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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Recently by Jason Gregor:
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/7/2019 – 7:00 am MT