First Star, Worst Star: December 13, 2015

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Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the Oilers are so delightful, and since there’s no place to go you may as well spend your Sunday afternoon reading this edition of First Star, Worst Star!

FIRST STAR

What a difference a week (or two) makes, huh? It seems like just yesterday that Oiler fans were wanting to trade anyone and everyone, and were ready to cancel the entire season and just wait for Auston Matthews to throw on an Oilers jersey at the draft after one bad game against Toronto. Since then? The Oilers have won five games in a row at home for the first time since 1987! Which seems strange, no? The Oilers won TWO cups after that, but couldn’t string together 5 wins at The Coliseum/Skyreach Center/Rexall for almost 30 years? 

And not only have the Oilers been winning, they’ve been playing exciting games. I don’t know how much more my heart can take if they continue to cough up leads then get them back, but man it’s been a while since I’ve gotten this much enjoyment out of watching the Oilers!

Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl are legitimately entering Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin territory in terms of one of the most dangerous duos in the league. Anders Nilsson cooled down a bit over the last two games, but he also stole a few games for the Oilers over this stretch, something Oiler fans haven’t seen since Dwayne Roloson was helping lead the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Hell, things are going so well for Edmonton right now even Lauri Korpikoski got his first career hat trick!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlQMBGHIPWs 

They’ve got a tough sled ahead of them on the road, with rematches against the Bruins and Rangers followed by the Blackhawks, all within the span of 4 days AND on the road. The fun times may not last, but I have confidence that this team can at least stay competitive for the rest of the season, ESPECIALLY with Connor McDavid set to make his return within the next few weeks. 

Meaningful games in December; Who Saw This Coming?® 

WORST STAR

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You know that scene in the Dark Knight Rises where the NOT-Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the NOT-Other Generic NFL Team and Bane blows up NOT-Heinz Field? That’s basically what’s happening to the Penguins right now. 

The Penguins are one point out of a wild card spot, and while that’s not objectively terrible, the Penguins are supposed to be much better than this. They have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and made arguably the biggest splash in the offseason when they traded for Phil Kessel. “CROSBY, KESSEL AND MALKIN? THE PENGUINS ARE GONNA SCORE A MILLION GOALS THIS YEAR” we all yelled at each other last summer. The results have not come close to expectations however. 

The Penguins sit 27th in the NHL with 67 goals for, ahead of only Toronto, Philly and Anaheim. That is… REALLY bad, especially when you have arguably 3 of the best offensive players in the world in your top 6. Kessel has been a disappointment so far, only putting up 9 goals and 17 points in 28 games so far. Though he’s far from the only one failing to meet expectations as Malkin is the only Penguin to break the 20 point mark so far this season. And to make things even worse they’re getting (and wasting) really solid goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, which is not something you can always count on. 

GM Jim Rutherford threw his coach under the bus via the media, then fired him days later, while admitting that part of the problem falls on him for failing to shore up the questionable back end that has been plaguing the Penguins for a few seasons now. AND just weeks ago there were rumors that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux may be having a falling out

The Penguins are 6 years removed from their Stanley Cup win, and have only made it past the second round of the playoffs once since then. If this keeps up we could realistically be a season or two away from them blowing the team up and starting over, which would have seemed insane not that long ago. It’s a good thing that Pittsburgh is surrounded by so many rivers, because the Penguins are burning right now. 

  • ziyan94

    Who’d have expected this? Oilers are on a tear with playoffs in sight, meanwhile Pittsburgh are falling apart mid-season. SOOO happy we have Chiarelli as GM over a guy like Rutherford

  • Jiff

    Can’t see that Pittsburgh situation getting resolved with any more coaching changes. Something rotten in that Penguins organization. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that dressing room.

    • Anton CP

      Unwillingness by the single power that is to EVOLVE the “messge” and consequently the System.Sidney knows they MUST EVOLVE because he is friends with Sam Gagner who is the ONLY pure student of the NHLs cutting edge philosophy which has been evolving the League since 2012.Stolly is in the know but not on Sams level.

      Sidney also knows the Rangers and in the EC are evolving in this direction now and he is keen to keep up.

      I wouldnt want to stick around in a losing environment…..and since Sids injuries Management refuses to put all their chips in his corner again….IMHO ever…. its an eternal losing environment for Crosby.

  • SmythsMullet

    No question, I would trade Malkin to get some assets needed to balance out this team. For some reason, Malkin seems to have an attitude. While I can’t totally define that attitude, it just seems to be off.

    He is a big enough name and a big enough talent to get some real talent.

  • camdog

    Any GM that would sign Semin to a 5 year deal worth 35 millions dollars shouldn’t have a job in the NHL. With the buy out Carolina still owes Semin 2.3 million until 2021.

    And then when Rutherford goes to Pittsburgh rather than fix the defence, he trades for a 7 million dollar winger of a similar ilk. Rutherford has poisoned two organisations in less than 5 years, quite the accomplishment.

  • Anton CP

    I think, ANY other coaching decisions that MacT can make will all be better than hiring Eakins. You cannot possibly find a worst decision than hiring Eakins.