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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 82.0: A somber farewell to the 2017-18 season

In Game 82 of the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers season, the ending was bittersweet.

With a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks in the final seconds of the season, the beleaguered Oil managed to end on a somewhat high note. They scored two goals in regulation, both earning points for Connor McDavid to earn him the Art Ross on the season (for a second straight year, to boot).

They also played with the heavy hearts that teams across the NHL did, though, skating out less than 24 hours after the Saskatchewan hockey community was rocked by the horrifying bus crash that killed what is now estimated to be 16 people of 28 on the Humboldt Broncos bus to their playoff game.

It was also a positive end on a lost season, leaving the team holding the league leading scorer but no playoff position; with their victory Saturday night, their 2017-18 campaign has officially come to an end.

I’m here writing our recap from Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona once again, filling in for the rest of the Oilers Nation crew as they simultaneously host the 10 year anniversary party of the Nation Network and raise money for Hockey Helps the Homeless and the Humboldt hockey family.

It’s not how we’d like to have ended the year, but we’ve got some good moments in there – and who can truly fault a team one final victory?

FINAL SCORE: EDMONTON OILERS 3, VANCOUVER CANUCKS 2

THE RUNDOWN

It was the final game of their NHL careers for both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who played one final contest after having their true storybook ending at home against Arizona on Thursday.

The Canucks have been nothing short of a hot mess on skates this year, putting Edmonton (and largely the rest of the NHL) to shame with their impressive inability to string together a season with any kind of real direction to it.

They jumped out to an early advantage in shots, wrapping up the first 20 minutes with 10 shots on goal to Edmonton’s 7 – but naturally, they still managed to relinquish the first goal to the Oilers when McDavid set Leon Draisaitl up for a perfect power-play goal roughly 14 minutes into the game.

Vancouver would tie it up four minutes later on an even-strength tally from Jussi Jokinen, who picked up his fifth goal of the year, and the two teams would head into first intermission tied at one apiece.

The second period was much of the same; it was a give-and-take game with 13 shots per team, one penalty per side, and one goal each. Vancouver jumped out to a 2-1 lead at 11:45 of the second when Tyler Motte found the back of the net, but McDavid picked up an additional point when he set up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a beautiful 24th goal of the year at 14:10 of the period:

The third period saw neither team pull ahead in scoring, which sent the game to OT – but when no one managed to score again, the team was forced to head to the shootout.

Finally, the game ended when Draisaitl put it past Anders Nilsson to take home the win:

And that’s all she wrote… literally.

THE NUMBERS

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Milan Lucic couldn’t have finished his season in a way that better summed up his entire year. He scored just one goal and put up just eight points in his final 46 games of the season, dropping from a nearly 60-point pace through his first 36 games of the year to finish with just 34 on a complete 82-game campaign. On Saturday night, he once again found himself exactly where he’s been for the better part of the season; he missed a few wide-open nets, failed to convert on two recorded shots in just over 12 minutes, and ultimately fell flat in his regular season finale. At this point, though, we might as well call it a mulligan; there’s really nowhere to go but up from here for him.
  • McDavid may not win the Hart Trophy, and that’s a damn shame.
  • We also have to acknowledge what a legendary experience it was to witness the Sedins play hockey over the last two decades. They both finished with over 1,000 points played, all for the same team and almost exclusively together on a line. There have been brothers in the NHL before, even elite brothers – Rocket and Henri Richard were lethal, the Esposito brothers have both gone down in history, and Gordie Howe and his sons did something absolutely special during their time in the league – but what the Sedins did together is in a class all its own. Non-Canucks fans hated them, and they got their fair share of ribbing over the years – but as we look back on their careers, it’s hard not to admit that they were legends.
  • Finally, our hearts are still broken for the Humboldt hockey community. As it stands right now, we still don’t fully know the death toll from the bus crash on Friday, and the injuries to the surviving players and staff likely won’t be fully realized for days or weeks to come; this is something that the community is going to need years to recover from, if at all. The outpouring of support from around the NHL, though, has been incredible.

If you want to donate to the GoFundMe account for the families of the victims and survivors, you can here.

The Nation Network has also created a t-shirt to raise funds, which can be bought here. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the families of the victims as they look to rebuild and recover.

Finally, all additional proceeds from our 10 year anniversary party tonight are going to Hockey Helps the Homeless. You can check out more info here.

  • RJ

    Watched the game at Rogers.

    When they showed the Sedins were starting the whole crowd cheered. The team did a video tribute to the Sedins during the game, and they got a standing ovation from the whole crowd.

    When the game was over, the Oilers stood in line and shook their hands one by one.

