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Need 5 to win

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Nashville Predators
Score 5 and we’re golden!
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

30 games under our belt so time for a check in! Last time was the Thanksgiving check in and we were NOT in a playoff spot. The Thanksgiving check in has never failed. If we were in a playoff spot then we made it. If we weren’t, then we didn’t. I said I still think we make the playoffs and buck the trend. This is a flawed team but a very good one.

We are in a Wild Card spot today. 34 points after 30 games. .567 win percentage puts us third in Pacific ahead of LA (they’ve played 2 more games). The good news is that it’s a weak division. The only team beneath us that I could see making the playoffs is Calgary. The rest of the division is pretty soft. The East, on the other hand, is brutal and it looks like 2 or 3 very good teams won’t even make the playoffs.

It’s not the season I was expecting as I thought we’d roll through the regular season and be in the Pacific race the entire time while looking to upgrade our D via trade. I feel like every game I type ‘need 5 to win’ as we can score the lights out but we cannot defend.

Our D was not considered elite before the season began but I thought they’d be competent until a trade came along. That hasn’t really been the case.

I know plus/minus is not the greatest stat. Very flawed and zero argument there. However, we have 5 guys that have played 30 games on D. They are our core and have been healthy all season. 4 of them are in the ‘green’ (+2 to +13) and one of them is minus 12. That is a bit alarming (the team is also in the green).

Bouch has had a rough start to his year. The defending part has not been good. The offence part is fizzling a bit too. Bouch adding a gear was part of our ‘win now’ plan and it hasn’t happened. He’s young, he’s awesome and there are 50 games left. I’m not worried. The time to extend him is NOW. Get him on a Klefbom (who beat Nurse in the poll last time) deal. You can NOT win a trade that involves Bouch. He should be a non starter. So my suggestion is sign him while he’s low. The Oil have a bad history of trading players at their lowest value.

I don’t think Nurse has been that bad but he hasn’t looked like a Norris contender either. He even got chirped pretty good.

Ceci is doing a lot of heavy lifting but he’s not a 2. Kulak has been fine but he’s not a 3/4. Bro looks like a 5/6 (which is not where he is projected to be) and hopefully he gets better/more confident as season progresses. Barrie has been Barrie.

30 healthy games for our D core and it’s not good enough. I’m not even sure we could sustain an injury to Nurse, Bouch, Barrie, Ceci and Kulak.

We have allowed 102 goals against which puts us around the Blackhawk’s and Sabres. We have scored 109 which puts us around Boston (and Buffalo again). I say we put a package in for Chychrum. Gavrikov is another good target for us. Another pending UFA is Zub in Ottawa and he’d help us if they don’t resign him (they should). The last pending UFA is THE Radko Gudas. Makes under 3 million and is a UFA at end of season. He’s tough, physical and the fancy stats usually like his game. Perfect 4/5 on a cup contender.

The forwards have been a mixed bag. Connor and Drai are scorching hot. Hyman has been unbelievable. RNH on a career year (and he’s had a great career). The rest is a mixed bag. Lots of injuries (Kane, Foegele, Yam at times) plus a lot of AHL or tweener type players. To be honest, going 7-3 with this forward group is very encouraging.

Holloway getting less than 8 minutes a night is just plain silly and needs to stop. Move him up or move him out. The Farm is not as encouraging as one might think. Benson being our most useful forward in the AHL right now. Then Xavier B who I can’t see playing this season (others disagree).

I wrote an article about JP four years ago. The script hasn’t changed. I think trading him is a bad idea. I don’t think we’ll get anything of value. I don’t think 3 million is that egregious for a legit NHL player. We paid more for Kassian (the last poll had most people picking Kassian over JP). Both were in the 30 point range with intangibles. Zack could skate fast, punch a face and ‘deter’ our opponents. JP can screen a net, skate like the wind and ‘tilt the ice’. Both were first rounders. Neither is probably going to be recalled as a consistent Top 6 NHL scorer.

Campbell still looks shaky. Worried that Skinner is going to get overplayed/exposed. We need both guys over .900 (which Campbell may not get to this season). Skinner has gone well and above his expectations and I think should start getting mentioned in Calder talk.

I heard a joke that Campbell was on page 3 of the goalie stats. It’s funny because there are only 2 pages. So I looked today and narrowed it down by save percentage and a minimum of 10 games played. Luckily, Mrazek let in 7 goals last night so Campbell’s not last.

He’s not keeping the worst company to be honest. I would kill for Swayman.

So things are good. We win more than we lose. Our core players are healthy (except Kane). Our Forwards group is very strong. D needs improvement. McDrai hide a lot of flaws when they go supernova. We need to outscore our problems We are cap strapped. Bottom 6 needs identity. Need a starter and a backup over .900. Same as it ever was in year 4 of Holland!