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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers after 40: Three Up Three Down

The Oilers are 19-18-3 after 40 games. They’ve been pretty Jekyll and Hyde this season with long stretches of wins and losses. A win against Arizona Wednesday prevented a seven-game losing streak. Let’s look at what’s trending up and down for the Oilers.

Three Up

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl

I’m a big believer in the Oilers needing Leon Draisaitl on his own line for long-term success, but both McDavid and Draisaitl are red-hot and on pace for career highs. Both McDavid and Draisaitl are on track to score over 100 points. The Oilers score a fantastic 4.19 GF/60 with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice this season. 5-on-5 they’ve outscored the opposition 26-15.

McDavid and Draisaitl are fantastic together. Even if the Oilers don’t make the playoffs, having two players score like they do is sure to keep fans interested. But the rest of the team have been outscored 40-24 without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice. The Oilers are also 1-6 in their last seven games.

Caleb Jones

No one can replace Oscar Klefbom on Edmonton’s roster, their recent slide shows that, but Caleb Jones has been very good since being recalled after Klefbom’s injury.

Jones is averaging 18:31 in his first 8 NHL games. He is already over 20 minutes a game in the past couple games and is making a case to stay even when Klefbom and Kris Russell return.

Jujhar Khaira

The Oilers live and die with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, so anyone that produces anything else deserves some recognition. Khaira’s 13 points in 36 games translates to 28 points over a full season, but that’s a godsend to a team that barely functions when McDavid isn’t on the ice.

Khaira can skate, kill penalties, and put up a few points. That’s a player that can be part of the solution for years to come.

Three Down

Peter Chiarelli

Peter Chiarelli is in a tough position largely created by his own mismanagement. No one would have thought much if he stopped after acquiring defenceman Alex Petrovic from Florida for a third-round pick and Chris Wideman last Sunday but acquiring Brandon Manning and Robin Norell for Drake Caggiula and Jason Garrison is another poor move from Chiarelli.

Acquiring Manning for Caggiula adds another $750k to the salary cap this season and next for a player the Oilers don’t need. Chicago was outscored 29-6 with Manning on the ice this year. Manning’s time in Philadelphia looks better but was likely a product of playing a bunch with Radko Gudas. Manning fell apart without Gudas in Chicago and Gudas isn’t coming to Edmonton either.

Caggiula had his flaws but his $1.5-million cap hit wasn’t a problem like Manning’s will be. The Oilers badly need cap space to improve and Manning doesn’t bring anything different from the other third-pairing defencemen on the roster. It’s another transaction where Chiarelli’s reckless salary-cap management is apparent.

Cam Talbot

Cam Talbot struggled badly in November and appeared to be on the rise in December. Talbot started December with two wins against St. Louis and Minnesota and a .930 save percentage in both games. The rest of December featured more of Talbot’s November struggles. Talbot gave up 15 goals in his next four appearances, including seven goals against versus San Jose.

Talbot hasn’t found traction this season. Koskinen’s .919 save percentage means he’ll continue as the starter. Talbot’s .892 save percentage in 21 games is even worse than his 2017-18 season. With just 42 games left, we might be seeing the last of Talbot in Edmonton.

The Darnell Nurse-Adam Larsson pairing

Last season Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson formed an effective pairing when Klefbom was limited with a shoulder injury. They had a 50.95 CF% in 2017-18 and the Oilers outscored teams 33-25 with Nurse-Larsson on the ice 5-on-5.

This season, Nurse-Larsson have a 44.74 CF% and have been outscored 12-9 5-on-5. The Oilers needed this pair to tread water in Klefbom’s absence and they haven’t gotten it done.

  • Oilfaninvan

    I don’t think you should rule out Chiarelli making a play for Gudas and his $3.3 million cap hit. This seems like something the Oilers GM might do…

  • Randaman

    Nurse has regressed big time this season. With the addition of Petrovic, that could move Russell over to his natural left side. I don’t see the harm if the NEW GM can swing a Nurse for a scoring winger. If a pick has to be thrown in to ensure the winger is top six, so be it. I’m tired of this crap!

      • Randaman

        Working out doesn’t improve your hockey mentality and I think Nurse lacks that. Nylander held out too so I get your point but Darnell really needs to pick it up.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Nurse was working out each and every day (he’s one of the guys that posts his off-season workout videos on social media).

        He also attended bio steel camp and was at each and every one of the pre-camp skates with the boys getting ready.

        He only missed like 2 days of actual training camp skates.

        I don’t think his “hold out” has any effect, he was at training camp 2 days after it started.

        As an aside, he did not “hold out” – he and the team simply hadn’t agreed on a contract yet. The team “held out” just as much as Nurse. To me, “hold-outs” don’t happen any more as they describe the past when players had contracts but refused to come to camp because they wanted to re-negotiate (something that no longer is possible under the CBAs).

