Photo Credit: © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 50.0: Building a Career (7pm MST, SNW)

The Edmonton Oilers have 33 games remaining. They are 12 points out of the playoffs. Playoff hockey seems unlikely, again, but there is still a lot on the line for management, coaches and players within the Oilers organization.

“They should tank,” is a refrain no one should utter. Losers tank, and if an organization encourages losing I expect them to remain losers for years to come. The Oilers have 12 players who are 25 years old or younger, and losing should never become acceptable for this group.

Many of the Oilers are still learning how to be successful in the NHL. Every practice and game is a new opportunity to improve and the final 33 games should be used as opportunities to get better, not accept losing or get worse.

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Jujhar Khaira is still finding his groove in the NHL. He is 23 years young, he’s only played 61 NHL games, but he’s having a solid first full season with nine goals and 18 points in 36 games. He’s excited about the final 33 games and he’s even more excited about the possibility of becoming an NHL centre.

Khaira was a centre in junior, NCAA and in the AHL, and with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the IR, Khaira is getting an opportunity to play centre. His face lit up when we discussed his move to the middle.

“I love it. I don’t mind playing wing, but as a centre I get to skate more. I like having the puck when I’m coming out of the zone. I’m not flat-footed as much and I like supporting the puck,” smiled Khaira.

Tonight and every game is a chance for Khaira to impress Todd McLellan and show him he can be an effective centre. He knows it won’t be easy, especially the defensive responsibilities.

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“Guys in this league are so skilled and so much better than players in the American Hockey League. Down there if you are late to an assignment, or you lose your man it isn’t guaranteed in the back of the net, but up here (NHL) if you get careless for a bit, and I’ve experienced it firsthand, the puck is in the net. It is a big challenge, but I’m excited about it, because I feel confident playing centre,” explained Khaira.

Khaira is a prime example of how the average developmental curve looks. The elite players can jump right in at 18, 19 or 20 and contribute right away, but the majority of NHL players need more time to find their comfort zone. Often their professional development occurs in the AHL, they get a taste of the NHL with a few games, and then by 22 or 23, and sometimes even older, they are ready to become a regular NHL player.

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Last season Khaira was injured and only played 27 games in the AHL and ten in the NHL. At training camp he didn’t have a spot in the lineup. Some were unsure he’d even make the team, but he played well in the preseason and earned a spot. He struggled in the first few games, and then was sat out, but when he returned to the lineup he looked like the same player in preseason: confident, assertive and productive.

He’s produced some solid numbers in a bottom six role, playing exclusively at even strength and on the penalty kill. He has eight EV goals, tied for fifth on the Oilers, and only five behind team leader Patrick Maroon. Khaira has shown signs he could be not only a regular NHL player, but also someone who provides some points.

“From the start of the season to now it has been a nice climb for me. I feel more confident with the puck. I have confidence in myself, just bringing the puck out of the zone and doing things with the puck I wouldn’t have done at the start of the year.

“My goal heading into camp was to just make the team. I wanted to be a guy who could play in the top nine, produce and be held accountable for his mistakes. I believe I can help us, and I want to keep improving,” continued Khaira.

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Khaira isn’t listed as a rookie, but this is basically his first NHL season. It is a big learning curve, but he’s progressing nicely. Outside of the added defensive responsibility of playing centre again, he’s also in a position to produce some offence playing with Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi.

I like him as a centre. He has the size, is a good skater, has a good shot and he can make plays. He can use the final 33 games as an audition to prove to the organization he could be a solid third line centre.

I understand the frustration of some fans who feel the season is over, but for Khaira and many other young Oilers, these final two months offer an opportunity to improve and establish themselves as an every day NHLer.

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We could see Caggiula and Slepyshev switch spots and like last game versus Calgary. If the Oilers don’t show much life early, McLellan won’t hesitate to switch up the lines. It worked for the second half of the Calgary game.


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The D pairs aren’t set in stone either. I wouldn’t read too much into them. They just need more D-men to find some consistency. Montoya makes his first start for the Oilers, as Cam Talbot is out with the flu. McLellan said he expects Talbot to be ready for Monday’s game versus Tampa Bay. Laurent Brossoit will be the backup. Montoya is now a goalie who doesn’t talk on game day. I’ve never understood this mindset. Can someone explain to me how a three or four minute interview at 11 a.m. can interrupt his preparation for a start eight hours later? It really has nothing to do with preparation. It is a superstition, nothing more.

