Monday, December 21, 2015

Benny and the Jets...

#Oilers host the Jets tonight where Edmonton lost all three games last year. 

Your sad sad sad d-pairings for tonight:

Nurse - Schultz
Sekera - Fayne
Nikitin - Gryba

That's right, no Klefbom (knuckle bone), no Davidson (rib), and no Reinhart (in Bakersfield) and now we have Nikitin and Fayne back from Bakersfield. Sekera is the only D-man left that is playing proper defense, and is scoring. Nurse needs to pick it up.
Goalie Talbot starts, so let's pray for Talbot, who has playing better than Nilsson lately, proving this goalie tandem thingy is kinda working. Forwards
Forward lineup same as Saturday against Avs:

Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Pouliot - RNH - Eberle
Hendricks - Letestu - Korpikoski
Gazdic - Lander - Pakarinen

Khaira sits. Klinkhammer back on IR (ankle). Poor Klinky.
In other news, AHL prospect Bogdan Yakimov has requested to go to the KHL and leave the Oilers. I guess two Yaks is too many. Yakkity Yak, don't come back. (Pretty good, eh?!)

Because we can actually talk about this, finally, but it still isn't pretty.

34 games: 14 wins 18 losses 2 shootout losses = 30 points

League: 27th place out of 30, but 1 point from last place.

Conference: 13th place out of 14, but 1 point from last place.

Pacific Division: 6th place out of 7, 1 point behind Anaheim, but Anaheim has 3 games in hand. That said, they are only 3 points behind Vancouver (33 points), who being 3rd place, have the last Pacfiic playoff spot.

Wild Card: With the Central division so strong, obtaining a Wild Card for any Pacific team is pointless.

Tonight vs. Jets
The Oilers have played terrible defense the last couple of games and aren't really getting any scoring going. The Jets are an average team, good at home but not on the road (6-10-1) and are looking on the out for that last wild card spot (6 points out). The Jets always seem like a hungrier team and will surprise the Oilers and pull this one off with a 5-3 win with a empty-netter. Sorry, Oil fans.

The Future
The Oilers have played some strong teams over the past month and because they slipped into a playoff spot for a day, says something positive over previous years. The next pile of games are all against Pacific teams will truly determine the separation in the division and whether the Oilers can move ahead in the standings and grab onto and hold that 3rd place divisional playoff spot.

After tonight they play Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Arizona.

Vancouver haven't been playing all that great where Calgary has picked up their game. L.A. just lost big time to Toronto so there's hope. Anaheim, well, it's shocking really how bad they've sucked. Isn't Horcoff on that team? And Arizona has had some rookie firepower in Max Domi, but with goalie Mike Smith out on injury, their future isn't as bright.

Hold on to your helmets, Oilers fans. It's either gonna be good or more losses will pile up and you'll be hearing the name Auston Matthews more and more.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Oilers haven't won in Boston since...

Taylor Hall was 5 years old,
before Connor McDavid was born,
Bill Clinton was President,
Jean Chretien was Prime Minister,
before the "dark times"--before the Lowempire,

Some think Bill wanted those numbers switched around for some reason...

since... November 7, 1996 where they won 6-0 with Czerkawski netting a hat trick.

So who was in the lineup back then when Ron Lowe was coach?  Kevin Lowe was there.  Just look at some of these names.

Doug Weight
Ryan Smyth
Jason Arnott
Mariusz Czerkawski
Kelly Buchberger
Todd Marchant
Mike Grier
Boris Mironov
Rem Murray
Dean McAmmond
Kevin Lowe
Luke Richardson
Petr Klima
Louie DeBrusk
Bryan Marchment
Curtis Joseph

For Boston, some familiar names
Adam Oates, who just told Teddy Purcell to shorten his stick 4 inces.
Rick Tochet
Ray Bourque, who finally went on to win a Cup in Colorado.
and Dwayne Roloson.  Little did he know what the future would hold 10 years later!

That's over 19 years ago.  Wow.  Do you remember what you were doing then?

I do.  I was watching Oilers hockey and reminiscing over the last Cup win six years earlier and wondering when the next one would come.

Yes, we are still waiting.

But do you feel that changing?

I do.  I was at Rexall Place for the Glen Sather banner raising and 80's-style barn burner glorious 7-5 of a game win over Sather's Rangers.  I've been to more games in the last few years than I ever had in all the years before and the energy at end of that third period was absolutely electric in the building.

Can the Oilers of 2015/16 take that 5 win momentum and energy into Boston's Toronto Dominion Garden?

Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Journal
1. Will Taylor Hall smush Zdeno Chara's face again?  No. But he'll Deke around Chara's slow legs and pop one over Rask's mask.

2. Will Cam Talbot get the start?  Yes.

3. Will the return of Nikita Nikitin mess up the defense?  Yes, a little.  We miss Klefbom already.

4. Will former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli get his revenge in his old barn?   See the winning goal in the answer in question #1 above!

Make it 6 in a row!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Eakins vs. McLellan

#Oilers comparables between last season and this season up to Dec 9th.

