As the Edmonton Oilers head into their bye week and then the All-Star break, the 7-3 victory for the Oilers has the team feeling pretty good about their current run. 6-1-1 in their last eight, they’re now in a playoff spot and just a couple points out of first place in the Pacific Division.
That said, the game versus the Coyotes brought up a number of questions worth asking. Is Connor McDavid getting fair treatment by the refs? What happens with Josh Arichibald when Zack Kassian returns? Or, with Riley Sheahan in general? How good is Kailer Yamamoto and does he change the Oilers need to grab a forward at the deadline? Finally, what does Edmonton do about their goaltending?
McDavid Gets Shafted by the Refs
The score was what it was and the goal Arizona potted on the power play didn’t end up costing the Oilers, but the interference penalty call against Connor McDavid was a joke.
It’s one thing to blow a call. It’s another to blow a call against McDavid, penalizing a player who is arguably the most whacked, held, slashed and hooked player in the NHL. McDavid rarely argues, (even when he often should) and he argued that he was already occupying the space the Coyotes player skated into when the interference call was made. He was completely correct.
In the NHL where the league wants to see goals, refs can’t be making these kinds of calls and then letting every infraction committed against McDavid slide. Either that, or McDavid needs to start whining more because the squeaky wheel often gets the grease.
What Do Oilers Need to Stay in Playoff Spot?
The Oilers have gotten hot at a good time. Some will also suggest the break is coming at a bad time. That said, the time off also gives management and the coaching staff more space to talk about what it is this squad needs to stay in the hunt and what additions they should make.
One area the Oilers likely won’t add is on the blue line. While Edmonton lacks a top star (Oscar Klefbom is under rated but not a star), their group is getting it done. Better yet, internally, they have prospects coming up and nearly ready, if not ready now.
What the Oilers may do is try to address their top-six forward spots but even that looks world’s better with Kailer Yamamoto coming in and being so effective.
Yamamoto now has six points in eight games for Edmonton since being called up and he’s helped give the Oilers a definitive second line. Meaning, while the Oilers may be buyers, they won’t feel the need to overspend to acquire someone since whoever they acquire would be considered gravy on top of the Oilers’ mashed potatoes.
How About Josh Archibald and Riley Sheahan?
It isn’t just Yamamoto who has taken a weight off the GM’s shoulders. A special round of applause should go out to Josh Archibald who has filled in admirably for Zack Kassian since his suspension. Given a shot on that first line, Archibald has fit right int and his speed alongside McDavid has been noticeable.
What happens to Archibald when Kassian returns? Obviously, Archibald is a depth guy who adds intangibles so he’ll go back down to a third or fourth-line role without argument but has he shown that with the right line-mates, he could be more than the Oilers have asked him to be this season?
Not to be overlooked, what else can the Oilers say about Riley Sheahan? He scored a career-high four points and could have had five if he was given the call as a penalty shot that was simply called a tripping penalty. Is this not, perhaps, the best fourth-line player the Oilers have had in a very long time? Sheahan and Archibald, though split on separate lines, combined for seven points in Saturday’s game.
While Ken Holland is looking at what to do at this year’s trade deadline, hopefully he’s talking with both player’s agents about a new deal. The Oilers should try to retain both.
How Hot is Mike Smith?
The goaltending situation in Edmonton just keeps getting more and more interesting. It raises an interesting set of questions of coach Tippett.
Mike Smith stopped 25 of 28 shots for his fifth-straight victory on Saturday and Koskinen hasn’t seen much daylight since Smith got an opportunity and really didn’t give it back. There was a time Koskinen was in that boat but coach Dave Tippett tried to work Smith in the rotation every now and again.
Does Koskinen get the same treatment after the All-Star Break? One would hope so because the netminders in Edmonton seem to have a little hot-and-cold action going on. Fortunately for the Oilers, the cold hasn’t happened yet where both goalies were terrible at the same time.
Smith has been great. But, he’s likely not going to stay great the rest of the season. The Oilers don’t want to risk Koskinen getting too cold by sitting out too long. In January, he’ll see very little action as it is.