The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on January 5th.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames throughout 2018/2019, but that’s nothing new for Albertan hockey fans. Since 2008 - the official start of the first version of the Oilers rebuild - both franchises have experienced varying highs and lows. However, there isn’t much argument that Edmonton has experienced a far, far tougher time in rebuilding their franchise than their southern counterparts. This week, the Win Column Sports Panel delves into the competing rebuilds, and why Calgary has experienced far more success.
As of right now, the Edmonton Oilers and The Calgary Flames are on either side of the rebuild spectrum. When I’m scrounging through social media there’s still Oiler fans who consider the organization to be in a rebuild, but one must ask, if a rebuild spans over nearly 10-plus years, when does a “rebuild” become a disaster?
The biggest issue that Edmonton is presented with is their lack of depth throughout the whole roster. Chalk this up to whatever you’d like, whether its poor drafting, or poor management, it’s very concerning to say the least despite having arguably the best player in the league. The biggest issue with the Oilers in my opinion isn’t on the back, because when healthy, they roster an average defensive core which isn’t great but it isn’t their downfall. It’s the lack scoring capabilities outside of their first line. Outside of McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Chiasson no other Oilers forward has more than 3 goals, and Drake Caggiula was 5th in goals before being dealt. This league is offense driven, and the Oilers lack the offensive options both on their current roster and within their prospect pool. The unfortunate thing is that the Oilers don’t have the pieces to acquire additional scoring without paying a hefty price.
The Flames made quite the deal this summer acquiring Elias Lindholm and Noah Hannifin while shipping Ferland and Hamilton to Carolina. This deal only strengthened the Flames’ core. Lindholm has already crushed his career best points and goal totals and the Flames just reached the half-way mark of the season. It hard to say how their younger forwards will pan out as they don’t see the amount of ice-time to make a fair assessment as they aren’t needed to fill voids. The Flames can roll 3 lines with confidence night in and night out.
Despite many thinking, the Oilers are experiencing a rougher time in their rebuild, both teams have the same amount of 2nd round appearances since 2009. I truly think that some people blow out of proportion how bad the Oilers have been in recent years, yes it’s been bad. But other teams in the league have done just as terrible throughout the decade. However, while other teams have seemed to turn the corner in Buffalo and Calgary, Edmonton is still treading water, if not sinking.
It comes down to scoring depth, the Oilers defense isn’t as bad as people say they are, when healthy they are a serviceable core, but when their #1 (Klefbom) goes down, which he’s done quite a few times in the past couple of seasons, the Oilers can’t stay above water and keep their place in the standings. They also miss Sekera, I don’t care how many people hate that man and his performance, this team is better with him on the ice than they are without him on the ice. It comes to secondary scoring, I’m not going to bore you with the stats because Ben already laid them out in his response, but it’s just horrible. I think the rumors that McDavid is going to ask for a trade out of Edmonton have no traction, I don’t think he’ll ever do that despite his frustration, however, this Oilers team needs to find a way to win and stop wasting a generational talent. The Penguins didn’t waste Crosby and they didn’t have much to compliment him outside of Malkin, who is a comparable to Draisaitl in this situation. Just bring it together Edmonton, I don’t want to watch just Calgary in the playoffs this year.
As a Calgarian that doesn’t like the Calgary Flames, this is a bitter sweet topic for me. But why are the Flames far and away better than the Oilers right now? This may surprise you, but the Flames score more goals (150 vs 113) and give up less goals (119 vs 127) than the Oilers do. With similar goals against, how are the Flames outscoring the Oilers? The Flames have 32 PPG while the Oilers have 26, with Calgary having the 14th best powerplay (21.2%), and the Oilers have the 11st best powerplay (21.7%). This happens because the Flames have 31 more powerplay opportunities, so maybe the complains that Connor McDavid doesn’t get the calls is partially true. But even in they had equal opportunities, the Oilers would have only 7 more goals, still 30 short of the Flames.
So, what else could it be? SHOTS! Flames are shooting 8.36% vs 7.52% for the Oilers. This happens when Edmonton has a mere 9.92 high danger shot attempts per 60 at 5v5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com), while the Flames have 11.41. This leads to 1.17 high danger goals per 60 for Edmonton versus 1.57 for Calgary. So, if Edmonton is going to play more at even strength than Calgary, because they aren’t drawing penalties, then they need to be better creating even strength opportunities. But they aren’t. Who are the worst culprits? Alex Chiasson (36% HDCF%), Jesse Puljujarvi (40%) and Darnell Nurse (42%). I’m not putting all of the failures this season on these 3, but if you’re wanting to look at problem areas, focus on the play of these players and how they’re being utilized. Edmonton CAN be better, but they’ll need to change their approach to get better scoring opportunities.
The Oilers and Flames both have a dynamic duo - the Oilers with McJesus and Leon, the Flames with Johnny and Mony. What the Flames have done better is surround there duo with talent. The 2016 NHL Entry Draft where the Oilers played the hand dealt them and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi and the Flames drafted Matthew Tkachuk two picks later is how I compare the teams in their respective rebuilds. One is still trying to get their footing in the league, the other wears an “A” on their chest. The Oilers GM seems to like to collect bottom six forwards and defenseman to work around the huge (deserved) contract of McDavid. Brad Treliving in Calgary keeps collecting players who circulate through the top two lines if necessary. While Flames fans gripe about the struggles of James Neal, Oiler fans gripe about everyone not named McDavid, Drai or Nuge. Hard as it is for Oiler fans to admit, the team down south has flatly and obviously built a better TEAM.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Flames @ Flyers||Flames||Flyers||Flames||Flames|
|Wild @ Senators||Wild||Wild||Wild||Wild|
|Sabres @ Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Sabres||Bruins|
|Canucks @ Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs|
|Predators @ Canadiens||Predators||Predators||Canadiens||Predators|
|Blue Jackets @ Panthers||Panthers||Blue Jackets||Blue Jackets||Blue Jackets|
|Islanders @ Blues||Islanders||Islanders||Islanders||Islanders|
|Oilers @ Kings||Oilers||Oilers||Kings||Oilers|
|Lightning @ Sharks||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning|
Records Thus Far:
- Ben: (83-62), Last Week: (8-7), Winning Percentage: (57%)
- Carl: (50-41), Last Week: (0-0), Winning Percentage (55%)
- Arik: (73-72), Last Week: (7-8), Winning Percentage: (50%)
- Spencer: (69-76), Last Week: (8-7), Winning Percentage: (48%)
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