Oh…Those Oilers!

Just an update on all things Oilers.

As I predicted after David Perron spoke freely about the lack of accountability from both players, coaches and management, word Sunday morning that the Oilers are shopping him:

According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, the Edmonton Oilers are interested in dealing forward David Perron.

Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish is reportedly looking for a top line centre in return for the 26-year-old.

Perron has two goals and eight assists in 21 games this season with Oilers, his second year with team.

The Sherbrooke, QC, native has two years left on his current contract.

 

oilers-d-line

 

Do the Edmonton Oilers have a “boiling point”?

We’re about to find out.

There are those among the Oiler blogosphere that the team is better than last season based on shot “attempts”.

I’ve never been one to support the notion that a good Corsi performance is indicative of a good team…it’s like trying to perform surgery with a chainsaw.

Or to mangle a Gretzky phrase from the past…”100% of the shots that don’t hit the net won’t go in”

Now, in actual SOG, the Oilers are somewhat better this season with an average of 30.2/game compared to 26.9/game last season and 26.8/game the season before that.

BUT

Starting tonight against the Hawks, the Oiler play their next 10 games and 19 of their next 20 against WC teams. I’m convinced those shot metrics will look much different at the halfway point of the season.

So, if we can dispense with Corsi or at least put it on the back burner for the next 20 games…let’s look at actual results compared to last season.

POINTS:

2013/34 – 67

On pace for – 57

GOALS FOR:

2013/14 – 203

On pace for – 196

GOALS AGAINST:

2013/14 – 270

On pace for – 274

GOAL DIFFERENTIAL:

2013/14 – 67

On pace for – 78

So, other than generating an additional 3 shots per game against pre-dominantly weaker EC opposition,  the Oilers are worse by every measure than actually counts.

And the holocaust approaches.

There are still those among the Oilers fan blogs defending the train wreck but now the Oilers’ players are beginning to voice their disgust with the team makeup, coaching and effort level.

Edmonton forward David Perron said the Oilers own script is getting awfully tired.

“Something has to change,” he said. “When you are making those mistakes, something needs to happen. They are the same mistakes we were doing last year. We keep talking about how much better we are this year, but for me it is the same record now that we had last year. It is not better.

“It is pretty frustrating.”

  Given Kevin Lowe’s history of emotional reactions to any player voicing his displeasure with the team, I would imagine David Perron has a new address very soon…lucky guy (unless they send him to Hershey).

Taylor Hall was much more politically correct in his post game comments but you have to wonder when he will have had enough since it appears he is going to be wasting at least a few of his prime years playing for nothing.

“It’s not fun to be on losing streaks, that’s for sure,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall, whose team has also had a four-game skid this season. “It’s a tough way to come to the rink. We just need to find a way.

“We’ve talked so much, but it has to be at the point where we are sick of it. I’m not questioning the try or the character on our team, we have just got to be better.”

I would imagine the next step here is that GM MacTavish will try to engineer some sort of trade to take the heat off Dallas Eakins but, let’s be honest, what ails the Oilers can’t be solved by shuffling the deck chairs.

MacT already tried that, and failed miserably, in the offseason so unless he is willing to make a blockbuster trade that shakes up the teams’ core and entirely changes its culture, that ship has already sailed and is far over the horizon.

In trying to defend Lowe, MacT and Eakins, some folks (like Lowetide) have coined the term “controlled rebuild” to try to justify the sub par performance of the entire hockey operations gang but that is a ridiculous notion.

The bottom line here folks is that the guys who drove this bus into the ditch are NOT the people who can get it out.

I’m reminded of Ray Ferraro’s assessment of the team earlier in the fall.

“They spent a lot of money. I don’t know if they spent it on the right guys or not, but you brought up Nikitin and Fayne. They signed (Benoit) Pouliot to a five-year deal. They bring in Teddy Purcell. So they brought some older people in. They never addressed the middle of the ice, so you got a 21-year-old and an 18-year-old  as your top two centre men.

I mean, no more about promising the future and blah, blah, blah. It’s now. Now it has to get better. And if it doesn’t, I don’t know where they turn because it’s pretty clear that they can’t break the mould from the management group that has been there for 100 years.

