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GDB Game Notes Oilers @ Wild: The Unamazing Race

I’ve always believed sports is the true “Reality TV.” It isn’t scripted. You never know what will happen, and often we witness things that defy logic.

Just look at the Unamazing Race for the two Wildcard spots in the West. It is truly remarkable.

1. The Oilers have won five of their last 20 games, yet they are only three points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand on Vancouver. Edmonton shouldn’t be in the race going 5-13-2 since December 16th, but here we are.

2. Anaheim is 3-13-4 in the same time frame, while Colorado is 4-13-2. Colorado is two points behind Vancouver with two games in hand, while the Ducks are tied with the Oilers. Vancouver went 1-10-2 over 13 games in November and early December, but they are in a playoff spot due to the incompetence of the three aforementioned teams.

3. On December 15th the St.Louis Blues were 11 points back of Edmonton and Anaheim and 12 back of Colorado. Most thought they were out the race, but while the Ducks, Avs and Oilers slumped the Blues went 12-8-1 and now they are in 9th place, one back of Vancouver with three games in hand. Suddenly the Blues are in the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot.

4. The Mikko Koskinen signing, which hasn’t even started yet, is already looking more perplexing. I never understood the need to rush into it, but now with the Oilers still in a playoff race, Cam Talbot will make his third start of the four games coming out of the All-Star break. I agree with Ken Hitchcock playing Talbot more because he’s playing better, but it illustrates the lack of vision from the management group. Why sign Koskinen to three years for $4.5 million when he hasn’t played 30 NHL games for you? Maybe he will pan out and play great, but the timing of the signing was unnecessary and if he doesn’t play well, then the Oilers have another bad contract on the books.

5. The concerning part of that is it illustrates the organization hasn’t learned from previous mistakes. We all make mistakes. You have to at some point in life, as we can learn and grow from them, but the Oilers have yet to show they have learned from previous errors in overpaying players prematurely or focusing more on HOPE than on actual on-ice evidence of a player’s value.

6. The Oilers have lost six straight and have allowed 30 goals during their slide. Their defensive awareness is seemingly getting worse under Hitchcock. Hitch will be in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the best coaching minds the game has seen. He has a demanding style, and it can grate on some players. Right now I wonder if his style is working with this group? The group isn’t that skilled, no question, so no coach will magically cure that, but I also don’t believe they should only be winning five out of 20 games. The players need to be better, but I think Hitchcock needs to approach them differently. I don’t sense they relate to the ultra-demanding, always-in-your-face style.

7. Yesterday the Wild announced that their captain Mikko Koivu is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He wasn’t having a great offensive season with only eight goals, but he plays tough matchups and he creates a huge hole down the middle. It also could impact their leading scorer Zack Parise, who has played more minutes with Koivu than anyone else.

8. The Wild and Oilers forward groups are constructed very differently. Edmonton has the high-end elite scorers, while Minnesota’s leading scorer, Parise with 46, would be fourth on the Oilers. However, the Wild have ten players with 8+ goals. Edmonton only has four. Minnesota wins with depth, but I believe their lack of high-end skill is why they won’t win in the playoffs. The Oilers need to look a the Wild depth forwards and realize those are the players this team needs. Edmonton’s lack of depth was glaring to start the year, but it is getting progressively worse as the season progresses.

9. McDavid and Draisaitl are the first teammates this season to reach 30 goals. Both have 31. McDavid is three points back of Nikita Kucherov in the race for the Art Ross, while Draisaitl is seven back of Alex Ovechkin for the Maurice Richard trophy. It is highly doubtful he’ll catch Ovechkin, but McDavid could win the Art Ross and Draisaitl finish second for the Richard and the Oilers could still miss the playoffs.

10. In the lockout shortened 2013 season, Marty St. Louis won the Art Ross, while teammate Steven Stamkos finished 2nd to Ovechkin for the Richard. The Lightning missed the playoffs. It could happen to the Oilers in 2019.

