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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 40.0: King Size Challenge (7:30pm MST, SNW)

The Edmonton Oilers begin 2018 in the unenviable 13th position in the Western Conference. They are seven points back of Anaheim, with a game in hand, for the final wildcard position. Minnesota, Chicago, Calgary and Colorado are also ahead of them in the race for eighth place in the west.

The Oilers were brutal against Winnipeg on Sunday. But lack of effort isn’t the main concern with this team. Their special teams are killing them. Every other topic is simply white noise or a distraction from the root of their problems.

The penalty kill is horawful. Yes, it is so bad you need to combine words and make up a new one to accurately describe the ineptitude of their penalty kill. It has been bad all season.

And for the past 19 games, the power play has decided to challenge the penalty kill for biggest weakness on the team. The PP is 12% over the past 19 games — six goals in 50 chances — and the first PP unit has two PP goals in the past ten games.

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Special teams are killing the Oilers. Much of it is coaching. Yes, the players need to be better, but seeing no improvement on a dreadful penalty kill and now a powerplay plummeting down the rankings is the recipe for no playoffs, and it could cost the coaching staff their jobs.

The NHL is a tough business. The Oilers have enough skill to be better than 13th overall. Their 5×5 play is very competitive, but they are losing games due to the powerplay and penalty kill.

The Oilers have scored a power play goal in only 13 of 39 games. They’ve allowed a powerplay goal in 24 of 29 and in nine of those games they’ve allowed two or three powerplay goals.

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What concerns me about the powerplay is the lack of options once they are set up in the offensive zone. Their zone entries, for the most part, are good, but when they get set up they generate very little.

Using Draisaitl in the bumper spot when McDavid is on the half wall limits both of them. Rarely can Draisaitl one-time the puck or get off a quick shot when the puck comes from the right boards, and because of that, they look for the high tip, which should never be the first option. Either set up McDavid on the left boards, which isn’t ideal, so Draisailt can shoot the puck from the slot/bumper, or put a right shot in the middle, like they did last year with Letestu, and have Draisaitl swing over to the left side. Have more motion in the powerplay, where Letestu can sometimes slide out from the bumper and be open for a one-timer.

Many powerplay coaches and players have told me when they watch opposing powerplays they like to see what the plan is once they are set up. Do the Oilers have a plan? Their set up is limiting their two most skilled players, so to me, the plan isn’t defined enough. It can’t just be, “Let Connor weave his magic.” The best players in the world love to be challenged and are always striving to learn. I have no doubt McDavid can adapt to anything the coaches put in front of him, but this year I’ve seen very few noticeable options. Yes, McDavid’s unwillingness to shoot is a small issue, but he wasn’t a shoot-first thinker last year and the PP was fine. Teams have adjusted to what the Oilers did last year, and I believe it is the coach’s job to adjust to what the PK is doing and find ways to exploit it.

Outside of not scoring very much on the PP, recently I haven’t seen a lot of quality chances produced. If they generate enough quality chances, eventually they will go in, but we aren’t seeing that and that is the main reason the production has plummeted. The powerplay has enough skill to be better and it is up to the coaching staff to put that skill in positions to succeed.

The PK also has to wake up.

The penalty kill system, or lack thereof, is the main factor without question. Whatever the coaches are seeing on video, they haven’t been able to communicate it properly to the group. The PK can’t get out of their own way. A competitive PK is 82%, but the Oilers haven’t been able to improve at all in the past six weeks. The overall numbers won’t improve much the rest of the year, but considering how shitty the PK has been it shouldn’t be difficult to ask it to be better than 70 freaking percent.

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There have been zero improvements in the past 21 games, and in fact, it has gotten worse. In the last 14 games, the PK is 69%. The coaches need to try a different message. Changing players is one option, but if you put new players on the ice and the message is the same, I don’t see why it will improve. It is just adjusting the chairs on a sinking ship.

Make no mistake: the Oilers’ quest for the playoffs begins and ends with their special teams. Their 5×5 play is good enough, although limiting a few more goals would be nice, but they are still outscoring teams at 5×5.

