of The Year” candidates, which is what the award should be, and some nebulous, indefinable “What This Player Means To His Team” connotation. And no one is going to hear the other side, and I’m one of them. As it seems to me, “most valuable” means “has the most value,” it’s simple. And you’ll never be able to define what would happen if you remove a player from a team without any doubt. Call me a lunatic, but removing the best player from any team is probably going to irreparably damage it.

Anyway, Connor McDavid is the best player in the league. So you don’t have to overthink it. Yes, a section of Avalanche fans (ones with names like “Anthrax”) are going to come running with weaponry in hand about Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, who should have won it last year. They have each other and Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog. McDavid has been playing with Nugent-Hopkins and a various sculptures made of boogers.

You could also give this to Patrice Bergeron, and it will be the only time you can as he’s going to miss the next month. The Bruins have half of a roster and are still near the top of the Atlantic because Bergeron has kept their one line humming. See what happens to Brad Marchand now.

Vezina – Best Goalie: Pekka Rinne

I don’t like it any more than you, but he’s been the best goalie. He’s got the best overall SV% of any starter, the best SV% at even-strength of any starter, and the best difference between his expected save-percentage and his actual save-percentage at evens. That’s a clean sweep.

Selke – Best Defensive Forward: Jonathan Marchessault

Ah, here’s where the fun begins. Normally, the Selke goes to whatever forward scores a lot and everyone knows wins a lot of draws, or it just goes to Patrice Bergeron. And Bergeron is never a wrong choice, but we can do better this year. If you’re looking for best defensive forward, then you want someone who keeps attempts down, keeps chances down, keeps scoring down. And Marchessault, and his linemates William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, are doing that better than anyone right now.

Marchessault leads all forwards in Corsi-against per 60, shots-against per 60, and expected goals-against per 60. Karlsson and Smith aren’t far behind him, so you can claim that’s all the line’s work. But any defensive forward is going to be hard to separate from the rest of his line. Marchessault is starting 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which is one of the lower marks in the league among forwards who have amassed 300 minutes of even-strength time. Anze Kopitar actually starts the least amount of shifts in the offensive zone, and his metrics aren’t that far behind Marchessault’s, so if you want to make a case for him I’d listen. Actually, I won’t, because Kings fans have spent so much time spilling out their bladders about how they get no award attention that they should all be punted into the ocean.

This award never goes to a winger though, otherwise Marian Hossa would have at least one. But if hockey voting is going to catch up to the rest of the world, it should. Marchessault is your clubhouse leader.

Norris Trophy – Best D-man: Justin Faulk

Yeah, that’s fucking right. I’m gonna hand this to a guy with just eight points. Because I’m fucking crazy. TALK TO ME WHN YOU’RE ON MY BLOCK.

The Norris suffers from a lack of definition as well. It almost always goes to the blue-liner who scores the most. And then there’s a nutcase faction that wants it to be the Rod Langway Award (James Mirtle’s term), which means figuring out who the best defensive defenseman is. And we can do that, but stick with me.

So you basically have to synthesize the two. A d-man’s job is over all 200 feet of the ice these days, so they have to be able to do both. And Faulk is doing it better than anyone.

Faulk has the league’s best Corsi-percentage and expected-goals percentage. He has the lowest Corsi, shots, and expected goals against per 60. While he plays on a possession monster of a team, he’s still well above the team-rate in all of this.

The knock is going to be the eight points. Fine. Faulk is shooting 1.7%, and he’s a career 6% shooter. That goals-total is going to shoot up. Faulk’s major problem is that his team is only shooting 6.8% while he’s on the ice, and given the lack of front-line scoring on the Canes, that might not improve that much to vault his assist totals to where anyone will notice him for this award.

But that’s out of Faulk’s hands. The things he can control, he’s dominated. And if we’re forward thinking and living in a world where Jacob deGrom wins a Cy Young with 10 wins and everyone is like, “Well of course he did because he was the best pitcher and the Mets are a Soviet era cartoon,” then we can do better with hockey’s awards.

 

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 6-4-3   Oilers 6-4-1

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THEY’RE STRANGELY LIT, TOO: None, Oilers blogosphere is fucking touched, man

I suppose the good thing about an NHL season is after you cough up a confused kitten one night against a dog-ass team there’s a chance to put it right the next night. Except now you’re tired and the other team isn’t and you’re throwing your backup goalie out there on the road. And even though you got a decent performance out of him last time against this very opposition, there’s only so many times you can hit on Cam Ward before you go bust (are we still doing phrasing?) Whatever, that’s the spot the Hawks find themselves in tonight as they traipse eastward from the coast to the oil-rich darkness of the northern half of Alberta.

