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Photo Credit: © Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 46.0: Going the Wrong Way (7pm MST, SNW)

One of my favourite movies scenes of all-time was in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Del Griffith (John Candy) is driving while Neal Page (Steve Martin) is sleeping in the passenger seat. Page wakes up when Griffith starts honking his horn as a car on the highway is trying to get their attention. Page rolls down his window to hear what they have to say.

Page: “He says we’re going the wrong way.”

Griffith: “Oh he’s drunk. How would he know where we are going?”

Page: “Yeah, how would he know. (looks out window to other car). “Thank you, thanks a lot.”

Moments later they narrowly avoid death, and a head-on collision with two Semi trucks.

I laugh every time I watch it, because of Griffith’s response, “How would he know where we are going.”

It never dawned on him he could be wrong. Even though he had taken the wrong exit minutes earlier, he never questioned his path.

That scene reminds me of the Edmonton Oilers right now. The management team believes they are heading in the right direction. Two weeks ago Peter Chiarelli acquired two defensive D-men because the team needed to defend better. Acquiring Alex Petrovic made sense because he was better than Chris Wideman, but Brandon Manning wasn’t any better than Kevin Gravel. They acquired him anyway and gave up a depth forward in the process. This after moving Ryan Strome for Spooner. Strome hadn’t scored early in the year, but was getting a lot of good chance. He has six goals in 26 games for the Rangers.

From the start of the season, depth scoring as been a problem for the Oilers, yet the moves Peter Chiarelli made has only made their offence worse.

Here is a comparison of some of the Oilers offensive and defensive stats under Todd McLellan’s 20 games and the recent 25 with Ken Hitchcock. It has goals for and goals against per game and shots for and against per game.

Coach                  GF/G         GA/G         SF/G         SA/G
McLellan             2.85            3.30          31.5          30.25
Hitchcock           2.68            3.12          27.0           31.56

The Oilers GA has improved, but they’ve gotten worse in the other three categories. Their shots for/game are down significantly. It is hard to score in the NHL when you get no pucks on net.

The interesting part is how even the Oilers best forwards are shooting less under Hitchcock.

McDavid averaged 3.4 shots/game with McLellan, and is down slightly to 3.25 with Hitchcock.
Draisaitl went from 2.75 shot/game in the first 20 games to 2.36 in the last 25.
Nugent-Hopkins averaged three shots/game with McLellan and is at 2.24 now.

Those are small drops overall, considering all three of them combine for a total of one less shot per game, and despite fewer shots they are actually producing more points. McDavid had 1.4 points/game through 20, but has 1.625 in the last 24. Draisaitl went from 1.15 PPG to 1.24 over the past 25 games, while RNH was a 0.95 and is down slightly to 0.84. As a trio they are up in points, but the rest of the team is down 3.5 shots/game over the past 25 games.

The major problem under Hitchcock is the Oilers have gone from a +1.3 scoring chance differential to a -2, because they create so few chances according to Mike Kelly from The Point Hockey. It seems the Oilers focus and willingness to improve defensively is limiting their ability to produce. Outside of the top three forwards how many good scoring chances does the rest of the team create? It’s a major problem.

In my eyes the one thing that remains the same from the start of the season is the Oilers don’t have enough traffic in front of the net, nor do they create enough second and third opportunities. Even if the depth forwards lack skill, at the very least they should be able to go to the net and create havoc. How often do we see the Oilers take shots from the blueline with no one in front of the goalie?

Going to the net is about courage and desire. Conor Garland was in the blue paint for both of his goals against the Oilers on Saturday. He is listed at 165 pounds on the Coyotes website, but there he was battling for space in front of the net. He was rewarded with two goals. The Oilers need more players willing to pay the price in front of the net. Get there, get there consistently and get in a position to bang home a rebound, or like Garland, take a puck off your face to score.

The Oilers need to pay more of a price offensively, but the organization and management need to realize scoring goals is hard, and when you trade away players who are more offensively talented than the players you bring in return, it will be difficult to score. I received a text today from someone in the organization stating they are looking to improve their scoring. Great, but are they capable of evaluating the proper players to bring in? The recent track record says no.

They’ve been going in the wrong direction on acquiring skill. That has to change immediately if they have any hopes of acquiring some complementary players to help McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins offensively.