Ferraro went on to say that the real issue in Edmonton is that Lowe, MacTavish and Howson have been together so long that they all think alike and don’t have any fresh ideas.

And, of course, McTavish, upon becoming GM, immediately fired the latest guy who thought outside the box and hired Dallas Eakins because…

“During the process of me conducting those interviews [to add an associate coach], I recognized I was trying to add a coach that was more closely aligned with the way I wanted to run the team,” MacTavish said. “And less about supporting Ralph as the head coach.”

There’s your smoking gun right there folks.

Groupthink is very seldom a good thing and it’s especially dangerous when the “thinkers” have all had, at best, very limited success in their field of endeavours and the bottom line is none of Lowe, MacT, Howson or Eakins had ever won anything as hockey executives.

So, once again, the question is, what is the Oilers “boiling point”?

And perhaps more importantly, how long will the Oilers’ fan base allow itself to believe the parrot is just resting.

Top 100 NHL Forwards

take-notes

ESPN has published it’s list of the top 100 forwards in the NHL.

Now, there are those who will deride the ability of ESPN, the American sports network to gauge, the quality of NHL players considering they give short shrift to the league on air.

So, before we get started, let’s get the “shooting the messenger” nonsense out of the way right off the bat.

ESPN polled an impressive panel of knowledgeable  hockey observers for their list:

Martin Biron, TSN/RDS/NHL Network

Scott Burnside, ESPN.com

Mike Brophy, NHL.com

Craig Custance, ESPN The Magazine

Sarah Goldstein, ESPN.com

Paul Grant, ESPN.com

Tim Kavanagh, ESPN Insider

Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

Pierre LeBrun, ESPN.com/TSN

Dave Lozo, Bleacher Report

Vince Masi, ESPN

Victoria Matiash, ESPN Fantasy

Sean McIndoe, Grantland

Barry Melrose, ESPN

Risto Pakarinen, Co-author “This is Russia: Life in the KHL”

Scott Powers, ESPN Chicago

Corey Pronman, ESPN Insider

Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Timo Seppa, Hockey Prospectus/ESPN Insider

Frank Seravalli, Philadelphia Daily News

Katie Strang, ESPN.com

Rob Vollman, ESPN Insider

Ryan Wagman, Hockey Prospectus/ESPN Insider

Aaron Ward, TSN

Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun

Those folks know a thing or two about hockey, if ever there was a concern. Fair?

So, in looking at the list, I don’t see a lot of surprises but I thought it interesting that the best players are not always 1st overall draft picks when many draft junkies always tout taking the “Beat Player Available” when drafting. (which of course is nothing more than opinion and, often, bending to conventional wisdom.

What I find interesting is which of these players were selected #1 overall and how they stack up.

1) Crosby (1st)

2) Stamkos (2nd)

3) Tavares (4th)

3) Kane (6th)

3) Ovechkin (9th)

4) Nathan MacKinnon (17th)

5) Joe Thornton (21st)

6) Taylor Hall (24th)

7) Rick Nash (35th)

8) Ryan Nugent Hopkins (61st)

There are only 8 #1 overall picks on the list and 92 who were picked later. So much for BPA.

Of the remaining 92, there are many picked later in the 1st round and even more who were selected after the 1st.

Also striking is that the Oilers’ much ballyhooed 1st overall picks are ranked 24th and 61st while the 3rd member of the Oilers 3 1st overall picks, Nail Yakupov, likely would not make a list of the top 500 forwards in the NHL based on his performance.

Of note as well is that Colorado has 4 players on the list in MacKinnon (17th), Duchene (25th), O’Reilly (38th) and Landeskog (42nd) while the St. Louis Blues have 5 despite drafting much lower than most teams.

BPA…baah!

 

 

 

At the Quarter Pole

blogging-seo-facts

 

More than a few teams have reached the 20 game point of the season, a time when you can begin to suss out winers, losers, also rans or the lucky/unlucky.

1) Let’s start with chances of making the playoffs which is, after all, the point of all this.

Some teams will try and sell their fans on “process” or “progress” but that’s just nonsense since any perceived improvement in those areas is very serendipitous and often does not carry over to following seasons.

As things stands now, there are 4 teams with a better than 90% chance of making the playoffs…Pittsburgh, Nashville, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. It would take an act of God for them to miss out on the post season.