I can’t add much to what Hess said last night, other than to echo the unacceptable nature of last night’s loss. That’s a team aching to be beat that they took the lead on twice, and you have to have that. And getting railroaded in the 3rd smacked of complacency, and whoever let this team think they were anywhere near good enough to be complacent at any point in a game needs to be hit with a large-mouth bass. Hopefully that point has been made clear to the players, or will be before they take the ice tonight.

We won’t get word until they show up if Patrick Kane is going to play, but knowing his nature if he’s able to stand and hasn’t vomited in the five minutes before warm-up he’s probably going to. If he doesn’t, look for the same lineup as last night with Chris Kunitz filling in on the second line and the accompanying feeling of helplessness in a cold and unforgiving world. If Kane does play, I would imagine Kampf gets the suit for the night, but could see Kruger or Hayden doing so as well.

Brandon Manning‘s “Battle Of The Network Stars” reenactment for the blind last night should result in him…well, it should have resulted in him being catapulted into the Pacific but short of that Jan Rutta could easily draw back in at his expense to pair with Brandon Davidson. EAT ARBY’S.

The Oilers come in on something of the same roll they were on when these two last debated various musical topics last Sunday, though in the interim they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Wild in Minnehaha. Even in that they tossed 37 shots at Devan Dubnyk and he did Dubnyk things, so they’re playing quite well. After being McDavid And The Pips for the season’s opening weeks, they’ve gotten a surge from Leon Draisaitl‘s line and a smattering of help from others. If they do that then they’re close to a decent team. McDavid will always make sure they don’t suck.

In Edmonton, you can be sure that Todd McLellan is going to keep McDavid far away from Jonathan Toews, who had him basically pocketed all of Sunday evening. At least until overtime, which doesn’t count anyway. The thought of Run CMD lining up across from any of Artem Anisimov or SuckBag Johnson is certainly enough for your discounted Halloween candy to come rushing back out the way it came in in a state of panic. But this is how these things go. The reverse is if Toews can get to see Ryan Strome or Kyle Brodziak more often.

The Hawks closed the book on October, which they played at a 94-95-point pace for the season. That’s just about the minimum it’s going to be for a playoff spot, and that’s being awfully optimistic. As as fun as it was at times and the few signs of hope, the Hawks have to actually pick it up a bit. Not that they can avoid a mud-pit battle royale all season, but it’s a nice thought for now. They lost two points they should have had last night, so they need to start grabbing two points you wouldn’t count on them having beforehand. Maybe tonight isn’t that, but they do have ground to make up.

 

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Corsica

You would be hard pressed to find a sleepier affair that tonight’s contest. Yes, both teams played yesterday, and that always leaves you prone to a less than tip top affair. If this is where you want to make an argument that the NHL should take a page from the NBA and expand their calendar to lessen the amount of back-to-backs and three-in-fours, you’d have a pretty big piece of evidence right here. Neither the Oilers or the Hawks were on the top of their games, or even in hailing distance of said. It’ll be summed up as a goalie battle, but neither Cam And Magic Talbot And Yet Another Cam Ward were asked to perform any miracles in net. This one just came and went. The Hawks didn’t get the bonus point after this one predictably and haphazardly meandered to overtime. Hopefully it won’t matter in the long run.

Let’s get through it.

The Two Obs

-There isn’t much to conclude from this one. It started off encouragingly, before the puck even dropped, as Joel Quenneville scratched Jan Rutta and Chris Kunitz. Both have been basically terrible all season, and Rutta was particularly offensive last night in St. Louis. This sets the table for Gustav Forsling and eventually Connor Murphy to punt Rutta down to Rockford (no one’s taking him on waivers), and I can only wait for that day with bated breath.

-This one was such a snooze, there isn’t a lot to draw from it. The one thing I think is worth mentioning is that Jonathan Toews was matched with Connor McDavid all night, and he had Run CMD in his pocket (ignore the OT goal because 3-on-3 is a joke). Toews went for a 65% CF% against McDavid, and that simply doesn’t happen. We’re not far removed from Toews being unable to keep up with the newest crop of stars, and tonight he stared down perhaps the best one there is. That bodes well for the future when Toews has to see Mark Scheifele, Ryan Johansen, and Tyler Seguin on the reg.

-But other than that, the Hawks seemed pretty wary of leaving too much room for the Oilers, or at least the Oilers top six all night. We saw what happened with the Lightning, and though the Oilers couldn’t get to where the Bolts are in a $50 Uber, they contain some serious speed and skill in spots. Defensemen were afraid to pinch too much, they were always ready to get back to their own zone, and it affected some of their attacking play.

