80. Kings // Do it for the Flames

Tonight is likely the first and last time I will cheer for the Oilers to win in order to help the Flames.

With an Oilers win tonight, the Kings playoff hopes will begin to dwindle further and a Flames playoff berth will be much more likely.

Following last weeks dismantling at the hands of the Kings, defeating them tonight will be a challenge for the Oilers. The Oilers have had three very rough games losing 5-1, 8-2, and 4-0 to the Ducks, Kings, and Flames. On top of the Oilers struggling, the Kings are desperate. The defending Stanley Cup Champions are currently sitting in fourth position in the division. Although the Kings are tied in points with the Flames, they are 4 games behind when it comes to Regulation/Overtime Wins (ROW) which will be a key factor in determining many playoff spots this season. With only 3 games to play, they will need to finish with more points overall than the Flames as a tie in points would give the Flames an edge due to ROW.

The Kings will be hungry, but the Oilers won’t lay down and die.

Jobs are on the line across the board and many call-ups will have a chance to try and earn a spot on the roster next season. With Fayne and Ference out, the blueline will feature some youngins. David Musil will play his 2nd NHL game, he played alright last time out against the Flames and didn’t seem too out of place. Klefbom and Schultz will likely be the top pairing with Musil/Marincin and Aulie/Davidson rounding out the defence.

The last three games have shown that this defence line-up is not ready to play in the NHL. They have been completely dominated and have left the goaltenders out to dry, although the net minding has been less than average. Tyler Bunz made his NHL debut in relief of Ben Scrivens the last time these two teams faced off. Bunz let in 3 goals in the third period. Bunz has since been sent down and Bachman has returned from a personal leave. He will likely start tonight.

What to Watch For:

Kings Going Hard: They want, no, need to win tonight. They will come out flying and hit everything. The Oilers will need a strong defensive game to hold them off and that will be a tough challenge for an inexperienced blueline for the Oilers.

Bach is Back: Richard Bachman was playing stellar before taking a personal leave. His return will energize the Oil and hopeully he will pick up where he left off.

Odd Prediction:

Jonny Gaudreau will suddenly appear on the Oilers bench before scoring 4 goals to lift the Oilers past the Kings and help the Flames inch closer to the playoffs.

Game Prediction:

Oilers will seek revenge after being routed in Los Angeles last time out, the Kings will be hungry but might get rattled if the Oilers get off to a quick start. Bachman will play well and give the depleted defensive lineup a chance to win. The Oilers will need more than 2 goals to win though.

I give this one to the Oilers. 6-5 in a track meet, Bachman makes 55 saves in the effort.

76. Avs Again // A Win Streak?

After Fridays throttling of the Dallas Stars, the depleted Oilers line-up moves into Denver to take on the Avalanche for the second time in the last three games.

The last time out the Oilers beat the Stars 4-0, on the back of a solid game from a number of guys. Richard Bachman had a shutout and Andrew Miller scored his first NHL goal on a penalty shot. Benoit Pouliot stood out to me. He put he speed to good use and was able to generate a number of scoring chances. He fits nicely on the top line and I really hope he is signed here next season.

The Oilers played very well against Dallas. And with a few call-ups stealing the spotlight, it was surprisingly nice to watch them play so well.

Last time these two teams met, the Oilers took a 4-3 win. They started with 3 quick goals and eventually chased Varlamov. The Avs mounted a bit of a comeback but Scrivens shut the door and led his team to a victory.

Since that game, the Oilers only played once and, as mentioned, played well. The Avalanche played twice, beating the Canucks and the Sabres. Both teams come into tonight riding two game win streaks.

The Oilers look to extend their win streak to three games. Which would be their second longest of the season, aside from a four game streak in late October. The Oilers have had three other two game win streaks and have yet to make it to three, except that one time.

With veterans Fayne and Ference out, the Oilers need another solid game from the defence and goalie. Last game, I thought the defence was okay. Justin Schultz gave up a few scoring chances, but other than that they were able to help their goalie out. Bachman played outstanding and made at least three saves that likely were sure goals. The forwards generated a number of good scoring chances for the Oilers.

The Oilers have had no problem scoring as of late. With 4 goals two games in a row, they will need to keep that up to win tonight.

