Welcome back! This unprecedented season is now over.
First 8 games, 3 wins and 5 losses for 6 points.
Games 9 to 16, 6 wins and 2 losses for 12 points!
Games 17 to 24, 5 wins and 3 losses for 10 points.
Games 25 to 32, 4 wins and 4 losses for 8 points (2nd worst segment of season)
Games 33 to 40, 5 wins, 1 loss and 2 OT Losses for 12 points (tied for our best 8 game segment)
Games 41 to 48, 5 wins, 3 losses for 10 points.
Games 49 to 56, 6 wins and 2 losses for 12 points (third time we got 12pts in 8 games)
I won’t lie. I was extremely excited for the North division and how close it’d be but this last month has been agony. Not many important games, playoff teams have been established for a little while now and not much drama down the wire. I was picturing insane ‘4 point games’ with a lot on the line. Instead, I just want it to end so we can catch the other 3 divisions and start playing some playoff hockey!
Normally I’d recap the last 8 games but it was garbage time so let’s look at the season as a total:
McD lapped the competition and there are still people think Matthews is noticeably better. I’m not sure how he doesn’t get every single 1st place Hart vote but I’m positive that will happen. I’m not sure what Drai has to do to be more respected? Tyson Barrie may very well be the best free agent signing of the offseason. I can’t recall the last time a UFA signing on a cheap 1 year rental led all D in scoring? Another nice bonus is that we have the leading forward and D scorer in the league while also still having the reigning Hart Trophy winner on our roster.
What’s interesting about Barrie other than him delivering exactly what he promised to be? The fact that he might be the first D in NHL history to lead the league in D points and not get one Norris vote. Nurse had a tremendous season and really stepped up in Klefbom’s absence. He won’t be a finalist for the Norris but I’d be surprised if he didn’t get a few votes. I know the feeling around here is that Caleb Jones is much better and will take Nurse’s job soon. If Caleb Jones has several seasons in him better than Jone’s season than he will win multiple Norris’s and we may very well be on our way to a dynasty!
RNH had a steady and solid season. His 5 on 5 got heavily criticized and some ‘underlying stats’ seem to suggest he’s not as good as he should be. I’m not saying I disagree but, to me, not signing RNH for 5 more years would be madness!
JP ended up on the first line and never lost the job again. He definitely got stronger as the season went on. I’m really curious how he looks in playoffs with that big body and speed. I’m also curious how he does next season. Yam was almost a .ppg player last season and cut that in half this season. I think most expected something more from him. Kudos to Holland for not giving in on JP and getting him back. Signing him for 2 seasons seems like genius at this point!
I’m a big Archi fan and was really happy to seem him crack the Top 10. I was a bit disappointed in Kahun’s production but he’s set for the first line in playoffs with McD and that is another great 1 year contract.
Some honorable mentions go to the D who were quite good all season. Larsson had a great season (in a contract year, weird). Bear had downs (slow start) then more downs (concussion) then more downs (return from concussion) and then it’s been all UP. I hope he’s paired with Nurse in the playoffs once it becomes obvious he is our best bet on that top pair.
Goalies were interesting. All season long I screamed that they need to split Koskinen and Smith evenly. I also yelled at clouds about resigning Smith at all. Well, he was a top 5 goalie this season. He wont’ be in the final 3 but I could see him getting a few Vezina votes. He was definitely a team MVP (with Nurse, Drai and McD) and our playoff hopes really hang on to him.
I’ve said repeatedly that entering the playoffs relying on Smith and Koskinen is a bad bet. Let’s see if Smith can keep proving me wrong! Maybe he’s channeling his inner Roloson and cueing up a hell of a run?
Year end awards:
Rookie of the year: Evan Bouchard.
Masterton: JP! Going from being mismanaged, double hip surgery, Liiga to come back and be an impact player that is loved by everyone is a hell of a story!
Goalie: Mike Smith AINEC.
Forward: Connor McDavid is the best player on the planet.
D: Nurse will probably get a few Norris votes and got himself into Team Canada consideration at a best on best Olympics. I don’t know if he makes it. I’ve never thought he’d be a true tippy top Dman like Pronger was. However, I feel like he’s become one hell of an NHL Dman that a lot of teams would love to have. In fact, not being ‘Pronger’ seems to be his biggest criticism.
Most disappointing? The bottom 6 doesn’t seem to score much. In fact, this is still very much a 2 man show. Using an 82 game schedule, only 3 forwards would’ve got 40 or more points. Drai, McD and RNH. Same as it ever was. I know people will say that JP will do it next season based on this one. I hope that’s true but those are the same people that said Yam will get 70 points on an 82 game pace this season as well. Obviously I hope both JP and Yam get 70 points next season.
Most promising developments? McLeod, Lavoie, Savoie, Benson, Broberg, Lagesson, Marody, Skinner and Holloway all seemed poised to cause some damage at the NHL level. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the youngest member of the Czech World’s team is our very own Matej Blumel!
I don’t expect anyone to agree with me but I think it is the CFL division. I think whoever wins it is in for a rough Semi Final and we are the weakest division in the playoffs. Having said that. I also think it’s anyone’s title to take! I think we’re 50-50 with the Jet’s. I think the Leafs and Habs are 50-50 too. I’ve never cared much about regular season matchups once playoffs come.
For the Leafs, they were the best in the North but might be down to their 3rd goalie (Rittich) before it ends. The Habs are built to frustrate and annoy. They are great at it. Romanov might take your head off, Perry is a world class agitator and then they have 2 good goalies and some nice pieces (Caufield might tear it up). The Jets have BY FAR the best goalie in Vezina champ Hellebyuck. This long layoff till the first game also rests up Ehler’s who would be our third best forward.
So my picks are Oil 4-3 in a close series. Habs 4-3 in a chippy and insane series. I don’t think all the games will be close but the Habs just have a playoff vibe about them to me. My dream would be an Oil vs Leaf North final though so let’s hope it happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the 4 teams won the North though.
To be honest, it’s as good as it has ever been for the Oil. At least a decade. Back to back years of being in a playoff spot when regular season ends is 20 years in the making. I like Tippet, I think Holland has been okay and most the players did well.
I will agree with the notion that we still haven’t fleshed out enough forwards that are useful at the NHL level and that is on Holland for the most part. Kassian and Turris are back next year for instance.
The Ugly - Bouchard
I’m a huge Bouchard fan. I cannot believe we have let him sit and do nothing for this long. He literally got benched for a month. Came in and scored and got benched again. Here is his draft year which was considered an insane bumper crop of D with Dahlin going 1st overall. After that there were 4 very good D drafted within a few spots of each other. They’re all regulars in the NHL now. Why isn’t Evan? Neat fact: McLeod may have more games as an Oiler than Bouchard by the time playoffs are done. I love McLeod but feel like we’re missing the boat on Bouchard. I’ve highlighted all the D drafted that day in 2018 that have played more NHL games than Bouchard.
Just win baby!