GDB Game Notes: Stars @ Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers first five games of an eight-game stretch v. Pacific division opponents, and the Dallas Stars, has been anything but smooth. The Oilers are 1-3-1 and have been outscored 20-12. Despite the sluggish five games, they are only three points behind Vegas for third in the division and four back of Dallas for the final wildcard spot.

They need to remain close to the playoff picture, and after disappointing losses to Vegas, Anaheim and LA they need a much better effort tonight.

1. I don’t understand the Oilers rationale with Jesse Puljujarvi. Their resistance to just let him develop and get comfortable in the AHL perplexes me. He was just starting to gain some traction in the AHL, but they decide to recall him and play him 7:43 in LA on Sunday. This doesn’t help him, and right now he isn’t doing enough to help the team win. The Oilers can’t change the past, but if you continually make head-scratching decisions it makes it hard to expect the future to be better. Maybe I’m missing something, but I see way more positives in having Puljujarvi in Bakersfield instead of in Edmonton right now.

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2. The most important number for Ken Hitchcock right now should be points. Mikko Koskinen is 5-2-1 in eight starts. The Oilers have picked up points in six of his eight starts. Cam Talbot is 5-9-1 and the Oilers only have points in six of his 15 starts. In 75% of Koskinen’s starts the Oilers are getting points, while they’ve only left the ice with a point in 40% of Talbot’s starts. Hitchcock should run with Koskinen until the Oilers reach a set of back-to-back games. They need wins, and right now Koskinen gives them a better chance.

3. Alex Chiasson continues to play incredibly well, but all I keep hearing is how his SH% is unsustainable. Thanks Captain Obvious, we know that, but look at how he is scoring. He reads the play well, he gets into good positions, and his second goal on Sunday illustrated his quick hands in tight. He only has 24 shots in 17 games, and of course he won’t maintain a 41.7 SH%, but that doesn’t mean he can’t remain a solid contributor. How many of his goals have been lucky? The one off his knee, sure, but many have been sweet shots or plays. I see him getting more shots, having a dip in his SH%, but still producing.

4. At this point I think you could promote Ty Rattie to the 2RW and keep Puljujarvi in the minors and the production from Rattie would likely be the same as what Puljujarvi does in that spot. I’m presuming Chiasson gets a bump to the first line to open up a spot for Puljujarvi in the top-six. This illustrates the organization is once again sending mixed messages. Their goal should be to win now, and play the players who give you the best chance to win. Instead they are going to try and force Puljujarvi into the second line and hope he produces. I guess it is possible, but from what I’ve seen it looks like a low percentage bet.

5. It has only been five games, but Ryan Spooner has done very little. He skates well, but other than that I’ve haven’t noticed much. He didn’t look comfortable on the top line with McDavid, which matches my belief that just playing with McDavid won’t guarantee you success. McDavid needs someone who is good at retrieving pucks, or creating turnovers on the forecheck. Spooner did neither and he hasn’t done it regardless of who he’s played with so far. It is only five games, but the first impressions have not been positive.

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6. The Stars blueline has been decimated by injuries. They’ve used 12 different defenders through 24 games. Stephen Johns has missed all 24, while Marc Methot and Connor Carrick have each sat out 15. Earlier this month John Klingberg injured his hand and he’s now missed eight games. He was playing over 25 minutes/game and had 13 points in 16 games. In the eight games since he’s been out, Esa Lindell (24:11), Miro Heiskanen (23:45), Roman Polak (20:35) and Gavin Bayreuther (20:11) have been their top four. Bayreuther has now played six NHL games, Heiskanen is also a rookie, and the Stars have started to slowly slip. They are 3-4-1 in their past eight.

7. To make matters worse starting goalie Ben Bishop was injured on November 19th against the Rangers. In three games since the Stars have allowed 12 goals. Bishop was 8-5-1 with a 2.33GAA and a solid .923sv%. Anton Khudobin has been promoted to the starter, and he has a 3.07GAA and .905sv% this season, but he has an .858sv% in the three starts since Bishop was injured.

8. The Oilers top three scorers — Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — have outscored the Stars top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov 81-62. McDavid and Draisaitl will likely see a lot of the Stars top line tonight, although Radek Faksa often gets tough matchups.

