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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Calmness Under Fire

With just seven NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers on his resume since being recalled from Bakersfield of the AHL, we still don’t have any definitive read on how good Caleb Jones might be one day, but coach Ken Hitchcock knows what he sees now, and you can color him impressed.

“I see a helluva player,” Hitchcock said before the Oilers jumped a jet to Phoenix to open a four-game road trip against the Coyotes tonight. “There’s something un-coachable here and that’s calmness under fire. When you see him under hard pressure, he makes a calm play, and that’s hard to teach.

“You’ve got that or you don’t have it. He’s got it and it’s a great quality because it’s a great quality he’s going to carry for the rest of his life. Man, he’s a good player.” You can see Hitchcock’s full availability here.

With the Oilers having lost six straight games to slide out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference as they face the Coyotes, I can’t think of a better attribute than calmness under fire because there’s been plenty of that with Hitchcock trying to ice a good enough blueline group without Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell.

OPENING EYES

Jones, selected 117th overall in the 2015 Entry draft, was called up to fill a hole on a blueline that’s been leaking chances and goals without Klefbom and Russell. Considering he’s only 21, he hasn’t looked out of place since being paired on the left side in a tandem with Adam Larsson. He’s playing about 18 minutes a night so far.

There’s obviously going to be rough spots in the road with a blueline prospect who is only 21, but to this point Jones, the brother of Seth Jones and the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, hasn’t looked particularly overmatched or overwhelmed during a six-game skid in which the Oilers have allowed 29 goals. He skates well. He moves the puck. For a player who was taken in the fourth round, he looks like a diamond in the rough.

With Russell due back any day now and the acquisition of Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning to bolster the blueline, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Jones. The assumption when he got the call-up was that he’d be a stop-gap who’d be sent back when Hitchcock had enough healthy bodies to choose from, but I’m not so sure about that now.

At the very least, it seems to me that Jones has earned a longer look, even if he doesn’t get the 18 minutes a night that he’s been playing to this point. If he struggles or has his minutes cut too much once Russell and Klefbom return, you send him back down to the Condors feeling good about his first NHL cup of coffee. There’s absolutely no need to force Jones along or rush to judgment on the kid.

KASSIAN UP NEXT

Nov 25, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Cal Petersen (40) makes a save off a shot by Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With the Oilers still needing balance and to coax more goals from a group of wingers whose hands have collectively turned to cinder blocks, it looks like Zack Kassian will get a look on the top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl against the Coyotes. Kassian, who has scored just 2-1-3, gets the promotion into the spot Alex Chiasson had played so well in until he got injured. He can skate and bang, but can he score?

“Speaking for myself, two goals isn’t good enough, three points,” said Kassian, who has been playing fourth-line minutes. “We can say we’ve had a good stretch of games where we were controlling the 0-zone and making plays, but we need production.”

I’d rather see Ty Rattie or Jesse Puljujarvi in that spot, and that could happen between now and game time, but Hitchcock skated Kassian there before the team left for Arizona.

WHILE I’M AT IT

  • If there’s such a thing as a relatively soft stretch in the schedule, considering the Oilers just lost every game of a five-game homestand, the next six games is it. The Oilers face Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose on the road and then play Florida and the Coyotes at home. Aside from the Sharks, no real killers in that group. I can see a 4-2 record in this stretch.
  • The Oilers have gone 1-6-1 without Klefbom and Russell in the line-up.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

    • TruthHurts98

      #Lose4Hughes #becauseOilers This is PC’s reality. Death by a thousand cuts, but like others around the league are saying: he is the thousand cuts. So now his nickname is TC PC. Kassian sucks and so does most of the roster outside of the top 3 centres.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      You beat me to it. Kassian on the top line, shows just how bad the Oilers need offense that they are trying anyone and everyone on McDavids line.. I am suprised they havent grabbed someone from a beer league team who after a few wobbly pops scores a couple a game.

