We’re entering the second week of December, and the Oilers have underwhelmed overall. Don’t get it twisted: Connor McDavid is still an outright freak of nature, and Leon Draisaitl is still putting up significant power play markers. Goaltending has either been pretty good (Skinner) or downright scandalous (the first quarter of a five year contract in Jack Campbell). The defence is being outplayed most nights.
The Oilers are struggling at 5 on 5. Specifically, the trio of Warren Foegele, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jesse Puljujärvi have had significant issues scoring goals. Foegele might be on a hot streak, scoring three goals in his last eight. Kailer Yamamoto doesn’t have a goal yet, but has recently returned from an injury that kept him sidelined for a month. Jesse Puljujärvi has just one goal in 27 games so far this season.
Because you’re here, and you’re probably an Oilers fan, you already know which player is picking up the heavy scrutiny. It’s not Foegele, and it’s sure as hell not Kailer Yamamoto. It’s Jesse Puljujärvi, and we’re again doing the dance that seems to take place around this time every year. Today’s heat was provided from a translated interview that Puljujärvi gave in his native Finnish to Tommi Seppälä.
It’s no secret that Puljujärvi has struggled this season. He looks like he’s lost his identity a bit on the ice; he’s focusing more on being a physical winger than ever before. That’s on top of not scoring any goals. Frustrated, Puljujärvi put it out in an interview. The Seppälä interview was just too good for some folks to walk away from.
So why is Puljujärvi the one to take all the heat? Many reasons, most are utter garbage. (If he was as quick on his feet as Leon was last year, they’d probably give it a rest for a minute). The best reason is that he’s not the actual living embodiment of other great Oilers like Jari Kurri or Esa Tikkanen, he’s Jesse Puljujärvi. And some of the old guys just can’t stand it. If you’re not the greatest Finnish player in history or an agitator with a scorer’s touch, it’s not for them. Add the very important fact that statheads love Jesse Puljujärvi for his play without the puck, and some of the legacy media guys just fume at the idea that this player has a roster spot.
To single Puljujärvi out when there’s two other players on the Oilers who are struggling almost as much (if not more) is The Machine™ doing what it does best: and that’s help drive a wedge between a player and the Oilers. Puljujärvi has survived this so many times now, it’s a wonder he’s still an Oiler. It’s a personal bias with some of these guys, and they won’t stop until he’s moved for a fourth round pick and a guy with ‘some sandpaper”.
Then they can begin to really go in on Bouchard.
No player is above criticism. This includes Jesse Puljujärvi. Some players don’t get criticized, no matter how they look on ice. What’s frustratingly obvious is that some folks with access go in on a player who’s confidence is looking pretty rough, all while two other struggling players go unscathed.
It’s the song that doesn’t end.