Milan Lucic now sits with five points and no goals in 2018. Taylor Hall, meanwhile, has the entire league thinking “Hart” as they admire his cannonball style and 25-game point scoring streak.
If you’ve been watching with disgust at the steady bleed of talent from the Oilers roster, seeing this particular turn of events is somewhat cathartic. Understandable! It’s like the entire damn universe is trolling Reptile Charlie.
Bad Newsh Bearsh (Walter Matthau)
Unfortunately, what’s good for the soul is most definitely not good for the Edmonton Oilers.
Reality: though stranger things have happened, it’s damn unlikely we’ll see Taylor Hall in an Oilers uniform ever again.
Reality: though worse contracts have been disappeared, it’s damn unlikely we’ll see Milan Lucic in any uniform other than an Oilers uniform.
So cheer for Taylor Hall all you want, but as an Oilers fan, if you’re enjoying this state of affairs with Looch’s struggles, it is basically poking yourself in the metaphoric eye with a stick.
The Whys and Hows
But why, why is Looch struggling like this?
It’s his weight. He’s just too big and slow.
Or it’s his playing style. The cliff comes early for big physical players, and Looch has a LOT of hard miles on his frame.
It’s the league. It’s gotten too fast for lumbering behemoths like Lucic.
Or it’s him. Some people claim he’s been this bad all along.
And to all of these, I say no. Especially that last one, it’s really just kinda dumb.
I mean hey, yes, Looch is not fast, and he looks like a turtle watching F1 when he’s on the ice with McDavid. But he’s always been this speed, and it hasn’t stopped him from being effective.
As for the career cliff, well, I’ll argue in the next section why I think that doesn’t hold water.
The last one, like I said, that’s just dumb. If your argument is that he’s had 750 games of mostly first and second line quality games, and it’s only the last 30 games or so where he’s been exposed as the charlatan he is, well, put down that bong dude, you’ve had enough!
Good Newsh Bearsh
So why don’t I believe the weight, or the cliff, or the league arguments? Because of this:
“This” is the chart of Lucic’s Game Score this season (chart uses a 5 game rolling average, and is adapted from corsica.hockey).
Game score is a statistic created by Looch as a simple way of blending a bunch of key statistics (heavily weighted to points, but includes things like shots, faceoffs, and penalties) to come up with a single game player statistic. It’s not a perfect statistic, but it does meet both the statistical sniff test and the real world sniff test as a reasonable way of measuring single game productivity.
You can read more about it here. Oh yeah, maybe I should also mention that “Looch” in this case is not Milan, it is Dom Luszczyszyn. But I’m sure you already knew that 😀
So … as I was saying … take a look at that chart and you’ll see clearly that Looch remained a reasonably effective player up until Xmas.
Then the wheels fell off. That’s when his goalless streak started.
If he fell off a cliff at Christmas, that does not suggest the problem is that he came into camp too heavy.
The league did not miraculously change to emphasize speed over the Christmas break.
And it does not suggest that the cliff has arrived for his career. Cliffs don’t arrive in the span of a week, they just don’t.
Yeah, But Why
So, we may not agree on what that cliff means, but we can agree that there is a cliff there! So why did the cliff arrive then?
Well, a few possibilities. It could be a garden variety slump. A really big garden though. The Butchart Garden Slump.
It could be an injury. It could even be a chronic injury (I’ve heard rumours of a back problem). That *last* one would be very bad news indeed.
As for a slump, as nasty as it is, I think it’s interesting to look at the same chart for last season:
I saw that and I went what on Earth is going on?
A nasty slump, once again arriving early in the New Year, and lasting far longer than you’d expect.
Like, what happens around then? Does Looch go to a turkey farm to pick out a Xmas turkey and then can’t resist eating every damn one? Does he go on a New Years bender that is so legendary that it causes a two month hangover?
I don’t know. Really, only Looch, his doctor, and your chosen deity might know the answer.
I do think, though, that I am not yet prepared to close the book on Looch.
While his untradeable and unbuyoutable contract sets new standards in self-harm, that’s on Pistol Pete, not on Lucic. And it’s still mostly the last few years of the contract that are the problem.
I think Looch is going to pull out of this tailspin, and show us that he’s got a couple of effective years left.
Prove me right Milan, I dare ya. Heck, I DOUBLE DARE ya!