9. Goals are up across the NHL. Heading into tonight eight players are on pace for 50 goals. At this time last year only three players were on pace for the magical 50, but none remained there. Alex Ovechkin had 18 goals in 25 games last year (pace for 59) and he finished with 49. He has 18 goals in 24 games this season, but Patrik Laine and David Pastrnak each have 19 goals in 22 and 24 games respectively. Laine is on pace for 70 goals. I highly doubt he reaches it, but I sure hope he, Pastrnak, Ovechkin and a few others reach 50.

10. Laine has a ridiculous 16 goals in November. That is the most goals in a month since Mario Lemieux had 17 in 15 games in December of 1996. Laine has 16 goals in ten games, including three hat tricks. The Finnish sniper plays tonight and Thursday with an opportunity to match or surpass Lemieux’s 17 goals.

11. The Edmonton Oil Kings host the best team in the CHL on Wednesday night. The Prince Albert Raiders are 23-1. They’ve outscored their opponents 119-40. They dominate in many categories, but their penalty killing is outstanding. It is 92.9%, but they have scored 15 shorthanded goals and only allowed eight powerplay goals. They are +7 when they are shorthanded. Ridiculous. Brett Leason, 19 and undrafted, leads the WHL with 25 goals and 54 points. The 6’4″ winger is having a breakout season. He is on a 24-game point streak. Netminder Ian Scott is 19-1 with a 1.45GAA and .948sv%. The Raiders have a lot of depth, are big, mean and have a solid blueline. They lead the WHL with 119 goals while the Oil Kings are second with 104. Leason is first in league scoring and the Oil Kings Trey Fix-Wolansky is second with 52 points. If you’ve been thinking about going to an Oil Kings game this is one you will want to see.

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12. I would argue the Raiders have had the best start in WHL history. They are 23-1. The 1978/1979 Brandon Wheat Kings were 21-0-3 through 24 games, and in fact went 24-0-5 before losing. But in their first 24 games they picked up 45 points (21-0-3), while Prince Albert has 46 points (23-1-0). The Wheat Kings were undefeated for 29 games, so that streak is still intact, but I’d say the better start (up to this point) is from Prince Albert because they have more points through 24 games.


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Recently by Jason Gregor:

Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/27/2018 – 7:00 am MT

  • TLee81

    I Agree Gregor, let Koskinen Ride the Pine!! Send Puljujarvi To the A- Lettie Rattie Play!! Big game today. Go Oilers, finish the month Strong- I’ll say 4-2 oilers- thanks for the article, as well I’ll be at the Oil Kings Wednesday should be plent of goals!! Gregor- would you look at trading for Maroon who’s struggling in St. Louis for a prospect or pick? Mayby spooner and high pick?

  • Svart kaffe

    Some question marks regarding Puljujärvi, but I think it’s as simple as Hitchcock thinks he might unlock something McLellan couldn’t. His potential is a lot more than Rattie’s and that’s why Hitchcock wants to work with him (read: actually coach him.) McLellan seemed uninterested in dealing with players who didn’t have it all together already.

    That’s why he was recalled, it’s not rocket science.

    If Hitchcock can make him into a player sooner than he would be grinding it out in the AHL isn’t that a good thing? Let the new coach give it a shot.

    • Hemmercules

      Let the kid simmer in the AHL for a bit. Hitch is here all season. Plenty of time after Chirtsmas for them to get to know each other if JP is playing so well in the AHL they feel they have to call him up. Give the guy some consistency. Its two months into the season and he’s on his third coach and been sent down and called up already. 8 minutes a night in the NHL is going to waste him. Let him play 20minutes in the AHL for a a few months.

    • HelpMeBabyJesus

      I shake my head. Listen carefully, the NHL is not a “player development” league. That is what the AHL is for and where Puljujarvi belongs until he can measure up.

      • Beer

        Either Pul learns to speak, understand english, or the coaching staff learns to speak finnish. Until the communication barrier is breached, It doesn’t bode well for a NHL career. I am starting to understand why he dropped to the oil in his draft year.

    • CMG30

      JP’s upside is tremendous but the Oilers need to let him develop. The NHL is not a developmental league and bouncing him back and forth is not helping either. The reason Hitch was so adamant that he wanted JP and he was going to unlock him in the NHL is because he’s got no other way to run 2 competent lines. If JP suddenly takes a lunge forward then this team becomes far more capable and there’s the outside chance that this team will win a few more games.

