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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



  • ponokanocker

    Good on fans at the game for cheering for Lucic. Nice to see some positivity towards struggling players for a change. Lucic makes it easy for you to cheer for him too, going hard every shift and crushing guys when the opportunity presents itself.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I understand being mad at the team and players for underperforming, but we do get pretty ridiculous with it. Draisaitl’s on pace for a career year, and multiple people here have slagged him for not smiling enough. McDavid rarely smiles either, but that’s fine?

    • Dark Knight Returns

      They’re pro athletes, performance shouldn’t be dictated by what fans say. Now we think we have an effect on Schultz schultzing around? On Eberle being the lazy bastard that he is?

      On Draisaitl, maybe he ran out of smiles as he was walking himself to the bank. If you don’t like being in the public eye don’t be a pro athlete: be an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, an arquitect or an entrepreneur.

    • camdog

      Horcoff was our top centre on a Stanley Cup caliber team and a couple years later Mactavish traded him to get him away from the negativity among the fan base and star prima dona that thought he was above everybody in town. The Horcoff situation perfectly illustrates the problems of those years.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      It’s gotta be emotional exhausting to play here. I mean, McDavid’s been chirped by morons while out for dinner with his parents, but remember when the UFC came through Rogers, and the loudest cheer of the night came when they showed McDavid on the jumbotron? There was even an “MVP” chant to go along with it.

  • Kepler62c

    Sorry, but I don’t think your rant about Ference was entirely necessary – it also highlights exactly what he was saying about the media jumping all over players with negativity here. Can’t you take a step back and realize that in part he’s talking about you (and many others)? Maybe you should have sat and thought on that for a couple days.

    Our fans are great, so is our media – but player after player has been scapegoated here and I don’t think any team in the league has more ex-players say negative things about their time here. That’s partly on management, coaches, and players — but also on the media and fans. I’d argue more on the media since they have the power to “stoke the fire” on negativity.

    • The voice of reason

      Spot on – the reaction actually almost sort of proves Ference‘s point, doesn‘t it. The media like to hold it against players if they commit the same mistake time and again; wouldn‘t harm to apply the same logic to your own activity.
      I am not saying that Jason Gregor is a bad writer, far from the truth, but some of the criticism of the Edmonton media is opportunistic at times and there is a noticeable difference with other places. Pretending it doesn‘t exist rather shows that it is likely to happen again. Oh well, let‘s do it again and enjoy the self-fulfilling prophecy unfolding as a result of it.
      Not cool.

      • Kepler62c

        I’d add that Jason’s example of the fans rooting for Looch is instead an example of the power of the media to “stoke the fire with fans” — while Jason said it was an example that Edmonton fans/media aren’t the problem, I’d say it shows what the media can do when it’s positive. Lately all of Oilers Nation and The Cult of Hockey have been giving Lucic glowing reviews (rightfully) for how he’s embraced his new role – that in turn leads to fans respecting and rooting for that player.

        Pat Maroon would be another example, fans loved him already, but the media jumped hard on the Maroon bandwagon and helped make him into this fan favourite that will be remembered (likely) for years.

  • YFC Prez

    I havnt read the ferrence interview yet, I will soon. So I hope this isn’t out of context, but I wanted to respond to the parts about fans and media being too hard on players.

    Yes they make a lot of money to be in the public eye. Yes criticism is absolutely warranted when a consumer pays the kinds of prices that Rogers place currently charges. They are entitled to a voice. But…..

    Often times valid criticism turns into blanket negative stupidity. The current trend with Draisaitl here at the nation is a classic showing of history repeating itself. Some fans want to turn Draisaitl into a whipping boy, the cause of all the oilers scoring problems.

    That’s very present here at the nation. For ever comment I read like:
    “Draisaitl turns the puck over way too often, he needs to bail that down”- a valid comment on a players performance. I read 20 complaining about how slow he is, how he never smiles, how soft Draisaitl is, how the play dies on his stick, he pouts when he’s not playing with mcdavid.

    Most of the rederick on Draisaitl that I currently read on the nation is in all honestly a melting pot of absolute stupidity. Point out mistakes and problems, just don’t try and find negativity where in all honesty there is none.

    Last time I checked the man was on pace for over 90 points. He and mcdavid can be magic together. He can keep up with the play when mcdavid is on the ice, he can’t be as slow as some here like to say. And good grief the man isn’t soft.

    He definitely has elements to be improved on but when a part of a fan base turns a player like Draisaitl into a whipping boy it needs to be called out. We’re better than that.

    • Battman

      That’s one of the worst things. I don’t believe Draisaitl is slow. We’ve seen him for a few years now. The way he skates and how tall he is contributes to him looking slow by eye. Look at his breakaways. He may not be McDavid fast but he isn’t slow.

      With that being said, I think he is struggling a little bit. Perhaps he’s lost a little confidence since the start of the year, almost like he’s waiting for the oilers to fall like last year. Give it time and I expect that will change.

  • 18% body fat

    Ference, another dinosaur of a Dman who’s style is not what you need in the NHL today. Another MacT D, just like Reinhart, Nikitin, Fraser, etc. Its funny most of them were acquired by overpaying in one form or the other.

    Boys club + Bad Management + lack of supporting skill + terrible asset management = star players having to go out drinking to keep from going crazy

  • 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.

    • 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”.

    • 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.

  • Big Cap

    Great article with alot of real good points. The PP has to get going and make a difference.

    However, I dont know if a blogger should tell an NHL player who’s the Captain of the team, with over 900+ games played and is a Stanley Cup winner how to create a winning culture in the dressing room.