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The Great, the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Not very often do you get an opportunity to spend a couple of days digesting the first game of any regular season. We have had the opportunity to do just that following the Oilers 5-2 loss to the Devils.

For years I’ve been frustrated by the lack of positivity in any Good, Bad & Ugly article so this season I’m going to mix in some great. The problem here is that I’m not sure I’d use the word great to describe anything about the Oilers game on Saturday but I’m a trooper so I’ll do my damnedest.

THE GREAT: MILAN LUCIC

Nov 24, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Buffalo beats Edmonton 3 to 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not saying Lucic had a great game but I am willing to say that it was great to see him play the way he did. I do think it’s fair to say Lucic had a good game but I don’t think I’d go as far as saying it was one of his best as an Oiler. The big fella produced offensively, played physical and certainly looked like he gave a damn which is more than you could say about the second half of his season last year. I still think he fought the puck at times but overall it was a step in the right direction. Production aside if the Oilers can get that type of game from Lucic on a consistent basis this season they’ll happily take it. A great step in the right direction.

THE GOOD: CONNOR MCDAVID

Connor McDavid was good, not great, in the season opener and yet when it was all said and done he finished with two points. His first helper was a sign of things to come as he flew down the ice and circled around behind the net, which allowed his teammates to catch up, before finding Lucic wide open in the slot. If McDavid was just good in Game 1 what’s it going to look like the rest of the way this season? His is line had a couple of pretty good looks at even-strength that could have very easily ended up in the back of the net.

THE BAD: BENNING & NURSE

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) skates with the puck during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was an awful first game of the season for Matt Benning and his partner Darnell Nurse didn’t do much better. Benning looked like a defenseman who just realized his teams needs him to play top-four minutes this season and because of that he panicked in almost every situation. Darnell Nurse should be used to top-four minutes so I’m not sure what his excuse would be but if he eventually wants to cash in on a big money contract he’ll need to avoid having any more games like that. Speaking to a small group of the media on Monday Todd McLellan did not hesitate to point out that his second pair struggled mightily.

McLellan spoke in depth about what both Nurse and Benning are capable of. “They’re both still generally young defensemen, they are playing big minutes and that’s part of growing up, eventually in years two, three of your career, maybe four, you need to assume that role. You’ve got to pick your spots when you go on offence, those two should be primetime defenders, they should be able to shut other teams offensive players down. They should be good penalty killers. They should be able to initiate breakouts and move pucks up ice. I think they can both play physical, they’ve got a lot of the tools.”

He doesn’t sound like a coach that plans on splitting the pair up before the team faces the Bruins on Thursday. I spoke about his options a bit on Inside the Nation on Monday. He could move Russell up to right side with Darnell Nurse and play Garrison on the third pair with one of Bouchard or Benning. It’s not time to make that move just yet but he may be forced to pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

THE UGLY: CAM TALBOT

Mar 29, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) awaits the start of play against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

What was the worst thing about Cam Talbot’s subpar 2017-18 season? If your answer was allowing a goal on the first shot of the game way too many times, congratulations you’re a winner. He was beaten on the first shot 14 times last year and then it happened again on the very first shot of the new season. That’s ugly, folks. I thought Talbot had settled in nicely and then he left a puck behind the net for nobody and all of a sudden his team was down 3-1. For a goaltender that played like he lacked confidence between the pipes last year this was a less than ideal way to start the season.

At this point, I’m not worried about Talbot but there’s no denying that it was an ugly start to the season. I’m going to drop a bold statement right now, a hot take you could say. “CAM TALBOT WILL NOT ALLOW THE FIRST SHOT ON GOAL TO GO IN 13 MORE TIMES THIS SEASON” – Dustin Nielson, October 9th, 2018.

BONUS UGLY: THE SECOND PERIOD

It’s your lucky day, a bonus ugly! If the Oilers play like they did in the second period against the Devils at any other point on this road trip they might as well not even come back to Edmonton. It was one of the most lacklustre periods I’ve seen this team play since Todd McLellan was hired. The Devils did whatever they wanted and the worst part was that the Oilers looked like they couldn’t do anything about it. Maybe we should look at this from a positive perspective, they played their worst period of the season in Game 1, it can’t get any worse, can it? I’ll let you decide.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Hemmercules

    I have to admit, I laughed a little when Talbot let in the first shot. Its like a bad dream that you were expecting and it delivered. I definitely wasn’t expecting to shut off the first game early though. That second period was a complete joke, I couldn’t sit and watch that anymore. I assume the third wasn’t all that much better? If thats the effort they are going to put forward this year we wont have to wait long for some firings and trades. I got a kick out of people talking draft already after one game but I guess thats what being an Oiler fan is all about.

