Monday Musings: Thin the Herd

As we near Christmas, we are witnessing the natural selection process of the NHL unfold in the Western Conference. The teams who can’t survive on their own fall back and with 36% of the season finished (460 of 1,271 games), I believe the playoff race in the west is down to eleven teams. Chicago, Los Angeles, St.Louis and Arizona are done in my books. Yesterday, the Coyotes announced Antti Raanta is likely done for the season. Raanta wasn’t having a great year, but the Coyotes are currently seven points out of a playoff spot and Darcy Kuemper or Adin Hill will be their starter moving forward.

The Yotes struggle to score and without a proven starter I don’t see them getting back in the race. The Vancouver Canucks went 1-10-2 before winning their last two games, and while the Canucks have one of the most exciting young players in the league, Elias Pettersson, they are teetering on the brink of focusing on the draft lottery instead of the playoffs.

For the past 12 seasons I, along with you, have had a front row seat of watching opposing teams trample over a lame, beaten-down team, so I’m confident in my experience in knowing when a team is out of the race.

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The good news for Oilersnation is the Oilers aren’t there. They are right in the hunt.

Edmonton is 7-2-1 in their last ten games, which coincides with Ken Hitchcock joining the club. Earlier this season the Oilers went 8-2-1 between October 13th-November 3rd, so we know they are capable of playing competitive hockey for ten game stretches. If it wasn’t for an ugly 1-6-0 stretch between their two-hot streaks the Oilers would be in playoff position this morning.

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They aren’t far off, however, sitting in ninth place, one point back of Vegas and Dallas for the two wildcard spots, and one point back of San Jose for third place in the Pacific Division. Their 1-0 victory over the Flames last night kept them within six points of the division lead. I’d say winning the division is a long shot, but the Oilers should be in the playoff race all season. Realistically I see the Oilers, Stars, Knights, and Wild battling for the final two playoff spots. I think the Canucks are a year away from being a legitimate playoff contender.

The Oilers will be in the hunt, and possibly the driver’s seat for a wildcard berth or third place in the division if they continue to get great goaltending.

Mikko Koskinen is making a lot of people devour large doses of Crow. I never hated the signing like many did. I thought for $2 million it would be a good bet, and I understood why they ended up paying him $2.5 million. Free agents always get more money, but I didn’t expect Koskinen to be this dominant.

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At home, he’s been almost unbeatable.

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He is 6-0 with three shutouts, a .972sv% and he’s only allowed five goals. He also came off the bench in relief against Colorado and stopped 12 of 13 shots, but in games he’s started he’s been incredible, and he is looking more confident with every start. Last night the Oilers didn’t give up many quality chances, and Koskinen felt it was a easier night for him. “The guys played great in front of me. They made it easy for me,” he said after being named first star again.

I’d guess we see Koskinen Tuesday in Colorado, Talbot Thursday in Winnipeg and Koskinen on Friday night when Philadelphia visits. Koskinen’s .929sv% is third best in the NHL among goalies with at least ten starts. Only Pekka Rinne and Jaroslav Halak are better at .930sv%. Koskinen is making a strong case to get a multi-year extension in 2019, but there is no rush to sign him. He has been incredible, but it is only 13 starts. The Oilers can afford to be patient, and should be able to get him signed to a solid contract in the summer.

I could see a three-year deal around $4.5 million/season if he plays well the remainder of the season.


1. Cam Talbot has put together consecutive quality starts. If he keeps doing that he’ll likely stay in the rotation with Koskinen, but if he’d had an off night, I could’ve seen Hitchcock going with Koskinen for three or four games in a row. It is a healthy competition between the pipes right now, but I’d argue Koskinen has the upper hand.

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2. Pettersson already has two five-point games this season. He is only the sixth rookie since 1967 to have two five-point games, joining Mathew Barzal, who had three five point games last year, and Marian Stastny (1982), Anton and Peter Stastny (1981, in the same game) and Bryan Trottier in 1976. I love watching Pettersson. He is dynamic, has great vision and a sensational release. I’m looking forward to watching him live on December 27th.

