Oilers/Senators: Five Things We Learned After Game 4

Did you think that we’d be in losing our minds this early into the season? I mean, personally, I’m not hitting the big red button labeled “Panic Mode” yet but there are some very concerning signs showing their ugly faces and the odd thing about them is that they’re the things the cynics warned us about in the off-season.

But before I get into that I want to say that the Oilers physical pushback was encouraging. You don’t see Milan Lucic go out there and start engaging players on the first shift very often but it got my motor going. It was all good until the game was out of hand and the refs put the clamp down on any shenanigans Pat Maroon or Zack Kassian were getting into.

One last thing, how about that spear that Pageau gave Nurse last night? A suspendable offense last season but I guess not this year… weird.

  • Injuries

Leon is out with “concussion-type” symptoms. I have a couple of questions about this though,

  1. The symptoms are either those of a concussion or they aren’t. Pick one. Don’t treat us like we’re stupid.
  2. How long did the Oilers know about the concussion and decided to mask it under the guise of an “eye-injury”?

Drake Caggiula is still out with an undisclosed injury. Is THIS a concussion? Cam Talbot got smoked in the head last night, will that be a concussion?

  • The 2nd Pairing

Matt Benning’s start to the year has got the “I told you so” crowd on the highest of horses but probably rightly so at the moment. I have no problem with McLellan sitting him against the Senators because he’s young and he’ll bounce back from it. One of Benning’s great characteristics is his resiliency. Another reason, I’m not against the benching is that we had to see Auvitu at some point.

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But here’s the thing, Darnell Nurse’s development is right on schedule and he will be on the 2nd pairing for the foreseeable future. When the rest of the team has looked like trash this season, Nurse has found a way to get a passing grade.

What I’d  experiment with doing if I were coach though is tossing Benning up with Nurse and observing that duo for maybe 2-3 games and having Russell and Gryba sort out the 3rd pair. This way, every player is on their correct side and arguably in the right rung of the ladder.

  • Slow Starts

The entire team is starting slow. Not one player on the Oilers after game 4 could be described as statistically having a good start to the year.

I’ll be honest here, all of the things that I’ve mentioned so far would cripple any team in the NHL. The goalie starting slow, the secondary scoring failing to show up, a vital piece or pieces to the roster being injured.

These are all things that would make it very difficult for ANY TEAM to start the season on the right foot. So is it really fair to be shitting all over the Oilers right now? Maybe we should be looking for solutions instead of finding faults…

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED VS. OTTAWA

  • Leon Draisaitl is more important to this team than some thought. 

Boy did Edmonton really miss Leon last night. His power, playmaking, and most importantly his faceoff skills (Connor was 18% on the dot at one point in the 3rd period) were sorely missed.

  • Team speed, Where it be?

I don’t really consider the Senators to be a “fast” team per se but the teams with hard forechecks and relentless checkers are giving the Oilers fits and I can guarantee you that it’d be the same with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Nail Yakupov in the lineup. That being said, I do think that the Oilers are lacking in the quickness department. They’re missing Drake Caggiula for sure. Having Anton Slepyshev on the 4th line is doing nobody any good. Jujhar Khaira simply isn’t consistent enough to consider a factor in the forechecking dept. Iiro Pakarinen, quite frankly, isn’t a factor in any aspect of the game for this team.

I would love for the Oilers to address this team speed/quickness this year by adding a guy like Brendan Leipsic (VGK) or a Michael Grabner (NYR) but really, I’d love for them to acquire a pest of their own. A guy like Andrew Shaw, who if he didn’t make so much money, might be a perfect addition given the Habs struggles at the moment.

I think it’s important to force the other team into considering the different aspects of the Oilers game. From the physical domination to the McDavid/Draisaitl factor, to, if they had such players, the zippy irritating players that drive everybody nuts.

Right now, the Oilers are a very predictable team and their opponents are easily taking advantage of this. Rob Brown and Kelly Hrudey made some good points last night during their respective broadcasts in that Hrudey said the Oilers were trying to recapture the magic from the playoffs and that’s not what you do. Every season you have to start new. And Brown said that the Oilers aren’t playing to their strengths, they’re trying to match the style of their opponents and it’s not working because their team isn’t built that way.

  • Cam Talbot, notoriously slow starter

A caller from the post-game show brought this up I believe. It’s a valid concern. He doesn’t look like the old Cam Talbot we’re used to but is he not a slow starter as well. If we recall, his career with the Oilers didn’t start great and it was between him and Anders Nilsson if I recall correctly for a good chunk of the start of the year in 2015 before Talbot settled in and took the no.1 spot for good.

I would not be opposed to giving Laurent Brossoit the start versus the Canes this week and perhaps using that as a challenge to Talbot.

  • Yohann Auvitu Isn’t as bad as he looked.

We often say that we need to put players in a position to succeed with young players but I think that rings true for new members of the roster as well. I didn’t see Auvitu as bad as some, not that he didn’t have a poor night but who didn’t? It was his first game with the club and I’m sure there were nerves but I noticed him waaaaaay up on the play a couple of times and I didn’t mind it given the Oilers were being spanked.

My question is if the Oilers could work with Auvitu’s defensive shortcomings and take advantage of his offensive gifts, is there a player there that could have more of an impact on the game? Oh, and why was he not on the 2nd PP unit if he was brought in for his puck-moving instincts instead of Russell?

He must be given more of a chance to showcase what he’s all about. He’s chaos but trust me, chaos can be managed and if you’ve ever driven a scooter in Taipei, you know what I’m talking about.

  • Kailer Yamamoto can play

What a game he had eh? His style fit in very well against the Senators and he really deserved the point on Adam Larsson’s goal. Who, might I add, is on pace for 200 shots on goal… #Shooter

I don’t see Yammo as fast but I do see him as quick and as I mentioned above, the Oilers could use a bit more of this style of player and if he were older, I’d say keep him.

Now, after he’s sent back to junior, will his performance allow Joey Laleggia an opportunity to open up. They’re not too far off in size and style and let’s not forget, Laleggia was runner-up to Jack Eichel for the Hobey Baker award back in 2015 I believe. He may very well be the Oilers version of Conor Sheary.

He must be given more of a chance to showcase what he’s all about. He’s chaos but trust me, chaos can be managed and if you’ve ever driven a scooter in Taipei or Taiwan for that matter, you know what I’m talking about.

He’s got to get the confidence of his players back. Not only in themselves but in him as a coach. Get those players into the video room, show them some sweet Beer League Heroes Youtube compilations and let them know that they haven’t lost the ability to play well. It wasn’t pure luck that they nearly won the Pacific last year and it wasn’t chance that they were so close to making it to the Western Conference final.

Just from a cynics point of view though, we’re three seasons in here with McLellan and we know the shelf life of an NHL coach is not long. If the team fails to climb out of this mire, how many losses would it take for the axe to come down on the coaching staff’s necks?

Darryl Sutter, a Stanley Cup winning coach, is sitting at home in Viking, AB tending to his farm but one has to wonder how closely he might be watching the situation in Edmonton?

Something to think about anyhow. I don’t think it’ll come to that and I have complete faith in this roster and the coaching and management staff to figure out a way to get this season back on track.

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • TheCoMmENatOR

    You didn’t just hint at a coaching change did you?

    • Beer League Hero

      I did not. I simply tossed the notion into the conversation.