11. Tobias Rieder skated with McDavid and Draisaitl yesterday. I have to think he was there to maybe get some offensive flow going, but if the game starts tonight and Rieder is on the top line I’d be flabbergasted. Rieder doesn’t have a goal and is showing no signs of scoring. To start him with 97 and 29 makes no sense to me. I’d play Milan Lucic, Jujhar Khaira, Ty Rattie, Zack Kassian or Jesse Puljujarvi well ahead of Rieder at this point. They’ve all shown more offensive flair recently than Rieder.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/7/2019 – 7:00 am MT

  • Bills Bills

    I’ve never really heard you blame the coach. Especially this early into a tenure. Are you getting information that you’re not sharing with us Jason?

    One thing I will say, history has shown that when players get a hard ass, afterwards they tend to appreciate the soft touch a little more. Hopefully this is an opening for JQ to come in next year and coach this team to consistent performances. Although I have no idea why JQ would want to come here. Aside from having hands down the best player on the planet.

    • Jason Gregor

      You pay attention. I don’t blame coaches, because I believe you are only as good as your players. I don’t blame Hitchcock for team’s lack of talent, although he was on board with Manning trade, which raises and eyebrow, and regardless of who is the coach this team needs more talent. No question.

      The Oilers only have 12 points in their past 20 games. That is the worst stretch since they went 3-13-4 in Dallas Eakins final 20 games before he was fired on December 15th, 2014. I’ve been told there is a disconnect right now between Hitch and the players. Losing compounds things, no question, and I wonder if the losses continue if a change is coming.

      • Serious Gord

        Nonsense.

        Dallas Eakins will get a different result out of a given group of player than Scotty Bowman will.

        So yes, coaches deserve some of the blame or credit for a team’s performance.

        I think it highly likely – and visible evidence exists – that hitch is losing the team. His old school tactics appeal to observers like Brownlee but his short tenures at his most recent jobs suggest he needs to retire and stay that way.

        • Jason Gregor

          Bowman wouldn’t have made the 2014/2015 Oilers a playoff team. He might have made them ten points better, sure, but he isn’t a magician..haha.

          As I said, Hitchcock’s style, which is get-on-guys-all-the-time, isn’t working right now. I believe it is a bit old school, and not jiving with this group, but the players liked Todd and they still struggled to win. Coaching is a part for sure, but I don’t solely blame the coaches for 13 years of losing.

    • Jason Gregor

      They did have 101 the next year despite Stamkos only playing 37 games and ST.Louis playing 62, although he led team in scoring with 61 points. They added forward depth in Palat, Johnson, JT Miller and Kucherov (52 games), had same top five Dmen and Ben Bishop became the starter. Also first full year of Jon Cooper. He coached final 14 games in 2013, but then had his first full year.

      So a new coach, a new starter, who was acquired at deadline in 2013 and some depth forwards.

      Dare to dream Oilersnation.

  • corky

    What type of coach would this team relate to? Different players have come and gone over these awful seasons but it seems like they’ve had every type of coach. Could be a millenial thing?

    • sweetweb

      Stop blaming the coach. We’ve had several and the results have been the same…terrible. Oilers management have done a poor job of getting and keeping skilled players.

    • serlio

      Rofl, yup its them damn millenials ruining our hockey team. Get off my lawn ya damn kids. Ya do have a point though, its not wrong to question if hitch is the right fit but our record is far from on him

      • corky

        My point is that the coach and his message is a lot different now. Beforethe coach ruled, but now they are more babysitters than anything. I see it at my own work. Younger employees are handled with kid gloves and they isn’t that same respect between boss and worker as when I started. A good example is the Uber video with the Sens players. Did that look like there was a lot of respect shown to the coaches there?

      • Heschultzhescores

        It’s just our 30 are not as skilled and some clearly lack the hockey IQ to even learn from one of the all-time best coaches the NHL has ever seen. There is something missing on this team…heart. They accept losing way too easily.

