It’s Saturday and the HNIC feature game pits the Calgary Flames at the Edmonton Oilers which gives us an opportunity to take the temperature of both franchises.

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A few weeks back, this snapshot was quite different with the Flames having the worst goal differential in the Pacific Division but, with the return of TJ Brodie, the Flames have been performing at a much higher level and their goaltending, while certainly not elite has been much better too.

For exactly ONE day, the Oilers found themselves in a playoff spot but, let’s be honest folks, they have been abysmal over the past 20 game game stretch.

How bad have they been?

Darcy McLeod of Because Oilers fame summed it up well in a tweet this morning:

Since McDavid went down it’s 4-15-13. Think about that for a minute. 4 regulation wins, 13 ties.

If you recall, I had the Oilers finishing 13th in the WC in my pre-season predictions finishing ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes.

Well, like many, I was wrong about the Coyotes (the focus of a future column) but unless the Oilers can somehow go on a 10 game win streak, they are almost certainly going to finish in the basement again.

Now, it’s possible the Jets accept the inevitable and trade Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd sooner rather than later and the return of McDavid gives the Oilers just enough of a boost to pass them but, due to multiple games in hand, it’s unlikely the Oilers can pass Arizona, San Jose, Anaheim or Calgary. With LA already home and dry, the Oilers only chance of achieving a modicum of self respect would be to pass Vancouver in the Pacific.

But there are a few things that need to be considered there. The Canucks are in the midst of their final brutal road trip of the season and will have played 28 road games by the end of the week and only 21 at home so their remaining schedule will be much easier.

The Canucks have also been playing, at times, missing 3 of their top 4D (Tanev is back now) while also missing Brandon Sutter who is due back any day so, if they can keep their heads above water this week, they won’t be easy to catch especially now that Bo Horvat has caught fire (5 goals and 8 points in his last 5 games) and Emerson Etem,who looks fabulous thus far starts to deliver.

What ails the Oilers is obvious and has been for years. They need TWO top pairing D and above average goaltending to have any chance at success.

It appears Peter Chiarelli was willing to move Ryan Nugent Hopkins for Seth Jones but was rebuffed by Nashville and, of course Chiarelli has already spent a couple of silver bulllets on acquiring Griffin Reinhart who doesn’t have a ghost of a chance to be what the Oilers need most.

But, one often overlooked factor in the losing is that the plethora of top draft picks the Oilers have acquired over the past 10 years just aren’t all that good.

If you recall, I forecast that Taylor Hall’s production would falter while Leon Draisaitl’s ridiculous shooting percentage fell back to earth and…guess what…that’s exactly what has happened.

Hall was as high as 4th in league scoring a few weeks back and has now plummeted out of the top 10 and it’s highly likely that he’ll be out of the top 20 in short order since some very talented players are closing fast and almost all have games in hand.

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If you need further amplification on this, please note that Hall has scored only 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 10GP and only .565 PPG on the road this season.

No need to even mention the lack of production from other “elite” players on the Oilers but one thing I am finding interesting is the race between Hall and Johnny Hockey for the second best LW (and second team all star after Jamie Benn) in the WC.

George, the Gentleman Backpacker blogger (very seriously a good read), summed it up over at Lowetides blog this morning:


    You guys hate Gaudreau now, well just wait until he takes 2nd team LW behind Benn, shutting Hall out again from post season awards. Then you know you will really hate him as the Flames fans you know tell you they got a better LW in the 4th round than we did at 1st overall.

    You know this is going to happen so I am softening the inevitable blow for you.

And why wouldn’t Flames fans say that? It appears to be true.

While Hall has a slight edge in PPG in their respective careers (.883 vs .878) let’s remember that Gaudreau is 2 years younger than Hall and appears to be on an upward trajectory while Hall may have plateud as many players do as they approach their mid 20’s.

Gaudreau also has trouble scoring on the road (.526 PPG) but he gets more done at home so  this should be an interesting race to watch in the back half.

Of course, Oiler fans will try and convince them selves Hall’s issues are because the Oilers don’t have the puck moving D to get the puck to him but that raises a couple of other considerations.

Tha Flames D, before Brodie returned, were dreadful in the early part of the season and Gaudreau produced offence anyway.

And, I challenge you to watch how many of Hall’s “chances” are actually giveaways in the Ozone as he fires shot after shot from low danger areas while almost all of Gaudreau’s points come from high danger areas,often in the blue part.

Tonight’s game will be fascinating from several different angles including how Zack Kassian will perform in his second game with the Oilers up against a team that likes to crash and bang.

I watched every game that Kassian played with the Canucks and the biggest issue for him was inconsistency in playing a physical game and a tendency to commit bone hated turnovers in the neutral zone which often got him benched.

And one final thing, if the Oilers do indeed move RNH for a defenseman, they could be making a grave mistake since their organizational C depth without him would be horribly shitty and Draisaitl is less than he appears to be.

The right move is to trade a winger who has enough cache to bring in a high level D and that player is…wait for it…Taylor Hall.



