Maybe a cup of Paul Coffey was just the kind of joe the Edmonton Oilers needed: 9 Things

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The Edmonton Oilers have clawed themselves back from the edge.

There are miles to go, but there is now hope where there was before not much apparent.

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So, do what do we owe this revival?

That and more in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Over the last six games Oilers tender Stuart Skinner is 6-0, with a 1.81 GAA and a .932 SV%. Yes, that is in some ways reflective of improved play around him. But at the end of the day, you need your goalie to stop pucks. Especially at critical times as he did in the dying seconds of Friday’s win.

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8. Fans and commentators are keeping an eye on Jack Campbell in Bakersfield. Last night, the Condors won 6-4. Ontario scored their 4 goals on Campbell on 24 shots, an .833 SV%. I do agree that it is smart asset management to give Campbell another chance in the NHL. But he needs to earn it.

7. Evan Bouchard is never going to be the second coming of Rod Langway. He will make defensive errors. From my standpoint, I appreciate the elite level at which he has started to contribute offensively. All I really expect on the other side of the puck from a player with those gifts is some obvious defensive “dig-in.” I am seeing more of that. Good for him.

6. So far, I like what Kris Knoblauch is bringing to this group. Sometimes a coach tries to play the game for his players. But as someone who coaches talent in an entirely different industry, you need to give them process, instill confidence in them but then let them go. Actually, it is not unlike raising kids. As much as you may wat to, you cannot constantly hold their hand.

5. The Philip Broberg debate continues. I am not convinced Broberg will ever be a better D-man than veteran Brett Kulak. Kulak is the superior defender. He is a better passer. He possesses a harder shot. And while Broberg is a wonderful, fluid skater (it is his best trait) Kulak skates at an elite level. If you need evidence, I will show you how fast Kulak closed on Frederick Gaudreau in Friday night’s game versus the Wild.

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4. While I differ with many people on Philip Broberg, I think most of us agree that the kid needs to play wherever he is. And if that is not going to be in the NHL, then get him to Bakersfield where he should get 20+ minutes per night. Farming him and replacing him with veteran Ben Gleason is a smart developmental decision. The whole trade demand thing I intensely dislike, and I put that squarely on the agent. Making it public backs a G.M. into a corner and lowers the value of the asset. Trade demands happen all the time and are usually handled appropriately. This one was not. And it put the young player in a bad position with the organization and its fans. How on earth is that in the young man’s best interests?

3. 630 CHED is the only rated radio station in Edmonton with Sports Talk properties today. Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer grew its total audience this Fall, its new 5-7pm timeslot attracting a daily average cumulative audience of 31,392 (Numeris, R4/23). It is difficult to bring an audience with you. People do not listen to radio when you tell them to. They listen when they can. So, Bob’s efforts to add big guests and generally improve the show in a slot where fewer people listen to the radio are admirable. Reid Wilkins’ Inside Sports hit 17,288. Congrats to both for what they accomplished under less-than-ideal circumstances. Sports 1440 is a welcome entry into the format and fills an important role. But it is an unrated station. There is literally no measurement to report.

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2. My take on the Evander Kane hit on Jonas Brodin Friday is that the NHL got this one right. No one wants anyone to get hurt. And yes, the approaching player has responsibility for his fellow player. But there is also the responsibility of the receiving player to set himself properly. As an old Defenceman myself, we were taught how to recognize situations and best protect ourselves. There is a way to take a hit and a way not to and Brodin did it the wrong way. Kane did not blindside him. He did not charge, did not leave his feet. And then there is the fact that Kane is the NHL’s hit leader. You know he is coming. I expect, given the decision to not levy a suspension, that the league saw it similarly. I get that fanbases will generally land on the side of the players they cheer for. But this is not ballet.

1. There are numerous things that have led to the Oilers recovery. Better goaltending. Better overall team defence. The Oilers best players are the best on the ice most nights. The entire roster is now contributing, in big and small ways. The PK is much improved. But what really catches my eye is their improved transition game. For most of the ugly start to the season you could almost see the players thinking their way around the ice. The D-men in particular would ponder passes versus just instinctively making them. The puck is travelling through the neutral zone way faster than it had been, making it much tougher to defend against the rush. And that starts with the Defence. My sense is that Paul Coffey deserves a lot of credit for this. Coffer will have forgotten more about fostering offence and transition from the back end than most of us will ever know. You can see the D-men playing with way more confidence. And that is critical. Because when you have the forwards, this club does, transition play is like a match to a flame.

There is still a lot of season left to play and work to do before the Oilers are in the clear. That is how deep a hole they had dug themselves. There are not even quite back to even, yet.

But it’s a start.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at KurtLeavins@mstdn.social

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