    And no one left until the three stars were announced and Daniel and Henrik were announced 2 & 3 Star.

    Classy all the way around.

  • GK1980

    Edmonton (and northern Alberta) has the greatest hockey fans in earth. They deserve playoffs. For me, I’ll be jumping on the Jets bandwagon for a few weeks.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    So…I had a dream where the Oilers acquired Carter Hutton. It was one of those dreams where it seems real, so I checked Twitter just to confirm what I thought I knew 🙁

  • champski

    Lucic….. that’s going to hurt for years to come… thanks Chirielli.

    Why doesn’t Cat write regularly? Better than ALOT of other writers on here.

    Go jets!!

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    I’ve heard legends about a secret tournament that’s held at the end of the season. Some say it’s a myth; I believe it’s real. We may never know…

  • OilersBro

    Great careers by the Sedins. I never have or will cheer for the Canucks but I have immense respect for those two beauties, their skill, and poise off the ice.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Absolutely,… and they feasted on the Oilers. Scoring more goals against us than any other team. The way they played reminded me of the Hanson Brothers, minus the dirtyness. Those blind passes were magic.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    That game was probably the most bittersweet victory of the season for this club, and for me. My emotions are in a blender. I’m sad, happy, and mad all at the same time. Happy because the Oilers did right by the Sedins’ and how the organization, and the fans, treated Henrik and Daniel. Happy because this godforsaken season, this season of utter disappointment is over. I’m sad because of what happened to the Broncos and what those families have to endure, sad because Henrik and Daniel’s final night was emotional and heartfelt.

    Thank you Oilers for doing what you did for Henrik and Daniel. Thank you fans for giving them sendoff they deserve. This off-season is going to be very interesting. But whatever happens, things can only go up. Let’s hope for a better season next year, and a return to the playoffs.

    I’m out for now. See you all next year.

  • Heschultzhescores

    We have used words like tragedy and horrific to describe the Oilers season. Since Humboldt, we now know what true tragedy and horror are. It really brings things into focus. This is only hockey, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s really just entertainment. God bless all those who perished, and God bless all those who who survived. Many lives have been changed forever. I wish them all physical and mental healing. They have the true battle, the Oilers are just playing a game.

  • Maybe Oiler fans aren’t the worst fans in the league.

    “The Canucks have been nothing short of a hot mess this year.” That’s rich Snarkcat. Say the same for Arizona and Edmonton both.
    Another injury riddled season for the Vancouver Canucks with seven regulars out of their lineup to finish this season.

  • Flint

    Honest question and total respect to McDavid because he deserves it, but can those who wish to share the idea behind him not winning the Hart trophy being a “damn shame”.

    Here is my thinking. Go back to the beginning of the season. Do you think that if you offer McDavid to Vegas in exchange for Karlsson, Fleury and someone like Engellend, that Vegas would even hesitate to do that trade?

    Of course they wouldn’t, it would be insane not to. Now, are you telling me that if the Oilers had Fleury, Karlsson and Engellend they would be measureably worse than they are with McDavid?

    The Oilers finished the season in 23rd place, nearly 20pts out of a playoff spot. They only finished 16pts up on last place.

    Certainly McDavid is an elite player, no doubt. He is a very valuable player. But the MVP of the league? If you do an honest mental excercise of imagining a trade to another team and receiving fair return and I’m not sure the Oilers finish in a worse position. Heck, they may even finish higher in the standings. That is not something that can be said of an MVP of the league.

    • Dan 1919

      Or how about… he’s the undisputed best player in the league two years in a row and will have the biggest impact on any team out of any player, aka he’s the most valuable to his team.

      I completely agree though that there are numerous fabricated scenarios in which I’m supposed to pretend that Nathan McKinnon or Hall are more valuable than McDavid. World class players, sure. More valuable to their team than the best player on the planet… absolutely not even a conversation… but we’ll pretend it is because the media votes for it.

      • crabman

        Do I think he is the best player? absolutely! But I don’t think he will win the Hart. The fact that his team was so bad will be held against him. Most outstanding player sure but giving the award for the most valuable to his team to a player on a team that had no success isn’t going to happen. The award doesn’t the player who would be the most valuable on any team.
        How often does the Conn Smythe go to a player on the losing team. Look at it anyway you want but tesm success does play a part in that award.

        • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

          It’s such an odd thing. It’s an individual award, yet team success plays a huge role in who wins. McDavid is the only reason the Oilers won any games this year.