3. Patrik Laine, Jakub Voracek, Mark Stone, Blake Wheeler and Brayden Point have had a five-point night and we’ve already seen 48 occasions where a player has scored four points. Connor McDavid has two and David Pastrnak has had three four-point nights. Last season McDavid had one five-point night and one four-point game and seven three-pointers.

4. Congratulations to the Ontario Hockey League for imposing the most idiotic one game suspension I’ve ever seen. Owen Tippett will sit out one game for flipping a foam puck to a kid. It is scary how our society seems incapable of using common sense nowadays. “It’s worth noting that tossing the foam puck would have been fine. The fact that he flipped it with his stick made it a more serious offense.” Good grief.

5. The Eastern conference is much tighter than the West, but that’s mainly due to them having so many average teams right now. The New Jersey Devils are in last place in the east, but they are only five points out of a playoff spot. The Metropolitan division has the Islanders in third with 31 points, then the Rangers (31), Pittsburgh (30), Carolina (30), Philadelphia (27) and the Devils. I’d pick the Penguins to emerge out of this group, and I suspect there will only be three Metro teams in the playoffs this season.

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6. For my money Tampa Bay is the best team in the NHL. They are now 9-1 in their last ten and lead the NHL with 47 points. Only Calgary (40) and Toronto (41) have more than 40 points. The Bolts are in Edmonton on Saturday, December 22nd and they are a team you want to see.

7. I remember when many of us thought Steven Stamkos would rival Alex Ovechkin for the title of “best goal scorer,” but it hasn’t happened. Between 2010-2012 Stamkos scored 51, 45 and 60 goals. But since then his best season was 43 goals in 2015. From 2013 until now Ovechkin has scored 290 goals in 479 games (0.60 goals/game) while Stamkos has 181 in 370 games (0.48 goals/game). The only players with 200 goals during that span are John Tavares (206), Sidney Crosby (203), Joe Pavelski (202) and Patrick Kane (201). Ovie has 84 more goals than every other player. I still believe we undervalue just how great he is. He currently leads the NHL with 22 goals, one ahead of Patrik Laine and Brayden Point.

8. Speaking of Point, I’d argue he is the Lightning’s best forward right now. He’s incredibly competitive and highly skilled. I remember the 2014 draft and wondering why teams weren’t taking him. He eventually went in the third round, 79th overall. Point had 91 points in his draft year, but teams were leery of his size. He was only 155 pounds, but he was ultra competitive. He scored, he fought, he did everything. Never underestimate skill. Players won’t suddenly score more as they go from junior to pros.


A massive thank you to Heather who bid an amazing $15,000 on our Chop dinner. Also a big props to Kathryn for her amazing bid on the Oilers/Flames Loge package. Thank you, ladies.


Full Acre is offering up a year-long marketing subscription for your farm and a great night out for dinner and an Oilers game.


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Dinner and Hockey

Full Acre will take you out to dinner at Atlas Steak +Fish for all your food and beverages and then you have FOUR great seats to the Oilers game on January 12th.

You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Apparently, a fan tossed a foam puck onto the ice at the end of the 2nd period between Missauga and Owen Sound. Tippet, did right by the kid and flipped it back to him, he received a 1 game suspension for it

    • JayTee

      Some fan threw a foam puck on to the ice near the end of the first period I believe. Tippett, instead of using his hands to pick up said foam puck and toss it to a fan with his hands, he used his stick which the OHL finds to be a suspendable offense based on their CBA. A joke is what it is.

  • ziyan94

    Extending Koskinen for 3 years would be the ideal length. Looks like the foam puck link isn’t working, but if true, I agree that’s a silly suspension to hand out

  • Real Oiler Fan since 83

    I was so happy for Mr Puljujarvi last night. Hitch playing him in the last 60 seconds of a one goal game can do wonders for a kids confidence. Hitch is incredibly smart. It’s so exciting having a feeling of structure on this team. Keep it going oilers, you guys rock!