      Holy that is sad.

    • IRONman

      44 and 97 is good thing. Zack has speed, good puck control down low. Creates opportunities and will fight for 97. I believe he makes McDavid better cause he knows Zack has his back. Zack punched that flamer how hit McDavid from behind.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I have and I agree with Ironman. Several games this year, the 4th line has been the only spark & it’s largely to do with Kassian’s play in the O-zone… He can certainly gain the blue line & McD & co. should be able to make it work. It’s worth a shot? I know it’s been a few years but Kassian was quite effective in Vancouver with those “pesky twins”.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Zach mike skate fast, but he plays (thinks the game) so S L O W. He is 2 seconds behind everyone. Playing him on the to 2 line just handcuffs them. On 75% of the teams he wouldn’t even crack the lineup.
        In Edm, he’s on the 1st line. Come On Man!!!!

  • Oilerz4life

    I don’t get the rationale behind the Manning trade. Chiarelli says “we” when describing his reasoning, which is irritating, because if he’s fired, the “we” remains.

    Maybe I’m wrong, maybe someone can explain how this is going to come together…

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Jones has impressed me much like Bouchard has, the kid seem steady under fire and he seems to know when to jump up and when not to. Otherwise much like Bouchard and Bear you can see we have some good kids in the system. What the Oilers are going to do with the plethora of defencemen next year is beyond me because I dont see teams clamouring for Benning, Manning…Russel might be hard to move due to age and I dont think Klef and Larsson are headed anywhere

    And a lot of these guys are in the 2mil_+ range, so unless they are a throw in with something else we are going to be neck deep in 6/7/9 defencemen

  • VK63

    Nicely done Robin. He has looked good which is both encouraging and a stark reminder of where the benchmark is on this squad. He hits a guy in stride with an outlet pass and it is notable by its unique and comparative rarity.
    Yes, its come to that.
    sadly.

  • hockeyartist

    The Oilers have 3 forwards who are legit top 6. Then it drops off to 4th line and AHL players. This is after 12 years of drafting high and getting lucky on the McDavid sweepstakes. Its really unfathomable how this team has been picked over like a remnants been at your local discount store. Whats even more unfathomable is all of the OIler brass and their manager are still stearing the ship into rocks. Incredible!

  • Sammy27

    These extra 3rd pairing D may have some draft pick value at the trade deadline, assuming that we’ve already threw in the towel. Which, may mean we get the same picks back we threw away to acquire them in the first place.

  • It seems Hitchcock is giving everyone a chance at nearly every position and line or pair possible to see what chemistry there is, if any. I’m wondering if Hitch wants a banger type player to police opponents who mess with McDavid.

  • ed from edmonton

    Kassian starting the game with McD would be a puzzle considering Hitch just stated how badly the bottom half of lineup has been playing. Having said that, given that line combos are changed frequently throughout a game I tin fans (and media) get too excited about this sort of thing.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Rattie has played real well with Nuge or Mick David. He makes good things happen, finds those open spots to shoot from and works hard along the boards. Hitch he makes the team better.
    Playing Kassian up there is like putting a square plug in a round hole.

  • Big Nuggets

    Seems as good a time as any to toot my own horn. Before the season I prepicted Jones would get called up and become one of our better puck moving defensemen. It happened earlier in the season than I thought but I’m pumped that he looks legit. All thats left to do is trade Benning, and now Manning as well, for some scoring help.

    • Consultant

      Agreed. So now it would make sense for Chia to trade Manning for someone… ideally a young winger with speed, can hit and has decent hands, someone like, I don’t know, maybe like Drake Cagguila!!!
      I believe we have a substantial GM problem…

  • Consultant

    Prospect looking good and so what does Chia do…?
    Aquires two more bottom pairing dmen that assure Jones will soon be back in the AHL regardless of performance. I guess more time in the A won’t hurt him but I still believe we didn’t need to do the Manning deal.