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GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Avs

Elmer Lach from Nokomis, Saskatchewan was the first Art Ross Trophy winner (NHL’s leading scorer) when he scored 61 points in 60 games in 1948. He’d scored 80 points in only 50 games three years earlier when he won the Hart Trophy as the league Most Valuable Player, but there was no Art Ross Trophy then. In the 70 NHL seasons where they’ve awarded the Art Ross only 28 different skaters have won the award. Twenty-two Canadians have won it, three from Sweden, two from Russia, one from the United States and one from Czechoslovakia. Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Peter Forsberg, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are the only non-Canadians to win it.

Mikko Rantanen is trying to become the first Finnish player to take home the hardware, and the 10th pick in the 2015 draft will not make it easy for Connor McDavid as he tries to win his third consecutive Art Ross.

1. Rantanen leads the NHL in assists, 36, and points with 48. He is on an eleven game point streak during which he’s scored 19 points. He has registered one point in 25 of the Avalanche’s 30 games thus far. He’s had two four-point games, picked up three points four times and nine times he’s picked up two points. Rantanen played nine games in the NHL at 18, but didn’t register a point and the Avalanche sent him to San Antonio in the American League. He ripped it up, producing 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games. Then he scored 20 goals and 38 points for the Avs at 19 years of age, and exploded for 29 goals and 84 points last season.

2. Rantanen is on pace for 131 points, which would be the third most among Finnish born players. It will be very difficult to maintain a 1.6 point-per-game pace, but if he manages to produce 52 points in his final 52 games he will join Jari Kurri (six times) and Teemu Selanne (four times) as the only Finnish born players to score 100 points. He has a very realistic chance to produce the most assists in a season by a Finn. He needs 33 assists to pass Selanne’s record of 68.

3. On December 12th last season McDavid had 35 points and he was six and seven points behind Tampa Bay linemates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. But McDavid produced 73 points in his final 52 games to win the scoring title. Heading into tonight’s game McDavid is seven points behind Rantanen and four back of his linemate Nathan MacKinnon. The race is far from over, and with consecutive Art Ross trophies on his resume it would be foolish to count out McDavid. The race would become much easier for McDavid if the Oilers powerplay could get going.

4. Winning cures a lot of things, and despite the Oilers scoring seven goals against Minnesota on Friday, their lack of offence is still a concern. In the other nine games under Ken Hitchcock the Oilers have scored 17 goals. At this point, they will likely win most of their games by playing sound defensively with solid goaltending and having Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scoring. But at some point they need to rediscover their offence.

5. The powerplay hasn’t scored in five games, 0-for-17. McDavid hit a crossbar on Sunday, but the PP has once again become too predictable and stationary. McDavid’s speed scares opposing defenders, and when the Oilers PP has him standing still it plays into the hands of the penalty killers. The Oilers need quicker puck movement and more urgency on the man advantage. There is no doubt they have the skill, but over the past five games we’ve seen the same bad habits creep in. They haven’t had a lot of practice time recently, so they haven’t been working on it, but I won’t be surprised that on their next full practice there will be some time spent on refining the PP.

6. I sense many Oilers fans have become empathic towards Milan Lucic’s battle to score. In the 2018 calendar year he has 2-12-14 in 73 games. He has two goals on 103 shots. It has been a brutal stretch offensively for Lucic, but now I find some fans are rooting for him. Everyone knows the contract status, but his effort and physical presence has been noticeable most games this season. The past few games when Lucic touches the puck or goes in on the forecheck fans are chanting, “ Looooochh!”. It is at the point now where many just want to see him score a goal, somehow, some way. He is counting down the days until 2019 arrives. You have to think 2019 will be better for him offensively. It can’t be worse, can it?

7. Connor McDavid has 41 points. The Oilers have scored 81 goals, meaning he has been in on 50.6% of their offence. That is the highest percentage since Jaromir Jagr was in on 52.4% of the Pittsburgh Penguins offence in 1998/1999. He had 127 points and they scored 242 goals. Mario Lemieux had an amazing 199 points in 1989 and was in on 57.3% of the Penguins’ 347 goals. Even when, or maybe more accurately, if, the Oilers get some consistent secondary scoring in the future I expect McDavid to be involved in over 40% of the scoring. Great players do that.

