20
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Lucic Getting Even

With the Edmonton Oilers coming out of the Christmas break on a four-game winning streak as they face the Winnipeg Jets on the road tonight, there’s been a lot to like about the way they’ve played during a 10-game stretch that’s seen them go 7-3 to move within four points of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

Stopper Cam Talbot has been back on form and dialed in for most of that stretch and sits atop that list for me. Likewise, the decision by Todd McLellan to split up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and run them with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle has been significant. McDavid (43 points), Draisaitl (29 points) and RNH (26 points) have all been productive atop team scoring.

The other aspect I’ve liked, and not just during this latest stretch that has seen the Oilers inch closer to the Anaheim Ducks in eighth place, is the even-strength production and the overall body of work we’ve seen from left winger Milan Lucic. Lucic has been a fixture alongside McDavid and has so far responded with 26 points – 20 of those points have come at even-strength.

Given the consternation over the breakdown of his production last season – 25 of his 50 points came on the power play – Lucic came into this season well aware he had to be more of a factor at even strength. So far, it’s been mission accomplished. Lucic has provided the same physical dimension fans have come to expect and he’s scored 6-14-20 at even strength and 3-3-6 with the Oilers enjoying a man-advantage.

RETURN TO FORM

Nov 3, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic (27) and New Jersey Devils defensemen Dalton Prout (5) fight during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

“The five-on-five play has always been the strongest part of my game, and I really have to improve on that this year,” Lucic said heading into training camp.  “I just can’t be so reliant on goals and points on the power play.” You can see Lucic’s stats beyond the boxcars here.

Overall, Lucic is producing points at about the same rate as last season. It took him 38 games to hit 26 points a year ago compared to 36 games this season. His goals per-game are down ever-so-slightly (.25 compared to .28). His assists per-game are up a fair bit (.47 compared to .33 in 2016-17). The biggest difference is that his production at even strength more resembles previous levels.

In that regard, it’s looking like last year was a one-off. In the three seasons prior to 2016-17, Lucic had 55 goals at even strength and seven on the power play. For his career, Lucic is 154-37 in terms of even/PP goals through 765 games.

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • I don’t recall anybody picking the Vegas Golden Knights to be nearly as good as they’ve been. The Knights went into the break as the NHL’s hottest team in the last 10 games at 8-1-1, including four straight wins. With 48 points, 12 ahead of the Oilers, is anybody picking them to drop out of the playoff picture? The Oilers pumped the Knights 8-2 in November but that was against fourth-string goaltending.
  • When you look at Edmonton’s special teams, specifically the PK, it’s amazing they’re even within a $5 cab ride of a post-season spot. The penalty killing comes out of the break dead-last at 72.9 per cent. The power play is 22nd at 16.8 per cent.
  • The Oilers can help themselves climb the playoff ladder big-time in over the next month. They play their next 11 games against Western Conference opponents. They’ll get the Jets twice in their next three games and the Chicago Blackhawks come calling at Rogers Place after a game in Vancouver the night before.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    And people say Lucic’ contract is bad. I friggin love Milan. I love the deal, I love the signing, and I love hat he brings to the team! And hey, he seems to be doing well next to McDavid. Too slow my ass

    • DEMERIO

      I think people “hate” the future of the contract. They assume he can only go downhill. In the present moment he’s been a beauty. He’s pure business. A lot of fun to watch.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Why the future of the deal?

        In three years his trade restrictions relax and like 85% of his deal is paid off. You’re telling me that Milan even at 50% of what he is today isn’t going to be attractive to some teams looking to circumvent the salary cap floor?

  • ed from edmonton

    The Oil have been the team we had hoped they would be since about Dec 1. This correlates pretty well with THE McD an the team regaining health. In the 1st few weeks of the season it seemed that the Oil expected to be able to just show up and win games, they had plenty of know shows, especially against less well regarded teams. In November the team was completely of and there now seems to be evidence to suggest that they were , as a team, struggling with a flu bug. With the Oil playing very few western conference teams in Oct/Nov and a west heavy schedule now, it gives the Oil a chance to make up ground quickly.

  • TyJohn

    There is one thing I hate about Lucic is that he is too determined to fast break. I may be bias because of my dislike of him but the unneeded turnovers that happen in neutral and defensive zone are a regular occurrence and it some times butchers the flow of the play, I like to refer to him as a table hockey player because of these blind backhand passes. However, I will not deny that he is shooting often in great scoring chances with great accuracy and does bring a heavy presence on Conner’s line. His chemistry with Pool and Conner is growing and I’m thinking this line is going to light the lamp more once Jesse can find the meshy part.