Fix both special teams and the Oilers can make a run. If they don’t, then we could see changes throughout the organization.

LINEUP..

Maroon-McDavid-Puljujarvi
Cammalleri-Draisaitl-Caggiula
Lucic-RNH-Strome
Auvitu-Letestu-Slepyshev

Nurse-Larsson
Sekera-Russell
Klefbom-Davidson

Talbot

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The Oilers had an optional skate this morning, but the above lines were used yesterday. It would be a big shakeup to sit Khaira and Kassian. Matt Benning had a tough night versus the Jets, so I can see why Davidson would draw in. Kassian might be out for his four-minute minor, but the game was over, 4-0, when he took that penalty. The coach might be sending a message that they need to be disciplined for all 60 minutes, regardless of the score. I’ll be a bit surprised if Khaira is out. I thought he’s played quite well in December. He didn’t do much versus Chicago and like the rest of the team did very little versus Winnipeg, but I still like his game. If I was guessing though Slepyshev would come out and Cammelleri in up front. Davidson will play for Benning.

Earlier this year when Caggiula, Khaira and Cammalleri were healthy scratches they played very well in their first games out of the press box. Anton Slepyshev, when coming out of the press box, has done very little. He was used on the PK and wasn’t scored on, so that might be why he is still in. Regardless of who plays tonight, their effort must be better than Sunday’s, but even that might not be enough if their PK and PP plan isn’t improved.

Kings

Pearson-Kopitar-Brown
Gaborik-Kempe-Toffoli
Clifford-Shore-Lewis
Iafallo-Mitchell-Jokinen

Muzzin-Doughty
MacDermid-Martinez
Forbort-Gravel

Quick

The Kings are 8-3-2 in their last 13 games. They are showing no sign of slowing down. Drew Doughty has been excellent the past month producing 11 points, along with being +12 while averaging 27 minutes/game. He plays the toughest competition most nights and I love his attitude and skill. He relishes playing against the best players, and if they get the better of him he doesn’t wilt. At the midway point of the season, he would #1 on my list for the Norris trophy. He is having another excellent season.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have dominated the Pacific division since the start of the 2016/2017 season. They are 25-7-3. But the Kings are playing well. It goes to OT. Oilers lose 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid gets a point. In his career he has never gone pointless in three consecutive games. The streak remains intact tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kings allow a PP goal. The Kings have allowed a league-low 17 PP goals. The 2nd unit scores the PP goal for the Oilers.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 01/02/2018 – 1:30pm MST


  • The Future Never Comes

    I can sum up tonight’s game before it starts: Go down 0-1 within first 10 minutes of the puck drop. Get scored on within final minute of one of the periods. Go 0 on PP chances, well icing the same formations and me screaming at the TV the whole time- “Why don’t they ever **** change it up”. Get scored on 1+ goals on the PK. Score to bring it within one. 3rd period get scored on again to pretty well put the game out of reach. Pull goalie with 2 minutes left and they actually start pouring on some pressure, but they miss the lion-share of shot attempts wide. Get scored on with an empty net, lose 4-1. Todd steps up to do post game presser and continues with same sales pitch and analogies, such as “we didn’t bring our work boots tonight, we will park it and look towards the next one”. Rinse, repeat. Come on ON and read baggedmilk say it’s awesome to watch McDavid Nightly, the refs don’t like us. Go to comment section and watch us all dismantle every rotten aspect of this year and why it’s happening.

  • OldOilerFan

    I like Davidson going in, not sure I agree with Khaira and Kassian coming out. If anyone should be coming out and sitting in the press box it should be the special teams coaches.

    • TruthHurts98

      They should be fired. But this organization rewards those that underperform and get rid of those that are competent. Weakins over Kruger, Strome for Eberle, sit Khaira? Why not bench Connor and Leon too then? Trying to understand their insanity.

  • Derian Hatcher

    McDavid is a phenom but not a penalty killer. Cheats for offense too much. Good thing they are practicing their PK. Maybe replace the special teams coaches with Stauffer – ha ha. Could Leon look any more disinterested?