    • crabman

      I am in the group that doesn’t think he should get the MVP this year. I believe he is the best/most outstanding player but not the most valuable to his team this year. I think there are many good options this year and players who had great seasons, including McDavid. I don’t think missing the playoffs automatically disqualifies a player from the award but but the Oilers weren’t even close. There are quite a few players that carried their teams and made the playoffs and that should count for something.

      That said the award is for a single player. You can’t go through fictional trades in your head for a package of players and guess if a team would be better or worse. If you want to have any real comparison think how the team would be trading McDavid 1 for 1 with other teams. Do you think there is any one player we could trade McDavid for and have a better team? I don’t, because he is obviously the best player in the league. If the wording for the Hart was most outstanding player he wins hands down.

      • oilerjed

        Two problems with this. 1) there is nothing in the award description that says anything about a playoff team. 2) Look at the Oilers record when Connor was sick and then at the rest of the season when he is playing at his best. There is no doubt that he had a huge impact on the Oilers. Scary thought for a team with only 78 points.

        That all being said, I think the trophy goes to Taylor Hall, who has a 41 point lead over the second place on his team. A team that had a 27 poiint increase over last year and moved up the standings from 27th – 15th.

        • Flint

          You yourself are acknowledging success. It’s implied in the award of valuable. You gets assists on goals, and you score goals to win games. 5pts in a loss is fine individually, but it has no value to your teammates. But a shutout does. 2pts in a win does. Thats success, and value. We count goals and points because they are generally clear contributors to winning – but if you don’t win, they’re relatively meaningless.

          • oilerjed

            For argument sake, when you say implied, do you agree that what is implied will be perceived differently depending on who is defining the award? Part of the problem with an award that is subjective and voted on by a group that like “stories” rather then definitive answers.
            CMD is by far the best player in the league and clearly the MVP of the Oilers. But my vote would go to Taylor hall as the MVP of the league this year.

      • Flint

        Of course you can do fictional trade scenarios (maybe you don’t agree) but the award is for the most valuable player – valuable to what? to success of course. By having an elite player on your roster, you are choosing to not have other players on your roster. That is the recipe for success you’re trying to find. If you don’t have success, you don’t have value. If you have a player that scores 200 pts and you finish last, you could have one in his place that scores 10 pts and finish in the same position.

        I specifically picked Karlsson and Fleury as examples because Vegas had success and individually, Fleury was third in sv% of goalies who played over 50% of their starts – 46GP at .927 (miles ahead of Subban’s .910).

        Are people going to tell me that McDavids 108pts were more valuable to the Oilers 78pt success than 46games of elite goaltending on a team that finished with 109pts? And there are many other players you can ask the same questions with – Hall, MacKinnon etc.

      • Clayton

        I agree. There is an award for having the most points in the regular season…it is the Art Ross! The Hart is for the player most valuable to his team. With Connor the Oilers miss the playoffs…without Connor…well they still miss the playoffs. Not much value there. Certainly value in watching the games because without the thrills Connor could put out there the Oilers had nothing. But with or without Connor this year the Oilers are a non-playoff team. To me Nathan and Taylor Hall are the top two contenders…without them their teams likely miss the playoffs. They made a difference. Not to mention that both Nathan and Taylor missed several games this season due to injury and still managed to only be a few points back of Connor. In fact Nathan’s Points per game is as high as Connor’s. Taylor matched Connor’s GWG at 7 while Nathan nearly doubled it at 12. And finally…look at points per 60…Connor 3.66 points for every 60 minutes played…Nathan…3.95 and Taylor…3.838. So bottom line is if Nathan and Taylor played as many minutes as Connor they would have won the scoring race…not him! Can’t wait to see the jump in Connor’s game next season when his salary jumps to $12.5. Imagine how great he will be then…and how big of a gap in the scoring race he will need to justify earning almost double what others in the top 10 of scoring are making!

        • Clayton

          Want to further the case of why Connor doesn’t deserve the HART? Look at Offensive zone starts…Connor is well above 60% even strength offensive zone starts. Both Taylor and Nathan are barely mid 50’s% even strength offensive zone starts.

