GDB 79.0: HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – Looking to improve

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GameDay

The Oilers conclude their busiest stretch of the season tonight versus the Anaheim Ducks. This is their 15th game in 28 days, and they’ve managed to go 7-7-0 so far. They are 7-3 since March 1st when Cam Talbot starts, and he’ll play tonight.

Prior to March the Oilers were 23-34-7 (prorated over full season equals 68 points), and despite significant injuries to their blueline this month, they’ve still managed to improve their point totals. Todd McLellan challenged his team, and so far they have responded.

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They still have a lot to improve before they are a playoff contending team, but instead of limping to the finish line like they have the past eight seasons, at least they are competitive down the stretch this year.

The best case scenario for the Oilers is finishing 25th, and the worst case is they will finish 30th for the third time in the seven years.

Despite a respectable finish in their final 18 games, the Oilers will once again be closer to the basement of the NHL than to the playoff cut line. I’ve seen improvement, but ultimately not enough and moral victories and small improvements simply aren’t good enough.

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TEAM GP W L OT PTS ROW

Winnipeg

75

31

38

6

68

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29

Calgary

75

31

38

6

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68

29

Columbus

75

30

37

8

68

24

Vancouver

75

27

35

13

67

23

Edmonton

78

30

41

7

67

26

Toronto

74

27

36

11

65

21

Buffalo has 72 points and seven games remaining — the Oilers won’t be catching them.

Fifteen games in 28 days is a lot of hockey, and facing a Ducks team that is three points out of first place in the Pacific and four points ahead of third place San Jose is not an easy task, but the Oilers only play three games in the final 13 days of the season, so they will have ample time to rest up. Tonight will be a test of their desire and mental toughness and McLellan will be watching to see who shows up and who doesn’t.

LINEUPS…

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 12.07.05 PM

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Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 12.07.31 PM

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Ducks lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS…

  • Nail Yakupov asking for a trade isn’t a surprise. I can see why he’d be frustrated. Right around the trade deadline a source told me Yakupov and his camp had asked for a trade, but I could never get a solid confirmation so I didn’t write it. My source mentioned at the time the Ducks were close (not guaranteed but close) on a deal with Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot prior to the trade deadline, but the injury to Pouliot put an end to those discussions.

    Teams will have interest in Yakupov. The return will be more than what some expect, but it also won’t be as much as you’d hope for a player only four years removed from being the first overall pick in the draft. Considering Yakupov’s camp was allowed to talk to other teams, Yakupov will know who had interest, and I’m guessing he will want to make a solid impression for the Ducks tonight.

    Today Yakupov said, “The agent and the team had a discussion about it, but I don’t know any details. That’s it. I’m still here.” Trust me, he knows every detail. He knows the Ducks had interest and he’ll know which other teams were/are interested. His agent, Igor Larionov, wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t tell his client what was up. Larionov will join me at 2:05 MST today to discuss Yakupov.

  • Patrick Maroon has five goals in 12 games with the Oilers, while Yakupov has six goals in 56 games. I don’t see where Yakupov fits moving forward. Having three different head coaches in four years is not ideal for a young player, and I believe both the organization and Yakupov have an equal share in his lack of production to this point. Both sides can look within and they should recognize what needs to change moving forward. The Oilers won’t have a coaching carousel under Peter Chiarelli, and when Yakupov goes to a new team next year he will need to realize he needs to play smarter. I like Yakupov’s attitude and tenacity, and if he decides to dedicate himself to playing smarter and within a system he will be a solid NHL player.
  • The Oilers went 2-4 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid in the lineup this month. If they keep all three they are better off having Draisaitl or RNH play the wing in the top-six than spread them out over three lines. Teams barely have two scoring lines in today’s NHL — expecting three seems like a losing proposition.
  • The Oilers haven’t won 19 games at home since 2006/2007 when they went 19-19-3. They last won 20 games at home in 2005/2006 when they finished 20-15-6. They are currently 18-18-2 with three home games remaining.

TONIGHT…

YakCastAway

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 2-4 at home in March, but they stun the Ducks with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid has scored a goal on every day of the week this year except Monday. He has one on Wednesdays and Sundays, two on Fridays, three on Saturdays and four on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is his final Monday game of the season so he scores a goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Korpikoski has seven career goals versus the Ducks, tied for the most against any team (Dallas is the other). He tallies his eighth career goal versus Anaheim tonight.

NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!

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  • Oiler Al

    Have a close look at this Lindholm kid on Ducks defense. He is No1 pairng, surpassed Fowler,and is only 22 years old.

