GDB Game Notes Sabres @ Oilers: Can They Improve?

Last week I was speaking with a client. Her husband is a die-hard Oilers fan and she said, “It is hard being the spouse of an Oilers fan. His mood changes depending on how they are doing and lately he seems more frustrated than ever,” she said.

I spoke to a few of my friends who are diehard fans and they admitted that their mood in the evening of games is noticeably different. It has been a tough 13-year stretch, but from texts to my radio show and on twitter the frustration level in Oilersnation is at an all-time high right now. Many teenagers and adults suffer severe mood swings due to hormone changes, but now Oilers-itis is one of the leading causes of increased anger and disappointment in Northern Alberta. If you are frustrated you might want to skip over the first few points today.

1. Over the past month, the Oilers and Anaheim Ducks have been the two worst teams in the NHL. Since December 14th the Oilers are 4-9-0 while the Ducks are 2-7-4, and each have picked up only eight points in 13 games. The Colorado Avalanche are 3-8-3 (nine points) in 14 games. The Oilers’ month long struggle would have knocked them out of a playoff race most years, but the Ducks, Avalanche and Minnesota Wild have also struggled, allowing Edmonton to remain within striking distance.

2. The scary part for the Oilers is how few shots they have generated. They have 312 shots in 13 games, fewest over that span by a significant margin. LA is 30th with 362 and Toronto is 29th with 382 (12 games). It is ridiculous how few shots the Oilers are generating. Darnell Nurse leads the team with 36, followed by Connor McDavid (35) and Leon Draisaitl (29). The lack of depth scoring has been discussed numerous times, and I don’t need to rehash the numbers, but it isn’t just that they can’t score — lately they aren’t even generating many shots on goal.

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3. The scary thing for me is Peter Chiarelli and Ken Hitchcock believe the Oilers have to play better team defence. Sure, that is a concern, but Edmonton is middle of the pack in SA over the past month. They give up too many quality chances, but the fact they rarely have an extended O zone time puts even more pressure on them to defend. It is a losing combination and unless some players magically discover their offence, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

4. The lack of offensive support is, in my eyes, the biggest issue on the team. The Oilers defence will improve with the return of Oscar Klefbom, but there is no productive, complementary forward injured. There is no help coming there unless it comes from within, and right no depth forward is showing any signs of being able to score goals consistently.

5. Hitchcock needs to play Ty Rattie consistenly in the top-six and play him 15 minutes a night and see what happens. Rattie has four assists in nine games during the past month. He was healthy scratched four times, but only McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson have produced more points. Rattie isn’t going to win the Selke anytime soon, but none of the other Oilers depth forwards are either and at least Rattie is chipping in offensively. He might not the long-term answer, but he is the best short-term answer on the roster. So play him.

6.The other issue is the Oilers were outworked by an injury-depleted Arizona Coyotes roster on Saturday. That is inexcusable for me. If the depth players aren’t producing at the very least they should match the work ethic of the opposition. The Flames destroyed the Coyotes 7-1 last night and it illustrates the gap between the two Alberta teams right now. Brad Treliving has done a significanly better job of GMing than Peter Chiarelli has. It isn’t close, to be honest.

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7. The Buffalo Sabres won ten consecutive games in November. On December first they were tied with Nashville for third overall in the NHL with 37 points in 27 games. Since then they are 6-10-4 and now sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point back of the Montreal Canadiens and two back of the New York Islanders in the wildcard race.  The Sabres skate into Edmonton with similar struggles as the Oilers. They are tied for 25th in goals over the past month (33 each) and like the Oilers their forward depth hasn’t done much lately.

8. Jeff Skinner continues to light up the NHL. He has eight goals in the last 13 games and sits second in the NHL with 30 goals this year. Sam Reinhart has been excellent as of late producing 15 points in 13 games, while rookie defender Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel (10 GP) have 10 points each. The next best forward only has four points. The Sabres top line of Skinner, Eichel and Reinhart are carrying them offensively, but like the Oilers the scoring depth is very thin. Defender Rasmus Ristolainen is fourth in team scoring with 27 points and Dahlin is fifth with 22. The Sabres would love veterans like Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville and Connor Sheary to chip in a bit more.