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Nathan MacKinnon will be out two-four weeks according to head coach Jared Bedner. The Avs were hoping it would be shorter, but MacKinnon has a shoulder sprain I’m told. That is a massive blow to their playoff chances. With Kerfoot on the top line, and Jost on the second line, Soderberg is their only veteran centre in the top-nine and might be asked to contain McDavid. The McDavid line should be able to create a lot tonight, regardless of which line they face. Johnson and Zadorov will be out against them as often as possible, but the lack of a dominant centre will make it difficult for the Avs to contain McDavid.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers have a sluggish start, but rebound and defeat the Avs 4-2. Avs lose their fourth in a row after winning ten straight games.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mike Cammalleri scores. He has 14 goals and 29 points in 34 career games versus the Avalanche.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Avs have had 4+ powerplays in 27 games and had three power plays in 11 other games. In 49 games played, only 11 times have they had two or fewer power plays. The Oilers have had 4+ powerplays only nine times this season. They’ve had three power plays in 16 games and in 24 of their 49 games they’ve had two powerplays or fewer. The Oilers get four power plays for only the 10th time this season. They score a home PP goal for the first time in seven games, and only the third time in their last 15 home games.


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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 1/25/2018, 1:30pm MST

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    So that’s 16 times in a row that the Situation Room has changed an on-ice call to the detriment of the Oilers.

    Have to go back to Mar 23 2017 to find a time where a call on the ice was changed in the favour of Edmonton.

    Complete and utter horse-crud.

  • I just don’t understand Cammi on the number 1 line other than pumping tires before the deadline. Maroon should be on that line if asset management is TMac main concern. I want to see Zach on Conners wing he deserves it.

    • Kevwan

      Here’s a novel idea. The NHL should review every goal scored every time based on whatever criteria they want (offsides, goalie interference, etc.)

      No coaches challenge so no time outs used or delay of game penalties.

      Start the review immediately while the players are celebrating, high-fiving the bench.

      Every goal. Every game. The same review criteria with the least amount of down time

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Our power play sucks worse than anything has sucked before.

    If our power-play was a transformer it’s name would be Suckotron and it would be a robot that turned into a giant industrial vacuum.

    Our power-play was filmed in Suckovision.

    • DRT57

      Perhaps your should focus on your own dismal Oilers and their inept performance this year . Yeah Mike had a terrible game tonight, unlike Cam who’s had dozens, I can understand the desire to throw shade at the team down south as there nothing I enjoy more than throwing it back Bro

    • DRT57

      Perhaps you should focus on your own Oilers dismal performance this year. Yeah Mike had a bad night, unlike Cam who’s had dozens. I can understand the desire to throw shade at the team down the road, as there’s nothing I enjoy more than throwing it back

      • Kevwan

        And on FN the Oilers are constanty having “shade” thrown on them. And yet with typical Cowtown arrogance you think its fine to come on OILERSnation and yap.

        The facts are I hate the Flames and they got whopped. The Oilers lost but gained a point on the Flames. The Oilers are 14-0 against the Flames the last 2 seasons. About all of this I am happy.

        • DRT57

          Yeah ……. gained a point ,still 10 back. As far as 14 -0 …what now we’re talking exhibition and reg.season…pathetic. ….what would last year have to do with year Oiler sh… show ..talk about getting a whooping… how many time you guys been shut out this year and by who..come on Buffalo and the night after they beat us in OT … you knew they were coming ,and still…… talk about arrogance , you gave them no respect and they spanked you in your own building, but you want to talk about last year how typically “Oilers” that’s what got you into this mess this year to begin with believing all the preseason hype , predictions , first place in Pacific , cruise to Conference title Stanley cup here we come ….. mmmmmore koolaid please….glad your happy though Skippy , it’s important to maintain good mental health during stressful times like your having down there in Plough town. See you here in Cowtown in March for a couple games maybe win 2 more and still miss aaaah…but at least we’re 16-0 against Flames woooowhoooo

          • Kevwan

            Exactly Beavis. Hey Genius the arrogance is about you coming on to another teams sight and start preaching. Our season has been over for a while now but if we go undefeated against Cowtown and they miss the playoffs as well then I’m OK.

            Who are you to tell me what I should be happy about? Typical Cowtown arrogance

          • DRT57

            Yeah your right I need to repent for my transgressions against the Oilers and there fans I don’t know what possessed me I’m a bad Alberta Boy for slagging your team Kev