The Oiler call-ups have really shown a desire to win and play hard in hopes of earning a spot. I am sure that this is pushing some other guys in the room to pick it up a notch. And it is showing!

Odd Prediction

The light air in Denver causes the Oilers to be late to the arena, only Richard Bachman and Andrew Miller are on the ice to start. By the time the rest of the team arrives, the Oilers are up 3-0.

Game Prediction

Oilers ride the wave of confidence and come out flying. The Avs are hungry for redemption. Should be a fast paced game with lots of scoring chances. Similar to the last meeting, offence will dominate.

5-4 Oilers in a shootout.

Playoffs! Woo!

The playoffs loom near, and some fantastic races are going on to finalize the teams. This year, there will be teams with 95+ points that will miss the playoffs and it has been a fantastic season. There have been stories like Dubnyk, Hammond, and the struggling Kings and I am certain this years playoffs will be special.

Here is what the picture looks like today (from NHL.com):

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5 Canadian teams are in the mix and some lovable underdogs in the Sens and the Wild are also in a playoff spot.

As the season closes out, the picture will get clearer, match-ups will change, and teams will make one final push to reach the post-season.

The 2015 Playoffs are shaping up to be very exciting. And I can’t wait!

Oh baby, it’s almost draft time! (But that’s not good enough)

Well the season will end soon and us in Oil Country will look ahead to the 2015 Draft, which promises to be deep and full of skilled players. Some of whom have the potential to redefine an organization… Wouldn’t it be nice?

Here is a mock draft from DraftSite.com:

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I chose to go with this mock draft because I preferred it’s readability over that of the mocks from NHL.com and also because I think it is slightly more in-depth.

I think the top 5 are going to be set, no matter the order of the teams. McDavid will be 1, Eichel 2, and Hanifin, Marner, and Strome will slot in the 4, 5, 6 spots, but the order on those three could vary.

The Oilers will likely finish 28th, unless Buffalo or Arizona go on a tear. If that is the case, the Oilers will likely, again the draft lottery could change this, pick 3rd. This chart from James Mirtle is very handy, and super informative.

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If the Oilers finish 28th they will have an 11.5% of picking 1st and will fall no lower than fourth. Let’s assume the Oilers finish 28th, if that is the case this is who they would pick at each potential slot:

1. McDavid

3. Hanifin

4. Hanifin or Strome

It is very likely the Oilers end up drafting Hanifin, in fact I’ll be surprised if they don’t especially since they have an 88.5% chance of picking 3 or 4. Picking Marner would not be smart, he is very skilled yes, but is small-ish and is the type of player that Edmonton seems to have a stock-pile of (Eberle, Nuge, Yak eve, but mainly Eberle). I want to share a fantasy situation where picking Marner might make sense…

The Oilers need a defenceman or two. Very good ones too. Trading for one will be challenging and doing so will require moving big pieces. Who could move? Well Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, and Yakupov all are, are becoming, or have potential to become superstars. Jordan Eberle, while having a very good season, is also very skilled but in my opinion he lacks a very defined role, as Hall, Nuge, and Yakupov have. Hall is a high-energy goal scorer, Nuge can pass and find the back of the net, and Yakupov is becoming a legitimate sniper and hopefully can recover from how he was played under Eakins. Eberle is very good, but I don’t think I would pick him over any of the former #1 draft picks.

So maybe Eberle becomes part of a deal. A deal for a stud D-man will need more than just Eberle, maybe something valuable… a draft pick. Now trading the 3rd overall pick might be silly and doing so would require a HUGE return. So maybe the Pittsburgh pick comes into play… The Penguins may end the season slowly and the pick could end up in the 19-21 range, but likely will fit in and around 23. In a draft year like that this is still a very good pick. Chabot, Meyer, Debrusk, and maybe even Bittner might be available at that spot and all of those guys, including everyone else ranked 20-30 are still very skilled and attractive players.

This “deal” is shaping up nicely.

So the Oilers trade Eberle, 1st round pick (PIT), and maybe throw in Teddy Purcell (capable, but not in YEG). In return would likely be a nice defenceman. Not Doughty, not Weber, but maybe someone like Seabrook. The Oilers would likely get something else in return too, unless the D-man coming back is HUGE, like Doughty or Weber. Not gonna happen, but fun to imagine.