Then there are another 5 teams with a better than 80% chance…Detroit, Calgary, Anaheim, Los Angeles and the Islanders, who will make it if they keep playing well. The surprises there are Calgary and, perhaps, the Islanders and most observers believe the Calgary Flames  will fall out of that group based on their inflated scoring percentages. It’ll be interesting to watch.

At the other end of the spectrum are the teams whose seasons have already gone in the dumpster…Buffalo, Columbus, Edmonton, Dallas and Colorado who all have a less than 10% chance of seeing any playoff action this season. Buffalo (in the middle of a scorched earth rebuild) and Columbus (suffering from one of the worst runs of injury I’ve ever seen) can be forgiven but the other 3 teams really have no excuse. The Oilers (dreadful management and coaching decisions) Colorado (letting Statsny walk and bringing in a couple of warhorses) and Dallas (not addressing their D and backup goaltending) are getting pretty much what they deserve.

2) Much has been made in the past couple of days about the woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and I won’t belabor the Toronto situation since analysis of their woes is everywhere but it’s only today that the mess that is the Edmonton Oilers is beginning to get a lot of attention from the national media.

from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,

There was so much focus on Toronto yesterday in the aftermath of the embarrassing loss to the Predators, but I suspect we need to keep just as close an eye on Edmonton, where the Oilers dropped to 0-9-1 against Western Conference teams this season with the loss to Vancouver. Simply unacceptable.

I know management in Edmonton was not going to sit on its hands and let another debacle of a season roll by without any action. They’re craving a trade for a center, although that’s easier said than done. And you wonder about the job security for Eakins if the losses continue. Not sure exactly which direction Oilers management will go, but if the losing continues, I’ll be shocked if something doesn’t happen in the next month or two.

@ESPN_Burnside:

The reality is that Wednesday’s loss gives them the 28th-worst winning percentage in the league at .368. While teams like Winnipeg and Calgary are being rewarded for their organizational patience with strong first quarters of the season, the Oilers are exactly where they’ve been for most of a decade, which suggests it’s not so much patience they’re displaying, but incompetence.

 

@CraigCustance:

Not to pile on the Oilers here, but I’m with Pierre and Scott. Edmonton can’t sit around while the losing continues. There are definitely flaws on the roster, but the time to trade a major piece — like Jordan Eberle – is probably in the offseason when your options are highest among potential trading partners.

 

And one of the most respected writers in the “sphere” Tom Benjamin, dropped by Lowetide today to deliver this missive:

I’ve been blaming Kevin Lowe from about 2000, and I’m not stopping now. He’s the one who built this organization and directly or indirectly hired every person in it. Say what you want about a guy like Brian Burke – he knows exactly what he wants his team to look like and he sets out to put his vision on the ice. I have never been able to understand what Lowe is trying to do. If Lowe is incompetent – and I think he is – the organization is incompetent while good organizations win.

Every player has individual strengths and weaknesses. The problem with the Oilers is the collective strengths. The Bruins are the Bruins because they have lots of players who are big and bad. Team speed is probably a weakness, but the Bruins don’t go out and try to find a speedster to address it. They want more big, more bad because they win with grinding, not with speed. There are different ways. You start with what you have and you build upon the strengths.

 

Other than Firing Kevin Lowe and cleaning house (which is exactly what the team needs to do) I’m not sure where the Oilers go from here. Changing coaches now won’t result in any appreciable difference this season and it’s too late for Craig MacTavish to do the work he should have done in the past two offseason but, as I’ve been saying for years, the Oilers need a true #1C (RNH does not produce offence at the level of a #1C) TWO top pairing defensemen and above average goaltending.

The Oiler brass in all versions of their rebuild, have ignored the need for a winning NHL team to be built from the back end out and down the middle and no amount of fiddling around the edges is going to change that. I guess an Oiler fan can hope that the Oilers draft McDavid or Eichel and that Darnell Nurse someday turns into a top pairing D but, at some point, I expect another roster teardown is going to be required to turn this thing around. Unbelievably, the Oilers are going to face cap issues as early as next season and adding another high first round pick with maximum bonuses is going to make that problem worse, not better.