8. Wayne Gretzky contributed to over 50% of the Oilers offence three times. In 1986 he was in on 50.4% (215 points) of their 426 goals. In 1982 he produced 212 points and was in on 50.8% of their 417 goals and in 1985 he was part of 51.8% (208 points) of the Oilers 401 goals. Over a five-year span between 1982-1986 Gretzky produced 1,036 points and was in on 49% of the Oilers 2,114 goals. They were a great team, with six future Hall of Fame players, and he was still in on almost 50% of their goals over a five-year span. Crazy.

9. Drake Caggiula and Tobias Rieder are on the road trip and will be practicing with the team. Both are hoping to play at some point on the road trip. For me, Valentin Zykov would be the first guy to come out of the lineup. I don’t think he skates well enough to be a factor right now. And then Ty Rattie would come out. I think he has played okay, but it is clear Hitchcock isn’t a big fan. When Caggiula and Rieder get back up to speed it will be interesting to see who plays with Nugent-Hopkins. I still think Chiasson is the best fit on his RW.

10. I read and listened to Andrew Ference’s interview on 31 thoughts. I agreed and disagreed with some things.

Agree:

  • Yes some people jump on the bandwagon to hammer on players, some of whom aren’t playing poorly, and often the vocal minority will rail on the wrong player.
  • The young Oilers didn’t know what it took to win. How would they? They came into a losing environment and never learned. Jason Strudwick said most players he’s seen don’t know how to be a pro their first few seasons. The smart ones eventually figure it out.
  • I have no doubt they partied. I’m sure they made some immature and wrong decisions. Most of them were 19-23 and still in the phase of life where you do dumb stuff. But I don’t buy that partying is why a team loses. Ask the 1980s Oilers or the Blackhawks between 2010-2015.
  • Oilers teams didn’t practice hard enough for years. I’ve seen it and wrote about it many times. I asked Eakins about his practices back then. I said I felt they weren’t intense. He replied they practised as hard as any team. Did the Captain express his frustration with practices then? If so, why did coach, when I gave him opportunity to address it say the practices were fine?
  • The organization still doesn’t do enough to protect their players publicly. This happened then and I believe it still does. Last year allowing the asinine Nurse/Draisaitl rumour to swirl for months, even though it didn’t happen, was ridiculous.

Disagree:

  • Fans and media are too hard on players. Sorry, not buying it. Fans have sold out the home rink every night, despite getting very little bang for their back for 12 years, and I think they showed great patience for most of it. One year the Oilers were in first place after 16 games. Fans were going crazy and loving it, but all their support didn’t stop the team from falling apart in the final 66 games. Fans have expected more from Lucic, but now are chanting his name in hopes of helping him score. Saying fans are reason for losing is deflecting away from real issues.
  • Eakins was a great coach and was scapegoated. I’m sorry, but he wasn’t ready to be an NHL coach. Some players didn’t know how to be a pro, and he didn’t know how to be an NHL coach. I suspect he knows more now, just like RNH, Hall and other young players are more mature now, and Eakins will be much different the next time he coaches in the NHL.
  • Ference’s comment about his coach illustrates to me he was closer to him than his teammates. As a captain, that isn’t how you create a winning environment. You have to find a way to connect with your players, and when he essentially tattled on them to the coach, about being out late, Eakins responded with 8 a.m. practices. Not the best way to build a winning culture. Did the captain communicate properly to the young players, or did he have a hard time adapting to young players after being a complementary player on a veteran-laden, Stanley Cup contending and winning team? I think every player, coach and management played a role in the losing.
  • I don’t discount the players partied at the inopportune time, but even if they had gone to bed regularly they might have won, what, five more games? That team simply wasn’t talented enough. They used 14 different D-men that season. Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Ference played 80, 74 and 71 games respectively. Nick Schultz (60), Anton Belov (57), Martin Marincin (44), Philip Larsen (30), Mark Fraser (23), Oscar Klefbom and Ladislav Smid (17), Corey Potter (16) while Denis Grebeshkov, Taylor Fedun and Brad Hunt played less than seven games each. A lack of talent, a lack of proven veterans, an inexperienced coach and a management team who built a flawed roster were the main reasons they finished with only 67 points.
  • Last season the Oilers, with the league’s most dynamic player, finished with 78 points. I’ve never heard anyone suggest McDavid isn’t professional in how he approaches the game, yet the team only had 78 points. Of course a winning mentality and professional attitude are keys to winning, but you need talent to compete. The 2010-2015 rosters were not good enough to win, and far too often they were filled with too many young players, who likely weren’t mature enough yet to play or act the right way all the time, and the rest of the roster was often filled by veterans whose best days were behind them. That is a losing combination. And like most teams who lose, when you keep losing it is very difficult to create a winning culture.

