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.
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.
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.
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.