Image courtesy of the Edmonton Journal

Oilers through Dec. 9:
Eakins 2014- 2015McLellan 2015- 2016Diff.Better Under Eakins or McLellanComment
Games Played28291--
Not being in last has a psychological effect and given confidence to the team, knowing they are not far from a playoff spot.
League Rank30 (last)246
Goals Per Game2.202.520.32McLellanMcDavid's early points with Hall and Draisaitl tearing it up have pushed this up.
Goals-Against Per Game3.402.93-0.47McLellanDespite more youth, McLellan's d-system is better, and Nilsson's goaltending has been better
Goals For/Against Differential-1.20-0.410.79McLellan
Total Goals For627311McLellan
Total Goals Against9585-10McLellan
Total Goals Differential-33-1221McLellan
Power Play Goals %12.9018.505.60McLellanNumber of powerplays is down.
Penalty Kill Goals %80.0080.900.90McLellanThis one needs to improve.
Power Play Goals % vs. Penalty Kill Goals Against % Diff.-7.10-0.606.50McLellanA 6.5% overall improvement in special teams, isn't much but it's the right direction
One-Goal Game Record4-5-57-6-2+3,+1,-3
This one is psychological. The coach will deploy certain lines and McLellan's line matchups have been much improved.
One-Goal Game PPG0.931.070.14
Scoring First Record5-4-19-6-0+4,+2,-1
Again, scoring first psychologically gives you confidence and momentum.
Scoring First PPG1.101.200.10
Leading After 2 Periods Record4-0-25-0-0+1,0,-2
This is very telling. Again, confidence and momentum are huge here.
Leading After 2 Periods PPG1.672.000.33
Overtime/Shootout Record0-56-2-1
Wow. There's the difference right there. Oilers are amazing at the 3 on 3, as predicted by many.
Overtime/Shootout PPG01212
Shots For Per Game Average28.428.60.2McLellan
The Eakins stats include the Nelson stats for the whole year. I wasn't able to find up to Dec 9 on this from last year. That said, McLellan is on the same pace. So what's the difference? This tells me that McLellan doesn't carry as much water (ha!) with Corsi. There have been games where the Oilers prevent shots but games were still close. And so confidence in your goalie is everything here.
Shots Against Per Game Average30.030.40.4McLellan
Short For vs. Against Per Game Diff.-1.6-1.8-0.2Eakins

So, really, there is no comparison that Todd McLellan has been a more successful coach.

The big difference here is the winning the close games.  How is that done?  Well, coaching. Coaching that makes the players believe in themselves.

I also think a big turnaround was when Leon Draisaitl was called up and didn't get off to a great start. Taylor Hall told him he was a good player and to relax and have fun.  Then, BOOM!  The Dr. Drai - Hallsy show exploded.

Yes, we can definitely thank Anders Nilsson for his goaltending prowess.  Keep in mind his GGA and Save % are just above the league average, so there's more to it here.

I also stand corrected in that Nurse and Draisaitl should have been on the team day one.  They have been tops in their positions and could have made a difference early on enough to squeeze some more wins.

With that in mind, the team is much younger this year with way less experience on defense, especially.  Not having Nikitin start and sending him down, keeping Ference benched, sending down Reinhart, and now sending Fayne down is a stark message to the rest of the defense.

I also like that McLellan has put grinders on the top lines.  Hendricks and Klinkhammer (remember him?) played with Hall and Draisaitl on the first line.  We've even seen Pakarainen in the top six and now Jujhar Khaira has joined Nuge and Eberle giving them that extra umph.

I've said it all along, having a grinder with a complimentary pair is the winning combination.  While Purcell isn't a super grinder, he knows how to get the puck and has been better at it since Adam Oates told him to cut his stick by 4 inches (that hurts just saying it!).

It's what Glen Sather used to do with the Boys on the Bus.

And tonight, the Oilers raise his banner proudly into the rafters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vet d-man Mark Fayne on waivers

 #Oilers #Oilersnation . D-man Mark Fayne was put on waivers today for the purpose of reassignment to the Bakersfield Condors.

Why, you ask?  Look no further than David Staples stats on Grade "A" Chances Per 15 Minutes (Plus/Minus).

Nurse    -0.58
Schultz  -0.58
Gryba    -0.66
Davidson -0.75
Reinhart -0.83
Klefbom  -0.86
Sekera   -0.91
Fayne    -1.85
Ference  -1.90

Fayne is in Ference territory and his game against Dallas was atrocious, with guys beating him multiple times.  He's simply not fast enough.

Remember that Nikitin and Fayne were brought in by MacT to steady-up the defense and now McLellan doesn't have them or Ference on the team anymore, including goalie Scrivens.

Yes, Reinhart was sent down, but look for him to be brought back up again.

Man that's a lot of MacT cap coin buried in the AHL or on "Injured Reserve":

Nikitin  $3.5m
Fayne    $3.6m
Ference  $3.2m
Scrivens $1.3m
Total:  ~$11.8m

Remember that Fayne and Ference still have years left on their contracts.  Nikitin and Scrivens are UFA, so look for buyouts on F&F, unless some team claims Fayne in the next day.

This leaves the d-core at:

Nurse (L) - Sekera (L)
Klefbom (L) - Gryba (R)
Davidson (L) - Schultz (R)

I believe all the guys on the left side have earned their spot--especially Davidson, who continues to impress all of us.  I like cheering for players like that--who've worked hard and battled through a broken system to earn his rightful place on a team.  And I like to see him on the powerplay as well.

Essentially, what we are seeing here is an actual overhaul of the mistakes made in the past by bad scouting, bad development, and bad contracts for bad players.

There's still more work to be done to correct the errors in judgment made, but from this we can tell that this season has been admittedly proven that Rebuild 1.0 and 2.0 didn't work at all and Rebuild 3.0 is underway, but for real this time.