    • Blueliner44

      I turned the TV off half way through the second. It’s one thing to be outclassed, another all together to be outworked. It looked like they didn’t give a crap. If the team gives the same kind of performance in Boston, it will be an ugly outing.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        After the first half of the 1st peiod the Oilers just had zero zip in their game and it wasnt pretty to watch and they dissapeared till the last 10 minutes of the 3rd, it was like Deja Vu from last season and remember this is one of the things TM said he was going to eliminate from the team with the new coaches in tow was to get the Oilers playing a full 60 minutes, well the guys must have missed that meeting because it was like watching a replay of a slew of games from last season, that needs to be fixed and fast

        • corky

          Coaches and mgt know all the right things to say to soothe fanbase. Unfortunately it has been ringing hollow for awhile now. If we are numb to it by now, how are the guys in the dressing room feeling about the message now? Like the parents on the Peanuts cartoons. Bwa bwa bwa bwa.

    • You nailed it. I complained last season that there was a lot of that “UGH!” sort of exasperation on the part of players, guys that you’d expect better of. I’m talking about Maroon missing the net wide and then just looking skyward in frustration, rather than hunting down the rebound or at least hustling back into the play. Looch did the same thing, and then it became like a virus…Caggiula would mope after a bad play, Kassian would slam his stick…but nobody DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Look, guys make mistakes. Teams have off nights. But you have to put that crap behind you and just bust your tail next shift to make up for it. That 2nd period gave me chills, because I was immediately transported back in time to January of 2018. C’mon, fellas. Pitter patter…

  • nijames

    Here in lies the problem with Lucic, McDavid has to circle the net to let him catch up. Don’t care if he got two points, most pylons can get two points playing with McDavid, he is just too slow to play in the NHL now. Only 5 more seasons to go on that deal. McDavid is an amazing player and he will once again win the scoring title so if Lucic plays games with him his stats will give people the impression he is O.K.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Okay so my question to you is this. What does Lucic have to do to be more than OK? Score 50 points every season? Lay a big hit every game? What does #27 have to do to please you entitled pricks? Because it seems to me like everything he does isnt enough to get you guys to like him.

      • CMG30

        Quite simple: he has to keep doing what he did Saturday. You know, keep up with the play, not give the puck away… make passes and so on. Really, as long as the play doesn’t continually die on his stick fans will be fine. If he wants to fight and be physical well that’s a good bonus too. I don’t know why you think that it’s entitlement to expect a player who’s being paid handsomely to contribute while on the ice, but to each their own I guess.

        • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

          Because it seems like nobody likes what he does. They seem to think that back half of last season is the new norm for Milan, despite the fact that nobody, at least no-one from what I can’t remember, had any issues with him before then.

          • CMG30

            When the team trades a future hall of fame player for somebody they expect to play on the top line then give that guy almost the same salary on a 7 year deal plus a NMC, you better believe fans have high expectations. A single point in the last half of a season? That’s far worse than even the most jaded critic of the deal envisioned and It’s indefensible. If Looch keeps playing like he did saturday then fans will start to let it go. If not then you had better brace yourself.

      • Vanoil

        IF he does what he did last game on the fourth line and penalty minutes then he will be an effective member of the team, contributing to the end result positively. If he weighs down the first three lines he may look good, even like a star, but that doesn’t help the top lines who are held back.

    • Rob...

      I don’t have a problem with Lucic’s general speed when he’s moving his legs and trying to stay in the play, he serves a different role on the team. He does however need to eliminate the blind pass from his game. He had one horribly cringe worthy pass to the opposition during the game.

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t say his top speed is terrible. Not great, but not ponderous. His acceleration is the problem. Connor is at top speed just leaving our zone, but it takes Looch the entire neutral zone to get moving.

