The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a coach who had many roles that needed to be filled. He called his players together and explained to them that each would get ice time according to his abilities. In the first period he would give one eight minutes, another four, and still another only two.
And so it was that the player who was given eight minutes earned eight more, and the one who was given four immediately went to work and earned four more. But the player who was given just two minutes was overwhelmed even with that.
During the intermission the coach called on each player to account for how he had used his time. The player to whom he had entrusted eight minutes came forward and said, "Coach, I've thoroughly outchanced the opposition both at even strength and on the power play and I scored a goal to give our team the lead!"
The coach was full of praise: "Well done, my good and faithful servant! Because you have been faithful in handling this small amount, I will make sure to give you even more ice time as the game goes on! I will let you start in the offensive zone, and I will use you on the power play!"
Next, the player to whom he had entrusted four minutes came forward and said, "Coach, I've held my own despite starting almost every shift in the defensive zone. I've killed penalties without allowing too many chances, and the opposition hasn't been able to score."
The coach was again full of praise: "Well done, my good and faithful servant! Because you have been faithful in handling this small amount, I will make rue to give you even more ice time as the game goes on! I will get you to start in the defensive zone, and use you to kill penalties. It is a hard task, but I know you will do well!"
Finally, the player to whom he had entrusted just two minutes came forward and said, "Coach, I have tried my best not to upset you. I made sure to ram into things frequently, and I didn't fall down too much. I even tried to start a fight, and although I took a penalty, I know that it was easy to kill because of its aggressive nature."
But the coach replied, "You bumbling fool! Not only did you not come close to scoring, but you made life difficult on everyone else by taking that foolish penalty! If you had at least played by the rules, we wouldn't have been at so great a disadvantage! I will take your ice time away and give it to the player who had eight minutes. For whoever has much will be given more, and whoever has little will lose what little they have. Before the next game, I'll ask that this useless oaf be sent to the minors where the weeping and gnashing of teeth never stops."
Edmonton Oilers (1-0-0) @ Minnesota Wild (1-1-1)
Xcel Energy Center, 6:00 p.m. MDT
Television: Sportsnet West
More analysis after the jump...
Home Team Scouting Report:
It seems to me that the Minnesota Wild are in the middle of rebuilding. Their actions over the summer may or may not have made the team better, but the changes definitely made them younger, and provided them with some more flexibility going forward. Is this kind of rebuilding necessary? Probably. They've registered poor shot rates for several seasons now, and that's continued again so far this season. The Wild have generated just 24.7 shots per game compared to 29.7 for their opponents, and while it's important to remember that these are early days, that -5.0 shot differential is awfully similar to the -5.8 shot differential they had in 2010-11. The new top line of Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley has done its part, but when they aren't on the ice, the club is getting hammered. That this is happening against the Blue Jackets, Islanders, and Senators - all teams I picked to miss the playoffs - is further reason for concern if you're looking for the Wild to make the playoffs this season. The Oilers haven't won in Minny for years now, but with the team that the Wild are icing this season, that's probably going to change (even if it doesn't happen tonight).
Edmonton Oilers (1-0-0):
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Hemsky
Smyth - Belanger - Eberle
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Jones
Petrell - Lander - Hordichuk
Sutton - Gilbert
Barker - Petry
Smid - Peckham
Minnesota Wild (1-1-1):
Setoguchi - Koivu - Heatley
Bouchard - Cullen - Latendresse
Gillies - Brodziak - Clutterbuck
Bulmer - Powe - Staubitz
Zanon - Zidlicky
Schultz - Scandella
Stoner - Spurgeon
By the Numbers:
Andy Sutton played 20:08 in his first game as an Oiler, and looked much better than I thought he would. The game's speed on Sutton's (lack of) puck-moving ability are going to be a major issues if he continues to play alongside Gilbert on the shut-down pairing, but against Pittsburgh, Sutton was found culpable on plays that led to scoring chances (according to David Staples) just twice, with one coming at even strength and another on the penalty kill.
Linus Omark will be sitting this one out, which on the one hand seems laughable since he's clearly better than at least two of the guys playing wing tonight. On the other hand, Tyler points out that Tom Renney might be responding to some specific flaws that Omark displayed against the Penguins, namely his ability to mark an opponent in the defensive zone.
- With the arena debate up and running, I think it's worthwhile to point out that the rink in downtown St. Paul, which began construction in 1998 and was completed in 2000, had a construction cost of approximately $130M, and was built exclusively with public money. I know that inflation is going to boost that number substantially, but it makes me wonder about the model being proposed in Edmonton. I understand that you probably get more bang with a $450M arena (although Lisa said that the arena in St. Paul was her favorite), but if I was on Edmonton's city council, I'd be awfully tempted to follow the St. Paul model and build the rink without a partner on a smaller budget (the city is already committing to twice what they spent in Minnesota with the current project), and then negotiate a lease with the Oilers.
- There are always some strange numbers to start the season, but my favorite one is probably Ryan Jones' even strength Corsi number, which stands at +37.5/60 and leads the team. It's an absolute tragedy that he hasn't been bragging about this on his Twitter account.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a beast against the Penguins. The goal was obviously big, but it's not like he was getting beat up otherwise: according to Dennis King, the Oilers outchanced the Penguins 10-2 at even strength while Nugent-Hopkins was on the ice, a very impressive showing. Of course... it does help when you're playing with the team's two best players: over Taylor Hall's career, the Oilers have earned 53.8% of the even strength chances (+70 -60) when both he and Ales Hemsky have been on the ice.