MONTH OF GIVING

Thank you to Curtis for his amazing bid of $19,500 on the amazing Full Acre package. Thanks to Ryan for donating it.

DAY SEVEN: Manny Viveiros coaches your child’s hockey team’s practice.

Todd McLellan started this a few years ago, and after he left Vivieros offered to keep it going. I love it.

  • Your son or daughter’s minor hockey team will have an hour practice at the community rink, or Rogers depending on availability, in January-March with Viveiros running the practice.
  • Viveiros will take the team on a tour of the Oilers coaches room and other facilities.
  • A signed Oilers jersey by every player on the team or a signed McDavid jersey.

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

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santas Anonymous.

GAME NOTES BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.

Recently by Jason Gregor:


Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 12/11/2018 – 11:00 am MT

  • dabears318

    Gregor, I think you are missing the point around the partying.

    It really spoke volumes (to me, at least) that after getting embarassed at home 5-0 on HNIC, you’d still see these guys out on the town right after.

    That isn’t a winners mentality. Do you think McDavid after a loss is thinking “well… win or lose, we hit the booze?”. I’d bet his head space would be entirely focused on how to improve for the next game… not about what night spot to hit up.

    That’s the difference between a winning/losing culture, to me.

    • Odanada

      It’s been written that Rocket Richard was so driven to win that, after a loss, he would be up half the night pacing the streets, trying to calm down.
      Some people are wired to win. I sense that in McDavid.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think you are simplifying it too much. Do you think the Blackhawks didn’t party? They won and partied.

      So are you saying it is okay to party if you win, but not lose. If so, I ask you isn’t the chance to be hungover/tired for next game the same if you go out after a win or a loss.

      All I’m saying is, sure they might have partied too much, but is a winning culture one where your Captain hangs out with HC more than teammates? I don’t think so. Blaming fans/media is cop out, and for me if MGMT, coach and captain were good they would have found a way to connect with the young players, but also understand they were young once and liked to go out.

      • dabears318

        Thanks for the reply.

        The hungover/tired part wasn’t a concern to me, personally. More just their actions seemingly reflecting culture issue being “ok with losing”. I know that many professional athletes party during season and are fine.

        For the record, I agree and felt Ference’s commentary didn’t exactly paint him in the best light as a supposed leader / captain of the team.

        If anything, makes me even more thankful for having veterans like Lucic in the room and a Crosby like, younger captain to lead the way. Decade of darkness indeed…

      • ed from edmonton

        I think you are missing the point Gregor. The fact that some young players liked to party isn’t the issue. It was the attitude of at least some of the “core” as MAcT named them that just talking the talk was good enough. If winning is the object the core should have been the leaders in practice habits, game preparation and fostering a team mentality. Whether they were not so good at these things because they couldn’t keep their partying under control of they were “just too good to practice” doesn’t matter. If they weren’t part of the solution they were part of the problem. As I mentioned earlier I don’t seen how anyone can justify a player mocking a fellow player for trying to improve by working hard in practice. Gregor you often state with pride your upbringing on a farm and how that instilled certain values including the hard work. Seems at odds with your attitude with you giving some players a pass for being “too good to practice”.

  • SnowMan8

    brodziak should be a player that comes out of the line up. Personally I liked what i have seen from Zykov this only being his 3rd game with a new team give him more time, lets see what we got. He could be be our Aberg hahaha

  • Big Boss

    While I dont disregard what Ference says about his time with the Oilers, he’s just like other virtue signaling, social justice warrior types in that they never do anything wrong, its never their fault, they point fingers, they are never accountable, they act like they are above any type of deplorable behavior, and they never provide real solutions to fixing a problem.

    • jesse says yep

      Ference was a man who put himself out in the community and tried to make things better for people. It’s sad that someone would rather take a slam at a human who actually puts his sweat into his beliefs and backs up his words.
      What selfless acts have you done to improve the situation of your community?

