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STAUFFER STUFF: Cup not won in October

In his latest blog, Bob Stauffer talks about how the Oilers are expected to improve after dropping their last two outings

by Bob Stauffer / Special to

The Stanley Cup is not won in October. Fortunately, most of you know that!

Last week at this time, the Edmonton Oilers were the pick of many not just to win the Western Conference title but also to claim the first Stanley Cup by a Canadian team since the Montreal Canadiens won their 24th Championship back in 1992-93.

Edmonton looked every bit the part in a convincing 3-0 victory over Calgary last Wednesday night in a game in which reigning NHL MVP Connor McDavid sniped a hat trick and the Oilers closed out the Flames, outshooting them 16-5 in the third and 45-26 overall.

But two sub-par performances since have unsettled "some" in Oil Country.

Make no mistake, the Oilers were not good enough in Vancouver nor at home to Winnipeg.

The Oil went a combined 7-0-1 against those teams last season, but were outworked and outchanced in both games.

Cam Talbot, who is now generally considered a top 10 NHL goaltender, fought the puck a little early on both nights. Two fledgling NHL starters at the other end, Jacob Markstrom for the Canucks and Connor Hellebuyck for the Jets, had strong starts.

The line of Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl, selected as the number-one line in the NHL by a TSN panel, were neutralized five-on-five by an aggressive trio in Vancouver that featured Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Derek Dorsett; and then watched Nikolaj Ehlers-Mark Schiefele-Blake Wheeler light it up on Monday.

The Oilers got behind against both Vancouver and Winnipeg, lost a little of their structure and process, and started leaking chances the other way as they tried to generate offence to get back into the games.

End result a 1-2 record to start the season, and an opportunity to reset a bit as the Oilers have three practice days before playing Ottawa on Saturday night.

The good thing for Head Coach Todd McLellan is the Oilers to a man can all be a lot better than they have showed over the last couple of games.

Video: THE PANEL | No Need to Panic

Talbot is a goaltender who teammates play FOR because he always accepts responsibility for goals against, will make critical stops early in games again. He is simply too good not to.

Clearly the Oilers defence misses the injured Andrej Sekera, who last season was no worse than Edmonton's number two D at any time during the season. That said, there is an opportunity for the likes of Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning to take on more minutes; the key to success for both in my opinion, is sometimes less is more.

Logic dictates that McDavid's line-regardless of who is on it, will win most head-to-head match-ups during the course of the season.

Before we are too quick to judge the acquisition of Ryan Strome or the signing of Jussi Jokinen keep in mind that many General Managers in the NHL have a three month rule in terms of giving a player time to get accustomed to his new team, and we are just three games into the season.

Injuries to Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula have limited options for the coaching staff a bit as well. Don't forget Caggiula finished the 2017 NHL Playoffs on McDavid's right wing and Slepyshev played on a very productive line with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl in the final three games vs the Ducks last May.

Remember, sometimes records in the month of October can be deceiving.

Back in 2009-10 the Oilers got out of the gate 6-2, Edmonton finished with just 27 wins.

In 2011-12 the Oilers started the year 8-2-2, and ended up with 32 wins.

Last October, the Oil were 7-1 at one point, but after a 5-game losing streak in mid-November dropped to 9-8-1, which had several experts and fans alike thinking the team would miss the playoffs. Edmonton went 38-18-8 the rest of the way.

The Oilers 33-point improvement in 2016-17 was not a fluke. The team fully embraced playing the "hard, fast, supportive" style that Todd McLellan wanted from his team.

What we have seen out of the Oilers over the last two games is not that style; but McLellan's staff has the experience, and also the practice days to get the ship steered in the right direction.

Even if the Oilers win say 50+ games this season, there are going to be blips along the way. In tough times playing a structured competitive game with process will help get the Oilers to that ultimate prize which last time I checked gets awarded in June…and not in October.

Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of "Oilers Now" Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on twitter at @Bob_Stauffer


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