    This is the same guy that was there to be had when Oilers drafted Yak. [ I know the other consensus choice was Murray, so they probably would not have drafted Lindholm anyway.]

    Thank you Katz and McGregor.

    • Chilly Canadian

      You can’t say he was there to be had. When you pick first, you really have two options usually. In this case, Yakupov and Murray. If he played a whole season instead of being injured, maybe Galchenyuk. They are there because almost the entire hockey world had them there. When Anaheim picked Lindholm, it was considered off the board. When you pick 6th, you can do that. If the Oilers picked him 1st, they would have been laughed out of the building.

      • Oiler Al

        My point was they should have drafted out of need and not shiny marbles. There were 8 D-men picked in the first 10 picks that year. That tells you something.

          • Oiler Al

            Well ya in a sense it was, but Oilers have yet to pick or luck out on a left fielder.

            They took Moroz ,2nd round @32. That’s pretty dumb.

            I will say this for the 5 th time… you had
            Parayko playing in your back yard in St. Albert and Ft Mcmurray. Why didn’t McGregor see this guy.

            Because he wasn’t playing for the Kings or the BCLH.

            This kid cracks a tough St.Louis backend, first year out of college. Moroz as never had a Oiler jersey on yet.

          • Seanaconda

            He was drafted 86th overall obviously lots of teams missed him. Its true he played in our backyard but dmen are alot harder to predict than forwards. Moroz was panned as a bad pick on draft day tho.

          • #1 overall waivers pick

            If the Oilers offered Yak and Reinhart for Parayko, the Blues would refuse. Pretty shocking that the Oilers scouts missed the giant tree growing in the backyard.

          • Rock11

            Gawd I hate this kind of reasoning. You think if the Blues knew he was going to be a stud D they would have waited until the 86th pick or whatever. Of course not. They would have drafted him in the first round. Every team in the league passed over him twice and most a third time.

            I hear this all the time about Detroit too when it comes to Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Always comes down to Ken Holland is a genius. BS. If Holland had even an inkling that those two would be this good for this long he would have drafted them in the first round. And if he let every other team have 6 cracks at these guys when he knew how good they were then he should be fired for risking his organization’s future.

            Bottom line is sometimes you just get lucky. Maybe Yak 2, Slepyshev, Chase, or Davidson will be the Oilers version of Parayko.

          • pkam

            Just imagine if Davidson was drafted by another team. I can see comments like ‘why did we draft Pitlick, Marincin, Hamilton, Martindale Blain, Bunz instead of Davidson?’

          • Seanaconda

            True at the time moroz was drafting for need because the oilers wanted the coke machine that could play so bad. He hasn’t exactly worked out but I remember lots of articles giving the oilers grief for drafting for need vs bpa

          • Oiler Al

            You know that the Oilers need has been top pairing
            d-men since the time Pronger left town. Its been 10 years and they still don’t have one. Good teams build from the back end and the middle.

        • pkam

          In the 2013 draft, Seth Jones was #1 with Mackinnon a very closed #2, Drouin in 3rd and Barkov in 4th.

          The draft result? Centres 1st and 2nd, Wings 3rd and defense 4th.

          It is not just the Oilers, but 3 other teams draft forwards over defense as well.

      • Seanaconda

        To be fair yak was the consensus number one pick. He had better numbers than stamkos in juniors and Murray hasnt been that much better. If they took galchenyuk and he was a bust it would of been a nightmare with him not playing his entire draft year.

        If you could go back in time it would be so easy to make a stacked team but at the time yak was the safe choice.

        • pkam

          My choice at the time was Galchenyuk, my future big 2nd centre after RNH. I knew it was risky, but it was fine for me because there was no consequence to me if he didn’t pan out. And I don’t blame Oilers for picking Yak which seemed to be the safest bet at the time. But Lindholm? I wonder what Al will say today if the Oilers went for him and he didn’t pan out.

          • Seanaconda

            Who was in charge at the time ?? It was tambelleni still wasn’t it?? The guy never took risks and was already on the bad side of the fans. It may of been Katzs decision too.

            I honestly doubt lowe has been the secret gm like other people think tho just cuz all the Gms have had different styles.

