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At Random: Eleven

The way I see it, the best thing about the Edmonton Oilers wrapping up the October portion of their schedule with a better record, 6-4-1, than anybody expected is that there’s still plenty of room for improvement in the 71 games that remain.

I didn’t see the Oilers getting 13 points, and neither did most of you, against the competition they faced in the first 11 games, but here they are on the plus side of .500 despite having their special teams go sideways and souring the end of this stretch in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild Tuesday. If the Oilers get 13 points from every 11 games they play this season, they’re in the playoffs, and that’s the end-game, no?

So far, there’s been a lot to like.

  • Defending Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid is off to easily the best start of his career with 9-9-18 in 11 games and he has provided a handful of highlight-reel moments already, including that warp-speed waltz around Ryan Suter Tuesday. He’s tied for third in NHL scoring.
  • Leon Draisaitl is starting to roll with 7-6-13, in part because of a gaudy shooting percentage (29.2). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also has 13 points (3-10-13) despite a shooting percentage (7.9) that’s bound to improve.
  • Oscar Klefbom is healthy and is averaging 26:07 a game, second to Drew Doughty. Milan Lucic (1-3-4) is showing a level of engagement we didn’t often see last season. Alex Chiasson has four goals in six games. A nice find so far.
  • Like Chiasson, Tobias Rieder has performed well. He can move up and down the line-up, kill penalties and he’s chipped in with 0-5-5.
  • Edmonton’s been very good 5×5 to this point.

WORK TO DO

This surprising start has come in spite of some deficiencies and ongoing issues that GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan need to sort through, and the sooner the better.

  • After McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl and Chiasson, there’s a big drop-off in production from forwards. Rieder, Ryan Strome and Kyle Brodziak don’t have a goal. Despite playing well at times and getting first-line ice time, rookie Kailer Yamamoto has just one goal.
  • While numbers swing greatly in a short 11-game stretch, special teams still have some work to do. After a solid start, the power play went 0-for-5 against Minnesota, is 1-for-14 in the last three games and has dropped to 21.9 per cent (14th).   
  • The PK is probably a greater concern right now than the power play is. It gave up three goals on three chances against the Wild, has allowed six goals on 14 attempts over the last three games and sits 28th at 69.4 per cent.
  • Cam Talbot has been hit-and-miss in 10 appearances. He’s been very good at times, but wasn’t sharp against Minnesota, allowing four goals on 28 shots. He’s sitting with a .904 save-percentage now.
  • McLellan has to get his line-up sorted, specifically as it relates to Jesse Puljujarvi, who was scratched for the fourth straight game against Minnesota. Either get Puljujarvi into the line-up with reasonable minutes on an ongoing basis here or send him to Bakersfield in the AHL. Make a decision.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Warts and all, the Oilers will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in a far better position after 11 games than most of us thought they’d be in when the season started. I see that room for improvement as a positive. I’d much rather the Oilers be in the position they’re in now than searching for a silver lining with six points in the standings.

That’s not to say McLellan and Chiarelli can pay lip service to the flaws and the Puljujarvi saga, but if that’s what you’re fixated on as a fan rather than enjoying the moment, I wonder where you’re coming from. If you’re not happy when the team is winning and not happy when the team is losing, when are you happy? I think that’s a fair question.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • SmyttysMulletsRevenge

    I am happy. This team seems more like the 16/17 Oiler’s. I still don’t like the all lefty PP. The PK has looked really good at times so is it a finding consistency issue? We have outplayed top teams and lost due to D breakdowns or goaltending. So i would say the season hinges on those factors.

  • Ratt McNuge

    I was hoping the Oilers would be .500 or close to it by the end of the month, and the fact they are 6-4-1 is a fabulous surprise. I give the Oilers a solid B for month 1. Lots of room for improvement, for sure, but I’m happy with the start. I think most Oiler fans are just very fragile when it comes to this team. One loss and the sky is falling.

  • Ratt McNuge

    I was hoping the Oilers would be .500 or close to it by the end of the month, and the fact they are 6-4-1 is a fabulous surprise. I give the Oilers a solid B for month 1. Lots of room for improvement, for sure, but I’m happy with the start. I think most Oiler fans are just very fragile when it comes to this team. One loss and the sky is falling.