  • vetinari

    I’m guessing the team is trying to jumpstart guys like Rieder in an effort to either get some production from them or else showcase them for potential deadline trades. With the goalies, we ticked off Talbot and signaled he’s not in our plans while committing to a new 30 year old starter with less than an NHL season on his resume. Whoever the new GM is will need at least two seasons to clear contracts and cap space from the roster. Ugly.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I have said this already, the Oilers biggest issue that has been plaguing them all year is that they can no defend in their inability to defend in their own end and this was an issue before Hitch. I dont have a clue what system they are using and the players dont seem to have a clue either but whatever it is it clearly doesn’t work and there does not seem to be any will or effort to change it which is baffling. Like got to the basics if it doesnt work and start from scratch.

    I dont know if this is a case of too much Independence with the assistants to do as they see fit or the coaches dont think there is an issue with the Oilers inability to defend but to keep letting that go in is killing them on the scoresheet game in and game out.

    The Oilers goalie struggles are evident yet Dustin Schwartz still has a job, like seriously? The guy needs to go now not later. As for the assistant coaches I seriously question whether they should be back next year, because other than some brief flashes on good things on the PP the defence and PK and goaltending have been brutal, if these guys cant get anything to work and no effort to change it I would seriously consider whether you start letting some assistants go at the end of the season and Schwartz should have been gone last year

    • Heschultzhescores

      I have never seen a team get hemmed in their own zone more than this team…and it has been for years. Its like nobody knows how to break the cycle or clear the puck by winning a battle.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Yup something tells me this was a close fiend thing o a “hey we can save some money and just promote him and only have to give him a nominal salary increase” *high five*….Honestly I never understood the move then nor why he is still here.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Dustin Schwartz has done a fantastic job with Carter Hart in the off season.
        He also helped Mikko Kostkinen adapt the to smaller NHL ice surface too.

        • Dallas Eakins Hair

          There are a lot of other people who worked with Hart, Schwartz was more a matter of convenience due to Hart being from Sherwood Park. Apparently in your mind, Schwartz magical powers are doing wonders for Talbot and Koskinen…lol

        • ed from edmonton

          WTF. Schwartz is coaching against the Oil? Kind of like Hitch sending a note over to Beudrau tonight and saying you really should try matching up the Suter guy against McD whenever you can.

  • gordo

    Since the late 50s early 60s I’ve been a devoted fan of every Edmonton sports team. The Katz Regime oilers, with Six Rings Lowe, are the lowest I’ve ever felt about a team in my city. The management group should maybe start doing the opposite of what is instinctual – like George costanza

  • Odanada

    You can argue that the OBC have no input into player decisions, but I believe they do.
    Most of us here watch every game, absorbing every nuance and, as loyal fan(atics), are pretty absorbed by all things Oilers.
    Pretty much everyone here scratched their head at the Koskinen signing, mostly because they didn’t understand what the rush to sign him was all about. Given that, it stands to reason that someone/something was pushing hard for the signing, but why? As much as I’ve try to figure it out, I’m left scratching my head.
    Then I thought: what if the voices pushing for the signing didn’t actually watch every game? What if they just saw a few of Mikko’s shutouts at home and then whispered “we better lock this down.”
    Is this even possible? How else do you explain the money, the term, the NMC and the rush to sign?
    I’m starting to think the OBC player whisperers in the front office don’t watch the team as much as we do here on the Oiler Nation – and if that’s true, then Holy Fudge!! It’s even worse than we imagine.
    Get out the broom and sweep this shipshow out the door.

    • Svart kaffe

      Plausible theory. Especially since they didn’t really have a clue about how Griffin Reinhardt’s play was coming along when they traded for him. Somebody is seriously stupid or ignorant at that office. Possibly both.

  • Ty Guy

    Hunt scores, Hendricks assist, Dubnyk shuts us out and Cam lets the first shot on goal in…its getting old but i wish i had been betting on these prop bets all year…I’d be rich!!!

