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GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Jets

The Oilers wrap up their four-game road trip tonight in Winnipeg. The Oilers returned home Saturday evening after defeating the Rangers earlier in the day, spent two nights in their own bed, and then traveled to Winnipeg yesterday. They’ve logged just under 18,000 kilometres so far this season, and a victory tonight would make the final 1300 kilometre trek back to Edmonton much more enjoyable. Oilersnation would likely be fist-pumping over a 2-2 start.

1. After scoring five goals in their opening night victory in St.Louis, the Jets have only scored six goals in their past four games, and one was an empty netter. Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine have one EV point through five games. It is very early but Wheeler led the Jets with 49 EV points last year. He is off to a slow start by his standards.

2. Kyle Connor was probably the most overlooked rookie in the NHL last year. He tallied 31 goals in 76 games. He is off to a great start with four goals so far, and according to Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit, Connor is the most accurate shooter on the team. He has a sneaky hard shot and it is very accurate. Connor is skating on the Jets top line with Mark Scheifele and Wheeler, and whichever Oilers D pair is out against them can’t focus too much on Scheifele and Wheeler or Connor will burn them.

3. The Oilers only have five goals in three games this season — not a great start offensively. They have way too many players struggling to score, dating even back to last season. In their previous 20 games (17 last year, three this season) Connor McDavid has 13 goals, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18 games) has eight and Leon Draisaitl, Ty Rattie (15 games) and Drake Caggiula (19 games) have five. They are the only Oilers, who played here last year, with more than two goals. Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira have one goal in their past 20 games while Jesse Puljujarvi and Milan Lucic have two. A lot of players need to get going offensively.

4. The Jets had the third most PP chances last year, 284, and finished fifth in PP efficiency at 23.4%. They were shorthanded the fourth most times, an identical 284, and finished ninth on the PK at 81.8%. It is very early, but the Jets are continuing their trend of talking a lot of penalties. They are again sitting fourth in time shorthanded, 22 in five games, but they’ve only had 12 powerplays. They were undisciplined in Nashville, a very intense playoff-like game, but it is interesting to note they’ve only had 2.5 powerplays/game this year. Their PP is still very dangerous, 25%, so the Oilers must ensure they are disciplined tonight.

5. Yes, it is early, but the Oilers PK is a dreadful 62.5% after allowing three goals on eight kills. The Oilers haven’t been in the box much, thankfully, because thus far they haven’t shown they can kill a penalty. Their penalty kill crushed them for the first 40 games last season. They need to fix it quickly before it derails another season.

6. Jesse Puljujarvi still doesn’t look comfortable to me. He isn’t making consistent smart decisions with the puck. My issue is more with the organization than with him. I’ve said it since he was drafted I don’t expect him to be a difference maker in the NHL until he is 22. That is fine, many players, especially a lot of European players, take time. I think people forget Teemu Selanne was a 22-year-old rookie when he burst onto the NHL scene. Fellow Finn Mikko Koivu, sixth overall pick, didn’t debut until he was 22 and he scored six goals. At 23 he jumped up to 20 goals. Saku Koivu was 21 during his rookie season when he scored 45 points. Puljujarvi is still only 20, and no one should expect him to be ready. There is nothing wrong if he isn’t, and with only three points in his last 20 games at some point the organization should consider sending him to the AHL to regain his offensive confidence if he doesn’t show signs of scoring. If he starts to make plays then of course you stick with him. They can’t afford to ruin his development. They need another winger who can produce regularly in the future and right now he is their best bet.

7. Before you freak out, remember that Shane Doan was sent to the minors in his third NHL season, after playing two years in the NHL. It didn’t hurt him. If Puljujarvi isn’t going to make the Oilers better now, then why not send him down and let him gain confidence and develop in the AHL? The Oilers can’t afford to stunt the growth of another young forward. Kailer Yamamoto is in the same boat in my eyes. If they aren’t scoring, they aren’t helping right now, and more importantly, the organization isn’t helping them. The NHL is hard enough, it is almost impossible without any confidence.