Chiarelli and his scouting staff need to realize the direction of their evaluations hasn’t been good. Successful people and organizations learn from their mistakes. Chiarelli and the entire Oilers organization hasn’t shown they are learning. That is a major concern.

LINEUP…

Oilers

Draisaitl-McDavid-Rattie
Lucic-RNH-Chiasson
Spooner-Brodziak-Puljujarvi
Reider-Khaira-Kassian

Nurse-Russell
Jones-Larsson
Manning-Benning

Koskinen

I’d keep Rattie on the top line for a few games and see what he can do. You need to give RNH someone who can finish so playing Chiasson there makes sense to me. I’d keep him there for the foreseeable future.

Sabres

Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart
Sheary-Mittelstadt-Thompson
Sobotka-Rodriques-Pominville
Girgensons-Larsson-Okposo

McCabe-Ristolainen
Dahlin-Bogosian
Scandella-Beaulieu

Hutton

Carter Hutton is 2-5-2 in his last nine starts with a .914sv%. The Sabres have allowed the fourth most shots per game over the past month at 33.5/game. No excuse for the Oilers to not be able to generate shots tonight.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Die by the Blade:

After missing yesterday’s team skills competition, it is reported that phenom and captain Connor McDavid will be in the lineup.

Most people remember McDavid as the impetus of the original tank – a race to the bottom the Edmonton ultimately won. The net gains have been surprisingly poor, though; while McDavid’s 27 goals (T-5th) and 67 points (4th) are among the top in the league, Edmonton as a whole is failing to put together a solid season. The superstar’s contributions have not been enough to lift the team out of mediocrity. Sound familiar?

Still, McDavid is top-3 in goals created, and is a constant threat anytime he’s on the ice. Toss in an IV chock-full of vitamins and who knows what McJesus will have in store.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: A battle of two teams trending in the wrong direction so we go to OT. Oilers sneak out a 3-2 OT victory in an otherwise uneventful game.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Skinner score.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has never scored against the Sabres. He scores his first tonight, with a nice shot on the PP.

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Recently by Jason Gregor:

Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/14/2019 – 1:30 pm MST

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Buffalo is another example of a rebuild gone right. They’ve got a great forward core, defence is iffy but still passable, and Hutton and Ullmark make a good goaltending duo. I hate to say this, but I see Edmonton losing this one. If they do, at least get a point please.

  • camdog

    Gregor, just curious do all organisation go public when they are desperate to upgrade their skill by informing everybody in the media that they are looking for help mid season? I guess everybody already knows the Oilers are desperate, but this must make PC look even weaker and easier to manipulate.

    • Jason Gregor

      NHL teams know when other teams are struggling and what they are looking for. There are many emails and texts shared between some GMs. Even if it was’t made public Oilers are looking for offensive help, every opposing GM would know it anyways because it is glaringly obvious. l don’t think it being public makes them weaker…what made them weaker and desperate is the previous moves he made. That is why he is in this position. You can’t keep downgrading in talent trade after trade and expect to remain competitive.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Most GM’s never talk out loud about what they are planning on doing, other than in theoritical terms. Chia sounds like he’s shopping for a car and has told he wants one that will go over 120 km/h and is willing to spend X dollars. The Penguins GM said they wanted to make changes because he was not happy. Never said who he was willing to trade.

      What amazes me is that Chia traded away players that could score, one for a guy that scored less, another for a guy that can’t even play defense. If he truly believes that using a goalie or a young forward is going to bring the playoffs, then he is mistaken. Target a player that you want and see what the cost is. If it’s too high, walk away. Trading a goalie for a guy that can score is like trading a bullet-proof vest for a gun.

  • Axe

    Following reports of oilers putting full court press to add help at forward.. The league reaction is :
    A. 6-7 depth defencemen breathe a collective sigh of relief..
    B. Agents phones blowing up with “depth forwards” inquiring if they have a no trade clause.
    C. Garth snow wakes up from his mid afternoon nap confused as to why he has a bunch of missed calls and texts from chiarelli telling him “let’s get a deal done!”
    D. Jordan Eberle frantically calls his agent to find out if an ex team can trade back for a player they have already traded away, says he is asking for his friend “Taylor”
    E. Following discussions with other Gm’s around the league, Pete Chiarelli enlists Siri’s help to figure out once and for all what a “lottery protected pick” means.

