Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Where will the goals come from?

We’re 11 games into the 2017-18 season and the Edmonton Oilers are 3-7-1. Things haven’t gone the way fans had hoped. The Oilers went into the season touted as Stanley Cup contenders, but currently sit 31st in goals for, four behind 30th place Carolina. They need to score more goals, but where are they going to come from?

Connor McDavid’s line is producing as it should. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is off to a solid start, even with extended time with rookie Kailer Yamamoto. Those two lines are reasonably well, but their depth players aren’t getting it done, and expectations may be a little too high.

Oilers 2017-18 Point Pace vs. Career Pace

Player 17-18  Pace Career Average Difference SH%
Maroon 67 37 30 15.4
Draisaitl 89 59 30 9.5
Nurse 22 15 7 0
Russell 29 24 5 8.3
McDavid 97 95 2 11.9
RNH 52 54 2 21.7
Yamamoto 30 30 0 0
Larsson 15 20 -5 8.3
Benning 10 18 -8 5
Khaira 0 8 -8 0
Strome 29 39 -10 4.5
Auvitu 0 10 -10 0
Gryba 0 12 -12 0
Lucic 37 50 -13 4.3
Slepyshev 0 14 -14 0
Letestu 15 31 -16 9.1
Klefbom 15 31 -16 0
Pakarinen 0 16 -16 0
Kassian 7 25 -18 0
Caggiula 0 22 -22 0
Jokinen 9 50 -41 0

Patrick Maroon is at the top here and I’m using player’s career 82-game pace, but if you use his stats since coming from Edmonton (a ~49-point pace), he’s still outpacing that by almost 20 points. Leon Draisaitl is at the top as well since his rookie season is weighing his career average down a bit and McDavid is just being McDavid. Maroon, McDavid, Draisaitl aren’t a concern.

Nugent-Hopkins being on pace while playing with Milan Lucic and Yamamoto is a little impressive. Lucic is a little behind his usual pace, but he’s scoring 5-on-5. Yamamoto is a rookie and asking him to be a top-six player is probably too much at this point, and could be back in Spokane within a few days.

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The top two lines are having success and basically in range of their careers. They’re scoring most of the goals, though. McDavid, Draisaitl, Maroon, Nugent-Hopkins, and Lucic are the only forwards with a goal at even strength.

Ryan Strome has a -10-point difference, but he’s scoring in line with his previous two season in Long Island. His 50-point 21-year old season is raising his career average, but he’s about where you’d expect given the past couple season. That’s a reasonable total if he’s playing a middle-six role.

Both Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev don’t have a point yet, but have career 22 and 14-point averages respectively, so expectations should be tempered.

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Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu haven’t performed like they can, and that’s especially the case with Letestu and the power play. Letestu isn’t a high-end 5-on-5 player, so he’ll need to start scoring with the man advantage as he did a year ago. Kassian was a surprisingly good scorer at even strength in his first full season in Edmonton. If he can return to a similar level it will go a long way to help the depth scoring, and hte Oilers as a whole.

Jussi Jokinen stands out here with a massive -41-point difference. He’s only one season removed from scoring 60 points with the Florida Panthers, but he was also bought out after a 28-point season last year. I thought he was a worthwhile pickup for $1.1 million, but he’s playing the lowest amount of his career so it’s possible Todd McLellan just doesn’t see him as a fit. Jokinen does have a long track record of being a useful player.

Only Klefbom really stands out from the defence. He’s generating a lot of shots but could be playing hurt. The Oilers miss Sekera’s offence and power play time. Matt Benning has looked better with time, but playing Kris Russell on the second unit isn’t ideal.

If the Oilers are going to score more, it’ll have to be with help from their bottom six. Their top six is more or less producing, Nugent-Hopkins won’t shoot 21% forever, but Lucic won’t score on 4% of his shots either. It’s just the other six forwards. Caggiula and Slepyshev will score a goal eventually, but counting on them for to produce regularly in the top-nine could be futile given their limited NHL history.

Things get murkier if Yamamoto is sent down. Another year in the WHL seems optimal, but Edmonton’s right-wing is incredibly poor. They’re missing Jordan Eberle and having Draisaitl as a full-time winger limits his ability to help drive the secondary offence away from McDavid. Jesse Puljujarvi is an option, but he only has one goal and four points in eight games with Bakersfield. Peter Chiarelli might have to look for outside help, that way McLellan could separate McDavid and Draisaitl in hopes of a more balanced attack, something he hasn’t been willing to do this season.

