GDB Game Notes: Playoffs, Awards and Penalties

For a decade Oilers fans woke up on January 10th knowing their team was out of the playoff race. It was frustrating. You hated it. This year the Edmonton Oilers are smack dab in the middle of a playoff race, but there is still a lot of frustration in Oilersnation, just a different type.

I get why you are concerned. The Oilers roster is flawed. It is clear they have very little scoring depth after their top-four scorers. With Oscar Klefbom out of the lineup, possibly for only seven more games, the lack of quality puck movers is even more apparent.

The good news for Oilers fans is that every team battling for the final playoff spots is also flawed. The Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks aren’t glaringly better than the Oilers.

1. The Oilers have seven games before the All-Star break and the subsequent “bye week.” Edmonton plays six of those games at home, one in Vancouver, and only face two playoff teams in Calgary and Buffalo. I don’t see a more favourable stretch of games in February, March and April, so if the Oilers want to be in the playoff mix on February 2nd, when they return from their bye week, it is vital they play well over the next two weeks.

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2. The Oilers are currently 21st in the NHL, two points out of 17th, and they face Florida (22nd), Arizona (24th), Buffalo (11th), Vancouver (20th) Calgary (second), Carolina (18th) and Detroit (27th). Only Vancouver is on the road, so fatigue should not be a factor. Edmonton is three points back of Anaheim, two behind Minnesota and one back of Vancouver. Here are those team’s schedules up to the end of January.

The Canucks play six games before the All-Star break and they face the exact same teams as Edmonton, except for Calgary. All six of Vancouver’s games are on home ice. They face one playoff team.

Anaheim has Pittsburgh at home, then they’re on the road in Winnipeg, Detroit, Minnesota, New Jersey, NYI and home to St.Louis. They play three playoff teams.

The Wild are home to Winnipeg and Detroit, in Philly, home to LA, Anaheim and Columbus, then on the road in Vegas and Colorado. They face five playoff teams.

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3. Usually it takes 94 points to make the playoffs, but right now only five teams in the west are on pace for more than 94 points. Those five teams; Calgary, Winnipeg, Nashville, San Jose and Vegas are all on track for 103+ points, but the sixth place Dallas Stars are tracking towards 93 points, 7th place Colorado for 89 and 8th place Anaheim would slide in at 85. 9th place Minny is on pace for 87 points as they have two games in hand on the Ducks.  In 2016 Minnesota was the 2nd wildcard team with 87 points and we could see a repeat of that this season. Let’s say the cut line is 88 points then the Oilers need to go 21-15-3 to reach get in. Or some other combination that equals 45 points. They will need a better second half of the season, but so too would Minnesota, Anaheim, Vancouver and Colorado has to rediscover their game as well.

4. The Captain Obvious statement is somehow, someway a few Oilers depth forwards need to awaken from their scoring funk. Milan Lucic finally scored a goal in North America, and you wonder if that could spur him to possible score seven goals in the final 39 games. I don’t think being on pace for 14 goals is that much to ask. Tobias Rieder doesn’t have a point in 18 games. He only has points in four of 30 games this season and no goals. To make matters worse, he has one shot in his last four games. He has played 13, 14, 11 and 17 minutes in those games. Having one shot in 55 minutes is horrendous. He has to get involved in the game for goodness sake. Jujhar Khaira, Zack Kassian and Jesse Puljujarvi also must find a way to be productive if they keep getting minutes with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If two of Lucic, Rieder, Khaira, Kassian and Puljujarvi could get on pace for a pro-rated 30-point season the Oilers’ chances of staying in the playoff race would increase significantly.

5. There might be two playoff spots to battle for very soon. The Colorado Avalanche are 4-10-3 in their last 17 games. They have allowed 68 goals in that span, the most in the NHL and 13 more than the porous Oilers team defence. The Avs and Ducks have fallen back into the playoff race and both wildcard spots look to be in the mix from where I sit. The Ducks have lost nine straight, including last night’s 2-1 loss to the 31st place Ottawa last night, and if they keep struggling will Randy Carlyle take the fall? The Ducks lead the NHL in man-games lost to injury with 248 so I’m not sure how much blame you can place on the coach. Edmonton is five points back of Colorado with a game in hand. Win tonight and they are within three with the Avs floundering worse than them. The opportunity to stay in the race until Klefbom returns is right there for the Oilers, but they must play with some urgency. They have to avoid soiling the sheets and looking lethargic every second game.