    • Randaman

      What exactly is a lottery protected pick? Aren’t there 16 teams in the lottery every year now? The only way they get value for that 1st round pick (STUPID MOVE), is if it isn’t protected.

      • Redbird62

        You can actually protect the pick based on where you end up in the lottery so not just top 16. Last year Ottawa traded their first round for Duchene but if Ottawa ended up in the top 10 after the lottery, then they retained it (which they did), and Colorado gets Ottawa’s first this year (which they will) which is not lottery protected. Ottawa may end up as bad this year, so Colorado may have good odds in the Hughes sweepstakes instead of the Dahlin sweepstakes. It was a complicated deal, but Ottawa did get a big name using a lottery protected pick. No question though, the more protected the less valuable it would likely be.

        • DraiCup

          thing is we would have to package the pick with a player because we do not have capspace. So what does the 1st and Spooner or the 1st and Lucic or the 1st and Benning get you? If the Blues deal us Parayko for our 1st + Manning and Benning, great! I doubt it will happen.
          My stance is keep the pick unless a crazy deal falls into our lap. This roster will need an overhaul in 2020 when most bad contracts come off the books.

  • ShaunOt

    The Oilers have no one that is willing to pay the price that Conor Garland did on Saturday.

    Will really depend on which Oilers team shows up:
    a) Focused, ready to play 60 minutes = they win
    b) Kind of into it, will play 2 out of 3 periods = a loss with a possibility of OT, then its a toss-up
    c) A bunch of chickens with their heads cut off trying to act like a hockey team = blow out loss

    When b or c show up, I just turn the game off.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I would love to the Oilers win, but the last ten games and the last one has shown the Oilers are not willing to put in a 60 minute effort or arne’t capable, we keep seeing it over and over and over. The oilers achilles hell last year and this year has been there play in their own end, and there seems to be an unwilling ness to change their system in their end or go to the basics. The Oilers play in their own end is killing them, it did last year and this year again it is doing it.

    I doubt anyone hasnt noticed the Oilers dont shoot enough, and if your not firing pucks , your not going to have a chance to score. The Oilers seem to have a habit of getting itno the offensive zone and sending one guy in deep and then the other forwards are headed back…. way too early and the offensive play dies, this seems like the players, heading back too early before even seeing or sensing where the play will go. It wouldnt be so bad that they are playing defensively if it was working or getting them some wins, but it isnt….it’s just contributing to the loss column.

    I have said this before, when something isnt working go back to the basics, the Oilers need to do this on a lot of fronts and the Hitch needs to sit with his assistants and get back to the basics, and work things from there, because right now the players are all over the map.

    If the Oilers win it will be a suprise and that is only because they lack the will to play a 60 minute game and their offensive and defensive shortcomings are killing their chances of gaining traction in a game.

  • Redbird62

    Jason – if you break down the Hitchcock tenure between with Klefbom and without Klefbom (and Russell too for 10 of them), you get remarkably different results. With Klefbom since Hitch took over, the Oilers shots on goal were 29.6 vs 30.8 against, but their goals for were 2.92 per game and goals against of 2.38. Since that fateful finger injury, shots have been 24.2 for and 32.3 against and scoring has been 2.42 before and 3.92 against. Its possible the Oilers were outshot on average while Klefbom was healthy due to the scoring affect that they were leading many of those games. But since he has been hurt, they have been trailing most games and still can’t generate shots. Already being down Sekera, who was never adequately replaced, then to lose Klefbom and Russell on the same day was devastating to the Oilers ability to have control on the ice which I believed impacted the ability of any forward outside the big 3 to generate meaningful sustained offense. The Oilers needed help on the backend, but not the type provided by Manning and Petrovic.

    • Jason Gregor

      Before Klefbom was hurt they had no depth scoring. It hasn’t changed. He can’t make the depth forwards suddenly score..if he could he’d be a magician.

      • Redbird62

        My point still stands that it unfair to judge Hitchcock on the style of play in comparison to McClellan, when he lost two key pieces (one very key piece) half way through this stretch. The team overall was scoring and generating chances as well under Hitchcock as they were under McClellan while Klefbom was still playing but more effectively limiting the other teams chances and goals. All of the stats that are worse for Hitchcock vs McClellan have come since Klefbom and Russell got hurt. Maybe that’s just a coincidence.

