GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Senators

One of the best ways to learn in business is by watching and tracking how other businesses succeed, but also watching those who struggle. I find it is much easier to mirror the mistakes of the unsuccessful businesses rather than just copy what successful ones do. Why? Because the right decision is usually the tougher choice, just like in life.

If you want to be healthy, it is much easier not to work out regularly than it is to work out. It is easier to eat junk food than it is to make a healthy meal.

It is the same in sports. And I’d hope Daryl Katz and Bob Nicholson are paying attention.

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1. The Oilers got dismantled by a much deeper Toronto Maple Leafs team last night. If you looked at individuals, the Oilers’ best forward, Connor McDavid, is better than Auston Matthews and Leon Draisaitl is better than Mitch Marner. But then the Leafs’ third to 10th forwards are all better than Edmonton’s. They have a better goalie and Morgan Reilly is the best defender. Also, the Leafs cleaned house in management and that is what Edmonton needs to do this summer. I’m sorry, but you can’t change one person, the general manager, and assume it will change everything in your organization.

2. When Brendan Shanahan came in he got the green light from ownership to clean house. It cost them money to remove people under contract, but Shanahan let a lot of people go. Losing is contagious and the Leafs had sucked for a long time, just like the Oilers now. It might be painful for Daryl Katz, but you need to realize what you have now isn’t working. It is more than the head coach and GM. And don’t talk about Stanley Cups. Focus on becoming a consistent playoff team first.

3. Tonight the Oilers face the Ottawa Senators, and if Katz and company aren’t careful they could find themselves in a similar situation to the Senators in a few years. Within a six month period between September 2018 and February 2019, the Senators were forced to trade away Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone. All were pending UFAs, and none of them were going to re-sign in Ottawa. General Manager Pierre Dorain received a lot of draft picks, one really high prospect and some other prospects, but will those players mature into quality players like Karlsson, Stone or Duchene? He will now have to rebuild their entire organization.

4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a UFA in two years, same with Adam Larsson. Then a few years later Oscar Klefbom can hit the market followed by Leon Draisaitl and finally Connor McDavid. Make no mistake, if Katz doesn’t change the direction and culture off the ice, these players won’t re-sign in Edmonton. This isn’t fear mongering, it is the simple truth. The Sens’ top players didn’t like Eugene Melnyk’s leadership and some things he’d said off the ice. Remember, the Senators were one goal away from the 2017 Stanley Cup finals when they lost game seven of the Eastern Conference final in overtime. One goal away from a Cup appearance, and then 15 months later Karlsson was traded to San Jose. Things unravelled quickly for the Senators.

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5. Under Katz’s ownership, the Oilers have been plagued by losing. Unlike Melynk, Katz has secured a new rink, which is a main reason the arena is still sold out, but since Katz took over in 2008 the Oilers have been the worst franchise in the NHL. They have the most losses and the fewest wins. Their 2017 playoff appearance was the outlier. This off-season Katz must let Nicholson hire a general manager who will be able to fill out his management team how he sees fit. If Katz isn’t willing to make the tough decision and remove more people in hockey operations, not much will change in Edmonton.

6. That doesn’t mean those men aren’t good people. Far from it. But this management group wasn’t successful. Peter Chiarelli was the GM, but if he made every major decision on his own then his support group didn’t speak up enough, and that’s a reason not to keep them. Or they agreed with some of those decisions to acquire Griffin Reinhart for a first and a second and then felt the trades of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Strome and Drake Caggiula were good. Either way, the group’s analysis of pro players wasn’t good enough.

7. Even though Colorado owns the Senators’ first pick this spring, the Senators have an abundance of picks over the next three seasons. They have the Sharks’ first rounder this year, and the Blue Jackets’ (unless it is a top-three pick, then it becomes a first in 2020), as well as seven second round picks and five third rounders over the next three seasons. They should be able to replenish their system.

8. Prior to Ottawa shedding Duchene, Stone and Dzingel in the past week, they were struggling defensively. They’ve allowed the most shots per game, 36, and have the worst GAA in the league at 3.73. The Senators have been quite good offensively, sitting 11th in goals/game at three, but subtracting three of their top-four scorers had depleted their offence. Outstanding rookie defender Thomas Chabot is now their leading scorer followed by Chris Tierney. The Sens compete hard, but they don’t have the horses to play sound defence right now.

9. The Oilers are far from a defensive juggernaut either, and after last night’s uninspired effort in the second and third periods, I’m guessing they will have a better effort tonight. Their penalty kill continues to be a disaster. They allowed three more PP goals last night and their PK is an ugly 75.1%, and 29th in the NHL. Over the past three seasons their PK is a combined 77.6%, so they are actually getting worse this season, not better.

10. I’d like to see Josh Currie get a chance on Leon Draisaitl’s wing over Tobias Rieder. The Oilers aren’t making the playoffs and their salary cap situation next season means they must find some value contracts, so why not see what Currie can do in a top-six role? Maybe he is a late bloomer like Yanni Gourde in Tampa. Maybe he isn’t, but I guarantee he won’t produce fewer goals than Rieder has thus far. We know Rieder isn’t the answer for next season, so give Currie a shot for ten games.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 2/28/2019 – 9:00 am MT