Game 41: San Jose Sharks (24-14-2) vs. Edmonton Oilers (21-14-7)
Gametime: 7:00pm PST / 10:00pm EST
Radio: 98.5 KFOX
Remember this guy?
Todd McLellan has no idea what the hell’s going on.
To be fair, you wouldn’t either if you went from coaching a team with Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel to a team with Connor McDavid, someone named Anton Lander and
an unchangeable diaper Milan Lucic.
Coaching a team of proven superstars and developing players into superstars aren’t the same things. Since when is developing younger players in Todd McLellan’s wheelhouse?
It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers are a team in transition. The former Sharks head coach holds a record of 92-90-24 in two-plus seasons with the Edmonton Oilers while juggling the growing pains of a much more youth-oriented hockey team. A role, by the way, McLellan specifically sought out after leaving San Jose and declaring the Sharks “a team in a rebuild.”
A few months after that frickin’ embarrassment, McLellan appears to have the team set on the right path in 2017, as they currently sit one point out of the Pacific Division lead (although the Sharks have two games in hand). Giving Connor McDavid the “C” could be the sign of a new era of trust for younger players for McLellan, but I shudder to think of how guys like Kevin LaBanc and Joonas Donskoi would have done in their first years on a Sharks team coached by him. McLellan’s talent for taking seasoned players to new heights was unprecedented during his time in San Jose, as he converted Joe Thornton into arguably the best two-way center in the Western Conference outside of Anze Kopitar. But his reluctance to utilize and communicate with younger players while leaning on his veterans too much was his Achilles’ heel in San Jose, and could be his fatal flaw in Edmonton.
The Sharks face off against the Oilers for the second of five regular-season meetings tonight. San Jose won the first matchup 3-2 in overtime two weeks ago thanks to the soft, deadly hands of Brent Burns.
The Oilers reassigned prospect Jesse Puljujärvi to the AHL Monday. While the move may come as a surprise to some Oilers fans given the franchise’s storied tradition of ruining first-round draft picks, the stellar play of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl upfront gives Edmonton’s forward corps some new-found breathing room.
While their top lines might be starting to solidify, Edmonton’s goaltending situation is still showing cracks.The team’s 5-3 loss to Ottawa Saturday saw Oilers netminder Jonas Gustavsson give up 4 goals on 17 shots (including 2 goals on 5 shots in the second period), casting serious doubt on his services as a dependable backup for Cam Talbot.
Given how mediocre the Pacific Division has been this year, the Edmonton Oilers still have a decent shot at making the playoffs and bringing back my Ryan Smith PTSD. They may have a few consistency issues and some growing pains, but if Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers’ top six can continue their play into the second half of the season then I like the Oilers’ chances.
Prediction: Sharks 3, Oilers 0. Couture, Pavelski, and LaBanc score. Todd McLellan moves Mikkel Boedker to the fourth line with Mike Brown and Jody Shelley to get a spark out of him.
San Jose Sharks Projected Lines
Meier – Thornton – Pavelski
Labanc – Couture – Donskoi
Marleau – Tierney – Ward
Karlsson – Haley – Boedker
Martin – Burns
Dillon – DeMelo
Edmonton Oilers Projected Lines
Maroon – McDavid –Draisaitl
Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Pouliot– Caggiula– Kassian
Hendrick – Letestu– Lander
Klefbom – Larsson
Sekera – Benning
Russell – Gryba
|1st, Pacific||Div. Standing||3rd, Pacific|
|6-3-1||Last 10 Games||6-2-2||Oilers|
|16.4 (21st)||Power Play||21.2 (11th)||Oilers|
|83.0 (11th)||Penalty Kill||80.6 (19th)||Sharks|
|92 (22nd)||Goals For||118 (8th)||Oilers|
|90 (4th)||Goals Against||110 (16th)||Sharks|