6. We are just over the midway point of the season and there are are very few clear cut favourites for the NHL player awards. McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and John Gibson are in the mix for the Hart. I’m not a fan of having a goalie win the Hart. They have their own award, plus they only impact one end of the ice, but Gibson is the only reason the Ducks are in a playoff hunt. He’s been outstanding. All five of those forwards have a teammate in the top-14 in scoring. I don’t see any clear cut favourite, which is great because the second half of the season will likely create some separation.

7. I have Morgan Reilly and Mark Giordano as the obvious top-two candidates for the Norris, but Erik Karlsson has found his game and has 25 points in his last 14 games, and paired with Brendon Dillon they have become a very good pairing. Thomas Chabot is having a great year in Ottawa, and look for him to be up for this award in the future. Also, the Oilers could have taken him with the 16th pick in 2015 instead of trading it away for Griffin Reinhart. Chabot went 18th. Sorry, but that trade was so bad I can’t let it go.

8. Sean Monahan, Reilly and Alexsander Barkov would be my top-three today for the Lady Byng. They have three, two and one minor penalties respectively, while producing 54, 45 and 43 points. Reilly plays against the top forwards most nights and defends without taking penalties. It is perplexing to me how often D-men get overlooked for this award. If I had to vote today I’d have him #1.

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9. We could see a different Selke winner for the first time since 2011. Patrice Bergeon (4), Anze Kopitar (2) and Jonathon Toews (1) have won the last seven, but Bergeron has already missed 15 games and Kopitar and Toews aren’t in the running. Barkov will garner some votes, but Sidney Crosby has been very good defensively this year. Brayden Point and Monahan would also be near the top.

10. Elias Pettersson will win the Calder unless his injury sidelines him for much longer than expected. He’s been a treat to watch.

11. The PHWA votes on the previous five awards. The Vezina is voted on by GMs and the broadcasters vote on the Jack Adams, but here’s my two cents on who is in contention for those awards.

I see Gibson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury in the mix now, but if David Rittich gets the bulk of Calgary’s starts in the second half he could push his name into the top three. He has a .936sv% at EV right now, while Mike Smith has a .896sv% at EV. Rittich has become their starter and he’s been very good. He likely won’t win, but if he keeps playing this well he will garner some votes.

12. The Jack Adams often goes to a coach who helps a team have a great improvement from the previous year. So Bill Peters will garner a lot of attention because of that, but Jon Cooper should get strong consideration for what he is doing in Tampa Bay, same as Gerard Gallant in Vegas. He is proving last year was far from good luck. I’ve been wrong on Vegas so many times it is laughable. I’d also look at Todd Rierden in Washington. Making the adjustment from assistant coach to head coach on the same team isn’t easy, and he’s done a solid job.

13. Alex Petrovic is out with a concussion suffered on this hit by Timo Meier. It isn’t suspension worthy, but why does the NHL allow blatant hits from behind? I’ve spoke to GMs about it and others in the NHL office and they say there hasn’t been an appetite for change. Why not? The league wisely wanted to crack down on head shots, and since they started penalizing and suspending players hits to the head are now a rarity. Why not do the same for hits from behind? It makes no sense. Wake up NHL. Hits from behind do not make the game better. They are unnecessary and players will adapt quickly and stop delivering these blows if you penalize them.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/10/2019 – 7:00 am MST

    • Prairiechicken

      As underdog as, I would love a crack at the Flames in round 1.
      But ya … call me skeptic all … even though the wild card contenders currently look weak … so was the whole pacific division for a long time. Sooner or later Colorado, Minnesota, Anaheim, Dallas, or Vancouver (I doubt it) will get hot and trading around .500 won’t cut it.

    • Ron Burgundyz

      I’m as frustrated with this team as anyone, but come on. It’s pretty disingenuous for a fanbase who has made the playoffs once in the last hundred years to complain about making the playoffs. Would you rather be reading articles about Jack Hughes on ON and hoping for the golden ticket again?