9. Some quick updates on Oilers prospects. Kirill Maksimov continues to produce and in 38 games he has 28-29-57 for Niagara. Evan Bouchard has 5-17-22 in 17 games with London. He had a solid showing at the WJC and should have a long playoff run with London. Ryan McLeod was traded to Saginaw a few weeks ago, and the Spirit loaded up for what they hope is a long playoff drive. McLeod has 14-30-44 in 37 OHL games.

10. There is a lot of chatter about the Oilers trading their first round pick, but they still need more scoring depth in the organization. I wouldn’t trade it for a short-term fix. They need more skilled forwards and unless they get on a tear before the trade deadline there is no guarantee the Oilers will make the playoffs. They can’t risk trading away a top pick. To quote the late Pat Quinn, I know it sucks the hind banana to even consider the Oilers will get another top-ten pick, but that is the reality today and I wouldn’t want Chiarelli trading that pick away in hopes the team makes the playoffs this year. Unless some team grossly overpays, which I doubt, I believe the Oilers should hold on to that pick. I know the player won’t help them right away, or at least he shouldn’t, unless the Oilers repeat the error of rushing young players, but the big picture still has to be at the forefront of management’s mind right now.


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.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/14/2019 – 10:30 am MST

  • Oilers_1978

    to me the following roaster should stay for next year…

    Nuge/Leon – McDavid – Chiasson
    XXX – Nuge/Leon – JP/YAm
    JJ – XXX – JP/Yam
    XXX – XXX – Kassian

    Klef – Lars/XXX
    Nurse – XXX/Lars
    Russel/Sekera – Russel/XXX


    no mater who is slotted as 2nd line center leon/nuge we need legit wingers…or play nuge loen together and mcd on his own line…

    • OilTastic

      In my world, the Oilers would look like this next year….

      McD, Leon, Nuge, Chaisson and Khiara up front (impossible I know! ), and on D….Sekera, Klefbom, Nurse, Russell, Bouchard and Jones. And Mikko and ? In goal.

  • Anton CP

    What’s there to improve? Just to win a few games and hope the team can be in the playoffs? Fans, the team, and medias have to realize that anything short of championship aspiration will be another year wasted of McDavid’s talent. How many more of these mediocre seasons have to be until McDavid’s legacy is ruined by the inept ownership and the Edmonton Oilers?

    • Schmidt Head

      Agree completely!

      I for one, am getting quite tired of this year in, year out narrative of just “making” the playoffs as if that were the ultimate goal. This is year four of McDavid and the talk should be about making a very deep run in the playoffs and being on the cusp of a championship, not somehow managing to luck and bluff your way into the last seat on the bus at the last minute and calling it a successful season.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      For Edmonton to be good, the change needs to start at the top and work it’s way down. Look at Toronto. They clean house in 2015, tank to get Matthews, make the playoffs, make the playoffs again, get Tavares, now they’re one of the best teams in the league. Meanwhile, this group is okay with 2 playoffs appearances in the lockout era.

  • 18% body fat

    If this team sold off any player they could get anything for that shouldn’t be part of the future.


    Even if you ignore. What it takes to live or what the return is.

    Would this team actually be worse and in tank mode. Or would replacement level players be equally as good.

  • vetinari

    I just saw a “Skip the dishes” ad on the website and made me think maybe it should be “Skip the Oilers Game” and “save the aggravation of another wasted season”.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Prediction: Oilers lose 3-1 tonight, McDavid scores for the Oilers, Sabotka, who has 1 goal this year, scores and so does Sheary for Buffalo. Buffalo starts a shooter tutor in net and only McDavid can solve him.

  • Gravis82

    I can relate, but when they traded hall I checked out. And now I’m not chained to the games anymore

    I’m not investing in incompetant management. I will invest in a rebuild, but we did that. They had their chance and they blew it.

    Thing is, they have no idea why their moves didn’t work and are struggling to find answers. That right there is the biggest problem

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Even when they made the playoffs that year? I can understand checking out last year or this year, but we had a 103-point season that year.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Of course this team, as currently constructed, can improve, because what they need to improve on from Saturdays game is effort and fight. I don’t know how many times, the Oilers would outnumber the Coyotes, sometimes 3 to 1, and lose the puck battle, they had no push back, until after the last buzzer, when they wanted to fight. Arizona outworked and out battled them, the Oilers need heart, pride, and some fight to get this thing going in the right direction. That’s not on ownership, that’s on every single player in the room.

