NHL — Quick fixes for Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens

NHL News


Pick a team that’s off to a bad start and apply one big fix:

Emily Kaplan: One big fix for the Edmonton Oilers: Have Connor McDavid play every other shift. I’m kidding. Kind of. Please tell me you saw that ridiculous no-look assist he shelled out to Patrick Maroon on Thursday night. If not, watch it now, and resume your reading accordingly.

I spent time around the Oilers on Thursday and it’s easy to say they’ve turned a corner after a tightly structured overtime win in Chicago. But the Oilers, a Western Conference favorite, had lost four straight games before that — in which they were outscored 19-8. So here’s the one big fix to make sure they play more like Thursday and avoid regressing to bottom-dwelling form: tighten up that defense. Block more shots (they smothered a whopping 23 shots against the Blackhawks). Edmonton (now 2-4-0) had many miscues on defense during its losing streak — coach Todd McLellan said last week the team had “moments when we’re brain-dead” — which didn’t make life easy for goalie Cam Talbot, who was yanked twice in his first three starts.

This is a team with enough offensive firepower that even middling defensive efforts can earn a win. McDavid is always going to make ridiculous plays, 19-year-old rookie Kailer Yamamoto might be a breakout star (he was stellar with eight shots on Thursday) and Leon Draisaitl could be returning from a concussion as soon as Saturday. Keep that defense in order and that stench of the four-game losing streak will soon fade into a complete afterthought.

Greg Wyshynski: On behalf of the Montreal Canadiens, I would thank GM Marc Bergevin for his service, compliment him on his well-tailored suits and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors as give him a snarling Vince McMahon-esque “Yerrrrrrrrr firrrrrrrred!” in an effort to turn their season, and franchise, around. There’s a litany of reasons this is overdue, from his stubborn and extended time in the “foxhole” with former coach Michel Therrien to trading away significant pieces (P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev) and getting returns that didn’t significantly fill the Canadiens’ needs, to failing to sufficiently replace significant players who left over contractual issues (Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov). Montreal has spiraled to a 1-5-1 start. There have been calls for coach Claude Julien’s head, which is nonsense: This is a problem of construction over coaching. While finding another Francophone coach with the stature and abilities of Julien is difficult, finding one to run the Canadiens as general manager might prove easier — maybe the Tampa Bay Lightning do them a solid for trading Sergachev and free up rising star assistant GM Julien BriseBois? Or perhaps the Canadiens just get on with it, and declare the inevitable: Hiring Patrick Roy. No matter the replacement, what remains obvious is the need for one in Montreal.

Chris Peters: The Winnipeg Jets really need to figure out how they’re going to manage their goaltending situation. This is not the only thing that needs fixing, but stability in net might go a long way toward stabilizing the Jets as a whole. It’s too small a sample to project that Steve Mason is going to be as bad as he’s been to start the season, but he is also coming off his worst season in years. Meanwhile, Connor Hellebuyck‘s 2016-17 showing did not inspire much confidence either. That said, the 24-year-old only had 82 total games of experience coming into this season. We’re still not entirely sure what he’s going to be long term, but his track record as a prospect and how he played as a rookie showed a lot of promise. Hellebuyck is 3-0 in his three starts, and has a .937 save percentage. Meanwhile, Mason is 0-3 with a .846 save percentage. The Jets have been leaky in front of Mason, no question, and there are other things to be addressed, but giving the team a chance to get used to playing in front of one or the other — and at this point it should be Hellebuyck — will help as the season progresses. On top of that, Hellebuyck needs the reps. Winnipeg appears to be a team on the cusp, but there’s always been one or two things holding them back. Goaltending doesn’t have to be one of them.



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