If the Oilers do something like I just mentioned, maybe picking Marner at 3 makes sense. He is skilled, can score, and will only get stronger and bigger with some time in junior and the minors. While McDavid would be unreal to get, it’s not going to happen. Sorry.

What is more likely is that the Oilers keep their core guys, no one big gets traded and the Oilers take Hanifin 3rd overall. Adding Hanifin will help down the road, he will be a solid D-man. The Oilers won’t get better by constantly drafting high, it doesn’t work that way. They need trades. Look at the Islanders, a few trades later and they have Halak, Leddy, Boychuck, and are absolutely one of the best teams in the NHL. Look at Florida even, not as crazy as NYI, but adding Luongo and some veterans (also Ekblad panned out as a rookie) and they are decent improvement and growth, something not seen in Edmonton in many years.

This years draft shows promise. But so did 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. And look where that has taken the Oilers. While the draft will supplement talent more needs to be done to improve the team!

74. Avalanche // The Home Stretch

The Oilers have nine games remaining in the season and two of them will come against tonights opponent, the Colorado Avalanche.

These two teams have almost exact opposite records in the month of March: the Oilers are sitting at 2-5-3 and the Avs are sitting a little prettier at 6-2-1.

Despite having a strong month, the Avalanche haven’t been quite as strong this year as they were during last season, one which was almost Cinderella-like. Sitting with 78 points, they are still 8 points behind the 8th place Flames, and likely will miss the playoffs this season. They haven’t been getting the scoring from Mackinnon, who has 38 so far after having a 63 points rookie campaign last year. O’Reilly, Tanguay, and Duchene have yet to hit 50 points, and only Iginla and Landeskog have hit the half-century plateau.

The Oilers come into tonight after a tough loss against Winnipeg on Monday. They lacked the energy needed to beat the surging Jets and fell 4-1. They lost Ference and Gordon in that game, and those are two veterans who play tough minutes. Taylor Hall made his return to the lineup and managed to assist  on the Oilers only goal, scored by Nugent-Hopkins. Hall, a usually-high-energy player, seemed slowed down on Monday night.

It looks like it’ll be a low-offence game tonight. The Avs have struggled to score and the Oilers have lacked the energy needed to score. BUT both teams are weak on the back-end and the Oilers have the weaker goaltender. (Scrivens: 14-23-10, .895 SV, 2.99 GAA) and (25-18-8, .922 SV, 2.52 GAA). So there could be some scoring, and maybe this could turn into a track meet… Despite last game being a 2-1 SO win for the Avs.

Odd Prediction

The Oilers find themselves with a 1-0 lead early in the first, but somehow only play with 4 players the rest of the period… McDavid! Iginla scores 2 goals and my love for him only grows.

Game Prediction

This won’t be a track meet, BUT it could be.

Both teams play highly offensive and forget about anything behind their own blueline. Goalies are bombarded. Varlamov plays better.

5-3 Avs win.

Looking Ahead!

The Oilers have a tough schedule to end the season, which may not be a bad thing.

They will face the Kings twice, the Flames, the Ducks, the Avs, and the Stars to close out the season. It will be tough sailing ahead, but with a legit superstar(s) being available at the draft it may not be so bad.

Hopefully we get some good play and some bright spots looking forward to next season, but also hopefully we don’t win too much… McDavid!

70. Maple Leafs // This is Gonna be Ugly // The Game Nobody Wants to Win

Ugh. The game neither team wants to win.

Tonight in Edmonton, two of the NHL’s saddest teams face off for a chance to prove who actually is worse.

Not much to say about this one.

The Oilers have 1 win in their last 10. The Leafs have 3. These teams have combined for 8 points out of the last possible 40. Yikes.

The Oilers on coming off a loss to the Blue Jackets where they actually played pretty well and managed to mount a little comeback before losing 5-4 in a shootout. Before that they lost 5-4 to the Penguins in a game where they fought hard, well at least the 4th line did.

The Leafs limp into Edmonton coming off losing to Calgary and Vancouver, losing 6-3 and 4-1, respectively.

Neither team has had much success as of late, so look for tonight to be a slow game with not much pace or flow.

