Connor McDavid will return to the lineup tonight. Unless you’ve just awoken from a coma and are unaware of the state of the Edmonton Oilers, it should be obvious how much McDavid means to the team. But when you glance at the current group of supporting forwards it becomes even more glaring how horrific of a job management has done in assembling NHL forwards.
McDavid has 31 goals this season, the second-fourth lines at practice yesterday had a combined 31 NHL goals this season.
Rieder (0)-Cave (0)-Chiasson (17)
Lucic (5)-Brodziak (4)-Currie (0)
Gagner (1)-Malone (0)-Rattie (4)
That is the exact reason Bob Nicholson needs to make more changes in the organization this summer. Either they have too many “yes-men” who agreed with Chiarelli and let him make asinine trade after asinine trade, or some of them agreed with the moves. Either way, there needs to be more changes in the management than just removing Chiarelli. Nicholson spoke about doing a thorough interview process for the next GM, and thankfully that is the plan, but he also needs to look deep inside his existing organization and realize those in evaluating positions were not good enough. The pro scouts have not done a good enough job.
That has to be the focus, and it needs to remain in the forefront, and not let white noise conversations mute what I see as the major flaw of the organization.
“I know there is a lot of chat around what Draisaitl can and can’t do,” said TSN analyst Ray Ferraro on my show yesterday. “There are times when his skating looks labourous, but that doesn’t mean he is labouring. He doesn’t have the smoothest stride. Okay, so he doesn’t have the smoothest stride. Oh well.
“There are times when he skates and I wonder why he has two hands on his stick. I don’t know, that’s the way he skates. Then he’s got the puck. How many points does he have now? 71. He is doing just fine.
“I find the Draisaitl can or cannot drive a line topic is a misguided concern in Edmonton. The problems are elsewhere. It’s not whether he can play centre. Because he can. It’s not if he can play wing with McDavid. Because he can. They don’t have enough players around them to have them in positions for the team to be the best they can be. They have a shortage of skill. A shortage of talent,” continued Ferraro.
Just look at the nine forwards Chiarelli and others believed could make this team a playoff contender. Of course some players have to shoulder the blame of not performing well enough, mainly Tobias Rieder and Milan Lucic among those nine. Alex Chiasson has been just fine. Yes, he is in a slump now, but his season totals are more than what you’d expect from him. Kyle Brodziak is a fourth line centre and wasn’t supposed to produce a lot of offence, but asking the others to contribute offensively in the NHL is simply unrealistic.
If Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi were in the lineup they’d only add seven goals. So, I’m not using injuries as an excuse for the lack of offence.
The Oilers enter play tonight at 26th in goals/game, despite having three players who are third, tenth and tied for 48th in NHL scoring. To add to the heartache the Oilers are 27th in goals against/game. This is why they sit in 28th place in the NHL.
Ken Hitchcock wouldn’t confirm the top lines. We might see McDavid and Draisaitl centre their own lines to start. I asked Ken Hitchcock about Tobias Rieder playing on the second line prior to last game and he said it was because they wanted to play quick players with Sam Gagner. Well, Rieder and his zero goals are still there despite Gagner, who played well I thought on Tuesday, not being there. Rieder is never around the net. I can’t remember the last quality scoring chance he had. He needs to get to the paint, and if not, then stop playing him. I’d consider giving Currie a shot ahead of Rieder.
Currie had 15 goals in 17 games before he was recalled. I know it is the AHL, but he was the hottest scorer in the league. The Oilers can’t score, yet Hitchcock only played Currie five minutes on Tuesday. I know it was his first game and he hadn’t had a practice, but I noticed he was around the puck. I watched Currie very closely and his anticipation of where the puck was going was very good. He was around the puck despite barely playing. Why not play the player who at least has some offensive confidence instead of continue to hold out hope that some of these others players will score?
Also Jesse Puljujarvi’s injury could be worse than originally expected. Hitchcock was vague on what it was. He didn’t want to answer it and said management would speak on it. He did say Jujhar Khaira will be out two weeks though. I’m hearing Puljujarvi will get an MRI. It is a lower body issue.
The Islanders are winning by playing great defensively. They’ve allowed the fewest goals in the NHL, after surrendering the most last season. They aren’t as dynamic offensively, however, and I wonder if Lou Lamoriello will try to add a scorer at the deadline. They could use a left winger to play with Barzal.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
I do want to mention (again) that Barry Trotz said (again) that the Islanders “had too many passengers” while grading the Islanders “an absolute F.” Because for all of Jack Capuano’s flaws, using the ol’ “passengers” term after losses was hardly unique to him among NHL coaches, though it drew hyper-ire from many fans. (Yes, we made a t-shirt referencing it, but that was for Cappy’s favorite phrases.) Anyway, some fans put way too much emphasis on Capuano’s lingo (he talked a lot about “structure” too, remember); right now we are spoiled by Trotz’s articulate and expansive answers — and results — but even he knows a passenger (or two) when he sees one.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Islanders lost 4-2 in Calgary last night, but the Oilers are unable to take advantage and their home woes continue with a 3-2 loss.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers outshoot the Islanders, but lose their fifth consecutive game. They outshot opponents in the previous four as well.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl scores a PP goal and it puts him on pace to score 19 which would be the third most in Oilers history. Wayne Gretzky (1984) and Ryan Smyth (1997) are tied for the franchise record with 20 PP goals. Draisaitl’s PP success will somehow be construed as a negative from those who don’t like his game. “He should score more at even strength,” they will argue. Draisaitl is on pace for 48 goals, the most by any Oilers player since Jimmy Carson scored 49 in 1989. If he gets hot he might become only the fifth player to score 50 goals in a season with the Oilers.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/21/2019 – 12:00 pm MT