 

oilers-flames

 

3) One team that I’ve been keeping an aye on is the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have only played 17 games and with as many as 4 games in hand can be expected to rocket up the WC standings.  The Wild has a 7-2-0 record agains the WC and a solid record in almost every statistical category. They have outshot their opponents by nearly 10 shots per game, have a 1.19 EV F/A record and their PP has finally come alive. By the half way point in the season, I expect they’ll be solidly in a playoff position likely bumping Winnipeg out.

4) The Vancouver Canucks are not as good as their 13-6-0 record would indicate. They only have a +2 goal differential despite playing the Edmonton Oilers 4 times already, they’re basically even in shot differential and they are only at 0.80 in 5V5 F/A better than only Buffalo (0.56), Columbus (0.60), Edmonton (0.72) and Colorado (0.79). They won’t continue winning at their current rate if they don’t turn that around.

5) The Nashville Predators should serve as an example to teams like the aforementioned Maple Leafs and Oilers that a smart GM who knows what his team needs and goes out and gets it while shedding under performers can have a lot of success. Both the Oilers and Leafs needed a veteran centre in the offseason but David Poile, with the same need went  out and signed 3 to add to his roster and, despite losing Mike Fisher to injury early, the Preds have never looked back.  The Predators have been a revelation at even strength with an astounding 1.95 5V5 F/A compensating for a PP that is running at only 14.6%. If they ever get that PP cranked up, watch out! And, of course there is 2012 1st round draft pick leading the team in scoring and making both Washington who traded him and Edmonton, who picked Nail Yakupov in that same draft, look downright stupid.

6) Scoring 50 goals in the NHL is a very difficult thing to do….it’s only been done 6 times in the past 5 full seasons. But there are 5 or 6 players with a shot at it this season based on pro-rated projections:

Tyler Seguin – 60

Rick Nash – 56

Steven Stamkos – 49

Phil Kessel – 47

Vladimir Tarasenko – 46

Corey Perry – 45 (despite missing games because of a case of the mumps).

7) Speaking of Tarasenko…here’s a top 10 update on the Russians Are Coming:

Tarasenko 10G 11A 21P

Malkin 7G 13A 20P

Kucherov 1G 10 17P

Ovechkin 8G 8A 16P

Datsyuk  5G 6A 11P (in only 10GP)

Kulemin 3G 6A 9P

Yakupov 3G 6A 9P

Markov 1g 8A 9P

Namestnikov 3G 4A 7P

Kuznetsov 1G 5A 6P

 

The Calgary Flames

I’m old.

Very old.

I grew up in a time when there was only the “Original 6″ in the NHL which isn’t actually accurate but makes a point.

As a child, I grew up hating the Montreal Canadiens because they were so dominant and their management was so successful in screwing the league’s procurement process that they were always going to win.

I was immediately attracted to the Orr/Esposito Bruins because I thought they had a chance to slay the dragon which they eventually did but as a western Canadian boy I gravitated to the Vancouver Canucks when they joined the league in 1970.

They were my “local” team although I lived in Cold Lake Alberta at the time but I would stay up late listening to their games on my Sony Transistor radio long into the night, hoping Orland Kurtenbach would lead them glory.

That never happened but in 1979 the Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL and I immediately adopted them as my team since  they were local and somewhat close.

Upon moving to Edmonton in the early 80′s, I became a season ticket holder and was fortunate to witness the Oilers glory years that ensued but by the mid 90′s had become so disillusioned with the product and the prices the team was charging for shit, I gave up my tickets, although not my affinity.

Throughout this period, I held a pretty determined aversion to the Calgary Flames since they were an easy identified enemy but, for fucks sakes,  this is now a team to be admired.

While the Oilers continue their failed “rebuild”, the Flames go out every night, work their bags off and get rewarded.

I’ve never seen a team more limited in their “potential” who go out every night and do all the right things to win.

Anyone who loves hockey should watch this team and pay homage.

What a team!

 

Hockey Notes

take-notes

 

First up…I want to thank all of you who drop by to read my musings and pontifications.

And a special shout out to Lowetide who helped kick start the blog by including it on his blog roll.

Most traffic now is coming from Google which, as we all know, is a good thing and hopefully it will continue.