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  • russ99

    Need to split up McDavid and Leon. Younger wingers need quality support, can’t do it themselves.

    First line:
    Maroon – McDavid – X

    Second line:
    X – RNH – Leon

    Find two of Slepyshev, Strome, Caggiula, etc. to fill those spots.

  • 40 Year Re-build

    Anyone else think it is possible that Draisaitl was punched by one of his own team mates? That would explain his black eye and their poor on ice performance.

    • 40 Year Re-build

      What I meant was, I think Draisaitl’s black eye came from an off ice incident and has caused some distractions in the room. Everyone assumes it happened during the Winnipeg game, but he finished that game no problem. I am pretty sure that incident happened off ice.

      • 40 Year Re-build

        Probably wasn’t one of his team mates, but you have to admit, a black eye AND a concussion just happen appear the next day? Sounds like someone punched Draisaitl in the face and knocked him out. That hit against Winnipeg wouldn’t have done that. Have to accept that these boys can get involved in bad things outside the rink.

          • 24% body fat

            coaches not the problem, they are definitely part of the problem.

            Woodcroft is supposed to be a special teams master, so far major fail.

            Todd has luclc out on a 3 on 3, major fail.

            Caggulia continuously getting special teams time and has not contributed anything fail.

            Sleypyshev a large hare shooting right handed shot not on pp opposite connor or nuge, major fail.

            The only excuse the coaches have is if they are being told by the fool of a GM that he needs to play certain players.

          • cornwallroyals

            Head coach is definitely a problem. A week or so ago, McLellan publicly bashed his captain and young superstar. You just don’t do that in front of the media. It should be done in private. I have no doubt the players would be on McDavid’s side on this. Perhaps the players are playing to have the coach fired. It would not be the first time.

  • Slipknot 8

    “Where will the goals come from?”

    A Trade…….Expecting Caggiula – 7 ,Slepyshev -4 ,Strome -13 to score in the top six was an egregious error by Peter Chiarelli.. What’s even worse was the return for Eberle, If we agree Eberle needed to be traded.. Then I think its only fair we should be able to judge the return as being beyond awful.
    Chiarelli expectations of a 33 year old Letestu to repeat his results from the previous year and the hope a 35 year old Jokinen can return to a 20 goal scorer is beyond baffling….Specifically when the Panthers wouldn’t re-sign him
    One can only pray Lucic & can duplicate his 20 goal season…The Oilers are in a bad way…

  • 1ncinawhile

    Eberle trade was awful indeed… I think one of the largest problems with Edmonton these past few years has actually been the critical fan base. We continually destroy players in our blogs… run them out of town until management has no choice but to move them… then we all cry when they start ‘preforming’ on another team… Eberle is a perfect example of this… so many on this site bashed him no end… even though his numbers last season were not so terrible (you wouldn’t know it though by the way people talked around here)… so now rather than admitting they were wrong, and sourly missing his point production this season… now people say “ya well he produced sweet nothing in the playoffs” … but need I remind you that the poor fella had never got a chance to experience the playoffs… I bet he gets some points this playoff run with his new team… we do it over and over and over again with countless players…. Yes, us the fan base are to blame for some of this… squawk all you want now…. Edmonton is a tough market to play in… take poor mcdavids recent Halloween costume fiasco for another example… poor kid… can’t even relax at Halloween… fan base needs to chill out.

    • camdog

      I guess you are unfamiliar with PC’s work in Boston? As to Connor you must not be from this part of the country, nobody in Edmonton had a problem with the costume, it was the arswholes out east, that made a big deal of it.

    • Slipknot 8

      So, I am one of the few who defended him but ultimately during the playoffs he was responsible for the Oilers loss in a critical game.
      That being said, even if Eberle was run out of town by fans (which is absolutely nonsense IMHO) The fans don’t make the trades. The GM does, he is 100% responsible for the roster.
      The GM made the Oilers less skilled and slower not the fans….

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      You’re telling me a professional leader of a nine-figure sports franchise is going to make multi-million dollar moves and decisions-on a billionaires behalf, no less-based in part or all on the opinions…

      …of some anonymous dudes on a hockey blog?

      What, Chia gets up in the morning and checks HotOil.cawm and sees the light when commenter boner69 goes on a rant about Hall?

      Yeah. Okay.

