Oilers fans just endured on one of the most drastic emotional rollercoaster rides they’ve felt in the past decade. Connor McDavid returned to the lineup last Tuesday and proceeded to score five points in two games, including a highlight reel goal versus Columbus, that had Oilers fans bursting with excitement. McDavid’s return included two wins where the Orange and Blue outscored their opponents 12-3. Life was grand.
But in a span of 27 hours the jubilation ended. The Oilers got walloped 5-1 and 8-1 in Montreal and Brooklyn, and just as Oilersnation was enjoying the ride at the top, once again their team derailed and crashed to the bottom of the track.
The Oilers held a players only meeting after the game. To be fair they’ve haven’t been outclassed that often this year, but yesterday’s performance was their worst of the season, and it was an effort the fanbase has witnessed far too often over the past decade.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli still has a lot of work to do. Head coach Todd McLellan has talked often about his team’s need to find consistency and learning how to play the right way. They still haven’t found it, and it is fair to ask if this group is willing to.
More changes will be made this summer, and some players will be moved before the February 29th trade deadline, but this past weekend just re-affirmed how far this group has to go before they will be a contender.
- I understand the premise of “showcasing a player,” but at what cost? Justin Schultz is struggling, yet he remains in the lineup and even worse he plays a lot of minutes. I don’t understand the trepidation to bench him or use him less. Maybe a seat in the pressbox will help him. He is not improving by playing big minutes. His confidence has disappeared. Why not give him a night off? His trade value isn’t that high to begin with, so I don’t see why one game upstairs will impact the possible return.
I respect why Chiarelli qualified Schultz in the summer. He wanted to see him with his own eyes and see how he performed under a veteran coaching staff. If Schultz was paid $2 million, it might be a different story. The Oilers could afford to be more patient (although I don’t see why at this point), but the Oilers cannot qualify him at $3.9 million this summer, so they either trade him before July 1st or let him walk.
My question for Chiarelli is why wait? I know Schulttz isn’t the only player under performing, but no player has struggled more than Schultz yet continually been handed icetime. What message is the organization sending? They are trying so hard to show support to a player, they seem almost blind to the fact he is not helping the team. He has not repaid their patience and loyalty with improved play. His Give-A-Shit meter never gets past the 1/4 mark.
I’m sure Chiarelli is trying to get something in return, rather than lose Schultz for nothing, but continually force-feeding him minutes is not helping the team or Schultz. He is not improving. It is time they re-look at how they are using him. Less could equal more at this point. At the very least, they should try it.
When McLellan started Nilsson in the third period, I thought he was wisely resting Talbot so he could start versus NYI on Sunday. He stuck with his original plan and let Nilsson play in Brooklyn and it backfired. Nilsson was garbage. He can’t catch anything with his glove right now, and his subpar play put the Oilers out of the game before it was 15 minutes old.
The Oilers play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday before their next back-to-back games on Thursday, February 25th and Friday, February 26th in LA and Anaheim. Talbot can start all seven, and have two days rest twice between games. The Oilers can send Nilsson to Bakersfield when they arrive in LA on the 24th. He can play two games that weekend in the AHL, while the OIlers can recall Laurent Brossoit and he can play one of the BTB games. It will allow Nilsson to hopefully rediscover his confidence, and it will keep Brossoit playing regularly in the AHL.
The other option is to recall Eutu Laurikainen and have him back up Talbot for the next few weeks and let Nilsson rotate with Brossoit in Bakersfield. I’d keep Nilsson here until the end BTB games, but if they feel he has to play now then I’d rather have Laurikainen sit on the bench than have Brossoit not dress for a few weeks. Brossoit is still in his first year as the go-to starter so I don’t see the need to rush him. Talbot has been very good for the past two months.
- Nilsson doesn’t require waivers, and maybe the Oilers will switch him for Brossoit right away, but if it was me, I’d look at the above options first. Regardless, it is clear Nilsson is struggling, and needs some playing time in the AHL in hopes of rediscovering his game.
- Sidney Crosby has scored 10-8-18 in his last 10 games and is now 10th in NHL scoring and only five points out of fifth place. Those who traded for him in Fantasy hockey earlier this year when he was “struggling” must be loving life right now.
- Crosby scored his 900th, 901st and 902nd point versus Florida on Saturday in his 677th NHL game. That is 10th fastest in NHL history:
Wayne Gretzky did it in an amazing 385 games.
Mario Lemieux needed only 463 games.
Mike Bossy did it in 582.
Peter Stastny in 599.
Jari Kurri took 632 games.
Denis Savard in 647.
Guy Lafleur did it 649.
Brian Trottier in 651.
Steve Yzerman in 673.
Crosby in 677 games.
Marcel Dionne did it 678.
Jaromir Jagr in 681.
Crosby cracked the top-ten despite playing in a much lower scoring era, but he still needed almost 300 more games than Gretzky to reach 900 points. Gretzky was 197 games faster than Bossy in the same era. Mind blowing.
In our Monday Mailbag, Ashley asked if McDavid could win the Calder trophy. My original thought was no. I looked at the previous 20 winners and no forward/D-man who won had played fewer than 78 games. I didn’t look farther back, but being healthy and top of mind seemed a big part of it.
However, on the weekend I came across Mario Lemieux’s 1992/1993 season. Lemieux only played 60 games, but he tallied a 69-91-160 and won the Hart Trophy. He still led the league in scoring despite missing 22 games, and was deserving of the Hart.
It is unlikely McDavid can catch Artemi Panarin, who has 52 points in 56 games. Panarin is on pace for 76 points, and if he scores 70 points it will be hard to beat him, however, McDavid will have a few things in his favour.
When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lost the Calder to Gabriel Landeskog in 2011/2012 he missed the final 20 games of the season. He was out of sight, out of mind. Landeskog was playing and scoring, while RNH was on the shelf. That won’t be an issue for McDavid.
Everyone in the NHL is following McDavid’s return, and if he finishes the season with 53 points (he is currently at a 1.06 point-per-game pace) he will be a finalist and could defeat Panarin. He will have the momentum of his comeback in his favour, he will be fresh in the minds of voters and some might punish Panarin for being 24 and having played six years in the KHL. He has a better chance than I originally thought when I answered the question last Thursday.
- One thing to note regarding Schultz: If he isn’t traded before the trade deadline, he still could be dealt after, he just wouldn’t be eligible for playoff games. Would a non-playoff team be interested in having him for a month to know the player/person before possibly signing him in the summer? It is something to consider.