The Good, the Great, the Bad & the Ugly: The First Ten

I think it’s safe to say that nobody saw this start in the cards for the Oilers. The Oilers have faced a steady diet of Stanley Cup contenders and have emerged from their first ten games with a record of 6-3-1. Considering the opposition the majority of fans probably would have been somewhat pleased with a 3-6-1 record.

With 13 points already in the bag, the Oilers have jumped out to a 106-point pace early in the season. So how have they got there? Let’s take a look.

THE GREAT: Oscar Klefbom & Adam Larsson

The Oilers are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, which included victories over Winnipeg, Washington, Boston, Nashville, Chicago and a thrilling overtime loss to the Penguins.

During that stretch, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson have handled top pairing minutes and dare I say it, looked like a legit top pairing in doing so. Klefbom has played 26:01 per game through the first ten games of the season; only Drew Doughty has been on the ice more.

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Since the game against Winnipeg, Klefbom has not played less than 24 minutes and has actually finished with more than 30 minutes twice. This team isn’t in the position they are currently in without Klefbom and Larsson playing at a high level. I’m not sure they can sustain it but if they do the Oilers will be a contender in the Pacific. 


Connor McDavid is pretty much doing exactly what we expected out of him and maybe even a little bit more. He has 17 points in 10 games; which puts him on pace for 139 points.

If you are playing next to Connor McDavid you will be required to produce and Nugent-Hopkins is most certainly doing the job. Nuge has ten points over this impressive eight game stretch and has been excellent at both ends of the ice. The best part is that Nugent-Hopkins isn’t just picking up scraps from McDavid he’s driving the play on his own and has been exceptional in his own end.

THE BAD: Zack Kassian

It was Elliotte Friedman who first mentioned on Saturday that Zack Kassian had been given permission from the Oilers to seek a trade. This is bad on a number of different levels.

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First of all, why does Kassian want out? The Oilers are off to a great start; they have the best player in the world playing out of his mind and appear to be back on track. He’s played in seven of the ten games and when he has been scratched it’s been justified. Does he actually think he’ll get more opportunity somewhere else? I have a hard time believing that.

Secondly, the Oilers made Kassian near untradeable when they gave him 1.9 million per season. Monday on my show, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug said he could see a scenario where the Oilers have been trying to trade Kassian, have told the player they can’t find a deal which led to his agent requesting permission to pursue a deal on his own.

The problem for the Oilers is that I doubt any team will be willing to pick up Kassian without Edmonton retaining some salary. If the Oilers move Kassian and are forced to retain 500-700k they might as well just keep him.

THE UGLY: The Puljujarvi Situation

Every single aspect of this situation is extremely frustrating. As most of you know, I’ve basically decided Jesse Puljujarvi is the hill I’m willing to die on.

Even I can see why the team is frustrated with the player. Puljujarvi doesn’t yet play the game with the intensity he needs to be respected by his teammates and at times looks completely out of place. I don’t have a problem with a player who turns the puck over in the offensive zone trying to make a play but JP’s 5.25 turnovers per 60 are far and away the worst on the team. He’s also taken a few untimely penalties, most noticeably the one against Nashville and unlike a few other folks in this market I will once again point out that it was a weak ass call.

I can also see why the player would be frustrated. Puljujarvi looked excellent in the pre-season and had to have high hopes for the beginning of the year. Over the first four games of the season Puljujarvi looked comfortable on the third line with Ryan Strome, it looked like the coaching staff’s plan for him was working. In fact, he looked good enough that they bumped him up into the top six. After scoring the tying goal in the teams most important win of the season Puljujarvi was elevated to play with Draisaitl, even though he wasn’t on the ice with Draisaitl when he scored. In the first period against Pittsburgh Puljujarvi contributed on Draisaitl’s first 5-on-5 goal of the year and then found himself benched 20 minutes later.

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So if it’s not working with Draisaitl it would make sense to move him back to the Strome line, but that’s not what happened and now he finds himself waiting for an opportunity to get back into a winning line up.

I exchanged texts with former Oiler and Finnish hockey analyst Janne Niinimaa last week. I like to go to Janne for thoughts on Jesse because the Oilers did the exact same thing prior to drafting him.

