It is difficult to gain ground in a playoff race when you can’t win consecutive games, but the Edmonton Oilers have been able to stay in the Western Conference race despite the trend of lose-win-lose-win-lose-win-lose-win over their previous eight games (4-4), because the Colorado Avalanche went 2-4-2, and the Anaheim Ducks went 0-5-3. Edmonton can’t expect those teams to keep floundering, but even if they do at some point the Oilers need to get on a winning streak.
They enter tonight’s tilt in Vancouver tied with the Canucks with 47 points, two back of Minnesota and three back of Colorado and Dallas for the two wildcard spots. The Avs are technically in third place in the Central, and with the Oilers 13 points back of third place Vegas in the Pacific division, Edmonton’s only playoff hopes focus on the two wildcard slots. They will be battling Vancouver, Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota and even the surging St. Louis Blues, who are suddenly only two points back of the Oilers and four points out of a wildcard berth with one game in hand.
The final 36 games should be very exciting, and possibly nerve-wracking, for Oilersnation. Playoff races are rare in these parts, and while the team clearly has some holes, so do the other teams they are battling, so try to enjoy the next few months.
As good as it is for the Oilers to be in a playoff race, my concern is if they will ever be able to be a legit Stanley Cup contender with the current belief system that prevails within the organization.
I have long believed the organization has an underlying arrogance that they know best. There is nothing wrong with confidence and belief in yourself, because without it you will never suceed. And while you don’t hear them utter those exact words, actions always speak louder, and all you have to do is look at their development of Jesse Puljujarvi and now Kailer Yamamoto.
This season, 36 players 20 years old and under have played at least ten NHL games.
Five came from the 2018 draft in Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi (all 18 years young), along with Brady Tkachuk and Isac Lundestrom. Lundestrom is now in the AHL after 15 games with the Ducks.
Fourteen players are from the 2017 draft in Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, Elias Pettersson, Miro Heiskanen, Filip Chytil, Robert Thomas, Michael Rasmussen, Casey Middelstadt, Henri Jokiharju, Drake Batherson, Jusso Valimaki, Lias Andersson, Max Comtois and Kailer Yamamoto.
Hischier and Patrick are in their second NHL season. Comtois is back in junior, Andersson and Batherson are now in the AHL and Valimaki is injured.
The seventeen players from the 2016 draft include Patrik Laine, Pierre Luc-Dubois, Clayton Keller, Mikhail Sergachev, Samuel Girard, Jesper Bratt, Jacob Chychrun, Dennis Cholowski, Tyson Jost, Victor Mete, Brett Howden, Dillon Dube, Josh Mahura, Sam Steel, Joey Anderson, Jordan Kyrou and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Mahura, Steel and Anderson are now in the AHL. So of the 36 players with 10GP, seven are back in the AHL and one is injured, which leaves 28 players in the NHL who are 20 and under.
Of those 28 who remain, Yamamoto and Kyrou are tied for the lowest points-per-game this season at 0.15 (two points in 11 games each), while Puljujarvi is 25th at 0.20 (seven points in 35 games), ahead of only defenceman Mete, who has six points in 37 games.
Yamamoto and Puljujarvi were drafted as offensive players, but neither is producing much in the NHL this season. Yet tonight the Oilers will dress both on the right wing.
Is this really what is best for the players and the long-term future of the Oilers? How can so many people in the organization believe this? A source has told me this is not just Peter Chiarelli’s decision. Many in the organization want Puljujarvi here. This is why even if they fire Chiarelli I’m not sold it fixes the underlying problem of the organization.
The Arizona Coyotes have two players 20 and under on their roster. Keller is in his second season after scoring 65 points as a rookie, while defenceman Chychrun is in his third season. He has produced 44 points in 145 games (he missed 30 games with an injury last year).
The Buffalo Sabres also have two in rookies Dahlin and Middelstadt. Dahlin is an incredible talent with 25 points in 46 games and Middelstadt has seven goals and 13 points.
Colorado has two with Girard and Jost. Both are in their second seasons and Girard is playing 19:46/game in Colorado and has chipped in 13 points on the blue line, while Jost has 6-9-15 in a third line role.
Detroit has Rasmussen and Cholowski as raw rookies. Rasmussen has 6-7-13, while Cholowski has 7-9-16 and is playing 18:33/game on the blueline.
Montreal has the youngest player in the league, Kotkaniemi, and he has produced 6-17-23, while Mete has six assists and is playing 16:37/game in his second season on the backend.
The Devils’ Bratt and Hischier are both in their second season. Hischier had 52 points as a rookie and he has 32 points in 42 games this season, while Bratt has been injured and has 18 points in 32 games.
