It’s official my friends. We are going to the dance!
If you’re not familiar with what today means. Roughly 80% of teams that are in the Playoffs on American Thanksgiving end up making the playoffs. It’s a very crucial date to be in the playoff picture. We’re not just in the picture we’re on top of the picture! No teams in the West play tonight so these standings won’t change.
Traditionally, the Oiler’s are usually out of the playoff picture by Canadian Thanksgiving so this is tremendous news. Last time we were in this spot was 2016 when we made the playoffs (the only time in 13 years).
So what got us here? Thanksgiving award winners!
Vezina - Koskinen has been outstanding. Even in defeat last night he was unreal. Clearly the glove issues was confidence and not actual reflexes. Keep him rolling!
Hart - McDavid. Drai has been unreal but Connor is the best player on the planet.
Selke - Drai - I really think he should get a LOT of consideration for this award this year. Along with ‘best backhand passer’ in the NHL.
Norris - Klefbom. Leads the league in minutes, on pace for 50 points and hasn’t been injured. He should be in Norris talk if this keeps up.
Calder - Ethan Bear has been nothing short of exceptional. He’s not Makar (might not even be Marino) but he has become a legit Top 4 Dman and cost us nothing. His presence has solidified our D and given us depth for the first time in years.
Other factors - James Neal has 14 goals and should hit 20 easily. That alone should get Holland GM of the year. RNH continues to have the worst job in hockey and does amazing at it. Nurse continues to be a Top 4 Dman. Kassian is on career best trajectories in every possible category. Smith has stolen us a few points and has been good in his rotation. Without him, Koskinen might not be as good. Tippet has done a tremendous job in lowering our Goals Against and raising our Goals For. Russel has been tremendous in the 3rd pair with whoever his partner is.
Concerns - Last year, St. Louis was not in the playoffs on this date and they did okay for themselves. I don’t think San Jose is this bad. I think Calgary might be in for a small resurgence as well (despite an awful GM who picked up our worst players). Las Vegas is another team I could see breaking this trend. The Nurse contract is looming and it’s controversial (trade him for full value, give him the payday he will get somewhere else, own rental, lose him and potentially hurt team chemistry as he’s good friends with our top guys and an alternate captain). I say sign him but I think I’m alone in this thinking. With guys like Bouchard and Broberg in the pipe we could have a cost effective D for years to come. Kassian is also due for the last big payday of his career as well (own rental, trade and possibly hurt chemistry, lock him up long term?). It’s been nice to see Granlund and Khara pot a few but we still have almost no contribution from the bottom 6.
Needs - I think we’re a playoff team now. I’ve been happily wrong about a lot. We need another Top 6 scorer for RNH. Not an all world player, just a good 50 point NHL player who is locked in to a reasonable contract (Ehlers, Nylander would be an 80 point guy on our team). We might already have an internal solution to this problem in the AHL in Tyler Benson. That’s all I’d like to see added to our team (1 Top 6 forward) without hurting our core of players as chemisty is important and I don’t want to be big whale hunting at trade deadline. Do it as soon as possible and let’s build whatever chemistry we lose in a trade.
Food for thought - Bear is being considered our best late draft pick in a long time (his only competition is Khara). I just want to point out that the guy who we picked after Bear in the 6th round might actually be having a better season. We are talking about signing Bear for a big extension and lots money (all for it) but I’m not sure if we’re upset enough that we got nothing for John Marino:
Here are their last 5 games. Which one of these guys has been better?
Happy Turkey Day everyone!