This is what Janne had to say. “His thing his entire career is that he plays the best when he’s just out there enjoying the game with a smile on face and not overthinking or pressing things. I see him doing just that in the NHL. He wants to make it so bad and things are a lot harder in the small rink. He’s not loose and is unsure of himself.”

They have two options with JP right now: He goes down to Bakersfield or he plays with Ryan Strome. They are now serving pizza in the press box at Oilers games but that doesn’t mean Puljujarvi should be up there.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Butters

    In the case of JP I see a lot of raw talent.
    In order to perform, a wise person once told me; “Put it in your head it either means nothing to you, or everything to you, whatever works.” I think JP needs to pick one.

  • Oil DAWG

    It doesn’t make sense to keep JP in the box. Just send him down to get better. There’s no shame in it. The team seems to be doing ok with him out of the line up. The guy needs to play

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Weird, There’s a section called “The Great” and McDavid isn’t in it. He only makes it into “The Good” section while on pace for a paltry 139 pt season.

    Tough crowd.

    • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Just to be clear, what’s particularly great about McDavid this year is that he’s scoring on the PP and not just points but goals, too. If teams can’t afford to take penalties against the Oilers because the pp is humming at ~25% or higher, that changes things greatly.
      The other great thing: McDavid’s on pace for well over 50 goals this season. That’s great for two reasons: he’s more dangerous in that he’s less predictable and his line mates are more dangerous because McDavid’s less predictable and has more options on a play. One other great thing that’s not particularly new but is great nonetheless is McDavid in OT. As long as there’s a 3-3 OT the Oilers have a great chance of winning a game. Aside from Crosby’s highlight reel goal, OT has been fully owned and operated by McDraivid Incorporated. I expect that to continue, almost to the point where teams will pull their goalie if they’re tied with the Oilers in the last two minutes to try and score so they don’t have to face McDavid & Drai in OT.

  • Abagofpucks

    The thing that bug’s me about kass the most is, the Oilers gave him a once in a life time chance to get his career back. His 1st year with the team he played good and the fans were happy for him. So the oiler’s sign him to a more than generous contract. Last year the whole team looked like a tire fire and it was hard to blame any one player for the collapse. This year the Oiler’s started slow and it was gut check time for all involved, and so now most have and the team looks like there on the right track. But now Kass has looked like a player that’s not buying into the coaches game plan’s, and now wants a trade out of town. Well if this is how he repays the Oiler’s for the chance to have a career in the nhl, when nobody was going too, well fine lets move this turkey out of town. well Good riddance to the malcontent, dont let the door hit you in the ass on the way out you fool.

    • jesse says yep

      Last year I saw a kassian who was frustrated with the nhl started reffing games. Everytime he got in a scrum or through a big hit to ratchet things up the refs would play the fun police and he would end up in the box. For a guy that needs to be in the action to remain motivated, being pinned to the bench or sitting out completely, must really drain the life out of his game.
      And now that he is seeing other players pass him on the depth chart it is in his best interest to find a team that wants to play him. At this point in his career, a trip to the AHL may just be the end of his NHL career.

    • NickL89

      He was given an opportunity and lived up to it. You can’t just come back 3 seasons later and hold the organizations kindness over his head. That’s like my girlfriend saying “why didn’t you take out the garbage today, don’t you remember when I picked you up from the airport in 2016?”. If that’s the case I’d be pretty bitter too. New season, new situation, he needs a new fire lit under his a$$/motivation to be better. It’s unfortunate that the press box wasn’t enough to do that.

  • OilersBro

    Here’s why healthy scratching Jesse does not bother me right now.
    Yesterday we talked about the lack of games in Bakersfield at the start of the season. Could we possibly be sending Jesse down when we get Rattie of the IR and Bakersfield is playing more than 2 games per week? In the meantime, he’s still practicing with the Oilers and learning from the team by being in the pressbox.
    Furthermore, we always harp on Todd for using the blender too much. Keep in mind that after the Pittsburg game, Jesse was scratched and the Oilers won 3 huge games. Why change things up while we are winning?