  • ScottV

    I’ve long been an advocate that Lucic was being mishandled by McL and it’s still not quite where it should be.

    The decision to move him away from McD last year, was way too premature and otherwise would have proved unnecessary. Given some additional short amount of time, McD would have figured how to best utilize Lucic and to some degree visa versa. Instead the McL blender runs amuck – souring the fan base on the big guy, no doubt pissing Lucic right off and making PC look like a complete fool.

    McL runs the Maroon – McD – Drai line, way beyond it’s logical overall benefit, at the expense of Lucic and a number of other forwards, who needed a boost for reasonable team – secondary scoring, among other issues – like developing Drai as the natural c man that he is.

    Lucic still needs to be kept in the o zone for longer periods of time through complimentary tactics. McL’s mass shooting creates mass opportunities for the other team to gain possession and take the puck the other way. As mentioned by TyJohn, Lucic isn’t very good in the d zone and neutral zone. So – keep him in the o zone. More – wide drives, established deep possession, puck protection, 5 man cycling, use of points etc, leading to attempts at net with the big tank net front. McD can play it that way. He’s awesome when we do get some o zone possession and McD is flying around the perimeter with the puck. Need more of it.

    • The Future Never Comes

      Did Todd misuse Lucic last year, or did he drop the ball in his given time beside McD and Maroon pick it back up to net 27 goals riding shotgun to 97?

      • ScottV

        What we are seeing now (more balanced scoring) we could have seen more of – last year.
        Maybe – would have worked out to even better results last year and almost certainly better results longer term – ie a much better start to this year.
        The team makes a major investment in Lucic and then McL buries the guy prematurely – in favor of Maroon?
        So – McL rides them, at the expense of what was better overall for the team anyway and in the process – maximizes their bargaining position for subsequent contract negotiations. Maybe – the McD contract was never gonna be had for less, but – Drai between 6 and 7 and Maroon upcoming without a McD inflation would come in a little cheaper, to the point where you can keep him. Drai could have been driving his own line, developing his longer term value as the c man he really is, helped complimentary wingers to produce secondary scoring, have had a good year – last year and we probably sign him for 7 per.
        To me – unnecessary. There were other team priorities to pander toward.
        In the old days, GM’s would not have let their Coach screw things up like this – for no particular good reason.

        • The Future Never Comes

          Burying Lucic? Is second line minutes, with time on and off with McD or Drai burying him? Is first line PP minutes for the entire season banishing him? Not really seeing your logic all that well.

    • His fights are usually great? Kind of a narrow perspective, no? Not sure that’s a good enough reason to have a top-six forward throwing down every chance he gets. Aside from his first couple of years in the league, Lucic has usually fought only as required by the circumstances and when he sees fit — 4-6 times a season — which is the smart way to go.

  • camdog

    By the end of Year 2 of his contract if Lucic stays on the first line there is a good possibility he has more goals than Hall. Both are tied at 32 right now. Of course Hall is in a different category as he can drive a line, but he generally spends time on IR.

  • MessyEH!

    Lucic is still Lucic. His play has not dropped off. It may, It may not. I love what he brings. I’m sure guys like Nurse and Kassian love playing with the nuclear deterrent that’s actually pretty good at the hockey. Lucic has been earning his money. I’m sure if his play drops off, someone will be willing to take him. The other thought is, that due to the style he plays, he may experience a “career ending” injury. That forces him to the LTIR. Its been known to happen

    • camdog

      Lucic needs to stop fighting. The only time he gets injured is from fighting. Broken nuckles and clubs for hands won’t land him on LTIR but it will stop him from contributing.

  • Disappointed

    Good to see Patty Maroon come to the conclusion that he has to show he is worth big dollars on his next contract, not just from riding on 97’s coat tails. We can thank Milan for that.

  • Oilers are my #1 but the Habs are my #2 .. With that said I always loved seeing the Habs get under his skin and drawing a late penalty and a guaranteed PP goal. Now, with him playing for my Oil, I love seeing him play and being that big body that forces the puck past the blueline and deep in the zone where the real stuff happens.

    As for Vegas, I truly think they will level out and just squeak into the playoffs, although I watched Fleurry play for Cape Breton in the Juniors so i would like to see him win.

    BIG W TONIGHT BOYS !!

  • Joy S. Lee

    Lucic is literally the best in the NHL at what he does best. The entire team is an inch taller with him on it, and when 27 starts thundering opposing d-men, they start coughing pucks up for guys like 97. ‘Nuff said.