1) James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail (one of the smartest hockey writers on the planet) had a thought provoking piece up this morning dealing with the hot start of the Calgary Flames. I encourage you to read the entire article but bear in mind that Mirtle misses the fact that the Flames have been missing 3 of their top 4 centres for much of the season. They may have more sustain than Mirtle believes when those players return from injury. We’ll see.

2) Mirtle, in the same piece, looks at which teams have improved their possession metrics most this season. Top of the list is the Minnesota Wild,  a team I told you earlier (and repeatedly) to keep an eye on. He also notes the Edmonton Oilers are among the teams that have improved the most so far this season although their numbers have only improved from dreadful to mediocre. And, of course, the Oilers are about to embark on the Baatan Death March through the Western Conference…those numbers are likely to evaporate in a cloud of ineptitude very soon.

3) Speaking of the Oilers, another round of stupid in Oilerville today with painful Oilers Nation poster “Zarny” once again proclaiming that Taylor Hall is the best LW in hockey and a shoo in for the next Olympic team. Well, that’s pretty much horseshit and here’s why.

LW PPG 2014/15 

Nick Foligno 1.12

Rick Nash 1.11

Jaden Schwartz 1.06

Zack Parise 1.00

Henrik Zetterberg 1.00

Chris Kunitz 1.00

Taylor Hall 0.92

Now, 7th isn’t bad and Hall is a dynamic player but he’s not a complete player and Jamie Benn (injury?), who is in an awful slump, will eat his lunch sometime soon.

4) Pat Burns is now in the HHOF. Why couldn’t the suits in charge have done this while the man was on his deathbed. Fucking suits!

5) ESPN has just named Dallas Eakins as the worst coach in the NHL. There is a great deal of evidence to support that notion but Bruce McCurdy, writing in the Edmonton Journal, ignores the evidence and attacks the messenger.

6) Another team to keep a close eye on is the Florida Panthers. They’re top 10 in GA/G and are starting to get some scoring.Their 5V5 FA is right up there with the elite teams (+1.19) . With a boost in PP production, the Cats could do some damage. Now, if only someone in South Florida cared.

7) It seems likely that the “top 3″ teams in the draft lottery are going to be the Buffalo Sabres, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers. Do you think the league allows the Oilers to win the lottery given their past history? Just asking.

8) The Tampa Bay Lightning are the latest team to join the NHL elite while the Bruins fade. Boston’s decline is mostly due to cap mismanagement and the injury to Chara but the Lightning are absolutely loaded with talent and prospects. Nice work Stevie Y.

9) You have to feel for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are a hardworking team that has been absolutely devastated by early season injuries, At one point, their entire 1st line and 2 top 4D were out and the on ice results were predictable. The good news is that the Jackets play in the sad sack Metropolitan division and are only 5 points out of 3rd spot with a game in hand. I’d wager they make it.

10) This is fun: http://oilersnation.com/2014/11/17/the-oilers-do-they-have-a-losing-culture

 

 

The Standings

shit

 

So, here we are getting close to the quarter pole in the NHL season.

Because of the disparity in games played it’s easy to  miss which teams are actually performing.

Here are the “baseball” standings up to date.

Pittsburgh .781

Montreal .763

St Louis .735

Tampa Bay .722

Anaheim .684

Vancouver  .667

Islanders .647

Calgary .632

Detroit .618

Los Angeles .611

Minnesota .588

Ottawa .588

Chicago .583

Boston .579

Florida .567

Those are your playoffs teams to this point.

Lots of season to go but there are the teams with lottery tickets.

Buffalo .263

Carolina .382

Columbus .382

Edmonton .389

Dallas .444.

Both Carolina and Columbus have been ravaged by multiple injuries early this season so expect them to move away from the bottom.

Buffalo and Edmonton have no excuse except for being absolutely dreadful franchises.

 

 

 

Snipers

snipertarget

 

Scoring goals is the hardest thing in hockey. When you have a sniper, you hang on to him. (with some exceptions)

When you don’t…well…you’re pretty much fucked.

Elite goal scorers get paid…they get paid a lot…because they’re worth it.

Some players get paid a lot…but aren’t worth it.

In the 2014/15 NHL season, these are the top 20 goal scorers.