    • btrain

      I don’t think you are off base suggesting this. Everything is linked and though the glass is half empty lynch mob types don’t think they make an impact on organizational decisions, they do, at least indirectly. Unfortunately if a player is struggling in a market like Edmonton it takes very little time for it to go from local rumblings to national coverage. In no time tunnel vision ensues and even when the national media guys come in to town to do a game, they are now looking to confirm the story lines they researched in the local media. Eberle is soft and loses battles. Well every winger on the team will lose at least a couple battles throughout a game, but now that a story is attached, Eberle’s mistakes are magnified and folks are looking to confirm what they believe or have been led to believe is true. Information that conflicts with this bias is ignored or dismissed (Empty net goals, hat trick last game against the lowly Canucks, no game winners or important goals, etc). Eventually between the circling trade rumours, the angry mob of fans, the tunnel vision, and national media folks throwing gas on the fire, a GM and owner for that matter is not going to be able to ignore what is going on. In fact, all GM’s around the league won’t be able to ignore whats going on and they start licking their chops as discounts are to be had. At the end of the day this is an entertainment business that relies on the fan to push revenues. If the there is enough fan driven negativity and anger, an Owner and a GM will be forced to make a decision to appease the masses.

  • Boom76

    OMG, so many commentators on this site who seem to want to revert to whine/complain/this-org-sucks mentality. And some of the ideas are total over-reactions. My take:

    – Explore interest in Lucic … and maybe move him by year’s end to open up $$. He’s not a reg season player, but if there’s not great return, I’m not going to complain with what he brings to playoff games.

    – We are missing Sekera. He is a settling factor in our line-up. Chances come from solid D

    – We are not missing Eberle (floater), but Strome MUST play better.

    – Maroon needs to kick it up something serious.

    – Do NOT TRADE Puljijarrrrrrrvi. He will be a freaking beast, and come on… Doesn’t everyone know they’re waiting to send Yamamoto down before they call him up?

    – Trade for a low-cost vet D in stead of Sekera

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        That was a thousand years ago. his point totals have never been the issue it’s his lack of intense play and inability to back check along with having gone through long stretches last year without scoring goals as well as being invisible in the playoffs. would at least ONE goal in the playoffs have been too much to ask from the guy?

    • Slipknot 8

      Lucic has an un-tradable contract! It’s also buy out prof! meaning, Lucic has total command and power over his contract and any decision that involves him.
      Yes, we do miss Sekera yet the GM did nothing during the summer to fix the missing Sekera, although he extended a very poor D-man and gave him 4.4 million a year and signed two other terrible defensmen
      Lucic & Russell cost the Oilers 11 million per season or about half of McDavid and Draisiatl……Let that sink in
      Maroon is on pace for the same production…..Maroon is fine and so is his salary
      JP has 4 points in 9 games……………I would say that qualifies as pedestrian at best…..
      Yes, the Oilers are missing Eberle’s skill, his goals, The return should have much, much better…
      You say youre missing Sekera but then you say trade Skera for a low cost D……..They did that! The GM signed names like Gryba and Auvitu……

  • Heschultzhescores

    Are you gonna tell me if we had a GREAT coach that we’d be playing like this? ZERO chance. Sure the players are responsible to a point, but if the system they are playing isn’t working, and clearly it isn’t….who’s fault is it then?

    • Slipknot 8

      The Oilers are out shooting the other teams, they are getting around 3 PP’s a game. These coaches are the same coaches that got the Oilers one game away from the Western Conference Finals…..
      It’s not the coaches, they cant make them score, they cant go out and make a save and the sure as hell cant make them faster or have better skill…..
      The players need to execute and the team needs faster better skilled players, thats on the players and GM

      • Heschultzhescores

        I can agree the players need to execute. A lot of execution is the game plan. Their PP looks lost out there. The penalty Kill has zero confidence. The defence seem to be pinching when they should be staying home and staying home when they should pinch. It’s a combination of the players and the coaches…but in the end the coaches need to get the most out of the players. I don’t see that. I see them getting the minimum which is obvious by the lack of production of more than half the team. Can all these guys just be sucking at once? Or is it possible they haven’t got a winning plan going in? Shots mean nothing….goals, it’s about goals. We need to throw the puck at the net and start scoring some garbage goals…or as I call them Calgary goals.

  • bwar

    The coaches have managed to lose the ability to have McDavid and Draisaitl produce while seperated. Having them together is a great option to have but it can’t be our only option.

    • Slipknot 8

      This is crazy talk……………
      The COACHES lost the ability to make Draisiatl and McDavid produce?!?!?!?!?!?!? Dear Gord!!!
      How about the Oilers did have two line that produced….One line did have McDavid with Eberle the other had Draisiatl and Hall….
      How’s that on the coaches…….