8. Tobias Rieder could play second line RW and produce as much as Yamamoto would be expected to, possibly even more. I don’t see him being up there hurting the Oilers chances at a successful season. He isn’t the long-term answer, the Oilers are hoping Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are, so then develop them properly, in the minors. The NHL is not a development league. Players can refine their game here, but if an offensive-minded player can’t produce, there is nothing wrong with giving them more time in the AHL to develop.

9. Look at the Detroit Red Wings. Filip Zadina was taken sixth this summer. He has a late birthday, so this is his 19-year-old season. The Red Wings aren’t very good, they don’t have a lot of proven top-six forwards, but Zadina isn’t on their team. He is in the AHL. He has two goals in four AHL games. Dylan Strome was taken third overall in 2015. He played two more years of junior and last season he started in the AHL. He scored 22 goals and 53 points in 50 AHL games before being recalled to play the final 21 games for the Coyotes. He might never be a big-time scorer, but he talked glowingly how last year in the AHL helped him as a player. Puljujarvi was decent in the AHL with 13 goals and 33 points in 49 AHL games over two seasons, but those aren’t huge numbers if you expect him to be a scorer. He has 28 points in 96 NHL games thus far, and we’ve yet to see him impact games regularly. That isn’t a knock on him, but it illustrates, at least in my eyes, the organization isn’t handling his development the best way. There is no way both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi should be here. No question JP is more NHL ready in my eyes. I won’t be surprised to see Yamamoto in AHL by end of month. Again, not a knock on him, just a reminder how tough the NHL is for most 20 year olds, especially small players.

10. I don’t understand the fans who say, “The Oilers rush players,” but the next day scream, “Puljujarvi needs to be in the top-six!” Do you not see the contradiction? If fans are irrational at times, I get it, I appreciate it actually, but there is no excuse for the organization to be this way. The Oilers do this every year. Puljujarvi came in at 18. He scored one goal in 28 games before being sent to the AHL. He clearly wasn’t NHL ready. Yamamoto wasn’t close to NHL ready last year, but because he looked okay in early preseason games he struck around for nine games. They did it with Leon Draisaitl in his rookie season as well. Just stop it already. Rushing players does not help them, and it doesn’t help the team win games.

11. If a player is ready, we will see it. Players like McDavid, Laine, Auston Matthews, came in and were great, because they were READY, not because they got to play with good linemates. Sure that helps, but it doesn’t make them read the play better. It doesn’t give them the strength to handle the rigours of the NHL grind. Look at the Jets top forwards. Connor and Bryan Little were regulars in the NHL at 21. Scheifele debuted at 20. Wheeler was 22. Nikolai Ehlers was 19 and he scored 38 points as a rookie, then scored 64 when he was 20. He wasn’t ready to light it up at 19, but he was ready to be a positive contributor. The players will show you they are ready. The Oilers need to learn to believe them, instead of hoping they are ready.

12. McDavid has been in on all five Oilers goals this season. Only four players in NHL history have factored on more than five consecutive team goals to begin a season. Adam Oates (Detroit) 1986-87 was in on seven, while Aurel Joliat,1929-30, with Montreal, Bill Cowley 1938-39 with Boston and Andre Boudrias, 1973-74 with Vancouver were each in on the first six goals.

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  • Clayton

    Point #2 explains the challenges the Oilers have with how their team is built. “…focus too much on Scheifele and Wheeler or Connor will burn them.” Transfer that to the Oilers…focus too much on McDavid and who will burn other teams? The Oilers have one first line forward, one of…if not the…best in the game, but noone else that consistently shows anything worthy of first line minutes. The team is missing 2 top line forwards and 2 top pairing D-men.

  • Van isl Oiler

    “The Oilers need to learn to believe them, instead of hoping they are ready.”

    Hope is not a plan. Inability to properly develop young players…another reason to sack Chiarelli. Everyone chant now…
    Fire Chiarelli, fire Chiarelli, fire Chiarelli!

  • PleaseWinOilers

    The Oilers should send both Jesse and Kailer to the minors, but they’re so lacking for depth I honestly don’t know who would replace them. How has a team that was so stacked on the wing be suddenly bereft of capable wingers?

  • The future never comes

    I would personally take Yamo out against this big physical team or he is going to get exposed. He hasn’t done anything in my eyes to stay here at this point other than draw two penalties. I just want that second line shuffled they have been non existant since game 2 in the preseason. Earth to Todd’s, It’s not working Todd, wake up.

