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Though shooting blanks, Connor Brown confident the goals will come

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers will be happy to see the calendar turn to November as their October results were well below their expectations. A 5-2 victory over Calgary on Sunday was only their second victory this month as they limp out of October with a record of 2-5-1. There are many areas they can improve.
They are 30th in the standings with five points.
They are 31st in goals against/game at 4.11.
They are 23rd in goals for/game at 2.75.
Their PP ranks 10th at 24.1%.
Their PK ranks 28th at 72.7%.
They sit 28th in high-danger chances allowed at 15.2/game.
It wasn’t a good month, but the Oilers did play their best defensive game of the season v. Calgary and they are hoping to build off that when they return to the ice Thursday against the Dallas Stars. The schedule in the first two weeks of November sets up very well, on paper, and we’ll see if the Oilers can take advantage of it.
We’ve discussed many of their shortcomings thus far, but today we’ll look at their 5×5 scoring. It is a bad look when their bottom two lines have yet to score a goal. It is odd to see the entire bottom six goalless though eight games, and while history suggests they will start chipping in soon, they need to get going. How much they will produce remains a mystery.
This is last October’s production from the forwards.
PLAYERSGPTOIGAPTSSHSH%
Connor McDavid9145:033581520
Zach Hyman9123:283472015
Evander Kane9147:37235258
Leon Draisaitl9133:432241811.11
RNH9108:093031717.65
Ryan McLeod9106:31202450
Kailer Yamamoto8123:5202290
Dylan Holloway531:4601130
Warren Foegele886:31011120
Derek Ryan862:5501170
Jesse Puljujarvi9104:13101119.09
Devin Shore850:1000050
Brad Malone27:2800000
The forwards had 16 goals 5×5. Their bottom six had goals from Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi. McLeod scored three goals in the first six games, before going goalless in his next 22 games. Puljujarvi scored once in the first 32 games. But they did get on the board early in the season. Dylan Holloway, Derek Ryan, Warren Foegele and Devin Shore didn’t score, but all of them except Shore had at least one assist. Edmonton dressed 11 forwards in six of their first nine games. The forwards combined for 15 goals and 19 assists at 5×5.
Mattias Janmark and Klim Kostin weren’t on the roster in October. Both of them joined the team in November.
Here’s how the forwards have produced this October (in eight games, not nine).
PLAYERSGPTOIGAPTSShotsSH%
Zach Hyman8107:403581717.65
Leon Draisaitl8130:21167147.14
Evander Kane8117:28044160
Warren Foegele893:573142114.29
Connor McDavid689:28134616.67
RNH8109:37134137.69
Mattias Janmark772:0100060
Connor Brown899:39000100
Adam Erne643:5800040
Derek Ryan866:0400060
Ryan McLeod890:2700050
Dylan Holloway889:52000110
The group had nine goals and 22 assists, but only five forwards have a goal 5×5 and only six have points.  Zach Hyman has the same number of goals as last year and one more point. Warren Foegele has three more goals and Leon Draisaitl has two more points. The entire forward group’s 5×5 production is significantly lower than last year’s start. They averaged 1.77 goals/game at 5×5 last year in October and sit at 1.12 this year.
The good news is the blue line has five goals at 5×5 this season compared to one last year, so their overall 5×5 production was 1.88 goals/game last year and 1.75/game this season. Evan Bouchard has two goals while Brett Kulak, Darnell Nurse and Vincent Desharnais have scored once. The issue is none of those goals came with the bottom six forwards on the ice.

BOTTOM SIX…

Oct 4, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor Brown (28) and Calgary Flames forward Samual Honzek (42) chase a loose puck during the first periodat Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The bottom six has zero goals on 42 shots. They’ve had some quality chances, specifically Connor Brown and Dylan Holloway, but neither has been able to finish. Brown scored 2o goals with Toronto in 2017 and tallied 21 with Ottawa in the shortened 2021 season. He’s also had 16 and 14 goal seasons. He will start scoring. His effort and overall possession numbers are quite good, but after a year recovering from injury, the hardest thing to get back is the touch around the net. He isn’t a natural sniper, but he’s been a productive player.
In six seasons between 2017-2022 Brown scored 89 goals, which ranks 139th in the NHL. He is tied with Boone Jenner, Gustav Nyquist, two ahead of Blake Coleman, Jakub Voracek and one behind Ryan Johansen and Adrien Kempe. Brown is the one bottom-six forward I’m confident will start scoring. He has a track record of producing, and his underlying numbers suggest he’s doing many things right.
For six seasons Brown produced goals at a top-six forward level, ranking 139th, which would be in the top-five forwards on average per team. Suggestions of waiving him due to a slow eight games is incredibly shortsighted. Brown’s bonuses will hurt next season, that is valid, but we knew that the moment the deal was signed. That isn’t new. He started slow, but his past few games he has looked much better.
“My speed has really come back the past week or so and I definitely have a lot of jump and it is turning into generating some chances,” said Brown. “When you get one to go, you start feeling better in the slot and scoring areas and it will come. Physically I feel great, better and better each game and defensively I feel strong too.”
Brown admitted the first few games he struggled.
“The first couple games of the season I felt a step behind,” said Brown. “Loose pucks, I wasn’t able to jump to, but now I feel like I’m getting a stick on tonnes of pucks, winning my foot races and generating chances. It is cause for concern when you feel like you aren’t having an impact in the game, and the last three games for sure I feel like I have.”
Brown feels he’s going in the right direction, but admitted staying patient is a challenge.
“It is hard to be patient with yourself.” Brown said. “That is something I’ve tried to really work hard on. I know my game, and once I start to feel it a bit it will all start clicking. It’s not like my hands have went anywhere. I know I have a good set of hands and I know I can score goals, so it is just about letting that clock tick slow in the scoring areas and picking corners.
“You know what, after three weeks if you told me I’d feel the way I do physically, I’d be very happy so a lot of positives that way.”
Brown has a long history of being a solid contributor. Don’t be surprised if he starts scoring soon. Of all of the bottom-six forwards he is the most skilled and has the longest track record of being able to score consistently. He needs to be the one to get the bottom six going.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

Adam Erne was placed on waivers today, and Sam Gagner will be recalled. He’s signed a one-year, two-way deal with a $775K AAV. Jay Woodcroft said, “Erne is paying the price for the group that hasn’t produced. We need more form our bottom six.”
I’m not sure if Gagner is the long-term answer for the Oilers’ fourth line, but it makes more sense to recall him in that spot, instead of Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie needs to keep playing big minutes in the NHL rather than limited minutes in the NHL. If the Oilers’ third line is still struggling in a few weeks, then Lavoie should get an opportunity.

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