  • Dr

    In RNH’s first year, they were 7-2-2 after 11 games, but it was all Khabibulin. He stole several games for them.
    This start is different. In that game against the Hawks, Talbot kept them in when they started to give up chances in the third. But, they haven’t needed him to steal any games. Even in the losses since the Winnipeg game, they’ve played well, generating loads of scoring chances. I am encouraged by how they’ve out played, and sometimes dominated, the good teams.
    To me, how they’ve been winning, with strong 5×5 play, is very important.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    If you can’t best em, join em I guess.

    TRADE TALBOT! WORST GOALIE IN THE LEAGUE BAR NONE! WORST TRADE OF CHIARELLI’s TENURE! WE GAVE UP THAT FOR HIM? TYPICAL PETER! AND WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS TEAM! HE BUILT IT RIGHT? AND THEY CAN WVEN START A SEASON 11-0! WHAT A BUM THAT GUY IS? I MEAN WHO TAKES JP OVER MT? WHO DECIDES ALEX CHIASSON IS A VIABLE OPTION? THIS ORGANIZATION IS IN SHAMBLES!

  • M.O.O.G.

    JP has been scratched for 4 games in a row. The facts are that not playing a player is not very good for player development. JP won’t improve by watching games, he actually has to play in the games. If he can’t get in the line up at the NHL level then please send him down to the AHL to get top line minutes.

    Can someone please make the Oilers think tank aware of this.

  • I predicted they’d be 3-7-1 with wins against the Rangers, Blackhawks, and Wild, their confidence would wane, and November wasn’t going to get much better, McLellan would get replaced by Yawney or Gulutzan and they’d be sellers at the trade dealine again.

    They have exceeded my expectations.

    That said, they have to get better on the PK, or it could be the very thing that makes them lose more games like the one against the Wild.

  • OilCan2

    Koskinen has earned a few more starts. Yamo and Bouch are not even legal in Vegas and they both look OK, not great but OK on a winning roster. Keep them both in the show. My big question is what to do with Reggie’s LTIR $$$?

  • The future never comes

    Not saying this to you Robin specifically, but this Pulju talk is getting exhausting. The Oilers need to either sh*t or get off the pot with this situation. It’s creating an unflattering buzz around the player, team, and fanbase.

      • The future never comes

        Totally agree. I believe this saga is doing a disservice to everybody involved, but the most damage to Jesse. I’m sure the majority of supporters are hoping 98 proves the nay-sayers wrong tomorrow. That would put some negative energy to rest for the short term at least.

  • jesse says yep

    Brownlee “If you’re not happy when the team is winning and not happy when the team is losing, when are you happy?”

    Nice shot across the bow of the incessant Oiler haters who claim to be fans!

    • Boba The Fett

      100% agree, I have a feeling half these “fans” are just misersble people in general who don’t get joy out of anything. Sure the team has warts, all teams do, but still doing way better then we all expected. If you aren’t happy when expectations are exceeded then when are you happy?

      • Goaltender Interference

        That’s a tough take. Fans who have stuck through it the past twelve years have legitimate cause to be slightly jaded and bitter. There’s still just grounds to look at Chiarelli, TMac and Katz and say that players and fans deserve better…

        But I agree that we should all be pretty stoked that the Oilers have rocked the house the past month. Players are doing this in spite of their teams management and that’s freaking awesome.

  • Rama Lama

    Put me in the crowd that does not understand why we do not have a functioning 2nd line. We appear to have the players to assemble a good second line.

    Good teams cycle through their players, but TM seems to change things up after one or two shifts……..there is no chemistry because we have a coach that use the blender approach. Put me in the camp that does not understand why this coach has such intolerance for a young player trying to find his way…….JP does not make mistakes that other do not. By the eye he looks as ready as any other player ( except McDavid) and puts in a great effort.

    I think the best thing for him is to be sent down and play as much as possible……..this coach will never give him the time of day.

    • Boba The Fett

      Puljujarvi has looked ok ok the forechek and the cycle but his neutral zone and defensive zone play has not been strong. I honestly feel the biggest error they made was not getting him an english tutor until this past summer. How is a kid from a foreign country supposed to learn and develop when he doesnt even understand the damn language.

