The Oilers are 5-4-2 since Todd Nelson took over as full-time head coach.
Does he have a magic elixir that has made the Oilers more competitive?
The Oilers could only improve after winning only seven of 31 games under Dallas Eakins, and then going winless in five with the MacNelson combination, but it seems the Oilers have responded better to Nelson.
How much of a difference has Nelson made?
The Oilers are winning more, although it would have been virtually impossible to win less than the seven wins in 31 games they had with Dallas Eakins behind the bench.
Let’s compare the numbers of the 36 games with Eakins/MacTavish to the eleven with Nelson.
We can all guess how much or little input Nelson had with MacTavish, so to keep things clear I will only use the eleven games Nelson has been the head coach.
Under Nelson: Eakins/MacTavish
2.72 goals/game 2.11 goals/game
2.81 goals against/game 3.27 goals against/game
The Oilers are scoring more and allowing fewer goals.
25.6 shots per game. 28.4 shots per game.
29.5 shots against per game. 29.4 shots against per game.
The Oilers are taking fewer shots, but scoring more, meanwhile they are giving up basically the same amount of shots per game.
SH% is 10.6 Team had a 7.4 SH%.
.904 sv% .889 sv%
The Oilers are scoring more and making more saves. Every player I have spoke to has mentioned that Nelson has a more relaxed approach. He doesn’t over analyze or over coach, is the impression I get. The forwards are scoring more, the goalies are playing better, but I haven’t seen as many glaring giveaways or defensive breakdowns since Nelson arrived. Players are reacting and not thinking as much.
PP is 7 of 35 for 20% PP was 13 of 108 for 12%
PK is 26 for 34 at 76.4%. PK was 82 for 102 and 80.3%
The PP has been much better, mainly because the Oilers are shooting the puck more and players are actually going to the net. Nelson has found away to convince his players to do those simple things, while Eakins never could. On the other hand, the PK is worse despite more consistent goaltending.
I don’t buy that there is always a direct connection from stats to results. The Oilers are shooting less, but scoring more. Analytics will say that has to even out, but it doesn’t always, and much of that can be attributed to a more positive environment around the team. I never thought the Oilers were as bad as they were for the first 31 games, but I still don’t believe they are close to being a competitive team.
Nelson has been a welcome addition to the players and they are playing more relaxed, but I believe his demand of more intensity and quicker-paced practices has helped the Oilers more than anything. You can’t play fast if you don’t practice fast.
The other factor, however, is that Nelson has Derek Roy and Anton Lander as half of his centres compared to Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello. Roy has eight points in 11 games, while Lander has four points in ten. Not only are they more productive, Lander is much more reliable defensively, and Roy has more experience and has been able to shelter and mentor Nail Yakupov.
If you give a coach better players, he chance of success will increase. I like Nelson. He’s a straight shooter, and he believes hard work and commitment are the foundation to winning, much more than just statistics. However, I caution those who believe a coach will change the fortunes of this team. I’ve said it for years, and I will keep saying it, until this organization develops players properly and recognizes the need for some strong, skilled, heavy players in their top-nine forwards and top-four defence, this team will not improve regardless of who is coaching.
Remember the Oilers were 14-13-3 under Eakins for the final 30 games last year. This team has a long way to go before an 11-game stretch has me believing they have improved enough to compete for the playoffs next season.
Taylor Hall took a puck in the leg yesterday at practice and according to Nelson, “He got a shot on the leg and it didn’t react like we wanted it to. He’s going through further testing today,” meaning Hall will sit out tonight. Hall wasn’t available to the media yesterday or today, so we don’t know how serious the injury is. This is bad news for Hall, but good news for those who want the Oilers to get Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. You need injuries to your best players down the stretch if you want your team to lose. The Oilers never would have drafted Hall had Nikolai Khabibulin, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and other weren’t injured in 2009/2010.
Hall’s injury means three lines will be changed. Pouliot moves up to the first line, while Purcell slides beside Roy and Yakupov, and Gazdic draws in on the 4th line with Lander and Fraser.
The D pairs are the same and Viktor Fasth remains the starter after picking up consecutive shootout victories prior to the all-star break.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From the State of Hockey News…
Like many fans, we should be able to expect great things from this team. We have the talent, but I’m not sure we have the determination. Every game, I keep hoping to see anger on the bench. Yet every game I go away disappointed. Instead of getting honest answers and reactions from players and coaches, we get excuses and platitudes. I mentioned cliches earlier, but there’s one that should be the Wild’s mantra these days. It’s this, actions speak louder than words. Until you show us that you mean the words we hear at post-game press conferences and other interviews, why should we as fans care? Yet we will continue to play as we have. We will get the same excuses. And come April, we can get all our projects that we put off during the season complete.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t won three games in a row since winning four straight between October 20th and 27th, and without Hall I see them losing 3-1 tonight.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Devan Dubnyk defeats the Oilers for the 4th time this season. He won three games with Arizona, allowing only three goals on 93 shots.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Anton Lander scores his first NHL goal since January 17th, 2012. His recent offensive production reaffirms why the organization needs to stop rushing players to the NHL before they are ready. He looks better now than he did previously because he wasn’t NHL-ready despite the Oilers rushing him to the NHL when he was 20 years old.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
World Cup, All Star game and Mike Richards on waivers
- What is Petry’s value?
- GDB 45.0: To Tampa and Beyond
- GDB 44.0: St.Louis, start of a tough stretch
- Monday Musings…
- GDB 42.0: Hall is healthy