      The downside for the Oilers is that they continue the trend of damaging high end prospects by throwing them in over their heads before they’re ready. It’s very easy to make the case that the Oilers have mishandled JP already and judging by recent history this little experiment will not end well for the Oil or JP. You don’t damage players by keeping them in the AHL even if they’re past ready but right now they’re playing with fire by continually trying to force JP into a situation he’s not shown any readiness for.

      But why are the Oilers in this position in the first place? Simple. Chirelli has failed to assemble enough competitive players. A good part of the reason why is that the Oilers have not properly developed prospects, instead drafted high then labeled that guy as the next great hope to market their product to fans. When the inevitable happens and they struggle, fans along with management sour on them and they are eventually unceremoniously dumped for little to no return. This leaves the Oilers with little in the way of cost controlled talent in the pipeline and is makes up half the reason that this team never gains any traction. (The other being the front office’s inability to recognize what NHL players are worth trading for).

      What should they do?
      1. Fire Chirelli.
      2. Be realistic with the kids. It’s OK if they play in the AHL till they’re 25. That doesn’t make them a bust. Players are ready when they’re ready.
      3. Stop overselling players to fans. It leads to the town eventually turning on perfectly serviceable players when then leads to an asset being lost for pennies on the dollar.
      4. Make sure the kids are getting playing time in the AHL. I know that coaches down there want to win too but their role above all is to make sure the kids develop.
      5. Fire Chirelli.

  • SuperMackelius

    I hope Alex Chiasson continues to play well. He reminds me of Ryan Smyth growing up. Playing Hard and going to the net. We need more players like him.

    • fasteddy

      One thing often not noted, (Gregor alluded to it though), is that players that get most of their goals in the dirty areas have higher shooting percentages. They aren’t firing volumes of shots from the perimeter, they get tips or rebounds primarily.

  • Hemmercules

    This team is so ridiculous. Only the Oilers would continue to play Talbot after being below average for over a year, even after finding a slightly better guy for the moment. Sometimes it feels like this team is more about loyalty than winning hockey games.

    That is absolutely hilarious that they only played JP 8 minutes after calling him up. Im guessing Hitch doesn’t like his game either?? He will be on his way back to Bakersfield after about a month of playing less than 10 minutes a night in NHL. Such a bush league organization. I can’t believe I cheer for these guys sometimes.


      At certain points in the Decade of Darkness when frustration hits an all-time high, I’ve tried following other teams but it’s just not the same. I’m loyal to the Oil. Loyal to a fault probably. Wasting McDavid years while he’s in his youth is practically criminal.

      • Hemmercules

        Same. I can’t seem to get into another team and the only other option without having to paying extra to watch another team on NHL centre ice is Calgary. Never gonna happen. I like to bet on a couple teams in the playoffs to keep me interested though. Tampa is fun to watch and they have soft spot in my heart from blocking Calgary from winning that cup.

  • camdog

    As Hitch says, it was his call to bring JP back up. PC doesn’t have the backbone to say no to his coaches, it’s not a new problem.

    As to Spooner, he’s not a shooter either. He averages one even strength goal every 10 games, he’s a passer. The only centre on the team that he might fit with is Leon and I even doubt that.

    • camdog

      When the trade was first made I laughed, because I thought the only Oiler centre Spooner would be good with is Strome. Strome can shoot, but needs a winger that give him puck in slot.

    • Hemmercules

      I can understand it a bit if Hitch wanted to call him up and see what he has. I’m sure Chia agreed just to see if things go differently with Hitch over Todd. Juts feels way too early. They were coming off a big win in SJ and scrapped a point out of ANA and played a decent game. Why interject a young new player when you hardly know they guys you have? The team was doing ok wth Talbot on the bench and JP in the minors and they just couldn’t help but tweak things only to get pounded by a lesser team.

  • The future never comes

    What have we learned about the Oilers? Never assume wins or even good play against injury riddled lineups, backup goalies (even third strings), teams that have played back to backs, or teams at the bottom of the league. How many games have we won handily this year? Two? Point is this team will always find new ways to lose with the best player on the planet. Sad.

    • tealyn

      Well if these guys would stop jinxing it here by always talking about how we should win this game or that because the team we are playing had back to backs or they had just won 3 and were due for a loss, I am blown away that the writers here always think we should win a game because of some random stat that has no bearing on the game.