      • Leichs

        I just cant see how Yamamoto gets gifted first line minutes while contributing nothing offensively. What does he bring to that top line that Jesse wouldn’t? Playing with Nuge and Connor, how defensive does his game need to be? Its not like Yamamoto is a defensive stud that breaks up the cycle and forechecks hard and I’m fairly certain if you gave Jesse 7 straight games with McNuge, literally replace all the PP time and first line time that Yam has gotten and give it to JP, guaranteed he would have more than 1 or 2 points (however many Yam has). I have faith in both of them but I don’t really get how Yam is magically ahead of JP. Some games he goes full 60 minutes without a shot playing with two of the best passers in the game. He hasn’t done squat this year on that top line outside of a couple drawn penalties. I feel bad for Jesse and if I were him I would be looking to gtf out of dodge after his contract..

        • So weary of the black-and-white takes around Puljujarvi. I’m not on board with the way he’s being handled but going down the road that he’s getting screwed over and everybody else gets more chances than Jesse and the coaches just don’t like poor Jesse and blah, blah, blah reminds me of when the Yakupov crew was in full moan claiming their man just wasn’t getting an even break here. It’s the coaches. It’s the management and on and on. As was the case with Yakupov, the player needs to be better. Unlike Yakupov, who played himself out of the NHL — unless you think every coach with different teams screwed him over — I think Puljujarvi can be better. Contrary to those who back Puljujarvi most vocally, he’s not the only player who has to hold up his end of the deal. Suggesting that’s the case is just not true.

          • slats-west

            I agree with this rationale.

            I think McL has a simple philosophy for young players, take care of defensive end first – look at Yamo. A lot of praise to #56 and most of it because he’s defensively responsible. You can’t get any shots or points if we are fishing the puck out of our net.

            So move your feet, defence first and the offence will come. You don’t need an English tutor for that message.

  • GK1980

    Positive month for sure. My only concern is when they are playing “weaker” competition that they take their foot off the pedal. They need to go into every game trying to destroy the opposition. Weather it’s washington or Florida.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I don’t think Todd McLellan will EVER have the time of day for Puljujarvi, and that is a concern for me, no matter our record. I know it’s early, and our record is better than expected, but we are absolutely WASTING a top draft pick that could be the answer to McDavid’s elusive right winger for 10-15 years, already in-house. And if that doesn’t work, maybe Draisaitl’s. But right now he lacks the confidence to play anywhere because as soon as he makes one simple mistake he is demoted (line), and taken out of the lineup altogether. Honestly, I would rather have Puljujarvi than our coach, as it’s becoming more and more clear everyday that we will have to make that choice. I say make the choice, fire TM, and get Jesse going in the right direction.

    I know this is going to be an unpopular decision considering our early record, and it’s not likely to happen given the same record, but I would rather have a future with this kid playing beside McDavid once he develops fully, than have our current coach. Go ahead and send him to the AHL being Todd is still the coach right now. But once the Oilers go in the tank, fire the coach, bring him back up, put him on one of the first two lines, and let him have an honest to goodness chance to make good while he’s here. And for those who ask who I would get to coach the Oilers, Todd Nelson looked pretty good while he was here!

    • Towers-of-dub

      No one actually cares who you’d get as the Oilers coach. McLellan looked good when they put up 103 points. He looked good when the oilers went 6-1-1 over the past 2 weeks. He’s not playing JP. So what. He doesn’t need to. Chiarelli needs to send him to the AHL, not McLellan

      • Mike Modano's Dog

        Todd McLellan WILL be fired. Go cry somewhere. Nice cherry-picking of his stats, by the way. How did he look in two of his three seasons here? I guess you forgot to mention that…which is fine. Nobody cares what YOU think.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Thank God YOU’RE okay with it! You’re okay with the Oilers getting a lottery pick in two of McLellan’s three seasons so far? Or YOU are okay with the season, all 11 games of it so far? Either way, I’m glad YOU’RE okay with it. We can all sleep a lot better now knowing that.

  • Kepler62c

    Can they send Marody, Puljujarvi, and Yamo back to the AHL once Rattie is back please?

    Marody could be a real nice find if they develop him properly and it just looks like they are rushing him right now like they did with Caggiula. Give him a season in the AHL with maybe some games at the end.

    Puljujarvi and Yamo aren’t doing much more than Caggiula, Kassian, Chiasson, and Rattie — send them to the A to develop more and you’ll get a superior product at the end.

    Heck, grab the 1st guy off waivers to play 13/14 forward — it’s better than benching you’re prospects.