  • VK63

    Gregor.
    This line.

    “The concerning part of that is it illustrates the organization hasn’t learned from previous mistakes”.

    Stauff and Co. have this all tied up in a neatly bowed little box. ITS ALL CHIA’s FAULT.

    Honestly, and people WONDER why this franchise flounders in a wasteland of complete cluelessness.
    The shills are so dumb they literally insult anyone with a mildly functioning brain stem.
    Frankly, the entire organization should be forced to listen to their own drivel on repeat until they grasp some shred of a clue.
    It would be vastly more insightful than the next Aquila video…. I guarantee you that.

  • JSR

    In regard to the Oilers overpaying, and not learning from their mistakes…the players don’t want to play in Edmonton, so they have to overpay for almost every player. That’s unfortunate, but it is a reality, when compared to most of the other NHL cities.
    A few years ago, the majority of people thought a mid-sixties Pat Quinn had lost touch with today’s players. Why would a mid-sixties Ken Hitchcock be any different? I don’t believe Hitch will be here next year. He doesn’t need the headaches at this point in his life, and doesn’t need the money.

  • hammer313

    Call it a season, send the dead weight to the NHL, bring up some of the kids, reward them and see what happens. What do you have to lose? Need to kick start the fan base with something and some young guys to watch, could help.

    • A good kick start and I think the only right thing to do is fire them all. Good lord , do they not have a PR department? Mac-T not involved in hockey ops? Title Senior VP Hockey Operations. Hello Mac Fly , if you are going to lie to the fanbase, you need to be much smarter than any of them are.(Fake/purchased MBA’s do not count) . Rome burns while Nero fiddles with counting stacks of taxpayer cash.

  • Consultant

    I really don’t understand the idea of playing Talbot.
    Why showcase a goalie on a tough road game, after a rough loss.
    How we seem to keep devaluing our players is unreal.
    Maybe Koskinen is slightly injured? The contract can’t be rescinded, he is our starter so it would seem we need to start him…

      • I agree, He was having a good game. Cant blame him for being pis*sed about getting pulled. Bad timing. Punish the goaltender because the league has different rules for goaltender interference depending on where your team is located geographically? Would not have made a difference to the outcome, just a reminder that if you make the dance and are north of the 49th, you will be screwed over by the officials, with the blessing of head office.

  • Consultant

    For the record I rarely pick on players, and you will never hear me say a player “sucks” or is “terrible”. I play and so I know all these guys are really good. But I do have a beef with Draisaitl last game. Sure he got two goals but the on Chicago’s fourth goal he did a complete fly-by, I see it too often with him. he talks about wanting to be a good defensive player but I think he needs to step up.

    • Ty Guy

      i Have seen that also….do you also notice when the puck is turned over how he drops his head and trys to look like he is working/skating hard at a back check or to get to the bench?

  • Vanhellian

    I’m pretty sick of hearing how it’s all due to the poor roster. Of course there is glaring holes. But we’ve had an enormous amount of talent, and some pretty good rosters over the last several years, always with the same result. Vegas went to the cup final last year with a pretty mediocre lineup. Having a stacked team won’t ensure that the players play with pace, intensity, desire and accountability. Over the last few years we’ve brought in many of the guys on ON’s wishlist (ie. lucic, reider) but with little change. I get that we have some holes. But blaming the roster is superficial and convenient at best. PROVE ME WRONG