  • OldOilerFan

    Manning draws into the lineup? For gawds sake – WHY? That, coupled with the news Chiarelli is in full court press to find offensive help has me worried sick. Wasn’t he the one months ago saying he liked our offence? And now we have to watch this tire fire play with assets again? Somebody toss a jersey already as drawing attention to the nonsense and national embarrassment seems the only thing to work, people won’t stop going to the games in this town nevermind we are in our 3rd rebuild.

  • CRONENBERG

    Obvious Game Day Prediction (albeit a little early): Chiarelli blows our first round pick on one player that everyone agrees rivals the Griffin Reinhart trade as the dumbest move he’s ever made. This player will be no younger than 27, already comes with a terrible contract, had a great season in 2015-16. There will be no add ons. No conditional third round pick – nothing. He’ll be on the third line by Christmas time.

  • Oiler Al

    Like Rattie on the first line… Hitch keep it it for more than two shifts please.Dont like Lucic playing up that high.Iknow he hasn’t scored but Reiders speed would help Nuge on that 2nd line.
    Eichel with a hatty tonight.

    • DraiCup

      Not yet…you know Peter has a plan…he wants to deal our first round pick along with Ryan Spooner (you know he has high value right now and is the fastest scater on the team) for someone in the 3 mil $ range who will certainly help us get into the 8th seed. In the playoffs, as we all know, anything can happen from there on out, at least it does every 20 years or so. If all of that doesn’t work we trust Peter to come up with an even better plan as we have so much more 1st round picks to trade in the coming years. Cheers!!

  • Soccer Steve

    Caggiula on being traded: “There were a lot of defencemen in Edmonton already and I thought they might want to bring in another forward (trade) but I’m not the one making the decisions.”

    I wish you were Drake. I wish you were.

  • Schmidt Head

    I’m confident that Chia will soon bring in 2 decent 2nd line wingers who can pop in a few goals reliably.

    Unfortunately, knowing him, he’ll probably give up Drai and RNH to get them and start blathering on about “you have to give quality to get quality.”

    I’ll bet car salesmen just love to see Chia coming onto their lot. Probably trade a year old Mercedes for a ten year old Kia and say that what he’s looking for is efficiency.

  • JariCurry

    So some inside guy texts someone saying chia looking to find help with scoring. Next thing people are questioning why chia would go to the media and show his hand. He didn’t. Some rat in the organization shared internal communications with their media source. Anything to get mad at the GM I guess….

  • Ratt McNuge

    He keeps doing the same thing over and over and this is why Chiarelli should have been fired after last season’s debacle. This is more about the people paying Chiarelli than it is about Chiarelli, at this point. FIRE HIM.

  • OilCan2

    Ebs is having a career year. Hallsy did that last season. I’m actually good with having Larsson. The hole left by Ebs could be used as a stargate. Lucic may have fallen through that gap in time and space and a Dirty Duck hit has derailed Sekera BIG TIME. In spite of ALL that Connor and Leon and Nuge have made it worth tuning in.

  • Heschultzhescores

    We need to put work ethic up high in our trades, drafting, and purchases. A good hard working team is hard to criticize. We have have too many guys that only semi care to play on a given day.

    • Odanada

      Accountability, respect and hard work start at the top and bleed down to become a unifying force on the ice and in the room.
      That sure doesn’t read like the Oilers front office, does it?

  • Big Jacks Meat

    If I see Spooners name again other than on a plane ticket with Pete in the middle seat I will be ticked.

    Get these guy[s] out of town, elevating spooner ? for what ? I would much rather call up maroody.

    JJ Can be dealt too. How can the ducks pull off a trade for Cogs for Shore ? really. Pete Chiarelli ? You need to leave and go practice again in injury law. Something. You are a incompetent GM. What credentials do you really have to be a GM of an NHL Hockey club. Man I am so sick of this sh-t show. But yeah I watch and hope and cheer only to wake up piss-d off again because I love my team. Thank god im a RAMS fan and they will destroy Brees and his “aints”. Go Gurley and C.J.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Agree with everything you said about the Oil. I’m also an NFL fan but I’m a huge Saints fan! CJ scares me and Gurley is awesome, but I’ll be cheering like mad for Brees and the boys… it should be a great game – Go Saints!!!