Fans overreact to wins. They overreact to losses. That’s not a criticism as much as it is an observation. It’s what they do. The last four games for the Edmonton Oilers have provided a prime example of the kind of emotional roller-coaster ride I’m talking about.
After back-to-back wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets — a 5-1 waltz highlighted by the return of Connor McDavid that included a highlight reel goal by No. 97 — and the Ottawa Senators — a rousing 7-2 pumping — the mood around Oilersnation was, well, what you’d expect. Optimism abounded.
#20 Raj February 04 2016, 09:37PM
The Oilers have some winnable games coming up. 20-8-2 can get them to 91 points which likely should be enough to grab the 3rd spot in the division. If the team plays like this, nothing to say they cannot go on a streak.
I thought it was impossible to say a 19 year old will make a major impact but I under estimated what Connor’s return would do to the line-up.
Oh yeah lets not forget that the Oil will be adding Klefbom and Nuge as well. This could be an epic run boys.
The tone was distinctly different, again, as you’d expect, after the Oilers provided the plummeting Montreal Canadiens with a 5-1 parachute and then soiled the sheets completely in an 8-1 laugher at the hands of the New York Islanders that coach Todd McLellan failed to see the humour in.
#1 Carny February 07 2016, 03:23PM
Run Connor!!!! Run far away from this pathetic organization!!! Go somewhere that doesn’t have a narcissistic owner who runs his upper management team with nepotism and promotes incompetence!!! Don’t turn into Hall and waste your career playing for the oilers!!! We’ll understand!!!
I’m not saying the above comments represent the majority of Oiler fans, but they certainly are examples of how the emotional pendulum can swing. GM Peter Chiarelli, on the other hand, doesn’t have the luxury of such swings as he assesses the job ahead. While I’d love to have been able to read his mind and compare notes after the two wins and again after the two losses, I’m more interested in his take after 54 games and how much it differs from mine or yours with the NHL trade deadline approaching.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The Oilers aren’t going on an epic run. McDavid won’t be knocking on Chiarelli’s door any time soon to make a trade request. Somewhere in the middle is where Chiarelli will do his work, first leading up to the deadline and latter during this off-season, in shaping this team the way he sees fit.
Knowing what he needs to do and getting it done are two different matters because when you’re a bottom-feeder like the Oilers, sucker deals abound and every GM in the league is looking to throw you an anchor. That’s not an excuse for dithering and inaction, but it is an aspect of a process that always involves a lot of moving parts.
What’s been apparent for more than a little while — something that’s been written about multiple times — is that Chiarelli is going to have to dip into his core group of players to jump-start the significant changes this roster needs, specifically on the back end. Jettisoning Justin Schultz or turning the page on Nail Yakupov won’t get it done. I know, thanks, Captain Obvious.
I’m not sure who you list as core players, but mine is limited to McDavid, Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle up front, and Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom on the back end. As for my untouchables, my list is one – McDavid. While I said in a Mailbag answer I wouldn’t have any untouchables, including McDavid, I doubt the Oilers can win any trade involving him, so, barring an insane offer, he’s my lone guy.
CHANGES TO COME
In what was a tell for me, McLellan talked about his leadership after the stinker in Brooklyn. “For two nights we haven’t had anybody do it right,” McLellan said, talking about the entire team, not just the core. What’s obvious is this team hasn’t progressed as reasonable expectations suggest it should and that there’s a dimension missing. So how untouchable is the core? Not very, outside McDavid, in my books.
We already know the Oilers aren’t nearly deep enough on the blue line. We know they lack quality right shot defensemen and an established first-pairing guy. We know Nurse has been asked to play too much because of that. While Chiarelli has added some size and edge with Zack Kassian, this line-up as it stands remains too easy to play against on too many nights. Chiarelli damn sure knows all the above, too.
While it’s unlikely – though not out of the question – Chiarelli will make major moves by the deadline, I’ll be stunned if we don’t see him move this off-season based on what he’s seen through these first 54 games. We’ve had smoke on a couple fronts already — interest in Travis Hamonic of the Islanders, to name one — and that conversation will most certainly continue.
My sense is that Chiarelli’s list of untouchables isn’t any longer than the name Connor McDavid. He’ll pull the trigger. Given what you and I have seen around here for years now – one step forward, two steps back — not just over the course of these last four games, that’s a good thing.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Kassian and Matt Martin did some jawing Sunday but never got after it with the gloves off. Kassian instead took a round out of Brian Strait. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a rematch of the tilt they had Nov. 29, 2011. That’s here. Instead, Kassian cuffed Strait, who hadn’t had an NHL scrap and had only two fights in the AHL.
- Yakupov’s shooting percentage was 21.0 per cent in his rookie season. It sits at 5.6 per cent this season. Anders Nilsson has been above .900 in save percentage just once (.923) in his last 10 appearances, so if he isn’t destined for Bakersfield, the question is why?
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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