    • Vanhellian

      Further to my point (sorry I’m posting on my coffee break so bear with me): the other day i watched the leafs play the pens. At one point, mitch marner (their leading scorer as you’re likely aware) went down to block a shot, then sprung up and skated like mad to the bench for a change. I mean he showed real hustle, with teeth clenched, all or nothing. It was a small and somewhat insignificant play, but i ask you, when the oilers players change, do they hustle, or do they coast in there? When they check an opposing player, do they skate by, or reach with their stick, or do they make the other guys pay for touching the puck? Those of you who’ve played should understand the difference these little plays make, especially to a coach. Therefore, i would argue that what this team lacks the most is HEART. There is a sense of entitlement that exists throughout this team, starting with the OBC, for sure. There are some holes in the lineup, definitely. But consider this; when Hitch arrived, they went on a run. They played liked a team with purpose. When they lose, its not always due to lack of star players, its because they are DISENGAGED. These guys have the ability to play with other teams. They have the best player in the world. Go out and play every game like its your last (as Gretzky use to say). Give us SOMETHING to cheer about. Win some F*#@KING games, for the love of hockey and all things Edmonton.
      *DISCLAIMER* kind of long-winded post i hope it made sense ?

  • Svart kaffe

    I like Koskinen but the timing of the signing is just so perplexing. Was it one last f*** o** from Chiarelli? He can’t really be as stupid as his moves seems like, can they? Imagine years from now reports surfacing about Chiarelli taking money to put his teams in trouble. It’s no less crazy than what he’s been doing here, especially for the last few months with Manning, Koskinen and Caggiula.

    Don’t worry, I’m joking. A bit.

    • HockeyRooster

      I am not a conspiracy theorist in the least but it’s hard not to agree with you. I feel like Chia was trolling us. Caggiula for Manning…that’s a real trade? The Koskinen deal? I like the goalie enough but the deal and the timing were ridiculous. The Oil will need 3 Steve Yzerman’s to clean this mess up…

      • Svart kaffe

        I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all, just having a laugh at this mess. But somehow it kind of makes sense that, for example, someone in the Chicago organization might have offered him personal compensation for taking on Manning.

        Though with 99.97% chance he’s just incompetent.

  • Big Nuggets

    Focusing on hope instead of on ice results is a pretty accurate way to describe the pro scouting. There are many examples that show this but one that still annoys me is gifting a spot to Puljujarvi. They left that RW position completely open for an 18 yr old that had never played in North America. Not trying to knock Puljujarvi, I just think it is foolish to place that much expectation on an 18 yr old.

    On another note, Hitch’s coaching style might not be what the players are used to but I think there is nothing a coach can do when goaltending lets you down too frequently. If we could get 60 minutes of quality goaltending there’s a good chance for a win. They had some good efforts recently, and still lost, which to me says the goaltending and lack of depth is to blame. I actually think Hitch is trying to coach his ass off right now but the bottom 6 forwards can’t compete, the bottom 3 defencemen can’t compete and the goaltending is iffy.

    Lastly I don’t mind Reider getting a shot on the top line. It’s not going to stop McDavid from scoring so what difference will it really make.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I’m not sure how anyone has arrived at the conclusion Talbot us playing better than Kosk. Two of Kosks recent losses were Talbot being pulled. I’m sorry but Talbkt is not playing better than Kosk. In fact, I’d go a step further and say Kosk’s play had been hurt by continually putting Talbot in the net even when Kosk was hot. The players play better in front of Kosk as well. This is simply the Oil showcasing an inferior and declining goaltender in Hope’s of dumping him to free up cap for another Chia Chit move.

  • hagar

    You point out all the stupid errors managment keeps making over and over JG. The fact the same people have been around all this time, for the same mistakes made over and over regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to be in charge, should prove to anyone with a brain the real problem.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Ah Devan Dubnyk. Remember that guy? An up-and-coming goalie prospect who was run out of town by the fans and had extra pressure put on him because our then-GM MacT couldn’t keep his mouth shut? Funny story, he leaves Edmonton and becomes a Vezina candidate. And now, even funnier, the same is happening to Cam! Imagine that? You’d think we would’ve learned? But nope, it’s ALWAYS the goalies fault.

    I said it before, I’ll say it again. No goalie in this league would thrive in Edmonton with the way the defence plays and the goalie coach coaches. If y’all want to run Cam out of town, by all means. Just don’t be surprised when he joins Brossoit and Dubnyk as goalies who thrive elsewhere.