The Oilers and Leafs are tied with 47 points, the fewest in the NHL, and no organizations have been more inept over the past 11 seasons. Since the Goodenow/Bettman lockout in 2005 both team have made only one playoff appearance. The Oilers went to the Cup Finals in 2006, while the Leafs lost in the first round in 2013.
This year marks the 10th time in the last 11 seasons they will sit on the sidelines and watch 16 teams battle for the Stanley Cup. The depressing news for both fans bases is that during their previous seven non-playoff seasons they haven’t been close to competitive.
The Oilers have finished 28th, 28th, 24th, 29th, 30th, 30th and 21st, while the Leafs finished 27th, 23rd, 26th, 22nd, 29th, 24th and 24th.
The Oilers averaged a 27th place finish while the Leafs were a measly two spots higher at 25. It truly has been a decade of SUCK for both franchises.
Unless one of them gets hot, both are destined to finish 25th or lower again. They are seven points behind 24th place Arizona, and even though the Coyotes only tallied five points in their last ten games the Leafs and Oilers each only gained three points in the standings. A seven-point deficit is a lot to overcome when you are the 29th and 30th placed teams.
Tonight’s game has huge ramifications, but they are lottery related, not playoff related. The Oilers’ 28th place finish last year earned them Connor McDavid while the Leafs 27th place finish landed them Mitch Marner. Both teams had 44 regulation losses last year, but the Leafs won more games while the Oilers lost more in OT/SO.
Those extra wins didn’t put the Leafs any closer to the playoffs, and it cost them McDavid. No Leafs fans will tell you it was worth it, and while there is no McDavid in this year’s draft class, Auston Matthews is an outstanding young player and the Leafs and their fans would love having him on the roster next season.
Earlier this week, the Leafs took a huge step towards securing the best odds (20%) of landing Matthews when they traded Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators. Phaneuf’s contract will be an issue in a few years, but the Leafs are worse team today because of it.
If they win the lottery and land Matthews, the trade will look even better.
The Leafs are still in the infancy stages of their rebuild, while the Oilers need to show some progress in their final 27 games. They need to win some games, learn some consistency and try to finish with 75 points for the first time since 2009 when they totaled 85.
The outcome of tonight’s basement bowl will impact the franchises much more on lottery night than it will it the standings, and these organizations are looking for much different results. The Oilers want to win the game, while the Leafs would prefer to win the lottery.
Teddy Purcell is back with Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall, and Iiro Pakarinen will skate with Mark Letestu and Nail Yakupov. Justin Schultz draws back in for Adam Clendening.
“We are spending a lot more time in our end,” said Hall. “Defensively, our line has not been as conscious of what we are doing in our end and it is costing us O-zone time and puck possession time. If our line plays our game defensively the offence will come. We proved we can produce, but our group has to be better defensively and it will lead to us creating more again,” continued Hall.
- My only piece of advice for Leafs fans is to try an avoid putting too much stock in having the best prospects. For years the Oilers prospects were ranked in the top-three, but having top prospects means very little if you don’t have quality NHL veterans to surround them with.
- Hall is third in the NHL in EV points with 41, behind Tyler Seguin (42) and Patrick Kane (51), while Draisaitl is tied for 10th with Sidney Crosby at 34 points. They have been very good at EV, but Hall only has nine PP points, while Draisaitl has six. Their PP unit hasn’t found any rhythm all season. I’d like to see Draisaitl command the puck more on the PP, and I think he should look to get Hall in shooting lanes more often. It likely would help them if they had a regular D-man on their unit. I believe continuity on the PP is crucial to success.
- You don’t say it very often, but the Oilers’ blueline is better than their opponents’ today. The Leafs’ D corps resembles the Oilers’ blueline from years past.
- I’m not piling on, but looking at the Leafs roster and their remaining 30 games (21 against top-20 teams), I see them winning only eight. I have experience watching rosters filled with AHLer and journeymen NHLers. It never ends well. The Leafs should finish with the best chance (20%) to win the Matthews lottery.
- Nazim Kadri will not play tonight due to a lower body injury. I guess his shin was “in and out” after the Giordano hit, not his chin. *Drops mic*
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Connor McDavid is finally going to be forced to do the one thing he’s been avoiding for his entire life; facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. I feel for the kid, really; he clearly wanted to be here, to the point where his clavicle acted in his best interests to get him out of the last matchup between these two teams.
But now, the gloves are off, and the Leafs need a loss. Tonight, even in Blue and Orange, he is Toronto’s saviour, not Edmonton’s, as the Leafs push for a huge zero points.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers can’t win on the road, but they are the 13th best home team in the NHL. They are 14-10-1 at home and pick up their 15th win tonight by a 5-1 score.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores in his first game against the Leafs. “It was obviously my team. Growing up around Toronto, they were the sports team I followed the most,” he said this morning. While Leafs fans shed a tear watching what they missed out on, Oilers fans chug a beer after he scores and are thankful their team won the lottery 2015 instead of the Leafs.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: A twitter battle erupts between Oilers and Leafs fans during the game. Leafs fans try to claim this is the worst NHL lineup they’ve seen, but Oilers fans are quick to point out some gems from the past five years. The final month of the 2009/2010 season had the likes of Dean Arsene, Aaron Johnson, Charles Linglet, Ryan Potulny and others. In the spring of 2011 the Oilers had this lineup. The battle morphs from Leafs vs. Oilers, to Oilers fans searching for the weakest single game roster. It is quite the trip down memory lane.
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