GDB Game Notes: Islanders @ Oilers

The wildcard race in the Western Conference is at a level we’ve never seen in the shootout era. The Minnesota Wild made the playoffs with 87 points in 2016, the lowest point total for a wildcard/eighth seeded team since 2003 when the New York Islanders made the postseason with 83 points. There was no shootout in 2003 and after overtime the game ended in a tie, so we didn’t have “three point” games.

Two weeks ago the Wild held the final wildcard spot and were on pace for 87 points, but this morning the Colorado Avalanche have it and they are on pace for 83 points.

1. The Avs have 61 points in 60 games, while Chicago and Minnesota are on pace for 82 points, followed by Arizona and Vancouver for 80, Anaheim at 78 and Edmonton at 75. The Oilers dressing room still believes they are in the race, and they should, considering seven games ago Chicago was six points back of Minnesota. All you have to do is get hot for ten games and you will be in the thick of the Unamazing race.

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2. The most concerning factor for me regarding this season is how the Oilers could miss the playoffs in a year where it was the easiest to make the playoffs in 15 years. All they need is 82-84 points most likely and yet, right now it looks like they won’t reach it. That is why many fans’ and season ticket holder’s frustration is at an all-time high. With two elite forwards you couldn’t build a supporting cast good enough to achieve 84 points. Brutal.

3. This year looks like a major outlier. Since the shootout began in 2006 here are the point totals for the final two playoff spots in each conference.

Year           East                  West
2006         93, 92                95, 95
2007         93, 92               104, 96
2008         94, 94                94, 91
2009         95, 93                92, 91
2010         88, 88               100, 95
2011         96, 93               98, 97
2012         92, 92               96, 95
2013        95, 94*              95, 94* (Prorated due to 48-game schedule)
2014        93, 93                98, 91
2015        99, 98               100, 99
2016       100, 96               96, 87
2017       102, 95               94, 94
2018        97, 97                98, 95

The final wildcard berth in the West over the past 13 seasons was 93.8 points and 93.5 in the east. In nine of the 13 years you needed 94 points to get in.

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4. Many are asking why? I can’t find a reasonable answer. Parity is the easy answer. Right now no teams are trending to be below 72 points, so with none hovering around the 62-67 point mark they have to take points from other teams. Also only three Western teams are on pace for 100 points with Calgary trending for the most at 109. Most years we have seen at least five teams with 100+ points and some years up to seven.

5. Wild GM Paul Fenton had a great quote when asked about the Wild’s brutal month of February. “It hasn’t been a lot of fun trying to sleep at night. When I go to sleep, I find myself crying like a baby.” I suspect Oilers management and many Oilers fans can relate.

NHL.com writers vote Leon Draisaitl as Hart Trophy winner

6. Yesterday, Christian Pagnani had a good piece on finding the next Alex Chiasson. Last year he said the Oilers need to find a replacement for Maroon, and Chiasson was one of his suggestions. His list was interesting, but I ask: what about just re-signing Chiasson? I keep reading and hearing how he was on a heater, and that this season is an outlier for him. But when you look at his 5×5 play numbers are right in line with previous years.

2014 with Dallas he had 6-14-20 in 846 min.
2015 with Ottawa he had 7-11-18 in 780 min.
2017 with Calgary he had 11-9-20 in 940 min.
This year with Edmonton he has 9-5-14 in 641 min.

The difference this year is he has excelled on the PP with 6-5-11. If you could get him signed at $1m and have him produce around 20 5×5 points I’d have no issues with that. He can help on the PP and PK as well. Yes, he had a hot month, but his overall 5×5 numbers aren’t much different. The difference is he got an opportunity on the PP, and right now I see no other right shot on the team who is a for sure to produce the same in that role. Pagnani brought up some names I’d look at for sure, but what if you re-sign Chiasson on a decent deal and sign one of those names he mentioned? It is obvious Edmonton needs to improve many winger positions next season. If you trade Chiasson you are creating another hole to fill.

