Just like that, 2017 is over. If you’re an Oilers fan, the first 5 months of this year were better than any part of a year we’ve seen in a decade. Unfortunately, it took a pretty hard right turn after that.
We remember the Oilers winning seemingly almost every game from January to March, Connor McDavid racking up 100 points to lead the league in scoring, and win the Hart, Oscar Klefbom tying the game in game 5 vs the Sharks, and David Deharnais winning that game in OT. We remember Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scoring on consecutive breakaways, we were off to the second round and everyone was on board.
The city was finally embracing this team as it climbed into the second round. Struggling sports bars had been given a temporary license to print money, those $15 Oilers car flags were sold out all over the city, Leon Drasaitl jerseys were hard to acquire at retail price, everything was looking up.
We also have the bad memories. We have the Kris Russell signing a contract for way too long, we have Jordan Eberle being shipped out for Ryan Strome, we have Andrej Sekera being injured for the better part of the year, and I know that nobody has forgotten the Ryan Kesler pad-pull. It’s only fitting that year going from incredible to incredible ends with one of the most disgraceful performances in recent memory.
In the spirit of such a thing, lets try and make some resolutions to not only improve the Oilers, but improve the fan experience. It shouldn’t be too hard, there’s a whole calendar year in which to make these work. The last thing anyone wants is to go through the motions through the rest of this disaster season, may as well have something to accomplish, right?
- Let’s get that Penalty Kill under control
The Oilers are dead last in the league in this category at 71.8%. On top of that, they have looked atrocious killing penalties. It’s lucky that the 71.8% isn’t far lower. Todd McLellan has introduced a new L-Formation powerplay this year to prevent cross-seam passes. It hasn’t worked for its intended purpose, and it’s left fans screaming at unnecessary failed clears and goals against. I for one have seen enough of it and with to leave that particular disaster in 2017.
2. Let’s get that Powerplay under control
We aren’t quite dead last here — we’re 22nd — but that 17% conversion rate is still pretty bad. It’s a system that involves standing still, keeping the puck outside the seam, and refusing to take shots from the slot. It’s a stupid system, and I’m not really sure why it’s being implemented after last year’s success of not doing that. Also, I think we’ve all seen just about enough of Mark Letestu on the first unit, it’s not adding anything of value this year.
3. Can we not break up that Leon Draisaitl - Ryan Strome - Jujhar Khair line?
It’s one thing that’s worked really well the past 8 games right before it was broken up last night for no good reason. Strome is best used at F1, he simply cannot play F3. Using Leon and Jujhar to their roles was the best thing for all three of those players, it was finally a point in time where just about everyone was completely satisfied with the three of them. It gave us quality chances, possession and much MUCH needed secondary scoring. There’s no reason to break those three up and... Oh
Maroon McDavid Puljujarvi— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) January 1, 2018
Cammalleri draisaitl Caggiula
Lucic RNH Strome
Auvitu Letestu Slepyshev
4. After seeing that... Let’s not act like McLellan is above criticism
He’s a great coach, he got the team into the playoffs last year for the first time in forever. He had a quality defensive system and had an exciting team night in and night out. This year, that’s changed. He’s had his roster slightly depleted but that’s no excuse for that powerplay, the penalty kill or that feed-the-point offense that just doesn’t work. If he were fired, he’d likely have another job within a month. Still, it’s not unreasonable to question whether or not a change is needed. A lot of problems on the ice can be tracked directly to coaching.
5. About that roster being depleted, can we not further do that?
Taylor Hall in 2016, Jordan Eberle in 2017, what happens in 2018? A lot of people had Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pegged as the fall man for this year due to cap concerns and I really hope everyone who thinks that is wrong. The Cap is going to be up over 80 Million next season and there is no reason to believe we’re going to be cap strapped. We weren’t this year either and could have easily kept Eberle so you have every right to be skeptical. That being said, RNH has had a really good season thus far so let’s hope Chiarelli can tell his cap manager (Bill Scott) to look elsewhere to solve problems that don’t exist.
6. Stop treating the Bakersfield Condors as a place to dump garbage.
Good development teams don’t have so many aging NHL rejects on the farm team that the AHL veteran rule actually gets enforced on a nightly basis. Right now the Oilers have to sit out one of their vets every night because they have more than the AHL allows. It’s a very stupid problem to have and is cause by bad signings, no plan to develop, and no contingency to piss-poor planning. I was happy when they were able to get Mark Fayne out of there, but they immediately made it worse when the sent Eric Gryba down there. What’s worse is what they do when the CHL season is over. Certainly you would want Ostap Safin, Krill Maksimov and Kailer Yamamoto to go play a few game when their seasons end. Is there even going to be roster spots at that time? This summer it’s crucial to not sign AHL lifers and NHL rejects. Develop properly, leave an NHL roster spot open to cycle young players through the big league, tell them what they need to work on in the AHL and keep doing so until someone breaks through permanently. This is Keith Gretzky’s department, let’s see if he deserved his promotion to AGM.
7. Can we stop getting angry at the Lucic contract?
It’s done. He’s here. And actually, he’s a pretty damn good player. He makes $6 Million per year on a contract that appears way too long, but at the moment he is producing above a $6M dollar player, just like Eberly. Milan Lucic is going to continue scoring 50-60 points per year for the next few, and until he doesn’t, that’s not a bad contract. When that contract does go bad, I won’t be surprised in the slightest that his well-documented back issue flares up and he conveniently LTIRetires. The contract will be traded to the Coyotes and everyone wins. Stop worrying about that not happening and just enjoy $6M production.
8. I should probably work on more original content.
I’ve been at Copper&Blue for 6 Months now and have only written a handful of original pieces. One thing I hate is content production for the point of content production, and often having something to say is better done in the comments. There are however certain things that need to be discussed. I’ll try to go into further detail of systems, player development and opinion pieces than in the past. It’s hard with game recaps, hot links and work all getting in the way, but those things really aren’t that much of a hindrance. That’s my goal for the year.
9. Enjoy Darnell Nurse
He’s been to us this season, when Klefbom was to us last season. Seeing a player teetering on bust-status turn it around and be a top-pairing defenseman is one of the best parts of 2017, even if it’s happening during a tire fire. He should only improve from here. Once he adds in some more offense, he’s going to be a force. This is the guy we thought we drafted, this is the guy who won defensive player of the tournament in the 2013 WJC, and he’s all Oilers. It’s wonderful. He is about the only player I haven’t criticized this year.