The Oilers began their final ten-game stretch of the season with a 6-4 victory over the St.Louis Blues on Wednesday, and with the playoffs once again out of reach they are playing out the string, but Todd McLellan has challenged his players to do something they haven’t done in a long time: finish the season strong.
The Oilers have not won at least five of their final ten games since 2008, when they finished 6-3-1, and McLellan mentioned character and desire a lot leading up to the Blues game. He believes he can use these games as a teaching tool, but it is also an opportunity for his players to show him and GM Peter Chiarelli what they have, or possibly what each player doesn’t have.
Playing well in the final ten games of the season will not guarantee success next year, but the losing has to stop at some point. McLellan wants to instill a competitive effort now so hopefully his players know what it takes to win when next year begins. There is no magic switch they can flip. They need to learn how to compete and win, and I like how McLellan is approaching the final ten games.
Here’s how they finished the last six years:
Year Record GF GA PP PK
2010 4-5-1 29 35 6 for 40 (15%) 7 on 39 (82%)
2011 2-6-2 18 31 9 for 34 (26.4%) 12 on 46 (73.9%)
2012 4-4-2 21 25 3 for 20 (15%) 6 on 45 (86.6%)
2013 3-7-0 25 28 2 for 31 (6.4%) 6 on 36 (83.3%) **Outscored teams 13-3 last 2 games)
2014 4-6-0 24 34 5 for 25 (20%) 8 on 38 (78.9%)
2015 4-5-1 26 36 2 for 16 (12.5) 7 on 23 (69.5%)
2013 was the worst collapse. The Oilers were one point out of the playoffs with 12 games left (25% of season remaining in 48-game schedule), and they got crushed. They went 1-9 in the first ten games scoring a measly 17 goals and allowing 33.
Some will suggest these games mean nothing, but I disagree. The Oilers have to learn how to play with a consistent competitiveness. They’ve been unable to do it for years, so instead of waiting until next season, McLellan is still harping on them now. Hopefully it pays off next year.
- No lineup changes for the Oilers. McLellan wants to play a few more games with three centres before he moves Draisaitl to the wing and loads up his top-six.
- I’ve been watching Iiro Pakarinen very closely the past few games. I like his energy and feistiness, but he is not a good fit with Hall and Draisaitl. Too often he has made wrong decision with the puck. He will dump it when they have clear possession instead of passing it or carrying in the zone. He likely will move down once McLellan moves Draisaitl to the wing with RNH at centre and loading up the top-six. I don’t mind Pakarinen as a player, he just isn’t a top-six guy, which isn’t really surprising to any of us or the coaches, I suspect.
- Kassian is also not the answer long term either. McLellan has been working with him on the PK, and we should expect to see #44 get some shorthanded minutes. He wants Kassian to get comfortable in the bottom six. “He is skating better now, which is expected after a long layoff, and I like his aggressiveness and willingness to stand up for his teammates. We’d like him to be a bit more consistent. I see him more as a bottom-six forward moving forward,” McLellan said when I asked him about Kassian.
- The Oilers play the Canucks three times in their final nine games, and they face the Calgary Flames once. Before they can compete with the likes of LA, Anaheim and San Jose, they need to beat the Flames, Canucks and Coyotes (whom they play one more time as well).
- I don’t agree with the notion it was Martin Marincin or Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart could clear waivers this year, while Marincin couldn’t. Hypothetically, if they didn’t acquire Reinhart and kept Marincin, would he have jumped ahead of Davidson early in the year? I don’t believe so. And if he didn’t, then he likely would have been sent to the AHL and possibly claimed on waivers. I saw it as more as a battle/decision between Davidson and Marincin.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Canucks are playing some iffy hockey lately and that bodes well for their shot at the Zurich Zapper, Auston Matthews. Edmonton is coming off a pretty big win against the Blues so they’ll want to follow that up against a banged up Canucks squad. Oilers take it in regulation.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win 5-2. The PP stays hot with two PP goals.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All three lines score a goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nurse scores his first goal in 40 games and the Oilers improve to 5-2-1 when Nurse registers a point.
NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!
Celebrate the volunteer, parent, coach or organizer who keeps the game going and asks for nothing in return.
Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB 73.0: Playin’ The Blues
- McLellan points out harsh truth
- GDB 72.0: Looking for offence
- GDB 70.0: The Spoiler Role
- Some clarity for Nurse