          • crabman

            @Clayton,
            Actually McDavid has a 55.6% ofz start at evens. MacKinnon 57% and Hall 57.3%.
            McDavid plays 1:05 pk a night while McKinnon plays :18 and Hall :06. so playing on the pk is hurting McDavid’s pt/60 total. Take away his extra time on the pk and his p/60 is 3.81/60. still less than McKinnon’s 3.95/60 and Hall’s 3.83/60 but much closer. Add to that the fact that the Oilers had the least amount of pp opportunities and also had the worst pp% in the league and the pt/60 totals look much better than you originally imply.
            McDavid was far and away the best 5×5 player in the league. His 3.515pt/60 at evens is much better than MacKinnon’s 3.24/60 or Hall’s 2.693/60. McDavid only scored 18.5% of his points on the pp compared to MacKinnon 33% or Hall 39.8%. Both MacKinnon and Hall, and every other top 10 scorer for that matter, have their point totals inflated by pp scoring. McDavid has been a victim of a poor pp, in which he shares a part of the blame, but if the Oilers have even a league average pp and pk McDavid would be in the 120 point range, the Oilers would be going to the playoffs and McDavid would be a lock for the Hart.
            My point being you can cherry pick a couple stats for almost any of the top 5 Hart candadites and make a case for them. The voting should be very close this year as there is no clear MVP this year.

        • Dan 1919

          I agree with what you’re saying if we were concerned about playoffs. We’re not, it’s most valuable to his team. Connor is the most valuable chip you have to work with, it’s pretty simple.

          That being said I know what you’re saying and do think they should add the wording of playoffs to the trophy requirements, that way everyone is voting on the exact same thing, rather than making up their own trophy.

    • McDavid's Comet

      Yes, without McDavid Edmonton has the best odds to win the lottery. He is undeniably the most valuable to his team. McDavid accounts for 46.1% of Oilers offence. You can plug in Fleury, Karlsson and Engellend and expect or get better results perhaps but the Hart isn’t about a collective of players it’s about one.

      • Clayton

        Actually because of Connor the Oilers draft odds got worse…the stood a better chance at getting first overall without Connor…so you could say that he had a negative value on the Oilers this season.

    • Think of it this way: your argument is that ‘if the team makes a trade for a fair return they wouldn’t be in a worse position’. But that fair trade, in this case, is a Vezina-caliber goaltender, a near Rocket Richard-winning winger, and a cap casualty. The fact that two award contenders don’t make the team ‘worse’ when you trade them with one center is incredibly telling.

      I’m not saying that MacKinnon doesn’t have a big case. Hall and Giroux have them too; I even think that if Kopitar wins, he’ll have a good case. But McDavid had 108 points – with very little help – and played significant time on both special teams. He was a huge part of why they won a number of their games, including the one last night.

      • crabman

        @Cat Silverman, No one can use the fact that McDavid played a role on both special teams as a plus. If either special teams were any good sure. But playing a big role on the league worst pp and one of the league’s worst pk isn’t helping his case for the Hart. Not laying all the blame on McDavid for poor special teams but definitely not giving him credit either.

      • Flint

        Ignore the trade then, because people seem to get hung up on it, but it’s also unrealistic to say that MAFleury would be traded one for one for McDavid for many factors.

        What we’re talking about is value. What is value? Are saves valuable? Blocked shots? Goals? Assists? Hits? Those are all valuable attributes, but they are only truly valuable if they lead to a win. Doesn’t matter how many goals you score if you lose – because you didn’t score enough goals. Doesn’t matter how many pucks you stopped if you lose, you needed to stop one, two or three MORE pucks.

        Think of a goalie. What’s more valuable – saves or sv%? What if you make 40 saves a night and let in 4 goals. That’s a ton of saves, bad sv%. What if you make 15 a night and let in 1, few saves, elite sv%. So, save % is more valuable, right? But who’s the better puck-stopper? Now you’re talking team dynamics, and coaching and all sorts of things. Trade goalies who knows the result.

        But, Q: why is sv% always going to be trump in measuring skill and value, A: because of winning. You have a 1GAA vs 4 GAA and you’re going to win a lot more games. McDavid is the center equivalent of the goalie who stops 40 a night and lets in 3 or 4. Maybe without him they’re really dead, but with him they’re dead as well. And that makes a great athlete, but not the most valuable athlete like the other guy – because the other guy wins, and the end goal of the game is – to win.

        • crabman

          I get what you are saying but the reasoning is somewhat flawed. A great goalie can have the biggest effect on the game because they play almost every minute of the game and play 60+ games. But they fon’t always win the Hart. The best defenceman play 25+ minutes a game. And the best forwards play 20-22 minutes a game. A forward like McDavid that dominated play can only effect 33% of each game. He can’t do anything from the bench. His team let him down. I’m not arguing he should win the Hart but comparing the Art Ross trophy winner to a goalie on a team with poor defense that the goalie sees a lot of shots isn’t a true comparison either. That goalie still let’s in all those goals but at least is on the ice to have the opportunity to stop them. I would buy your comparison if McDavid led the league in scoring but also had s horrible corsi, fenwick, +/- , goal share% and generally more bad things happened when he was on the ice than good. But that isn’t the case. McDavid and the Oilers dominate when he is on the ice.
          Different sport but I look st McDavid’s situation to an elite pitcher in baseball. A pitcher could win the Cy Young for having an outstanding year and not even get a sniff of the playoffs or a shot at MVP. He can only effect a game when he is playing. He could win 30 games and lead the league in multiple categories but still play on a team that is in the basement with a 62-100 record. Best pitcher but not MVP.
          McDavid would win a most outstanding forward but because his team is awful he won’t be recognized as being the most valuable.

