Ramblings: The Oilers Were Wrong to Practice

by steve laidlaw on October 17, 2016

Ramblings: Why the Oilers were wrong to practice, Mike Green's relevance, and more.

Following Sunday’s stinker against Buffalo, Todd McLellan decided to turn Monday’s mandated day off into a practice day.

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This does not sound like it will go over well. Frankly, I’m not too happy about it either.

I am sure that Todd McLellan has innocent intentions here. He just wants to hold his young team accountable. I am sure that the players’ intentions are pure as well. They have aspirations of being a contender and they certainly understand the need for being accountable, especially after getting beat badly by the Sabres. The problem is that it’s horribly myopic.

What’s best for this particular Oilers team is not necessarily what’s best for the entire Player’s Association. They collectively bargained to have these days mandated to be off and they obviously did it for a reason. Giving back on something you won from an employer who has proven unwilling to fight fair when it comes to collective bargaining is not a wise choice. The NHL has proven time and again that they will simply lock the players out to get their way and it’s almost certain they will do so again. This give back shows weakness.

But forget, for a second, the implications for the Player’s Association. What’s more important is the reason why these days off were mandated in the first place: health and wellness. The players fought for these days off because the NHL season is arduous. It actively wears down it’s players. These days off are a chance to recover and failing that they are at the very least reprieve from the constant pounding. McLellan and the Oilers have elected to completely ignore that.

The Oilers may improve in the short term because of yesterday’s practice. They may not take so many silly penalties in the next game. They may bring a better effort. But will they be a better team if Oscar Klefbom goes down with another injury? Will they be a better team if Connor McDavid is battling a nagging knee all season long? We know that tired players are more likely to be injured. We know that the season is too long, with too many games and too much travel. Maintaining a healthy roster is a far more important, tangible and attainable goal than this mysterious goal of obtaining accountability or correcting some X’s and O’s.

If teams are really concerned about its players taking nights off perhaps they’ll consider reducing the number of games so that each game matters, and they’ll do it to improve the game rather than as a negotiating tactic to break the players. But of course, they’ll never do that. That would require giving up revenue from 82 games worth of tickets and concessions.

The players get their collectively bargained portion of those concessions and ticket sales so they may not have much interest in reducing the number of games either but they are subsidizing the growth of the revenue pie with their bodies, a trade off the league is more than willing to let them make. Today’s players would do well to take a lesson from their retired brethren who have been stuck filing lawsuits to try claw back money to help pay for the injuries they incurred growing the game to where it is today.

That this “give back” from the players took place in Edmonton, the site of the latest arena heist is all the more maddening. The Oilers’ owner not only held the franchise hostage with threats of moving the team should the people of Edmonton fail to subsidize the building of his new colossus but subsequently jacked up the ticket prices for the priviledge of entering the building they helped pay for. You really cannot give these guys anything, a sentiment with which Willie Mitchell certainly agrees.

Shame on Todd McLellan and the rest of the coaches for asking this of the players. And shame on Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers players for conceding. Next time, take your day off. It’s in everyone’s best interest, whether we realize it or not.

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How many more multi-point efforts from Chris Kreider before we can feel safe that his breakout is real? I don’t want to get sucked in too deep, just a week into the season, only to have Lucy pull the ball away. The early returns have been great with Kreider scoring a goal and an assist in each of the first three games. He has poured on the shots as well. Kreider could definitely provide a 30-goal/60-point/300-SOG season.

The floodgates were open for the Rangers, with all but seven of the 18 skaters held off the scoresheet. Surprisingly, one of those was Kreider’s linemate, Mika Zibanejad, who is also off to a hot start.

Jimmy Vesey was up on the Rangers’ top line with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. The rookie scored his first NHL goal and is in a nice spot but I still don’t feel like he is scoring more than 40 points this season.

Ryan McDonagh had a pair of assists in over 26 minutes of ice time. He led all Rangers with 3:39 on the power play. He is back in the driver’s seat for New York.

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You’ll rarely hear me talk about the Sharks because it’s pretty well always the same four guys putting up points for them. If it’s not one of Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton or Logan Couture, colour me shocked. Burns and Pavelski combined for seven points last night. Ho hum.

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Mike Green went ham last night netting his first career hat-trick. I pretty well wrote him off after he disappointed with just 35 points in 74 games for a Red Wings team that desperately needed his offense and puck moving from the back end. Green did produce 20 PPP, accounting for over half his production, but he also floundered producing his first season with under two SOG per game since his rookie year.

Green did close the season with a bang, scoring 13 points in 19 games through March and April, with another two points in five playoff games. Toss in the five points he has through three games this season and Green is on a run of 20 points in 27 games. That’s almost vintage Green right there.

It wouldn’t shock me to see Green hit 40 points, but the decline in shooting and the ever-present threat of injuries has me soured. You’ll also remember that I don’t go for 40-point defensemen who don’t pile up shots so unless something changes on that front, Green’s recent run still doesn’t change my outlook. He has my attention, however!

Another Red Wing written off for dead; Thomas Vanek remains hot with a three-assist performance. Vanek has found his way onto the Red Wings’ top PP unit, which makes him rather intriguing in deeper formats.

I still prefer Vanek’s teammate Tomas Tatar who notched his first point of the season. Tatar is consistently seeing ice time with more talented linemates like Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin and Henrik Zetterberg, plus he is also getting that top PP unit burn. Tatar is simply being used in better situations. He’ll need to produce if he wants that to continue, however.

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Jarome Iginla scored his first goal of the season, a power-play marker. Iginla scored 13 of those last season and has effectively become a DH. It should be noted that he has been skating with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, so he’s in a really good spot but I still don’t envision more than 50 points.

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Strong showing for Tuukka Rask in Winnipeg stopping 34 of 35 shots. He also had a pair of assists, which I firmly believe should count for your fantasy squad. I know Yahoo! doesn’t allow for this type of scoring, but Fantrax does. I would encourage everyone to allow goalie assists to count in your league. It adds an interesting wrinkle.

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I was hoping for some strong returns from Nick Bonino early on but so far, last night’s assist was his first point of the season. He continues to center Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel but that line hasn’t produced like they did in the playoffs. Bonino’s assist came from filling in for Sidney Crosby on the top power play unit. Those minutes will dry up whenever Crosby returns. Bonino needs to get going now.

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The Oilers have called up Laurent Brossoit with backup Jonas Gustavsson out. Brossoit should give Cam Talbot a better battle for the starting job anyhow, though I doubt Talbot is likely to lose his starting gig.

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That was a speedy return for Jaden Schwartz. I was expecting him out until around Halloween. It will be interesting to see where he lines up as the Blues are looking awfully loaded on the wing right now. It is possible that with the Jori Lehtera injury that Alex Steen moves to center, which he has done in the past.

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Doesn’t sound like Jiri Hudler will be available for tonight’s game:

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Pure gold from Barry Trotz:

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Sad news, as the salary cap website General Fanager has closed up shop as the site runner has been hired by the new Las Vegas franchise. Our friends at Cap Friendly are still in operation so if you were a patron of General Fanager make your way over to Cap Friendly.

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I am very excited that we are back with Sportsnet this year. I’ll be doing a weekly Hot/Not column for them every Monday. You can find my first entry here. Ian Gooding will be providing a Waiver Wire column for them every Friday. Also, watch for our 20 Fantasy Thoughts piece every Sunday, which is a curation of 20 of the best blurbs from the previous week’s ramblings.

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Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.