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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

31 Takes on 31 Days: December Edition

The month of December has come and gone and it was not particularly kind to the Edmonton Oilers. They played 14 games during the month and only managed to scrape up 11 out of a possible 28 points. They went from batting for the top spot in the division to battling for the final wild-card spot in a month. 

As I have throughout the season, here are my 31 takes on the last 31 days around the team.

  1. I think most level-headed Oilers fans knew that this season was not going to be all sunshine. There were going to be dark periods and this is simply one of them. In the grand scheme of things, they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot and that should have us all pretty excited.
  2. So much of a team’s success comes down to goaltending and the Oilers are experiencing that this season. Earlier on in the year both Smith and Koskinen were top 15 in both SV% and GAA. It feels like it’s been an eternity since then.
  3. I would like to see Tippett continue to run with Koskinen, despite the fact he got pulled against Calgary. With the all-star break/bye week coming up, the Oilers don’t have to play back-to-back games all month and have a pretty spread out schedule in January. Run with Koskinen and see if he can get hot.
  4. With that being said, Mike Smith is a wildly inconsistent goalie. He was that way in Calgary as well. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if he went on a run of four or five starts where his numbers look significantly better. I just think that’s the type of goaltender he is.
  5. I know lots of fans are itching for Ken Holland to make a move now, but I want him to wait until the end of this month. Wait for another eight or nine games to pass before deciding if this group is worth spending significant future assets on.
  6. With that being said, if there is a deal out there that would allow him to bring in a scoring winger that is under team control for next season, he should be seriously considering it.
  7. I thought Brandon Saad would have been a decent fit but it sounds like they can’t find a way to make the money work. He scores a lot of 5v5 and has experience playing with some skilled playmakers in Chicago. That’s exactly what the Oilers need.
  8. I’m not sure how I feel about the ‘three centres approach’ that Dave Tippett has gone to. I do see the positive side of it. It creates matchup problems for the other team. The downside though is that they don’t have the wingers to support their elite centremen.
  9. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have the potential to be the best duo in the NHL and I still think that the Oiler’s best chance to win comes when those two are on the same line. They just simply need to get better support for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
  10. One thing I learnt in December: the Oilers found a player in Gaetan Haas. The first-year forward is a very strong skater and I think that as he continues to adapt to the NHL, he’ll start to score more. I’m a big fan of what Haas has brought to this team.
  11. Speaking of speedy, first-year forwards, it was hilarious to see Joakim Nygard beat Connor McDavid in the fastest skater competition. It was also funny to see some of the responses to my tweet about it. Some people need to not take fun things like this so seriously.
  12. On a serious note, I feel like Nygard has also been playing some good games as of late. I thought he was one of their best forwards against Calgary (granted most of their forwards were awful that night). When evaluating both Nygard and Haas it is important to remember that they have never played hockey at this level and on this size of ice. I’m excited to watch them continue to develop.
  13. I saw someone on Twitter asking about James Neal’s trade value if he ends up scoring 30 goals. It’s totally attainable, but, I wouldn’t be so quick to just dump him off. They have some cap relief coming this summer and they can get some more by dealing off Kris Russell. Is Neal going to be a 30 goal guy every season? No. But if you trade him, you still need to find someone to replace that production.
  14. Kailer Yamamoto has only played one game since being recalled but he looked good in that game. He made some very smart plays away from the puck and the fact that he was on the ice in the final minutes of a one-goal game shows that Tippett trusts him. 
  15. I don’t think we’ll ever see Kailer Yamamoto back in the AHL. Yes, he was brought up to spark a struggling team, but I don’t think Holland would have pulled the trigger on this for a one or two week stint.
  16. I would love to see him get a look on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I think they’re both very smart players and I wouldn’t be surprised if that duo produced some offence. 
  17. I wonder what the Yamamoto call up means for Tyler Benson. If he keeps playing well in the AHL, how long will Holland wait to bring him up? 
  18. I think he can help the NHL team right now and I think you need to see how he handles the NHL before this summer. If he comes up and plays really well, that could change the organization’s offseason plans. Having both he and Yamamoto become legitimate NHLers gives them two forwards with low cap-hits. That could allow them to spend a little on an established top-six forward this summer.
  19. William Lagesson could make the Oiler’s blueline situation very interesting. If he shows well and proves that he belongs in the NHL, then who becomes the odd man out?
  20. With Klefbom, Nurse, Larsson, and Bear locked into the lineup, there are only two spots for Russell, Jones, Lagesson, and Benning. They could run eight defensemen, but then that means a young defenseman is just sitting in the press box every night. Could a trade be likely?
  21. Young, right-shot defensemen who can move the puck are highly coveted. If the Oilers wanted to get a scoring winger or a high-end third-line centre, they could probably get one if they dangled one of their young d-men.
  22. I think it’s safe to say that 2010-2019 was the worst decade in Oiler’s history. Even though things don’t look great right now, you have to be happy about the franchise’s chances of making this coming decade a very good one.
  23. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl locked up long-term and some really exciting young defenseman in the organization (Bouchard, Broberg, Bear, Jones), it’s not hard to be optimistic about the next ten years.
  24. The Oilers have a pretty relaxed schedule coming up this month. They play just nine times but there are some huge games mixed in there. They’ll play the Flames on the 11th and 29th. They’ll also take on Taylor Hall and the Coyotes on the 18th. Some big four-point games ahead.
  25. Between January 15th and the 28th, the Oilers play just once. They get their bye-week and the All-Star break in that span. Considering how much they’ve had to lean on McDavid and Draisaitl this season, and I suspect they’ll have to continue to do that, getting that time off before the final few months of the season should be really good for this team.
  26. Nikita Kucherov has the record for most points scored in a season this century with 128. McDavid is on pace to come just shy of that mark. That’s something to keep an eye on through the second half of the season.
  27. Speaking of individual achievements, Draisaitl will need 27 goals in 40 games to hit the 50 goal mark for a second straight season. The only players to score 50 goals in back-to-back seasons this century are Alex Ovechkin and Dany Heatley. He would join some pretty elite company.
  28. On a team note, the biggest thing working in the Oilers favour is the quality of their division. Just five points separate first from fifth in the Pacific and that really benefits Edmonton. Even though they had a really rough month of December, they are still in the race. That wouldn’t be the case if they were in a better division.
  29. They got 46 points through 42 games. They’re on pace for about 90 and if they were to go .500 from here on out, they would finish with 86 points. I don’t think that’s not going to be enough to get them into the playoffs. I think they’ll need to win about 25 of their final 40 games to make the playoffs (factoring in a few OT losses).
  30. That loss to the Calgary Flames was the toughest one of the year. To come out of the Christmas break and play that bad on home ice against your biggest rival was embarrassing.
  31. I’m hoping that was a bit of a rock-bottom moment for this team and they use it as a turning point for their season. We will see.