Random Thoughts on Oilers, World Cup and More

random-thoughts

The most common question in Oilersnation these days is: Are the Oilers improving?

Some say yes, others say no, but what are the guidelines for improvement?

Improving on last season would be akin to saying you have better hair than me. It means very little, and just because you have more hair doesn’t mean you look as good.

For me, until this team wins at least half the games they play, they haven’t made any legitimate improvement.

I’ve seen improvements in their game — better structure, improved puck retrievals — but again, that isn’t saying much considering they’ve been a bottom feeder for the past six seasons finishing 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th, 28th and 28th.

Of course they look better — it’s almost impossible to be worse.

Their 5-10 record suggests they haven’t improved on last year’s 6-8-1 record, but remembering last season’s squad won FOUR of their next 30 games to sit at 10-26-9 after 55 games, it will be virtually impossible to match that level of futility.

Of course they should improve on gaudy numbers like that, and they will, but unless they are close, or at .500, it will be difficult to suggest they have made any meaningful improvements.

This team has a long road to respectability, which most of us said at the beginning of the season, but there will be no magic switch to flip that makes them a competitive team. They need to find consistency in every aspect of their game.

It will come from hard work and a willingness to make the right play the majority of the time. And it will likely come from GM Peter Chiarelli altering the makeup of his team.

The Oilers have added youth to their D corps. Klefbom (92), Davidson (20), Reinhart (15) and Nurse (8),  have played a combined 135 NHL games. They have potential to be good, maybe even great, but it will take time. Winning teams don’t have that much inexperience on their blueline.

Chiarelli will need to add some vocal and emotional players, ones who play significant minutes. Of course you need good players to win, but you can’t overlook the emotional side of the game. You need some vocal leaders, and when Matt Hendricks is not dressed the Oilers are a very quiet team according to Todd McLellan. That matters.

It isn’t a knock on the players they have, because you can’t change who you are inside the dressing room, but it is something Chiarelli will need to address moving forward. He will also need to find a few skilled players, who if they aren’t scoring, can still bring some emotion and energy to the ice.

Nurse will be one of those players in the future, but it is unfair to expect a rookie to instantly become one of your vocal and emotional leaders.

You need skilled players to become a competitive team, but to be Cup contender you need to have skilled players who possess different personality traits on and off the ice.

Chicago has Jonathan Toews, who is fiercely competitive and if he isn’t scoring he finds other ways to contribute. Same with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blueline. They play with an edge and if they feel an opponent is taking liberties with their team they will stand up for them, even if it means crossing the line and taking a penalty or suspension.

The Kings and Bruins rosters were filled with good players, but their better players had different skill sets that helped them win.

The Oilers current roster still has too much of the same.

Again, it doesn’t mean the players are bad, but the overall team lacks certain elements to win. I expect Chiarelli to address these deficiencies later this season and in the summer.

In training camp he said he felt he needed to watch 20 games and be around the team for a few months to get a good read on what they have, and, more importantly, what they will need moving forward.

QUICK HITS…

  • Chiarelli asked the NHL if the U-24 North American team could have a veteran goalie for the upcoming World Cup, and not surprisingly the response was no. John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck, Malcolm Subban and Chris Driedger are the top candidates, but none of them are currently on an NHL roster. The U-24 team has some very good young forwards and defencemen, but they’ll enter the tourney with the least proven goaltending tandem.
  • The locks on forward for me are: Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon and Brandon Saad. The rest will come from Mark Scheifele, Sean Couturier, Boone Jenner, Jonathon Drouin, Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan, Dylan Larkin, Max Domi, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Jared McCann, Curtis Lazar and Tom Wilson.
  • The D will have: Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones and Morgan Reilly for sure. Dougie Hamilton, Jacob Trouba, Colton Parayko, Nathan Beaulieu, Cody Ceci, Matt Dumba, Noah Hanafin, Damon Severson, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Murray and Ben Hutton will be in the mix as well.
  • These Saskatoon Blades jerseys are awesome.

http://content.sportslogos.net/news/2015/11/Blades-Star-Wars-Jersey.jpg

  • The Blades will wear them On November 28th for Star Wars Night. The jerseys will be sold via a silent auction during the game.

Recently by Jason Gregor:       

    • TKB2677

      People are waiting for the so called”core” to magically transform into something they are not.
      Get over it , these guys have been around the NHL 4-5 years…they may make slight adjustment to their game, but what you see is what you get…even three /four years down the road.

      Been said a hundred times… ” too many of the same players” a result of picking all those number ones.

      A team with all this youth, skill and speed should be tearing up the NHL, playing a fast paced transition game….

      No so.. how can you with all the slugo’s on the back end, who’s biggest play is wringing it up the boards or ice the puck or even worse grenade it to so open wing .

    • Anton CP

      IMO, one of the issue is like Gregor said that the team lack vocal leaders. I feel the team need a reliable veteran on their roster that can provide supports when in need. Derek Roy sort of serving the role as experienced former top line player but the Oilers have no one this year. Both Purcell and Pouliot are not former top line players that know what it takes to get the team out of trouble.

    • Anton CP

      S Chiarelli is starting to accumulate some sketchy signings himself. There is still a stunning lack of competence on the Oilers D. Reinhart, Nurse and Klefbum are coming players but the Oiler ‘learning on the job’ philosophy has not and never will be successful.

      The D vets are the real disappointment for me. Fayne, Ference and Nikitin are a total waste of cap space. That’s a big freaking hole. Those are not Chias signings but Gryba and Sekera certainly are. Along with Korpikoski and Letestu. He is digging a huge hole with his pen. Signing such deals does not bode well.

      IMO there is a concerning disconnect between GM, coaches and too many players. There is either a lack of buy in on the part of some players or a lack of hockey IQ. In any event it is getting harder and harder to live with the annual rite of turd polishing.

      I get the impression the Oiler braintrust are relying on McD and that will only go so far with fans. After that you still have to build a team around him. That lack of maturing later round picks and effective scouting to search out other prospects seems to be ‘ground under repair’ in the Oiler organization. Have the Oiler scouts brought in anyone? None that I can see.

    • Anton CP

      I realize it is a while before McDavid returns to the Oilers line up, however, one thought which I find intriguing is who to play on his line.

      If Draisaitl progresses well, delivers the 200 foot game over the next few months and continues to improve his face off stats then one candidate for McDavid’s wing could be RNH. He can skate with McDavid, is a play maker, is defensively responsible and can also score. In fact, he could become McDavid’s Kurri and that my friends would be golden.