  • The future never comes

    It’s perplexing that every second game the Oilers look disinterested to play hockey when they are 2 points out of a playoff spot. How many times have the Oilers came out and dictated the play from the puck drop 3-5? They let their goalie get peppered for the first 10 minutes and if he doesnt allow a goal they try, if he let’s in 1 or 2 they go into let’s just play through the motions mode.

    • OilersBro

      exactly, where’s the energy? Playoffs are so attainable yet half the time the Give a S*** meter stops at Nurse, Draisaitl, Nuge, and McDavid.

      Guys like Reider and Spooner are in their supposed prime and playing like they are AHLers. We need more from everyone, it’s like they’ve mailed it in.

    • btrain

      Perhaps like the fan base the players are conflicted. Win, get into the playoffs with a less than ideal roster, or take the night off and make sure the guy that built questionable roster doesn’t keep his job and doesn’t make things worse to save himself!

      Honestly, it sucks as a fan because they have a real shot to pull back into the race and I should be excited, but I just don’t think 4 games of playoff action is worth another second of Chiarelli as GM. He will sell the farm for a first round exit, then get rewarded by juggling the mess of a roster he has created. A roster that will yet again be a playoff bubble team at best, pressed against the cap, and now lacking a 1st round pick, Puljujarvi, and who knows what else he gives up at the deadline!! NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

      So please Bobby Nic, take the guys keys away if you wont fire him on the spot. Let the Oilers try to win with what they have, and recant your words. Give us a sliver of hope that Chiarelli’s performance will be evaluated regardless of the season outcome. Because after all, any success the Oilers have will be regardless of Chiarelli.

      • Beer

        Chia never had the key’s from what I can tell, having to build a consensus with a head coach(which you didn’t hire) and your bosses on every trade and acquisition is more city hall than managing anything successful.

        • btrain

          I disagree. If you look at Chiarelli’s body of work, compare that to any other GM, including MacT and Lowe, you will see a large difference. Chia is constantly paying the MSRP dictated by the other party in almost all trades and signings. Which was the same case with Boston. Chia was also a GM candidate that had plenty of rope left as a recent Stanley Cup winning champ when he was hired. In that kind of role, you don’t leave your reputation in the hands of anyone sitting at the table with you. It is your job to consult, weigh the good and the bad, make the decisions, and take responsibility for them.

          So are the OEG guys a giant distraction? Yes! Are they pulling the Chiarelli Puppet Strings? I really don’t think they are. If they are guilty of anything it is not being involved enough with the on ice product to intervene when their GM has clearly been failing.

          • LOL. Thats why we see them at the draft table? Also on broadcasts where Mac-T states “we did not play very well last night against LA, from what I can gather” . “Loyalty is our biggest strength as an organization”. The loyalty is to the wrong people. The architects of the DOD and DOD part 2 belong in the stands as they have proven they have 0 knowledge higher than any average fan(Tier 1 2 or 3) and they sure as hell do not know “a thing or two about winning”. They do have a vast amount of knowledge if you want to know a thing or two or three about losing.

  • The Off Ice

    I very occasionally play the PS4. So this one time, in GM mode, I tried to trade Adam Larsson back to the Devils for Taylor Hall. Not surprisingly, the PS4 delivered a snarky response. It said, ” the New Jersey Devils have this thing called a Trade Block. Perhaps you should read what that is, because clearly you haven’t. The value you are offering isn’t nearly enough.” Even the toys made in China know. But Oulers management doesn’t. ?

    • Chris_Cruise

      It’s made in Vancouver but yeah good point. You’d probably get that same response from the game for all of Chia’s moves.

      Maybe someone needs to send him a copy so he can try to make the trades virtually before doing it in real life, LMFAO. What a joke. The guy is so dense.

      On the flip side it would be funny if the guys at EA programmed it so you can trade anyone with Chia and he’ll gladly take any trade offered to the Oilers. Haha
      The EA guys are die hard Canucks fans, I could see them doing that.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Its fairly clear that the team isn’t very good, however, there is a “not very good team” that is going to win that second wild card spot (likely ANA, MIN or EDM) and I’ve got a hard target on that spot.