30 thoughts on “THE BATTLE OF ALBERTA

  1. Agreed Oilers haven’t looked good and I wouldn’t be surprised to see than finish near the bottom of the league once again.

    Draisaitl less than he appears? How so?

    He appears to be a 20 year old Centerman with speed, size, and excellent offensive instincts having a tremendous year. 29 other GM’s would have him on their team.

    The Oilers are going to have a dynamite 1-2 punch at Center for the foreseeable future.

    I heard some yahoo compared Draisaitl to Joe Colbounre. You know this guy?


    1. Well…I think you should consider this.

      In his first 10 games of the season, Draisaitl scored 7 goals and 17 points with a shooting percentage well north of 35%.

      In his last 10 games, Draisaitl has scored 1 goal and 4 points.

      Which Leon is the real Leon?

      The Leon that rode a ridiculously inflated shooting percentage to a 1.7 PPG pace or the Leon that is scoring at a 0.4 PPG pace.

      While the answer is likely somewhere in the middle, Leon’s early Magic Carpet Ride is wildly skewing his apparent production and that’s why I say he is less than he appears.

      If his established level of ability is around 0.59 PPG (his career so far including that crazy 10 games stretch) do you really think anyone other than those blinded by fandom would consider him to be a “dynamite punch”?


      1. I agree. They should trade Drai for Joe Colborne before his value drops too much. Calgary might accept if the Oilers pony up 3rd. I am sure very few teams in the league would be interested in a big, young centre who is starting to establish himself as a great 5×5 scorer.


          1. I know, I agree. 24 points is barely better than Letestu. 24 points is 4 less than Joe Colborne’s career high. Oilers should really sell high on Drai. It is going to be disappointing when he only puts up 24 points next season.


          2. I’ll take the over on Draisaitl scoring greater than 0.3 PPG for both the remainder of the 2015/2016 season.

            One bottle of Talisker as payment from the loser of the bet to the winner of the bet. Loser pays shipping charges.


      1. Thanks for chiming in Chris.

        The author of this blog throwing out the 3 point is 10 games and then claiming he has no idea where I got 0.3 PPG from must be intentional. It’s part of his act to get people fired up.

        You and I are probably better off just ignoring his arguments because the author has no interest in having a meaningful conversation.

        I come here because I can’t resist the temptation to throw a little BS back at him.


        1. What is said was….

          “The Leon that rode a ridiculously inflated shooting percentage to a 1.7 PPG pace or the Leon that is scoring at a 0.4 PPG pace.

          While the answer is likely somewhere in the middle, Leon’s early Magic Carpet Ride is wildly skewing his apparent production and that’s why I say he is less than he appears.

          If his established level of ability is around 0.59 PPG (his career so far including that crazy 10 games stretch) do you really think anyone other than those blinded by fandom would consider him to be a “dynamite punch”?”

          If Leon’s long term scoring rate is .59 PPG, he’s not all that special.

          Want to throw out a number for the end of the season?


  2. Hard to guess how many PPG Drai will get going forward. I think he will continue to perform very well for a draft plus one year player but there’s many variables. If Taylor gets injured or Teddy gets traded that will have an impact and with Nuge gone and Connor still out Drai be facing tough competition.

    The Oilers have many problems, starting with the owner, but Draisaitl not developing into a very good player isn’t current one of the problems.


    1. I’d wager he’ll be around 0.45 PPG for the rest of the season.

      He has scored only 2 goals in his last 20 games and has only 10 points in his last 19.

      Both he and Hall picked up 4 points each in a 7-5 win over the Rangers back on December 11th.

      That game was a huge outlier and will soon be replaced in his last 20 by the game against Nashville.

      By way of contrast, Canucks centre Bo Horvat has 6 goals and 11 points in his last 10 GP and his shooting percentage is an average 10.4%.

      That has much more sustain.


      1. You’re just cherry picking stats to make an argument. *Yawn* Horvats played well, I like how he’s progressing.

        Even a Canucks fan has to agree that Draisaitl is currently a higher rated player then Horvat, and he’s got a higher offensive ceiling. If Dale Tallon or Jim Nill had a choice they’d both take Draisaitl over Horvat because Draisaitl has the potential to be a top line player and Horvat does not appear to have first line offence.

        Do you agree?


        1. I don’t believe that looking at 10 or 20 game segments is “cherry picking” unless you have a better way to assess how young players are progressing. (which, of course, you don’t)

          After a ridiculous start, Draisaitl has been pedestrian at best while Horvat is surging despite having both the Canucks 1st and 2nd line centres out of action with injuries.

          He’s now scored 7 goals and 12 points in last 10GP.

          Considering these two players are only a few months apart in age, it’ll be interesting see how they fare in the last 30 games of the season.

          It’s much, much closer than you think.


          1. I think your post is trying to say that you agree with me that Nill and Talon take Drai over Horvat. Did I get that correct? Are you aware that you have difficultly conceding a point and addmitting you may have been incorrect?