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      Agreed, I wanted him in Bakersfield after the Pitt game but realised he would play like 2 game in 2 weeks. Would rather have him practice and be around the Oilers then the Condors. Let us see how he responds when he gets himself into a game. Injury or poor play from a winger and he will be in.

  • Abagofpucks

    Jesse’s confidence is on the rope’s it seems, and i know he doesn’t want to go to the A, but sitting in the press box is not going to help him, time to do whats right once Ty get’s back and send him down. It’s too bad, but im pullin for the kid, i just hope he can accept it and not get too down on himself, and come back when called whenever that will be and make good.

  • camdog

    The quote from Janne, sounds like something Igor Larionov would say about Nail. Hopefully things turn out different for Jesse. Nail seems to be doing well in the KHL now that he’s enjoying the game again.

  • ed from edmonton

    Obviously at 6-3-1 there is a lot more good than bad.

    Special teams also deserve a mention. As of today the PK is 20th and PP is 11th. Also PP has come up with number of key 3rd period scores leading to victories.

    Talbot looking much more like the 16/17 guy and not the 17/18 guy.

    Back up goaltender 1 for 1.

    Organizational depth paying dividends with guys like Marody, Chaisson and Gravel steeping in and contributing.

    WRT to JP he seems to get discouraged very easily and this shows in his body language and play on the ice. Seems like lack of maturity, nut he is only 20 years old. Hopefully this improves with time.

  • TKB2677

    I think part of the ugly for this season is the reaction of fans over JP. I am a big fan of JP, I think he has all the tools to be one hell of a player. But he isn’t ready. I personally think that while physically in his draft year he looks pro ready, he was farther back in the development of his game than most junior players drafted the same year. He’s barely 20, he just needs more time to develop and that is OK. Throwing JP on McDavid’s wing and having him going up against other teams best dmen and best players when he’s not close to being ready won’t help him. Even throwing him on Leon’s wing when he isn’t NHL ready won’t help him. He needs to be in the minors and Oilers fans need to accept that.

  • yahsper

    Firmly believe JP will be a powerhouse Oiler… Just not yet. I hope he does get sent down, adjust to the AHL and lights it up. With his size and skill he will do well with the Condors and will be a rockstar. That makes the game fun again. Perfect world hes back up in the new year and reCharged and ready to contibute

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I agree. He should come up when the AHL can’t teach him anything more.
      I hope that now, sitting in the press box he is being shown what to work on when there. I would have already told him he was going down, but… this is what you have to work on. I hope he is watching the games intently & not just sitting there eating pizza… I don’t want to have that impression of him.

  • Uh, Dusty, how about goaltending? Talbot has had a few tough games but the rest plus Koskinen’s tilt against the Preds is certainly at least GOOD if not great. Talbot is a .920 SV% in his last five games.

    Scoring from the non-McDavids is up although still not where we’d like it to be.

    Powerplay is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better.

    Defense overall is very very good. (I never thought I’d say that.)

  • Total Points

    The Great – Lucic on the 3rd line. This is not a negative comment. His play has improved a lot (against lesser slower competition?) plus Drai has taken off with faster players. Lucic can still do what he does best (agressiv ely control the other team) from the third line.

    • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Great point. And his pp work is improved and increasingly dangerous. The only tiny thing I don’t like about his game right now is his penchant for blind centering passes that are hard enough to get to Talbot. Otherwise, Looch looks good and the line’s playing well.

  • OriginalPouzar

    It wouldn’t have made any sense to send Jesse to the AHL for playing time to this point – the Condors have played 1 game in the last 10 days (this past Saturday). They finally start to play more games starting tomorrow – Wed, Sat, Sun.

    Further, with Marody hurt and Rattie on IR, they really can’t send Jesse down as it would leave them without an extra forward that is healthy. Yes, they could bring someone up, however, there is noone in Bakersfield currently that we want in the lineup – primary options are Brad Malone, Joe G. and Tyler Benson – none of them should be in the NHL at this point.

    When Rattie is activated (and he is supposed to be ready at some point on the 4 game trip that starts on Saturday), then it may make sense to send Jesse down.