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31 Takes on the Last 31 Days

The first month of the NHL season is over and while it didn’t get off to a pretty start for the Oilers, they certainly ended the month of a high note. The first stretch of the season gave us plenty of storylines to discuss and that’s exactly what I’m doing with this article. Here are 31 takes on the last 31 days:

  1. We knew that this season was going to be an absolute roller-coaster for Canadian hockey fans and the first three weeks of the season have been exactly that. After every loss, some fans think the Oilers are due to be a lottery team and every win feels like the start of a ten-game heater. You got to love the passion.
  2. The general sense is that getting off to a good start is very important but at the same time, it could be easier than ever to make a late-season charge. If you’re six points back of a team, you could catch them quickly if you play them four times in a two-week stretch.
  3. I hate three-point games. The NHL really needs to change up how their standings work. I like the idea of a 3-2-1 system. Make it so there are always three points handed out every game. Regulation wins should be rewarded more than OT or shootout wins.
  4. If we assume that the Leafs and Canadiens are going to grab the top two spots in the division, that means two of the Oilers, Jets, Flames, and Canucks will make the playoffs.
  5. The Oilers’ final seven games and ten of their last 12 are against either the Flames, Jets, or Canucks. Even though the Oilers have started slow, the playoff race is going to come right down to the end and they are far from out of it.
  6. There haven’t been a lot of fun nights early for Oilers fans, but this past weekend was great. A thrilling OT win against a rival on national TV followed up by a high scoring beat down on Sunday. Oilers fans are going to work happy today!
  7. The sudden drop off in powerplay production is puzzling to me. I know they lost Oscar Klefbom, but honestly, replacing him with one of Barrie or Nurse shouldn’t have caused them to lose their magic.
  8. Here’s to hoping that the performance against Ottawa gives them a massive confidence boost and I think it will. Powerplays can be difficult to work on in practice and now that the Oilers have had more than ten games under their belts, I think they’ll start scoring more.
  9. The Oilers looked more creative than they did in any other game this season. They weren’t just standing still and passing the puck around the perimeter. They had players taking the puck into the middle of the ice and it resulted in them creating more high-danger scoring chances.
  10. Leon Draisaitl needs to just start firing the puck more. He started doing it in the second half of the Oilers game against the Leafs on Thursday night and it worked really well. He’s a 50-goal scorer and I think the Oilers need to get back to using him as a trigger man on the powerplay.
  11. Is Jesse Puljujarvi the biggest surprise on this Oilers roster? He has to be close. I know some fans had high hopes but I’ll admit, I didn’t see him becoming a top-six winger this early in the year.
  12. There are two big differences in his game. First, he’s using his size way more. He’s throwing his body around and he’s driving hard to the net, even when he doesn’t have the puck. Second, he’s much less of a perimeter player. He’s been going to the front of the net more often than he was in his first stint in Edmonton.
  13. If Puljujarvi hasn’t been the biggest surprise, then Slater Koekkoek definitely is.
  14. Who would have thought that the defenseman who was signed just a few weeks before the season started would look like one of the team’s best defensemen? Honestly, I don’t think Dave Tippett should be taking him out of the lineup as often as he is. Koekoek has played really well.
  15. Speaking of defensemen, I’ve noticed that some fans aren’t too happy with what the team has gotten from Darnell Nurse this year, and honestly, I don’t get it. 
  16. In the past, I haven’t been the biggest Darnell Nurse fan but the bottom line is that he’s being used as a number one defenseman and he’s giving them really solid minutes. He’s played the most 5v5 minutes in the entire NHL, is often going up against the other team’s best players. Despite that, he still has a 51% SF% and a 56% GF%. He’s been more than fine, he’s been a good top-pairing defenseman.
  17. There have been some really disappointing performances on the blueline. I was hoping the Oilers would get more from a healthy Adam Larsson. They need him to be a reliable defensive presence who can consistently break up opposition cycles. He has been far from that. He turns over too many pucks and has had too many straight-up brain farts in his own end.
  18. Tyson Barrie hasn’t been good either. I still have hope that he’ll find his game but we’re almost a quarter way through the season and he’s slowly running out of time. Clean break-outs have been an issue for this team and if Barrie can start playing like he has in the past, it will really help this team.
  19. I will say, I felt like Barrie took a big step forward this weekend. He had to handle a bigger role at 5v5 with Ethan Bear out of the lineup and I thought he handled it very well. He also started using his shot more both on the powerplay and at even strength as well, which was great to see.
  20. I’m happy that Tippett kept Barrie on the top powerplay unit. I like having a right-shot with the Oilers group of lefties and I think that top unit just needed a little bit more time to get used to each other.
  21. I love that Dave Tippett stuck with Dominik Kahun on the second line, even when he wasn’t producing early on. He was still making nice plays with the puck and I think he has the combination of speed and hockey IQ to be successful in the top six. The production has started to come now with goals in back-to-back games.
  22. I think Gaetan Haas will grab that fourth-line centre spot and not let it go. His speed and offensive ability sets him apart from both Shore and Khaira. If he can prove that he’s a competent penalty killer, there is no reason to take him out of the lineup.
  23. You have to be impressed with how Mikko Koskinen has played so far this season. He’s given up some soft goals but when you consider how many games he’s played and the fact that he’s really given the Oilers a chance to win on most nights, it’s hard to complain. He’s been solid.
  24. The Oilers win song this year is “La Bamba” which was Joey Moss’s favourite tune. You love to see it.
  25. Looking at the immediate future, the Oilers are obviously in a prime spot to rattle off a lot of wins. Three of their next four games are against the Senators and the other game in that stretch is against Calgary. Wouldn’t a little six-game winning streak be nice?
  26. Honestly, you can’t let any points slip away against Ottawa. They’re a truly bad hockey team. The future is bright in the nation’s capital, but it’s not going to be a fun season for them.
  27. While we’re on the topic of North Division teams, I will admit that I was wrong about the Montreal Canadiens. I thought some of the additions they made were a little overrated and I thought they would miss the playoffs. I was wrong. They’re very good.
  28. One thing I’m keeping in the back of my mind this season is how the Oilers expansion plans could change based on what we see from certain players this year. They have some big decisions to make this offseason.
  29. At the beginning of the season, I would have thought that the Oilers would have been fine with losing Jesse Puljujarvi to Seattle if he spent the entire season as a third-line player. Now, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Oilers leave Puljujarvi exposed.
  30. Oscar Klefbom’s health will change their expansion and offseason strategy but if we assume he’s healthy and that Ken Holland wants to keep him around, that would mean that one of Caleb Jones or Puljujarvi needs to be exposed. 
  31. If Puljujarvi continues to impress, it would make sense for Holland to trade a defenseman for a forward. That would help their expansion situation and allow them to improve their forward depth.