    • Odanada

      Todd is trying to be calm and cool, but he is penned in by Chia’s managerial blunders and both of them know that TM will go first when the axe falls.
      Earth to Todd indeed

  • Hemmercules

    I would love to see the comments section if they sent JP down. People are upset he’s not on the top two lines, sending him down would cause a revolution. Would be nice if they could send him down but the team is so thin on forward depth it will never happen.

    I have feeling the Oil get pounded into the ground tonight. These rosters aren’t close and the Peg is probably looking for a big game to get everyone going.

    • Randaman

      I, for one, thought Jesse was a bad pick at the draft and my opinion hasn’t changed. Put him in the minors and leave him there for at least one full season. Kailer as well.

      • Hemmercules

        I don’t think it was a bad pick but I don’t love JP like some do. Team needs both defence and forwards so hard to say if it was a bad pick. Could have used a guy like Tkachuk who was ready to play immediately over a guy that needs a few years development. Guy is 20 years old though, he will improve. Better suited in the minors but the roster is too thin as it is.

    • daryl

      He is only getting 11 minutes a night haven’t even seen him on the top two lines this year JP needs a chance give him top 6 minutes for at least 10 games but this 4th line bull shit from Todd is getting old fast.

    • That's My Point

      Look at the rookies that Carolina, Ottawa and Anaheim have this year you can see that Carolina is tied with Anaheim for 3rd OVERALL and the Ducks have FOUR ROOKIES in the top 30 in rookie scoring and the Canes have THREE.
      Ottawa has 3 in the top nine in rookie scoring and are in 7th place overall.
      The game is changing and you need speed from the rookies to do well in the new NHL.
      Keep Yama, Pulju, Bouch and bring up Bear and get this team playing like a fast team that it can be.
      If that means sitting Kassian and playing Lucic in a 3rd line role so be it, try to win the games at all costs.
      Bouchard should be on the powerplay.

  • dsanchez1973

    It’s also fair to look at a 4th overall pick and expect that by now, he’s ready to make an impact – if you look at the top 10 of his draft year, at least 6 are well established as NHL quality players now (Matthews, Laine, Dubois, Keller, Tkachuk, Sergachev, and Jost as a maybe). Expecting JP to be a viable option to play is no longer rushing him at this point.

    • ubermiguel

      If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas. The question is not where we wish Puljujarvi was at in his development, but how he can still get there. Time in the AHL seems like it’s part of the equation, because time in the NHL sure ain’t doing it.

    • Serious Gord

      Some players – particularly Euros – longer to adapt to the NHL.

      Perhaps puljujarvi is one of that group.

      That noted I think it may tell a lot that the only Finnish GM in the league passed on the highest ranked Finnish prospect of the draft.

  • El Oilero

    Subtract McD and the Oilers are easily the worst team in the NHL. Also, they are basically out of money. PC in 3+ years has destroyed the rebuild and run out of money.

    Fire PC!!!

  • Stinky Mitt to the Face

    Instead of the Oilers logo on the front of the sweaters they should all have a picture of Connor on them. I think that would make more sense right now.

  • GriffCity

    Some pretty sad comments today…Look, we had a rough start, we are 1-2. They team has looked better in each consecutive game. If we are better tonight yet again, I think we will win. 4-2 Oil.

  • Serious Gord

    The problem with sending down Yama, puljujarvi and/or Bouchard (am I missing anyone?) is that it essentially is signalling failure on chias part and surrender on the team making the playoffs.

    Why is that?

    Because it exposes the greatest on-ice failing of management over the past 12 years – no depth.

    So chia is paralyzed – he can’t replace failing players from within and he has no cap space to acquire replacements from without (and this early in the season who is there to make a deal with anyway).

    So it’s sink or swim with the roster as it is.