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    It’s the D, I think. Forwards play more confidently with better D. Also, you don’t have to score as many goals (we won last night, btw)

    * takes sip from brandy snifter *

  • DXB

    Wow….sky is not falling guys and gals. This season is without question at risk but let’s not loose site of the big picture here. The Eberle trade was never a lateral trade. We traded an underperforming 6mill guy for Middle of the line up guy. PC hedged that JP would be ready to go and when he is he will be a stud and change the look of this team. In speaking to Finnish friends the other day they all feel he will snap out of it. They say he’s never had to work to be the best player on the ice in his life and now he does. When he figures that out he will break out and be a serious piece. Moving forward we have pieces that are the envy of the league and it will come together. Let’s take a collective breath and settle the …. down.

    • Hemmercules

      These comments sections can get pretty toxic when the team is losing. I have been trying not to worry about it but they need to go 44-27 just to make the playoffs at this point. That’s a little scary.

      It seems to weird to me that they can be this bad. I mean, they aren’t getting pounded in every game or anything but sitting second last in the west shouldn’t happen after what they accomplished last year. I have to wonder if there is some sort of disconnect with the team for some reason? I hope to god those Nurse rumours aren’t true about him punching out Leon.

      I’m wondering whats going on with Klef and Larson as well? Larson isn’t killing dudes as much as he normally does and Klef is just off for some reason. Klef took a puck off his bad foot earlier in the season, wonder if its bothering him again?? Maybe the pressure got to them both. Expectation were really high this year, last year it was just play hard and make the playoffs, this year it was make a run at the cup.

      • Christian Pagnani

        I agree that they’re better than their record says, but they’re really digging a hole here.

        Being 31st with McDavid is stunning, so I think they might have to break up 97 and 29, even if that means acquiring a RW through trade to run 97, 29, and 93 at center. Loading up one line doesn’t seem to be working. Talbot should rebound as well, but they need to score.

      • DXB

        Larson has looked like he’s on cruise control for some reason but Nurse looks far better. Like you say the games have been tight for the most part, metrics generally favor us, things will turn. JP role is a major hole at the moment but he’s coming, as is Sekera. Guys need to start banging again, Lucic, Kassian, Maroon and our D need to play mean. There’s a few teams who are better than their records show and a few that are worse. Strange start to the year, let’s see what November brings. For me I’ll take the oilers today any day over most teams in the west, futures bright even if this year proves to be a recess year

        • Hemmercules

          These next two weeks will be the decider. Jonathan Willis basically laid it all out in his Sportsnet article today, if they don’t even out their record in the next couple weeks the season is very likely toasted.

  • GK1980

    The entire team is shooting blanks. They currently have one of the lowest shooting percentages in the league. Everything balances out and the 30+ shots the team takes every game will start tp pay off.

    • AJ88

      97 – currently tied for 30th in scoring, not going to say he is sucking but I guarantee he knows he has to pick it up. Playing with Drai they should be at the top of the heap, much like Stamkos and Kucherov. They must not be playing well if your best bud, Nuge, is tied for the team lead in scoring.

  • Spydyr

    This lies on the GM. It was pretty easy to see the team needed a scoring right winger and a top four defenceman this summer. What did the GM do? Stood pat,major fail.

    • IRONman

      We need new coaches. Where is Todd Nelson. Serious situation here. Look at the power play. Special teams is totally junk. We did go the distance with Crosby but their goalie beat us. .94% sv. Wow. I believe we got the goods. Just need Coaches to put the right players on the ice at the right time

      • Spydyr

        The thing that scares me with new coaches is old coaches coming back say one that is still on the payroll. You are right though whomever is coaching the powerplay to pass the puck from in front of the net to beside the net has to go. That play dies almost every time. The powerplay is easy. Get shots from the point and have forwards standing front and going to the net for screens, deflections and rebounds. All to often the Oiler forward in front is standing to the side of the goalie waving their stick at the puck instead of standing in front an screening the goalie. Keep it simple stupid….shoot and get to the net . get rid of the perimeter and cross seem passing looking for the pretty goal.

    • Christian Pagnani

      His offseason was a curious one. Betting on internal development is fine, but I was more skeptical when that rests on players like Strome, Caggiula, and Slepyshev. There was obviously a comfort level with Russell, too, but they should have looked for an upgrade as he sits 5th in ES TOI/gp right now.

      The right wing was always incredibly green, unless they were always planning to use Draisaitl there, but that would counter what Chiarelli said when he signed him.