-It’s kind of amazing when you see it live how much Milan Lucic sucks.

-I’ve had enough with the drop pass on the entry on the power play. I get it at times. But when a penalty killer is lagging behind waiting for said drop pass, and the Hawks are staring at a 4-on-3 entry at the blue line, then just fucking take it. That’s what you want. There’s more space. If you can’t find your way into the zone with three killers back, then there’s nothing to be done.

-I’m not sure how Brandon Saad missed the net on that chance in the second, but it seemed harder to do than hitting the target.

-Andreas Martinsen had a 0.0 CF% tonight. That’s not easy to do, even in eight minutes.

-Nick Schmaltz and that third line continues to get less than 10 minutes of ES time, and I don’t know why that should be when Schmaltz is probably your second most creative player out there.

-Henri Jokiharju led the Hawks in ES ice time, and that’s after a rough night in St. Louis. I think we know where Q’s heart is.

-Not much else to add.

Onwards…

Everything Else

That’s all we can say. We had to go through several layers of security to get to him, and then found ourselves in a strange location we would not be able to identify. But he seemed to know what he was talking about, so we went with it. Follow him on Twitter @thescottlewis.

With all the noise about the Oilers, and the constant, fair criticisms of their wingers, how does the fact they may have horribly whiffed on Jesse Puljujarvi get missed?
 
If we flashback to the night of the 2016 Draft, the Oilers landing Puljujarvi at No. 4 was viewed as something of a steal at the time. People were busy laughing at the Blue Jackets taking Dubois with the third pick, which has turned out to be a fine selection for them. In a perfect world for the Oilers, they would be trotting out Matthew Tkachuk or Mikhail Sergachev on a nightly basis right now… but it’s the Oilers, so here we are. I’m not ready to close the door on Puljujarvi quite yet, so I’ll chalk it up to another case of management shitting the bed on development. He might still be something. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably not!
 
Is playing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a wing really a solution? Because it leaves them short at center. Or is this a “cover your head, your feet are cold, cover your feet your head is cold” kind of situation?
 
Personally, I’d love to see him back at center full-time. BUT… he’s producing and his possession totals are looking pretty good so far. It’s definitely a patch job by the coaching staff, so it would be ideal to address the personnel shortage up front sooner than later if this team is to be taken seriously. We’re taking them seriously, right?
 
People seem to be coming for Leon Draisaitl, because he’s not playing with McDavid anymore. Yet he had the same season last year as the one before where he exclusively played with Run CMD, and is a point per game this year. We missing something?
 
To me, the criticism of Draisaitl is a product of his $8.5-million cap hit. He’s proving capable of carrying his own line, even if the possession metrics are pretty ugly so far this season. Canadian blowhards get worked up very easily when a player gets paid, but it’s hard to argue with the production so far. McDavid-Draisaitl ain’t going to be Crosby-Malkin or even Tavares-Matthews, but it’s as good a 1-2 punch you need when No. 1 is Run CMD.
Was it premature to toss that kind of money at Draisaitl right away? Yes. Was it even in the top-5 of GM Peter Chiarelli’s worst decisions since taking over? Nope. Let the kids play and hope you can alleviate the coming cap crunch by sending Milan Lucic to live on a farm in rural Alberta.
 
Our yearly Darnell Nurse update, please. 
 
I soured on Nurse early in his career and didn’t see a whole lot last season to convince me he was ever going to become the player that Hockey Men continued to project him to be. He’s played over 27 minutes in a couple games so far this season, and in my opinion played his best game of the season in the Oilers’ 4-1 win over the Capitals Thursday night. So there’s that.
He’ll turn 24 this season, so it’s becoming less and less likely we’re going to see a huge step forward. At $3.2 million through next season, his ability to command a big raise will be tied to the club’s success. Bottom line, the Oilers need some pieces to improve, and given the fact that a lot of GMs still evaluate players like the old scouts sitting around the table in Moneyball, Nurse might be the Oilers best trade chip.
 
Ryan Strome will probably never live down being traded for Jordan Eberle. But moving to a third line center role at least sees him crushing it possession-wise so far this year. Maybe this is where he belongs?
 
Strome deserves a break on the Eberle chat, simply because that was a Chiarelli crime. It’s doubly frustrating having listened to GMPC cry about the club’s lack of wingers last season after he traded one of the best players in the league with Taylor Hall and a good second-line guy like Eberle. That said, Strome has looked decent in a third-line role while producing absolutely nothing to this point. Some semblance of production would be nice.

 

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