Another NHL season is just around the corner. The Edmonton Oilers rookies battle the Calgary Flames rookies on September 7th in Red Deer and then in Calgary on September 10th and with Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody attending rookie camp, and expected to compete for roster spots on the Oilers, we can say the season unofficially begins in 15 days.
With that in mind let’s look at some numbers, stats and random thoughts to get you thinking.
1. In the 14 seasons since the 2005 lockout, the Edmonton Oilers have made the playoffs twice. It has been a painful stretch. Captain Obvious points out the organization has had many weaknesses, so this number might not shock you, but in those 14 seasons, there have been 42 “periods” played. Three periods each season. Of those 42 periods, the Oilers have outscored the opposition a total of six times. They outscored the opposition in all three periods in 2017: They were +5, +14 and +15 from the first to third period that season. In 2006, their magical run to the Cup, they were -15, +2 and +18 in the first to third frame. And in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, they were +8 in the first period. Captain Obvious points out that you want to outscore the opposition, and a good start to games can help, but where the Oilers have been dominated heavily has been in the second period. The long change has killed them.
2. Last year they were -22 in the second period, while being -6 and -16 in the first and third. The middle period has been a wasteland of destruction for many years. They have been -33 (2007), -27 (2011), -31 (2014), -22 (2015), -25 (2016) and -22 last year. They’ve had some ugly third periods as well, posting a -34 (2010) and -32 (2015), and some ugly first periods, going -31 (2011), -24 (2015) and -23 (2010), but the second period has been dominated more often. I’d like to dig into it a bit more, but I wonder how the long change impacts them and if it exposes weaker teams even more.
3. I can disagree with Jesse Puljujarvi’s decision on how he and his agent are handling things, but that doesn’t make him a spoiled brat or a horrible hockey player. Because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean they are suddenly awful. Puljujarvi clearly feels it is time to move on. He has his reasons. I won’t speculate on what they are, but it is obvious that he wants a fresh start. Regardless of what we do for a living, if you are not comfortable in your work environment it is difficult to perform to the best of your ability. I respect him for sticking to what he believes. I likely would have done it differently, but I also don’t know 100% the situation and how uncomfortable he truly is. It is okay to disagree with him, without name calling or degrading him.
4. Puljujarvi is 21 years old. Because he was rushed to the NHL and didn’t produce — not surprisingly because he wasn’t ready — now many feel he is a bust. While other 21 year olds who are coming off a good AHL rookie season are considered excellent prospects. Things change quickly in the NHL. Puljujarvi, has to shoulder some of the blame, sure, but I still believe the best path for his development might be one year in Finland to regain his confidence and reignite his passion for the game.
5. The term “bandaid” sometimes gets used when players are hurt. I hear it often in regards to Auston Matthews. I’m not suggesting he is at the same skill level as these next two players, although he is close, but through their first three NHL seasons Matthews played 212 games, Connor McDavid played 209 and Sidney Crosby played 213. He is an excellent player, and I see him and McDavid as the two players, who haven’t already done it, with the best chance to score 50 goals and 100 points in a season. I’d caution those thinking Matthews is a “bandaid.”
6. Darnell Nurse was 11th among NHL D-men in shots on goal last season with 196. He was 22nd in 2018 with 194 shots. His shot totals remained virtually the same, but half as many defenders had 194 shots last year compared in 2018. In 2017 only ten defenders had 194+ shots and eleven in 2016. So it would seem 2018 was a bit of an anomaly with 22 of them having 194. Nurse had 158 shots at 5×5 last year compared to 174 in 2018. His increased PP time didn’t increase his shot totals, likely because more teams are relying less on high volume shots from the point. It makes sense since they are low percentage shots. You should expect Nurse to be around 190-200 shots on goal this season.
7. Speaking of shots on goal. Can you name the three D-men in Oilers history who fired 200+ shots on goal in two or more seasons? **Answer below.**
8. It is likely Leon Draisaitl’s SH% will drop this season. He ripped his way to 50 goals scoring on 21.6% of his 231 shots. He was tied for 32nd among forwards in SOG, while McDavid was 22nd with 240. I won’t be surprised if Draisaitl is closer to 250 shots this season, and if he scores 40 goals on 250 shots he’ll have a S% of 16. If he scores 45 goals it would be 18%. It is interesting that only two of the 16 forwards who fired 250+ shots had a S% higher than 15. Alex Ovechkin was 15.1% (51 goals on 338 shots) and John Tavares with 16.4% (47 goals on 286 shots). Eleven of the remaining 14 were under 14%.
9. James Neal scored a career worst seven goals last season, and he averaged the fewest shots per game (2.2) since his rookie season. He’s only been under 2.69 shots/game one other time in his career. If Neal is playing well he will be close to three shots/game. His career SH% is 11.6. He was 5.1 last season, and considering he’s never been lower than 10.4% in any other season, I’d bet Neal comes in around 11-13%.
10. Could Joakim Nygard be Jussi Jokinen light? Since 2006 very few players have come directly from Europe (with no games in the AHL or CHL) and produced 50 points their first season in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin (106), Evgeni Malkin (85), Artemi Panarin (77), Nicklas Backstrom (69), Elias Pettersson (66), Patrik Laine (64), Anze Kopitar (61) and Jussi Jokinen (55). Jokinen was 22 when he debuted with the Dallas Stars in 2006. Jokinen had Mike Modano and Jason Arnott as the top-two centres in Dallas. Nygard will have McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He might play on the third line, but his speed might earn him a shot with RNH and Neal to start the season. I think 55 points is unrealistic, but could he chip in 40 points? He is the biggest wildcard for me among all the new forwards. I’m intrigued to see what he does. Scouts I’ve spoke to in Sweden believe he will be a solid NHLer. They love his speed and tenacity, and believe he could be a decent complementary forward. He might be back in Sweden in early October, or he might score 20 points. Maybe 30, or maybe shocks us all and pots 40. I truly have no accurate sense of what he will bring, but admittedly I’m intrigued to watch him play.
11. I’ve been asked if there is any update on McDavid. I got a text from someone who skated with him this week. “He looks good.” I understand the concern regarding his leg, because he is the Oilers best player, but he has been skating for a month and feels good.
12. Who has the best pizza in Edmonton? If you have a favourite pizza place encourage them to enter our first annual Pizza Pigout as our distinguished judges will crown one “Best Pizza.” They can register at www.jasongregorpizzapigout.com and you can buy tickets there as well to join us. You will taste pizza from over 40 pizzerias and you will get to mingle with many local sporting athletes, current and former, and other sports personalities. It will be a fun night of great pizza and we will raise money for KidSport so kids can play sports. Thanks in advance and let’s find out who has the best pizza and.
***Trivia answer.. Paul Coffey (five times), while Oscar Klefbom and Dave Manson reached 200 SOG twice.**
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