Random Thoughts: Winning cures everything, looking at next year, and trusting Ken Holland

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
It’s been a minute since I’ve emptied my brain out of all its delicious contents because the only thoughts rolling around up there right now are dark and sad. This season has been a disaster the likes of which I’ve never seen before, and even though the boys pulled out a dominant win in Washington yesterday afternoon, I’m still struggling to maintain positivity.


Starting off with some good news, the Oilers played arguably their best game of the season on Friday afternoon against the Washington Capitals and it was incredibly refreshing to watch. The Oilers gave the Caps more than they could handle from start to finish, and that hustle and effort translated into an early lead that they would not give up. Just as important was the fact that the boys got a few goals from guys that really needed them, including the beautiful hand-eye play by RNH and the double dose of goals for Leon Draisaitl. If the Oilers have any chance of turning things around, they’ll need their best players to be producing and yesterday’s win was the perfect example of what they can do, and I’m hopeful that it was also the kind of game that will help to build some confidence. On a more human level, it was just nice to see some of these guys smiling again.


It was crazy to see Connor McDavid “struggle” to the point of being “only” a point per game player. I’m not going to speculate about what was going on — some folks thinks he’s injured while others think it’s just a tough stretch — but what I can say for sure is that he looked more human through the first 13 games of the year than he ever has before. Over the last six games, however, McDavid has looked much more like the player that put up 153 points in 82 games a year ago. Over that stretch, the captain has amassed 10 points (4G, 6A) and you can almost see the confidence building by the shift. That’s not to say he’s totally back to normal yet, but the good news is that this recent stretch has been the best hockey he’s play so far this season, and I cannot wait to watch what he does when the mojo is fully recharged. Not seeing Connor up near the top of the leaderboard for points is certainly strange, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if his name flies up the list in short order if he can keep this run going.


We’ve been talking about goalies a lot around here through the first six weeks of the season, and that’s why I wanted to give Stuart Skinner some love for the 25-save shutout he put down against the Capitals. Even though he wasn’t as busy as his counterpart, Skinner was still called upon to make some big saves at key moments in the game, and he rose to the challenge every single time. Even though there’s still plenty of work to do, I’m hopeful that yesterday’s performance was the kind of showing that will help Stu get back to the level he was at a year ago. He saved the season for us in 2022-23, and we’re going to need him to do it again. Fingers crossed that blanking the Capitals — with a little help from the linesman on that faceoff mulligan — is the first step in turning around his own year.


I never expected that we’d be thinking about next season at this point in November, but the Oilers’ 6-12-1 record kind of makes it impossible not to think that way. And since this is where my brain is going, all I can think about is who we have to get rid of to make sure that Connor Brown’s bonus money lands this year instead of next. Granted, I’m not nearly smart enough to understand how the cap works or how teams accrue dollars leading up to the trade deadline, but someone is going to have to figure out a way to make this happen because paying $4 million for no points is not something that can be spread over two seasons. I refuse to accept it.


If you’ve been around a while, you would absolutely remember the tire fire Peter Chiarelli left on his way out. There were trades that didn’t make any sense — I’m looking at you, Brandon Manning and Ryan Spooner — and I’m worried that any deal the Oilers make now will be from a position of weakness and panic. I’m not saying we don’t need a trade or two, but I am saying that I have real concerns (read: trauma) about allowing a GM that’s on the way out to make moves when he won’t be the one to deal with the consequences.


Fresh episode of Better Lait Than Never dropped on Wednesday, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a blast recreating the exchange between Mark Spector and Tim Peel. Was there some Oilers talk in there too? Yes, but only because I’m contractually obliged. Subscribe to BLTN everywhere you get podcasts.


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