    Nope, I do not want management to make any moves to try and improve right now (I’m talking picks/prospects for rentals) but stay the course and see how we do over the next few weeks. Some reinforcements are coming back in the next 2-4 weeks, namely Klefbom and Sekera. That’s two material mid-season acquisitions for no cost. Klefbom we know makes a big difference and, even if Sekera is only “75%”, that’s a big bump over Petrovic, Manning, Benning and improves the team.

    6 of the next 7 are at home and there are some softer teams in there.
    This will be a season defining stretch.
    Lets go Oilers!

  • rivid

    I laugh when you oilers writers, write about a favourable schedule for the Oilers. Have you not been watching? This is a terrible team, l guarantee you each team you listed above are saying the exact same thing and looking at the oilers as a much needed two points that they (away team) feel like they should get. This flawed hockey team, needs to play its best hockey even to beat the bad teams, because the Oilers are a bad team. Reality check for some writers here!

    • The future never comes

      It is true, we are a brutal team when McD is off the ice. I think last game I counted until three minutes in where someone actually connected a tape to tape pass. How cant they make simple 20 foot passes in the NHL?

    • Jason Gregor

      @Rivid Read the second paragraph again…

      “I get why you are concerned. The Oilers roster is flawed. It is clear they have very little scoring depth after their top-four scorers. With Oscar Klefbom out of the lineup, possibly for only seven more games, the lack of quality puck movers is even more apparent.

      The good news for Oilers fans is that every team battling for the final playoff spots is also flawed. The Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks aren’t glaringly better than the Oilers.”

      Did I say Oilers were better? I outlined the exact positioning in standings of the other teams. I wrote they were flawed, but you seemed to miss that and decided someone wrote it was a favourable schedule. I laugh at how people interpret what they want even when it wasn’t written.

  • The future never comes

    Also, Gregor you were speaking confidently about Sekera going to the AHL for a cardio stint around this time, we havn’t heard anything about him subsequently in the past 2 weeks. I assume there was a setback, or that he was not cleared for contact?

    • Jason Gregor

      He will go once he has gained enough strength. No set back. He isn’t strong enough yet to be playing games. Until doctor gives him the green light he won’t be going down. He is still skating, and in fact has been skating with weights on in the hope he gets stronger quicker. But there is no exact timeline for when he will be ready. They are hoping he could go to AHL later this month, but again it all depends on how quickly he regains strength in his Achilles and leg.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Defencemen also have their own so they shouldn’t be allowed to win the Hart. Defensive forwards have their own award so they also shouldnt be allowed to win the Hart. The top Scorer has an award, so he shouldn’t be allowed to win the Hart. See what I’m getting at here?

  • Mr. McDavid

    Taylor Hall , Nuge and of course
    Connor all had Calder trophy worthy
    rookie seasons however did not
    get it . what number of games
    played allows this Vancouver
    kid to win it .

  • Sparky Blue

    These next seven games are crucial for the POHO’s future in Edmonton. The ways these guys play however this should be the last nail in his coffin. I see them beating Arizona and Detroit and maybe getting one overtime loss resulting at best in 7–2-4-1 for 5 points and 48 points at the all star break. A marked improvement of 1 point over where they stood at all star break in 2018. Unfortunately Katz will do nothing more than say adios to Peter, and the suffering in Oiler Nation will continue. Why would he as a business person do anything to his cash cow as long as it keeps mooing. Game attendance and oiler memorabilia sales are steady and strong. What other test would he need.

  • Ratt McNuge

    I’ll never cheer for the Oilers to lose, but is squeaking into the playoffs this year really a good thing? Being a lottery team might benefit us more down the road. Get a decent pick to sign or trade (not Chia).

    • Prairiechicken

      Sneaking into the playoffs with a flawed roster … 4 years into McDavid … given the history of bad player transactions … should STILL result in Pete’s firing.
      But it wouldnt. #becauseoilers

  • Beer

    The biggest mistake Chia made was accepting the job as figurehead GM. It was all optics to appease the fan base, and it worked for awhile. This team isn’t managed with any clarity, and it shows on the ice.

  • ” Milan Lucic finally scored a goal in North America, and you wonder if that could spur him to possible score seven goals in the final 39 games. I don’t think being on pace for 14 goals is that much to ask.”

    Sorry, Gregs, it is too much to ask.