I’m going to rank these on a GPG (minimum 10 GP) basis since there are still some pretty big disparities in the number of games played by some of these shooters. (e.g. Corey Perry has the mumps)

1) Corey Perry .85

2) Tyler Seguin .71

3) Rick Nash .71

4) Phil Kessel .61

5) Steven Stamkos .61

6)  Vladimir Tarasenko .59

7) Patrick Hornqvist .56

8) Nick Foligno .56

9) Taylor Hall .55

10) James Neal .53

11) Gustav Nyqvist .50

12) Michael Raffl .50

13) Filip Forsberg .47

14) Alex Ovechkin  .47

15) Clarke MacArthur .47

16) Marcus Johanssen .47

17) Brock Nelson .47

18) Joel Ward .47

19) Tyler Toffoli .44

20) Max Pacioretty .44

20) Blake Wheeler .44

Now, this list remains pretty fluid at the bottom end since there is a legion of players who could easily crack it with a good game or two but it does give us some sense of who’s had early season success and, by omission from the list, who is not off to a great start (John Tavares .41) at least by their own previous standards.

We get a somewhat different picture, though, when we look at players who are scoring well despite more limited minutes.

From Behind the Net we can suss out goals/60 at even strength and there are some surprises:

5V5

Rick Nash 3.36

Mike Hoffman 2.42

Michael Raffl 2.34

Frans Neilson 2.21

Blake Wheeler 2.20

Mason Raymond 2.16

Tyler Seguin 2.09

Corey Perry 2.08

Nikita Kucherov 2.05

Alex Tanguay 2.04

Tanner Pearson 1.99

Vladimir Tarasenko 1.99 

Nick Bonino 1.96

Marcus Johansson 1.93

James Neal 1.84 

Phil Kessel 1.83

Mike Cammalleri 1.77

Chris Terry 1.76

Zemgus Girgensens 1.63

Max Pacioretty 1.63

We see a few players (bolded) who make both lists and there are certainly a few surprises. Mason Raymond (currently injured) had a great start but was riding a very high shooting percentage to those lofty totals.

Nick Bonino has been an even strength revelation for the Canucks, more than replacing Ryan Kesler’s production on the second line.

And…what’s up with Girgensens?

The question then becomes, which players can keep up the pace for the entire season.

Can Tyler Seguin actually score the 58 goals he’s on pace for? I think he just might.

Are the Russians for real? Tarasenko and Kucherov have been giants thus far and I don’t see any reasons they won’t keep getting better.

And…will Ovechkin break out of his funk and defend his goal scoring title?

 

 

 

 

Oh! Canada!

canada_icon

 

A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup  since the Montreal Canadiens turned the trick in 1993.

That’s an awfully long time but for most fans of Canadian teams, being in the playoff race is enough to keep them buying tickets and watching on TV.

Now, let’s look at the probabilities. Every team enters a new NHL season with about a 54% chance of making the playoffs. Those are decent odds…better than you would get at the blackjack tables in Vegas.

So, how is it looking so far?

We can thank Sports Club Stats for an update on which fans of Canadian teams should still be holding out hope for a post season run.

Here are the odds for each Canadian team making the playoffs after Friday night action:

Vancouver – 83.5

Calgary – 77.2

Toronto – 68.2

Montreal – 67.7

Ottawa – 66.0

Winnipeg – 50.5

Edmonton – 8.7

Now, I think it’s probable that not all 6 of the 7 currently ranked as having an above even chance of getting into the playoffs will make it but the point remains that, for fans of 6 of those teams, there remains a reason to hope their team could be playing in late April.

I do have to wonder what keeps Oiler fans coming back year after dreary year for another round of abuse from their team’s management and trying to find some positives in a team that shows precious few signs of getting any close to the playoffs.

Here’s some food for thought.

Last season the Oilers finished the season with 67 points…this season they are on pace for 67 points.

Last season the Oilers scored 203 goals…this season they are on pace to score 207 goals.

Last season the Oilers surrendered 270 goals…this season they are on pace to give up 280 goals.

Last season the Oilers had a goal differential of -67…this season they are on pace for -72.

There are some factions in the Oiler fan base that are convinced the team is improving based not on results but on better shot metrics and, yes, the team is not being as severely outshot as they were last season, narrowing the gap from -6 shots per game last season to -1 this season…BUT…the Oilers have played 9 of their first 17 games against weaker EC opponents.

