What a difference a week makes

Soft

Last Monday the Oilers were shut out 3-0 in Toronto. After the game Todd McLellan challenged some of his players, and without naming names it was obvious he was referring to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

“When I look at this trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under perform on the trip,” McLellan told . “Significant minus
numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be [the top line]
that provides that.”

Three wins later the Oilers are out of the NHL basement, albeit by only two points, and more importantly they are very much in the playoff race sitting only three points behind Anaheim and Arizona.

The Pacific is currently the weakest division in the NHL. Only one team, the LA Kings, has more than 28 points. The other three divisions have five teams with 30+ points. We are only 1/3 of the way through the season so there is a lot of time for one or two teams to separate from the pack, but right now the race for the second and third playoff positions is very tight.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.56.11 AM

With three consecutive wins the Oilers are suddenly three points back of a playoff spot. It is way too early to celebrate, but at least they are in the discussion.

On December 7th, 2013 the Oilers had 23 points in 31 games and were 14 points out of a playoff spot.
On December 7th, 2014 the Oilers had 19 points in 27 games and were 14 points out of a playoff spot.

The Oilers have 24 points in 28 games this year, a slight improvement over last season, although the Oilers never gained their 24th point until December 31st, so by the end of the month they should be well ahead of last year’s ghastly pace.

After McLellan calmly challenged his players, they responded. Eberle has scored in two consecutive games after tallying the deciding goal in the shoot out on Wednesday.

The team has won three straight, and while Anders Nilsson stole them two points versus Dallas, I felt the Oilers played well against Boston and Buffalo. The goalie is part of your team and if he has a great game, the win shouldn’t come with a, “But the goalie played well.”

No one complains in Montreal when Carey Price faces 52, 38, 37, 38 and 36 shots and the Habs win. The Oilers are getting great goaltending right now, and that should be looked at more positively than saying the team is bad.

The Oilers just ended a stretch of eight games in 14 days and they won the last three. Today is a well-earned day off, then they practice tomorrow and face the Sharks on Wednesday, a huge game for McLellan, even though he will down play it, and then it is Glen Sather night versus the Rangers on Friday.

The Oilers then have two days off again before playing in Boston on Monday and New York next Tuesday. They will be rested for the Sharks and should enter the game with a lot of confidence.

This is the most meaningful divisional game the Oilers have played since April 4th, 2013, when they faced the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers were tied for the final playoff spot entering the final 12 games of the season, and the Canucks were the first of five straight divisional games. They lost all five (outscored 17-4) and their playoff hopes came crashing down.

The Oilers are a better team than the ones we saw over the past five seasons, and if they can stay in the playoff race until their injured forwards return they should actually be in a playoff race in February and March.

They can’t sit back. The games are getting harder as the season goes along, and they have to avoid falling apart like they did in 2013 and again in 2011/2012. The Oilers had 29 points in their first 28 games in Nugent-Hopkins’ rookie season, and they were two points out of a playoff spot on December 7th, 2011. They picked up six points in their next 13 games and were 13 points out on January 7th, 2012.

They should be excited they are in the playoff picture today, but the games will become more difficult and this team needs to prove they are indeed more seasoned and better prepared to compete as the games become more intense.

QUICK HITS…

ConnorMissing

  • Anders Nilsson should be in the Calder trophy conversation. His .922SV% is 11th among goalies who have started 15+ games. If he keeps playing like he has in his last eight starts, he will be in the Calder Mix. Artemi Panarin is the only skater who is top-11 in points, he sits 8th with 27, while Max Domi is 27th with 23 points and Dylan Larkin has 21 (41st in NHL).

    We can debate the merits of Nilsson and Panarin being rookies after playing in the KHL, considering the NHL rule states “A player can not have played more than 25 games in a preceding season in any major professional league”, but both of them are listed as rookies at NHL.com and eligible for the Calder. They should just change the wording to “25 or more games In the NHL”, otherwise players who play in SEL and KHL at 17, 18 and 19 would be ineligible. If Nilsson won he’d become the first goalie since Steve Mason in 2009, and 15th overall, to win the Calder. Oilers fans have wanted a Calder winner for years, and you might get one in the most unexpected fashion.