The Rangers have rookies in Chytil, 7-9-16, and Howden, 4-11-15. There are rumblings the Rangers might send Howden to the AHL as he has struggled after an excellent first 20 games. He was playing 13 minutes a night, but in the past few games he is around 10 minutes.
The Blues recalled Kyrou recently due to injuries, but he’s only played 13 games, while Thomas has 5-9-14 in 37 games as a rookie.
Other teams have young players in their lineup, but outside of Kyrou, and recently Howden, they have been producing and playing decent minutes.
Puljujarvi has seven points in 35 games, and it is his third NHL season. He isn’t a raw rookie like Kyrou and Howden and many of the others, where you expect early struggles. Puljujarvi is averaging 12:16/game and only 1.14 shots/game, which is 24th among these 28 players. Yamamoto is 27th at 0.92 shots/game, ahead of only Mete.
The Oilers believe the NHL is the best place for Puljujarvi. Why?
He isn’t scoring. He isn’t shooting very much and there is no way he is gaining offensive confidence. He was drafted to be an offensive player, and if this was his rookie season, I might understand if there were some struggles. But it is his third year, and the organization fails to realize that you don’t develop players in the NHL. You develop them in other leagues FOR the NHL.
Now in the heat of a playoff race they will play Yamamoto on the second line. He has one goal in 22 career NHL games. He is coming off an injury. He has played one NHL game, and four AHL games since December 2nd. In his eleven AHL games he produced 4-4-8 — decent numbers, but why wouldn’t you continue to let him develop in the AHL, so next year he would come to camp with loads of confidence and possibly ready to be a complementary top-six forward?
I’m sorry, but Yamamoto isn’t a better NHL player today than Ty Rattie or Jujhar Khaira. You could play Khaira in the top-six if needed or even Zack Kassian for a few games.
I don’t see how playing two 20 year olds who are struggling offensively helps your NHL team win. Nor does it help with their development, which if done properly, should increase the Oilers chances of winning in the future. This strategy doesn’t help anyone in my eyes.
Colby Cave makes his Oilers debut. I understood why they claimed him off waivers. It gives them a centre and allows Khaira to play left wing where he has been more effective. The scouting report on Cave is that he is competitive and a consistent worker. Decent hands, but don’t expect big numbers.
The Oilers will have to make a roster move by 3 p.m. today when they activate Yamamoto. They could just put Alex Petrovic on the IR retroactive to last Tuesday and give them a few days to make a decision or facilitate a small trade. The other options could be placing Rattie or Spooner on waivers. I doubt they waive Manning and if they expose Gravel a team would pick him up because he is very cheap and a decent depth option. If they waive Spooner they would gain $1.025 million in cap space. I don’t see anyone claiming his $3.1m cap hit for this year and next. Maybe he finds his offence in the minors and you can recall him in a few weeks. Rattie going down wouldn’t save them any cap space.
Elias Pettersson skated this morning, but isn’t ready to play. The Canucks obviously miss his offence, but they play hard and defend quite well. Connor McDavid said the Canucks have been good in not allowing you to gain speed on the attack, but McDavid is coming off a season-low 17 minutes in the Buffalo blowout and he was looking forward to the challenge of breaking out against the Canucks.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
It’s goal season again at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks peppered the Panthers net on Sunday for five goals (sure a few were of the empty net variety) and it’s time to show the visiting Edmonton Oilers that it wasn’t a mirage. Zack Kassian is coming off an epic two-goal performance, same can be said for Milan Lucic. Vancouver can boast their underachievers as well with Ben Hutton, Loui “all the dangles” Eriksson, and Markus Granlund all lighting the lamp last game.
There is a pileup of disappointment meeting tonight but thankfully someone has to win. Sven Baertschi has Canuck’d pretty hard lately and may continue his impressive run while Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser would be wise to start their engines again.
If the Oilers lose, that Baggedmilk character eats beets. That’s reason enough for the Canucks to win. Canucks Army doesn’t have anything that is embarrassing to eat, maybe a bagel. Bagels are popular at the Rog lately.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win two in a row for the first time since December 9th and 11th with a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers score on the PP. Draisaitl gets his team leading eighth.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Milan Lucic has three goals in 24 career games v. his hometown team. He scores tonight, giving him four goals in his past five games in 2019.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Oilers and Canucks in a Meaningful Game
- Can the Oilers Improve?
- Nurse Emerging as Offensive Threat
- GDB 44.0: Home Jekyll or Home Hyde
- Playoffs, NHL Awards and Penalties
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/16/2019 – 2:00 pm MT