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Chia has the team stuck in mediocrity, last year when everyone from the fans and the media were screaming to get a defensive, Chia sat on his hands, then the trade dealine came along and Chia traded Maroon and Letestu for nothing that amounted to much because he failed to sense which teams need help and which teams had something the Oilers might need and something they may need but were pounding the pavement to get it. Chia just can not read or sense the market, it’s either he thought teams would be pounding down his door or his faiure to see the market and even more of a failure once other teams started completing trades failed to act until it was too late or could have decided to nothing then make a bad trade.

    We have just witnessed this again with the Manning deal, Chia adds 500k to the cap for one guy who is no better than the one that left and trades a guys that had put pucks in the net for one that will never see the nhl not to mention that outraged most fans and yet Chia defended..bizzare to say the least.

    Chia signing of benning , cagguila, Kassin and strome to raises on new deals was ludicrous because no one was beating the oilers door down for any of them….no one…, even after Kassian wanted a trade, dont see anyone bucking up for him at the time. Lucic wanted a trade, he is still here, then there was the buyout of Gryba’s’ pittance of a contract.

    Now Chia has to figure out what to do with Talbot who is a UFA at the ned of the season and Jesse who is a RFA but I doubt he wants to come back to the Oil if he isnt getting any traction, yes Jesse looks happier since TM left, but will he want to come back after gaining no traction in his career? I would say no. Talbot is not playing well, their goalie coach sucks and needs to go and I have said that before, but no desire to hold him accountable, Talbots still is going down to early and making himself to small in net. Now Chia has to decide, trade Talbot, risk him walking away for nothing at the end of the year or trading him.. Talbots value is low so what are you going to get in return? Dealing from a position of weakness does not make for good trading and other teams are going to wonder which Talbot they get the 42 game winner or the one who had a terrible season last year and isnt much better this year.

    Koskinen will need a deal too, but right now Koskinen is/was in a slump, but has been better than Talbot, but he is a UFA after the season too, so he isnt going to come back for peanuts and other teams are sure to try an offer if he has no deal in place. Then there is Chaisson and he is a UFA too at the end of the season and Chia hasnt even entertained any discussions with Chaissons agent as to where their mindset is on what they are intending to do at the end of the season, nothing like waiting till the last minute right Chia?

    The Oilers right now are lucky to sit where they are because they have been terrible in their own end, and the Yotes game just showed they still arent doing enough to fix the struggles in their own end, the yotes gave them a hell of a time, how are they going to do against teams that are well ahead of us and playing for those much needed wets conf points, if the Oilers lose the games coming up on the trip, that is going to sink them, because they are so close to being 15th in the west it isnt even funny

      • Kool-Aid Man

        They recovered because the owner cares about winning and Neely is competent POHO, Oilers will not have that. Until Katz wakes-up and purges his OBC cronies; we are still doomed to purgatory IMO.

        • Bingo, and Katz wont fire them ever. They all could have been justifiably fired 5 or 6 times each for gross incompetence. Katz is not going to suddenly care. Revenue streams are great and that wont change either, so as long as he owns the team, forget about Cup parades or even winning a division or conference title. Mr Orr is probably working on McDavids exit strategy, and I dont blame him one bit.

          • Kool-Aid Man

            How is 13yrs. of constant failure by a management group, so unacceptable by fans and yet they continue to support the team, buying over priced season tickets, sh**** food and watered-down beer yr. after yr.. However come the end of another failed season re-up and pay another 8-12K for what they pretty much know is another failed season ahead. If all the fans stop buying tickets then the revenue stream stops and Katz has no choice but to make change.

            When will we all understand that when all fans are teir 2 fans, Katz will have no choice but to bend to the fans will and purge his “live Ken dolls” from the organization?

            Also I don’t believe McDavid will ever ask for a trade. He is not wired like Pronger, he is very well compensated for his services. Although he may not resign when his contract is up. I would expect others to ask for a trade before he does cause that’s the type of character he possesses.

        • Odanada

          Perhaps Katz needs some fiscal enlightenment.
          Right now the Oilers sell every seat and have the best player in the world, but they are a bottom dwelling franchise.
          Imagine if they started to really win. With Connor leading the way they would glow incandescent and become huge in the States. The sales of sweaters and gear would put a ton of money in Katz’s pockets. And all the glamour that would come with it would surely stroke Katz’s ego. Why hang with the 80s Oilers when you can run with the 20s Oilers?
          And who is depriving Katz of the glamour, the acclaim and the money?
          Chia and Bobby Nicks, that’s who.
          Clean house, punt nostalgia and be a mover, not a wannabe.

