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Latest Oilers mess: Eberle on ‘brutal’ Edmonton media

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You don’t need to look very far to find gloom and doom surrounding the Edmonton Oilers these days.

Things are bad enough when you look at the standings, with the Oilers second-to-last in the West with 18 points in 23 games played. It’s not like the NHL’s goofy points system really does them any favors, either; the Anaheim Ducks are far ahead of the Oilers with 23 points in 22 games as the next team up the ladder.

Naturally, a letdown of this magnitude opens the door for criticism. PHT has gone in-depth on how this Oilers team went wrong, and how it’s as much about a faulty vision for successful hockey as it is about a run of bad luck. You could kill a chunk of today just reading about GM Peter Chiarelli’s many perceived trade failures.

Honestly, you almost get a little queasy just noticing the Oilers grasping at straws after losing to the struggling – but not quite as dire? – Buffalo Sabres last night. The Mike Cammalleri trade seemed like an opportunity to diversify the Oilers’ lines, but it still seems … less than optimal to use him with Connor McDavid in this fashion:

Still, a lot of these issues come down to mistakes made in assessing value and talent. They’re troubling, but things only get worse when it seems like there’s a toxic environment involved, on top of all of that.

Now, some of this is inevitable; when a team loses, the knives come out. And while there are cases in which a player requests a trade and thus feels refreshed, most of the time there will be hard feelings. Some of this fallout feels as natural as a columnist insulting a player on his way out with hot dog shaming.

In Taylor Hall‘s case, his time with the Oilers clearly stung, and it took him some time to recover. Jordan Eberle is going through a similar confidence rehab with the New York Islanders one season after Hall began his with the New Jersey Devils, and Eberle provided some remarkably candid insight to Sportsnet’s Tim Panaccio about his experiences.

To be more specific, Eberle admitted that he lost confidence in no small part to criticisms he’d read from the Edmonton media.

That full piece is absolutely worth your time, as Eberle shows that he understands part of the reason he was traded: a rough 2016-17 season, including some playoff struggles.

If it really did come down to the Oilers essentially panicking with Eberle, then they’ve been burned by a remarkably obvious case of a mere off year. At 27, Eberle remains in his prime range, and last season was the only time his shooting percentage has been an issue (9.6 percent last season vs. his 13.5 career average).

So far with the Islanders, Eberle’s finding splendid chemistry with emerging talent Mathew Barzal, and he’s scored eight goals (and 16 points) on 51 shots on goal. That’s (wait for it) a shooting percentage of 15.7 percent.

The comparisons only get more uncomfortable when you consider Ryan Strome‘s ups and mostly downs in Edmonton:

About the only real solace is if you try/strain to make the money argument, as Strome certainly is dramatically cheaper this season.

It seems strange to advance such a stance when the Oilers are clearly going for a Stanley Cup and might not have planned to have an estimated $8.67 million in cap space just lying around. (Hey, at least TSN’s Dustin Nielson is sticking up for a player, if nothing else.)

Things become more uncomfortable if you ponder a lousy combination for this franchise: inept management and, in Eberle’s words, media that can be “pretty brutal.” Moments like these explain why people rushed to Connor McDavid’s defense even as he legitimately struggled, as the worry was that blame was being passed from the front office to the superstar often carrying his team:

Really, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument; if you made a living assessing a team, wouldn’t you be critical of the Oilers? Of course, the debate gets more complicated if you believe that blame is being placed on the wrong shoulders.

It’s not a new phenomenon for the Oil. Hall was often a scapegoat in Edmonton, especially in times when there really was little talent beyond him. Sometimes it got a little weird when stories seemingly trumpeted Adam Larsson‘s superiority.

Tyler Dellow, formerly of the Oilers organization, wondered if the media in Edmonton is actually tougher than in Toronto in an interesting podcast with The Athletic’s Craig Custance. Dellow’s logic is reasonable: with the Oilers being an even bigger focal point of daily life in a smaller city, perhaps the spotlight burns even brighter than in Toronto, where the media apparatus is larger but there are more distractions?

That’s a debate for another day, really, but it’s worth noting that the Maple Leafs eventually turned things around by learning from their mistakes.

Part of that process comes down to realizing that change is needed. In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, it’s possible that there’s still a long way to go. Even with Connor McDavid around.

Update: At least one member of the Edmonton media provided his take, as Sportsnet’s Mark Spector responded on Twitter:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Devils prospect named captain of Team USA’s World Junior squad

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Team Canada made their final cuts over the weekend for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. The roster is now set. (Hockey Canada)

• Despite what Eugene Melnyk has been saying, Bill Daly made it clear that the Sens aren’t going anywhere. (Ottawa Citizen)

• During Saturday’s NHL 100 Classic in Ottawa, the league announced their top moment in history. The honor went to Mario Lemieux’s unforgettable five-goal performance. (NHL.com)

• The Capitals came out with “Capitals Tunes: Volume 2”. If you’re a fan of good holiday music, you might not want to listen. (DC Puck Drop)

• Check out these stories from the NHL’s inaugural season which took place 100 years ago. (Sporting News)

• Joel Lundqvist isn’t as well known as his brother Henrik, but hockey has treated both of them pretty well. (Sportsnet)

Pekka Rinne is proud of the way Preds backup and fellow Finn Juuse Saros has performed. (Tennessean)

