Welcome back. I thought we’d sneak in 2 more games so this is a 10 game review:
First 8 games - 7 and 1 (14 points)
Games 9 to 16 - 3 and 5 (3-3-2) (8 points)
Games 17 to 24 - 4 and 4 (4-3-1) (9 points)
Games 25 to 32 - 4 and 4 (4-3-1) (9 points)
Games 33 to 41 - 2 and 7 (4 points)
Games 42 to 49 - 6 and 2 (6-1-1) (13 points)
Games 50 to 59 - 6 and 4 (6-3-1) (13 points)
This is our third hot streak of the season. The best part is that it is on the heels of another hot streak. We’re at .500 gets us in the playoffs now. Our last 2 segments (18 games) are 12 and 6 (with 2 loser points). That is outstanding!
Here are our Top 10 scorers from the last 10 games:
Our top 2 D are both clicking at 5 points in 10 games. Our ‘second line’ is tearing apart the NHL right now. Our ‘second best player’ who is ‘carried by Connor McDavid’ is now destroying the Art Ross race and has 10 points in 4 games without the best player in the world. RNH, who I routinely describe as having the worst job in the NHL, FINALLY has 2 good linemates and looks every bit the 1st overall pick that he is. Caleb Jones had 3 goals in this segment. Anyone notice Josh Archibald has 5 points in this stretch? The second he was moved into Top 6 and given opportunity he started scoring.
What you don’t see in the top 10 here is Zack Kassian. You won’t see him in the Top 10 in the next 8 game review either. This 10 game segment coincides with the day Zack signed his new 4 year contract. Zack got 2 points and a 7 game suspension. I want to be clear, I don’t think Zack was malicious or trying to hurt Cernak. I think he was stupid and did a stupid thing. He absolutely deserved 7 games and that was very fair. What bugs me is that he just finished a suspension. So he’s had 2 suspensions in 1 month and will miss 9 games in the most important part of the season. I know people love him but he’s not helping our playoff cause at all with back to back suspensions. Both suspensions were deserved and both suspensions were caused by Zack not thinking. Archibald has easily replaced Zack’s scoring with a similar .5 ppg clip when playing with elite players. Tyler Benson has finally got a real chance and is starting to show why he is a legit complimentary Top 6 player. If no trade happens, I dream of Archibald and Kassian together on McDavid’s wing when Connor comes back.
Also, during this segment, Holland signed Nurse to a very good bridge deal that should keep most people happy. We’ll probably lose Nurse in 2 years to free agency but, for now, he’s locked in and we didn’t break the bank to keep him. The fact we have Nurse for 2 years and Zack for 4 years just makes my head spin. One is in their mid 20’s and a Top 4 option, the other is hitting his 30’s and a bottom 6 option. We shouldn’t reward any bottom 6 players with long contracts and big cap hits. 2 years and under 2 million should be every guy in our bottom 6.
Mike Smith has been carrying the show in net. Dave Tippet is the goalie whisperer and just keeps getting results out of 2 sub starter quality goalies. Tippet can do no wrong and should be a Jack Adam’s candidate if we make the playoffs.
I’m not comfortable with either goalie as a starter. I think Koskinen is better. However, Mike Smith is a key contributor in this playoff drive. He has been outstanding in 2020 and deserves a huge part of the team success. I hated this signing and was wrong.
In the last 10 games, we are the 6th best team in the NHL:
Our Powerplay is 6th in the NHL in this span. Our PK is first in the NHL in this span. Our special teams are through the roof.
Of all the stats though, this is the one that matters:
We have a game in hand on everyone but Vancouver and have top spot right now. I mean, things are good. We are doing this without our top line of McDavid, Neal and Kassian. We are doing this on the backs of players we drafted and developed. Yamamoto and Bear are massive contributors to this season. Patrick Russel, Caleb Jones and, now, Tyler Benson are starting to make impacts as well. All these players are contributing and cheap. It’s fantastic. Josh Archibald has also really stepped up. I’ve mentioned this before but I hope we resign Sam Gagner at a much smaller cap hit and term. His contract is bad but he’s a fantastic bottom 6 guy for us.
Speaking of bottom 6 guys. Anton Shlepyshev is about to go UFA in the KHL. He’s really blossoming in the KHL. I’d love to get him back on a 2 year contract. He would be amazing in the bottom 6 but might also be able to help out in the Top 6.
He has an NHLe of 50 points. He’s 25. We own him already.
During this time we signed Kassian to 4 years and almost 14 million dollars. I hate this signing. Not because I hate Zack Kassian but because we just signed a career bottom 6 guy for 4 years well into his 30’s. I’ve been told that Zack has character, plays by the code, can penalty kill, is versatile, is very fast and is part of our core:
Kassian just got suspended for 7 games after returning from a 2 game suspension less than a month ago.
Plays be the ‘code’:
He got suspended for kicking a guy and ragdolling a guy who clearly wasn’t fighting back. That is the opposite of ‘playing a fair game’ and by the ‘code’.
Can Penalty Kill:
Kassian has played 1:16 seconds for the entire season on the PK. Not 1:16 per game. 1:16 for the entire season. He is tied with James Neal for total minutes on the PK. That’s either 1 shift or 2. I mentioned earlier that our PK is exceptional this season. The guys to thank for that are Klef, Sheahan, Archibald, Russel, Nurse, Bear, RNH and Khara. All of them have played over 80 minutes on our world class PK this year.
Zack doesn’t kill penalties.
Zack doesn’t play the powerplay.
Zack doesn’t play in 3 on 3 OT.
Zack doesn’t do shootouts.
Zack plays 5 on 5 with Connor McDavid 90% of the time.
That’s not versatile. That’s 1 dimensional.
Is very fast:
I agree that he’s not slow. I think if you ranked our Top 20 skaters he’d be around 12. It’s not a binding argument but here is how he did at the Oiler’s fastest skater comp:
Maybe he wasn’t trying hard. He was 5th out of 6th here. However, I can’t help but think that guys like Yamamoto, Archibald, Russel, Nurse and Drai are all faster than him. He’s definitely not slow and faster than Gagner, Chiasson and Neal. However, I don’t think he is a burner or top 10 skater on our Oiler’s. Now add in Shelpyshev, Jesse and McLeod into this for next season?
Is part of our core?
2 points in his last 18 games will be his contribution to our playoff run after returning from his second suspension in a month. 9 of those 18 games were suspension and he got 2 points in the other 9 games. He had a great chance to step up when Connor got hurt. Imagine if he put up a bunch of points and played during this important time? 4 more year starting next season. We get Zack from 30 to 33 years old.
Guys I’d rather see in the Top 6 on Connor’s line instead of Kassian: Benson, Jesse P, Shelpyshev and Archibald.