There is a lot going on in our Nation’s Capital right now, so much so that the last place Ottawa Senators’ chair seems ice cold compared to the flaming hot seat of our Prime Minister. The Ottawa Senators are likely appreciative of all the attention the SNC-Lavalin scandal is getting as they skate out the rest of the season in last place. GM Pierre Dorian couldn’t convince Mark Stone, Matt Duchene or Ryan Dzingel to sign a contract extension, so instead of losing them for nothing in the summer he traded them to Vegas and Columbus.
He did a decent job or recouping assets from a position of weakness. That was good, however, the Duchene trade he made last season is coming back to haunt him as the Colorado Avalanche own the Senators first round pick, and the Avs will have the best odds to win the draft lottery.
Meanwhile in Edmonton, the Oilers will be looking for a new GM and head coach this off-season, and once again will be involved in the draft lottery. Oilersnation has draft-lottery fatigue.
Currently the Oilers sit 26th in the NHL with a 7.5% chance of winning the draft lottery, a 7.8% chance to pick second and a 8% chance to draft third. I recognize it is the last thing the Oilersnation cares about. I am as fatigued having to talk about the upcoming draft and lottery odds in February as you are.
It sucks, and the only thing worse for a fanbase would be to finish 31st and have zero chance of winning the lottery. I feel for Senators fans.
But I also feel for Oilers fans as they watch another disappointing season play out. There is the Leon Draisaitl 50-goal watch, not to mention if he can reach 100 points. He’d join a pretty exclusive club on both accounts. Draisaitl and Connor McDavid could also both reach 100 points.
Since 2000, only four sets of teammates have totaled 100 points in the same season: Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson with the 2006 Senators, Marty St.Louis and Vincent Lecavalier with the 2007 Lightning, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the 2009 Penguins and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom with the 2010 Capitals.
This year, we could see three sets of teammates reach the 100-point plateau: Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in Tampa along with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in Colorado along with Draisaitl and McDavid.
Watching great individual performance is fun for fans, but ultimately you want to see your team win. Edmonton doesn’t have enough depth to win, and make no mistake, the players in the room know it — especially the top-end players. They should be extremely frustrated with management, and I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the exit meetings.
My concern with the Oilers organization right now is too many in management still believe this team has more talent than they do. I believe their philosophy on the game is out dated. I also question if they know how to work with young players and how they evaluate talent. The recent track record suggests they don’t, and until I see a major overhaul of the organization I don’t see how it will change.
With the Oilers all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, I sense the final 18 games of this season will be more frustrating for Oilersnation than in previous years.
You won’t need 95 points to make the playoffs. Heck, both wildcard teams are on pace for 87 points. This was a year you didn’t need to be great, just slightly above average to make the playoffs, and the management couldn’t provide the core group of players a solid supporting cast.
Calling this season a disappointment would be an understatement, and I know the players feel that way. The harsh reality is this team doesn’t have enough overall talent right now. The good news is they have top-end talent, which is the hardest to obtain, and the new GM just needs to fill out the roster with competent players.
I’d use the final 18 games to see what Colby Cave, Josh Currie, Jujhar Khaira (when he returns) can do in different roles. You still play to win, but I’d hope management would tell Ken Hitchcock they’d like to see those players get a few more minutes and see what they are capable of.
I suspect the plan was to play Stolarz tonight, but Koskinen only played 24 minutes last night and I suspect he gets a chance to battle back tonight. The lines are just based on yesterday as the Oilers didn’t skate this morning, but I suspect we’ll see a few tweaks. Last night Kassian and Gagner each saw time on the top line. I’d move Rieder out of the top six. Enough is enough. He can play in the bottom six, but right now he is not an offensive threat. Give someone else a chance in the top-six.
And if you missed it, Jesse Puljujarvi will have season ending hip surgery next week.
The Sens got spanked 7-2 by Washington on Tuesday and Edmonton lost 6-2 last night in Toronto, so I’d assume both clubs will be playing for pride.
Ottawa has a very young forward group, and as we witnessed between 2010-2016, having too much youth rarely leads to wins. The Sens will need to be patient with their youngsters, and would be wise to let the majority of them develop a year or two in the AHL. Fill out their NHL roster with veterans. They might not win a lot in the next year or two, but if the plan is to be competitive in the future, then they must avoid rushing players.
Those who are ready will show you, but don’t do what the Oilers did recently with Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto and hope they are ready.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
In one corner, you have the Edmonton Oilers.
A team that has been rebuilding since the dawn of time. They have had the good fortune of selecting first overall a remarkable four times in a span of six years and somehow managed to get worse because of it. They have the game’s most electrifying player in Connor McDavid and they put him with Alex Chiasson. Intentionally. Their roster is a truly horrid sight riddled with Peter Chiarelli’s mistakes and is frankly unpleasant to look at. They finally did the inevitable and turned the team over to Gretzky…only it was a guy named KEITH Gretzky.
And in the other corner, you have the Ottawa Senators.
A team so terrible that they make Edmonton look like a well-oiled machine. The analytics community told them that their run to the Eastern Conference finals may have been a little bit lucky so they responded by blowing up the entire roster. Except they held on to the bad players. Their Owner is a truly awful man/cartoon villain that takes pleasure in torturing hockey fans in the Nation’s Capital. Yesterday, he killed the idea of a downtown rink and announced he’s looking for a new location which will almost certainly be in the parking lot of the current one.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: This is just for Randaman in the comments section: Oilers defeat a young Ottawa club 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon Draisaitl scores a goal. He’s on fire with 15 goals and 21 points in his last 15 games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Tobias Rieder is nearing a mark the NHL has rarely seen since it starting tracking shots on goal in 1960. Rieder has 73 shots on goal this year but doesn’t have a goal. Only two forwards since 1960 have had 73 shots in a season and not scored. Bill Muckalt had 73 in 70 games for the Senators in 2002, and Craig Adams had 84 shots in 82 games with the 2010 Penguins. Rieder fires two shots on goal, but doesn’t score, and moves into second place on this very obscure list.