      • Gaz

        Big Boss, you’re way off on Ference; he puts time and effort into things he believes in. Whether you agree with them or not is completely your prerogative, but you should give credit where its due. Ference doesn’t just sit on his laurels and whine.

        My only real problem with any of this is now there will be a “Taylor Hall” article on Sportsnet sometime in the next week or so where he reiterates how sad he was and manages to awkwardly overshare more of his feelings.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Are we really surprised that Hall and Ebs partied like it was 1979? They were living together as rookies for gods sake. Look, I don’t want to beat the dead horse anymore than it already has, but I think EVERYBODY is to blame for that gong-show of a decade. Some of the players are to blame for not giving two ****s, some of the players are to blame for not doing enough to mentor those young bucks, and management is to blame for putting all of their hopes and dreams on young kids, and granting them the keys to the city.

    Now about the game. I’m very excited about tonight’s game. I want to see the Oilers lock it down like they’ve done since Hitch took over. They make Calgary look like a 2nd rate circus act, and I can’t want to see them do the same to Colorado. McDavid is gonna show MacKinnon and Rantanen who truly is the Art Ross winner this season. I’m calling it now, 4-1.

  • jesse says yep

    Chis did say he was going to find out in the first year who did and didn’t want to be in Edmonton. Hall and Ebs being the ones traded, when most rumors had Nuge as being the player most teams wanted, says a lot. As someone mentioned in this thread, it maight also explain part of why they brought back so little in return.

        • Spydyr

          I said this here before and I will say it again. Chia called Jersey looking for Larsson. He offered Eberle they laughed and said how about Hall as they really did not want to trade Larsson. Chia came back with Larsson and a first , Jersey said nope Larsson straight up. Chia took the deal……played.

          Nothing wrong with trading Hall the problem was and I absolutely love what Larsson brings , Chia did not get a good enough return there should have been a high draft pick or another player coming back.

          • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            Lucic came back.

            The very next day.

            That was the deal and it’s beyond me that folks can’t follow that simple logic: drop a $6M LW who nobody wants to play with and wants to play by himself and pick up a $6M LW who we think can play top six while gaining a potential 2nd D that we need desperately essentially for free. I’d bet a dollar that the Lucic deal was “finalized” before the Hall deal was.

    • That's My Point

      As for not trying in practice, I’m glad that McDavid has everyone trying to improve their skating, speed etc. and not slacking off. “TRUE” captains lead by example. Follow or sit.

  • bwar

    The Ference stuff is kind of hilarious. Dallas Eakins was a joke of a coach his entire tenure with the Oiler’s he did way more harm than good and the team would have been way better off with Ralph Krueger remaining behind the bench.

    Oiler’s fans are very passionate and demanding. We do often jump on the weak length a bit too quickly but as someone who is a celebrity and gets paid millions to play a game you either have to be able to handle that reaction from the fans or be able to tune it all out. Pretty pathetic of a player to try and blame his failure on the people who pay his salary. I really lost a lot of respect for Ference after hearing all of this. I think I’m going to start placing the balme on him whenever something goes wrong in my life. Car got a flat? Why wasn’t Ference there to warn me about the nail on the road? Got fired? Where was Ference to boost up my moral and improve my job performance?

  • ed from edmonton

    Gregor, just listened to your rant on the radio. Much of it was basically shoot the messenger i.e. Ferrance because you don’t like the message. Ferrance might not have been a good leader, doesn’t matter if he was or wasn’t still no excuse for “core’s” actions. Prior to Ferrance, Horcoff was captain and there were rumbling at that time that there was disconnect between the veterans and the “core”. Maybe not just a Ferrance problem? Your partner Strudwick talked glowingly about Horcoff as the consummate professional. I think you need to take a breath on this one Gregor, maybe Hall wasn’t the player you thought he was.

  • Spydyr

    My favorite part of Ference’s rant were certain players mocking other players for going to hard in practice. I hope that shuts up the why did they trade certain players away crowd.

    If I have to name names you have not been paying attention.

  • That's My Point

    When McDavid has the puck on the PP, why don’t the other Oilers players move where they’re not covered (open lane) so McDavid can feed them the puck. They seem too stationary when McDavid has the puck and all eyes are on #97.
    Just a thought.