        • RJ

          Sign Demers instead.

          McDavid/Nuge and Hall/Drai, with Demers solidifying the right side. He’s not as physical as Larsson but he is a better passer.

          Still need to add RHD depth, but this team is much stronger than this years team because they don’t have to worry about the decaying Lucic and the team speed is a lot better. They are a playoff team based on one different selection

          • oilerjed

            Your whole point is based on the premise that Demers would sign in Edmonton. Second, assuming that they sign Demers and voila, they are a playoff team is a bit of a stretch don’t ya think?

  • The Future Never Comes

    The season comes to an end and yet, the only 3 highlights that we can takeaway are: 1. McDavid learned his scoring capabilities and how to be selfish (when the time is right). 2. Nuge finally put to rest who should be riding shotgun with McDavid for years to come and that he is not for sale. 3. What’s better? The Nuge/McDavid flow or the flow spilling out of Nuge’s bucket?…PS the season is finally over, can you fire the coaches now- signed entire fanbase.

    • fasteddy

      TM seems like the perfect coach; but results are difficult to argue with. And actual decisions seemed so strange; a stubborn approach resisting changes at the top of the list. It’s hard not to wish for an AV or similar after watching this season.

      • The Future Never Comes

        If someone can construct an argument to keep him I would like to hear it. Other than the coaching carousal or who else is on the market yadada spiel. This season is largely on his and buddies shoulders.

    • oilerjed

      I like the Nuge is not for sale part but I am still not convinced that he is the best at wing or at center. Draisytl has been pretty quiet since moving to 2C. What is the PPG for each player with Connor? Way too much math for me this morning.

  • Congratulations to Connor McDavid on winning the Art Ross Trophy! Probably better for him to win it than me. I don’t have much room in my trophy case for meaningless regular season awards. My three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, two olympic gold medals take up a lot of space. These are the rewards for playing meaningful hockey! Enjoy your meaningless regular season award, I’ll be busy playing real hockey! I’ll call you in May and maybe you can come over and check out my trophy collection! I’d check out yours, but I already have several repeats of those meaningless ones…focussed on winning real stuff!

    • Clayton

      I wasn’t. Since the Oilers playoff chances were done Connor’s interest in playing the defensive side of the game has disappeared. I was surprised to see Connor even try to catch him…and then even get below the face off circles in his own zone. Don’t recall seeing him there since January.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Congrats, Henrick and Daniel you made me a Canucks Fan.
    Played the game with “Pure Class”. Never once in 17 years complained about Refs, bad calls, goaltender interference, dirt hits from behind, or cheap shots after the whistle.

  • Arfguy

    This has been a disaster of a season. I honestly don’t know how bad Lucic will be next year, but I dread to think if he will be worse than this season. There have been so many times that he just could not accept a pass or take a shot or even skate with the puck. He is one of the biggest contracts and should not be held responsible for accepting it. However, he does need to realize that he did not play well this year and should use the off-season to get in better shape and basically re-learn the game of hockey.

    For Todd McLellan, you basically kept sabotaging the team with terrible line-combinations. There is zero excuse for consistently using Lucic on the first unit power play and the top line with McDavid repeatedly when getting results.

    Chiarelli…you better not trade RNH. I will repeat what I had said before: last year, I was really rough on RNH. This year, despite his injuries, he was one of our brighter lights. Maybe he’s come to realize what kind of player he is and it took him some time to figure out, but if Chiarelli trades this guy for anything, he deserves to be fired. Chiarelli also needs to find a winger for Draisaitl to play with.

    Speaking of Draisaitl, he started the year pretty well, but towards the end of the season, he was making so many bad passes and plays that I wonder what happened to him. I have a lot of faith in Leon and I think he’ll bounce back, but he needs better wingers around him if he is going to be our second line centre.

    Cam Talbot needs to get back to being a reliable goaltender. At this point, I am not expecting him to replicate the 2016-2017 form, but at least make some key saves when your team is counting on it.

    It is going to be an off-season that is filled with disappointment and dread. I am cautiously looking forward to next year and hoping beyond hope that this season was the lowest this team can fall with McDavid in the line-up.