          • Jay (not J)

            I think that there were phases. I think that in the beginning, as exemplified by his famous tweet about MacT’s coaching tenure, the push for Hossa and then Heatley, Katz was of a mind that he was going to Jerry Jones this thing. The indecision that plagued the Tabelinni era could well have been the result of too many opinions and too many levels trying to do the General Manager’s job, but at the same time it could have been the honest result of a disastrous hire. Tambo was a rookie GM at the time though and it would have been appropriate for the organization to hold his hand a little bit. MacT was the stable buddy that Lowe could trust to do things the way he wanted without him having to meddle. How much of what happened over this last decade was directly Lowe’s fault might be impossible to actually work out. He was the PHO though and the guy responsible for hiring and firing his GM so whether or not he was responsible, he was responsible. It would be interesting to know though how much of the last 10 years has had to do with pushing back against a meddlesome owner. For all we know Lowe is a closet poster here (what ever happened to JAFO?) who has always been against the way the team has been run under Katz but has been diligently playing the hand he was dealt working fastidiously and relentlessly towards the team that we all want the Oilers to become. This martyr was then set aside when his owner finally relented and brought in Bob Nicholson who (I hope and pray daily) wont take Katz’ sh!t.

          • McPucker

            I remember many discussions on ON for this draft.

            1. Yak was the majority. Hard to argue those stats.

            2. Murray. Draft for need.

            3. Galchenyuk. Big Centre. Also a need but risky because he only played something like 6 games and we didn’t know how the injury would affect his career.

            All 3 choices intrigued me. In my ignorance I figured the Oiler’s would have the inside dope are were in the best position to make the correct decision.

          • pkam

            Actually, I am happy with all the Oilers 1st round picks including Yak. I just like Galchenyuk a bit more. And if Galchenyuk doesn’t pan out and Yak does, you bet I will not even tell anyone about it.

        • socaldave

          No, he wasn’t. That’s simply not true. Even the Oilers’ scouting staff had Murray ahead of Yak by 9 votes to 2. Go read Spector’s piece on Snet and check it out. Yak was NOT a consensus number one.

          • Seanaconda

            Hmm fair it’s confirmed by the scouts? Idk he was on most of the scouting lists wasn’t he?? He’s prolly a bust but Murray isn’t much better if that’s any consolation if Katz did overrule the scouts.

        • pkam

          I 100% disagree with you. When there is a defense and a forward, especially a centre, with similar potential, I will take the forward every time.

          There are lots of top defensemen drafted in late 1st round or later rounds.

          Top centres, most of them come from the top 5 picks.

  • Kr55

    Larionov seems to be playing the hockey dad role with the Oilers org. He sure has a lot of opinions on how his player has been misused and who he should be playing with and a full timeline of all the right and wrong choices our coaches have made over the years. He also has talked again about how involved he is being in trying to get the Oilers to change their usage of Yak, and we know that dates back at least as far as the first year with Eakins.

    My concern is that Yak is letting his agent guide his career too much. Letting Larionov tell him how he should be treated and inflating his self worth to unrealistic levels. Also that Larionov may be souring the relationship with our coaches for Yak.

    • Oiler Al

      I agree with you that Larionov has given this kid some poor advise.

      Their were issues right from the start, when Oilers drafted him, sent him to Sarnia, and he would not report. Went to the KHL for a couple games,then was released because he did not have a release from America .. think he had already signed with the Oilers.Came back and did report to Sarnia.

      There was other stuff in year two with Larionov as well.

      • Oliveoiler

        I agree that Yak has probably not been represented too well by his agent. At his age it would also be more healthy to be out of the family home and sharing with other team members – makes maturity show up a whole lot quicker.

      • Kr55

        Seems Larionov took a very different approach with the Oilers org. Maybe because he was getting no respect from Eakins. Larionov expressed how unhappy he was with how the Oilers were treating him in the 13/14 season and he’s saying similar things today. I guess Montreal management/coaching managed to have a better relationship with Larionov.

  • Benny Botts

    @Jason Gregor

    I saw stauff tweeted that both Pardy and Gryba were on the ice today, with the 4 day break before their last 3 games, do you expect them to make a return for those last 3?

  • The Perceptor

    If you aren’t happy about the Yakupov situation, please go to oilers.nhl.com and vote him as your favourite Oiler. If nothing else, maybe it sends a message that us fans love the guy and we aren’t happy he’s leaving.

  • fran huckzky

    If Mark Wheeler is assigned to do lines in the playoffs,the NHL referees association will have zero credibility. He wasn’t even stationed in a proper position to make a call at the blue line yet he made abad call that may have had a bearing on the outcome of a game.

  • Gravis82

    How can anyone on that panel even consider someone not named McDavid for the calder. My god. This is ridiculous. Do any of the hockey media even watch oiler games?