    • OriginalPouzar

      1) Letstu was traded for Aberg – given Letestu’s pending UFA status, that is a great deadline return. Sure, management (probably in conjunction with McLellan’s refusal to play the player after missing that one practice) made a mistake after the fact not re-claiming the player when the Ducks waived him, however the deadline return was fine.

      2) Maroon returned Cooper Marody (via the 3rd rounder that Chiarelli was clear he was going to flip for a warm body). Again, a plus prospect (and now one of the top 5 prospects in the organization) for a struggling pending UFA – again, Chiarelli made a very nice deadline deal.

  • Lazarus

    McDavid and Leon are just enough to keep the rink full every game and thus satisfying Katz and downplaying the need for major change. Also McD and Leon will singlehandedly keep the team from a high lottery pick I assume. And really..how many more does the team deserve??

    • Kool-Aid Man

      Absolutely agreed Lazarus, however it not about deserving the pick. The 1st overall pick isn’t based on a deserving team, it’s based on odds and luck. If you aren’t in the playoffs then you’re in the lottery.

      As a Calgary fan, I’m pretty sure you would even agree that only thing Edmonton deserves is competent management team that wants to win (not just make money). It must be a pleasure to have that with the Flames.

      For the past 13yrs. (2017 being the exception) Oiler fans (especially the young ones) don’t even know what that is. Oiler fans would love nothing more than not be in the lottery. We are sick and tired of it but, that’s the difference between an owner who wants to win and one whom doesn’t give a sh**.

          • One team is succeeding, the other never will as they cannot or will not move on from the past. There will be no battles as long as Katz owns the team. HAROLD BALLARD 2.0. Profits before success is the blueprint, too stupid too figure out success brings revenue.

          • Ratt McNuge

            Don’t get too high on your horse. The Flames are good this year, but it’s not like they have a shining record either. Many coaches and GMs have passed through your doors. Hopefully this year the Flames can win a round?

        • Fair enough, we all got to enjoy the guy who bought the Stampeders so his kid could play quarterback (which he couldn’t) . Thank the hockey gods the Flames did not get all those draft picks. Your GM was doing a good job and after Burke moved on he proceeded to do a great job. I have to give credit where credit is due, he has built you a competitive squad, with a lot less to work with. Katz will never fire his live Ken Doll collection, so enjoy beating us for the next couple of decades. Flames (and damn near every other team improves) Oilers remain “wandering in the desert” Jay Feaster quote still applies today. I also believe it was Burke who warned us, if we kept Lowe in any capacity, the abject failure of the franchise will continue for another ten years. Cant remember the exact date of the quote, but I believe it was longer than 10 years ago. What we see is what we are going to get as long as Katz owns the team. Nothing ever changes except the names of the scapegoats that are sacrificed, so the unqualified idiots (proven many times over) can maintain their undeserved tenure . #FIRETHEMALL.

        • Leo Tard

          By no means am I standing up for anyone, but part of the explanation to your question lies with which city has been hit harder by the recession, and the other part prolly has something to do with the state of the building they play in.

  • ed from edmonton

    I think you missed the biggest up in Mikko Koskinnen. His stats took a beating when the D injuries ocurred but facing 40+ shots a night will do that.

  • ed from edmonton

    Three Up.
    1. Koskinnen. He has kept this tem in the playoff race. Could you imagine where the tea would be in Talbot was still No. 1 goalie?
    2. Leon Drasaitl. Top 10 on both points and goals, his $8.5M contract is starting to look good and over the next 6 years will become one of the real bargain contracts in the NHL.
    3. Steve Chaisson. Bet PTO ever?

    Three Down.
    It hard to pick just 3, but
    1. Cam Talbot. If the big K hadn’t been fund the Oil would be thinking how to fit Hughes into their lineup next year.
    2. Matt Benning – He has not been able to get back yo his 16/17 form and this has had ripple effects along the D. He has been marginal as a 3rd pair guy and a disaster playing anything more demanding. Part of the reason PC was forced to do something with the D.
    3. All of the forwards outside of McD, Drai, RNH, Chaisson maybe Khaira.

  • Slipknot 8

    The only down is Chiarreli. He’s the Mo-Mo who decided the Oilers needed to be rebuilt the same way he built Boston but failed to realize he got fired for building Boston wrong.
    Chiarreli should have been fired on the spot at least three different times & fired into the sun at least once.
    Total blame is on Chiarelli.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    Did you folks who are criticizing Nurse forget that he is 23? Have we learned nothing? Holy fluffernutters… Name a 23 year old #1 D-man. Guess what? They are very rare. Nurse is progressing just fine and suggesting we trade him at this point is straight-up Fonzerelli “nutso”.

    • CityofWhat

      Thomas Chabot is a #1 D-man who can run a PP, outlet pass and skate the puck out. Who at the time when playing in world jr’s I said I would trade Nurse for which could’ve happened because Nurse held a higher cachet at the time before Chabot ever played a NHL game.

