An Edmonton Oiler playing within narrow margins in search of a Stanley Cup: 9 Things

Article content

If there is one thing I try to keep in mind all of the time is that one should always be cautious of small samples.

It is a perilous pothole that you avoid like the plague in my primary business which is broadcasting. But the same advice is equally applicable in Professional sport. And hey…I get that being emotional about your team is part of being a fan.

Article content

But if it seemed to some that the sky was falling after the St. Louis game, surely that rock-solid performance against a much better team in Dallas should
convince you that it very much is not.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Let’s dig into that, in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Connor McDavid and…wait for it…Wayne Gretzky are the only two NHL-ers in history to register eight consecutive 60-assist seasons. It is worth pointing out that one of those six for Connor was during the shortened 56-game 2020-21 year.

8. Calvin Pickard made 24 saves for the Oilers Saturday and has won six straight. What a solidifying influence he has been in between the pipes. I have been thinking this for a while and am now prepared to say it aloud: Pickard is
fast earning another contract in Edmonton.

7. I have zero question whether Corey Perry has any game left in him. What I do wonder is if he can manage that much ice time alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. At Perry’s age, with his foot speed and with the sizeable gap in his season it is a fair question. But so far, the early returns on this veteran in the Edmonton lineup are certainly positive.

6. As trade talk nears a fever pitch in Edmonton two names that invariably come up in terms of moving salary out are Cody Ceci and Brett Kulak. Bit I note that in my colleague Bruce McCurdy’s most recent article on Cult of Hockey Player Grades from the last 10-game segment, Kulak and Ceci graded out the highest amongst all Oilers D-men (Kulak a 6.5 over 10, Ceci a 6.1).

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

5. We saw the two extremes of Evan Bouchard’s offensive tendencies on Saturday in Dallas. On that 2nd Period 5v3 Power Play he looked off multiple opportunities. It was a man advantage during which the Oilers had one post but not shots and could have cost the club dearly. Of course, Bouchard ultimately scored twice including the winner in OT. So, friendly advice after a productive night? Shoot the puck, young man. Shoot. The. Puck.

4. What the hell is going on with Leon Draisaitl in the faceoff circle? Zero concern with the player’s efficiency. Going into Saturday’s game Draisaitl was 56.9% on the dots. That is 6th in the entire league among those who have taken 500 draws or more. It is an at elite level. But if you have watched the games, you will know that Draisaitl is repeatedly being kicked out. And a majority of those are over the most minute of issues. I covered hockey for 35+ years. I played at a decent level. I was even also a linesman at one point. I am telling you, something here smells. If I were the Oilers I would be crying foul.

3. This is where I will issue my regular reminder to the league and to its officials: The game is not about you. Fans do not pay that kind of money for tickets or for their streaming service or whatever to watch you boot guys out of the faceoff circle over and over again. In addition to having covered the game for 35 years and played it at a decent level, I was also an on-ice official for a time. The most common cause of infractions in the faceoff circle are due to the linesman not dropping the damn puck. It is slowing down an otherwise fast, exciting game. It is starting to do to hockey what a batter stepping out of the box every pitch in baseball did to that game. And it took MLB a long time to fix it.

Advertisement 4

Article content

2. One of the early hallmarks of Kris Knoblauch’s successful run as the new Oilers Head Coach was his consistency. He found combinations that worked, displayed patience over time and stuck with them. The results were quite obvious. Numerous players commented positively on the experience. Recently, though, the forward lines have become a mish mash again which has continued through the Dallas game. The shuffling of the D-pairs was a disaster. Knoblauch thankfully aborted soon after. Both of those things have coincided with the Oilers dip in play. One of the traps Jay Woodcroft stepped into during his time was to try to play the game for his players, instead of letting his players do that. Kris Knoblauch would do well to learn from Woodcroft’s example and return to the things that helped him achieve success in the first place.

1.There are two debates intersecting over the Connor Brown situation. But one of them is not really related to the other. And I think it is important to try and separate the two. Perhaps after a big win is the best time to do that, as opposed to after the club suffers a setback. Surely, we can agree that the contract the Edmonton Oilers gave him has not even come close to working out. Set the salary versus bonus aspect of that deal aside. The bottom line is that Brown has not come close to covering the $4m AAV. You did not pay that amount of money for 0 goals and 4 assists in 44 games. Period.

Advertisement 5

Article content

But the money is spent. Particularly the deferred bonus cash. Brown is otherwise at the league minimum and that aspect is not terribly onerous. No combination of benching him, sending him to Bakersfield or trading him away will make that demonstrably better. If you want to be mad at the bonus money, fine. I get it. But be mad at it next Fall when it actually matters. Right now? It does not.

So, if we are evaluating the player on the ice, we should really do so without the bonus dollars attached. Is Brown playing well in a 4th line role and at the league minimum in terms of the 2023-24 salary cap? By and large, yes. Brown has been excellent on the PK. On the attack he has been getting his chances.

But on Saturday in Dallas, Brown was partially responsible for the first Dallas goal and primarily responsible for the 2nd. That left-side D-man is his check all day-long. When you are a veteran, that can not happen. Especially when the tap is
dust dry in the other direction.

I have time for Connor Brown. I will not be a hypocrite. I applauded quickly and loudly when he was signed.

But you make your own margins in this game. And when you do not score, at all, those margins are tight at the other end.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at [email protected]

Recently, at The Cult…

McCURDY: Oilers red hot to luke warm over 10 game stretch

STAPLES: Evan Bouchard the shooting star in Dallas

LEAVINS: Oilers watch St. Loo loss from the box

Article content