After a remarkable start to the season the Oilers cooled off significantly in November posting a 5-8-1 record. There were two big reasons for the less productive November. The first was injuries (of course it was injuries, this is the Oilers we're talking about). Ryan Whitney, Cam Barker, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter, and Taylor Hall are either currently injured or spent a good portion of the month injured. The second was factor was reality. The 7-2-2 start to the season was very nice but it was pretty unlikely that the Oilers were going to continue get historic goaltending en route to the best season this franchise has had in more than two decades. At some point the Oilers were going to see results more consistent with their skill level and that happened in November.
As of the end of November the Oilers were in tenth place in the Western Conference. Looking up in the standings in a tight Western Conference the Wild sit in first six points ahead of the Oilers, four points behind the Oilers are the 12th place Avalanche. It's a precarious position for the Oilers but it's also a hell of a lot better than being last or second last like the team has been the last two seasons at the end of November.
Like I did last month, with the calendars now flipped to December, I've taken a little time to look back at the month that was and the Oilers who saw their stock rise or fall the most during November.
So that I can wrap this post up on a positive note I’ll start with players that saw the biggest stock drops this month. To build suspense I’ve listed them in reverse order so don’t scroll down or you’ll ruin the surprise.
Magnus Paajarvi - October was a slow month for Paajarvi but November was tougher. While Paajarvi was able to record his first point of the season this month, an assist versus Phoenix, he also spent four games watching from the press box as a healthy scratch and played ten minutes or less four more times. More recently, with the injury to Hall a spot on the Oilers powerplay became available and that hole has been filled more often than not by Ryan Jones rather than Paajarvi who, regardless of the points, is a far more talented player.
Theo Peckham - My October list also included Peckham and November wasn't much kinder to him. The rash of injuries has forced him to take on a bigger role and tougher opponents some nights but even when I factor that in Peckham's play was disappointing last month. Far too often for my likinig Peckham looks lost on the ice, his positioning isn't great, and he's getting beat consistently by competition of all skill levels. All good reasons for him to make this list but his decision to try and start a fight with the Avs Ryan Wilson rather than play the game, a decision that resulted directly in a goal agains the Oilers, would probably have been enough on its own.
Ben Eager - The man meant to bring grit, jam, crust, sandpaper, or something to the Oilers fourth line when he was acquired in the offseason has proven to be quite ineffective at doing even that much so far this season. Limited during the month with a back injury, an injury that is still keeping him out of the line-up, Eager was also a healthy scratch a couple of times as the coaching staff has become frustrated with his listless effort. I have not hidden the fact that I do not like players like Eager (or Darcy Hordichuk) but Eager isn't even living up to my very limited expectations right now. He's not very physical when he does play and he's not all that good at anything else.
All right, enough of the bad, time to move onto the good. Again in reverse order.
Shawn Horcoff - During games I do on occasion still hear some mouth breather shouting to trade Horcoff. I never respond to comments like these and instead just shake my head because what I see out there from Horcoff is consistently amazing. He takes on the opponents toughest line, coupled with brutal zone starts, and comes out near even, or sometimes even ahead, almost every night. He kills penalties. He plays on the powerplay. And he plays a ton of minutes. Last month he played at least 18 minutes in every game except the 9-2 beating of the Blackhawks when the Oilers were able to role four lines almost all night long. He does all of that and still managed to score five goals and five assists last month. Anyone who thinks we should trade him should try watching the game.
Jordan Eberle - The man most often overlooked during the October success of the Chosen Line had his best month as a pro in November. After recording just one assist in the first five games of the month, Eberle came to life with six goals and nine assists in the next nine games. The points alone don't tell the whole story with Eberle. He's making passes and plays that a player with less than 100 games of pro experience just doesn't make. He's got a backhand that might be the best I've seen on the Oilers in a very long time too, a backhand that he put on display twice against the Wild on Wednesday night. He might not be a flashy first overall pick but he's just a hair behind those guys at this point.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Like Peckham, Nugent-Hopkins makes a repeat appearance on the list, albeit in a more positive way, moving up from number three last month to top spot this month. Even the most optimistic Oiler fans were surprised by Nugent-Hopkins' first month as a pro and he was even more impressive in November. After scoring six goals and adding ten assists in November Nugent-Hopkins was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for the second consecutive month and found himself sitting fourth in the NHL in scoring. For a kid who is still more than four months away from his nineteenth birthday I've got to say, that's damn impressive, and that why his stock rose the most in November.