Odd Prediction:

The Leafs play their 4th line all night in hopes of securing McEichel. Kessel plays poorly and is called “Fat” by Toronto media tomorrow. Klinkhammer scores a hattrick, not of Gordie variety either! Scrivens is pulled in the first 10 minutes to try and counteract the Leafs tank attempts.

Game Prediction:

Honestly, I see an Oilers win here. Scrivens is in the pipes and hasn’t been great but the Oilers have scored 8 goals in their last 2 games and have showed an offensive touch, which may continue as Toronto has given up 10 goals in their last 2 games.. Wins won’t come without good goaltending and they haven’t had that as of late so the offence will need to be rolling.

Oilers win 6-5 on the back of a solid 4th-line game.

What Will 2015/16 Look Like?

Here in Oil Country we are always looking forward to next season as we hold onto false promises of improvement. So, lets take a look at what next years line-up could look like, what we need to add, and what needs to go.

Next Year’s Lineup

Line 1:

Hall – Nuge – Eberle

Getting a top 3 forward is likely out of the question and these are the best players we have, they will likely take the top minutes playing on the first line.

Line 2:

? – Roy – Yakupov

I think that Roy will be given another year to see if he and Yak can maintain their chemistry. I don’t think Purcell will stick on that line or even on this team. Pitlick or Pakarinen may be options to challenge for that spot but I think the Oilers are going to need to go out and get a winger here.

Line 3:

? – Lander / Draisatl / Eichel / McDavid – Purcell / ?      OR     Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

Sadly, we are a very shallow team when to comes to the middle 6 forwards. I think we have 3 legitimate options for a third-line centre but not much else. If Draisatl or a draft-pick stick, which I hope he doesn’t but likely will, perhaps Lander will slide over to the wing and the other wing can be filled by Purcell who likely won’t be back anyway. Again I think a trade here is in order.

Line 4:

Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer     OR  Gazdic – Lander – Fraser / Pakarinen / Pitlick

I will be floored if these guys don’t return. They are a SOLID 4th line on any team in this league. Championship quality, dare I say. Not much else to say. Perhaps they slide up to the 3rd line and Gazdic , Fraser, and maybe Pitlick / Pakarinen slide in here.

As you can see, the Oilers have far too many 3rd / 4th line guys. They have 8 players that could fill the bottom 6, but other than the Wagon Line, not much else is that good. I think trades need to be in order to improve. MacT said that maybe 80% or so would be pack, so that opens up about 6 trades…. See more on this later…

Defence

Pairing 1:

Klefbom / Schultz /  ? – ?

No, seriously. I think Klefbom can be a solid D-man, maybe not top pairing in another city but here, he could have a chance. Likely will need a legit top pairing partner though. Perhaps he slides to #2 if we can get two more D-men.

Pairing 2:

Klefbom / Hanifin – Schultz / Marincin

Scary, yes, but likely all they have realistically.

Pairing 3:

Ference – Nurse / Fayne

I think Ference will come back for another year and therefore will somehow end up with Nurse. It is not a pretty thought as it would be great to have a solid guy with Nurse, but Ference will have to do. If the Oilers are smart, Nurse goes to the AHL.

Goalie

#1 – ?

#2 – Scrivens

I see Fasth leaving and a new #1 coming in a trade. If not, maybe Broissant comes up to back-up Scrivens for a year. Who knows.

So there you have it, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of room to improve. So from what I have concluded the Oilers need 2 – 3 wingers, 1-2 defencemen, 1 goalie. Thats up to 6 new guys, just like MacT said, so what should the priorities be?

#1 – A goalie. We need a solid goalie. Teams build success around defence and defence starts in the net. If we are shopping any big names, a goalie better be coming back.

#2 – Defencemen. The Oilers need at least 1 stud on the back-end. Not much out there. Maybe Seabrook, who knows. 2 Solid top 4 defencemen will help the Oilers extraordinarily. But this will be tough unless we eat contract money or lose the trade. Phaneuf could fill a hole here. Seriously.

#3 – Wingers. We need some veteran skill players to play along side our younger guys. Look what Roy did for Yak. If Lander or Draisatl or even McEichel had a veteran to play with that could help any of them take their game to the next level.

So there ya have it. We need a lot and have not much to give. I won’t get into who’s out there because that just makes me sad.

It’s gonna be a long off season if the Oilers don’t make some moves and get this train back on the tracks after 10 years of madness.