      • Spydyr

        Nurse is playing as a #1 right now on the Oilers. That’s the problem. It’s not Nurse’s fault he is in that position. That blame falls on the “Oilers Braintrust”.

  • So we only give a player 2 games before we start chasing him out of town. I understand Chia has us in Cap hell but this team hasn’t won a free agent signing besides Chiasson. But hearing people wanting to tank and just concentrating on getting Chia fired. Toxic

  • Oil9744

    It’s safe to say it’s time for the Oilers to move on from Talbot, the guy has been given lots of opportunity to bounce back and it’s not even close to happening. The Oilers should bundle him up in a package to a team that’s looking for goaltending. I think other teams won’t be so hesitant to trade for him cause there isn’t any term on his contract left after this season, plus he has proven he can play at a high level, where that level has gone for 2 seasons now who knows. Maybe Philly??

    Talbot (4.1mill)
    Rattie (800k)
    3rd round pick
    For
    Simmonds (3.8 mill)
    Elliot (2.5 mill)

    Elliot would be a decent back up for Koskinen plus Edmonton would get a top 6 right handed winger, all the players in the trade have no term on there contracts after this season so there isn’t much risk for either team.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Peter Chiarelli has been horrible but let’s face facts, we haven’t had a good GM since Kevin Lowe.

    I know Lowe wasn’t great but at least he got Pronger here and got us to the Cup finals along with 2 other playoff appearances. Also, the salary cap wasn’t introduced until the 05-06 season so over half of Lowes time as GM he had the disadvantage of a low team salary compared to a lot of other teams.

    Pronger leaving suddenly really hurt.

  • madjam

    We got McDavid , Draisaitl and Hopkins – certainly enough talent to fill the building irregardless of how poor rest of team is or performs . Winning is filling the building and Oilers have done this continually for over 13 years despite lack of playoffs results – minus a paltry one year . So why fire anyone in upper management while the team does this well at the turnstiles ? The city and fans love a loser with only a few star teasers .

    • Datsyukian

      The tendency of the fans to fill the arena regardless of the team result has long baffled me but I now think the answer is that we are (along with Winnipeg) a small-ish northern city with few other attractions to offer, especially in the winter. And the Oilers are the only real professional franchise in northern Alberta (sorry, Eskimos). So, while I am not denying Edmontonians’ love for hockey, I think many of them see it as a way to add some festivity and entertainment into Edmonton’s otherwise drab and grey winter experience. This has become a tradition over several generations. Our fathers did it, we’re doing it, our kids are doing it. It’s just a part of being an Edmontonian. Which is sad because instead of voting against the Katz regime with our feet, we keep filling his pockets without a second thought.

      • BobbyCanuck

        For a $500 night out I would expect guaranteed festivity and entertainment, which the Oilers do not provide on a nightly bases, does not take much imagination to spent the coin on something else

  • Muddy

    Nurse is the victim of injuries. He was playing extremely well last season on the 2-3 pairing with the right amount of minutes. He simply needs to get back to 18 minutes a night and he will be Nurse of 2018. Some kids need to be pushed and some need to progress just at the right rate, Nurse is an example of that which is evident over the course of his time in the NHL.

  • Flint

    Lucic is a bigger down than Talbot simply because Talbot can just keep the bench warm. Lucic eats up the same resources that RNH does and he’s on pace to score 2 goals all season.

    I know it is an old story and sounds like piling on the big guy, but he’s drastically worse than even last year and that seemed nearly impossible. He’s being paid 10X what he should be paid at this point.

    The Oilers will never be good with 26million going to three players when one of them is Lucic no matter if the other two score 120 points+ each.

    And they’re never getting rid of that contract…. so…? 2022-23 is when there will be hope in Edmonton, and only earlier if the cap inflates to 100million or greater, but as it stands it is the achillies heel in EDM right now.

    • Gravis82

      You cant pay someone 6 million a year in a long term contract, get 3 goals, and expect to compete. You just cant.

      Add that to all the other small blunders here and there and we probably have 10million in dead space on this roster.

      Thats a #3 d man and a second line forward.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    Chia created this problem. The Oilers have insufficient assets to fix the numerous issues. Trading futures for short term solutions will simply prolong this sad affair.

  • Gravis82

    Nurse is not a top pairing defender. He is probably bottom pair on a cup finals team. This is ok, he is great in that role. Oilers need Bouchard and Jones to work out, and they need to snag a top pairing d man in the draft this year. If they do, defense will be more than fine.

    We need Yamamoto and Benson to turn into 20 and 25 goal scorers ASAP. Puljujarvi is probably 3rd liner, which is ok.

    If that happens, we need to get rid of the Lucic contract and sign a 2nd line forward in free agency.

    If all that happens in the next 3 year we will be an above average team for a while