The old saying is that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and maybe that’s why fans who believe the 2015-16 edition of the Edmonton Oilers is better than the team they watched a year ago get a headache when they look where the Oilers sit in NHL standings.
One of the reasons some believe the Oilers look better – which is not to be confused with anything approaching good enough, given how low the bar has been set – is that they’ve hung around and been closer at the final buzzer after 18 games this season than they were at this point in 2014-15.
At 6-12-0 for 12 points, the Oilers have lost five games by one goal and five more games by two goals. They’ve lost by more than two goals just twice – a 7-4 loss to the Washington Capitals and a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. All of their losses have been in regulation time, so no loser points. They’ve been outscored 58-47, so they’re minus-11.
A year ago after 18 games, the Oilers had lost by one goal five times, by two goals once and by more than two goals six times, the most lopsided being a 6-1 waxing by Los Angeles. Two loser points as part of a 6-10-2 record left them with 14 points. They were outscored 60-44, so minus-16.
Close but no cigar doesn’t qualify as satisfactory progress, but it does play into the impression the Oilers have, at times, looked better despite lagging behind their points total of a year ago. A hat-tip to one of our readers in the Monday mailbag for asking about this.
Connor McDavid didn’t offer any time frame Monday for a return from the busted collarbone he suffered against Philadelphia Nov. 3, so I’m not going to start guessing, but it can’t be bad news that he’s working out already and that he’s apparently ditched the sling he was wearing.
“I think the main part is just getting back to 100 percent,” McDavid told reporters at Clareview Arena. “If there is any positive to it, it’s a bone and it can heal. It’s not like it’s a separated shoulder or torn labrum or anything like that. Bones heal and I just have to wait for it to get 100 percent.”
McDavid was scheduled to do some testing and be evaluated by team doctors yesterday. He’ll meet with medical staff again today and hopes to have a better idea where he’s at after that – not that he’ll be sharing that information publicly.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said McDavid, who had the clavicle repaired with a plate and screws. “You don’t ever want to get hurt, but we have a great medical staff in Edmonton and we’re doing everything we can to get back as soon as possible,”
THE WAY I SEE IT
While some people are reading into McDavid’s decision not to comment on the play that injured him – he was asked if it was a “hockey play” and if Michael Del Zotto or Brandon Manning gave him an extra push into the boards – doing so is pure speculation.
“These things happen,” he said. “It’s a fast game. It’s hockey. People get hurt. Any time three guys go into the boards at that kind of speed, something is bound to happen. I guess I kind of got the brunt of it.”
Why would coach Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli dismiss the incident as a hockey play, as they did, if they didn’t feel that way? You don’t think they’d have been screaming like hell at NHL offices if they thought there was intent to injure? What’s in it for them to dress things up?
BY THE NUMBERS
Through the first 18 games this season, the Oilers are marginally better in five of six statistical team categories of note compared to the numbers they established over 82 games last season. Simply put, negligible improvement.
|Goals for per game:||2.61||2.35|
|Goals against per game:||3.22||3.37|
|Shots for per game:||28.2||28.4|
|Shots against per game:||29.7||30.0|
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.
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