7. I’ve learned people will believe things even if the truth stares them right in the face. If people actually believe not vaccinating their child is smart, it doesn’t surprise me that some will keep hammering the drum that Leon Draisaitl is only good with Connor McDavid. Science has proven we NEED to vaccinate our children, and the stats show Draisaitl is an elite point producer. Does he produce more with McDavid? Of course, just like McDavid produces more with Draisaitl.

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Here are McDavid’s 5×5 numbers this year. (992 total minutes)

In 566 minutes with Draisaitl he has 31 points.
In 416 minute without Draisaitl he has 14 points.

Here are Draisaitl’s 5×5 numbers. (956 total minutes)

In 566 minutes with McDavid he has 27 points.
In 390 without McDavid he has 12 points.

McDavid has also played 302 minutes with the Oilers third best forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while Draisaitl has played 71 minutes with him.

I don’t see how anyone can believe Draisaitl is overpaid or only good because of McDavid. Yes he produces more when he plays with McDavid, like pretty much every other top scorer when they play with another highly skilled forward. Can he improve the odd defensive read? Yes, but don’t confuse the two situations. They are separate conversations.

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Throwback Thursday: This week in 1992, Edmonton Oilers eliminate Vancouver Canucks from playoffs

8. Last year the New York Islanders allowed the most goals, 293, in the NHL. This season they’ve allowed the fewest at only 137. That is 17 fewer goals than Dallas, who is second with 154 allowed. The Islanders allowed 3.57 goals/game last year and 2.29 this season. It is an amazing turnaround. Their top-six D-men are the same, although Ryan Pulock is now playing 22 minutes/game up from 18/game last year. Barry Trotz improved their overall team defence and both their goalies have played excellent.

9. In 30 starts Robin Lehner 18-9-4 with a .929sv% and 2.08 GAA. Thomas Greiss has made 29 starts and has a .928sv% and a 2.26 GAA. Prior to this season Lehner’s career SV% was .915 while Greiss’ was .912. Trotz has revamped the Islanders defensive and neutral zone commitments. He demands it, the players have bought in, are playing much more responsible which has resulted in wins. I look forward to speaking with Trotz about how he has gone about it. It isn’t as easy as saying, “play this way.”

10. Their offence has slowed down. They were 7th last year with 3.18 goals/game, and now they are 21st at 2.85, but the .33 goals/game drop isn’t easily countered by dropping their goals against by 1.28 goals/game. The Islanders are scoring less, but they have 35 wins in 59 games this year. They won 35 times in 82 games last season. The Islanders are +31 in GF/GA, which is 5th best in the NHL behind Tampa Bay (+77), Calgary (+47), Toronto (+41),  and San Jose (+32). The Oilers are 29th at -35.

11. I expect Patrick Kane will get a lot of consideration for the Hart trophy. Kane has been unreal for Chicago, especially lately. He is on a 19-game point streak where he has scored 16-26-42. Even if he goes pointless in his next game he’ll have averaged over two points a game for a 25% stretch of the season. Twenty-eight of those points have come at even strength. He is absolutely shredding the league right now, and even with Nikita Kucherov having a stretch of 15 points in four games, Kane is only seven back in the scoring race. Right now he and Kucherov are the front runners for the award. The crazy part is on January 1st no one had Kane in the Hart conversation.

Recently by Jason Gregor:


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.

Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/21/2019 – 7:00 am MT

  • Dr.Drai29

    Oilers are out of the playoff race, considering their play the last 26 games they arnt getting “hot” at all this season. No heart in that locker room whatsoever. Just trade whoever you can to make cap space for next season. I have officially given up this year !

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    Chiasson wont sign for 1M. It would be nice, but probably not allowed if we had a gentlemans agreement to trade him and let him go on a playoff run than bring him back. Problem is then another team is whipering in his ear. But good luck signing him for 1M, last i checked yzerman wasnt our GM

      • puckle-head

        It doesn’t baffle me. Turning on good, or even decent players, because management fails to surround them with a good roster is a proud tradition of Oiler fandom.

    • HockeyRooster

      I think Drai is having a whale of a season and even though he could pick up his defense a bit, he is the solution and not the problem. I like that Gregor pointed out the both he and Connor’s numbers are lower when playing apart.
      I bet Drai’s defensive awareness will improve when the rest of his team is contributing and one extra back check is the difference between a win and a loss.