    • TKB2677

      I don’t agree with sending Yamo or Bouchard down being a failure on the Oilers. When I heard Todd talking, I don’t think he had Yamo on the team but his preseason warranted him getting a look. I understand why if Yamo is in the NHL, they don’t bump him down because if he is going to be a NHLer its in a top 6 role. I don’t think his physical make up or skill set make for a bottom 6 guy. They have a guy in Rieder playing in a 4th line role who is very fast, faster than Yamo, so it would bring speed to the top 6 which is needed. He’s a decent defensive player which would help Leon and he does have some skill. I don’t think he was signed to be a 4th liner. If he takes the place of Yamo to give him time to develop, you aren’t disrupting much. They could put in Chiasson as a 4th liner and be just fine.

      In Bouchard, he was going to be here for 9 games and I am OK with it because I see value in that. They have a guy in Bear who could also play in Bouchard’s spot, who had a good camp and who in my opinion is not on the team strictly because he can go up and down while Bouchard, once he is down, he’s down.

    • Part-timer-fan

      The lack of depth in the organization is not on Chai, it’s on the last decade of mismanagement. Chai for once is starting to stock the cupboards again, unfortunately he is kind of stuck, I’m sure he wants to send Yamo and Puju down, but can’t – because of the lack of depth in the organization from the previous GM(s). Our depth was SO shallow that he had to trade Hall to shore up the defence, and also had to overpay in the free agent market… those decisions are not on Chai, he HAD NO OTHER CHOICES… what was he supposed to do, pluck talent out of his arse?? So he overpaid some and traded players in less than ideal circumstances… I do believe that if he was given enough time we would have a good team – many of his decisions you can see are long term… just my 2 cents…

    • Jason Gregor

      Disagree completely…Rieder can contribute similar numbers as those two, and then those two improve and develop in the AHL which allows the team to have better future prospects. That is the point of development system. Rieder can score 15 goals on 2nd line, maybe 17, and Khaira or Chiasson can produce 12 goals on the 3rd line. This would not mean they are throwing in the towel this year, because Yamo and JP aren’t impact players anyways. They are not the reason the Oilers will succeed or fail.

  • kormega

    I liked how Pulju looked against Boston, his hands are special and he starts to show it off. If Yamo and Jesse go to AHL who will play on the wing, Drew Remenda? Ty Rattie doesn’t bring anything to offence either, even playing in top-line.

    Why NHL is not a development league? It IS a draft-n-development league, and if Oil management can’t develop players properly it doesn’t mean nobody can.

  • cupcontender

    I would switch Yamo and JP lines. Yamo hasn’t shown any chemistry with Leon not even in pre-season, but scored where he was more or less his own driver of that line. JP hopefully figures out he has size and starts using it to create more space for himself. Minimize those mistakes kiddo! and you’ll be fine.

  • CMG30

    Agreed! Send them down. The AHL is a developmental league and the Wings are right: Players are ready when they’re ready. Stop trying to force the issue. We need someone (not named McDavid) to step up on both offence and defence to start contributing. Trying to shelter rookies at the same time only adds to the problem.

  • Jimmer

    Sorry to change subjects but Jacob de la Rose is available on waivers from Montreal. 6’3″ 210 and only 23 with a $900K contract. 3rd or 4th line LW..can play centre, a good skater and is very strong defensively. I say we pick him up and trade Kassian for a pick. I love Kassian but if he is not going to play with an edge each and every game he is completely useless. It’s embarrassing that small Caggulia is playing with more fire.

  • El Oilero

    The Oilers show the wisdom of the relegation system. They should have been demoted to a lower league years ago. This organization is dysfunctional and the consequences were to be rewarded with top draft picks.

    • That's My Point

      Yet other teams with 3 or 4 rookies (Carolina, Ottawa, Anaheim) this year are leading the rest of the league who are stuck with older players and bad contracts.

  • Muleman84

    We all need to take a chill pill! Our team on paper is WAAAAAAYYYYYY better than Vegas was a year ago, but everyone on the team played extremely hard EVERY night for EACHOTHER!!! If we do the same, I have faith that we can have the same results!! Play hard boys and all will be Ok!

  • Abagofpucks

    All i have to say is Leon’s time to prove he can drive his line is tonite.
    And i’ll just say it lucic looks like he’s motivated and better right now than where he finnished last year. But lucic is not a 2nd line guy anymore, look at Neal he’s on the 3rd line in calgary, put lucic where it makes sense.