    • PrairieDog19

      I agree completely – but how many times after games this year have we said the exact same thing. I think it’s time to start believing that this group of players (outside a few) either is not capable of that or, that they’ve lost confidence in their leadership. The best leaders all agree that organizational attitude starts at the top. If the Oilers’ leaders get a free pass on incompetence, why shouldn’t the players?

  • Smuckers

    I definitely don’t have the enthusiasm for watching games like I used to… even in the losing seasons. It’s been replaced by apathy.

    So when/if Chiarelli goes I hope whoever is hired cleans house and removes all the other management that’s in place. Bob Green (big proponent of the Reinhart trade), MacT, Howson and whoever else that has been a part of this disaster. You can’t just replace the guy on top and not look at everyone else who has contributed. Whether it’s good or bad advice, they’ve had a voice and they are past their prime.

    Personally I think any potential players we could acquire (UFA or via trade) may factor in how much has actually changed management-wise into whether or not they (sign, waive NMC/NTC) would come here. Not saying the losing hasn’t been a factor but I think competent (or lack thereof) management sways players one way or the other.

  • TLHansum

    My Norton Antivirus is lighting up like a Christmas tree reading the site today. Browser attack: Fake History Injection attempt?

    What are you guys trying to do?

  • Heschultzhescores

    When you bring an AHL team to an NHL tilt, the results are predictable. Lower your expectations and let our AHL team mature. Preferably with a new GM that leaves our future stars the heLL alone! No McD tonite…I think he might have got sent up to the big club.

  • gordo

    In European soccer they used to have relegation to a lower division for the crappiest teams. Maybe they still do. Point is maybe if Katz was getting AHL prices for this crappy team, maybe he’d hire smarter hockey people. I feel bad for the 4 or 5 guys who show up every game

  • Schmidt Head

    I’m going to nitpick here because there’s a very important nit which needs to be picked.

    The writer refers to the past 13 years which have been hard for Oilers fans. This is true enough if one is using 2006 as a benchmark but I’d like to suggest that there’s another year that’s a little more relevant if one wishes to fully understand the historic levels of ineptitude staining the Oilers hockey team.

    1992. Why this year? Because it’s the last time the Oilers were a consistently and reliably strong franchise.

    Since then, there have been 25 seasons completed. (One lost to lockout and one in progress = 27 years.) Of those 25 seasons, only 8 were winning ones and 17 were losing ones. The team made the playoffs only 8 times and missed them 17 times.

    Of those 8 playoff seasons, we only got past the 1st round 4 times and past the 2nd round once. We’ve won a grand total of 6 playoff series (3 in one year) and 37 playoff games. By comparison, Pittsburgh has won more playoff games in the past 3 years than we have in the past 25!!!

    So lets be honest when we’re summing up the Oilers recent legacy. It hasn’t been a “decade” of darkness, it’s been a damned 1/4 century of it!!

    • BobbyCanuck

      Yes, but at least during the 1990’s the Oilers were still entertaining in the sense, you knew the whole team will show up and play the best they can, often their best was not good enough, but that was the pre-salary cap era. Since around 2000, and your mileage will vary, they just play hard every third game

      How many MUST WIN games has the collective watched during the last 20 odd years, and as you think top yourself…’big win tonight boys, win and we are right back in the hunt, we believe in you , you van do it! Only to watch the team lay a collective turd

      I do not keep track of this stuff, but I am sure we have played at least 100 games that would be considered a big game/win, only for the team to let us down in the most dismally spectacular fashion. Kinda like last came against the Yotes

  • Axe

    I just read on TSN, according to Rishaug that oilers are on a full court press to add help at forward… My mind is blown that the management is willing to let Chiarelli keep wheelin and dealin to save his job despite his horrible track record (see manning, Spooner etc.. For evidence)… This is the definition of insanity as the saying goes.. Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.. Fire chia Now and apologize to Connor and fans profusely…

    • Prairiechicken

      It’s the definition of insanity … or desperation. Both seem to apply.
      There’s a reason 75% of Oiler fans voted that they’d rather miss the playoffs and fire Chiarelli … than to keep him and make the playoffs.