In the next 3 weeks, the Oilers face a schedule that sees them play 12 of 13 games against WC opponents.

We’ll come back to this on December 13th when that stretch ends and I’d wager any apparent “improvement” in shots metrics is long forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Top Guns

QAix3k0

 

 

Time for a look at who is delivering the mail (and who isn’t) so far this season.

There have been some remarkable early season performances by some of the top guns in the league and by some young players who are tearing up the league thus far.

Here’s a look at the top 30 scorers (minimum 10 games played) in the WC 5V5 P/60 thanks to Behind the Net.

WC

Tyler Toffoli – 4.57

Jeff Carter – 4.27

Nick Bonino – 3.89

Chris Higgins – 3.75

Tyler Seguin – 3.74

Jamie Benn – 3.70

Vladimir Tarasenko – 3.62

Tanner Pearson – 3.62

Filip Forsberg – 3.46

Joe Colborne 3.43

Ryan Carter – 3.36

Zach Parise 3.12

Corey Perry – 3.12

Ryan Getzlaf – 3.11

Martin Hanzal – 2.98

Blake Wheeler – 2.98

Jason Pominville – 2.95

Brandon Saad – 3.91

Thomas Vanek – 2.87

Mike Ribiero – 2.83

Jiri Hudler – 2.75

Justin Abdelkader – 2.73

Brian Bickell – 2.72

Joe Thornton – 2.69

James Neal – 2.61

Mason Raymond – 2.61

Taylor Hall – 2.59

Alex Burrows – 2.51

Joe Pavelski – 2.46

Jaden Schwartz – 2.46

A few observations.

There are some interesting names who didn’t make this list…Henrik (2.24) and Daniel (2.27) Sedin are absent although they are reasonably close. But what is striking is how much the Canucks second line has been contributing. Nick Bonino , Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows are all on this list supporting the notion that Willie Desjardins has the Canucks playing an effective 4 line game and silencing critics who thought the Canucks were a one line team without secondary scoring.

We’ve said it before but it bears repeating…the Kings “That 70′s Line” has been a dominant force thus far. They’ve slowed down recently so it will be interesting to see how they’re performing after another month but I think it’s fair to say that Tyler Toffoli has to represent one of the biggest 2nd round draft steals in recent memory.

The Dallas Stars appear to be on the verge of wasting a spectacular season from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Going into the season, we all knew the Stars had issues on D but to add to their woes, their goaltending has been pretty bad too. Kari Lehtonen has been below par at .904 while Anders Lindback has been nothing short of horrible at .852. You have to wonder how long Jim Nill will let that situation fester?

Likely the biggest surprise here is the absence of Jonathan Toews (1.43) and Patrick Kane (1.05)! Since the Hawks are leading the league is shots/game, I wouldn’t read too much into this right now but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Watch out for the Wild. The Wild have 3 players on this list and have the best team shot differential in the league. Despite that, they remain 10th in the WC and. at some point, that dam is going to be breached.

Some interesting numbers and trends emerge when you look at how teams are performing by this metric.

If we use 2.00 P/60 as a demarcation point for players who are performing adequately offensively and then see how many players teams have who are at or above that mark, we see the following:

Anaheim – 3 (Perry, Getzlaf, Silfverberg) Obviously the Ducks are relying on one line to do almost all their scoring)

Arizona – 4 (Hanzal, Boedker, Doan, Erat) Not bad but, when Martin Hanzal is your scoring leader, you’re likely in a spot of trouble)

Calgary – 5 (Colborne, Hudler, Raymond, Gaudreau, Giordano). Gaudreau and Giordano are pleasant surprises for Flames fans here. I wonder though how Colborne and Raymond will fare when they return from injury.

Chicago – 3 (Saad, Bickell, Versteeg) I don’t think it will be long before Toews and Kane join this party.

Colorado – 3 (Iginla, Tanguay, Duchene) What’s remarkable here is who is missing. Top guns Nathan MacKinnon (1.77), Ryan O’Reilly (1.14) and Gabriel Landeskog (0.84!) are having miserable seasons. No wonder the Avalanche are struggling.