    • puckle-head

      Agreed. I will say that it’s fair to point out (without shade to Draisitl) that had Chiarelli been a better negotiator, Draisaitl probably could’ve been signed for… maybe $1m per year cheaper, give or take? But even then it’s not really an “overpay” it’s just not much of a bargain.

  • camdog

    Same script as Arizona -Arizona played 3 in 4 the other night after a bad game in Calgary. Expect Islanders to come out strong, Oilers to put 0n a push in the third.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I hate the argument that Draisitl is only good with McDavid, simply because people assume that McDavid makes everyone else better. Sure with guys like Rattie and Maroon this is true, but the numbers AND on-ice play suggest that Connor and Leon make each other better. Do I want to see Leon run his own line? Of course I do. But if. McDavid and Draisitl make each other better, why not use that to your advantage?

    • SSB1963

      Never understood the constant blender. Why not run with pairs, McD with Drai, Nuge with Chaisson, etc. build some chemistry that is what the majority of successful teams have done in the past.

  • Bills Bills

    The question is not if Draisaitl should play with McDavid. The question is what will they do with three legitimate top line left shooting centers after they win the Hughes lottery?

    My suggestion would be to turn both smaller centers Nuge and Hughes into wingers.

    I’m only partially kidding.

  • Todd the electron rod

    “All you have to do is get hot for ten games and you will be in the thick of the Unamazing race.”
    Should be easy for a team without Connor.
    And a fill in coach, an interim GM, and a man who knows a thing or two about a winning burger.
    Another winning recipe for success.

  • grumpyKoala

    I do not think anybody disrespect Drai ability to put points on the scoreboard. He had a fantastic night away from Connor lately and we deserve more of that. There is some of us that care about other things and sheer point production and the big German need to be a LOT better in those area. Mtl show the door to a perennial 35 goal scorer and do not regret it one bit. Now I am not suggesting to do the same with Drai, the return would have to be unbelievable, but just because there a lot of us that are unhappy with his play dont have any correlation with a measles shot.

    • Oily Reign

      Our lack of depth forces Hitch to play our stars for too many minutes during games. Playing them at Junior CHL minutes, forces them to conserve energy on shifts. Hence the “junior” back checking.

  • Flint

    Re: #7. I believe a lot of the criticism comes from the completeness of Draisaitl’s game. He is paid to be the second best player on the team and one of the best players in the NHL. He’s not just paid to get points. The Oilers don’t have the luxury of having highly paid (arguably overpaid) one-dimensional players, it’s a big part of the reason why they are a bad team. Yet they have them in spades, Lucic is a good example.

    Can Draisaitl rack up points? Sure! Alone? Sure. With McDavid. Even more. On the PP. Tons!

    But he’s also a negative possession player 5 on 5. (CF% Rel. -0,2, C/60 -2,9, he gets favorable zone starts 55%. Now, people will scream “Corsi is meaningless”. Ok, fine. But is he without criticism? I don’t think so. By the eye test, the same.

    Points are one piece of a puzzle. Yes, he gets points. But the Oilers have two players in the top 10 in league scoring, they’re going to miss the playoffs again, they’re almost last in the division, conference and league.

    One piece of the puzzle. You gotta work hard every shift. You gotta play defense. You gotta lead by example. You have to do it all, especially on a team with a whole slew of young players who are learning from those core players.

    They’re not paid to get points. Points are a means to and end, and that end is winning. They’re paid to win.

    • rnj

      Yeah guess the Bolts should get rid of that Stamkos guy, same money as Draisaitl and only 2 more points a 2% better Corsi on a team 25 places ahead in the standings.

        • rnj

          I’m not saying literally get rid of Stamkos. I’m pointing out that Draisaitl is producing almost identical numbers as Stamkos with a substantially worse team around him, to the point where complaining about Draisaitl “not being complete” is ridiculous

      • Flint

        Winning. Tampa is doing it, Edmonton isn’t. Picking out Stamkos is arguing my point. You’re part of the solution or… Stamkos is part of the solution, since TB in 1st place.