    • Im scared that the next notification I recieve is a trade alert. The 2019 1st round pick and Kailer Yamamoto for a UFA and declining Wayne Simmonds and Micheal Raffl sounds just like Chiarelli. This team is ran by total morons. I trust the NHL 19 auto GM more then this guy

  • Al77

    Hopefully the Oilers brass are checking out Twitter because Jetsnation is saying they could get a decent depth player for a bag of pucks.Haha little do they know we have no decent forward depth players lol!

  • Chris_Cruise

    Anyone know what the triggers are for the seemingly uber sensitive posting rules on this forum?
    I can’t seem to post anything about Rishaug’s recent tweet about the the team aggressively going after a forward.
    Why would that be? Who at ON is that much of a snowflake?

  • Redbird62

    To my eye the biggest difference driving performance between this club and the one that went to the playoffs is the presence of a healthy Sekera and Kleblom on the blue line. Weaker goaltending and less scoring support are contributing factors, but I think people tend to underestimate the value of decent play controlling defensemen on the backend to all aspects of the game. Neither is an all star though Klefbom may get there some day, but they are both very good puck movers (both passing and carrying) who can help avoid the forecheck and get the play moving in the right direction and can help the team sustain pressure in the offensive zone as well. Its an extreme example, but look what Pronger did for the offense for many of the Oilers forwards in 05/06 who had career years and who fell off a cliff again when he left. Nurse does not control play as much as Klefbom or Sekera, though he does keep improving and Russell is a 4/5 complementary defender but not a play controller. Larsson once and a while shows flashes that he could take on that type of role, but for whatever reason, he generally stays in that defensive conservative shell. So it is not surprising to me that with the Oilers missing their top two play controlling defenseman, they are not able to control the play. They outchanced their opponents in 16/17, but were outchanced last season, and though they were somewhat outchanced through mid-December still without Sekera, they have been cratered since Kleblom (and Russell for much of it) were injured.

    Maybe Bouchard will turn out to be that true All Star play controlling guy the Oilers have not had since Pronger left. They tried with Souray and Whitney, which did not work for long due to injuries, they did not wait long enough for Petry to develop, and they pushed Schultz into the role way too early. None of them was Pronger (very few are) but Petry and Schultz have performed admirably in those roles elsewhere. Many of the Oilers forwards weren’t flourishing before Klefbom and Russell went down, but they were getting shots so some puck luck may have been a factor, but now they aren’t eveni getting those. The Oilers will have just a few weeks before the trade deadline after Klefbom gets back to see if he can improve the teams and some players fortunes. I doubt Sekera can have any impact before the trade deadline. Chiarelli needed defenseman to solve the problems created by injury, but Manning and Petrovic were not even close to what was required.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Bouchard is our best puck moving defenceman bar none. But I think the 16-17 run had many different factors at play. Yes Sekera and Klefbom playing healthy were good, but we had depth scoring, the 5th best powerplay in the league, stellar goaltending from Talbot, and Lucic scored his usual 50 points. Heck Eberle went 18 games without scoring a goal and we were still winning games.

      • Redbird62

        Yes I noted that goaltending and depth scoring are factors. Your depth scoring performs much better when it has defenseman who can get control of the puck and move it up efficiently. Since the departure of Pronger, with the exception of 16-17, the Oilers generally have not been very good at regaining control of the puck in their end and keeping control to get it out. Hard to generate offense when you can’t get out of your own end efficiently and the forwards have to focus even more on defense. A breakout strategy of ring it around the boards or flip it out high is not a recipe for good puck control. The Oilers would give up a lot less quality scoring chances if they didn’t allow other teams prolonged zone time. The 16-17 defense accomplished that by committee.

  • Al77

    I’m wondering if this is a Katz directive to do something now because as we’ve all said how can they let Chiarelli make anymore trades considering his and his pro scouts abilities to access talent and assets!