  • ed from edmonton

    This game reminds me of a game vs the Rangers late last year . The Rangers were badly banged up and their D had a total of about 100 games in the NHL. The Oil were horrible and managed something like 12 SOG through the1st two periods. Hopefully the OIl will show up and put some kind of pressure on a depleted Dallas D and 2nd string goalie.

  • ed from edmonton

    So the day after the Oil inexplicably call up JP the Yotes trade perhaps an even more disappointing draft Dylan Strome to the Hawks. Still wondering if JP was being showcased and the Hawks quickly ran to the other option.

  • tealyn

    I guess that’s why you didn’t get the coaching call Gregor, lol. When the young bull(Gregor) wanted to run down into the herd and mate with a few heifers, the old bull(Hitch) said, “let’s walk down and mate with them all”. We have to give Hitch some time to assess the situation rather than making reactionary decisions, he needs time to talk with a psychologist because he can’t believe his own eyes showing him what Chiarelli has done with the assets he had, he can’t believe there is no first or second pairing defence . He has adjust to management being less intelligent than the rice ageing in my refrigerator. Give the guy time to realize that the rot is in the marrow.

  • Quoteright

    so far
    Let’s give Hitch some rope to work with. Unlocking Poolparty is the most important short term goal for the Oilers. We all see the ridiculous potential. Relax Gregor, give it time. Believe in the Hitch.
    Same with Spooner.
    I bet if Pool starts having fun, he will dominate. Hitch might be able to simplify it for him.

    • Soccer Steve

      No rope. We’re 2-7-1 in our last 10 with a bum GM and no depth. We’re are this close to being “historically” out of the playoffs by December. Again. Time is up.

      • Oilman99

        Rattie is much more reliable at both ends of the ice than Spooner, controls the puck,has a good passing ability to get the puck to McD, and gets to the scoring areas. Cant believe Hitchock has flushed him without even giving him a sniff on the top two lines,due to his history from three years ago. Rattie has shown he has improved from his St Louis days.

  • Redbird62

    Jason, it is hard to compare eras when the rules have changed. When Brandon went 21-0-3, they did not have the opportunity to get the extra point in overtime, but had to settle for the tie. I would have expected them to have won at least two of those using the OT rules in place today and with the offensive talent that team had giving them at least 47 points. Alternatively, Prince Albert has won only one of it games in OT, so applying the 1979 rules, PA would have only 45 points since that one OT games would have ended in tie. I say its too close to call which is the better start though I will say PA has more competition than Brandon did, since the only worthy competitor in 1979 was the Winterhawks. By season end, Brandon has 125 points, Portland had 111 and Billings, in third place, had only 87 points.

  • Alberta Ice

    The Juggernaut Jets look deep and I cannot believe how hot Laine is shooting on the opposing net presently. Still remember that howitzer shot he scored at Rogers Place on his own goalie. LOL.

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    Oilers trade for Griffin Reinhart in 2015, 3 years after drafted 4th overall (2012). He failed to show any signs of NHL talent, unable to crack an NHL roster. Traded for a 1st and a very high 2nd in a an extremely deep draft (practically 2 firsts)

    Chicago trades for Dylan Strome in 2018, 3 years after being drafted 3rd overall (2015). He failed to show any signs of NHL talent, unable to crack an NHL roster. Traded alongside another struggling prospect in exchange for a struggling centerman, who’s been in the leaugue for 2 years now.

    Sorry to beat a dead horse again, but just another reasons Chia needs to go.

    • Prairiechicken

      Hey, come on now. Pete and co didn’t KNOW Griffin had struggled since his draft. In their own admission, they hadn’t watched him since he was an Oil King and weren’t worried because he was so good back then. Because … of course … why would you bother checking how a player had done in the AHL / NHL?!?!?!

      • Redbird62

        Hey bad trade and there is no sugar coating it, but Reinhart played for the Oil Kings for 2 seasons after being drafted (where the Oilers had a birdseye view and where he played extremely well). He played only one season in the AHL as a 20 year old for one of the worst teams in that league. Still they should have gotten a better scouting report for that one season, but it is not as big an oversight as you make it out to be.