  • Oilers in one

    How can you really blame Talbot on that first goal? First shot of the game was from one of the Devils best shooters who was allowed to walk in to the hash marks and take a great shot without any Oilers defender near him. Give the ugly to who earned it… Benning and Nurse

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Benning routinely gets beat by his man or gets caught out of position. it is even worse when Benning is tracking the puck carrier in our end, he just seems to be unable to stay with him and ends up loosing him. As for Nurse missing camp and most of the pre-season has him a step behind and not quite up to par IMHO. Having Benning as his wing man isn’t going to help anything, I would rather see Nurse and Garrison, I wouldnt even have Benning as an 8th, and Chia overpaid to sign Benning. I would rather have Bear on the ice over Benning, I said this before package Benning and Cagguila for what you can get, dump both contracts or stick Benning on waivers and hope someone takes him.

    Talbot xcan be a good goalie but he has some bad habits like going down far to early and staying there, I am sure almost every shooter knows after the Oilers were in the playoffs to go high on Talbot and that is what happened a lot last year, and in the NJ game they devils were shooting high on him.

    The Oilers failure to hire a real goaltending coach still baffles me, they picked Dustin Schwartz from the Oil Kings where he was the Oil Kings Goalie coach and has zero NHL experience after the Oilers Fired Chabot and yet watch the games and you will stills see Talbot going down early and staying there already this season, it was why NJ was shooting high on him and think how many goals did you see go over Talbot when he was down, yes=t I dont see where Schwartz has done zip to address it. Schwartz had a great success playing goal at the UofA, but he doesnt have any NHL experience and the Oilers need a proven NHL goalie coach, let Dustin go back to working with the kids in the Oil Kings system.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Nurse didn’t “miss camp and most of pre-season” – he signed on September 17 – he missed two on ice sessions and one exhibition game (which he likely wouldn’t have played in to start with).

      He had a bad game where he got chasing – it has nothing to do with with him “missing camp” or “missing most of preseason”

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        I would take Davidson over Benning as well. I’d rather they didnt trade Davidson last time and traded Benning instead, I sure as hell dont think Benning is worth what Chia gave him this contract

  • ellebee

    To sum up, the strategy of the organization going into this season after a rather dismal previous season was to not make any significant changes and as a result, nothing significant has changed.. interesting….interesting…

  • Chris_Cruise

    Are coaches exempt from this list or something? Why no mention in bad or ugly for TMac firing up his blender only 5 mins into the new season?

    I also agree with the sentiment that Talbot should be the LAST guy on the ice to take the blame for that first goal. 5 guys skated away from the puck which allowed a sniper to walk right in. That crap doesn’t even happen in beer league.

    It just happened to be the first shot but that’s not on Cam! You don’t see other teams allowing our players to walk in on their tenders like that.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Welcome to Glen Gully hockey. You were frustrated last season with line selection?
      Imagine a world where Lucic plays every single PP without producing much.
      Favorites like Russell will get a lot of minutes.
      Lot’s of uninspired play.

  • VK63

    Raked leaves but monitored the game on Twitter.

    Mid season form with the #herecometheoilers style self deprecating humour people.
    Well done!!
    The rusty knives are sharp and the pitchforks are lit…… GONNA BE A GRRRREAT YEAR.

    Also.

    How bout dem Esks?

  • oil.99.97.11

    Great to see Oilers hockey back for another season! Good to see McDavid getting better every year. Bad that it could well be another year of ‘same-old’. Ugly being down 1-0 a minute in almost 20% of the time, regardless of whose fault it is!

  • Chiarelli has to do more to address the defensive personnel rather than simply thinking because they’re a year older, they’ll improve. That’s not really how this works.

    1st pair is ranked #21 of all 1st pairs in the NHL
    2nd pair is ranked #20 of all 2nd pairs in the NHL
    3nd pair is ranked #22 of all 3rd pairs in the NHL

    That’s not a playoff-calibre defense.

    • TKB2677

      I agree with you, the Oilers defense isn’t good enough. So my question to you and this is a question to everyone that says the same comment about Chia needing to do something about the defense is how?

      Defense in the NHL has become more and more critical each and every year. On the open market, dmen, even mediocre ones are getting paid more and more. To trade for a Dman is really hard typically. So how exactly does Chia address the defense? Who is he trading? What team is going to give the Oilers a good dman unless they grossly overpay?

      I am not trying to come across as sticking up for Chia because i am not, his fingerprints are all over the problems of the team but at the same time, where is this really good dman that some teams wants to give the Oilers for next to nothing? All I am seeing is more and more teams growing their own and locking up dman as fast as they can even if they aren’t proven yet.