    This team is an absolute joke. From the owner on down. Pathetic display again, but I’m sure they’ll “park it and move on”

  • Serious Gord

    Tmc keeps talking about accountability and not good enough effort etc. On the part of the players.

    Not once has he admitted that he or his coaches are failing or got out-worked. Drives me nuts.

      • BobbyCanuck

        Go to hell dude(ette), the barn sells out every night, pi$$ off, are all of you here really that stupid? Shut up and get your name in on the season tix waiting list! (extreme sarcasm, not sorry if I offend)

      • Dean S

        Its not Todds fault Talbot is always on his knees and out of positon on rebounds….Who else are you gonna play?
        Talbot has the 35th best save % in the NHL (min 10 games played). No its not all his fault either (they don’t have an NHL backup) Brossoit has the 56th best save %.
        Chia, what was your plan for an NHL playoff goaltender again?

    • tealyn

      If he really wanted to be accountable he would fire Woodcroft, then himself. Its crazy how this organization is so reluctant to do the right thing for the team and the fans at times. We had to rent billboards with “Lowe must go”, and had to throw thousands of hard earned $ in the form of jerseys on the ice for a couple of years before anything happened, It seems that Katz just juggled positions upstairs and we happened to have a good year on the back of McDavid.

    • MrBung

      Agreed. I hate to say it. But coaching it is an issue. Special teams are example A. They have not been able to do anything to improve it and it has been getting worse. Players are only part of it.

  • Natejax97

    You mean to tell me that we have a fully healthy roster….and those might be the 4 lines we are able to roll against the LA Kings…seriously…we would do that? My goodness, it is worse than I would have ever thought.

  • Natejax97

    It will be open season for the fans on the old twitter box if they lay down another stinker tonight…

    To be fair though, this team quit on the fans long before the fans quit on them.

    I was actually shocked to see how many people stayed for the third period of the Winnipeg Game…but I guess when you lay down that much bread to go to a game, you want to get your money’s worth.

  • grumpyKoala

    Kassian out should deserve Tod a 10 misconduct. Trash me but to send the message I would rather bench Drai. Your best players need to be accountable. Your best player need to lead by example.

    • Jason Gregor

      You would bench Draisaitl who has 10 points in the last seven games? Then you wouldn’t be a good coach. Draisaitl is tied for 16th in the NHL in EV points. His PP production, and where they use him needs to improve, no question, but benching your 2nd leading scorer is simply not a smart decision.

  • Jaybee

    Just checked the score and while I hate to see my team lose, the only silver lining is that its hopefully one step closer to firing the coaches. Look at what a coaching change did for the Kings.
    Dave Tippett should have been hired yesterday.

    • nijames

      You my friend have hit the nail on the head, This is not a good enough hockey team to make the playoffs.
      Just not good enough. No top pairing defensemen and nobody to help out the best hockey player on the planet.

  • OilersChef

    “I can sum up tonight’s game before it starts: Go down 0-1 within first 10 minutes of the puck drop. Get scored on within final minute of one of the periods. Go 0 on PP chances, well icing the same formations and me screaming at the TV the whole time- “Why don’t they ever **** change it up”. Get scored on 1+ goals on the PK. Score to bring it within one. 3rd period get scored on again to pretty well put the game out of reach. Pull goalie with 2 minutes left and they actually start pouring on some pressure, but they miss the lion-share of shot attempts wide. Get scored on with an empty net, lose 4-1. Todd steps up to do post game presser and continues with same sales pitch and analogies, such as “we didn’t bring our work boots tonight, we will park it and look towards the next one”. Rinse, repeat. Come on ON and read baggedmilk say it’s awesome to watch McDavid Nightly, the refs don’t like us. Go to comment section and watch us all dismantle every rotten aspect of this year and why it’s happening.”

    That guy absolutely nailed it

  • MrBung

    This is a Titanic in a power dive. The brief December win streak was a blip. The Oil and Oil brass have been watching Dahlin at the WJC and now have decided to plow to the bottom of the standings.