  • jesse says yep

    There should be no question about it. Play to make the playoffs regardless of what happens in the first round. If Chia is going to get fired he is going to get fired whether they miss the playoffs or not.
    And IMO any fan who is more concerned with a higher draft pick than having thier team in the playoffs has given in to a defeatist mentality.

    • usetobewise

      Excellent point jesse says yep. I am an Oiler fan and I must ask people to compare what Calgary has done over the past 20 yrs. Have they been operating within the realm of mediocrity, or is it that they have never accepted failure as a solution? Being a cheerleader for lottery picks is a loser mentality. As Gregor harps “BE BETTER!”

      • Randomfan

        The point is even if oilers try to make the playoffs they will end up being a lottery team again because the roster is flawed and the team knows it. They can try all they want but its very unlikely to happen.

  • This team needs a change in work ethic, toughness, personal and leadership on and off the ice. How many games have the Oilers been out played, pushed around and embarrassed by teams with a lot less talent only to skated off the ice with a oh well attitude? Changes have to be made and its not trading for 4/5 line wingers and 6/7 d-men. Too many of the Oilers players seem content to lose, collect their pay checks and not change why they are playing like they are. Its time to move out 2 or 3 top end players for players from winning organizations. The Oilers need heart, toughness and leadership from players who know what it takes to win, not skilled but soft, lazy and complacent so called stars they have now as so called leaders.

  • MrBung

    They also gave not won a game against the Canucks this season and their losing streak against them goes back into last season. Every time there is these optimistic projections and opportunity to get ahead this team find ways to fall apart. I see some if those other teams pulling it together down the stretch more than his Oil team.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Let’s bring in the Swiss junior coach. Can you imagine what he can do with 1st round picks on his roster. I also dont see him afraid to stand up to the OBC. He certainly doesn’t let guys quit either. Would be an entertaining time for sure.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    Ok here is my take, my fellow ON posters are going to trash me hard and laugh too! I think the Oil will make the playoffs. I believe they will go 5-2 in these next 7 games. I just have a feeling if they get a little bit of goal tending (don’t care who it is) they are going to go on a run. Don’t know why I think this but just have a feeling. However, with that being said I had these feelings before in the last 12 years. Just trying to stay positive because after all we still have McDavid. It’s January 10th and we are in a playoff race. Still have to cheer for my favourite team and players no matter I bad I despise the management group.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Gotta say, the Flames don’t scare me if they finish first, team has massively over achieved. Winnipeg, Nashville and San Jose, are the contenders in the west. The Flames are pretenders!!

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Rittich stole one for them last night. Landeskog had 12 shots on goal and the entire Flames team had 15. The Flames are finding all kinds of ways to win, but I agree that they probably won’t fair well in the playoffs.

      • Gary Chalmers

        I don’t think they are heavy enough to play playoff hockey against teams they may face. Monahan, Gaudreau and Lindholm have been lights out hot for the team, full credit to where they are, but playoffs are a different animal.

  • bwar

    I was taught in Atom hockey what to do when checking a player from behind near the boards. Maybe a few local Atom coaches can give NHL players some pointers. This is just a basic safety issue and it makes me angry thinking about how many people are going to be needlessly injured before change happens.

  • Oiler Al

    Time for Hitchcock to put away the “Kenblender” Guys need to develop some chemistry, even though pickins are slim.I would also leave 97 and 29 together.

  • Randomfan

    I can see the optimism in this post given the “favourable” schedule but didn’t he have the same optimism about oilers record against the pacific division teams? They are 6 out of 15 against the pacific this season. Sure they can win 5 out of next 7 but how many times they have had their a$$ handed to them from the teams they were supposed to beat.

    Lets not kid ourselves and be realistic. It will save you from bitter disappointment. I understand its the writers’ job to spread optimism but sometimes being realistic helps.

  • 50 Flex

    I don’t want the Oilers to make playoffs if it means Chia stays. But I also don’t want to win the lottery again because it’s beyond embarrassing at this point. Like why do I bother with this team?

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Chia is gone. Playoffs or no playoffs. The only scenario in which Pete stays is if we are in a wildcard spot at the deadline and he wins a deal sooooooo good that we make the 3rd round. Other than that, rest assured Chia is history.