  • Oil DAWG

    I think if we can get a pretty awesome forward for our first round pick.. why not. I’m tired of wondering if drafts picks will work out. Tired of watching the organization ruin picks. Good God let’s just get a proven player for once.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Soerry but the players are saying we have to improve if we want to make the playoffs, but after last season and being out so early and then the start that got TM out the door and now the skid they are on, the players have had ample time to want to play better, they had a new coach, that coach has been trying to put new systems to make the team better, but they arent.

    The Players are showing they still cant get it together in their own end and cant defend, they still can not play 60 minutes of hockey, they still cant make themselves be a hard team for other teams to play against and they still can not execute on the ice.

    Are there players that are on the team that are hindering a competitive team, yes. Is there people in the OEG group who are hindering the Oilers from fielding a competitive team on the ice, yes. Are there people in Positions staff wise that fans and the media feel are hindering the Oilers on and off the ice, yes.

    Yes the fans and the media scream for changes when things arent going well, always has been that way with any sports team, but other than our one stint of the playoffs as of late, we are still saddled with some of the same people burdening this organisation in key roles and it is holding the team and organisation from going forward.

    Lowe and Mac T should have been gone long ago, we know their history with the team and the organisation, and as much as they are said to be part of OEG but not really so much in the Hockey sense, my thoughts are they have more of hand in things then we know. Chiarelli still being here almost reminds me of a Puppet, a front man if you will who is the face, but not the one pulling the strings.Coffey got brought in as an adviser, so what advice has he been giving? Is it on defending, then it isnt working. Gretz seems more of an ambassador to OEG a name to add creedence, I dont know if he has much say, I think if he did he’d wan to see some changes, as I am sure watching this team last year and this is making his stomach turn at times. Howson we get is a great contract numbers guy, but should he really be back here? The Goalie coach had to go last year and this year is no different,

    The Oilers need a good house cleaning , but we have an owner who cares more about the money from the development of the lands around the arena then the product he puts on the ice, Yes Katz is willing to spend to the cap, but having the people in key positions to help spend that money wisely is key and right now we do not have that, and we are now a team near the cap with players and contracts we cant move, people in positions the owner will not fire and a fan base that keeps clamouring for change that always gets promised it but rarely see’s it. Do we really need to go back to the days where people hated Pocklington and his gutting of the team that fans stayed away in droves and season ticket sales nosedived? God lets hope not, but doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change and not willing to commit to it is going to and still is hurting this team and it shows on and off the ice.

  • Londonderry will always be Londonderry and this Oilers roster will always be this Oilers roster. What we have simply is not enough to compete. Hitch has done every to hide it’s flaws but you can only put soo much makeup on a pig. Yea guys like Rieder, Puljujarvi, Rattie, and Yamamoto have been disappointing but the fact that we relied on soo many unknowns is Chiarelli’s mistake. “The Bears are who we thought they were” and the Oilers are who we thought they were

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Ken, it’s not rocket science. Did you see the skills competition. Rattie 4 for 4 team best in accuracy shooting.
    Play the best passer on the team (Nuge) with Rattie.
    Also play Mick David with Draisaitl on the other line. Their speed on breakouts is a game changer.
    Keep these 2 pairs together, you will see results.

  • DraiCup

    the next weeks will be crucial…if the oil continue to suck and they probably will they’re heading to the lottery and in this case it would be a crime to trade the first round pick! In any case it would have to be packaged with one of our players because of the cap situation. So the package looks like the 1st pick + Spooner and Benning or the 1st and Lucic or Manning. No team in their right mind gives you a player for such a package. Off course you can send Nuge out with 1st pick but you better get a hell of a player back.
    So to me the stance has to be do not trade that pick.

    • DraiCup

      besides nothing crazy happens this team will look pretty much the same next year. Most bad contracts will come off the books in 2020 except Lucic. Then there’ll be room for signings…again do not trade the pick cause next year won’t be much better. Focus on improving the goaltendning in the summer and live the team as it is til 2020.
      just my two cents

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Will never happen but I will tell you what fixes the no effort BS. Players sign 1 year contracts, yes I know I know the NHLPA would agree to that, however , has anyone ever looked at how NFL players contracts are constructed ?
    Yeah , guaranteed Money , the rest is what have you done for me lately. riding a guaranteed contract payout is too much easy street for me. If I don’t perform at work ,like the majority of you . you done B–CHES.

    Truth hurts but…