  • Oil City Roller

    I was hoping they would healthy scratch Yak for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately it looks like comrade Igor has complained enough to get Yak on a line with Hall. I can’t wait for the Oilers to be done with Yak and the entire gong show that goes along with him.

  • FireScorpion

    Nicely done Edmonton, keep that 30th spot close to your heart and don’t worry about that losing culture and mentality you have firmly engrained in your team.

    Yak can’t WAIT to be gone, he’s counting down the games left like the schedule is an advent calendar

  • By the end of the season we’ll see how the Oilers fared against their divisional rivals.

    Conventional logic would tell you that the Oilers should be looking at forming a team that can match up very well against the Sharks/Kings/Ducks for a few reasons:

    -Since the Oilers are facing div rivals more than anyone else, these are valuable points that need to be up for grabs, rather than automatic losses.

    -Secondly, these teams are pretty well rounded and are essentially playoff teams.

    -Lastly, if the Oilers are competitive against them, they’ll be competitive against the rest of the NHL.

    But when I looked at their records against the East and Western divisions I saw this:

    vs East:

    17-14-1 (0 games remaining) [0.547] 39% of Oiler games

    vs Central Div:

    5-14-2 (0 games remaining) [0.288] 26% of Oiler games

    vs Pacific Div:

    8-13-4 (4 games remaining) [0.4] 35% of Oiler games

    The Central Division destroyed the Oilers. Even if the Oilers lose the rest of their games (all against div rivals), they’d still end up with a 0.345 winning % in their own division.

    Had the Oilers went exactly 0.500 vs that Central Division, they’d be sitting at a respectable 76 points right now.

    Point being that I may have put too much stock in the Oilers needing to be competitive against div rivals, where a good chunk of points are up for grabs. The entire Western Conference is doing them in.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Maybe the play of Parayko makes Pietrangelo a little more accessible. Hitchcock did mention Parayko was the most prominent part of St.Louis’ future on their blueline.

    One thing is certain, Peter is going to leave no stone unturned this summer. I’m hopeful he lands one surprise blueliner…and a shocker (who knew that guy was even available type) all on top of landing Hamonic as well.

    This time of year is such a roller coaster for the kool aid types. Yakupov pots the hat trick tonight.

  • Jay Arrr

    Gregor, I just listened to the clip of your conversation with Craig Button from a few days back, where you talked about turfing the rule that ends the powerplay when a goal is scored. Button said that it likely wouldn’t make it in right away for a number of reasons, one of them being that the Owners that do not benefit from the rule (the ones with bad PP rates) would vote it down.

    Do you think the Owners would be more open to changing the rule that negates a powerplay when a goal is scored on a delayed penalty? The rule doesn’t really make any sense in the first place (it’s an even strength goal!), plus it would make a powerplay way more intense if a team just cashed on the delayed penalty.

    I don’t ever hear anyone talk about this, but I think it is a natural first step if the league were to consider going back to the old PP rule.

  • GK1980

    Austin Mathews? How good is he really? Anaheim isn’t even trying tonight. Who is the concesus number one next year? Seems like we are getting him too.

    Lame penalty against mcdavid. But like it mattes anymore.

  • S cottV

    Did anyone catch Larionov’s answer on the JG show about – why not wait till the end of the year to go public with the “I want to be traded” thing?

    Didn’t hear the answer very clearly.

    Don’t like the showcase thing – after this development.

    When a player does the wrong thing you – as an organization you do the right thing – don’t showcase him. Bust him to the 4th.

    I thought we had goals for the remainder of the season? Now – we’re playing games.

    Maybe it will work out and Yak has a good game but I don’t know. Something tells me its not gonna work out.

    I’m sure the Anaheim players got wind of it and are gonna show their GM, just how welcoming they are gonna be to Yak as a Duck. Watch out Yak – you may be a sitting Duck.

    Then – there are the Oilers players – like Hall and what they really think. Despite what is said publicly, I don’t see it going over that well. We’ll see if Hall shares the puck with Yak tonight, as an indicator. If he shares it a little – maybe Hall will be trying to help his buddy show well for the Ducks. If he shares it a lot – maybe it’s to set him us as Duck stew – Yak style.

    I guess a reason to watch the game.

    • RJ

      The showcase thing should be obvious.

      Even if you don’t like Yak, you give him the ice time and you get a higher return for him than if you bury him in the pressbox or the 4th line. Like Jultz. There were fans here who figured he was no better than a 7th round pick or a bag of pucks. Instead they gave him regular ice time and they got a third for him.