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

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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.

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  • 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?

  • Jordan88

    Really disgusts me listening to Drew Remenda.

    Nail goes out and plays his heart out and doesn’t bury a shot. Bends over in disgust with himself.

    Drew makes a comment about body language.

    Every player who misses a grade A chance does that.

    Talk about kicking a guy when he is down.

    At 22 if I was in the headlines, not knowing where my future is, having an agent who is supposed to represent me airing my dirty laundry in the open. Sorry if I show a little emotion.

    Everyone who talks about what this team needs, they need a better class of commentator or a commentator with some class.

  • 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.

  • Butters

    I might be in the minority here, but I cheer for the Oilers and I don’t hate any of the players.

    I hope Yakupov does get traded. That way he won’t have to hear the talking heads in this town rationalize giving up on a 22 year old. These same talking heads who can’t pick a Stanley Cup winner, never mind build one.

    Prepare the next whipping boy Oil Country…if you haven’t already. I suspect Eberle and Hall are on deck.

    • Oil City Roller

      I don’t hate Yak either but he and Igor have made some pretty bush league moves over the course of his career. I’ve been listening to Igor’s interviews today and he refuses to say that Yak has had anything to do with position he finds himself. On Oilers Now he compared Yak to Ovie and said any team would be happy to have him! These guys are delusional and that is why I am tired of Yak. If he thinks his Junior B league moves and positioning are going to fly somewhere else then have at it.

      • Butters

        Is there any benefit to the Oilers, or yak, if the agent talks him down? Although pumping him up to ovi levels makes it look like dealin b with the yak camp might be a headache. That doesn’t sound too helpfull either.

  • GK1980

    Wow. If this game actually mattered and I cared I would be pretty upset with the officiating. Brutal calls all night and Kesler seems to be able to trip and interfere whenever he wants. What a loser.

  • theoil

    Wouldn’t it be hilarious if they traded him to Anaheim for next year and Boudreau got fired early and they brought up Eakins as interim? I think I’d laugh my head off

  • 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.

    • Butters

      He liked McDavid last draft, I bet he likes Matthews this year.

      He seems to prefer forwards and appears to follow the Central Scouting lists pretty closely, at least in the first round. Hence his RNH, Yak, Hall, McDavid picks. He might have went a tiny smidge off the board picking Leon ahead of Sam Bennet. Why he did that? We may never know.

      \

      Wait he picked Nurse ahead of that big Russian kid. Man, Katz’s kid is all over the place when he drafts.

  • West

    That was the worst offside call ever. That puck was a foot from even getting to the blue line. Once again the linesmen are just guessing at the offsides. Just pathetic.

    • West

      It seems like every game there are at least 2 times where the Oilers are called offside, but if you go back at look at it in slow motion, they are onside. This may be the worst ever.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    That’s interesting about the Yakupov + Pouliot deal to Anaheim that fell through. That’s the first time I’ve heard it mentioned. Wonder what the return would have been, Vatanen + Maroon?

  • Obvious Game Day prediction missed opportunity: Maroon has five goals in 12 games, he plays against his former team tonight that treated him like how the Oilers treat Nail Yakupov. Maroon will relish the chance to show what a mistake the Ducks made and score twice off feeds from McDavid.

    • pkam

      My prediction, Maroon gets a goal from a feed from McDavid, he returns the favor and gets the assist on McDavid’s first Monday goal. He gets into a fight after banging Getzlaf heavily into the board and gets a Gordie Howe hat trick.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Chopsucky

    “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.”

    HA….what a great stat!!!!!

  • 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.

  • 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?