• There is no team that’s more Jekyll and Hyde than the Dallas Stars. (Black Out Dallas)

• Everybody loves a goalie fight, right? Well, there was one in the AHL this weekend as Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington dropped the gloves/blocker. (Chocolate Hockey)

• The Red Wings auctioned off “Al the Octopus” over the weekend. They managed to get $7,700 for it. (Detroit Free Press)

• Former NHLer Matt Johnson is missing, and a man from North Dakota went looking for him. (Grand Forks Herald)

• It’s not easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning to replace a “heart and soul” guy like Ryan Callahan. (Tampa Times)

• It took a little bit of time, but Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich‘s English has come a long way. (Sports Illustrated)

• Since returning from an injury in early December, things have been tough for Bruins winger Anders Bjork. (Bruins Daily)

• The Coyotes’ upcoming schedule is like a trip down memory lane for head coach Rick Tocchet. (Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

• The Winnipeg Jets have star players that have helped carry them this season, but it’s the solid performances from unexpected contributors that has made the difference. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Sweden seems to have figured out the right way to develop their talented young hockey players. (Elite Prospects)

• Tough break for the San Jose Sharks, as they’ll be without Logan Couture (concussion) on Monday. (Mercury News)

• Devils prospect Joey Anderson was named captain of Team USA’s World Junior team. (USA Hockey)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Marchessault leads Golden Knights; Boeser injures foot

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Player of the Night: Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights

Marchessault took over the Vegas scoring lead with a big night during a 5-2 win over his old team, the Florida Panthers. The Golden Knights scored four unanswered goals after falling behind 2-0 early in the first period, and Marchessault played a big part by assisting on the tying and go-ahead goals and then potting the empty-netter to seal things. He now has 29 points on the season.

Reilly Smith, another ex-Panther, chipped in a pair of assists, including one on Marchessault’s goal to ice things for Gerard Gallant’s side. Vegas is now 13-2-1 at home.

Highlight of the Night:

Patrik Laine scored his team-leading 16th of the season for the Winnipeg Jets, and it was beautiful.

MISC:

Patrick Kane scored twice and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the Minnesota Wild 4-1 for their fifth win in a row. Kane now has seven points in his last four games. He’s one goal away from 300 for his career and now sits fifth all-time in Blackhawks history.

• Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 24 shots he faced and recorded his eighth career shutout during a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. Adam Lowry, Laine, Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey provided the goals as the Jets split their home-and-home with the Blues.

Sam Bennett had four points and Mark Jankowski recorded three as the Calgary Flames drubbed the Vancouver Canucks 6-1. Mark Giordano added a pair of goals and David Rittich stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced for his third career NHL victory.

• The Canucks and Panthers weren’t too fond of the third period Sunday night. Vancouver was outshot 19-4 while Florida mustered only two shots on goal while allowing 18 over the final 20 minutes.

• Oh no. Brock Boeser left the game early in the second period after blocking a Mark Giordano shot. Canucks head coach Travis Green did not have an update after the game. This is not good.

Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche will miss two games after being suspended for boarding Vladislav Namestnikov of the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night.

• Congrats, Erik Karlsson. It’s a boy!

Our hearts exploded with that puck. We can’t wait to meet you baby BOY 💙

A post shared by Melinda Karlsson (@mel.karlsson) on

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Winnipeg 4, St. Louis 0
Chicago 4, Minnesota 1
Calgary 6, Vancouver 1
Vegas 5, Florida 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

Canucks’ Brock Boeser suffers foot injury after blocking shot (Video)

Sportsnet
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As the Vancouver Canucks transition their roster and let the kids take over, Brock Boeser has been a real bright spot this season. Well, right now fans are holding their collective breaths hoping that the Calder Trophy candidate isn’t too seriously hurt after blocking a Mark Giordano shot early in the second period Sunday night.

Did you catch that Jim Benning reaction?

Sportsnet

Yup, us too, Jim.

Boeser, who leads the Canucks and all NHL rookies in scoring with 17 goals and 30 points, was ruled out for the rest of the night a short while later with a foot injury.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s all three members of the Canucks’ BBB line that are currently injured. Bo Horvat is out until January with a foot injury and Sven Baertschi has a similar timeline after fracturing his jaw.

Depending on the severity of the injury could also impact some of Boeser’s potential bonuses in his rookie season. Ryan Biech of The Athletic had a great breakdown on Friday about how much the Vancouver stands to earn this season should he hit certain totals in specific categories. Hopefully this doesn’t keep him out long. The Calder race is better with him a part of it.

UPDATE: Canucks head coach didn’t have an update on Boeser after the game.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Johnson to sit two games for Avalanche after suspension

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It was pretty clear that after receving a slashing minor, boarding major and game misconduct all in the span of about three seconds, Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche still had some punishment coming to him.

And so on Sunday night the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a two-game ban for the veteran defenseman after he boarded Vladislav Namestnikov Saturday night in Colorado.

As detailed in the video, Johnson knows that Namestnikov has already fired his shot on goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning forward isn’t expecting to be shoved like that after his scoring attempt. That, and how far he was from the boards make it all especially dangerous. Fortunately, Namestnikov was able to remain in the game.

“Dangerous play. You just hold your breath on those. Got a little fortunate with Vladdy, obviously didn’t get as fortunate with Callahan,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, referring to Ryan Callahan‘s injury after an awkward collision with Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week.

Johnson will lose out on $64,516.12, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.