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The Oilers are ahead of San Jose, Vegas and the Wild on a pts% basis. They’re a split hair behind Dallas and the lucky Ducks and I really can’t see the ducks pulling horseshoes out for every game (like they have been over their hot streak).

    The Oilers have a solid shot at top three in the Pacific if the players are all bought into Hitch’s ideas and it sure looks like they are.

  • gordo

    750 hockey aint sustainable, but the oilers are one or two players away from being a team that can do a lot of damage. they are also 1 or 2 players away from being out of the playoffs

    • Harry2

      I love it when people say things like this. Isn’t basically every team in the league two players away from being out of it? Maybe not the elite but the middle of the road teams for sure.

  • BR

    The biggest thing I like about Hitch is that he seems to be showing players that he values them, rewards them for hard work and good play and any cut in ice time is deserved and explained in some way. He seems a good communicator. Like playing Puljujarvi in the last minute – and actually giving the Rattie/Spooner line good minutes when they’ve been on.

    One of the best things he’s done is seemingly able to calm that third pairing, now if he could just work more with Nurse to get his decision making/passing up to scratch…

    Oh and jeepers! get that Power play working!! abysmal lately.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      The differance with Hitch behind the bench is that he will tell guys when they arent doing anything out on the ice, and when your making mistakes he will tell you what your doing wrong so you hopefully dont keep doing it, there isnt any mystery to Hitch because he will tell the guys how it is what he expects of them. TM doesnt do that, and that is one of TM ‘s failures, if you dont correct the mistakes a player is making or continues to make how are they going to improve if they dont know there is a problem in their play?

      TM would jeep playing guys no matter how bad they are, Hitch might let your get away with it for a period or a game but not for long before he staples you to the bench or throws you in the pressbox.

      Not to mention but if a system isnt working Hitch will change it, TM doesnt seem to want to change systems, look at last year how long did they stick with that awful PP and PK and wasnt till the Oilers season was over that he changed it, that’s great but way too late to salvage anything, everyone from the fans to the media was screaming how the Oil needed to change the PP and PK systems and personnel but there was no will to do it.

      There is a dratic differance btwn Hitch and TM coaching style and player management

  • orangepylon

    Everyone should take a listen to today’s 31 Thoughts Podcast with Andrew Ference. Let me establish: I didn’t like him much as a player, I think Lucic is having a tough time (although it is not his fault he signed that contract and I do think he brings elements to the team that we would miss if he were gone), and I will never like the return on the Hall-Larsson trade (even though I think Larsson is an effective and essential part of our team). He talks at length about all three subjects, and even touches on Edmonton’s tendency to be too quick to tear players down if they aren’t performing. It doesn’t sound like sour grapes to me, unfortunately…

    I think his insinuation about some players back then refusing to buy into a competitive and winning culture explains a lot, not all, of what happened during the decade of darkness. I think that Chia’s effort to change this by shipping out Hall, Eberle, while getting rid of cap hits for room for 29 and 97 has blown up in his face so far, but I’m loving the Hitchcock effect so far. Is it really that unbelievable that Hall could never have grown up without the wakeup call of being traded that early in his career?

    • 50 Flex

      I don’t think Ference said anything this fan base didn’t already know. Yeah, Oil fans are quick to pile on guys who aren’t performing, but that is always going to be the case in a passionate fan base. I think it would be worse if we just stopped caring. I think it says a lot that Oil fans would rather be bitter for 10 years than just tune out the team altogether.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to Hitch, I think what people aren’t taking into consideration is he has no pressure. He of course wants to win and wants to do well in his home town so there is “pressure” BUT he’s only signed until the end of this season, then the team will “reevaluate”. So he can do whatever he wants. IF he want to play JP in the last min, go for it. He doesn’t have the pressure of losing his job if JP screws up and it costs them a playoff spot.