Welcome back to Part 6 of this ongoing series. I’ll start with a recap of the last 8 games:
Lost to Avs 4-1 in a terrible game, Talbot was pulled. (0-1)
Beat the Habs 6-2. Lucic was back on line 2. We won easily. Koskinen was in net. Leon/McDavid reunited. Sunshines and lollipops! (1-1)
NEAT STAT - this was our 100th game going back to last season and we had 98 points after it. 95 was the cutoff for the playoffs last season. So we finally made the 2017/18 Playoffs!
Lost to Calgary 4-2. A very winnable game where we had a 2-0 lead. Todd McLellan didn’t adjust at all as game went from Wrestlemania in the first period to a hockey contest in the third. During Wrestlemania, he wisely promoted Zack and Milan up the top line. Unfortunately, Calgary came with skill in the third and we still had facepunchers playing in the Top 6. This backfired massively! Koskinen had 3 GAA and was above .917. Matthew Tkachuk was able to get everyone of their games while not taking one stupid penalty, he won this battle. (1-2)
We lost 6-3 to Las Vegas. We started Cam who rewarded us with 6 goals against and a .806. On a good note. Drake and Chiasson continue to contribute. (1-3).
This was the day we fired McLellan and hired Hitchcock. I felt the wrong guy was fired but was happy with the Hitchcock surprise hiring which I hope is temporary. Flying Todd out to California to fire him was a dick move. Chia has no moves left. No big trade, no signings and this team has been healthy (Sekera is back skating now as well). This is the team Chia built after 3 years on the job!
We beat SJ 4-3 in OT. Koskinen was the starter. This put us close to 3rd in Pacific. Hitchcock changed our PK formation within 1 period. (2-3)
We lost 2-1 to Anaheim in overtime. We were 16 seconds from a regulation win that would’ve had us in the playoffs at Thanksgiving. Koskinen started and played well. (2-4)
We lost 5-2 to LA (the worst team in the NHL on a back to back playing their third string goalie). We brought back Jesse after 4 games in the AHL at the coaches request.
Neat fact to make your skin crawl: Matthew Tkachuk has more points than Leon and RNH. He will also have more points this season (29) than Jesse has in his entire career by the end of this week.
Amazingly, we gave Talbot another start and he lost his 6th straight with a save percentage around .900. Jesse had less than 8 minutes, was minus 1 and took a penalty. He should’ve stayed in the AHL till Xmas and then been brought back in Top 6. (2-5)
Game 24 - Dallas
Beat Dallas 1-0 in OT. Koskinen started. Jesse promoted to Top 6 (although he finished 7th in minutes for forwards). Klefbom scores his first goal of the season and is on pace for 3 goals. Now we’re not just a shitty team, but a boring one too! 8 goals scored in Hitch’s first 4 games. (3-5) There were 12 goals scored in McLellan’s last 4 games.
Both coaches got 4 games in this segment which makes for an interesting comparison:
McLellan - 1 and 3 (2 pts), 12 GF and 16 GA
Hitchcock - 2-1-1 (5 pts), 8 GF and 10 GA
Let’s go back to what I said at the end of the last 8 game segment:
Part 1: Hopefully you notice we have 5 Pacific matchups. I feel this is our most important stretch of the season. With 5 Pacific matchups we could really establish some breathing room. We could also completely shit the bed and be out of the playoffs. That 3 game trip to California will be must watch TV. I’m saying now that if the Oiler’s aren’t in playoffs by the next 8 game review, then we aren’t making the playoffs.
Well, we officially shit the bed. Our 5 Pacific matchups resulted in L, L, OTW, OTL, L for a total of 3 points out of 10 within our terrible division. I was willing to wait till the end of the California road trip to declare the season over. It is now over. This is actually the furthest we’ve been out of a playoff spot in the three 8 game segment reviews. We do have games in hand if you are still an optimist. Las Vegas has risen to my preseason ranking of playoff contender while we plummeted. Vancouver has also dropped mightily. SJ is no surprise and I still expect them to get better. Calgary is doing great as well. It’s worth noting that all 3 of those teams made BOLD signings and trades since last season ended while we did very little. Also, all 3 teams aren’t relying on first overall picks unless you want to count Jumbo Joe who was first overall in 97!
Part 2: Fire coach. I don’t think he is that bad and he’s been given a horrid roster. But coach firings tend to spark things. Give Koskinen 4 starts so we can see what we have. Send Jesse and Kailer to AHL or make a smart trade that we don’t lose. Trade Kassian. Make Lucic a healthy scratch at least twice in the next 8 games. Hire Quenneville. Announce on Twitter and Facebook that Chia is fired before letting Chia know. Then fire Chia over Skype. Then fire him in person as well. Last, hold a press conference, with him there, to announce you’ve fired him three times already.
It’d be nice if we could also fire the guy that fired Chia. Fire them all to be safe!