        • Prairiechicken

          Fair point. When I say they hadn’t watched him since junior, it’s somewhat misleading in suggesting it had been 3 years since they watched him, when in reality it was 1.
          Regardless … there was a years worth of data on the table for them to look at of him performing as a pro in the NHL and AHL. It doesn’t take an NHL scout to tell you that there’s a massive gaps between the WHL/AHL/NHL. Some players, for whatever reason (I don’t profess to know), can’t make the transition. And rather than using evidence to tell whether he could make the jump (the fact that he was struggling trying) … they just said they knew better and didn’t even bother watching him in the last year. That’s totally negligent IMO. Honestly, because of that fact, this trade annoys me more than even the Hall or Lucic signings. As terrible as those were, at least they weren’t completely acting out of admitted ignorance.

      • Redbird62

        I think it was likely Bob Green who was Reinhart’s most ardent supporter. He had just been named the Director of Player Personnel and previously, he was the Oil Kings GM who had recruited Reinhart. He apparently also did not see Reinhart play in the AHL.

      • mcjesus take the wheel

        You’re just blind and completely irrational. Chia himself said on the day of the trade that he had spent a lot of time scouting Reinhardt in both Memorial cups and said he believed he was nhl ready. Stop trying to shift blame from your bf.

  • FanBoy

    With all the things that unfolded now, some things just don’t make sense anymore. First, Chia trades Strome who is more defensive than Spooner because he thought he’d provide more offense. But then turns around and fires Todd two games after and hires Hitch who is known for liking defensive coaches. At the time it seemed like a good deal because it looked like he was trying to get more offense but in hindsight, why trade someone knowing that you’re already feeling like firing the coach. Why couldn’t he just kept Strome and let Hitch work with him. He’s on the wing now, something Todd didn’t want to do. Didn’t he think that Hitch could’ve unlocked more offense from Strome? Maybe play him on the wing like NYR are doing? Terrible asset management!

    • FanBoy

      Also forgotten is that Spooner is basically the same player as Rieder except Rieder is better defensively and costs less. He acquired a player who costs more and has less points than Rieder!

      • camdog

        Corsica Hockey is a good spot to compare all 3 of Rieder, Spooner and Strome. Strome historically brings just as much offence as Spooner. There was no offensive upside to the deal.

          • camdog

            Todd wanted a quicker team. Team just moved Leon onto McDavid’s wing, so I’m guessing Todd and PC hoped that Spooner could jell with RnH. Previous Oiler GM’s/coaches have tried that type of player with RnH before and it didn’t work. Better bet would have betting putting Strome with RnH.

          • Prairiechicken

            Because “we have to do something!”
            When that failed … “we have to do something bigger!” and voila … the coaching change.
            Thankfully, think that’s the last “something” they’ll give Pete.

  • Puljujarvi has the best shot and goal numbers with McDavid. Play him on the top line. If Spooner gets time there, why can’t Puljujarvi?

    Come on already. Quit trying every possible winger as a filler, *except* Puljujarvi. It’s also time Lucic sat a game.

    Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
    Caggiula – Nuge – Chiasson
    Spooner – Khaira – Rattie
    P.Russell – Brodziak – Kassian

  • VK63

    I wonder if Mr. Katz is aware of the fact that the secondary market is completely flooded with cheap seats?
    Except for the Toronto game… them babies are precious. I wonder why?

    Maybe Bobby Burger Stands wife can write about THAT?

  • rektangle

    Honest question, is there any scenario that during the 2020 expansion draft, that we could offload Lucics contract. Maybe even with a sweetener – at the very least to help the Seattle Metropolitans hit the cap floor?

  • BobbyCanuck

    They need to show the NHL that Poolparty is actual NHL material, either now or he for sure will be soon. So they can trade him for good value to get someone that can score goals…probably Eberle, damn you OILERS, DAMN YOU TO HELL

  • Theo

    I dont think there is anything wrong with Hitch wanting to try and help Puljujarvi. I think every coach out there would especially considering the teams current needs and the tremendous skill and potential Puljujarvi has.

  • Delirious

    Play Rattie with McDavid. He knows where to be and how to score. Hitch is a terrible coach now, the game has left him in the past. Still loves the old guys

  • Derian Hatcher

    How about this…every player on every line on every shift in every zone works their very hardest for the 45 seconds to a minute they are on ice. EVERY player does this for THE WHOLE GAME and see where the Oilers come out. This includes busting their a$$ to the bench for line changes on the fly (Cough-Leon-cough). Enough of the Drake Cagguilla “I’ll work hard when the mood suits me” routine. It would be interesting to see what the outcome would be if they all worked to their maximum – like some other teams do. Just sayin’