        Again, points doesn’t = wins. Points are meaningless without wins.

        • rnj

          Stamkos is part of the solution because he has an actual NHL team around him and a competent organization. Draisaitls job as a player is to put up points.

          Draisaitl has 70 something points in 59 games, and he’s -1 on the season. Do you really look at that and go “that guy needs to be a better defensive player for the Oilers to win games”? Draisaitl is more part of the solution in Edmonton than Stamkos is in Tampa. He’s doing basically the same with much less.

          How can you look at one guy and say he’s part of the solution because his team is better? He’s -1 on a team with one of the worst differentials in the league.. how are you saying he’s not good defensively? It makes literally zero sense

    • WHH

      Then as Oily Reign said you have to play him less. You can’t expect both Leon and Connor to play crazy minutes while going all out for every minute of every shift. If they don’t score we don’t win, hence the cheating for offense. The rest could surely play better defense.

      • Oily Reign

        Add to that, we are also usually behind after only a few shots/minutes and now our whole team is taking shortcuts for more offense… and we know how that turns out…
        We need better goaltending and we need to stop allowing that early first goal. Until we do, we don’t have a clue the team that we have. The team that went on that early streak with Hitch, or the pile that has been playing.

  • KennyG

    Lets stop talking about playoffs please. This season is over and the only thing that can hurt this team now is to go on a meaningless run that takes them out of the lotto.. The first step of crawling out of PC missmanagement era is to get an nhl ready player from the draft. Please do an article on what player from this years draft fits in as top 6 winger/scorer. If there is no player that can fill this void via draft then who could we trade that pick for that would suit our needs?

    • The mismanagement will continue. It will go something like this. Oilers boardroom, present at the meeting are Daryl Katz ,Scott Howson, K Lowe, Mac-T (Even though they are not part of hockey ops) . Ok boys do we have a bowl on the table? Perfect, everyone put their name on a folded piece of paper and throw it in the bowl. Yahoo says Scott, never been POHO before. K Lowe draws head coach, Mac-T draws GM. Excellent boys, let’s get ready for a press conference to announce our new management team. But first , more Gretzky red wine to celebrate this vast achievement. Cheers!

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Good column, Jason. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, nor have I done a lick of research, but I would venture a guess that one of the reasons why the playoff race in the west is so unamazing is it’s because it’s a byproduct of expansion (i.e. adding Vegas last year).

    You mentioned the “parity” in the west, but that’s really just another word for “mediocrity” and we’ve seen this before in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the league expanded. It kinda throws the competitive “equilibrium” out of balance for a while when you add 25 players to a league that they probably shouldn’t have been in before. Yes, the Knights did well last year, but it does throw things off.

    Otherwise, the West is in a “weird” place right now. The bottom half of the conference has been up and down like a toilet seat over the last two or three years (Oilers included), in terms of how the teams have been operated and coached. My guess, though, is it’ll get even weirder when the Seattle Whatevers join the league in a couple of years. Hopefully the Oilers have their act together by then.

  • btrain

    Jason, I think there are a couple misconceptions here.
    1st, Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think many folks are suggesting that they should trade Chiasson if he is willing to sign at a reasonable amount. But many question why he would want to sign now in Edmonton? Its a reasonably safe bet someone gives him at least a mill regardless of how the season unfolds. Whereas if he gets on a heater for a playoff team, he may stand to double his money. Anyway, I think there is heavy doubt from this fan base that the Oilers get a reasonable deal done, so why not consider what you could get for him and who would replaced him?

    2nd. For good or bad, hindsight continues to creep in when evaluating Draisaitl’s contract and I don’t believe, in this situation, that is a fair way to look at it. There no sense in bellyaching about it because he done well to live up to the deal. However, the problem is that instead of making what he has come to be worth, the Oilers and Chiarelli missed an incredible opportunity to do even better.
    Why and how did Draisaitl end up with a figure that flirted with unreasonable at the time it was signed when management was in a significant position of strength? Why should we be OK with it now when instead of saying he is worth 8.5 and paid 8.5 we could be saying he is worth 8.5 and paid 7.5 or even less? These are the type of value deals strongly managed teams fight for and seem to get done. Shouldn’t we expect the same?
    Just look down the road at Gaudreau. The Flames played hardball and there is no denying their best player is also signed to a value contract. Should Flames fans be frustrated that Gaudreau isn’t being paid all that he is worth?
    Let me be clear, I have no problems with Draisaitl as a player and I wear his jersey proudly. But we are doing management no favors by giving them a pass for mediocre work and missing critical windows of opportunity when it comes to asset management. What’s done is done, but to view it positively based on hindsight ignores a fundamental problem with how this team has been managed for years.