What we did actually do: We did fire the coach and hired Hitchcock. We gave Koskinen 5 starts and he was 3-1-1 and played great. Talbot lost his 3 starts. We sent Jesse and Kailer to the AHL. Then brought Jesse right back after 4 games and played him for 8 minutes where he got a penalty and a minus with zero shots on net. His second game had more minutes but still no offence to speak of (2GP, 0 pts, 1 pt on season). We made a stupid trade where we got rid of Strome and acquired Spooner. I get Strome (3 points so far for NYR) isn’t a Top 6 option and was struggling offensively but he is an NHL quality player and was part of the solution and not the problem. Spooner has been terrible (6GP, 0pts, Minus 6). Hitchcock would’ve done wonders for Strome. I guarantee he’s already run out of patience with Spooner. I hope this is the last trade Chia ever makes. I forgot about Wideman, we also traded for him and then made him eat nacho’s. Kassian is still here and put on an ‘identity line’ with Lucic (who never got benched but did get ‘promoted’ to third line). That line has been good but I never want to see them out in the final minute of a game again unless we are getting blown out and looking to face punch.
Powerplay is ranked 12th and penalty kill is 27th. I do expect PK to improve under Hitchcock. I also expect our offence to get worse (please read first comment or the entire Sportsnet article).
Here are their Goalie stats for the 8 game segment. Do you see what I see?
I’m calling it now. Cam is going to get traded for magic beans and light it up somewhere else. I like Cam and don’t want him gone. I hope he turns it around and we have 2 goalies around .920 but am skeptical at best. For the season, Cam is at .889 after starting 15 games and Mikko is at .923 after starting 9 games. In case you are wondering, YES, they both had to play in front of the same shitty D. Koskinen was a great Chia signing and might even save the season, I was dead wrong on this one.
Here are the Player Stats for the last 8 games:
RNH did everything asked of him and was on career pace. So we demoted him to line 2 with a rotating carousel of players who shouldn’t be in the Top 6 on an NHL team. His stats have suffered as a result. Connor still leads us and Drai has been very good. Larsson and Klefbom are tied in points in this segment, that is great for Adam but bad for Oskar. Matthew Benning also has 3 points. Chiasson is the greatest PTO of ALL TIME. He is on pace for 50 points in 76 games. Caggiula is on pace for 35 points to be our second best ‘secondary scorer’. No other forwards to speak of. For those wondering, Aberg is at 10 points which would put him ahead of Drake and 6th in scoring overall for the Oil. Watch for Strome to end with 30 points as well. Klefbom is on pace for 38 points. Larsson is on pace for 27 points. Nurse is on pace for 21 points along with Russel. Simply not good enough for a Top 4. Neat Fact: The ‘identity line’ members combined for 2 point in 23 games for this segment. Ironically, they didn’t get those 2 points playing together.
Here is what it looks like after 24 games. Please note I didn’t have enough screen space to capture the totals of players like Spooner, Jesse and Kailer. I’m setting the over/under for Lucic goals at 3 for the season.
What we need to happen in the next 8 games:
Optimist: Jesse needs more Top 6 minutes and PP time. He’ll get 8 points in the next 8 games. Mikko should start all 8 games and he will win at least 7. Klefbom has now scored and this will ignite the return of the Klef-BOMB! The identity line is due to start scoring soon. Chiasson will continue his 40% shooting rate. Sekera will be returning soon. Hitchcock is a ‘fixer’ and now knows what to do. We’ll catch Las Vegas in the next 8 games for sure. We have 2 games in hand and Ken will lead us.
Czechboy: Season is over. We need to fire Chia. Ron Hextall got fired and he was much better at the job then Chia. Get a new guy in who can evaluate our current talent, decide on future trades, determine if Hitchcock is the coach going forward, look at our contracts (and maybe clear a few), trade deadline and the upcoming draft (get the highest ranking D on the floor). There are too many former Oiler’s in the ears of everyone. Nicholson needs to go, so does Lowe, Coffey, MacT, Howson and both Gretzky’s. Mr. 6 rings is still around as are all these guys at the table. Fire them all to be safe. There are no former Oiler’s who are currently head coaches or excellent GM’s in the NHL anywhere but Edmonton where we employ about 90% of them. I promise you there is not a long lineup to get any of those guys into other NHL head offices. ‘Are there any former Oilers available?’ is something I have NOT read once in the past 5 years when other teams are looking for a new GM or coach.
We honestly could have a very good team next season with very little effort put in. If I were Peter Chiarelli, Cam Talbot, Ty Rattie, Jesse P or Ryan Spooner I would be very worried about how the next 8 game segment looks for me. Oh, and keep our young guns in the AHL far from this mess. Let them battle it out in training camp with a fresh start.
Next 8 games: King’s, Las Vegas, Stars, Blues, Wild, Flames, Avalanche and Jets. A 3-0 run against the Pacific teams and 2 other wins would get us right back into it. I predict we score 16 goals, allow 16 goals and go 4-4.