Dallas – 6 (Seguin, Benn, Roussel, Spezza, Garbutt, Eaves) The Stars are having a superior offensive season but if you can’t keep the puck out of your own net, it doesn’t matter much.

Edmonton – 4 (Hall, Eberle,Hopkins, Pouliot) the Oilers “superstars” are all at the low end of the range and their performance has come against a steady diet of EC teams. Once their schedule balances out and they play the big boys in the WC, I think it’s possible they won’t have anyone in the top 30 and may have only 1 or 2 above the 2.00 marker. Also notable here is that former 1st round pick Nail Yakupov is at a dreadful 1.66 (134th in the league) substantially behind Flames 4th round pick Johnny Gaudreau (2.12) who is the same age.

Los Angeles – 3 (Toffoli, Carter, Pearson) It’s a good thing for the Kings that trio is shooting out the lights because no one else on the team is scoring much at all. Kopitar (1.68), Richards (1.48) and Justin Williams (0.68) have been dreadful thus far.

Minnesota – 6 (Carter, Parise, Pominville, Vanek, Zucker, Fontaine) The Wild have been killing it at even strength this season but their PP has only recently shown some signs of life.  At a staggering 5%, you just know that won’t last and the Wild will shoot up the standings.

Nashville – 4 (Forsberg, Ribiero, Neal, Roy) The 4 offensive players acquired by Nashville are doing what is required of them and considering the Predators are giving up fewer than 2 GPG, that should easily be enough to win them a playoff spot.

San Jose – 3 (Thornton, Pavelski, Couture) There is a huge drop off behind these 3 which would seem disappointing for the Sharks.

St. Louis – 3 (Tarasenko, Schwartz, Lehtera) Like Anaheim, the Blues have been relying on 1 line to carry the mail. Steen, Berglund and Backes have almost dropped off the face of the earth.

Vancouver – 5 (Bonino, Higgins, Burrows, Sedin, Sedin) and with Richardson at 1.99, The Canucks are battling the Wild for the most balanced attack in the league.

Winnipeg – 1 (Wheeler) This won’t end well.

 

 

 

The Battle of Alberta

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Esteemed Oiler fanboy Woodguy has taken the bait.

He is so sure the Oilers are a better team than the Calgary Flames that he will be on the hook for a delicious bottle of Talisker, the nectar of the Gods that flows from the the Isle of Skye.

Sometime in early April, I’ll be face down in a seaside peat bog and here is why:

The Flames have been playing a road heavy schedule, 10 away and 6 at home, and have managed to go 7-3-0 on the road while the Oilers have just won their second road game of the season.

More important though is the Flames record against WC teams is a very respectable 5-2-0 while the Oilers have lost every game against the tougher WC going 0-6-1.

The Flames have one more game on their epic road trip but that is against the Carolina Hurricanes and then return home to play 8 of their next 11.

The Flames have already beaten the Blues, the Blackhawks, the Predators (twice) while the only Oiler victory of note this season is the 3-1 win over the injury riddled New York Rangers.

While the Oilers are without Taylor Hall for the next while, it should be noted that the Flames have kept on winning despite missing Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, Mason Raymond and Joe Colborne for extended periods of time. Makes you wonder how the Oilers would be doing without 3 of their 4 centres?

Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins are the co-leaders in scoring for the Oilers….all with 10 points. The Flames have 5 players who have scored more than that and both Joe Colborne (8 points) and Mason Raymond (7 points) would have been ahead of that marker had they been healthy.

The Flames scoring explosion came despite Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau suffering slow starts but both are rolling now and any regression by scoring leaders Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie should be picked up by the forwards and those returning from injury.

This is the time of the season when goal differential starts to have meaning. The Flames are +8 and the Oilers are -10. That’s a huge gap to make up and considering the Flames have outscored the Oilers 49-38 overall, it would take an absolute collapse by the Flames D and goaltending to close it.

Thing is the Flames have better D (by a lot), better goaltending and superior centre depth that the Oilers slight advantage at wing won’t be able to overcome.

In the following 2 seasons, it should be noted the Flames will have more than $20M in cap space to work with while the Oilers will be terribly cap strapped when they have to pay Yakupov, Schultz, Petry and Marincin or their replacements.

I love Talisker!