      • Hemmercules

        I have been saying this for a long time. Good dmen are almost impossible to get via trade or free agency without overpaying huge. You have to grow them from within. Unfortunately for the Oilers they only have a couple that will eventually make an impact, no help this season. They need to pull off a good waiver claim and get lucky or actually develop some guys but that will take years. Hopefully Bouchard and Bear magically make the jump to stud in a short time but logic tells me one of them will be good and the other likely just average. Its really too bad they didn’t start eyeing defence when they picked Yak. Should have been a draft and insta trade scenario.

        • TKB2677

          I 100% agree. You don’t see dmen getting moved. Who of any substance has been moved in the last few years? Subban. Well it looks like a bad trade but it took an Olympic winning dman coming back in Weber to get Subban. The Oilers don’t have that, never had. They tried to get Subban, they couldn’t because they didn’t have the assets.
          Larsson for Hall trade. Larsson is a solid #3 dman. Hall was a good but underachieving forward at the time. Now it didn’t look great at the time, Hall winning the heart makes it worse but regardless, Larsson for Hall at the time was as good as a dman they could get.
          Sergechev looks to be a stud but at the time he was unproven fresh out of junior. The Habs made another stupid trade and got back a french forward. Drouin is decent but it looks like a bad trade. But at the same time, who do the Oilers have to match Drouin? No one.
          Hamilon got traded for Hanifin. Now I think it’s a bad trade for the Flames but regardless, who do the Oilers have to match Hanifin that they can give up? No one.

      • Beut

        True to a point. But other teams manage to shore up their D. Why was Davidson deemed not good enough and Gravel and Jarebuk were? Davidson held his own almost all the time and was often very good and he wanted to come here. But our management knew better. Same with Osterle. Same with Shultz. Same with Petry before that. You’re right that finding D is hard but it takes true genius management to give them away when we don’t have enough of our own. Our problems are not the players. It’s the guys upstairs.

      • TKB2677 — You’re right. Trades for top 4 d-men ARE difficult. Sekera was a decent UFA pickup. Defense (more than wingers) need to be developed within the system. Which is why I’ll never understand why they traded Petry, Schultz (although best on 3rd pair and PP), and Davidson. When prospects/rookies like Bear and Bouchard get better, they push out guys like Petry and Schultz and that’s when you trade them–not when there’s no one to replace them other than scraps and left-shot guys like Russell as a filler on their weak side.

    • IRONman

      McDavid played good? Without McDavid the Oilers would have 0 pts. McDavid is the driver of this team. I would put 27 97 29 back together. Nuge can drive line 2. Nuge is a excellent line 2 center.

      • IRONman

        To fix the D, find stay at home defence that skate at NHL level. Every trade PC made is now coming back to hurt the Oilers. You look at the players the Oilers passed on and one word comes to mind. “Incompetent” !!!!!!! the other 30 teams have found D. So what is the problem? Scouting?

        • IRONman

          The oilers can still be a playoff team. McDavid and Leon and Nuge are awesome players. Jesse and Bouchard need time. Nurse improved a lot. Better management.

  • OldOilFan

    Desperate Times… call for new things. How about RNH McD Drai, up front? Move Bouchard up to play with Nurse. Bring McLeod up to play 2C. He’s got wheels, and he wouldn’t be the only teen center playing in the NHL this year. Send somebody down to make room for him, maybe Benning if he is waiver exempt.

    • Prairiechicken

      Bending is not waiver exempt. I’m pretty sure McLeod, or any junior player, could NOT be called up until their team is eliminated from playoffs.
      Besides, forcing an inexperienced teen into 2L Center to save the season? Yikes.

      • Leichs

        Lots of teens playing good in the league this year. Petersson down in VAN, obviously Dahlin and the young center in Montreal, Kokiniemi or whatever, Dube although I believe hes 20, among others. I wish McLeod got a little more preseason time playing with the big dogs like Yam did. To my eye, McLeod drove that line all preseason and made Yam look pretty good. Would have been neat to see possibly a Luc McLeod Drai line for one game as McLeod seems to already have better wheels than Drai and hes not scared to muck it up. Or even a third line look with Jeese and Jujar. Is McLeod not at least equal to Strome if not an upgrade. Not saying he should be on the team by any means but it would have been cool to get him a better look. Could say the same thing about Caleb Jones. Looked better than Benning and even Russell all preseason and he was one of the first guys cut. I really don’t get it.