            How about a post on your record betting against the Oilers. I know you’ve won a few fine bottles of whisky from Oilers bloggers thinking with their heart and not their head. It would be interesting to read the completed and in progress bets to track each one.

            I’m too wise to bet on a team led by Daryl Katz.

            Did you happen to see the recent interview with Lowe while he was in Cali watching the AHL team. It’s disgusting and the people buying tickets are fools. Despite being born and raised in Edmonton, and being an Oilers fan my whole life, I’m disgusted that this franchise was gifted McDavid.


  3. I’ve no idea on Draisatl, but I’ll take a guess that he’s vastly over-rated as usual by Oiler fans.
    I’m a Canuck fan and whatever Horvat becomes will be awesome for us. He projected as a perfect 2nd line center, but his skill set is increasing radically. He might still go 1st line if he keeps developing like he is.
    Also, Baertschi might be a huge pickup for us. He reminds me of Naslund.


  4. @SUCK
    You would be wrong about that.

    Horvat has the kind of skill set that translates into long term success. I think he’ll be at least as good as Joe D’Cologne and perhaps even better.

    The Canucks have been relying on him to take D Zone face-offs, he starts a ton of shifts in his own zone and is over 50%.

    I have two bets with Woodguy…one that the Canucks will make the playoffs and the other than Calgary will finish ahead of the Oilers in the standings.

    At this point, I’m winning both.

    I also have a bet with GMoney that Sean Monahan will finish the season with a shooting percentage of more than 12% and he is currently at 13.0%.

    I love me some Talisker:)

    Would you like to bet a bottle that Leon scores more PPG than Horvat the rest of the way?

    I’d bet on Horvat.

    Are you in?


  5. Nah. The points a player gets is largely impacted by the success of his teammates. And Draisaitl plays on the Edmonton Oilers; the suckiest sucks who ever sucked.

    If you believe that your current favourite man crushes, Tallon and Nill, would select Horvat over Drai, I’d like to see you state that in writing. I don’t think you even believe it.

    Horvat has had a excellent run of late, nice to see, and couldn’t come at a better time for the Nucks. Horvat is an excellent young player and will be a very good second line center. But your claim that’s he’s superior to Draisaitl, based on this small sample size, has you looking as much a fan boy as many of the Edmonton Oilers fans. I’m embarrassed for you.

    Go back and look at their junior numbers and you’ll be reminded why Draisaitl has the much higher offensive ceiling. That’s great that Horvat can take defensive zone face-offs, but it’s the out scorers that make the difference in this league, and I shouldn’t have to remind you of that.


    1. Draft pedigree and junior numbers are nice and all but it does very little to illuminate the progress of a player (see Nail Yakupov). And remember Drai was junk last season.

      Draisaitl, after a flukey, start has seen his scoring dropping like a stone and blaming that on his team mates is like crediting his team mates for his performance when he WAS scoring.

      As I predicted weeks ago, he’s falling like the autumn leaves.

      Despite scoring a nice goal in last night’s game, Draisaitl has scored only 3 goals in his last 20 GP (Horvat has 7G) and has only 11 points in that period. (.55 PPG).

      Horvat has 14 points in his last 20 games (.70 PPG)

      One of these players is trending higher while the other has been very ordinary.

      Jim Nill has Seguin and Spezza as his top 2 centres so would have no interest unless he needs a salary dump.

      Tallon has Barkov and Bjugstad, both of whom are better players than Draisaitl.


  6. Now you sound even sillier. Neither Nill or Tallon would take the former 3rd overall pick, who was the memorial cup MVP last year, and it currently having a breakout season? A big forward who can play either center or the wing.

    Busted!! Ha, Ha.


      1. Oh man DSF. Even for you some of this is crazy. Implying that Horvat is a better player right now than Drai is bonkers. You talk about established level of play take a look at both players career 5v5 p60. Even including Drai’s terrible last season he still smokes Horvat.
        Also, please indulge the children. I would also love to see it in writing that you think Horvat is a superior player to Drai.

        ps. Drai currently has 6 less points than Bjustad’s career high with 30 games to play. Drai is 3 years younger. As you would say difference between the two players is a lot less than you realize. Although I am sure you will think of some half-baked reason why Drai is at best a career 3rd line centre.


  7. I’m not implying it…I’m saying it.

    The key phrase is “right now”and over their last 20 games Horvat has been the better player while being forced too high in the lineup due to injury and taking a ton of face-offs in his own zone.

    In the long run, it’s too early to say who will be the better player since development does not happen in a straight line and is subject to a plethora of factors.

    But this is far loser than you to Suck are prepared to consider since you’re still being blinded by Draisaitl’s early season unsustainable points run.

    What don’t you predict how many points Draisaitl scores more than Horvat in the final 30 games and then we’ll talk at the end of the season.

    (Remember than Draisaitl’s TOI will diminish as soon as McDavid returns.)


    1. Bo Horvat is currently a -23 on a team that has a better goal differential than the Oilers. Draisaitl is currently at +4.

      Maybe Horvat isn’t the two way star you claim he is?



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