Random Thoughts: Depth Scoring, COVID problems, Mike Smith’s return, and more

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
We’re quickly approaching the Christmas break, the NHL pressed pause because of COVID, and I thought it would be the perfect time for another dose of Random Thoughts to offer up some fresh takes on what’s been happening.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past week or so, you’ll know that dozens of players have already been placed on COVID protocol and that the NHL is seemingly teetering on the verge of another postponement. So far, we’ve seen the Leafs and Canucks halve the capacity in their arena, the Habs play in front of an empty barn, and the Flames (and others) were just straight up shut down for a couple of weeks, and that makes me wonder what else Omicron has in store for us as we head towards the new year. We’ve already had all three of this week’s games postponed to avoid guys testing positive and getting stuck across the border, but I find it hard to believe that the situation will get much better between now and the 27th when the boys are supposed to get back in action against the Flames. What will the NHL have planned between now and then? Are we just going to proceed as normal, which is basically what the NFL is doing? Maybe some other idea we haven’t heard yet? We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose.


How nice has it been to see the Oilers getting a few goals from their bottom six over the last three games? @Colton Sceviour, @Derek Ryan, @Warren Foegele, and Brendan Perlini all chipped with goals this week, which is obviously a huge boost for a team that’s been struggling to score lately. That’s not to say that I expect these guys to score every night, but to have them kick in a goal or two from time to time will make a massive difference for this team as we simply cannot move forward if all of the scoring is coming from only two or three players. Good teams have depth players that help out offensively, and if the Oilers are going to take a real step forward then they’ll need more guys that aren’t named Connor and Leon (and Jesse!) to start helping out in that regard.


Remember how ridiculous it was when Connor Mcdavid got five minutes and a game misconduct for his hit on Adrian Kempe a couple of weeks back against the Kings? Well, it looks even dumber after a couple of weeks have passed and many similar hits were thrown around the league without even drawing a penalty. I mean, look at the hit Jeremy Lauzon threw at Colton Sceviour from Saturday night. How can you tell me that this hit on Sceviour is any less dangerous than the one that got Connor kicked out of the game? It doesn’t make any sense. I know I complain about the refs enough as it is and I’m not trying to make this a big whine fest, but the lack of consistency in the officiating at the NHL level is absolutely awful… like season nine of The Office awful.


After more than two months on the shelf with a lower-body injury, I’m curious to see how much he’ll be able to help in net after missing the last 26 games. That’s not to suggest that I doubt his ability to stop pucks — Smith can be a real difference-maker when he’s at his best — but rather that I don’t know how sharp he’ll be after so much time off or if it’s even fair for us to expect him to be. Out of game action for the last two months, Smith will need to play some serious catchup to get himself up to speed with a league that’s played plenty of games without him and that will be a challenge he won’t really have much time to tackle. Can he do it? I hope so, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him take some time to knock the rust off. Not to mention, having Mike Smith back will force the Oilers to make a decision on what happens with Stuart Skinner and Mikko Koskinen as both guys have played pretty well, but there’s absolutely no way the team will want to carry three goalies unless we’re heading back to some kind of taxi squad situation.


With only 50 games on his NHL resume, Evan Bouchard already looks like a player that will be a real difference-maker for this hockey team and I cannot wait to watch him continue to develop. From his calmness with the puck to the way he passes it to his bomb from the point, Bouchard gives the Oilers a flavour of defenceman that they don’t have anywhere else on their depth chart and I say that knowing full well that Tyson Barrie is also an offensive guy. I mean, Dad has already put up five goals and 13 assists through 29 games — that leads the team in scoring by a defenceman, I should add — and he’s doing it without even getting a sniff of power play time with the first unit. I don’t know what it’s going to take for Tippett to realize that his power play quarterback needs to change, but I honestly can’t imagine it will be too long before Bouchard rips that spot away because he’s just too good to ignore. Either way, I just think the guy needs more love around here so I wanted to knock out a paragraph to pump his tires a little bit.


It’s not very often that you see an NHL coach step away on his own accord rather than getting the boot from management for poor performance, but that’s exactly what Paul Maurice did this past week. When I first saw the news, I actually thought I had accidentally followed a fake insider account because it was so abnormal for a coach to step down that I was sure I was being bamboozled. After heading over to Frank Seravalli’s Twitter account and figuring out that the news was legit, I actually thought Maurice did something incredible in that he walked away on his own terms and didn’t have to wait for the team to tank so that he got canned. Whether he actually believes that the team couldn’t take the next step with him at the helm or there’s some other reason that we just don’t know about, I find it pretty amazing that a guy would step away from his gig after nearly a decade because he didn’t feel like it was a fit anymore. You don’t see that very often, especially in professional sports.


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