    • ed from edmonton

      Agree that trading Chaisson would give the opportunity for a trial run for one of the many wingers doing well in the Bake.

      However, saying that $8.5M for Drai was ever an overpay is simply ignorant. Drai’s 8 year contract incudes “selling” 3 UFA years. We can speculate might get if he were available in 3.25 years as a 100 point player as a UFA. Tavares got north of $11M per year. A number in the $15M range might not be too far off.
      Geaudrau’s contract is also good value, but to keep things in perspective. The munchin’s contract was signed one year earlier and was for only 6 years which includes only 1 year of UFA being sold. For the next 6 years of the contract Drai’s contract will be the gift that keeps on giving.
      It will be interesting to see what Tkachuk signs for this summer. He is about a PPG player this year which means a number around $10M night be expected. However, the Phlegms have had a tendency of going for shorter term contracts (i.e. fwere or no UFA years included) at a discounted price.

      • Oily Reign

        Like the “discounted” price the leafs paid for Matthews shorter term contract?
        No, the Phlegms will be paying big dollars for any UFA years added. He wants to play in the U.S like Matthews.

      • btrain

        Perhaps the issues is around calling it an “overpay” now that he is living up to it and that he will likely be a value down the road. But unlike Tkatchuk he was not a PPG player at the end of his entry level contract and his ability to drive his own line was questionable. So a good chunk of Drai’s salary had to be based on projections. Fortunatly those projections have worked out quite well.

        Let me use a more extreme example to get at my point of using hindsight, which you are using by referring to the 100pt player he looks to have become and the player Tavares has already demonstrated to be.

        If Koskinen is a top 5 goaltender next season does that then make giving him 4.5 mill, when they did, a good decision? Technically if he is a top 5 goaltender that’s full value at 4.5. However, when he signed, he was on a 10 game skid on a 30 game career. DeSmith, with more experience and better numbers had just signed days before for 1.25mill x 3 years and represented a solid comparable.

        The point is, regardles of what the player is now and what they continue to become throughout their contract, the circumstances at the time that contract was signed does not change. It’s an opportunity missed even if, with hindsight, it has turned out well.

  • Odanada

    So…. I post a comment. It doesn’t post it and when I try again, it tells me it’s a duplicate. No foul language….Hmmm????
    It’s absolutely baffling at times

  • Heschultzhescores

    Chiasson’s career numbers say he’s not worth much more than a million. We need to stop overpaying guys when they go on a hot streak, unless we can pay them less when they come down to earth again. Which the NHLPA would not allow.

  • ed from edmonton

    Thanks for the summary of Chaissons last few years. Confirms that the 1st half if this year was an anomaly and he is easily replaced. Best asset management is to trade him and replace him with another PTO or minimum wage guy or one of the wingers doing well in the Bake. One of the biggest errors continued by fans and also by guys like Gregor is hat when they see a player that has shown some level of ability they think he must be unique, Chaisson certainly isn’t unique. To use a Loweism players like Chaisson are a dime a dozen. Remember Chaisson is probably playing in Europe if Upshall hadn’t flunked his physical.

  • Oiler Al

    The latter games are the real Chaison. Hitch demands better defense, Chaison cant give you both games.When he was scoring goals came from hanging around the [Penner] net, but at the cost of defensive coverage.He can do okay, at either one but not both.

  • Abagofpucks

    The flames season comes to a crashing halt after 4 games in the playoffs. Then turtles demands 9 mil x5 in the summer Bt tries to be smooth and low balls him, so turtles says kiss my rich A$$ and signs in the east.