  • After his post game press conference last night, Todd McLellan pulled me aside. “I heard you discussing your Month of Giving and I’d like to help out.” After a quick discussion we came up with a great package. It is listed below. I love it when people step up and offer to help out for charity. A few players have as well, mainly Taylor Hall, and those packages will be up for auction later this month on my show. Thank you Todd for your generous offer.
  • I asked McLellan for an injury update and he said Nail Yakupov is likely not back until after Christmas. McDavid is still sometime in the New Year and Pouliot is a few weeks away as well. If their top two lines can remain consistent and the bottom-six chip in like they have the past five games, the Oilers should remain competitive.
  • Patrick Kane has 36 points in his 22-game point streak which is more than Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn (35 each) have all season. Kane has points in 25 of the Blackhawks 27 games this year. Ridiculous.
  • The Flames are in last place in the Pacific but only five points out of a playoff spot. The other three cellar dwellers; Colorada (Central) and Columbus (Atlantic) are eight points out, while Toronto (Metro) is seven back. No team believes they are completely out of it just yet, and that is exactly what the NHL wants. Parity keeps the fan base more invested.

DAY 5: Month of Giving

Thanks to Cory and his generous bid of $3,500 and to Pro Am Sports for the McDavid package on Friday.

Today’s Package

http://wpmedia.edmontonjournal.com/2015/09/2015-09-18-feature.jpg?quality=55&strip=all&w=840&h=630&crop=1

  • Oilers head coach Todd McLellan will come to your son or daughter’s minor hockey practice.
  • He will help the coaches with their practice plans.
  • He will bring an Oilers jersey signed by all the players.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau

 

Recently by Jason Gregor:    

 

  • A-Mc

    I would say that most people that have hope for the team don’t need to say anything when everyone isn’t freaking out after every loss. I’m just happy to cheer and watch.

  • A-Mc

    TSN is re-showing Canada-Germany from last year’s WJC. It warms my heart to watch Nurse and a healthy McDavid, while they talk about Draisaitl. It’s even better this time around, because I know Connor will be an Oiler 😀

  • papler

    I watched the Boston Vancouver game Saturday night and Boston put on a clinic on how to win against a lower team I noticed they tried to play that way against the oil but no go that goes for Dallas too, but I would like to see the oil play that way some games. The D should just get the puck out and tip it to center ice while the forwards read what the d would do, I guess that’s what vets do is force the forwards to get a rush going.

  • A-Mc

    He could have had eight or nine points, easy. It makes me wonder what it would take to get Lazar from Ottawa. I don’t know nearly enough about the Sens, but our first rounder for Lazar + Chabot? Maybe we throw in Fayne to sweeten the deal. Am I kidding? Maybe.

  • Ogie Oilthorpe

    Nice streak but they need to be consistent. Hall’s body must be pretty battered after the last few games. He is taking a beating. I just hope his bidy holds up. Eichel was good, he did impress me. Ristolinen really impressed me. How could the oilers get that guy!? He was a warrior out there!

  • Zarny

    Mood and tone have changed over the last week; but nothing tangible has changed. The team is better than last year but still lacks depth with an unbalanced mix.

    There is no need to be teetering out on the ledge like many were a week ago, but the moves the Oilers need to make haven’t changed nor have their options. If the Oilers can at least stay close to a playoff spot we shouldn’t see the rabid, toxic atmosphere at Rexall which would be a welcome change.

    • Hemmercules

      The people that are teetering on the edge dont seem to understand that changing your gm, entire coaching staff and half the roster doesn’t equal instant success, even with a bunch of first overalls on the team. This Oilers team has a lot more fight in them and are a way better team to watch than the last few years. Meaningful January hockey will go along way I think, for the fans and the core of the team thats been losing for so long.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    This is the best Taylor Hall I’ve seen. There is maturity and another level of commitment in his game. His back checking has improved a lot. He’s been throwing the occasional hits as well. A little less chaos for sure but a bit too much dangle at times still. Overall, this kid is becoming a real leader. He’s not done. The ceiling is a lot higher with Hall than I previously thought.

    PS. ..
    We are never going to lose again.

  • Ogie Oilthorpe

    As a Flames fan, gotta say I thoroughly enjoy reading some of the the articles on this site better than FN. Great Writing!

    We have 2 games in hand 😉

  • papler

    wow that is a great donation by Todd McLellan. After all what he is donating is: time! his precious time and an unforgettable time for the kids.
    and time is worth so much more than money.

    TMac is a great guy.

    (now if only we couldsomehow get rid of his evil twin Scott…)

  • papler

    I am curious as to how retirement by Ference might impact the Oilers cap and active roster implications. I am guessing he still believes that he can contribute at the NHL level which makes this scenario highly unlikely. He appears to be the kind of person who would be an excellent mentor/spokesperson for the organization. He appears to do everything right off the ice. If Ference retired would he eventually become a free agent?

  • West

    Not really on topic but,nice to finally see a travesty of justice undone. Khaira has finally gotten the point he deserved for assisting on Hall’s goal against Dallas.